Top tips to help foreign students in Australia apply and navigate university life
By Claire Adams
Celebrated as one of the sunniest countries and fastest advancing economies in the world, Australia has become a popular destination for international students. Its educational institutions have an impressive reputation, especially if you consider that six Australian universities are in the top 100 of the 2018 World University Rankings, and so are competitive both for Australian and international students.
If you have your heart set on studying in Australia, there are a few essentials to keep in mind – from ensuring that you have the right visa to striking a good balance between your studies and your social life.
1. Simplified paperwork procedures
Once you have been accepted to a university and a course of your preference, you can start preparing your visa application. Fortunately for all foreign students, the Australian government has simplified this procedure to a large extent. As of 2016, all study visas fall under the same category, Student visa (Subclass 500), no matter your academic field of interest.
And most importantly, don’t be afraid to reach out to your university and ask for help when applying. They have staff who are familiar with the procedures and will be happy to offer guidance.
2. Financing support options
Like some of the high-ranked universities in the UK, Australian education often comes at a high price. Not to mention other expenses such as housing, food and healthcare, all of which can be surprisingly high because of the country’s very high living standards. However, if you are eligible for any form of financial aid, you can lower the costs of your studies.
Consider applying for an international scholarship or a loan or financial aid designed specifically for overseas students. Your financial ability is crucial for obtaining your visa, and it will also mean that you can enjoy your time in Australia.
3. Studying dilemmas
Coming from a different student culture can be a challenge when you travel across the world to earn your degree. Perhaps your previous education has been narrower, or broader, or you need to adjust to the different mix of practical and theoretical classes. As a result, some students can find it difficult to keep up.
Australia has a distinct culture of exchanging study notes and study guides in order to help new students adjust. It’s easily done online, where you can swap your own notes for someone else’s free of charge, and prepare for a difficult exam with the help of past students who have mastered the subject matter.
4. Lifestyle and culture
Australia’s warm, sunny weather is the perfect personification of its inhabitants’ sunny disposition. It is a very multicultural country, and you will find yourself surrounded by people of all backgrounds and interests.
Trendy restaurants and cafes, museums and galleries, lush green parks, gardens and so much more make the country an exciting one to explore. Don’t be shy about asking for help or advice regarding any aspect of your life in Australia – there’ll likely be a crowd of people eager to offer you a helping hand.
5. The upside-down seasons
Another useful fact for those who choose to study in Australia is that its location in the southern hemisphere means that the seasons are opposite to those in Europe and the US. This means that Australia’s spring will start just as the autumn leaves start to fall from the trees in Toronto, and you’ll likely be basking on the beach while many in Wales are wearing winter coats.
However, keep in mind that many corners of the country can get cold during winter months (that means July and August), so learn about the district you plan to go to, and pack your luggage to serve you in both seasons.
6. Keep your health in check
While Australian residents are entitled to their local medical care, every foreign student needs to ensure that they have a proper health package called Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC), which is also on your must-have list for the visa.
It’s designed primarily as a precaution and a way to help you with potential expenses in case you have any health issues during your stay. Make sure that you choose the package that is right for you, and as soon as you select your accommodation, find out about nearby emergency centres and hospitals.
7. Public transport
No matter where you decide to study, Australia has a well-developed variety of public transport options including buses, trains, light rail and ferries. The services have reliable timetables, and it might be useful to learn about any schedule changes before you start your semester.
Some territories have concession fares for students, so ask around and obtain the proper transport cards depending on your age and status.
8. Get used to new grades
Prepare for some changes in terms of marking in your new university. They use letters to grade your work, but their success percentages and meaning are quite different.
HD stands for high distinction, D for distinction, and these are the two highest marks that you can get. Cr stands for credit, P for pass and F for fail.
9. Work and study options
Many student visas allow their students a certain period of time to work in Australia, and although this is often an excellent way to minimise your expenses, you should consider whether this will affect your studying.
Your visa allows you to work up to 40 hours a fortnight while your classes are in full swing, and you are free to work as much as you please during breaks, while your family members can do the same.
Keep in mind that the minimum wage in Australia is A$17.70 per hour, and students can easily find work as tutors, in retail or in tourism.