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How joining a society helped me settle in as an international student

Three international students discuss how joining student clubs and societies helped them build a home away from home at university

    September 9 2021
    Student theatre group


    One of the best things about university is that whatever you’re interested in, be it sport, theatre or , there’s probably a student society or club full of other people with the same passion. If not, you can set one up and get university funding by registering with your students’ union.

    Joining a society has many benefits: a break from studies and the chance to explore new interests and even add unique experiences to your CV.

    For international students, clubs and societies can also be a great help when it comes to the daunting task of settling in and finding friends in a brand-new country.

    Below, three international students at universities in Australia, the UK and Canada reflect on what joining a society meant to them.

    Crystal Zhao, Charles Darwin University

    My name is Crystal and I’m from China. When I first came to Australia, I felt a little bit lonely and didn’t know many people.

    By chance, through attending an on-campus careers event, I heard about Charles Darwin University to support international students, migrants, refugees and temporary visa holders experiencing financial difficulties during Covid-19.

    I was interested in their mission and selfless dedication, so I decided to join them as a volunteer to do something valuable for the community. As a volunteer I made friends with many students from different countries and connected with local communities.

    These university volunteering experiences have also helped me to become more capable and confident, which I’m sure will pay off in my future career.

    It is because of these experiences that I was selected as a student ambassador for my university this year. In this role, I guide new students around the campus and help introduce them to all the opportunities they can get involved with.

    When I meet new international students, I always try to encourage them to jump out of their comfort zone and join different clubs or organisations to make more friends. 

    Arianna Muñoz, University of Cambridge

    When I moved from suburban Texas to the UK, I had no friends or family awaiting me and had never lived outside my home country. While I was enthusiastic about studying abroad, I also worried about not adapting to university life in the UK, which is very different from the typical American college experience.

    However, I soon discovered the theatre scene at Cambridge, which was an invaluable resource in terms of branching outside my bubble and settling into life abroad.

    I produced a play at Cambridge’s main student theatre, the ADC, and immediately found myself in a supportive and enthusiastic community. I met students from all over the UK, which helped me learn so much about the country I was now living in.

    Although joining societies is a great opportunity for any student, I think it’s especially important for international students. We have chosen to move away from the familiarity of our home countries, but with that comes the challenge of adapting to a new way of life and of finding friendships and a community. Joining a society can ease this transition, bringing together international and UK students through their shared interests and passions.

    I would really encourage incoming international students to investigate the societies their universities have to offer and to take every opportunity to be an active, enthusiastic participant in campus life.

    Dhanya Ashley Dass, University of Toronto

    For me, as an international student from Kuala Lumpur, starting university was really daunting.

    The most comforting feeling at the start of this journey was knowing that there were thousands of other equally terrified and excited international students there with me. Although we all came from different countries and backgrounds, we shared the same hope for ourselves: to make our university feel like home. 

    With the extensive network of community, and opportunities to build self-confidence and a sense of belonging, it is safe to say that one’s university life can be so much more fulfilling when it involves the community spirit of clubs, societies, sports, activities and events on campus.

    I built a strong connection with my university’s theatre organisation, Hart House Theatre, as well as the residence student staff team. The initiatives developed by the clubs and groups I was involved in, coupled with the warm smiles and cheers behind them, revealed a network of love, generosity and support that was endless.

    During the daunting days of my first year, the generosity and support I found through joining societies was a real game-changer.

    Whether it is performing on stage, competing in a tournament or planning an event, being active in clubs, societies, events, sports or other student group activities gives students a chance to be part of an experience that is bigger than themselves.

    I gained a lot of confidence through these experiences; it made me feel that the world is my oyster.

    My message to other international students is take a chance. You have already taken the biggest chance by embarking on this journey into the unknown to a foreign country, and jumping into a club or society will only make it more fulfilling.


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