By Joseph Barker (The University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia)
Hello, and welcome to the first of my blogs describing my study abroad experience in Australia! Following the somewhat arduous process of applying to study abroad, I was thrilled to learn that I had been accepted to study for a semester at the University of Western Australia (UWA), based in the coastal city of Perth. Before I could get truly excited about the beaches, wildlife and relaxed lifestyle however, I had a variety of things to organize in order for my transition down under to be a smooth one…
Firstly, I was required to send letters of acceptance, apply for a visa, make provisional module selections and attend country information sessions, allowing me to complete the pre-departure essentials without too much hassle. Accommodation, by contrast, proved more challenging, as I had to both find someone to occupy my room whilst I was abroad in order to pay my rent, whilst simultaneously organizing my own accommodation during exchange. GumTree.com proved an invaluable resource: after posting a basic advert for my house in Manchester, I was inundated with e-mails from potential occupants. The most legitimate offer came from a fellow exchange student, completing his exchange at the University of Manchester whilst I was away. Following several e-mail exchanges, concerning rental payment and a more detailed description of my room, house and the surrounding area, I had decided upon my tenant. Vladimir, studying accountancy in Prague in the Czech Republic, arrived on the 14th of January. Fortunately, Vlad is an incredibly polite and easy-going house-mate, meaning I had one less concern before departing to Oz. Furthermore, having met University of Manchester exchange students who had studied in Australia previously at a compulsory meeting, I followed their advice to arrive prior to the beginning of term and book a hostel for the first week, in order to view any potential places to live in person before committing to rental contracts.
As the UWA term only began on the 24th of February, I organized an internship with the BBC following the end of Semester 1 examinations. Consequently, I lived with several university friends for 3 weeks as my room was already occupied. This proved both an excellent way to see mates before leaving and a hectic period which left me only 1 weekend to travel home to Newcastle, pack for the next 6 months, before returning to Manchester to catch my flight. Although I felt a cocktail of emotions, due to the stress of packing and the sadness of goodbyes, by the time I was en-route to Perth, via connecting flights stopping at Munich and Singapore, I felt pure elation. The sense of adventure was overpowering: from meeting new people and visiting incredible places to experiencing a new culture and lifestyle, I realized studying abroad in Australia would be the experience of a lifetime!