Australia has the most gorgeous beaches, the friendliest people, the best schools, not to mention the most amazing nightlife. The Aussies are all extremely friendly and helpful and they love to chat. Don't hesitate to say, "how ya goen?" It's very easy to make friends and there is always something happening as far as activities go, whether it be on campus or in the city. The nights are always alive.
The culture shock experienced was a positive one. I think you need not to prepare yourself for the differences you will encounter in Australia, but do prepare for the culture shock you will experience when going back to the States. Now that's a shock!
The international office at Griffith University is a huge department. It's a little hard to find if you are not familiar with the campus, like everything else at Griffith, but if you ask people or look it up on the campus map, you will find it eventually. At orientation, the school representatives tell us that if we have any questions at all regarding the university, our visas, work permits, health insurance, etc. we should go directly to the international office.
It is fairly easy to get classes, but if you cannot get into a class that you need, be sure to talk to Renee at the International Programs office at Griffith and tell her how important it is that you get the class and she will help you. Renee is great and she is there to help you out. At Griffith, Gold Coast, the International office is very helpful, but since we are considered exchange students, not ‘study abroad’ students, it can be difficult to get into some classes of choice. If you would really like to be in a class and desperately need it for your major, be on top of times for enrollment because some classes fill very quickly, and many of them have no lee-way of letting more students in (just like at our home Cal State classes).
Your first semester classes need to be approved by the International Office before you can register (at Nathan campus, that is Ruth). You not only are required to do this, but it is the best way, because the International Office talks to the teachers and makes sure you can get in the classes. The second semester you are treated like a Uni student and the classes do not need to be approved. Talk to students within your major and ask them what classes and teachers they recommend.
The system for signing up for classes is almost exactly like the blackboard system in some CSU's. It’s brand new and very user friend. For anyone who has ever enrolled in a class, it should be very easy. Professors are very welcoming and there are many international students. Once in you will find that professors are really nice, but don't be deceived, they still grade pretty tough. Professors love group work. Expect a lot of interaction, oral presentations and a lot of out of class time dedication for projects. It's a great learning experience and much was gained from it.
There are several ways to go about finding accommodation. You can go to the campus village (student-only residences), look in any advertisements or bulletins for people who are looking for roommates, or simply take on the challenge yourself. There are many post boards up around campus where people advertise places to stay and there is an accommodation office for students giving lists of places looking for people, most of these places would be around and near the school. You can also look for places to live at flatmates.com.au, a free service, or the newspaper. You can walk into any real estate agent's office (which are plentiful) and ask what's available. Some students gathered a few people together and found really great deals on renting beautiful houses by the waterfronts. Although it can be quite tiring because of the lack of transportation, walking around to find places for rent is a good option too. Be sure to carry plenty of water because it's hot in February.
If you are on the Gold Coast, you may want to consider looking for housing in Surfers Paradise rather than living in university housing. University housing is far from the beach and Surfers Paradise (all the shops, restaurants, night clubs, etc.). Housing in Surfers Paradise can be cheaper than housing near the school. Consider having several roommates, in a place like this you will enjoy having company. If you are looking for a flat be sure to check out the buildings that look like hotels because they also will have permanent flats for rent.
There is an accommodation office on the Nathan Campus. The office is located on campus in the Hub building and they can help you find on-campus, off-campus, and homestay locations near campus. They will give you a map of the area and show which suburbs to look at for housing.
If you apply for on-campus housing (especially at Nathan), make sure that you keep in touch with the accommodation office to see that your application has been accepted and confirm with them that you will have housing when you arrive. After arrival there may not be any room available.
The cost for accommodation is around the same as in California, but don’t be alarmed when you see that it is per week (pw) and not per month. You will be spending most of your time in town where all the action is. That is why we recommend living near town instead of catching buses all day long. Just so you know, it took some students a couple of weeks to find somewhere to live. This is completely normal. I was lucky enough to find an apartment in a high rise building (a holiday unit) with a gorgeous ocean view near Surfers Paradise for about US$400/month. My biggest piece of advice is that you try to live near the beach and be sure you love where you are living without just trying to hurry into a flat. Good luck.
Looking for a place to live is a very personal decision. Some may take it as a more serious decision than others. It is said, as well as found from experience, that your impression of Brisbane will be radically different depending on where you live.
Taking the bus may be an adjustment if you are use to having your own car. The busses run in most areas that you will need to go. Depending on the day and time of day, they run more frequently or infrequently. Timetables are available in lots of places or even from the bus driver himself. You should check these timetables before planning your night excursions, because buses stop running before the bars and clubs close. There is no flat rate, you will have to let the bus driver know where you're going so he can tell you the appropriate fare. You get a reduced fare when you show your student card.
In Brisbane, you also have the option of purchasing monthly passes, weekly passes, 10-trip saver passes and daily passes.
There is a train that can take you to other cities. It's quite cheap and you can get to the rail by one of the local busses.
Taxis are really expensive and if you get caught in the Central Business District (CBD) late at night it's recommended you take a taxi with at least four other individuals, then you can split the cost.
Bikes are somewhat popular around Brisbane. Second hand bikes can be purchased fairly inexpensively. If you purchase a bike, make sure it has a front and back light and that you always wear your helmet. There is a helmet law, that the police do enforce. Also, do not drive your bike home after drinking. There are drunk driving (here called drink driving) laws that apply to bikes.
Griffith provides you with free e-mail, so it's not recommended trying to hook up the net or even a phone line at home. There are net cafes everywhere. It would be cheaper for you to get a cell phone rather than a house line. I spent about $100 a month on phone calls and Internet at my home. The best way to go is to buy a pre-paid phone so you don’t have to deal with contracts. Pre-paid phones are everywhere and very affordable.
You'd be surprised to know that some complexes have Internet facilities and even mini gyms. Although I think the computer facilities on campus are sufficient for most students. You can also opt to have a connection set up in your own home. The cost is quite reasonable. You can choose a plan based on number of connections per month or downloading sizes with unlimited connections, that's the one I chose.
Many students chose to get cell phones (known as mobiles in Australia) instead of house lines. I chose to only have a house line connection and a message bank for an additional AU$6. For long distance it works out cheapest if you use a phone card from a house line. I found that cell phone charges were extremely expensive, but so are house lines if you are not careful. You get charged a base fee and for every call you make. The rate depends on whether it is a local or non-local call. There is a fixed charge of AU18 cents per call for local calls and varying rates for other areas (per minute).
The popular cell phone companies are Optus, Vodafone, Telstra, and Virgin Mobile.
Griffith also provides students with a declining balance internet access. Any site that is outside a Griffith website you will be charged for. You start out with AUS$4 for each class you take . So, four classes gives you AUS$16 and it is pretty hard to use that. Also, when you are looking for a place to live, some might include internet in your rent.
Get your shopping done before 5:00 p.m.; because the business world dies and the fun begins at that hour. The best areas to find good deals are those out of the touristy areas of Surfers Paradise or Pacific Fair. Without a car, grocery shopping can be a hassle.
Brisbane shops usually close at 5:00 p.m. Some restaurants close early, around 8:00 p.m. The majority of stores are closed on Sundays (grocery stores have limited hours). At the Nathan campus there is a free bus that takes students from school to a local shopping mall (Sunnybank). Out here, malls will contain anything from clothing stores, Kmart or Big W (basically Wal-Mart), grocery stores (Coles and Woolworths are the two big names), postal stores (Post), as well as a variety of little specialty stores. In Brisbane there are a lot of Asian cooking stores). I would take this bus to the mall during the week and the bus would drop me off at Uni (Nathan Campus) and I would walk home with my groceries.
Unless you plan to work and cash checks, you really won't need an account in Australia. It is much easier to simply make ATM withdrawals in lump sums for the entire month to minimize fees from your home bank. Make sure you know what your home bank's rules are on withdrawing money. You cannot make POS transactions at local businesses because they are set up on a different system (EFT-POS). Also, banks are usually closed on weekends (if you would need to use a bank and not an ATM).
If you plan on working apply for your visa quickly because it can take a couple of weeks to obtain your visa, and TFN (tax file number), you will need both. I don’t recommend going there with hopes of finding a job in a hurry because it can be very difficult to find work because our visa only allows 20 hours of work per week, which can be limited for some employers.
Bank of America offers a direct connection to a bank in Australia called Westpac. That allowed me to pull money out of my bank at no cost at all.
MasterCard and Visa are pretty much accepted everywhere, but American Express can be denied by some small businesses.
The Student Experience at Macquarie University (Top)
We recommend using the airport pick-up offered through the university. Taking a cab from the airport is very expensive. If luggage is light one can take the trains. The people on campus are very nice. They will help you find your room, and show you around the campus.
There were over 600 students at the orientation and it focused on social activities, enrolling in classes and expectations of students. The orientation takes place over two days, where the advisors for exchange students discuss classes, enrollment, etc. Lunch is provided and it ’s a great place to make friends.
Student Life (Top)
Being a student is the same everywhere. You will meet a lot of nice people who are very helpful. The international office sponsored functions on and off campus. Living off campus made it easy to meet people in the community and find locals who had the same interests. Moving off campus, at least second semester is definitely recommended! By second semester you will know your way around the area and what the expectations from classes are, so living away from campus is pretty easy, less expensive and more fun.
Academic Life (Top)
The registration system at Macquarie University was challenging. Classes are scheduled for you by the university from the list of possible classes you sent before arrival. Because changes to your schedule are done by a specific few, you will find yourself standing in long lines to have the changes made. You will also encounter these lines when getting your student identification cards, books, school materials, etc. 3x5 cards seems to be non-existent! So if you study by flashcards- bring them from the States!
Each class includes a 1 to 2 hour lecture and then a 1 to 4 hour tutorial. Lectures are held once or twice a week in 200+ size lecture halls. Do not talk in lectures. Tutorials are for questions, clarification, and assignments. They are held in normal sized classrooms with any where from 12 to 30 other students. Tutorials are a good place to meet Australians. Because of the instructors’ Australian accents, for awhile may be hard to understand some of the lectures. Most professors record their lectures and students can listen to them at their convenience. Take advantage of the recorded lectures. The professors vary in their expectations. Professors are generally friendly and very helpful. Don’t feel embarrassed about going into office hours, in fact most professors love when students ask questions during office hours. Most professors usually respond quickly to email also.
The psychology classes are hard. Macquarie has the top psych program in all of Australia.
The week before school starts is hectic. Many students at the university come from another country and most of them are looking for a place to stay on and off campus. The school accommodations office is very helpful. If you want to arrange your own accommodation, arrive at least 2 weeks early to find the best place. We recommend finding a place close to the school. The shopping mall and buses are across the street from the school. If you are buying your own food, the mall is very convenient. Housing closer to the school is the most expensive. Places near the university are Marsfield, North Ryde or Epping. The university, the train, buses and a major shopping center are nearby. If you don't plan on having a car, this is your best bet.
Macquarie Uni Village is very convenient and comfortable. You get your own bed and bath. Common areas include kitchen, living room, dining room, laundry room. However, the Village is known as the American party place so if you’re not interested in loud parties all the time, this place is not for you. It’s also a fair walk from the mall, so getting groceries can be a big hassle. Herring Road Apts. are a good bet. Each person gets their own room, but the bathrooms are shared. There is a common living room, dining room and kitchen for six people to share. These apartments are close to the Mall and are very close to campus. At Parklands things always break and they are constantly renovating. Campus housing is recommended because of the social benefits, but the cafeteria food is generally pretty bad.
Bring a couple hundred in cash. We DO NOT recommend travelers checks, they are relatively useless. (OIP, however, does recommend traveler’s checks and warns against traveling with large amounts of cash.)
Definitely open a local account. Opening an account and banking are very easy. There is a bank on campus and more banks at the Macquarie Shopping Center, which is right across the street from the Uni. ATM machines are everywhere. A credit card comes in handy. Banking at Common was a good experience but with that, we recommend shopping around for the best bank for you. To get money out you can always use your ATM card on any ATM, but there might be a fee from your bank in the States. Also any time you use your credit card there might be an international transaction fee, on the purchase. It’s probably least expensive and easiest to just open an Australian bank account.
Telephone/Cell Phones (Top)
Our advice would be to purchase a cell phone. Vodafone is available at the Mall and is the cheapest and best service for a cell phone. A phone was only about 80 dollars and then a pre-pay plan is about 30 dollars a month. The service was good and really easy to use. I never ran out of minutes before the month ended and I was able to call the United States often.
Cell phones are cheap and you will not be out a lot of money if you lose your phone. Remember: Not all phones purchased outside of Australia will interact with the telephone system in Australia.
E-mail/Internet Access (Top)
You can buy a modem at the U@MQ bookstore for about 60 dollars. It’s from ‘Unwired’ which is a good internet provider. The service is available for a low monthly fee and although it was slow sometimes, it beats standing in line at the library or computer labs for internet. I recommend buying a printer when you arrive in Australia. There are several inexpensive brands available especially if you split the cost amongst all the roommates, and then you don’t have to wait in line to print something at the library.
Australia is up to date as far as computer access. The school has one area available for computer student use and it is always crowded. There is always a long wait (20 minutes or more) for all word processing or Internet uses. If you have a laptop you may want to bring it with you to Australia. Wait until you reach Australia to purchase your computer connection needs. These will include a surge protector and an outlet converter. Bring your own blank disk to copy material.
Most students use the internet at the computer lab on campus so there is always a line. There is wireless around a lot of the campus so you can always bring your computer to one of those areas for internet.
Registering for Classes (Top)
Find someone who has been through registration to help you. Macquarie system and courses are different. The study abroad office in the U@MQ building will help you figure out how to enroll and register for classes. But the orientation goes over the basics of registering.
Exchange students, but not study abroad students receive discounts on public transportation. Once you receive your student identification card, you will be able to purchase a transportation ticket that is good for the bus, train and ferry. From Macquarie Centre (the mall) the bus into the city takes any where from 20 minutes to an hour, depending on the bus line. The city is not within walking distance of Macquarie, but public transportation is quick, safe and easy. In April of 2009, a train line will be connecting Macquarie Uni to the city.
The Student Experience at the University of Queensland (Top)
Orientation was important, this was when they taught us what all the codes and errors mean when you are trying to register. There are several different meetings to attend during orientation which are all outlined in the information packet you receive from UQ before you arrive in Australia. Some of the meetings are mandatory and others provide useful information on important topics such as accommodation information and ideas for travel during vacation times. It is important to go through this schedule of meetings beforehand and plan which ones are most important for your personal needs.
There is also an orientation day on campus where all the different schools and clubs have booths where you can seek information and sign up for clubs and events you are interested in.
Registering for Classes (Top)
It's important to figure out what courses you will take before you arrive in Australia. You should try pick classes that transfer to your home campus and count toward your major. It is not suggested you take general education courses at UQ because their programs do not require their students to take General Ed and you will end up with time clashes in your schedule if you try to take courses from different departments. So, if you pick classes that are in the same department, you should have little difficulty registering. All registration is done online so make sure you are set up to register properly. Details on online registration should be included in your information package you receive from UQ before you arrive in Australia.
Being able to easily contact an advisor from your home campus is essential. Field studies are really fun and well worth doing if you can get into them and afford them. There are many interesting courses available here, particularly Aboriginal courses and International Politics, It is a rare opportunity to get an international perspective and learn about a country's own issues. Also, some classes are only offered one semester each year. Plan your classes for the entire year, not just a semester at a time. Some courses you need to have permission to register (especially if you haven't taken prerequisites at UQ). Contact the instructor or administration in the department so that you can be added to the permissions list and register.
Computers and Internet (Top)
It is easy to bring a laptop from the States and buy an adapter for the plug. The school gives you a free Internet access number that is pretty quick considering it is dial up. There are plenty of computers that can be used at the libraries on St. Lucia campus, but access to the internet at school is crowded and only available from 8:00 - 9:00 am and after 5:00 when the libraries are open or from 15 minute stations in every library. Once you are on, it is quick and easy. There are lots of computers and they seem to keep putting in more. The Music Library is never busy and there are always computers available. The science department has rooms and rooms full of Macs for students to use whenever they like. They are especially nice when needing to do a group project. The SSH and BiolSciences libraries are always full and have long lines. The easiest thing to do is bring a laptop, if you don't have one, computers at school are easy to use and there is always somewhere that can accommodate you.
At the time of this writing, wireless internet (wi-fi) was not widely available at UQ. Hopefully it will be soon.
There is plenty of student housing close to the campus and it's not difficult to find accommodation. There are flyers posted on and around campus if you are seeking a room in a share place and there are real estate companies who will help find accommodation to suit your needs. There are also dormitories on campus called "colleges" for which you can apply before you arrive in Australia (flatmates.com.au). The UQ accommodation website www.accommodation.uq.edu.au is a good place to start looking for accommodation. For UQ students, the closest suburbs are St. Lucia, Indooroopilly and Toowong, which are all on the same side of the river as UQ. Across the river is a popular place for students to live, West End, and Highgate Hill. One should check out the different neighborhoods and get a feel for the area before deciding where to live.
Most landlords require at least a 6-month lease, so it is smart to sign a 9-month lease instead of moving between semesters and paying for two 6-month leases, since you are only here for 9 months. Going through an agency rather than directly to a landlord is the safest way to go. There is a lot of protection for tenants in Australia through a Rental Board.
Share housing is generally much cheaper then getting some sort of student accommodation. It also (in my humble opinion) is better because you can have more of an Aussie experience by living with them. It also frees you generally from the need to sign a lease if it's an already established share house.
Setting up a bank account is really easy. All the major banks have branches on campus and understand the needs of international students. They can set you up with an account in 10 minutes. Major banks are ANZ, Commonwealth, WestPac, Bank of Queensland, and National.
It is expensive to use pay phones, house phones and cell phones. If you dial a cell phone from a pay phone it costs 40 cents for 30 seconds, so you have to keep putting money in the phone or it will cut you off.
You will be doing a lot of calling when you first get here and are looking for accommodation, transportation, and the like. Once you find your housing remember that local calls are not unlimited. You are charged for every call no matter how long you talk. It was about 25 cents for each call, which adds up.
International calling cards are extremely cheap and about the same cost, which is around 4 cents a minute. In fact, it's much cheaper to call outside of Australia than it is to call within the same city! Many cards give you extra call time for initial purchasing the card so be sure to look for the best deal. For example, UQConnect on campus offers an extra 10% on top of what you purchase.
It is suggested that you purchase a mobile phone while you are here, which can be purchased as a prepaid package. The major mobile phone companies are Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone. It is a good idea to compare before getting a phone and prepaid plan. Generally your phone will cost you AU$100 outright and your prepaid plans between $20-50. You choose the phone you want from the preferred service provider, and the package comes with a SIM card which has a certain amount of money on the card. To purchase more call time, you simply recharge your card with more money. In many cases, the larger the amount you put on the card, the cheaper the call rate which averages at about 40 cents a minute. Text messages on mobiles are also extremely popular in Australia, and cost about 20 cents per message.
Most neighborhoods have shopping centers that are easily accessible. Vegetables are generally cheaper at small green grocers and your other shopping needs can be met by Coles, Woolworths, and Bi-Lo supermarkets.
The St. Lucia campus offers a few services such as a post office, a hair and beauty salon, a card and gift shop, and lolly (candy) shop. If you live near campus, there are two shopping areas nearby where you can get your groceries. The Toowong shopping center is just a short bus ride away and has a Coles and Woolworths, the two main grocery chains. The center also has a few shops, but if your needs extend past groceries, the Indooroopilly shopping center and the Queen Street Mall in the city are both great places to take care of any shopping needs. Both are accessible by bus, and you can also reach the city by the train or City Cat.
There are also weekend markets in the city at Riverside (Sunday only) and Southbank (Friday evening-Sunday midday) which are great for picking up unique gifts and arts and crafts. Wednesday is market day on campus where you can find books, sunglasses, jewelry and other odds and ends.
One thing that takes getting used to is that the shops close at 5:00 pm on most days. Thursday night is "late night" at most shopping centers, except in the city where Friday night is "late night" and the shops stay open till 9:00 pm Coles and Woolworths are open till 9:00 pm on all weekdays, and shut at 6:00 pm on the weekends.
Public Transportation (Top)
Brisbane has an excellent public transportation system which includes buses, water ferries (the City Cat) and trains and UQ students get half price on fares. Buses and the City Cat Ferry Service run every half hour and there are lots of ways to get to Uni.
If you're used to having a car, the public transport takes time getting used to so if you're not sure where you're going, don't be afraid to ask! If attending St. Lucia campus, there is a bus stop on campus which has buses that stop at Toowong shopping center and go straight into the city. There is also a City Cat stop on campus, which is the fastest and most pleasant means of transportation offered. Brisbane and its outlaying suburbs are built around the Brisbane River and the City Cat takes advantage of this and runs stops from campus to beyond the city. You can buy a Ten Concession Trip Saver card which can be used on the bus and the City Cat. If you find yourself venturing outside of the Brisbane area, you can take the train and the closest train station is at Toowong.
Some students opt to buy a car and share the cost with roommates. Decent cars can be purchased for less than AU$1500. Just make sure the car gets checked for any mechanical problems and you get the car registered if it's expired. Also remember that traffic runs on the left side of the road! This transfers to walking as well, and you will mess up "traffic" if you walk on the "right" side of walkways.
UQ has an amazing sports program. Take advantage of the UQ Sport gym complex, pool, mixed social sports, clubs and trips. The facilities are lovely and sport provides a good way to meet people. There are several sport teams to join through UQ Sport including basketball, rowing and beach volleyball to name a few. Students can join for just a small fee. There's also a gym on St. Lucia campus which holds a weight room, cardio room, and also offers fitness classes ranging from yoga to swimming and boxing.
To get the full Aussie experience, it's suggested you see them in their natural habitat. That is, you must attend a game at one of their popular sporting events. There are two main sporting arenas, the Gabba and Suncorp Stadium, which are home to Brisbane's prized sports teams. At the Gabba, depending on the season you can watch either a cricket match, or the Australian Football League's (AFL) Brisbane Lions. The Suncorp Stadium is home to the Brisbane Broncos (Rugby League) and the Australian Wallabies (Rugby Union) also occasionally play there. Whichever game you attend, it's a sure fire way to immerse yourself in Aussie culture!
If a night on the town is your pleasure, Brisbane is a happening city featuring hundreds of nightclubs, bars and restaurants. Many bars feature live music on the weekends and the nightclubs are hosted by some of the hottest DJs around mixing up either top ten music, R&B or techno beats. The type of scene you seek will determine where you end up, but some student favorites include: the Royal Exchange Hotel (Toowong), Regatta Hotel (Toowong), Victory (City), Stock Exchange (City), GPO (Valley) and Hotel LA (Caxton St.). Many of these places offer drink specials on various nights so be sure to scope out the best deals. If you do hit the town, remember that most places check that you are at least 18 years of age (Australia's legal drinking age) and many times a foreign driver's license is not accepted. In these cases, you must use either your passport or purchase an 18 and up card for $30.
The Student Experience at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) (Top)
Upon arrival the first things you will want to do is sleep and get acclimated with the time down under. Most students choose to stay in Youth Hostels of which there are many. This type of accommodation is pretty basic and you will want to spend some of your first days looking for a more permanent place to live. This is an important decision so don't "settle" for the first place you find. QUT has an excellent office that can help you locate housing and even arrange for transportation to a few desired locations. The most common type of housing among students is called a ‘sharehouse’. Many sharehouses have several bedrooms (Up to 22 in some cases). These houses can be fun and exciting but you must consider life for the next 4 months with 21 other roommates. Sometimes it can be a bit much. Another thing to consider is the proximity of your desired housing to the uni. You may find an awesome house but might have to catch 3 busses to get to school.
Brisbane is made up of many different suburbs and areas, and each of these areas has distinct characteristics, support different lifestyles, and have different groups of people living there. Before deciding on a place to live, it might be beneficial to look around some and make the initial decision as to whether you want to live around campus or one of the other areas in Brisbane. There are many post boards/poles around campus where people advertise places to stay. You can get a list of housing options. Most of these places are around or near the school. It appears to be the consensus that West End is the best place to live because of its proximity, housing options, and funky vibe. The Valley, Southbank, New Farm, Kelvin Grove, Red Hill, Kangaroo Point, and Spring Hill, also offer some good options. If your housing is not arranged prior to arrival, I would recommend arriving in Australia within the first week of February because the rooms will fill up. Also, although it may be comfortingto make arrangements to live with other Americans, living with other people of different nationalities can be a very fulfilling experience. You can also look for places to live on the QUT website (a free service), or the newspaper.
Once you have established a place then the town is yours to discover. Public transportation is excellent in Brisbane and don't be afraid to get lost. Between the bus, ferry, city cat, and train, it is very easy to explore the city. The buses can be confusing at first. Each line goes to specific suburbs usually by way of the city. Brisbane is split into three zones and depending on how many zones you travel through will determine the cost. Available at 7-11 is a “go card”. This is a rechargeable card that allows you to simply “beep” on and off the bus/train/ferry/citycat by touching the card to a go card base. Make sure you get a concession card to get the student price while using public transport. The city is quite safe and the international office at QUT puts on some nice events to get to know other international kids to explore with.
As mentioned, QUT's international office is awesome! The people working there will do anything they can to help you. Get to know them. There is an orientation week where you will have an opportunity to meet other students and to sign up for all the orientation events. These events do cost money but are heaps of fun and I strongly recommend attending at least one if not all of them.
My trip was to Stradbroke Island which included surfing, sea kayaking, swimming, partying and most importantly meeting friends from all over the world. This is the trip where I met my flatmates for the second semester as well as a few lifelong friends.
There is no need to bring over heaps of cash. There are ATM's everywhere but they will charge a fee and not all will notify you what the actual fee is. Your bank will also charge a fee for this service as well as a foreign currency conversion fee.
You may also want to consider opening an Aussie bank account. They are free to students. But cards from the US are readily accepted and by no means is an Australian bank account mandatory (unless you are planning on working). Over the past couple of years the US dollar has lost some value on the AUS dollar. And although the money here looks like monopoly money the bills can add up. Know what you're spending.
Calling back to the US from Australia is actually quite cheap. From a toll phone it is 35 cents to connect and, depending on which calling card you buy, from 1-3 cents per minute. Cell phones can also come in handy and are quite affordable. I found that the best card for me was the Hello phone card. The local telephone company can install a phone in your house for as little as $13 dollars a month and if you have flatmates it becomes very affordable. Most students have cell phones. There are many companies that offer cell service. The most popular is Vodaphone, and for around AUS$50 a month you can call as much as you like (although they do limit international calls). The actual phones are affordable as well, but if you plan to bring a phone be sure it is "unlocked." (*Unlocking a phone refers to disabling restrictions that tie a phone to a specific network.) Ask your provider about taking and using your phone overseas.
Many students brought laptops with them, but there is no need to panic if you don't have one. QUT has computer labs everywhere. The main labs are usually full but each faculty has its own labs where there is usually a computer available. There is 24-hour access to labs on all campuses.
QUT provides free dial-up service to students that can be accessed from anywhere, and there is wireless service on the Garden's Point campus. All of these services are included in your fees.
You will have already signed up for classes for the first semester but sometimes there are issues. No worries mate! The international office will walk you through everything you need, including changing classes. Some upper-level classes require permission from the faculty. You will need to show that you have completed the necessary pre-reqs or their US equivalent. But remember that QUT is a real university and in many upper-division classes you will be the only exchange student and many people will be nearing graduation and take their work quite seriously.
I had many jobs during my stay in Australia. Telemarketing, cutting brocs (broccoli) and lettuce, and bartending (hospitality work), hospitality-functions (don't work for the greek club!!!). I worked partly for the money and partly for the experience. Farm work is hard and not fun. Telemarketing is the same the world over and I didn't last. But working in hospitality, whether it be as a waiter or behind a bar or wherever, is not too bad. I have met many people working and the wages in Australia are quite good. They depend on your age, but if you are over 21 you can expect anywhere from $15-18 AU per hour. But don't expect to make much in tips. Most Aussies don't. You need permission from the council to work. It cost $55 dollars. With your working visa, you are only allowed to work 20hrs/wk, however many businesses let you work more.
Brisbane nightlife is the best I have experienced. With heaps of packed clubs either in the city or the valley, you will never run out of options. There are drink specials on weekdays, but the businesses aren't allowed to advertise it, so you need to just figure it out. Weekends are always busy and clubs do not close until around 5am, so no more last calls at 1:45! The international office recommends you get an 18+ card. This card allows you to get into clubs without having to carry your passport everywhere.
There are so many places to travel in Australia that it is almost impossible to see everything you want. Brisbane is a great home base for many travel spots such as Fraser Island, Byron Bay, Morreton Island, Whitsundays Islands, and Cairns (The Great Barrier Reef), all of which are a must see. Make sure to book trips for midsemester break at least a few weeks ahead of time because they fill up. Quick tip: March and April is known as the wet season in Brisbane. Don’t head north over the first break unless you’re prepared for the rain. If you feel like checking out another country while you're in the neighborhood, there are so many options such as New Zealand, which I highly recommend. If you can, stay a while after your two semesters are finished because December is a great time to travel. And if you're short on cash, it's so easy just to get a job for a bit and that will pay for a whole trip!
This information is just a guideline. The time you have here is all yours to do whatever you want. Australia is a beautiful country and the people are funny and friendly as well. This has been one of the best experiences of my life, and making the decision to come here is one I will never regret. If you make it out here, GOOD ON YA MATE!
The Student Experience at the University of Western Sydney (Top)
The University of Western Sydney (UWS) is one of the largest universities in Australia with six campuses and 35,000 students, including approximately 3,000 international students.
UWS is a fairly young university. There is a lot of room for innovation and for people to make the university the kind of place they want it to be. You can start your own programs and clubs, projects and changes. The faculty are very eager, for the most part, to support anyone who shows initiative. Special features of the campus are that it is surrounded by farm land, campus Agriculture projects include a llama farm, deer farm, sheep, cattle, horses and rabbits. In addition, new projects include the Horticulture department and construction of a vineyard to compliment viticulture courses.
If you are unable to attend a lecture due to illness, it is advisable to schedule an appointment to see the campus physician right away so that a physician's note can be obtained as class attendance is mandatory for some courses.
UWS provides a variety of on-campus and off-campus accommodation. This ranges from Halls of Residence to townhouses, cottages and units. Rent is weekly. It is fairly easy to obtain housing in town just a short bike ride or walk to campus.
Living on campus is a good experience though, at least for the first semester. Rooms on campus are self-catered, with a common kitchen/living room. Beds, cooking appliances, closets and cupboards are provided. You will need bedding, hangers, towels, and dishes (often there are plenty left in kitchens). On-campus housing is priced comparably to that of off-campus housing. Wheelchair accessible housing is available, as is handicapped parking.
It is easy to meet people. Take advantage of facilities like the Unifit (gym and activities center), or participate in social sports--soccer, touch footy (rugby), volleyball, and frisbee. Start a plot at the organic garden, take art classes at the community art center, join a club (photo club, theatre troupe)... A social club fee is payable each session (semester).
Money and Banking (Top)
Upon first arriving, we were taken by our friendly mentors (UWS students) to take care of all this business. We set up accounts at a local bank. Banking procedures are similar to those in the States. There is a fee to change money from US to Australian. So, if you are being sent money, have it sent in large chunks, you may want to do your banking from your U.S. account.
Check to see if a fee is charged for ATM withdrawal from your US bank while in Australia at Australian ATM's. It is also a good idea to link your bank card to both your savings and checking accounts. Money can then be withdrawn from your U.S. checking or savings account by a cash withdrawal or transferred from one account to the other. It is also advisable to open a local Australian bank account, usually as a savings account which is linked to a bank debit card and allows the holder to withdraw cash or charge merchandise at most shops.
The two airlines in Australia share a monopoly and do not compete so this mode of travel is costly. Many student tours are cheap and almost everything has a student discount. Hostels are from $10-$30 a night. There are many Student Travel Associations in Sydney. For travel, they should be the first place to contact. Buses are usually the cheapest way to go, but package fly/drive/sleep deals can be found.
The Student Experience at Victoria University (Top)
I can still remember the atmosphere from the first day of orientation. The theater was packed with students from all around the world and there was the sound of all sorts of different conversations taking place in the background. It was from that point that we started to get to know some of the other International students studying at Vic Uni, people from many different countries and also those from other parts of the States as well.
During orientation week we attended a number of different information sessions which were designed to provide students with information about housing, banking, communication, and transportation in Melbourne. These sessions helped us to adapt to living in a new country. The special reception for exchange students at Victoria University helped make the orientation week more pleasant for all international students. There are many activities to take part in as a part of the international orientation. Some activities include a tour of the city one a double decker tour bus as well as welcome functions with drinks and refreshments put on by our in bound coordinators. These are great ways to become oriented with the city and also meet other international students. There are also activities set up for students (at a discounted rate for international students) that are a great opportunity to see and do the many different activities around Melbourne. For example, this last semester there was a "learn to surf day," horseback riding, rock climbing, and a wine tasting, Great Ocean Road and a Phillip Island tour. This semester they are hosting ski trips to Mt. Buller and white water rafting tours.
Finding Your Housing/ What's the Housing Like? (Top)
Melbourne is categorically the most livable city in the world. This is based on different variables such as housing costs, food costs, access to entertainment venues, sporting facilities, public transportation, crime, etc. This seemed to be very much true and it reflects in the ease at which it is to get housing. Any estate agent is willing to rent to college students, especially those with an American bank account. They usually want you to rent at least 6 month contracts. If students really want to save money they can look around the signposts set up all around campus where students look for other students to live with at very fair prices with no contracts and are willing to live with someone you may have little in common with.
There are many areas in the city that cater to student accommodation. The student accommodation linked to Victoria University is the Student Village. The Student Village is located in a suburb of Melbourne and takes around 40 minutes to get to the central area of the city. Casual accommodation at the village at a higher fee is available if you are unsure whether or not you want to take up residency at the village. The Student Village used to be a refugee camp and still rents out to refugees. Most local Australian students live at home and don't stay on campus so accommodations may not be what you would expect coming from a well-maintained CSU campus. They do have volleyball courts, tennis courts, academic supplementation, and a great social network for fellow Australian and International students.The Village is also just a 15 minute bus ride to the Footscray Park campus, the campus that the majority of IP students will have their classes.Arts or communication majors will most likely have their classes at St. Albans, a smaller Vic Uni campus. This campus is about 35 minutes outside of the city by train, and about 45 minutes away from the student village by bus. However, neither campus is set up like a college town, so the only reason to rent nearby is the ease at which to get to school. A good system of Trams and busses is set up so you can really live anywhere in that section of Melbourne, not necessarily Footscray, but in one of the adjacent suburbs such as Brunswick, Newport, Monee Ponds, Maribyrnong,Williamstown, just to name a few. This is a more expensive option but highly recommended if you want to be near shops, food, nightlife etc. Other apartment options are also available in the city. Although it is further away from uni, it is well worth it if you plan on spending a lot of time out of home. The suburbs vary in socioeconomic levels, so some are more drab and cheaper, while others have more of an active nightlife and are right near the beach, like St. Kilda. At the cheaper end of the spectrum, expect to pay $100-150 per week in AUS, while more expensive areas you can expect to pay $150-200 per week.
The student village is a great way to meet people and get accustomed to Melbourne. They hold an o-week the beginning of each semester which gives students a chance to get to know each other. There are over 700 people living at the Village both international and Australians. The Village hosts free to cheap activities including everything from bbq’s to day trips to weekend camps. They have academic advisors to help you if you’re feeling lost in school and a health and fitness coordinator that keeps you in shape with different classes every Thursday night. The facilities are not what you would expect coming from certain CSU campuses, but you get used to it and the people make it worth your while.
Bottom line: If you have the gumption to get yourself to Australia in the first place then take that extra step to set up housing that you like in an area you like. Contact real estate agents and search through the paper. Not only will it make your year abroad more enjoyable but gives you experience dealing with real life problems. Its much easier to do this stuff in Melbourne then in California. You deal with this stuff in the first week that you arrive. Stay in a hostel and really discover your different options. Make sure you find a place you will be happy in because it makes such a difference. It's a little stressful but take a few days of stress over 9 months of regret in a bogus accommodation. Remember though, you are here to meet people and living in the city or away from campus might make it more difficult to have as active of a life as planned. Try to find roommates who go to uni; they will know the places to go out and school related events going on.
It is a very good idea to have a mobile phone while living in Australia. Pre-pay SIM cards are available from most carriers such as Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone. If you have a phone with a SIM card in California it should work with the SIM cards available here. There are various deals (caps) that you can buy that expire within a month. Look at the different deals that may be going on because some offer much better rates and will end up saving you a fortune.
Some of the cheaper options for phone cards were the Boost Mobile $10 phone card charges ½ cent a minute but expires after 3 months or at Safeway (Telstra’s Superbuzz International Calling Voucher), $10 for 17 hours of talking.
Computer Access/Internet Access (Top)
Victoria University library provides unlimited computer access from 8 am to 12 midnight. There is now access to all email accounts. They also have wireless set up so you can access the internet through your personal computer. There is less availability to campus computers on the weekends because the library is only 10am-5 pm. There are cyber cafes, although they can end up being quite expensive. I would recommend bringing a laptop so you can work at home, rather than travel to use computers that are usually not available. Computer access during late morning and mid afternoon around campuses can become crowded so it is always a bonus to bring your own personal computer.
The staff was very helpful in this process, which can seem difficult. There is an designated day during the orientation week in which you can register for your classes and tutorials. It is a relatively smooth process and there is plenty of staff on hand to answer any question. The first two weeks are also open for students to amend their schedules, however, it is a lot less stressful and time consuming if you get it done beforehand. Australian universities have "courses" (majors) in which students select classes only from their specific course. If you want to take classes outside of your course it takes a lot of work and running around to get signatures as well as crashing classes during the first part of the semester.
Banking and Money (Top)
There are various Australian banks that you can set up a bank account with. Banks found throughout Australia include ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, and Westpac. Westpac ATMs also allow students who have a Bank of America account to withdrawal money with no extra charge. All banks have student accounts that require no start up fees or extra fees.
The cost of living is relatively expensive in Melbourne. Food, electronics, cars, gas, and especially alcohol cost more than in California. There are, however, discount stores and brands such as Aldi Supermarket, and Homebrand products that can really help cut living costs. There are also various markets like Footscray and Victoria where you can buy fresh fruits, vegetable, and produce at a reasonable price.
Australia is extremely expensive. They are only 2 cents short of our dollar and everything from clothing to make-up to alcohol is double even triple the prices of what we pay at home. Bank of America is linked with their Westpac, so if you have an account with them at home you can take money out of any Westpac ATM without being charged. Westpac can not access your account however so if you have questions or you overdraw you have to find a way to contact Bank Of America at home. We set up accounts at ANZ which is free for students. It is good to have more than one option for money while you are here incase something goes wrong with the bank or you lose your ATM card. Be prepared to spend a lot of money while you are here. Food is not cheap- even McDonalds costs around $6 for a small meal!
The weather here varies greatly. The description of Melbourne weather is that there are four seasons in one day. The strategy I developed to accommodate to the unpredictable weather is to wear layers.Melbourne experiences a lot more extreme weather than cities such as Brisbane and Sydney. As much as you think of Australia as just beaches, it gets very cold here in the winter! Bring at least one big winter jacket and other sweaters, sweatshirts, and long sleeves. It starts to warm up in August and gets to be hot in December. Summer begins around November and the warmest months are January and February.