Keen on a trip down under? Studying at universities in Australia—whether seeking a full degree or on a short term study abroad program—is an amazing choice for international students hoping to have not just a rewarding academic experience, but to also soak up all the sun, sand, cultural diversity, incredible food, and adventure that Australia has to offer!
Why consider universities in Australia for degree programs?
Australian universities are some of the best and highly-ranked universities in the world. International affairs, all STEM fields, the humanities—you name it, they’ve got it. Australian universities are also very well known for offering hands-on experiences to their students, allowing full degree-seeking international students to really dig in deep and conduct their own research (budding scientists, we’re looking at you!).
Aside from the stellar academics, universities in Australia also boast lively student life activities, gorgeous campuses, and some of the world’s most colorful and diverse cities to live in! As long as you’re not afraid of the occasional cat-sized spider, what’s not to love about pursuing a degree program with universities in Australia?
What NOT to do in Oz
Okay, so you’re convinced. You’re ready for a full, Crocodile Hunter-level adventure in Australia, either through a short term study abroad program or a full degree program as an international student, and you’ve got your thongs all packed and ready in your suitcase. Good onya, mate! Except, here’s the thing: there are a few atrocities you should definitely not commit while studying abroad in Australia (and constantly referring to The Crocodile Hunter is probably one of them).
1. DON’T Assume You Know Everything
This applies to more than just Australia—when traveling to any new country in the world, you should never assume that you know and understand the local customs and traditions just because of the stereotypes you see in television or movies. Yes, Australia has a lot of stunning beaches and many people surf, but there is so much more to this island nation than just its stretches of sand and numerous kangaroos!
Australia is also home to an incredibly diverse population, thanks to immigrants who have arrived to make a new home there from all over the world. That means that you’ll be encountering more than just blonde, suntanned friends with thick accents. You’ll also be surrounded by students with different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, making for a much richer study abroad experience!
Australia is also home to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander indigenous people, who have their own, individual experience of living in Australia as well. Be respectful of these indigenous cultures, their history, and their customs. A.K.A., don’t ever try to climb Uluru, otherwise known as Ayer’s Rock, just to get the perfect Insta.
Keep an open mind when first arriving at Australian universities - there’s a lot to learn outside of the world of interesting wildlife that Australia has become so well known for! (and seriously: don’t ever say, “Put another shrimp on the barbie.” You will not make friends).
2. DON’T Swim Outside the Flags
Okay, we just said Australia is more than just its beaches, wildlife, and extreme natural wonders, but when you do inevitably arrive at one of those beautiful beaches, just remember one, important thing: don’t swim outside the flags.
Aside from the occasional ocean critter that you may not want to encounter farther out into the water (crocodiles and sharks and jellyfish, oh my!), Australian beaches also have very strong currents and riptides. You may feel like being a bit of a risk-taker and jumping in farther than you’re prepared to, but you should definitely follow all safety precautions and always swim inside the flags posted at the beach for your safety.
3. DON’T Take Ubers/Lyfts/Cabs
Why pay for overpriced car rides when you have perfectly good buses, trains, and trolleys? Most major Australian cities have top-notch public transportation that is affordable, accessible, and widespread! This is great for international students on a budget, hoping to explore new places easily and quickly. Plus, using local transportation is a great way to integrate yourself into the daily, local life of an Australian, and just think how impressed your new Aussie friends will be when they see how easily you’re fitting in!
4. DON’T Pack Clothes for the Wrong Season
If you’re from the northern hemisphere, don’t forget that once you arrive in Australia, the seasons are flipped! So, if you leave home in the summer, you’ll be arriving in the middle of Australia’s winter. And don’t be deceived by all the surf-brand ads: winters in Australia can still be pretty chilly (especially in southern cities like Melbourne or Sydney) and you will get cold if you arrive with only a suitcase full of bathing suits.
5. DON’T Drive on the Wrong Side of the Road
If you’re not from the United Kingdom, Ireland, India, Southern Africa, or any other country that drives on the left side of the road, then driving in the opposite lane may take some getting used to, if you end up renting a car and going on an adventure during your semester abroad. Be sure to take some time to practice, and learn the rules of the road, to be certain that you’re being as safe as possible!
Also—we know we told you not to stereotype Australia by its kangaroos, but the fact of the matter is, there are a lot of kangaroos in Australia. So many, in fact, that you have to take special care around dawn or dusk when driving. Similar to certain parts of the United States in which you have to keep an eye out for deer at certain hours of the day while driving, you’ll have to keep an eye out for kangaroos in Australia. Always be sure to be a smart and safe traveler when you take a break from your studies at Australian universities and go on weekend trips around the country!
6. DON’T get Stuck in Your City
No matter where you decide to study abroad in Australia—Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide, or anywhere else—you will inevitably surrounded by incredible city life, exciting new friends, and way too many meat pies to choose from. Of course, you’ll want to invest time into integrating yourself into the local culture and bonding with your fellow Australian and international students, but don’t forget about the rest of Australia!
If you have the time (depending on the length of your study abroad program), try to set aside a few weekends to explore parts of the rest of the country. Australia is incredibly diverse in terms of climate, geography, and people, and it would be a shame to miss some of the world’s most incredible sights and experiences! It can be easy to get caught up in your university clubs, dinners, and parties, but don’t forget the real reason why you’re there: to explore a new country and culture, to step outside of your comfort zone, and to really see the world.
7. DON’T Underestimate the Importance of Coffee
Australians take their coffee seriously. You could be at a casual coffee shop or a hip, new espresso bar, but no matter where you go, coffee is king. Don’t expect Starbucks aficionados here—any requests for a venti soy caramel frappuccino with extra caramel and extra whipped cream may elicit some serious eyerolls and judgement from your local, Australian baristas.
Instead, try out a drink the Australians themselves have perfect: the flat white. Or, if you’re feeling really bad@$!, go for that triple shot of espresso and show off just how Australian you’ve really become over the past few months.
8. DON’T go Crazy at the Bottle-o
The “Bottle-O” is the Australian slang term for liquor store. Alcohol is, admittedly, an integral part of Australian culture. Pubs, rugby games, festivals, and concerts all encourage drinking - especially when you’re around universities in Australia and university activities. When drinking on your study abroad program in Australia, or anytime when you’re abroad, always remember that as an international student, your behavior is a reflection of your home country. You are a guest in your study abroad country, and it’s important to act like it. It’s also important to be safe when consuming alcohol, and to make sure you’re always around friends that you know and trust!
9. DON’T be Offended by Local Sarcasm
Australians are known for their witty, cutting-edge sense of humor. It can sometimes be a little confusing, but don’t be offended by locals getting a smidge sarcastic with you. That’s just their dry humor! “Taking the piss” (good-natured teasing) is just about as Australian as it gets. Try to roll with the light jabs, and you might find that you’re learning a lot of new Australian slang and funny new ways of looking at life!
10. DON’T Hold Back
When studying abroad in Australia, you can’t hold back - from anything. From the moment you step off that plane, you’re entering into a brand new world of adventure. Don’t be afraid to immediately jump in headfirst. Put yourself out there and introduce yourself to strangers and your fellow classmates! People are friendly, curious, and want to get to know you.
Be adventurous and bungee jump, scuba dive, hold a koala, explore new corners of the world. This entire summer, semester, or year is all about personal exploration, and Australia is the perfect place for international students to push themselves and try new things. Studying abroad in universities in Australia is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so don’t waste a minute of it.
Popular universities in Australia for international students
Australia has some of the best universities around, and so they’re highly-ranked (and occasionally, highly competitive). Check out a few of the most popular universities in Australia for Australian and international students alike! Maybe one of them will suit your fancy.
1. University of Melbourne
Located in the second-largest city in Australia, the University of Melbourne is one of the oldest universities in the country, and can claim four Australian prime ministers and nine Nobel Prize laureates as alumni and faculty. No surprise that it is one of the top universities in Australia! The University of Melbourne prides itself on being a research-heavy institution, and academics are largely focuses on the science, medicine, and law. It’s also situated in the city of Melbourne, which is known for its vivacious art and music scenes, as well as bustling food culture.
2. University of Sydney
One of the world’s leading universities, the University of Sydney can give international students the quintessential Australian experience: sweeping views of its famous opera house, the world’s largest natural harbor, and a competitive university that looks like a sunnier version of Hogwarts. This university is perfect for students looking to study medicine, the sciences, or literature and the arts. What more could you ask for?
3. University of Queensland
The University of Queensland is located in the often-overlooked city of Brisbane, situated on the Brisbane River, and just a few short miles from beautiful beaches. Known primarily for its strong programs of engineering, psychology, and research sciences, the University of Queensland is the perfect university for international students who want to live like a local in a large Australian city, but skip all of the tourism of some of Australia’s more well-known locales. It’s affordability makes it one of the best universities in Australia.
- Related: Visit their site
4. University of Western Australia
Jump on over to the west coast to find colleges in Australia, where #QuokkaSelfies reign supreme on Instagram (look it up and tell us that you don’t want to jump on a plane right this instant). Perth is the fourth largest city in Australia and located right on the water - which is probably why it’s known for some pretty awesome surfing locations! This university is great for students interested in marine biology or geology, energy, or astronomy.
- Related: Visit their site
5. University of Adelaide
Like many of the top-ranked universities in Australia, the University of Adelaide is known for its research programs, especially in the fields of engineering, computer science, and other sciences - with a particular emphasis on food, agriculture, and wine! Adelaide is a coastal city, and its beaches and Mediterranean-type climate are just some of the reasons why international students choose it as their home away from home.
- Related: Visit their site
Not quite committed to pursuing a full degree abroad at universities or colleges in Australia?
Check out these short term study abroad programs instead!
Life down unda doesn’t have to be a full-on, multi-year commitment. Keep your wits about you as you rock a short term study abroad program in Australia:
1. Spend the summer travel writing in Sydney with Boston University
With Boston University’s Sydney Travel Writing and Internship Program, students are able to hop on a short-term, summer program to Sydney, where they will not only study travel writing, but create their own. In-depth workshops and trips throughout Australia will help you develop your writing style and travel voice.
2. Experience Australia in Wollongong with AIFS
With AIFS Abroad’s program in Wollongong, you won’t just study abroad for a semester - you’ll live abroad. Think inclusive trips to the Great Barrier Reef, learning hands-on from an Aussie Sheep Farm, and other cultural activities!
Rather than attend universities or colleges in Australia, you can experience a taste of its culture, beauty, and complexities over the course of a few months—with some of the best mates (and adventures) around.
3. Live like a local in Sydney with IES Abroad
Want to get the real, Australian university experience? Go through IES Abroad’s Sydney Direct Enrollment program for the semester! You’ll be able to directly enroll at Macquarie University, the University of New South Wales, or the University of Sydney. With endless academic program options at any of these universities, this option is great for the international student who isn’t scared of a little independence.
4. Go Green with TEAN Abroad
With TEAN’s Australian Environment, Wildlife & Conservation program, students will get first-hand experience in environmental conservation work and studies both on the ground, and in the water. From tropical rainforests to the Outback to the Great Barrier Reef, this program offers an incredibly unique opportunity to really dig into their field of study outside of the classroom.
5. Step outside of the classroom in Melbourne with Sage Corps
Maybe studying in a classroom at colleges in Australia isn’t for you—maybe you want some boots-on-the-ground experience in the workplace, to find out what you want to do with your life. If that’s the case, consider interning abroad with a tech startup company in Melbourne, through Sage Corps’ program!
You’ll have an Oz-some time. Guaranteed.
Studying abroad in Australia, whether at colleges and universities in Australia or through shorter-term programs, is a grand adventure. It will open your mind to new ways of living, incredible and diverse cultures, and maybe a crazy skydiving experience or two that will have your mom nervously wringing her hands back home. But that’s all part of the fun of it! No matter where you decide to study abroad in Australia, just remember some of our tips, and be sure to go in ready to have your life changed—forever.