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14 Things to Know Before Studying in Australia

14 Things to Know Before Studying in Australia main image

As told to Jenny Scott Russell – Local Leo

The idea of studying in Australia can seem pretty daunting. It’s on the other side of the world and it’s a huge country, so there are a lot of unknowns. But in 2016, my friend Grace decided to give it a go, relocating to Perth to study Economics and Politics at the University of Western Australia. She was gone for six months and when she returned, I remember thinking two things. The first was ‘wow, her tan is amazing’ and the second, slightly more relevant thought being ‘I wonder what she wished she’d known before studying in Australia’.

A few years down the line and I have had the opportunity to interview Grace with the aim of gathering advice for people soon to study abroad in Australia. So, here are 14 things to know before studying in Australia…

1. There’s a *lot* of space

Australian landscape

The first major difference I noticed when arriving in Australia is that there’s a lot of space, as it’s such a big country! I recommend going on as many trips as possible to explore as much as you can as there is so much to see. The roads are wide and buildings are built out, not up, and generally it feels like there are a lot less people.

2. University life feels very relaxed

In Australia university is structured very differently, there’s far less contact time with lecturers. There’s also a lot of flexibility around module choices and retaking exams so university felt quite relaxed in comparison to the UK. The culture around resitting exams and it not being a negative thing meant I performed better and felt less pressure.  

3. It’s easy to make friends

Making friends in Australia

You have a different mindset when studying abroad so everyone seems more open to making friends. I went into student halls and they had a very strong community aspect which made making friends there easy. Halls were full of Australians and international students which was great, although I did find it a bit harder to make course friends, since everyone’s doing such a mixture of modules.

4. There aren’t actually that many bugs

Australia isn’t scary and there aren’t actually that many bugs. I saw a couple of snakes but nothing else and I didn’t find myself thinking about the poisonous animals at all. Obviously don’t approach massive, scary looking spiders though! It’s a day to day thing there and very few people get bitten. They have procedures in place for when it does happen but statistically it’s super unlikely.

5. Time flies when you’re having fun

Having fun in Australia

Time flies, and I know it’s not specific to Australia but I wish I’d thought about it and done as much as I could with every second. You get so comfortable moving to another country and how life can change so quickly that you can forget to make the most of it.

6. People drink boxed wine

I wish I’d known that students drink boxed wine, just so I could prepare myself. Also, buy spirts at the airport! I highly recommend that, since alcohol is expensive in Australia.

7. Australia is pricey

Australia is more expensive than the UK unless you’ve come from London, then it’s pretty similar. It really depends on where you live though, as it does in any country. Rent prices are flexible but IGA, which is the most common supermarket out there, is quite expensive. Especially fruit. I just didn’t eat berries or grapes while studying abroad! Consider saving up some extra funds before you go because even though you don’t pay Australian university fees, you also don’t get a lot of extra funding from your university at home.

8. You do actually have to do some work

The university experience I had in Australia was quite comparable to the UK in terms of workload. It was more coursework based though, and they also have midterms so the grading is split up more. Their system is good because by not leaving all the exams to the end of the year, the pressure is spread out and you perform better. A risk of studying abroad is that people think it’s a break or holiday. But it is actually studying and you have to be careful not to be led astray. Be productive and have a balance between work and play.

9. The nightlife is great

Going out in Australia is amazing. I was based in Perth but also visited Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide and they all had good going out scenes. Rather than clubs there were more bars and house parties are far more common. There were a few clubs in Perth but we rarely went to them. The culture is different surrounding going out. Everything starts earlier but they still drink a lot, like in the UK.

10. The time difference makes you miss home

It’s really dependent on your experience in Australia and who you are as a person, but I found that the time difference made me miss home because it makes it hard to communicate with friends and family. I would often get up early to talk to my parents. That’s what makes you feel like you’re so far away. You can’t nip back for the weekend like you could in Europe. I also missed M&S food and having access to things I was used to, friends and habits I had at home which weren’t the same in Australia.

11. The west coast is less populated than the east

Australia

Perth isn’t the most popular city in Australia with international students but it’s in a very beautiful area and I’m happy I got to see it. The east coast is more populated than the west which is great. If you study in Perth like I did, make sure you see Melbourne and Sydney at some point too. You’ll have to fly though, as they’re very far apart!

12. Australia does have a few cons

I loved my experience in Australia but there were a few cons, such as the time difference from the UK and not having to learn a new language. I also found Australia wasn’t very multicultural which was a con for me.

13. One semester is long enough but you’ll want to stay longer

Six months or one semester is enough time to really experience Australia, get used to it and travel. And that’s the most important part, having time to explore. Try to allocate time either side of your semester to see more of the country. I’d like to have been there longer and had friends who stayed for a whole year, but my university only offered six months abroad.

14. You’ll leave with amazing memories

Memories of Australia

Traveling in a campervan through the outback, cliff jumping into the sea, trying and failing miserable to surf… I have so many amazing, really distinct memories from Australia. I highly recommend going and had the best studying experience there. It’s such a cool place to explore. When you’re deciding on where you want to go on exchange, think about what you want to get out of it. Australia is a great opportunity to become independent and be in a completely different environment.

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Written by Jenny Scott Russell
The author of London-based travel blog LocalLeo.co.uk, Jenny travels the world while working full time in the UK fashion industry. She has a passion for vegan street food and outdoor sports and in 2015 moved to Austria on an Erasmus exchange. She has since graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Textile Design and has visited over 25 different countries.

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