Author: Nimmi Hirani
Receiving your study abroad offer and finding out that you will be moving away from your friends and family can be kind of scary, especially when you are moving to the other side of the world. I am currently a third year studying at the University of Sydney and, although I sound like a typical gap year student, deciding to go abroad was one of the best decisions I made. Despite this the experience so far has also been academically, culturally and personally challenging. Hopefully this piece will give you some insight into how to deal with these year abroad struggles and what to expect when you accept your offer to move down under.
Before You Leave…
Before you actually leave for your year there will be so much to organise, so make sure you’ve completed all of the admin stuff and you have your student visa all sorted if you need one. When it comes to packing the night before and you have no idea what to bring, just remember that there will be shops wherever you go and all you really need is your passport. It’s a good idea to know what your accommodation plans are before you arrive. Pretty much all of the Australian students studying at the university live at home because rent is so high. Most of the exchange students live in student or university accommodation. These are the most popular options since they are usually close to campus and extremely sociable. The alternative is to stay in a hostel for the first few weeks and look for a flat. The renting process is more informal than in Glasgow, and so it is relatively easy to find a single room somewhere.
Australian Culture and Uni Life
The culture in Oz is quite similar to the UK and obviously, there is no language barrier making it far easier to find your feet. The first few weeks will go by super quickly and before you know it, you’ll be halfway through semester one. There is no trick to settling in, you just have to embrace your new home, do all of the typical basic touristy things and try to get to know as many different people as possible. Uni wise, Sydney is also quite similar to Glasgow. You take four modules per semester, however their semesters operate back to front. This means that when you start in September you will be joining in semester 2. This won’t be a huge issue as the university still has re-fresher’s events and orientation week. The classes in Sydney are far smaller than Glasgow and mostly only have tutorials and no lectures, meaning the level of student engagement and participation is far higher. It so much easier to understand the enrolment system in Sydney than in Glasgow and the university gives you two weeks after the start of classes where you can easily change your modules to find what suits you. There is a lot more coursework throughout the semester but this means you have less final exams which is ideal for planning your travels.
When it comes to money, I would recommend opening a Monzo bank account in the UK before moving abroad as you will get you the best exchange rate and won’t be charged to move money between your Monzo account and your other UK account. It is also probably a good idea to open an Australian bank account when you arrive in case you get a job. Transferwise is a good app/site to use to transfer money between your UK and Oz accounts. Sydney is expensive, food shopping and nights out can be costly and so getting a job can help out so much since minimum wage is high. I recommend applying to Sidekicker if you’re looking for casual waitressing or bartending work since you can sign up and opt out of shifts easily.
Although it is important to do uni work while you are abroad, if you are fortunate enough to be able to go travelling, it is one of the best parts of the experience. One of the amazing things about studying in Sydney is the mid semester breaks and the three month ‘summer’ holiday between December and March. However, Australia is a huge country with separate time zones within its different states, and travelling can therefore be costly and time consuming. Despite this, if you save up and put in the planning, it is 100 percent worth it. Road tripping the East Coast and sailing the Whitsunday’s are opportunities you obviously wouldn’t get in Glasgow. Even just exploring in Sydney itself is an amazing place to explore, from Bondi beach to the Blue Mountains, there is plenty of places to see and things to do, and the views even rival what you can see from level 6 of Glasgow library!
Finally, it’s completely normal to miss home, your family, your friends and Glasgow. However, although it sounds cliché, the new people you meet, and the places you get to see while abroad will make the experience worthwhile. And if you’re ever feeling homesick just remember that Glasgow (and Hive) will still be there when you get back!