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How to stay well while studying

It's important to look after your health while studying in Australia

Two young international students laughing and playing together
Two young international students laughing and playing together

Studying abroad can be exciting and life-changing; you’ll be exposed to new cultures,
foods, histories, people and landscapes. From tasting an iconic Bunning’s sausage sizzle to exploring the outback, Australia offers a range of experiences you won’t find anywhere else.

But while there will be many good times, you may also face a challenge or two adjusting to your new life in Australia.

There are lots of things you can do to look after your physical and mental health while studying abroad. There are also steps you can take to create a support network that will help you achieve your study goals – and enjoy yourself along the way!

How to stay fit and well

No matter where you are in the world, keeping your body moving and healthy will help you stay on top of your study and make you feel good.

  • Get active Try to be physically active every day. Each week, try to get between 2.5 and 5 hours of moderate exercise, such as walking, or 1.25 to 2.5 hours of activity that makes you work harder. Remember, exercising with a friend or joining a fitness class can make physical activity more enjoyable – and help you stick to a routine.  

  • Go exploring Australian universities often have large green grounds or are located near parks, bushland and sports fields. Why not ask a classmate if they’d like to go for a walk
    around the university? When you feel comfortable, you can also start to explore the neighbourhood. Sightseeing around a new city is a great way to get moving while helping familiarise yourself with local cafes, gardens and people – Aussies are generally very friendly and greet each other with a wave or ‘hi’.

  • Join a club If you’ve got a favourite activity or sport you played at home, find out if your
    university offers the same or a similar sport. You may even find a local social competition or nearby gym to join.

How to look after your mental health 

If you’re feeling low, depressed or anxious, you’re not alone. International students have a higher risk of experiencing poor mental health than local students.

Some of the reasons for this are being away from family and close friends, language barriers and cultural differences, and study and financial pressures.

It’s understandable that your mental health might be lower than usual. But it is important that you think about some things that might make you feel better sooner rather than later.

  • Looking after your body Looking after your body is good for your mind. Exercise releases chemicals that improve your mood. It also gets you outside and to new places, gives you a chance to meet new people and can help you feel less lonely.

  • Making new friends Universities are full of other students, both local and international, who are living away from home. They are also looking for new friends. And while it’s not always as easy to make friends as an adult as it was when you were a child, there are some good tips you can follow when making new friendships. You could make a friend by choosing to sit next to someone in your class and introducing yourself. Joining a study group is another good way to meet people. If you’ve got a sport or hobby you enjoy – or want to try something new – take a look at the university’s social or sports groups you could join. Many of these groups can have a social media group chat and joining the chat is an easy first step to keep up to date with when they are meeting next.

  • Finding a piece of home in Australia While you’re living in Australia, you’ll likely be immersed in our culture and you might feel overwhelmed and homesick. If you’re religious, you can look at attending a local place of worship or your university can put you in touch with community groups who have a similar cultural background to you – this can help you feel less alone and bring a connection to your home. You may even meet some new friends there!

nib foundation partner, batyr provides mental health support to over 2,200 university students through their batyr@uni program. batyr program participant and international student, Linh, shares her story.   

Credit: nib health

Self-care during exam time

You need to look after yourself when studying and preparing for exams. It’s easy to forget about your wellbeing when you’re busy, but getting enough exercise, rest and eating the right types of food will help keep you healthy and grounded during stressful times.

  • Healthy study snacks: To maximise your energy and concentration, try and ensure your diet is mostly made up of food from these five food groups:

    • vegetables and legumes/beans

    • fruit

    • grains (such as bread, rice and pasta)

    • lean meat and meat alternatives

    • milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives (mostly reduced fat)      

  • Avoid too much caffeine: Too much caffeine – found in tea, coffee or energy drinks – can interrupt your sleep.     

  • Take a break: Try to keep study sessions between 40 and 60 minutes and then take a break.     

  • Stay active: Get out with a friend for short walks or other physical activities. It gives your eyes a break and will help revive your mind and body.  

  • Rest: If you’re tired, a short rest or power nap (ideally no more than 20 minutes) during the day can help your learning.      

  • Meditate: If you’re having trouble falling asleep or calming your mind, apps such as Headspace and Smiling Mind offer guided meditations to help you relax or focus.

When to get help

In Australia, mental health is talked about openly and it’s not something we’re ashamed of. Students are encouraged to talk about their mental health challenges with a friend,
lecturer or with student support.

Alternatively, you can access a range of free support services:


nib foundation is proud to support Lifeline. For 24/7 crisis support and suicide prevention services, Lifeline is available to help.

A free interpreting service is also available, to access this service:

  1. 1

    Call the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS) on 131 450 and ask to talk to Lifeline on 13 11 14 in the language required.

  2. 2

    TIS will call Lifeline on behalf of the caller.


Beyond Blue