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Living and Studying in Australia: Pros and Cons

In 2011, I left for Brisbane to study at the University of Queensland, where I eventually got a master’s degree.
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Now I’m Business and Community Development Manager in StudyFree. In this article, I will share some positives and negatives of living and studying in Australia.

What Is Good About Studying in Australia

Studying in Australia is more than just education. It teaches you to keep an open mind and dig deep, to find answers to complicated questions, to refer to the original source, to clearly articulate your point of view, and provide adequate reasoning for it. Also, you learn to give feedback to your professors. You can talk about everything that you did or didn’t like about the course with any professor and get detailed feedback on your work.

I remember talking to our lecturer in Project Management David Parker, a well-known expert in project management, business, and coaching. We had a private conversation where he explained to me why my essay score was low. It turned out I needed to present things in a more critical way, while my essay was rather a narrative. So even if you know the subject really well, you can still lose points for improper presentation or spelling mistakes. That was a revelation to me.

Mental health support. Universities in Australia have counselors and coaches who provide psychological support to students.

When I visited a coach for the first time, I wanted to get better at time and workload management, learn how to process large volumes of information, and find my way around communication lifehacks for the academic environment. Working with the coach did help me.

Also, living in Australia made me look differently at psychology and therapy. Now I find it totally okay to get help. Seeing a therapist in order to deal with difficult situations or improve your life is a common thing in Australia.

Prestigious education and career prospects

QS World University Rankings 2021 include five Australian universities. This country can offer a variety of universities and programs to those seeking quality international education and career opportunities.

International recognition is not the only reason to get a degree from an Australian university. It would also help those who are going to apply for a Temporary Graduate visa (subclass 485) and obtain a permanent residence permit in Australia. Besides, the degree will help you gain extra points on the points test if you decide to apply for a General Skilled Migration visa. The immigration policy in the country is pretty liberal.

What Is Not so Good About Studying in Australia

High fees. Both local residents and international students have to pay for vocational and university education in Australia. There is no state-funded enrollment, although one can apply for a government scholarship. For example, there is the Australia Awards program whose participants can be granted scholarships by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Department of Education, Skills and Employment, or the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

The cost of higher education depends on a university’s ranking, program, and location. The annual fee starts at 20,000 AUD. The most expensive institutions are the Group of Eight (Go8) which comprises Australia’s eight leading universities.

Rigid visa regulations. To get a student visa in Australia, one has to prepare a lot of documents and fill out a bunch of application forms. Also, before applying to the embassy, one is required to undergo a general medical check-up and an X-ray examination to get a health certificate. If you have major health issues, a Medical Officer will decide whether you are eligible for a visa.

High English proficiency required. Apart from having to take the IELTS test (the passing score varies depending on a university, with the minimum score being 6.0), you will have to read a lot of subject-specific literature in English, comprehend lectures, and learn how to write correctly, for spelling mistakes can take away your points at exams and midterm tests. Even though I had been preparing myself for this challenge, the first semester was hard for me.

Pros of Living in Australia

Breathtaking landscapes. Australia is one of the most beautiful continents on Earth. It is home to vast white-sand beaches, the Great Barrier Reef, kangaroos and koalas, gorgeous flocks of white cockatoos, tropical forests, and wineries. There is a great variety of experiences for everyone. Among all these things, a whole different and amazing world is the oceans Australia is surrounded by.

Safety. The concept of safety is integral to everything in Australia, from public conscience and the way people behave towards each other to every little aspect of their everyday life. For example, people often leave their houses and cars unlocked, and nothing gets stolen. Or, if you go swimming in a place or at a time that is not safe enough, not only lifeguards but also regular people passing by would warn you against this.

Everyone is wearing a helmet when riding a bike, not only because it's safer this way, but also because otherwise you would be fined 300 AUD. 

The rights of all minorities and disadvantaged groups of society are unconditional. People living in Australia enjoy the freedom of thinking and feel safe.

Environmental consciousness. There is no trash on the streets, fresh air, and the highest environmental standards in Australia. Waste sorting is a common practice there: each house has three containers for different types of garbage, and everyone knows how to use them. Australia was one of the first countries to widely introduce green construction technologies and alternative energy sources. They even have their sustainability rating system for buildings called Green Star. Our campus houses the Global Change Institute, which is one of the most sustainable buildings in Australia and among other university campuses around the world.

High living standard. Australia is not only seen as the edge of the world by people from other countries. It is also associated with financial wellbeing, prestigious education, quality healthcare, good environment, economic freedom, and solid social security. And it’s all true. When I was living and studying in the Land Down Under, I met hundreds of happy people. 

Sport as religion. Living in Australia, you will not even notice when sport becomes a natural and integral part of your life. For example, I used to cycle to university. Our campus had lots of sports clubs to offer, from tennis to sailing and rowing.

In my leisure time, I played tennis, tried kayaking and sailing for the first time. When coming back home towards the morning on weekends, I would still see people jogging, cycling, rowing, and doing other sports activities. It encouraged me to live a healthy lifestyle too.

Quality food. In Australia, you can find a large variety of fresh organic and affordable food products, from fruits to delicious seafoods, that are available not only in cafés or restaurants but also in supermarkets.

Going to cafés and restaurants is no luxury in Australia. It’s a regular thing and an important element of social culture. Barbecue is a traditional leisure activity. We used to throw barbecues a lot with my friends, and it was always fun. Most of my Russian-speaking and Australian friends would eat steaks, but I preferred vegetarian food. Fortunately, regular grocery stores and supermarkets there offer a wide range of vegetarian products.

Cons of Living in Australia

Far distance from Europe and Russia. You can’t just casually fly to see your family on the weekend. A flight would cost a lot and take a day. I didn’t go home for the whole academic year in Australia. Then there was a vacation between semesters, but it was too short to go home. I was done with my studies at the end of June. A new semester was about to start in a month. So, I only had time to recover from all the hard work and exam stress and go to Melbourne to meet new friends.

Challenges of job hunting. I was surprised that many people, who had working experience, a PR visa, or even citizenship, could not find a job for over six months. Well, maybe they weren’t trying hard enough, because Australia offers a system of benefits for unemployed people with a PR status or citizenship. The average benefit rate is 250 AUD per week.

Odd fines. For example, you always need to wear a helmet when cycling and use earpieces or a Bluetooth car kit if you talk on the phone when driving. Otherwise you can be fined 300 AUD by a police officer who would be out of uniform driving by in a regular car.

Big spiders. There are big spiders in Australia. So, people with arachnophobia might experience some stress living there. I came across a spider only once, but it was a big one, around 8 cm in diameter. It was sitting on the wall in my apartment in Brisbane. Fortunately, I used to keep an insect repellent near my bed. Good thing I only had to use it once.

Harmful sunlight. Because sunlight is really intense in Australia, a person’s skin is severely exposed to UV radiation. The odds to develop skin cancer are higher in this part of the world, with fair-skinned people being more at risk. As I used to spend a lot of time in the open, high-SPF sunscreens became my best friends. By the way, Australians don’t normally lie and sunbathe on the beach. If you see people sunbathing, they are most likely tourists. 

By Maria Gmyzina

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