A Glimpse of My First Two Weeks in Australia by Maddy Weir – Global Opportunities and Exchanges

At the time of writing this article, I have been in Australia for just under two weeks. My first week was spent in Sydney, exploring (as a tourist!) and overcoming jet lag, before heading down to Canberra (Australia’s capital) to start my study placement at the Australian National University. Given this, here are some general things that I have learned/noticed that may be useful to prospective study abroad applicants since arriving in Australia.

Australia can be colder/wetter than you think! Despite the British assumption that Australia is always ridiculously hot, that’s not strictly true; Canberra is located inland and is surrounded by mountains. On arrival, temperatures ranged between 0-15C, and while the days weren’t too bad, the nights were actually quite cold. Also, when I arrived in Sydney, the first few days were incredibly rainy, and although I’m English I’m used to it, it certainly challenges assumptions that Australia is always very sunny and warm.
There was a large amount of free WIFI in Australian cities. I was impressed with the amount of free WIFI available across Australia. Since I didn’t have a phone contract when I arrived, this made it easy to access information such as maps to help me navigate the area, as well as googling any potential questions I had.
I loved the amount of free drinking fountains across Australia. I arrived in Sydney a few days before heading to Canberra, and in both cities there are plenty of watering holes where you can refill your water bottles for free. Such an idea definitely keeps people hydrated in all weathers and reduces single-use plastic waste – I really think this is something England should implement across the country!

While you can never be fully prepared for something so life changing, there is definitely something you can do to make the transition a little less intense. My personal recommendations include:

  • Try to get to know the area before you arrive. Of course, that’s often easier said than done, and although I’ve been to Sydney before, I’ve never been to Canberra. By looking at maps and watching different videos online I was able to get a rough idea of ​​the layout of the city of Canberra and what was within walking distance of campus such as bus stops, train station , supermarkets etc. which certainly helped me with Arrivals.
  • Find out which banks are available before you arrive. Thanks to this, I was able to make an appointment before I arrived, which allowed me to collect my card on the first day in Canberra. This was helpful especially as my accommodation only accepts rent payments from Australian banks so arranging this direct way avoided rent payment issues.
  • Find out about the weather/climate conditions before you arrive. The Canberra cold has certainly come as a shock to many internationals here, and many people have had to go out and buy proper winter coats, which can be quite expensive.
  • See if you can fly with people you know from the University. I ended up flying with one of the girls who was also going to ANU, and it made the process a lot less stressful and overwhelming, because we didn’t feel so alone traveling the world in a whole new region of the world.
  • Ask about the cost of living before you arrive. This is something that I think is extremely important, Australia, like many other countries, has seen an increase in the cost of living given the effects of the pandemic, among other things, more the Australia being so isolated means that items that are normally cheap here can be quite expensive. It’s definitely something I had to accept and budgeting and researching different stores and locations, made it easier for me to make sure I was spending money sensibly.
  • Attend orientation sessions provided by the University upon your arrival. Although such things can often seem potentially boring, UNA has organized a session where all new international students have heard about the different university departments and organizations as well as outside opportunities in the country. This included a gentleman from Canberra Reptile Zoo, who told us all about the reptilian fauna of Canberra and the ACT, as well as Australia more broadly. He debunked many myths about the “dangers” of Australian reptiles and even bought some. I was able to hold a baby crocodile, as well as one of the native Australian snakes and it was honestly an amazing experience. We also had a guy from a surf camp come over and talk to us, and as a result a group of us from my accommodation all signed up to try a weekend surfing together in October, that made me happy. leads to my last point.
  • Put yourself out there, don’t worry about making friends. I was worried since joining in semester two in Australia that everyone already had their friendship groups which would make it hard for me to fit in and make friends but that was not the case . The majority of students in my accommodation were moving in for the second semester, so we are all in the same position; I found that overall everyone was super nice and all looking to make friends. I was able to meet a variety of people from different countries, as well as a few Brits and of course Australians.
  • Overall I would say don’t put too much pressure on yourself, just use the common areas of your accommodation and don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation!

Author: uosglobalopps

Providing global opportunities at the University of Sheffield for over 30 years. 🌍 Always ready to improve our accessibility, diversity and opportunities.
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