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Living in Australia – A Guide for Students

by Mark Bennett & Study Options

Are you thinking of studying abroad in Australia? Wandering what life is actually like for Masters students Down Under? This page can answer any questions you might have about postgraduate student accommodation, working while studying and more.

We’ve put this guide together in association with Study Options, the official Application Support Service for UK-based students wanting to apply to university in Australia and New Zealand. Study Options offer free, independent course and university counselling and are the organisation responsible for handling applications made to Australian universities from the UK and Ireland.

If you’re looking for more detailed information about Australian Masters degrees, or postgraduate fees and funding, check the dedicated guides elsewhere in this section.

What’s it like to study abroad in Australia?

Unless you’re somehow averse to great weather, exciting wildlife and beautiful geography, it’s fairly likely that the appeal of spending time abroad in Australia probably doesn’t need to be explained to you.

However, you may not realise just how much Australia has to offer as a study destination.

As one of the world’s strongest economies, with vibrant, high-tech cities and a wide range of cultural and sporting achievements, postgraduate life in Australia can be an educational opportunity in more ways than one.

And, wherever you hail from, you’ll be more than welcome as an international student and be among good company – after all, Australia is one of the most popular study destinations in the world.

Sports and leisure activities

You’ll have plenty of opportunities to get out and about in a break from your studies - whether you’re keen to visit famous resort regions like Bondi Beach and Byron Bay (and perhaps try a little surfing) or check out famous Aussie sports like cricket.

Australia also has lots to offer those looking for other pastimes, from major touring music festivals like the world-famous Big Day Out, to beautiful landscapes, man-made landmarks and 19 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

And yes, you can go koala spotting while living as a student in Australia.

Food and drink

Contrary to familiar cultural stereotypes, it’s not all about shrimp barbeques in Australia (and these days you’re more likely to be offered a ‘Moreton Bay Bug’ – a delicious variety of crayfish!).

You may also have heard colourful tales of Australian ‘bushfood’ or of strange local meats (crocodile, emu, kangaroo and so on) but ‘real Australian cooking draws on a much wider range of influences.

In fact, today Australia is widely recognised as one of the best foodie destinations in the world, offering residents and visitors the choice of dishes and ingredients from its hugely diverse immigrant communities - Greek, Italian, Persian, Chinese, Malaysian, Vietnamese, Thai – alongside more traditional staples.

Australia also produces some of the world’s finest wines and is a must-visit for any coffee lover. The emphasis across the country is on fresh, seasonal and local food.

Key facts for Masters students in Australia

Looking for some basic information before heading Down Under? Here are some key facts for students studying abroad in Australia:

  • The academic year in Australia runs between February and November. Individual semesters are from February to June and from July to November.
  • A Masters in Australia usually lasts for between one and two years depending on the program in question.
  • Nearly 250,000 international students live and study in Australia.
  • Australia has no official language, but English is used in most channels of communication. Various other languages are also used by parts of the population, including some indigenous Australian languages.
  • The currency of Australia is the Australian dollar (AU$).
  • Australia has a population of around 24 million, the majority of which is concentrated around cities on its eastern coast.
  • Australia is governed as a constitutional monarchy, with the Queen of the United Kingdom functioning as head of state. The country is governed by a democratically elected parliament lead by a prime minister.
  • Australia has no state religion, but freedom of worship is guaranteed across the country.

Masters student accommodation and living costs in Australia

The Australian government recommends that international students are able to demonstrate a minimum budget of AU$18,610 per year, while universities recommend a figure between AU$18,000 and AU$28,000.

Your own expenses will vary depending on the city you live and study in and your lifestyle choices, but you should expect to pay something in the region of the above amounts.

Accommodation for international students in Australia

Whatever you get up to while studying abroad, accommodation will almost certainly be your main expense (unless you’re really into expensive surfboards, gourmet dining and fine wine tasting, that is!).

As with other countries you’ll have two main housing options as a Masters student in Australia: university accommodation and private rented accommodation.

University Accommodation

University accommodation will usually be the most convenient option for international students. Not all institutions will have their own rooms available, but those that do may prioritise some for overseas applicants. Your best bet is to register your interest while applying for your Masters.

The price of university accommodation in Australia varies between institutions, but will usually be between AU$250 and AU$600 per week for fully catered options. Self catered university accommodation will be cheaper - typically costing from around AU$200 a week.

This may seem expensive, but you should bear in mind that the above prices include utilities (and food, in the case of fully catered options) – expenses that would need otherwise need to be paid separately.

Private Accommodation

The main alternative to university accommodation is a private rental. All of Australia’s university cities will be well served with independent landlords offering housing suitable for students.

Searching for this accommodation can be tricky without having the opportunity to view properties and judge factors such as transport options and local services.

For this reason many international students arrive in Australia a few of weeks before their degree begins and use this time to help source accommodation.

Your university will have an Accommodation Office and a database of approved landlords and possible properties. Going through this is a good way to start your search.

You can also read more advice on finding accommodation as an international student in Australia at the Study Options website.

The price of privately rented student accommodation in Australia varies according to local market conditions. As a rough estimate you should expect to pay upward of AU$150 per week. Bear in mind that this won’t include utilities or food.

Living costs for international students in Australia

Once you’ve covered the cost of your accommodation you’ll need to make sure you have sufficient budget left over to pay for maintenance expenses such as food and utilities.

The amount you need will depend on your lifestyle. If you’re looking to take surfing lessons, try every bottle of wine you can get your hands on and go on an extended trek in the Outback, you’ll probably spend a little more than someone who’s content to sit back and soak up the sun at the beach.

To give you a rough idea of the prices for more essential items, we estimate the following costs:

  • AU$2.90 for a litre of milk
  • AU$3-5.50 for a slice of pizza
  • AU$4 or so for a coffee
  • AU$8-12 for a bowl of noodles
  • AU$10-15 for a cinema ticket (student concession)

As a very general rule, you should probably budget around AU$100-200 per week for food, drink and utilities.

Working while studying abroad in Australia

You can work while studying a Masters in Australia, according to the conditions of your visa:

  • Students on taught Masters programs (with type 573 visas) are eligible to work up to 40 hours per fortnight. This limit includes any voluntary or unpaid work, but does not include placements, internships or other activities required by your course.
  • Students on Masters by research (with type 574 visas) can work unlimited hours.

Note that your right to work while studying abroad in Australia only applies for the duration of your course. You cannot work until your registration period has started and will lose your right to work in Australia if you exit your program.

Other useful information for Masters students in Australia

Once you’ve organised your accommodation, eyed up a part time job and arranged a budget, you’re almost ready to get started with student life in Australia – try not to make your friends at home too jealous!

There are a few other things you may want to check before you go though.

Travel and transportation

Most of Australia’s universities are located in the eastern part of the country, in the states of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, though there is a small but significant group of universities in Western Australia.

You can travel between cities by road or rail, but journeys further afield (such as to Perth, on the western coast) are better made by plane. All of Australia’s university cities are well served with airports.

Within cities you’ll be able to get around on bus services and other forms of local public transport. Depending on your needs you should budget around AU$20-40 per week for travel.

Money and banking

You can open a bank account while studying abroad in Australia provided you have proof of identification and address. This may be more convenient than using an account held in your home country – particularly if you need to manage regular income from a job or funding from a scholarship.

If you are applying from the UK or Ireland through Study Options, they can help you set up a bank account in Australia before you leave home.

The best way to choose a bank account is probably to pick a branch in your local area – particularly if you want regular access to ATM machines and other facilities. Some banks may provide special products or services for international students, including assistance with money transfer and exchanges.

Health insurance

You’ll need Overseas Student Health Cover while living abroad in Australia. If you are travelling to Australia on your own, this is best purchased from the University directly at the point of accepting your offer - although OSHC policies can be purchased from a range of providers, with various levels of cover.

See the Australian Department of Health website for more information.

If you are applying from the UK or Ireland and travelling to Australia with a partner or a family you should seek additional advice from Study Options.

More information

If you are based in the UK or Ireland and have more questions about student life in Australia, you can get help and advice from Study Options. Their team offer free and impartial assistance and support to all students lodging applications to Australian universities from the UK and Ireland.

This article was produced by FindAMasters.com in partnership with www.studyoptions.com. It may not be reproduced without permission.

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