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A change plan covering what should an international student do in their first week in Australia


Australia is one of the most favourite destinations for international students for higher education. Quality education, relatively decent weather, potential for permanent residency, safe and high quality living – these are some of the many factors that make Australia a very attractive destination to students all over the world. I’m sure, you have seen many resources about how to get admission or how to choose an institution but there are some important aspects of studying here that are probably better explained in an article like this.

After you land in Australia, arguably the most important question is: what should you do in the first one week?

Before I go into the details I would like to say briefly a few things about myself: like many of you, I also came to Australia as an international student, finished my studies, made Australia my home and have been working ever since.

The tasklist

On your first day you are probably highly jet lagged and home sick, so make sure you have proper rest, preferably a long sleep. Do not forget to eat your meals, although it is highly likely your homesickness may deter your willingness to eat.

  • Safety: If you get out of your accommodation, make sure you have three things on you: your house keys, wallet and mobile phone. Make sure you have the contact details of the local embassy, high commission and consulate of your country, should you require any assistance from them. Before you leave your apartment / accommodation make sure all the electric switches, ironing machines and stoves are turned off. Update your address with the Department of Immigration and you can do it online. Do not share address with anyone unknown without a purpose. I mean if you are at the university or at the bank, yes of course, you have a valid reason to share. Also this is a very good idea to read the safety tips from the Police of the state where you reside. At the end of this article, I have added some important links to police and other government agencies who you might be required to contact or who display important tips for your safety and convenience.

  • Go to university / institute where you have enrolled: Complete enrolment and update your address. Ask them what orientation program they will organise for newcomers like you and attend those. The orientation programs are really helpful. Not only do they offer much needed guidance about studying there but also about local customs. They also give you a unique opportunity to network with many students like you who have come from many other countries. Check with your university/ institute whether you have to confirm this enrolment to the Department of Immigration or they will do it for you.

  • Open a bank account: Open your bank account for safety and convenience. Travelling everywhere with cash in the pocket is not a very smart thing to do when there are banks to secure your money and provide you with the convenience to use it whenever you need. There are many banks to choose from, so use your judgement or talk to your friends which bank they use to make a decision. If you show your student ID card to the banks, I believe they will waive you the monthly account keeping fees. After you have opened a bank account be careful about one thing: if you receive a call from anyone asking for your bank account details, or date of birth, or PIN number, do not share any details. It is not uncommon to be conned by fraudsters.

  • Get a local mobile phone number: If you have not already done so, do it. Store all important numbers on your mobile phone and it is a good idea to email all the important contact numbers to your own email ID as a backup.

  • Apply for a Tax File Number (TFN): Many overseas students prefer to work part time while studying full time. If you want to work here, you will be required to pay tax on your earnings, normally the employers transfer the tax from your earnings directly to the Australian Tax Office (ATO). So all employers will ask for a TFN. You can apply for a TFN online, the process is very simple and easy.

There are some must do tasks:

  • Presenting yourself: This is very important. Make sure you have a shower before you go out, and use a proper antiperspirant deodorant or a perfume, and iron your clothes properly. People here take how you present yourself really seriously.

  • Make sure you have these: a good backpack, a lunch box, a water bottle, an umbrella, and a jumper or a light jacket. Make sure the backpack is big enough to carry a laptop, one or two textbooks, and a water bottle. Australia is a continent and weather varies depending on where you are staying. The weather can be treacherous: in the morning it might be hot and in the evening it might rain or become cold. Having an umbrella and a light jacket / jumper can be helpful in such cases. Also if you carry your own cooked / homemade lunch / snacks and a water bottle, you will save significant amount of money. You may not realise this initially but just to give you an example, if you spend an average of $15 eating out, then on a two year stay in Australia you are spending almost $11,000 ($15x365x2=$10,950). Of course, there are special occasions when you should eat outside but do you really want to do this daily when you can cook good meals yourself and save you a lot?

  • Follow the social norms – It is very difficult to define social norms of a country in a speech or in an article. However, some common sense advice will be the following:

  1. Don’t touch anyone.

  2. Don’t shout at anyone. If you are upset in a shop or in an office, you can gently let them know and it is within your rights to demand that you want to talk to their manager / supervisor to express your dissatisfaction.

  3. Don’t get too close to one, i.e. don’t get into one’s personal space. In other words, maintain a distance (you probably will because of Covid).

Some of these pieces of suggestions may sound irrelevant since we are going through CoVid, but I am sure we will be out of the tunnel very soon and then you will find these suggestions relevant and useful.

In my next article I will cover what you should do in your second week.

Last but not the least, wish you a very successful study and living experience in Australia.

I have created a checklist for you and added some important links below. You can also consider watching my video on YouTube on this topic.


International student week 1 checklist
Download PDF • 403KB

Some important links

Immigration, visa and eligibility to work matters

Applying for a Tax File Number (TFN)

Australian Taxation Office at

Community Safety tips: New South Wales Police

Personal Safety: Australian Capital Territory Police

Personal Safety: Victoria Police

Your Safety: Western Australia Police

Safety and security tips: South Australia Police

Personal Safety: Tasmania Police

Personal Safety: Northern Territory Police

What is next?

Read this article of mine.


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