So it’s been over a year since I was in Brisbane, Australia – over a year of sarcastic ‘sO yOu WeNt tO AuStRaLiA?! You never mentioned that!’ and of answering the questions of prospective Aussie travellers. I’ve noticed a trend in the questions i’ve been asked so I thought i’d write a somewhat practical blog telling the story of my fears and big questions, and some tips on day-to-day life as a student in Brisbane. I hope that this shows the big stresses of studying abroad aren’t really as big as they seem!
What about the BUGS??!!
Thought i’d mention this first. It’s Australia right? And yeah, it’s all true, they still have dinosaurs over there, and there’s flying spiders as big as your face buzzing about ready to eat you alive as soon as you step out of your house.
Nah just kidding, but I was pretty on edge when I first arrived. I mentioned in an earlier blog that I was greeted by Jonathan, a beast of a spider sitting in a web right outside my ground floor window. I also remember checking under my covers and pillow every night for the first 2 weeks in the hope there was nothing under there to ambush me. Turns out mutant insects don’t exist, and giant spiders, especially when you live in the city, are pretty rare.
The worst experience I had with the Aussie bugs was during a road trip down the east coast. We decided to visit a hidden spot on the edge of a tropical forest where there was a rope swing and a big pool of water. It was so sick, but the only problem was the plague of horse-flies surrounding the water, and as soon as they caught wind of you they would swarm. The only way to escape them was dive under water or run for your life.
Getting away from the airport…
Don’t forget to book an airport pick up!! UQ and many other universities provide them depending on what uni you are going to, so book one a week or so in advance. I was silly and forgot to do this, but was saved by Jonno, a contact I was lucky to have in Brisbane.
Getting around in Brisbane
For a normal day of university or just exploring the city, having a ‘GO card’ is absolutely necessary in Brisbane. They are super easy to pick up, any Coles, newsagent or 7/11 (a small shop similar to Co-op but cheaper, and can be found on nearly every street) does them. All you have to do is beep them on their beeper on a bus/ferry at the start and end of every journey. Top them up by just handing them in at the 7/11 till or online at translink.com.au. I used to live in West End, so to get to UQ i’d take a bus and then a ferry across the river, which took me straight to campus. Also, I would be so lost in the world without google maps. Keep your phone and that trusty app always!
Food + shops
The two big supermarkets in Brisbane are Woolworths (yeah it still exists?!) and Coles. There is a sort of rivalry between the supermarkets, and most Aussies decide to be either a ‘woolys’ or Coles shopper. Both are similar in price. I used Coles, because they were closest to me, and they used to do these really cool mini plastic vegemite toys if you spent over $40 in a shop.
Speaking of money…
I used ‘Transferwise’ to convert my English £ to Australian $. There’s an app which is super easy to use, you simply type what amount of money you want to convert, it shows you the rate at which it will convert and then sends you the money within a day or so.
I set up a bank account with Commonwealth bank, which are also really easy to use and have an online banking app. There are Commonwealth banks scattered all around Brisbane.
What time did you have to travel?
If you’re organised and do work in weekdays, that leaves weekends free for travel, which is the most common strategy for study abroad students it seems. You also get a break in the middle of the semester of a week or 2. Many students also travel after their exams, which is probably the longest and most stress free time which is definitely worth taking advantage of!
Study abroad is full of random things to get stressed about. It seems like there’s so many things to keep on top of, especially before you leave! And yet, from my experience, the worries are certainly not as big and bad as they all seem. The important thing is to keep an open mind and HAVE FUN 🙂