With Australia being surrounded by water, swimming skills are considered essential by many. In an effort to promote water safety, universities across the country have been implementing swim programs catered to international students.
The University of New South Wales (UNSW) is one such university taking the lead. Their Learn to Swim Program, offered in partnership with organisations like the Coogee Surf Life Saving Club, Medibank and the UNSW Health Promotion Unit, runs three times per year.
The program has engaged nearly 1,000 international students from 46 countries since its inception in 2018.
Over the course of eight one-hour sessions, qualified instructors will help participants master swimming techniques and water safety essentials. Not only will swimmers become more confident in the water, but they will also learn beach safety tips to stay safe on Australian shores.
Most participants report continuing to swim regularly after completing the course, improving their technique and ability over time. Some have even gone on to become swimming instructors themselves or bring their newfound skills back to their home communities.
Beyond building abilities in the water, the program offers the chance to meet new friends who share aquatic interests. Swimmers can build comradery with fellow participants whilst forming invaluable lifelong skills that promote well-being.
Similar university-run programs can be found at the University of Melbourne and the University of Western Australia (UWA).
The University of Melbourne provides free swimming lessons to students, whilst UWA offers swim programs for participants as young as three years old.
With swimmers flocking to beaches, Royal Life Saving Australia has also issued guidelines for new migrants partaking in water activities: never go alone, wear a lifejacket, avoid alcohol, and swim only between the flags at patrolled beaches.
As international student enrollment continues to rise, swim programs like these aim to equip visitors with the skills to safely enjoy Australia’s abundant aquatic offerings.