It has been 9 months since I left Tenby and Malaysia to start my high school journey anew in Australia. School should have finished for me this year but I decided to extend my schooling duration in order to learn and adapt to a Western (well, technically, not geographically speaking) environment. Being an extremely introverted student in the past (and probably even now), this has been a life-changing 9 months for me, from making new friends to facing test after test back-to-back.
These 9 months have been relatively stressful for me, as although we have fewer exams, we have more tests (assessment tasks) that must be passed, otherwise we fail the term. As a result, I became more alert and worked like never before.
Studying in a different country has allowed me to learn many different things, from different study habits to the everyday culture of the Australians. So, I am going to share a few tips and habits that I’ve learnt to be essential in improving one’s performance in school and out of school as well.
1. Self-Discipline is the Key Unlocking Maximum Potential
This may seem like a very obvious point to be made, however, it cannot be stressed enough. The workload in Australian schools is quite different compared to Malaysian schools. Large amounts of work (a whole chapter or more) are given at once in comparison to the measly pages of homework given by Malaysian teachers. Of course, more time is given (one to two weeks in general) to complete it, which seems more flexible in comparison to the 1-2 day duration given for a few pages, at least on the surface.
In reality, this is actually a sort of a double-edged sword for a lot of people, particularly those who put things off to last minute (let’s face it, we all do it) or fail to plan their workload properly. This results in two things: getting overwhelmed by the huge workload causing poor quality of work, or failing to complete the homework at all. Consequently, it benefits those who are disciplined enough to complete work as soon as possible. Not to mention failing to complete adequate amount of homework can deem your teacher to fail you for the whole term.
Another thing that requires self-discipline is study time outside of school. It is easier to create a study plan in Malaysia than in Australia, as exams and tests follow regulated schedules where adequate time is given to plan out which subject to study first and how to study for it. In Australia however, teachers can set tests to whichever day they deem suitable, so tests can conflict on the same days. Even the homework load can interfere with the tests as well, giving far less time for study. This system benefits those who discipline themselves well, and punishes the laid-back and complacent ones.
2. Mastering Your Language is Essential
Regardless it being Bahasa Malaysia, English or even Chinese for that matter, language has become one of the most important aspects in school that requires absolute attention. Language is the core of everything we learn, allowing us to understand the information presented to us and to interpret problems, even in mathematical subjects.
In Malaysia, it is essential to master Bahasa Malaysia. The majority of SPM subjects are taught in BM, and failing to even pass BM will void your SPM certification regardless of the performance of your other subjects, wasting all the time and effort spent.
In fact, it is no different in Australia, with heavy emphasis on mastery of the English language. Failing to pass one of the Year 12 units (basically a term) will automatically void your certificate of education. This is in fact more challenging than in Malaysia as English language in Australia can prove extremely difficult to those who are not proficient enough or use English as their secondary language. This also poses as a challenge to foreigners not familiar enough with English or even locals who normally use other languages at home.
Of course, there are many ways to tackle language problems, both in Malaysia and in any other part of the world. One of which is to adopt a stronger reading habit. Whether it’s reading books or even reading online articles, it can help build stronger vocabulary and allow you to learn the language’s different nuances outside of class. Using the language not only in class but out of class also gives real-world benefits towards your proficiency of language.
3. Never be Afraid to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
This should be taken with a pinch of salt. Although in some situations it’s best to stay within this zone, in cases where you have to try new things this point becomes particularly useful. It is often not good to prevent change in oneself, as sticking to a particular hobby for example can lead to a dull and boring lifestyle.
Change should be embraced, as it can often lead to self-improvement. Trying out new activities or pursuing new interests can change your perspectives on many aspects of life. In fact, sometimes even trying out new activities can improve your performance in your other activities, through the adaptation of new methods or new mindsets.
Of course, if you are still not too sure if you should try out a particular activity, you can always ask those around you, such as your teachers, peers or even parents, for their opinions or whether they would recommend you to do such activities.
4. Good Relationships Helps You Set Sail for Success
Self-performance can be improved with the help of those around you. Whether it being them giving you assistance, or their presence giving you motivation, social interactions are a crucial aspect in everyone’s lives.
One obvious example is your friends. Your friends, whether outside of school or within the school, are always a good way to occupy your time and can always help you out in some situations. In return, you can help them from time to time and build a better friendship. In the past few months, I managed to make a decent number of friends which actually improved my situation in school greatly compared to when I first started out in school.
Students also tend to forget to maintain a good relationship with their teachers. Teachers play the most impactful role in students’ learning as almost everything learnt in school is received from the teachers. Teachers also have a big influence in our performance, sometimes determining whether we can get a few extra marks in their tests.
It is alright to ask questions, whether right or wrong. Your teachers may look scary on the outside, but almost every teacher I had jumped to assist me when I was in need of help (as nothing would please them more than getting a student asking them for help.) Engage in conversation with them when you bump into them in the canteen, or even just greeting them whenever you cross paths. Who knows, they might actually help you when you are in a pinch!
5. Diversity, In skill set and intelligence, is a Necessity
Companies and even schools now are searching for versatile students and individuals. The seeming truth of current reality is that you cannot get far with only knowledge in your back pocket. rather than looking solely at academic performance. This holds true in a majority of countries, including both Malaysia and Australia. As a result, it is crucial to hone ability in both aspects.
Skills can be easily attained in many aspects, whether it be a sport or even in a hobby like photography or drawing. These skills do not need to be perfected, even basic knowledge can be deemed useful. As the saying goes, “A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.” Therefore, it is often better to put more effort into various skills rather than focusing on one specific skill.
Balance is an important factor to remember when pursuing other skills, as there is no point mastering many different skills without any intelligence, nor vice versa.Of course, this does not mean that you should neglect your studies. Time should be organized to accommodate both academic studies and skillset improvement to maintain optimal performance in both aspects, and to ensure that one does not fall behind.
That is most of what I have learnt during my study in Australia thus far. It has driven me to improve myself in more ways than one, and has overall changed my outlook on life. Indeed, there is more to learn in life as I am still relatively young, but in general these tips should serve well in many cases. To end this article off, here is a quote for you to think about:
“If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude.” – Maya Angelou
Ex-Tenbian, 2011-2016. Computer nerd. Experienced procrastinator.