Written by Alejandra Bogado Tervit International Student of the Year – Higher Education 2020 and Study Melbourne Ambassador 2021

You finally boarded the plane taking you to your dream destination. You are on your way to Melbourne! Perhaps this is your second leg out of four, or perhaps you were one of the lucky ones who could get a more direct flight to Australia. Whether it takes 18 hours or 3 days to arrive in Victoria - ‘The Education State’, everyone has gone through what you have, and has the same feelings: pride, excitement, happiness but also fear. Fear is not necessarily a bad emotion to have at this stage, as fear can be turned into the courage to give you that ‘head start’ that you need. However, coming to a country, where you must use a language other than your native language, could surely be both daunting and scary.

Of course, as every international student knows, it can be challenging to find your feet initially. This transition to your new life can also leave you feeling slightly homesick. However, you have to remember that you are not alone. There is an extensive Latin-American community out there waiting for you with open arms to help you with anything you need.

To transition into your new study/work life in Victoria, you can participate in many programs organised and funded by Study Melbourne, both online and offline. If you wish to connect with Latin-American and Spanish speaking students, UNITED (Spanish Latin American Welfare Centre) in Melbourne is the go-to organisation to feel supported by other students and alumni.

UNITED was selected as one of the grant recipients under Study Melbourne Inclusion Program(SMIP) this year to provide easy access to free mental health services for Latin-American students in their mother tongue. This service includes a friendly and comfortable environment where students can explore the myriad of feelings that they may have about their new journey in Australia, in a language that they are familiar with.

Through our annual competitive application process, SMIP offers grants to selective projects to promote welfare and wellbeing for international students, and help them to develop skills and gain experiences that you can only find here in Victoria – and ultimately enriching their student life.

In addition, students also have access to the series of employability sessions organised by UNITED to cater to specific needs of Latin-American students, especially for those who are seeking work opportunities in Australia. Job hunting in a new country often comes with issues and unfamiliar hurdles that need to be overcome to gain meaningful employment within the visa conditions. Some of these tasks such as organising taxes, generating tax file number and Australian Busines Number (ABN) can be very daunting when you have to tackle them alone and could also add to your anxiety. Nonetheless, UNITED is here to help. Through their tax information sessions, Latin American students can get free access to experts that help them to manage these topics to ease them into working life in Victoria.

As part of this project, UNITED aim to implement a “buddy system”, where new students in Victoria are matched with an appropriate buddy/mentor. These mentors will help them adapt to their new life in Victoria with useful and practical advice. Through this system, making friends and finding like-minded people to create your new support network will be easier. Undoubtedly the Latin American and wider student community in Victoria are benefiting from the projects and services provided by UNITED in collaboration with Study Melbourne. If you are interested in attending the events or connecting with UNITED, please check out their website.