10 things every international student should know about Australia

By seeta.bhardwa@…, 3 May, 2022

Australia is a popular study destination for many reasons - great universities, a strong acaedmic reputation and good employment opportunities. 

However, moving to the other side of the world isn't without its challenges and so we've put together this list of the 10 things evertt international student needs to know before going to study in Australia. 

1. Understand the seasons

Located in the southern hemisphere of the world, Australia experiences the seasons in the opposite way to Europe and North America. 

This means you could be celebrating Christmas day on the beach, but you might spend July indoors. Australia is regarded as a sunny place, but some areas of the country do get very cold, so research your chosen destination in advance. 

2. Managing your finances

Australia can be expensive. Melbourne and Sydney are often thought to be some of the most expensive cities in the world. Tuition and living expenses vary across Australia. For courses that take place in a classroom, tuition fees are approximately A$30,000 per year. Courses based in a laboratory can charge up to A$40,000 per year.

Living costs include travel, accommodation, bills, equipment, socialising, food and drink. The costs of most of these vary from location to location in Australia. Living costs in Sydney can be remarkably high compared with Hobart, which is 25 per cent cheaper to live in than the rest of the country.

One way to offset some of these costs is through scholarships. Contact your university, and research the scholarships it offers. Students can combine different methods of funding to help cover the cost of their higher education. Another option for students is to take out a student loan or combine these methods with family support or work.

A guide to student loans and funding for international students in Australia
A guide to student bank accounts in Australia
Scholarships for international students in Australia and New Zealand

Best universities in Australia

3. Opening a student bank account

One step to consider when you arrive in Australia is opening a bank account locally. Australian bank accounts have good rates, allow students to open their accounts for up to three months before they move to Australia, and they will make it easier to withdraw funds without paying exchange fees.

If you choose to work while you are studying abroad, you will also find it easier to have your salary paid into a local account. With four major banks, Australia has a lot of options when it comes to student bank accounts, once you pick your bank, you will be able to choose between a savings or a transactions account to suit your needs.

4. Applying for a student visa

All international students will need to apply for a student visa called the subclass 500 if they wish to study in Australia. The only exception is for research-driven postgraduate students. The visa lasts for up to five years in line with your university programme and will cost A$630.

To apply for a student visa, you will need:

  • Passport or identity documents

  • Acceptance letter from your university

  • Evidence of adequate health insurance

  • Proof of qualifications

  • Proof of funds

In addition to these, you may need to prove that you can speak English to a certain level and provide partner or dependant information if you are travelling with others. You can confirm all the documents you will need with the document checklist tool on the Department of Home Affairs website.

While you are studying in Australia, your visa will remain valid and you can travel away and back multiple times throughout your degree.

Once you complete your studies, your visa will cover you for a couple of months. You can then apply for a temporary or a permanent visa, depending on your qualifications, work experience and employment status. The most common visa chosen by graduate students is the Temporary Graduate visa (subclass 485), which will extend your time in Australia by 18 months to four years depending on the information you provide.

5. Accessing healthcare

International students must obtain Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) before they can apply for their student visa. This cover must be active at least one week before your course begins and must remain active throughout your time in Australia. 

You will need to take note of the name of the health insurance provider, the dates that the policy begins and ends and the policy number. You may be asked for this information during your visa application or by your university. Some countries are exempt from the OSHC requirements, so do confirm your eligibility before you begin the process.

6. Working as a student

To help cover the costs of living in Australia, international students on a student visa are allowed to work up to 40 hours a fortnight during term time. During the breaks between classes, you are allowed to work as much as you like.

Students can work as tutors or assistants within the university, or there are also plenty of jobs in the retail and tourism sectors. Australia has a high minimum wage compared with other countries, currently at A$20.33 per hour.

Once you have completed your studies and organised the correct visa, you can consider working in Australia full-time. Universities will assist their graduates in the final stages of their programmes to decide what their next steps are.

7. University grading 

Higher education institutions in Australia use percentages to grade work. However, the letter grades that are awarded are different from those in the US and Europe.

High Distinction (HD) – a high distinction is awarded to a student who scores 83 per cent or higher in their degree and is the equivalent of an A+ or first-class degree.
Distinction (D) – a distinction is awarded for a score of 73 per cent to 82.99 per cent and is the equivalent of an A or upper-class second.
Credit (C) – credit is 63 per cent to 72.99 per cent and equates to a B or lower-class second.
Pass (P) – pass covers 50 per cent to 62.99 per cent and is the same as a C or third-class certification.
Fail (F) – A fail is when a student scores lower than 50 per cent and they do not achieve their degree.

8. Exploring the country

When travelling in Australia there are some tips to remember. If you travel light, it will be cheaper. Often flights will charge for excess baggage. Public transport is available throughout the country, and it is best to plan your trip in advance. One of the best ways to find the hidden gems near you is to ask for the best local recommendations.

If you can drive and want to hire or buy a car during your time in Australia, remember to check parking at your accommodation.

Cars drive on the left side of the road, and it is best to avoid crossing any rivers or creeks to avoid crocodiles. During dusk and dawn, animals are more likely to cross busy roads and visibility is difficult, so drive slower at these times.

9. Australian people and culture

There are many phrases or “Aussie slang” that you may want to learn before you head to the land down under. People often greet each other by saying “G’day” and often abbreviate words and add “o” or “y” at the end – for example, “defo” means “definitely”.

There are many nationalities living in Australia, and you will be able to access food and ingredients from all over the world while studying there.

Comedy plays a large part in Australian culture, too. You will find that Australian people often insult each other and themselves. Sarcasm and dark humour are common ways of expressing ideas or thoughts.

10. Australia's geography

Australia is 7.692 million square kilometres and hosts several different environments and is a wonderful place to explore. You can find areas that are rural, metropolitan, tropical, desert or freezing depending on where you go.

Depending on what you hope to study, you may find some areas that are better for your studies. For example, Queensland is near the Great Barrier Reef so would be a great option for marine biologists. Alternatively, business students may benefit from the professional district in Sydney.


Has Australia caught your eye for international study? Well, you have chosen one of the most popular countries for international students. But there are some key facts you should know before you head there

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