“Finding their footing”: Navigating life as an international student

Studying to become a dental practitioner is challenging in its own right, but Dental Practitioner Support is aware that for international students, there can be added stressors.


We speak with Dr Yasmin Samiee, a dentist hailing from Toronto, Canada, about her experience navigating student life and the workforce in Australia. 

Moving abroad for study

Yasmin first moved to Sydney from Canada in 2017 to pursue tertiary studies in dentistry. The idea of being an international student appealed to Yasmin — she had always wanted to travel while earning a degree.

“I knew I was going to travel for my studies, so why not go to a country like Australia. It is such a beautiful country and I already had a friend who was also planning to come to Australia to study dentistry. Plus, I wanted to study somewhere reciprocal, so I could study overseas but still practice in Canada, if I decided to come back.”

Yasmin was excited to move, but she also knew there would be many challenges ahead, like sorting out a visa or finding a job. Completing her final year in the middle of a pandemic was not something she was prepared for.

Yet, as with any issues Yasmin was confronted with as an international student, she was able to overcome them by seeking out support.

Support before the move

There is a lot of paperwork that comes with being an international student, from visas to student applications to loans, which can be overwhelming.

Instead of managing the documentation herself, Yasmin reached out to an organisation that specialises in supporting international students preparing to study in the medical field in Australia.

“I would recommend any international students coming over to look into a service like that because it really helps. While you can find all this information yourself, it's all over the place and sometimes you aren’t sure what to look for. Using a service like I did just makes the whole process easier because it streamlines everything.”

The organisation also hosted a welcome breakfast for Yasmin and the other international students who arrived in Australia and hired them a truck to collect furniture for their new homes.

If you are an international student who is struggling to access the services Yasmin found prior to her arrival, you can always contact our 24/7 national support service by calling 1800 377 700 or by contacting us via email.

Building a community

When Yasmin first arrived in Australia, she was surprised to discover just how many international students she would be studying alongside.

“I’m not sure if this is common knowledge, but a lot of students in my dental degree were international students. I was expecting it to be much harder to adjust to a new life in Australia, but meeting all these people who are also moving to a new place and finding their footing made me feel less alone.”

Knowing that her fellow international students were struggling to find a place to rent or a part-time job created a sense of camaraderie.

“International students face a lot of challenges that a lot of our Australian colleagues don't face. Most domestic students I studied with still lived at home, so they didn’t have to worry about buying groceries or making dinner. They could study a little later at the library and have someone pick them up.”

“It took me a little longer to settle into our dentistry course, which is already a lot of work on its own. But, I do feel lucky because there were a lot of international students, so we were all helping each other.”

Yasmin was also a part of the Sydney University Dental Society and she was quite involved in ensuring that international students were taken care of during the pandemic.

“We had to try to manage expectations from the university and students during a really uncertain time. Thankfully I still had a job during COVID, but I knew a lot of friends who were getting laid off, so it was important that we were making sure they were supported.”

Sustaining connections

When Yasmin graduated university, she left with a supportive network of friends in the dentistry field.

Her fellow students have helped her navigate life post-university, by giving her advice on obtaining a work visa and finding employment.

“Once you finish studying, your student visa is no longer valid so you have to apply for a new one. Since there are a few options, I asked for advice on what would be the best one to apply for.”

“Finding work in the city after graduating was also hard because not many clinics were hiring. One of my friends suggested looking more regional, and after talking about it with my partner we decided that might be a better option. That is why we are in Tamworth now.”

Yasmin’s advice for anyone thinking of studying overseas is to take the leap — there are more international students out there than you think.

“Just know there is a community out there that wants to help you and know you are never alone.”

“Building companionship amongst classmates is important because when you get stressed from study, work or other life things, it is your classmates that will be there for you.”

Our counsellors at Dental Practitioner Support can also provide advice on how to build and sustain connections in the dentistry field.

You can also check out our online resources and advice for students and recent graduates.