Being an Exchange Student in Adelaide: What You Need to Know About Studying in Australia
Even before I even began university, I knew I wanted to study in Australia. You might ask why – six months away from your friends and family and all your home comforts sounds like it would be difficult and lonely.
So why did I choose to be an exchange student? It’s tough to narrow it down, but the main reason was to challenge myself. I wanted to know if I could survive without my loved ones. (And of course the opportunity to live abroad for six months doesn’t come knocking often!)If you're from the UK, Australians are almost too nice, and it may freak you out how they are always willing to help you. Sometimes people will even TALK TO YOU ON PUBLIC TRANSPORT (a sin back in London). Click To Tweet
I chose Adelaide specifically for many reasons. Adelaide has incredible weather, in fact, most of South Australia is blessed with essentially a Mediterranean climate of hot summers and mild winters. South Australia is also known as the festival state, due to its myriad of festivals including the Fringe festival, RCC, and WOMAdelaide.
Adelaide is a beautiful city, surrounded by parklands, overlooked by the stunning Adelaide Hills, and also very close to beautiful white sand beaches, where the water is so clear you can see the tiny fish swimming around your feet.
The city boasts a decent nightlife scene for such a small city, with popular clubs such as HQ, Sugar, and my personal favourite Dog and Duck, along with plenty of bars and pubs, perfect for students looking to have a little fun while studying. Alcohol is more expensive in Adelaide and sold in bottle shops rather than in the supermarket, but cheap boxed wine is a good alternative to spirits.
Another thing that brings international students to Adelaide is that it’s a little off the beaten path, but still very close to Melbourne and Sydney, so travelling around Australia is fairly easy and convenient. It’s also cheaper than the other state capitals, and has two very good universities.
The city has a relaxed atmosphere that is the opposite of London. Walking slowly is the norm, and if the public transport is late, instead of getting angry, people just enjoy the sun for an extra few minutes. Adelaide is a gem, full of culture and incredible greenery.
So what should you know before you come to Adelaide to study?
Adelaide feels like home as soon as you get here. The city is very safe, and the people here are so welcoming and helpful. However, if you’re from the UK like me, Australians are almost too nice, and it may freak you out how they are always willing to help you, and how people sometimes talk to you on public transport (a sin back in London).
The time difference can be brutal. From the UK to Adelaide, the time difference is ten and a half hours, and Adelaide is ahead. This means that when you overlap, everyone you care about is at work, so you have to wake up early to talk to them. I can only really call my loved ones on the weekend, which leaves me feeling quite lonely throughout the week.
I study at the University of Adelaide, and they make it very easy to settle in with their international student orientation. I met my best friends there, and it’s so easy to – so don’t be scared if you are traveling on your own, as most of the other students are too!
On the study side of things, the university does things a little differently to the UK, with more focus on group projects and coursework than final exams. Tutorial participation is very important as it is mostly graded, and some modules even make use of simulations.
Getting around Adelaide is easy, so consider off-campus housing. Regarding housing, all of my international friends live in Urbanest, which is Adelaide’s version of halls, and is across the street from the main campus. Urbanest has dorms, apartments, and a gym and rooftop terrace, along with a busy schedule of meet-and-greet activities. However, if you want to save your money, as Urbanest is quite expensive, finding alternative accommodation is not too hard.
I live in a student house in Thebarton, which is one of the suburbs just to the west of central Adelaide. It takes ten minutes on the tram to get to university, and I pay about half what students at Urbanest do for rent! (It isn’t as central as Urbanest, but it is closer to the beach.) The tram and city loop buses are free and frequent, which makes it very easy to get around town, and buses beyond central Adelaide are very cheap with a MetroCard.
Go out and try everything! Try to talk to everyone! Don’t mope in your room when you miss people – go out and have fun and it will take your mind off homesickness.
Don’t plan everything! Nothing goes as planned, and you will want to travel with the people you meet here. On the other hand, it’s worth making tentative plans for what you want to see so you don’t miss something you really would’ve enjoyed. I made ‘bucket’ lists of places I wanted to go and then lists of things I wanted to do and see there. This meant I didn’t miss anything I wanted to do, but was flexible enough to not have to travel alone!
I have found budgeting is super hard when studying abroad due to uncertainties, overspending when you arrive, and bulk buying stupid souvenirs. Also, due to the exchange rate, you don’t realise how much money you’re spending. Make sure your money for the essentials like rent and food is in a savings account so you won’t use it, and split travel costs whenever possible. If you’re struggling with money, consider working. The minimum wage in South Australia is really high, and you’ll make many friends at work!
On the other hand, work is difficult to find, because for many jobs in the hospitality industry, you need to have certain qualifications to work. These include the responsible service of alcohol (RSA) which is necessary for bartending, and costs around $50-100. My suggestion if you’re not keen on paying for a certification is to look for jobs in retail or waiting tables, as these jobs don’t require any qualifications.
For those of you who are as scared of spiders as I am, I have seen one spider in my time here and it was the size of a small drain spider back home. You will not – I repeat will not – see one in the city, or in your house. If you want a run in with them, go to the outback, or a zoo.
Studying in Adelaide, I’ve made friends from all over the world, and travelled much of the country. The study side of this experience has also been great; my modules are interesting and my lectures are knowledgeable without being pretentious. Overall, it’s been one of the best experiences of my life.