Seeing as it’s been over a month since my last post and over a month since I arrived in AUS, now felt like a good time to check in! I’m pleased to say it has been pretty much smooth sailing for us so far! We absolutely love our new Uni, have settled into a great flat and have met some cool people along the way. It’s currently Australian winter here but most days are nicer than what we call ‘summer’ in Scotland.
Perth is a really nice city; it’s quite spacious, clean and picturesque. It’s chalked with lots of leafy little suburbs but also has a bustling city center and some pretty cool parks, bars, restaurants etc. Best of all, Perth is home to an abundance of unique and unusual wildlife. We even caught a glimpse of some wild dolphins swimming through the Swan river.
We’re both particularly impressed with our new University campus, which sits right on Perth’s swan river. There is plenty of greenery and eye-catching architecture to enjoy and campus life itself has proved to be interesting so far.
Our first experience with Airbnb turned out to be first class. Our hosts were highly accommodating and gave us a great introduction to life in Perth. They even catered to our vegetarian needs and made us amazing meals like veg & halloumi pie and kidney bean burgers! Unfortunately, Caroline got sick with some sort of bug almost as soon as we landed in Perth but our temporary accommodation offered her a lot more comfort than she would have enjoyed in a hostel. We also purposely chose an Airbnb near our new university so we could get familiar with the campus quickly and also sort out any admin with ease, i.e. student cards, changing units etc.
If you have accommodation sorted I would recommend arriving about 1-2 weeks before classes start but if not I would suggest arriving 2-3 weeks prior. Also, you definitely don’t want to miss orientation week, which was the week before the start of classes for us. This is a great way to meet people from all over the world while getting familiar with your new campus. UWA also organised some really fun/useful excursions for us such as a trip to an aquarium and a shopping trip to IKEA.
BANKING: was definitely something I worried about before I got here and although the following information may be a bit boring, it will hopefully be of some use to those of you who will be in my position next year.
I found the best way to transfer money between my UK and AUS accounts was through http://www.transferwise.com. It turned out to be extremely cost effective and it’s also pretty simple to use. You transfer your GBP to a transferwise account and they convert it to AUD (or whichever currency you need) and send it to your AUS account. I think it can take 3-4 days to appear in your account but in my case it only took a day.
Here’s a link I discovered when researching Transferwise, which I found useful: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/money-saving-tips/10980535/What-is-the-cheapest-way-to-send-100-abroad.html
Also, before you leave the UK I would 100% advise you to speak to your bank and make sure your online banking is fully functional. Although the study abroad pre-departure guide advises you to speak to your bank, I figured that I’d be fine as I was using transferwise to move my money rather than going through the bank. I was wrong. When it came to transferring money to the transferwise account, my online banking informed me that I needed a card reader, in order to approve the transaction. Being in Australia when I realised meant that I’d either have to have a card reader delivered here at my own expense or ask someone back home to sort it all out for me. Thankfully I was able to send Caroline the money via Paypal and she sent it on to me via her bank. Had I been here on my own this situation might have proved a lot more difficult. So basically, speak to your bank and make sure you know what you need to do to send online payments.
There are four main banks over here and upon advice I decided to go with Commonwealth bank, who don’t charge any fees for students and have a really useful online banking app. Setting an account up is a fairly straight forward process but in order to receive your PIN and access online banking, you need an Australian phone number. To sort this out I purchased a SIM-card from a 7/11 store and put it in an old phone.
ACCOMMODATION: The site we ended up finding accommodation on was www.flatmates.com.au. We are living with a 25 year old bar manager named Alex in a suburb called Subiaco, which is about a 25-minute bus ride away from Uni. We absolutely love the area as it has amazing amenities and a great vibe. This was only the second flat we went to view but it ticked all the boxes, has reasonable rent and our apartment block also has a gym and a swimming pool. As you can imagine it was pretty difficult to picture living anywhere else once we saw this place.
Renting off campus is generally a lot cheaper than renting student accommodation, and for us, it helps that we split rent and food costs every week. I appreciate that student accommodation may be a better choice for those of you who come to study on your own. I know that the price of student accommodation at UWA is also inclusive of meals.
Luckily, we managed to score ourselves a free rice cooker and a standing lamp from a guy we bought a juicer from. Caroline contacted him via a Facebook group for people in Perth who are buying/selling stuff. I would definitely advise anyone to join one of these groups for wherever you end up, as it was a great/cheap way to find any items you may wish to furnish your new accommodation with!
LIVING COSTS: Unfortunately living costs here are fairly high (but you probably already knew that). In particular alcohol is more expensive than back home, which isn’t great if you’re trying to drink on a student budget. The only two things I’ve found to be cheaper than Glasgow so far are public transport and dominoes pizza, surprisingly. The bus/train system here is quite efficient and the student rates are extremely reasonable, I pay around £1 to get to Uni and back each day. Supermarket prices are generally on par with the UK but I would recommend shopping around to find the best prices.
Thanks for reading and I hope you found this useful if you’re currently considering a year abroad. If you have any questions or need any further clarification, don’t hesitate to email me on 2087414R@student.gla.ac.uk or send me a message on Facebook.