Education providers converge on international student mental health
Media release | 18 October 2017
International education providers from around NSW have come together in Sydney today to discuss mental health support for international students.
The International Education Providers Forum is an annual event for education providers with this year’s forum taking a deep dive on student mental wellbeing. It has been organised by StudyNSW, City of Sydney and the NSW Police Force.
Representatives from over 140 organisations - including universities, vocational education and training providers, services providers, consulates, government agencies and students - are taking part in the forum.
NSW is the leading Australian destination for international students with over 267,000 enrolments last year and education providers want to ensure their stay is a positive experience.
A report by Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health, estimates more than 210,000 Australian university students aged 18-25 years old experience mental ill-health each year based on ABS statistics.
Peter Mackey, Director of International Trade at the NSW Department of Industry which oversees StudyNSW, said there were many challenges for international students arriving in a new country and ensuring they can access support is a priority.
“Pressures international students can face include coming to terms with a brand new culture, leaving family and friends and other support networks behind, overcoming language barriers, and adjusting to demands of tertiary study,” Mr Mackey said.
“For some, there are also financial pressures if they don’t have access to adequate financial support back home, requiring them to find work to support themselves.
“This forum will include a range of expert speakers, panel sessions and personal experiences to drill down into the state of international student mental health in NSW and the best ways to ensure it can be optimised.
“Through StudyNSW, the NSW Government is committed to supporting our international students who contribute significantly to our communities.”
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Case study: Linus safely navigates Aussie culture in NSW
For Tanzanian national Linus Faustin, coming to NSW to study was a dream come true after a tough childhood in Dar es Salaam when, aged just three, he was orphaned and also lost a sister, then had to live with an uncle who mistreated him.
After running away from his uncle’s home, he was forced to live on the streets until he managed to find refuge in an orphanage where he made a connection with Australian volunteer workers, sparking his interest to come here.
Linus is now in his final semester of a (Bachelor of Arts) Communications degree majoring in Public Relations, Digital Marketing and Social Media at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS). He presented as part of a student panel session at Wednesday’s International Education Providers Forum.
“Some students can be very shy when first coming here from another culture and many of them come here alone so fitting in can be tough,” Linus said.
“I speak to many international students who have difficulties when first settling in and I always encourage them to seek help if they are struggling with their mental health.
“When I first arrived I managed to get a job at an accommodation house welcoming new students because people thought I was nice, but in my first week I couldn’t even pick up the phone to talk to students as I was too scared.
“My first job in Australia taught me so much and now I’m working for UTS International on their marketing team making social media content and messaging for students.”
Linus, who was recently named the winner of the 2017 International Student Award for Higher Education, has an ambition to one day be the president of Tanzania.
During his time in Australia, Linus has helped create initiatives to raise the profile of international students at UTS and improve their lives.
He was a key player and facilitator of the ‘Racism. It Stops With me’ campaign at UTS and was also involved in a UTS program called Batyr which encourages students to seek help when suffering from mental health issues.
Linus co-founded and now produces the international student channel Beyond UTS on the university’s internal TV channel Vertigo TV. He also volunteers through UTS’s Peer Network and Community Connections Programs to assist students and was selected as the NSW Multicultural Youth Ambassador (MYA) in 2016 and NSW International Student of the Year in 2017.
“I want to make sure that we, as international students, are included in the society while we are here,” Linus said.