English studies, new friends, and fun times
but what happens if you get sick?
Here’s 9 health tips for international students.
In this post we look at:
- Overseas Student Health Cover – what it is and how to get it
- Australian Hospitals – what to expect (plus COVID 19 testing)
- Beach and water safety – things to know before you get in the water
- How to find a doctor and dentist
- GP referrals to a specialist – what they are, how much they cost and how to get one
- Medications – where to get them and how to save money
- Mental health – where to get help
- Sexual health and relationships – where to get help and information
- Nature – using nature to boost your health
1. Overseas Student Health Cover
Our number one tip for international students in Australia is to purchase Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC). In Australia, medical services can be expensive, and because most international students will not be entitled to Australia’s Medicare insurance, so OSHC will be necessary. Most Lexis English students will need this type of insurance cover to obtain their student visa.
Reciprocal Health Care Arrangements
Some countries like Sweden, Belgium and Italy have Reciprocal Health Care Arrangements with Australia.
- If your country has one of these Arrangements with Australia, you may be eligible for an Australian Medicare card. Visit this website to learn more.
- Even if your home country has Reciprocal Health Care Arrangements, eligibility for a Medicare card does not substitute your need for OSHC cover. Visit privatehealth.gov.au to learn more or telephone 13 14 50 for information in your language – the translation service is free.
- It may be possible to make a claim on both your Medicare card and your OSHC policy. This is a called a Medicare Two-way claim. Not all OSHC policies allow this – speak to your insurer.
What medical costs does OSHC insurance cover?
OSHC covers basic medical and hospital care costs, plus limited costs for medication, ambulance services, blood tests and x-rays.
- Not all tests and services will be covered.
- Some policies have “extras cover” for dental, optical and physiotherapy. These will usually cost more. Policies with dental cover are worth having because dental care in Australia is expensive and currently is not covered by Medicare (for anyone).
- If you come to Australia on a student visa with your spouse/de facto partner and/or children, buy Family OSHC cover so that everyone in your family is insured.
Only a few registered insurers are approved to provide OSHC. View the list here.
- At Lexis English, students must pay the compulsory OSHC fee at the time of enrolment – to ensure coverage from your arrival date.
- Students can buy insurance direct from the insurer, through an agent (if you have one) or through the college.
- Once you buy the insurance, you will be emailed a policy number (membership number). Keep this number in a safe, convenient place so that you can show it to a doctor or a hospital if asked.
- Your OSHC card will be mailed to the address given on your enrolment form. Make sure the college has the correct address for you!
2. Australian Hospitals
If you go to (or are taken to) an Emergency Department in Australia, it will probably be a public hospital. These are funded by government, whereas private hospitals are not.
- In hospital, a triage nurse will assess your priority for treatment. You will be asked for your Medicare card and/or health insurance/OSHC card.
- Wait times at public hospitals can be long, so expect to be there for a few hours.
- You will be asked for your name, date of birth (DOB), and about the reason you are at hospital. Be prepared to repeat this information many times. This is part of a safety check to ensure you are not mistaken for another patient.
- Some hospital waiting rooms are equipped with mobile phone charging stations and phone chords.
At the time of writing, it is still possible to attend some hospitals and medical clinics for a free COVID-19 PCR test.
- You must comply with the isolation instructions given by medical staff.
- To find a COVID-19 testing clinic – visit this website.
- COVID-19 RAT tests can be purchased from chemists and pharmacies. These can be expensive, so if you live near a public hospital, or COVID testing clinic, ask if they issue free RAT tests. Some clinics do, some don’t.
- Don’t stockpile RAT tests – they expire and may give you a false reading.
3. Beach and water safety
It’s easy to get into trouble in the water,
no matter how experienced you are
Recently Gabriel told us about a scary moment he had getting “caught in a rip”. A “rip” is a powerful water current that runs close to the shore line. To get “caught in a rip” means to be overpowered by the current and pulled out to sea or onto coastal rock-lines. Thankfully, Gabriel survived!
Follow these water safety tips
- Always swim between the yellow and red flags on Australian beaches
- Look for beach safety signs
- Say hello to a lifesaver (they wear a yellow and red uniform) and are there to help and answer questions
- Never swim alone!
- Stay calm and raise your arm, if you get into trouble
- If you see someone in trouble and cannot swim, telephone 000 for help
- Watch a beach safety video in your native language.
4. How to find a doctor and dentist
- You don’t have to go to a hospital to see a doctor. You can see a General Practitioner (GP) in their private practice or at a Medical Centre.
- You may find waiting times take longer than you planned, even if you have an appointment.
- At Lexis English, we can tell you which medical and dental services are near the college. These are not recommendations! Reception can only search online to see which health professionals operate in the area.
- A good idea when you arrive in Australia is to look for a doctor or dentist near where you live. If they have a patient waitlist – you can ask to join. Sometimes you will see a sign in the window of a doctor’s or dentist practice that says “new patients welcome”.
- If you live in a Lexis Homestay arrangement, ask your Host to suggest someone.
- If you are gay or lesbian and prefer to see a doctor/GP who is gay friendly – you can find a list of NSW practitioners here. Having these connections in place means that you’ll know where to go if the time comes and it may help you get an appointment sooner than someone who is not on the doctor’s patient list.
Language tip – A “walk in” is a person who has not made an appointment or is not on the doctor’s or dentist’s regular patient list.
How much does it cost to see a doctor in Australia?
- The average GP consultation in Australia costs about $80-$85.
- Consultations are timed – the shorter the consultation is, the less you pay.
- Most GPs will ask you to pay at the time of consultation. If so, you will get a receipt for the service so that you claim the expenses back from Medicare or OSHC.
- If you don’t earn a lot of money but need medical help, ask if your doctor will consider a payment plan. Some doctors will reduce their fees if patients are in difficult financial circumstances. Ask at the time of booking your appointment or at the time of consultation.
Language tip – you may be able to find a Medical Centre or GP that “bulk bills” their patients. This means that the amount you are eligible to claim from Medicare and/or OSHC will be processed on the spot, and you pay only the difference between the amount billed and the amount Medicare and/or OSHC covers you for. This difference is known as “the gap”. You will sometimes hear dentists or doctors say “you will only have to pay the gap”. You should ask if the health provider bulk bills before you confirm your appointment.
5. GP referrals to a specialist
Sometimes, you might be referred by your GP to see a specialist. For example, if you develop an allergy or a problem that the GP cannot advise on.
- Referrals always happen through a GP.
- Waiting times to see specialists can be long – sometimes a few months. If you need to see a specialist urgently, ask to be put on a waitlist. This means that if another patient cancels an appointment you might be able to take their place.
How much does it cost to see a specialist?
- It may take more than one visit to resolve a health issue. For that reason, it’s a good idea to make sure you have the results of any blood tests or x-rays before you visit a specialist. That way, you’ll get an answer sooner.
- To avoid “bill shock”, make sure the GP and specialist are aware of any financial issues you have before getting specialist advice. They may be able to help you with a payment plan and will be able to tell you how much you will or will not get back from Medicare.
- You should always talk to your OSHC insurer about what you can and cannot claim.
Language tip – Bill shock is the bad feel we get when a bill is more than we expected to pay.
- A script is a document signed by your doctor that explains to chemists/pharmacies what drugs/medications you need. You might hear the words “filling a script” or “getting a script filled”. This means to receive the medication you need.
- In Australia the words chemist and pharmacy describe the same kind of shop. You may see shop signs with either of these words used.
- Medications like sea-sickness tablets (for those whale watching tours you’ll be doing in Australia!) don’t require a prescription but sometimes are kept behind the counter at a chemist or pharmacy. The shop assistant will help you.
How much do medications cost in Australia?
- If you receive medications at a hospital, these are often covered by the public health system and might not cost you anything.
- The same medications, once you go home, may need to be purchased from a chemist or pharmacy.
- Keep receipts for all your medical expenses so that you can claim them back on your insurance.
Can I get a student discount at a chemist or pharmacy?
- To reduce the cost of medication, ask your chemist or pharmacy to fill your script with a “generic brand”.
- Generic brand medication contains the same ingredients as the medication named on your script, but it comes in unbranded packaging. Many medications are available as a generic brand – the difference in price can be a lot!
Language tip – Branded is a marketing word for business or product names. Coca Cola is a brand name, like Apple, Panadol, Kwells and Qantas.
7. Mental health
Recent statistics from Beyond Blue show that 1 in 16 Australians are currently depressed, and 1 in 7 are anxious.
Coming to a new country – especially one where you don’t know the language or culture is one of life’s biggest experiences. With it comes the potential for self-development and a well-deserved sense of achievement at the end of your studies. But the journey can be tough.
What help can I get?
- You can also see a GP if you feel anxious or depressed.
- Talk to your Academic Manager or Campus Manager at college. Conversations with your Campus Manager or Academic Manager are private. Both of these people can help with study plans and other arrangements concerning your attendance and/or ability to study.
- It’s important that students on Student Visas attend class. Missing classes can make a bad situation worse. Make sure that Lexis has your contact information so that we can warn you about any potential problems with your visa and attendance.
- If you are staying with a Homestay Host, let your Host know you need help. They will contact the college so that together we can try to make your situation better.
- Another fantastic resource is Lifeline’s confidential telephone counselling service. Lifeline operators are available 24 hours a day/7 days a week. You can access trained support in your native language here – it’s free!
The team at Lexis English are genuinely interested in your well being and can connect you with help if you ask for it.
Lexis English also provides activities like meditation classes and social events to make study less stressful. In Sydney, the college provides job search, homework and accommodation workshops to help with practical needs. While most social events at Lexis Sydney happen during the day, the college does organise events for evening students. In some colleges, teachers will program an excursion for evening students every few weeks. This month, Lexis Sydney will have a Halloween Party so that evening students can take part. It’s one way day and evening students can meet and mix .
8. Sexual health and relationship advice for international students in Australia
Australia is a liberal, socially democratic society.
- Here, women and men have equal rights in law (gender equity).
- According to Statista.com (2021) – around 51% of the Australian population is female.
- Both women and men have (among other things) the right to have safe sex, to use a condom during sex and to access regular health checks to detect and treat sexually transmitted diseases.
- In Australia, women have the right to make their own choices about contraception and pregnancy.
- Each state in Australia has a number of government subsidised Women’s Health Clinics that can help with women’s health services. Most services are free or operate on a donation basis. You can find a list of women’s health clinics in New South Wales here.
- For women and men who are experiencing domestic, family or sexual violence – there is a confidential telephone service that is available 24/7 1800 737 732 (1800RESPECT.org). You can ask to speak to someone in a different language. The 1800RESPECT website has useful information about healthy relationships and you can access it in 28 different languages.
Language tip – Equal means “the same”.
Where else can I get information and advice about sexual health?
- Again, talk to your GP.
- If you are female and prefer to speak with a woman, you can ask to see a female doctor. Likewise, males who prefer to speak to a male doctor, can ask for a male doctor. It’s a very common request.
- The International Student Health Hub has interesting student stories to share. It’s a government funded website developed in collaboration with international students. There, you will find videos, fact sheets and other online resources. Students who have never had sex before will also be able to find answers to questions they may have.
- Another good website is Sexual Health Victoria. It’s an independent, education and advocacy organisation that shares student stories and answers questions international students ask about relationships and sex in Australia.
9. Get a boost from nature
It sounds simple, but there’s a lot a walk outdoors can do to support a sick body or a troubled mind! No matter which location you’ve chosen for your Lexis English experience – you are in a beautiful place. Not too far from you will be a clean beach, a meandering river or a beautiful park.
If you’re in Sydney you’ll be very close to the wild spaces of the Ku-rin-gai Chase and Gadigal National Parks, the many Northern Beaches or the harbourside Royal Botanic Gardens. You may even be within a train ride of a mountain range. So why not plan a weekend excursion or simply take your coffee or lunch break outdoors – you won’t be at Lexis forever and soon you’ll be graduating and saying farewell to your friends and your teachers!