HELLO ALL! My name is Owen and around this time tomorrow I’ll be flying somewhere over the Indian Ocean, so I guess now is a better time than ever to post my first blog in my capacity as a study abroad student ambassador!
I will be spending the next year studying sociology and history at the University of Western Australia (UWA) in Perth. I’ll be joined there by my girlfriend of three years, Caroline, who is also studying sociology at UWA. I’m guessing this situation is pretty unique as far as exchange years go, needless to say we are both super excited about the year ahead. It’s been an ambition of mine to study abroad since I entered further education at the City of Glasgow College around four years ago. At first I dreamed of spending a year in America or Canada, somewhere like Toronto or California.
BUT – I would probably say that my study abroad dreams started to become realised when Caroline and myself sat down in the Fraser building with study abroad coordinator Seonaid Dodds. The chat with Seonaid helped us establish what our options were, while learning the ins and outs of the study abroad process. I would highly recommend a chat with Seonaid to anyone who is thinking about applying as things became a lot clearer and we were able to identify realistic options. Following our chat we decided Australia would be the best destination for us to apply to. Finance played a central role in our decision to choose Australia, where a student visa allows you to work 20 hours a week during term time and any amount of hours outside of term. As someone who will eventually rely on employment to cover living costs, the USA and Canada weren’t viable options, seeing as you’re a lot more restricted in terms of employment in these countries. We we’re both quite intent on going International as well, rather than doing Erasmus. All this aside, who doesn’t want to spend a year in a city that sees around 3,200 hours of sunshine annually? Perth was actually our third choice behind Adelaide and Brisbane, however we didn’t have our hearts set on a particular city and were simply happy to be awarded a place together at the same university.
THE APPLICATION PROCESS – can be a bit daunting, particularly breaking down your anticipated finances for each university you select, while finding enough suitable courses to take. I also found the personal statement section a little difficult given the low word limits. Another factor was finding time in between University and a part-time job to complete the application. I found it useful to start filling out the application as early as possible and then dedicating a couple of hours each week to sitting down at my laptop and going through each stage carefully. I also found it helpful to type my whole application into a word document before copying it into the form. Good communication with your subject’s study abroad coordinator also goes a long way in helping you pick subjects for approval, which isn’t always easy, but like I said, good communication should make it much easier.
One more thing on the application process itself, when picking units for approval, my advice would be to pick more than you need. In fact, you should probably pick all of the units which you could possibly take as this will make it easier to pick your timetable at your host university. If you do this it means you’ll have identified back up units to take in the case that your timetable doesn’t work or a unit you selected is no longer running. I only picked the exact amount of subjects I needed to and now I have a timetable clash which I can’t fix until I arrive at UWA. Not a major problem but something sure to make your transition to another university a little easier.
FLIGHTS – We booked a one-way flight with STA travel, leaving from Edinburgh airport (cheaper option), stopping for 2H45M in Abu Dhabi then on to Perth, WA. Including one-way flight insurance (juuuust incase) this cost us £500 each.
VISA – As a UK citizen I found the Australian student visa process extremely simple and stress free, it’s all done online, processed in about 2 days and costs £273 (you don’t even have to send your passport away!). Never one to get ahead of myself, I applied for my visa after I had confirmation of my exam results. Another pre-departure cost you’ll have to pay, as a condition of your visa, is Overseas Health Cover (OSHC). I opted to be covered by Allianz, who have a partnership with UWA and this cost me £343 (although you don’t have to go through your Uni and could shop around online if you feel you could find better cover).
ACCOMMODATION – Having lived with my parents all my life I’ll have to hold my hands up and admit that I have little experience in what you might call the “real world” but I guess there aren’t too many places better for entering the “real world” than Australia! (Plus Caroline has experience renting her own accommodation so I’m sure she’ll keep me right). On the subject of accommodation, we haven’t actually secured any yet and will be sorting out residence when we get there (I’ve been told this is common). We have decided to live off Uni campus but haven’t decided between a 1 bedroom flat or a flat share. We have been pretty proactive in our online research and have managed to suss out which areas might be favorable to live in and what costs are going to be involved etc. We have arranged a couple of flat viewings already through websites like http://www.realestate.com.au/buy & https://flatmates.com.au and it’s also worth looking on your host university’s website as they are likely to have info on housing and also a database of properties for rent.
For temporary accommodation we’re living with a couple from Perth who live in the suburb where our university is located. We found them on https://www.airbnb.co.uk and we’re staying with them for 2 weeks at the cost of £265 each (Around £18 per night). I’m sure they’ll provide a nice introduction to Perth and the area and I look forward to meeting them!
Things I’m looking forward to: Getting to know a brand new city, acculturating and learning about the local history of Perth. The main things I know about Perth at this point in time are; it’s spacious, has a lot of green spaces and is pretty laid back. All of this sounds right up my street and I can’t wait to familiarize myself with my adopted home for the year.
SPORTS! I was brought up watching a lot of cricket and rugby league, which happen to be two of Australia’s national sports so I doubt I’ll be short of entertainment for the year!
I’m definitely looking forward to focusing exclusively on my two chosen honours subjects. At UWA I’ll be taking a course in African American history, which is a strong interest of mine and I’ll also be studying Indigenous history, which should be fascinating. One of my sociology courses involves looking at gender issues within an Asian context and I’m also really looking forward to that. I feel that if you are interested in the units you are taking, you’re already half way to pass!
Things I’m not looking forward to: A 7 and a half hour flight followed by and 11 an a half hour flight, cutting my summer short to start university on the 27th of July and also footing all of the costs involved. Yes, there are a million and one worse problems to have and in all honesty there isn’t too much that I am not looking forward to. The longest I have been away from home before is about a month so it remains to be seen how I’ll cope with spending the whole year away as it’s unlikely I’ll return to Glasgow until I am finished with my studies.
I’ve attempt to cover as many application/pre-departure issues as I can think of but if you have any further questions about the application process or any other issues related to study abroad don’t hesitate to drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or message me on my Facebook (Owen Roberts) if that’s easier! I check both of these regularly and I’m happy to field any questions regardless of how many or little you may have or how difficult or simple you may think they are 🙂
Hopefully you found this both interesting and informative and I promise all my posts won’t be so long! Big thanks for reading! I’ll be posting on here around once a month and I hope you all enjoy following my adventures down under 🙂
(An aptly titled tune to sign off)
Until next time x