First impressions of Perth and the University of Western Australia

Moving to Western Australia, I remember someone telling me that Perth was the most remote capital city in the world. Initially this didn’t appeal to me as I have enjoyed living in the UK. My family home is about an hour away from London and studying in Manchester I had direct links to all major UK cities. Additionally, adventure is never far away with flights all over Europe being cheap and relatively inexpensive. Perth located in Australia’s largest state of Western Australia is completely isolated surrounded by nature and tiny towns. However, what I have found is so much greater than I imagined. Perth offers something totally unique. You get the benefits of living in a large modern metropolitan city, whilst being surrounded by some of the most beautiful and secluded spots on the planet.

When I first arrived in Perth I stayed in ‘Mumma’s Hostel’ located in the trendy area of Perth known as Northbridge. Soon after I was offered a place at St Catherine’s residential college. Living in college is a completely different experience. It is like halls, but the residents tend to stay there for their entire degrees. Everyone is super friendly, so despite only having just arrived I was able to celebrate my 20th with friends.

The university itself is beautiful, the architecture is stunning. I’ve seen people come and take their wedding photos here. My walk to class feels like walking through a botanical garden. There are even peacocks that wonder around the campus!

Although it was initially weird leaving, especially going from summer to what the Aussies call winter (20c weather and blue skies). I am really enjoying my time in Perth so far. The people are relaxed, the coffee is great, and the natural beauty of the area is exceptional. I can’t wait to live and create many memories here in Australia.

A Comparative Map: Manchester vs. Perth

Click or copy and paste the link above to access the map. Make sure to zoom in on both cities and click on the icons for descriptions of each pinned location.

This map demonstrates my experience studying at the University of Western Australia, compared to the University of Manchester.

Locations such as my home, the library, and my study spaces have been pinned. These show the spatial difference between Manchester and Perth as well as showing my movement in the cities.

By clicking on the different pins and reading the descriptions, you can view how locations in the separate cities differ.

Furthermore, comments on the assessment style difference can be found under ‘Main Library’.

The main finding when completing this map has been seeing how little space I occupy in Perth. Compared to Manchester, where I cover 10km more.
This shows the difference between a campus university and a city university. As well as how they influence your learning experience, sense of place and movement.

Road Trip – Western Australia

-We went in semester two, British semester one, during Australian winter/spring (but tbh there is only one season here in WA and that is summer!!).

-I live in college so we went in a group of ten (both Aussies and exchangers) from my college.

-It took us a week in total to drive up to Exmouth and back down again.

-I broke my finger the day before we left so I could only snorkel for one day as my cast was not meant to get wet.

-My top three favourite places we visited were:

  1. The pink lake! It looks even pinker in real life, and the ground is covered in a thick layer of salt.
  2. Turquoise bay, which has officially ruined beaches for me, as it is so lovely.
  3. Monkey Mia because when we were hanging out during the night, a dolphin came and swam alongside us for about 10 minutes (sadly I didn’t manage to film this).



An Ode to Rotto

Where: Rottnest Island, Western Australia.

When: November 2018 (Coming into Australian summertime, so it was hot!)

Rottnest Island a ferry ride away from Perth, is one of the ‘must see’ places I had been told to visit since I moved to Western Australia. For any of my fellow geographers, Rottnest is a sandy, low-lying island formed on a base of aeolianite limestone. Alongside Garden Island, Rotto is a remnant of Pleistocene dune ridge. The island was separated from the mainland about 7000 years ago due to sea level rise. However, human remnants have been found on the island dating back 70,000 years. The indigenous people of land known as the Noongar people, call the island Wadjemup and lived on the island before it detached from the mainland.

 The island is around 20km and we managed to explore it in a day. We hired bikes, stopping off and enjoying hidden beaches throughout the day. However, we plan to go back for a weekend and camp over-night.  The wildlife in Rottnest is what makes it so special. Extensive reefs surround the island, that you can see in the incredibly clear water as you arrive by ferry, and snorkel in the warm waters. Bottlenose dolphins and migrating humpbacks are welcome visitors of the island and the Perth canyon just off the island is one of the main habitats for blue whales in Australia.

Overall, the absolute highlight of Rottnest or as the Aussies call it Rotto. Aside from the great views, beautiful beaches, amazing snorkelling or enjoyable cycling tracks are the super friendly quokkas. These little creatures are marsupials, and like kangaroos carry their joey’s in their pouches. They are about the size of a cat and just as friendly, allowing you to approach them seemingly unfazed by humans. The island actually gets its name from the Quokka. In the 1600’s Dutch colonisers believed the Quokkas to be giant rats, and thus named the small island ‘Rotte Nest’ after the Dutch word Rattennest meaning rats nest. Rotto is one of the few areas in the world where the native quokka can be found. This is due to the exclusion of natural or introduced predators. Their only predators being snakes, who thankfully aren’t as friendly.

Known as ‘the worlds happiest animal’, Quokkas are celebrities on the island with many trying to get a quick pic with the creature.

The picture that made the Quokka famous (2012).
Roger Federer and a Quokka.
If you close one eye and squint, it looks like Michael Buble and a Quokka.

I can’t wait to go back and visit this rare and uniquely beautiful island, and hopefully meet up with some more Quokkas.

This is not a goodbye Australia, but a see you later.

When I was told that I would have to write a series of blogs for the global ambassador programme, I had assumed that my final blog would be about how I was looking forward to going home and seeing my family. Where this in part is true, my biggest fear right now is leaving Australia and going back to life as I knew it before. The truth is Australia has become my home now and the thought of going back to Manchester actually scares me a little.

There is a blog circulating around social media talking about the things people don’t tell you when you go on a year abroad and reading it I couldn’t help but feel that this was going to be me upon my return home (link below). Yes I am excited to go home and see may family and friends, to see how much my nephews have grown, and to see what has changed since I’ve been gone, but a large part of me just isn’t ready to go back yet.  I know for a fact for the first few weeks seeing everyone and catching up with them will be great, but once that stops ill find myself yearning to be back in this Magnificent country.

I have always thought of my self an an independent person, but coming on this year abroad has just proven it to me further. I value friends and family, but I also value the opportunities you get in life to travel, explore and push your own emotion and physical boundaries and this has year has done just that.

I often sit back, look at my bank account and think; Geez its been an expensive year, but then i remember all the travelling I’ve done, the memories I created and the people I’ve met and I wouldn’t change any of it. All the experiences I’ve had have created a fire that wants to continue to create more memories, experience new culture and meet new and interesting people from all over the world. If anyone asks me how much Ive spent, ill happily tell them, but i will also follow with how I’ve spent it. I like to think i have made the most of my year abroad and would urge anyone else going on a year abroad is to grab the experience with both hands. The opportunities you get when your away may never happen again. If the local residents invite you into there homes, take it. If they invite you to go away for the weekend, accept it. It is often to local people that can give you the best opportunities whilst your away, as they know all the best spots.

It hasn’t always been an easy ride out here, there has been many occasion where I’ve felt guilty that I haven’t gone home due to the death or illness of a relative and when I ended up in hospital myself over Christmas I began to feel what it must be like for my family back home. However despite this, my parents have never urged me to go home and part of me thanks them for that as I’ve been able to experience some incredible things out here.

I’m coming out of this experience a better person, with a wider friendship group, with some of the funniest and nicest people I’ve met and can see that longtime friendships have been formed. We all arrived as slightly lost exchange students and we’ve all grown together. Independence, confidence, self motivation and courage are all character traits that’s have only progressed and improved since being here.

I have spoken to the fellow Manchester students about there thoughts on going  ‘home’, none of us are ready and in fact at least four of us have said we will be returning as soon as is possible. Personally I have plans to try and locate a job out here within the environmental science field.

To put this in to perspective I’m writing this blog at three in the morning, the day before i leave, as I lay awake contemplating what my next move is going to be. Right now I’m not ready to go home. My advice now is to anyone thinking of going on a year abroad, is do it. You will have your reservations and doubts and you may hesitate to make a decision, which is normal, but from me to you, you will not regret that decision to go, initially it will be hard to say goodbye, but the people you met, the experiences you have make it all worth while. And if you are anything like I am right now, I’m having a hard time saying goodbye to Australia, so I’m not going to. Plans to return are already underway and I’m hoping to be back very soon.

Down by the Blue Boat House.

So I’ll catch ya later Perth!

Rachael Harrison

Linked blog:



Culture in Western Australia

*Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to offend or accuse anyone, the views written here are based on personal experience and observation*

This is a blog I’ve been meaning to right for a while. Australian culture is not too different to that of the UK, they have a similar education system, speak english and even drive on the same side of the road. The main difference is the sun; there is a lot more of it. This lends itself, to an increased interest in outdoor activities, from running, surfing, paddle boarding and many other physical activities, also leading to an increased promotion of  a ‘healthy lifestyle’. There are increased trend towards begin vegetarian or vegan, become gluten and lactose free and many shops and cafes are targeting this particular niche market, which doesn’t surprised given the active nature of the people.

With the good weather, come increased exercise and this is not a bad thing. People can go and be social outside in parks, at the beach, by the bays, meaning you quite easily gain a network of friends. The nightlife culture focusses more of bars than it does clubs, with many of them closing around 12 or 1am. This was actually refreshing sometimes, as you could still go out and have a good time, but be in bed by 12 and get a decent night sleep.

Academic life differs in its approach to study. More emphasis is put on study, with many units opting for a more coursework heavy approach, meaning that more work is required throughout the semester, unlike Manchester (and other English universities), where exams form the core of the unit. There is also more freedom within the course structure, particularly at the University of Western Australia, where there are many broadening units that a student must undertake in order to be able to graduate. I wrote a similar piece on this back in November.

University sports has a completely different structure to that in the UK, especially in Western Australia. With the city being so isolated, and only around 5 other university in the surrounding area, the sports network is nowhere near as vast as the UK. Every year there is a big tournament, the UNIGAMES, held in the Gold Coast, where thousands of trained athletes compete to bring home the title. They do however has many social leagues, like in Manchester, were you can play anything from Netball to ultimate frisky, which is fun but also taken quite seriously.

However on the flip side, upon my arrival within Australia, it has been noted that aboriginal culture, whilst celebrated in minor part, has generally been overlooked and misrepresented, especially here in Western Australia. Merely observing my surroundings walking around Perth city, you note the number of homeless aboriginal people in comparison to ‘white’ Australians.

To me, it seems that aboriginal people are targeted, especially by local authorities as being a ‘menace’ and a ‘nuisance’, with many on the streets being stopped and searched for stolen goods. Whilst yes some are found guilty of shop lifting, not all are out to cause trouble. Police patrol the streets of Perth city daily, making sure there is no trouble and you often see groups of officers approaching groups of aboriginal people. Im not saying that the police are being discriminatory to indigenous people purposefully, these are merely observation that i have witnessed during my time in Perth.

I have friends here that are studying law and politics and they tell me that, there is so little academic literature regarding the treatment of indigenous people within the country, that they struggled to right essays that were focussing upon indigenous culture. What saddens me is that the UK and British rule is in some part to blame. Early settlers to the country were captains and solders, bound on ships towards the Western Coast, invaded indigenous lands. The tribes values and morals have been in some part forgotten, and many indigenous people have been forced out of there native lands.

Discrimination towards Aboriginal culture comes in all forms. There have been many recent articles  over the Australian love of ‘Blackface’; The use of makeup, typically in a white person to represent that of black person.  I intended to partake in a Indigenous studies unit this semester, however due to timetable clashes it was not possible, but it is definitely something i would love to look into more.

Drugs have become an issue within this community of people, with Crystal Meth use becoming a major concern. But it is also a country wide concern. Drug and alcohol abuse is one of the biggest killers in Australia and cost the health turn millions each year. Many TV campaigns are actively trying to reduce the number of underage people turning to drugs and alcohol in order to try and contain the situation. Other drug related problems are linked to increased steroid use. As mentioned previously Australians as a nation, i would consider to be much more active and with this comes steroid abuse, as a way of gaining muscle to look as physically fit as possible. There is still a long way to go however, as the problem has become so widespread, its going to take a while.

Despite this, my experience in Perth was not dampened, discrimination happens in every country unfortunately, however efforts are being attempted to reduced the severity of the discrimination.

Trans-Tasman Travelling Part I

Im going to apologise now as I’m about to spam you all with the blogs i have missed during this busy six months i have had.

So this semester has been a hectic one and so this blog was a little neglected. My return back to Perth to begin the semester again came after a fun fuelled and hectic summer, road tripping the Australian east coast and New Zealand.

It all started on the 27th November with the first flight to Cairns to begin my six weeks road trip down the East Coast of Australia.  I always thought of Australia being so far away from home, but in reality the world is so connected now that its wasn’t long until I ended up meeting some people I knew from my home town, completely coincidentally in my hostel room. Its a small world!

There I was joined by three other travelling buddies and we hired a car to begin our 22 day road trip trip to Byron bay.

Our first major stop was Port Douglas, where our Great Barrier Reef tour commenced. As a place I’ve studied and learnt about throughout various years of senior school, university and you watch documentaries and read news about the reefs, its sometimes hard to believe that now i have actually experienced it. I opted for the snorkelling option, due to a tight budget, that was to last me until February. Whilst diving, some would say would be the preferred option, snorkelling was just as much of an experience, to swim around the reefs and corals is a magical experience.


The fun and games didn’t stop there. After a week of travelling down the Eastern coast, we found ourselves upon a cruise ship, cruising around the Whitsunday islands. White sands and blue seas, it looks like the cover of a magazine, right now you feel like your in paradise. This all came before a mammoth 12 hour drive down to Hervey bay where island hopping seems to be a common theme this trip, ending up on Fraser Island, the worlds largest sand island, stretching around 120km in length. The tour brought us to Lake Mckenzie, a uniquely located closed lake system, one of a few in the world.

The pituresque Lake McKenzie

In true Australian Style I knew i needed to try my hand at some surfing. My first surfing experience, saw me failing absolutely miserably to even stay on a board in Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast. After many attempts, i admitted defeat and stuck to the body board, where catching waves was no problem and gave me hours of fun. After hitting the Queensland beaches for the last , it was time to enter New South Wales.

Nimbin, how do i describe you? Whilst those who have heard about the place will know exactly what I’m about to say about it, but for though who don’t, here goes. Nimbin is notorious for its Cannabis culture and has a very free living environment, with a significant hippie look and feel. It has become known for being the ‘drug capital in Australia’ and its not every day you have the Hemp embassy next door to the police station. After exploring this region, we made our way down to Byron Bay.

Byron bay was where the fun really started. As we waved goodbye to two of our fellow traveling companions, it was me and Alice left. As many can imagine there is a typical sense of people coming to Byron bay to ‘find themselves’. The place is full of British and European backpackers coming to live the ‘Australian dream’. Unfortunately it wasn’t all fun and games, as I ended up with severely tonsillitis spanning the whole of the Christmas period, which left me unable to eat and eventually in hospital, where a minor surgery had to take place. Christmas day also happened to be the wettest day on record for Byron, in over 30 years! Just our luck!  Not all was bad though, the evening of the 25th eventually brightened up and so a trip to the beach was on the cards. Santa hats and secret santa gifts in tow, we had a lovely evening, with some drinks and classic beach games, to take us into the night.

Christmas day Sunset on Byron Bay

From Byron we took short flight to Sydney, to prepare ourselves for our New years celebrations. We hit pot luck and managed to hire an apartment that had some spectacular views of Sydney harbour and a perfect viewing platform for the Fireworks that were to take place. With a group of around 9 of us, all UK exchange students, from various universities, it was a lovely way to bring in the new year, with a few drinks and a BBQ in the park, overlooking the Opera house and Harbour bridge.

Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House

After 42 days, my journey ended in Melbourne. Of all the Australian cities, this has to be my favourite. Personally, It has a vibe similar to that of many english cities, such as London and has a very welcoming feel, something that Sydney lacked. This period of time was a respite for me to prepare myself for my New Zealand adventure that was fast approaching.

Academic Expectations at UWA

By Rachael Harrison, University of Western Australia

This is my second post in a very short space of time. But I’ve finally finished, my first semester here at UWA. I’ve had a total of fourteen assignments and 3 exams, which actually means I’ve done more work then I would have in Manchester! Apparently there is a ruling here that exams can only be weighted a certain percentage, so my exams were only 40% which is at least 20% less than back home, plus in some you don’t even need to pass the exam to pass the unit. However, Australian universities seem to look their assignments and particular group ones! The system over here works on a continual assessment basis, hence why I had so many. This has led me to have mixed responses to the units I have partaken in this term, in which I took all Earth science units.

Continue reading “Academic Expectations at UWA”

1 Car, 7 girls, 10 days, 3200km

By Rachael Harrison, University of Western Australia

So it’s been a while since I last posted, but Australia is keeping me very busy. This blog post is seriously long overdue but I hope you’ll all still be interested, but it will probably also be very long, I apologise!

The mid semester break saw us travelling in excess of 3000km North along the beautiful Western Australian coast, for a total of 10 days. Day one saw seven very excitable girls, trying strategically pack all belongings into one very small boot. We had a one backpack limit for each person, but obviously there were some people who did stick to this, which meant it was time for a game of Tetris. We left on a Thursday afternoon and out first stop was at the Breeze inn lodge in Dongara, a very small time with not much to offer. This was only a overnight pit stop before we headed to explore the town of Geraldton, for the afternoon before driving another two hours to Kalbarri. This was to be our home for the next two days.


Continue reading “1 Car, 7 girls, 10 days, 3200km”


By Rachael Harrison (University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia)

Since uni ended the countdown to Australia began. The excitement braced me everyday. Everyone who knew I was off on this year long adventure asked the same question, ‘Are you excited?’, ‘Aren’t you lucky to be going on this adventure?’; I could only simply answer yes, with a beaming smile. I knew I was very lucky to have been given this opportunity to study abroad, all thanks to The University of Manchester.

The night before the departure was tough saying bye to my parents, brother and nephews, knowing that when I returned the youngest one would have changed so much, but thankfully we can still Facetime and Skype. There was a lot of last-minute packing involved, deliberating over whether I really needed that extra jumper or pair of trousers and then the worrying if my bag was overweight. I used various methods to attempt to weigh the bag on a set of old school bathroom scales, which gave a different reading every time!

My journey started at Manchester International Airport, where the excitement become all too real, I was actually going to Australia. I was flying with Qatar Airways going from Manchester to Doha, Doha to Perth with an overall flight time of just under 19 hours. Saying goodbye to my friends and family was sad, but I knew that the journey ahead of me was going to be worth it. I checked in (suitcase underweight), said goodbye to my family and then I was off – this was it!

2015-07-14 14.29.16

Continue reading “5..4..3..2..1…TAKEOFF!”

Final Days in Perth

By Joseph Barker (The University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia)

Sadly, the end of my time in Perth is rapidly approaching: yesterday, I had a horrible moment of realization that I only have three days left in this beautiful corner of the world! This penultimate study abroad blog will reflect upon everything I haven’t covered thus far, to both keep you informed about my final couple of months at UWA and hopefully raise my spirits during a period of somber farewells.

The Western Australia Oaktree team

One significant aspect of my time studying abroad, which occurred in the second half of the semester, was my work with the Oaktree Foundation. My college frequently advertised a volunteering scheme called ‘Live Below the Line’, which entailed a small group of students living on under $2 per day, the global poverty line, for one week. Intrigued, I researched the organization and came across an advertisement for a media internship, which suited my future interests of pursuing a career in media and journalism perfectly. Following a successful interview, I became part of Western Australia’s Oaktree Branch. My work schedule for the following ten weeks involved writing and producing a promotional film for Oaktree, as well as calling Live Below the Line participants to offer encouragement. Although this resulted in me spending an extra ten hours per week on top of my studies volunteering, I gained invaluable experience volunteering in a foreign country, and was able to observe some of the exceptional charitable work which goes relatively unnoticed to many of Perth’s foreign visitors. I would, therefore, highly recommend taking advantage of any similar opportunities that come the way of students studying abroad in the future

Continue reading “Final Days in Perth”