If you're an international student, then coming to a foreign country like Australia is both scary, but also very exciting! Sydney is a great city to live in, and UNSW has (in our biased opinion) an incredibly friendly and welcoming student-life vibe. To help give you advice we've prepared a mini-guide to settling in as an international student!
Once you’ve accepted your offer and arranged your travel, one of the first questions is where to stay! UNSW Accommodation offers a few residential areas to stay on campus, from more traditional dorms to apartments on campus. One thing to know is that most Sydney-locals don’t live on campus and instead commute to uni from their homes, so you’ll end up meeting lots of other international students in the dorms! You can also rent an apartment off-campus if that option suits you better.
Sydney culture and life
Sydney has a busy but very reliable public transport system that you can use to get around every part of the city! The way to pay for transport is using the local transport card, called an Opal Card.
To get around Sydney, you’ll mostly use trains, buses and light rails. You can find information about the route you need to take using Google Maps by clicking the train icon when you search for directions. Another good app is Tripview, which gives you public transport times and reliable timetabling info.
If you’re looking to buy groceries, the most convenient places are Coles and Woolworths, which are the most standard supermarkets (though others exist). There is also an IGA on campus which is another common supermarket, however it is a little smaller than other supermarkets.
For general retail and home goods, your main three options are Kmart, Target and Big W. In terms of tech and hardware appliances, there are a few options to explore. JB-HiFi is a typical tech store where you can buy anything like laptops, chargers, phones, earphones etc. There are other similar places like Officeworks (which sells office related products too like stationery and books) and I’d recommend searching online for a product before going in to buy it in-person. If you need hardware related products, check out Bunnings Warehouse.
Health and COVID Safety
It’s probably a requirement of your visa to apply for an Overseas Student Health Cover plan - so make sure you’ve got that covered first!
For general health concerns, UNSW offers medical services on campus. Check out this page for more information on the Australian (and UNSW) healthcare process for international students!
Covid safety laws in NSW are extremely dynamic- it’s worth it to stay up to date with the news for the latest restrictions. You’ll want to download an app called ServiceNSW, which is how the government performs most contact tracing. Most retail businesses will have a QR code outside - you’ll want to use the app to scan these codes to check in to a business, and use the app to check out once you’re done. Employees of a business may also ask for proof of vaccination, so make sure you have your certificate on your device! If you have a foreign vaccination, you might also need to show proof of ID so bring that too.
You might have heard Australia is the land of beaches, and this is pretty true! While not every local is a sun-tanned surfer, you’ll find most people still find it a lovely way to spend a day. My personal recommendation is to skip the most famous Bondi Beach, because it can be packed (especially during summer), and to take the ferry ride to Manly beach instead. Coogee Beach is also pretty close to UNSW and quite nice.
The other thing Sydney is great for is it’s multiculturalism. There’s a huge range of perspectives and variety across the city (including a lot of great restaurants!) Go suburb-exploring sometime, to get a taste for the whole city!
Socialising and making friends
There are lots of opportunities to get involved at uni! We have a whole guide to making friends here [link]. But here’s a few key points for international students!
Cultural societies are a good place to start because they foster very friendly communities for international students and are super inclusive to anyone who’s keen! CSESoc has peer mentoring which is one of the best ways to make friends at the start of uni and ask any questions you have! If you’re keen to meet people through other means, join lots of societies and take in-person classes so you get to meet people taking similar courses to you. Additionally, if you live on campus, your college will likely have lots of events for you to attend and lots of other students to hang out with!
Getting a job
If you’re in first year, this section might not be as relevant to you.
Depending on the conditions of your visa, you might be limited to a certain number of hours of work and study a week to maintain a full-time student status, so make sure you check carefully!
In terms of internship and training programs, to speak very frankly you may have a harder time finding opportunities if you are not an Australian citizen. It’s a good idea to stay informed on industry context and trends, to show you understand the local CSE industry. It’s also important to network with both industry reps and your fellow students, both for advice and for opportunities!
But the most important thing is persistence. The more you reach out and apply, the more chances you have to stand out and find a situation which suits you. Don’t be afraid to say no to suspicious or manipulative opportunities - you’ll eventually find a good fit as long as you keep trying!
Looking for advice straight from international students? Check out this Q&A from last year’s first year guide!
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