Health and Wellbeing
Overseas Student Health Cover
Australia has a special system of health cover for international students called Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC). You will need to buy OSHC before you come to Australia to cover you from when you arrive. The Department of Immigration and Citizenship requires you to maintain OSHC for the duration of your time on a student visa in Australia. ATMC has an agreement with a specific OSHC provider BUPA. You can choose to take out OSHC with this provider, or with the Australian OSHC provider of your choice.
Maintaining Good health
Taking care of your physical health will have a positive impact on your mental health and your ability to study. You should aim to include 30 minutes of moderate exercise, five times a week into your lifestyle. This activity will help you manage stress, pick up your mood when you’re feeling down, and give you more energy (although it might not feel that way right before an exercise session). It will also help you maintain a clear head for study and provide a great opportunity to catch up with your friends and make new ones.
Regular exercise is also great for giving you a good night’s sleep. This is important because without a quality rest every night you will lose energy, become more irritable and find it difficult to concentrate on your studies. After a long period of poor quality sleep, you might also notice that you get sick easier, and you get sad or depressed by things that normally wouldn’t bother you.
Of course, being a student is a guaranteed way of not getting a good night’s sleep. It can be hard to find enough time to go to your classes, study and still maintain a social life. Usually, sleep is the first thing that students sacrifice when they try to fit everything else in. But there are some things you can do to help regulate your sleep patterns.
- Try to get out of bed as soon as you wake up instead of closing your eyes for ‘five more minutes’. Also try to get up at the same time every day.
- Exercise in the morning, preferably outside in the fresh air.
- Don’t nap during the day. If you do, it’ll probably take you longer to get to sleep at night.
- Don’t use the time when you’re lying in bed at night to think about all your problems. It’ll only make you more anxious. Instead, set aside some time during the day for problem-solving.
- Don’t go to bed too late, and try to go to sleep at the same time each night. Allow yourself some time, say 30 minutes, before you get into bed to relax and wind down.
- Don’t study in bed—it’ll train your brain to think of your bed as a place for study, not sleep.
- Avoid alcohol and cigarettes for a few hours before going to bed.
If you have sleeping problems, talk to a doctor (known as a general practitioner, or GP). They may have some more tips that will help you get a good night’s rest.
Another factor that impacts on your health is what you eat. Again, student life sometimes makes eating well difficult. Grabbing a snack on your way from the library to your friend’s house may be convenient, but over time it will do you more harm than good. Eating well will boost your health and energy, give your body enough fuel to get through the day, and improve your immune system and ability to concentrate.
- Don’t skip breakfast. It will kick-start your metabolism for the day and gives you energy.
- Include lots of fresh fruit and vegetables in your diet. Australia’s diverse climate creates perfect growing conditions for a huge range of produce, and the quality is among the best you will find in the world. Take advantage of it!
- Drink lots of water throughout the day. Dehydration causes tiredness, headaches, lack of concentration and plenty of other health issues.
- If you are vegetarian, make sure you are getting enough essential nutrients in your diet. You can talk to a GP or nutritionist about substitutes for meat and animal byproducts.
- Enjoy food like take away or fast food, chips, chocolate, biscuits and soft drink or soda in moderation.
If you’re in Australia for more than a semester, chances are that you’ll have to visit a doctor before you leave. You can be confident that Australian doctors are highly skilled and well educated, and you’ll receive excellent care in a clean and sanitary environment.
What kind of medical care to seek
Unlike in many other countries, in Australia you should NEVER seek help from a hospital emergency room (ER) unless you are in a life- threatening situation. Every night of the week, hospital ERs become congested by people who want treatment for a cold or minor flu, headaches and minor injuries. This puts a lot of stress on the doctors and nurses, and puts the lives of people who are in genuine need of their immediate attention in jeopardy.
In some cases you may need to see a specialist doctor, for example an optician, podiatrist or dermatologist. Generally, you won’t be able to see a specialist without first getting a referral for their services from your GP. Specialist doctors are a lot more expensive than GPs, but some of their services might be covered under your Overseas Student Health Cover plan. A specialist doctor will assess your condition, sometimes with the aid of tests, and develop a treatment plan for you to follow. You will probably have to see your specialist several times to treat your medical condition.
Emergency room doctors
Emergency room (ER) doctors work in hospitals and treat patients with severe and life-threatening injuries or illnesses. With any luck, you will never have to see an ER doctor. But if you do, they will give you excellent care. Call 000 if you or a friend needs urgent medical attention. You will receive medical attention from ambulance staff, or paramedics, on your way to the hospital.
The other kind of doctor you may regularly see in Australia is a dentist. You can find dentists in your area listed in the Yellow Pages. Dentists will generally charge a fee for their service, which can be quite expensive. Your OSHC may cover part of these costs—make sure you read your OSHC policy and know what kinds of dental procedures you are covered for. Generally you do not need a referral from your GP to see a dentist.
One of the scariest things about moving to a new country can also be one of the most exciting: anonymity. You probably won’t know too many people when you arrive—if anyone—and this can give you a feeling of freedom like you’ve never had. Suddenly, you feel like you have the opportunity to be whoever you want. Without your family and friends around, you can reinvent yourself and perhaps feel less inhibited about the things that you wouldn’t dare do at home. While this can be one of the most liberating things about studying in a new place, it’s important that you don’t lose your focus on your personal safety. While Australia is a comparatively safe place to live and has relatively low crime rates, you must still take the necessary precautions to protect yourself—just like you would at home.
Here are a few general tips to help keep you safe:
- Never carry large amounts of money with you. You can access the money in your bank account at most stores with your ATM card.
- Make sure you close the zipper on your bag so that thieves can’t reach in and take your purse or wallet, mobile phone, iPod, etc.
- Don’t walk alone at night. Walk in a group and stay in well-lit areas.
- If you’re going out, plan your trip so that you know how you’re getting home, and make sure you have enough money for transport if you need it.
- Walk with confidence. Be wary of casual requests from strangers on the street, like someone asking for the time or money for a bus ticket. While most people will be genuine in their request, others might have ulterior motives.
- When using an ATM, prevent others from seeing your PIN number and secure your cash quickly in your bag. Don’t count your money on the street.
- Don’t let someone you don’t know drive you home. If you are the driver, don’t offer a lift to people who are unknown to you.
- Make sure your mobile phone always has enough battery power, or that you have change for a pay phone if you need to call for help. However, 000 emergency calls are free from any phone.
- If you’re listening to your iPod on the street, don’t turn it up so loud that you can’t hear trouble approaching, either from other people or from cars, trams and buses when you’re crossing the street.
- Always cross the street at pedestrian crossings (also known as a zebra crossing) or at traffic lights with pedestrian signals. Drivers in Australia generally don’t expect to have to yield for pedestrians in traffic.