“There is a club for everyone at Monash,” – MSA Clubs and Societies. 

As someone who comes from overseas, I remember struggling to find a sense of belonging at university. On one hand, I knew that I received an offer to study here, therefore I should have felt like I ‘belonged’ as a student (If I passed all the qualifications, then surely, I was ‘meant’ to be here, right?). However, I soon learned that a sense of belonging cannot be achieved just by entering the door that was made open for you; you also need to feel connected with the people and socio-cultural dynamic of the spaces you have entered.

On her paper about belonging, Dr. Kelly-Ann Allen, Associate Professor of Educational and Developmental Psychology here at Monash, conceptualised belonging as a “profound feeling of being connected with one’s physical environment and collective experiences”. It is considered as a fundamental human need that is correlated with better mental, physical, and socioeconomic well-being. 

It is proposed that belonging can be evaluated through an integrative framework that contains four components: competency; opportunity; motivation; and perception. Through this article, I shall teach you how you can use these components to find a club or society that will boost your sense of belonging here.



This component refers to one’s ability to form meaningful connections with their community. When analysing this within yourself, it is good to ask reflective questions, such as:

“What are some skills or knowledge that I already have and feel confident in?” – perhaps you have watched all episodes of One Piece or know all the lyrics to TWICE songs, why not consider joining the Society for Anime and Manga Appreciation or the Korean Appreciation Student Association? Your competency does not have to be related to your academic achievement or the way you carry yourself in social setting, it can be something as simple as “I know a lot about this [hobby, topic]” or “I have a lot of experiences playing this [sport, game]”

If you already have something that you are confident in, but you are worried about your language competency, perhaps joining English Connect activities might help you feel more confident in your ability to connect with your peers! 



Now that you have reflected on what you are good at, the next step is to evaluate how many chances that you can get from a club to form meaningful connections.

Some clubs organise weekly meetups and major events, while others might focus on hosting a few medium-sized events. It is good to know if your schedule aligns with the clubs’, so you will have more chances to foster a sense of belonging!

If you are reading this during Orientation Week, hop over to the festival at Lemon Scented Lawn and mingle with the clubs that you are interested in. Ask them if they have a list of events that they are planning to run this semester and see if you will be able to attend them.

You can also reflect on your preference for socialising; If you prefer sitting down with your peers in a more intimate setting, perhaps the best opportunities for you would be the book club discussions at SURLY.

Or, if you are looking for an opportunity to mingle in a big social setting, why not consider attending the cross-university ball that the Monash Student’s Neuroscience and Psychology Society is organising with the Melbourne University Psychology Association at the San Remo Ballroom on April 30? It is open for everyone, and you might even stumble upon the author of this article (Bridgerton fans, am I giving Lady Whistledown-esque vibe yet?)



Everyone has a different reason to seek out belonging. A great question to ask yourself is, “what does ‘belonging’ mean to me?” – when you visualise yourself as someone who belongs in the community, what do you see yourself doing?

Perhaps you see yourself as having a support system while you are studying, eating your cultural food while laughing with a group of friends, or having a group hug after a sports competition.

Understanding what drives you towards connection can help you in your quest of fostering a sense of belonging at university, especially when your motivation is aligned with the purpose of the clubs and societies you want to partake in.

C&S divides clubs into different categories. If you know that your sense of belonging is culturally-driven (e.g., your personal values are heavily aligned with your culture and you often experience homesickness), perhaps joining cultural clubs will be more of value to you than joining other types of clubs.



This final component refers to your cognition (i.e., thought processes) and feelings about belonging. Someone can be motivated to seek out belonging, have plenty of opportunities to interact, and is competent in forming connections, but still struggle to perceive themself as a person who belongs. 

Our perception is greatly shaped by our past experiences, even if we came from the same cultural background, there are still combinations of events in our lives that make us see the world through unique lenses; and Monash is a highly multicultural space!

If you come from a highly collective culture like I do, you might be thrown off by the individualistic nature of Australian society, and it might be easy to perceive someone who sets a lot of personal boundaries as them rejecting you and not wanting to connect with you. The Intercultural Competence online module on Moodle is one resource that has helped me a lot in navigating my way through cultural differences here at university, and I cannot recommend it enough!

However, if you are someone who has experienced a lot of social rejection in the past, then this might impact your perception of belonging even if you are interculturally competent. The counsellors at University Health Services might be the best people to go to if you have identified some psychosocial challenges that you would like to overcome. 

Do not hesitate to reach out, and I hope this article helps you find that sense of belonging this year!

Gerardien E.A

The author Gerardien E.A

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