Are you an international student planning to study in Australia? Navigating a new country can be challenging, but this blog can hopefully, ease your transition.
Here are the top 10 essential tips for students, to help you acclimate to life 'Down Under':
1. Understand Visa Requirements:
Before leaving, ensure you have the correct visa. The Australian Government's Department of Home Affairs provides comprehensive information on visa requirements. See here.
You must understand your Australian visa requirements as it is crucial for your ability to study and reside legally in the country. Understanding visa requirements ensures you apply for the appropriate visa category, and meet necessary criteria, including financial obligations, health insurance & enrolment in a recognised educational institution.
Failing to comply with visa requirements can lead to visa cancellation, deportation, and potential legal consequences. By understanding your visa requirements, you can ensure a smooth and lawful stay in Australia, allowing you to focus on your studies and fully enjoy your educational experience.
In this instance, the Australian Awards Scholarship team in the Solomon Islands were an absolute lifesaver, getting me in contact with my student contact officer, or SCO, and getting my appropriate paperwork organised for me as a sponsored student. In the case where you are self-sponsored, I would strongly advise you to seek advice from your local Australian High Commission prior to travelling.
2. Secure Accommodation Early:
Queensland's rental market can be competitive. Of course, you may have the option to live on-campus, however, if you are like me and also have a family to consider, you need to start your search early and understand your rights as a tenant. Websites like rent.com.au or www.flatmates.com are a great starting point for you.
As an international student on an Australian student visa, it is advisable that you secure accommodation early in Queensland, to ensure a smooth transition and minimise unnecessary stress upon arrival for your studies.
Queensland is a popular destination for international students, and securing accommodation early allows students to have a wider range of options and increases the likelihood of finding suitable and affordable housing.
Additionally, securing accommodation early provides students with ample time to familiarise themselves with their living arrangements, settle into their new environment, and focus on their studies without the added pressure of finding last-minute housing.
It also allows students to plan their budget and make necessary arrangements, like setting up utilities (like electricity and water, if applicable) and obtaining necessary documentation.
By securing accommodation early, international students can have a comfortable and organised start to their academic journey in Queensland.
On arrival in Australia, I found a house through Ray White (the hoops you jump through aren't easy, but are doable), and they have taken the best care of me and my family since then.
3. Get Health Insurance:
Third on the list of tips for students is health insurance. It is mandatory for international students to have health insurance in Australia. Options like Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) provide adequate coverage, and as a student, it is advisable for you to get appropriate health insurance for the duration of your studies and visa length to ensure you have access to quality healthcare and protect yourself from potentially high medical costs.
Australia has a world-class healthcare system, but it can be expensive for international students without insurance. Having health insurance provides coverage for medical emergencies, doctor visits, hospital stays, and prescription medications. It also helps students comply with visa requirements, as most student visas require proof of adequate health insurance.
By having appropriate health insurance, international students can have peace of mind and focus on their studies without worrying about unexpected medical expenses.
Prior to my arrival in Australia, my university organised Allianz Healthcare for me, and it has been super easy since, to access medical care whenever I needed to, and get reimbursed for my expenses, through their app (called 'myHealth' on the App Store or Play Store).
4. Budget Wisely:
The cost of living in Australia can be high. Plan your budget carefully, factoring in rent, groceries, transportation, and leisure activities.
As an international student on a student visa, it is crucial to budget wisely in Australia to manage your finances effectively and ensure a comfortable stay.
Australia can be an expensive country, and it is important to allocate funds for tuition fees, accommodation, transport, groceries, utilities, textbooks, and other living expenses.
Creating a realistic budget helps track expenses, avoid overspending, and make necessary adjustments. It is also wise to explore cost-saving options, like cooking meals at home, using public transportation, and taking advantage of student discounts. By budgeting wisely, international students can make the most of their financial resources and have a financially stable experience in Australia.
Before leaving for Australia, I fine-tuned my budget for living while I was away. See here for my blogs on how I started my budgeting journey while still in Honiara.
5. Open an Australian Bank Account:
This will make managing your finances easier. Most major banks offer student accounts with low fees.
As an international student, it is important to open an Australian bank account, especially if you are a DFAT-sponsored student, for several reasons.
Firstly, having an Australian bank account allows for convenient and secure management of finances, including receiving and making payments in the local currency. It simplifies the process of paying for tuition fees, accommodation, and other expenses.
Additionally, opening a local bank account can help international students save on currency exchange fees and avoid fluctuations in exchange rates.
Lastly, for DFAT-sponsored students, having an Australian bank account is a requirement to receive and manage their scholarship or sponsorship funds.
Prior to arriving in Australia, my SCO sent through forms to fill out for a bank account here and I opened an ANZ account to receive my scholarship stipend. See here for more details if you would also like to open an ANZ account. A quick note to flag that ANZ here is NOT the same as ANZ back in the Solomon Islands, and they use completely different banking systems.
6. Get a Tax File Number (TFN):
If you plan to work while studying, you'll need a TFN. As an international student, it is important to apply for a TFN in Australia for several reasons:
Firstly, having a TFN is a legal requirement for working in Australia and allows you to be taxed at the correct rate. Without a TFN, you may be subject to higher tax rates.
Secondly, having a TFN enables you to claim any tax refunds you may be entitled to. This is particularly important if you work part-time during your studies.
Lastly, having a TFN simplifies your financial transactions and interactions with the Australian government, like opening a bank account or applying for government benefits.
As I ended up deciding to work part-time (less than 20hrs/week), while studying, I applied for TFN as well. You can apply through the Australian Taxation Office's website here.
7. Familiarise Yourself with Public Transport:
Australia's public transport system is efficient and widespread. As an international student, who may possibly decide to not buy a vehicle, this should also be added to the list of tips for students. It is important to familiarise yourself with public transport in Queensland for several reasons:
Firstly, public transport is a cost-effective and efficient way to navigate the city and explore different areas. It provides easy access to universities, colleges, and other educational institutions, making it convenient for your daily commute.
Secondly, understanding the public transport system helps you plan your travel and manage your time effectively. Whether it's attending classes, exploring the city, or travelling to other parts of Queensland, knowing how to use public transport will save you time and prevent unnecessary stress.
Lastly, being familiar with public transport promotes sustainability by reducing your carbon footprint and contributing to a greener environment.
Apps like Google Maps provide accurate transit directions. When I'm not driving, I live and breathe using Translink to travel here in Queensland though. And as a rule of thumb, it never hurts to ask if there are student discounts on anything you're planning on doing too.
8. Stay Connected:
Get a local SIM card to stay in touch with new friends and family back home. As an international student, it is important to stay connected with your family back home for several reasons:
Firstly, maintaining regular communication with your family helps alleviate homesickness and provides emotional support during your time abroad. It allows you to share your experiences, challenges, and achievements, fostering a sense of belonging and connection.
Secondly, staying connected with your family ensures that you stay updated on important events and family matters. This helps you feel connected to your roots and maintains strong family bonds.
Lastly, in case of emergencies or unforeseen circumstances, having open lines of communication with your family can provide crucial support and assistance when needed.
Providers like Telstra and Optus offer competitive student plans. And because I'm always travelling, I've gone with Telstra, as it has the most network coverage in Australia, particularly outback.
9. Respect the Environment:
Australia takes environmental conservation seriously. As an international student, it is important for you to also respect the environment for several reasons:
Firstly, by respecting the environment, we contribute to the preservation of natural resources and biodiversity, ensuring that future generations can also enjoy the beauty of the planet.
Secondly, respecting the environment helps mitigate climate change and reduce our carbon footprint. This can be done by adopting sustainable practices such as conserving energy, reducing waste, and utilising public transportation.
Lastly, by respecting the environment, we demonstrate cultural sensitivity and an appreciation for the host country's natural heritage, fostering positive relationships and promoting global environmental stewardship.
And also remember to follow local recycling guidelines and conserve water and electricity.
10. Embrace Local Culture:
Australians are known for their friendly, laid-back nature. As a sponsored student, I feel it is beholden to me to also add in a plug about being here as an international student, because of all the positive experiences Australia has given me as a guest in the country. Thus, as a DFAT-sponsored international student, it is important to embrace the local culture for several reasons:
Firstly, embracing the local culture allows for a deeper understanding and appreciation of the host country's traditions, customs, and way of life. This fosters cultural exchange and promotes mutual respect and understanding between different cultures.
Secondly, integrating into the local culture helps create meaningful connections and friendships with local individuals, enhancing the overall study abroad experience. It also provides opportunities to engage in cultural activities, festivals, and events, enriching personal growth and broadening perspectives.
Lastly, embracing the local culture demonstrates respect for the host country and its people, contributing to positive cross-cultural interactions and fostering a sense of global citizenship.
Also! Do join university clubs, attend social events, and try local cuisine to fully experience Australian culture.
Remember, studying abroad is a rewarding experience. This short list of tips for students will hopefully, help you navigate the practical aspects of living in Australia, leaving you free to focus on your academic and personal growth.
Bon voyage, fellow academic! (You got this!)
Australian Government. (2021). Your guide to recycling. https://www.environment.gov.au/protection/waste-resource-recovery/publications/your-guide-recycling
Australian Government Department of Health. (2021). Overseas Student Health Cover. https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/private-health-insurance-for-overseas-visitors/overseas-student-health-cover
Australian Taxation Office. (2021). Apply for a tax file number. https://www.ato.gov.au/individuals/tax-file-number/apply-for-a-tfn/
Commonwealth Bank of Australia. (2021). Student bank accounts. https://www.commbank.com.au/banking/bank-accounts/student.html
Department of Home Affairs. (2021). Student visa (subclass 500). https://immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/getting-a-visa/visa-listing/student-500
Optus. (2021). Mobile phone plans for students. https://www.optus.com.au/shop/mobile/phones/student-offer
Rent.com.au. (2021). Find rental properties in Australia. https://www.rent.com.au/
Study in Australia. (2021). Live in Australia. https://www.studyinaustralia.gov.au/English/live-in-australia/living-costs
Telstra Corporation Ltd. (2021). Mobile phone plans. https://www.telstra.com.au/mobile-phones/plans-and-rates