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Thriving in Oz


After all the excitement of accepting your university offer, booking your flights, packing, filling in the required visas and paperwork, flying over and settling into your accommodation it will be time to make the most of your Australian experience.

You will enjoy the best weather, the best beaches and probably make the best of friends. To take some of the pressure off settling in, this section is just for you – the students who fly around the world to study.

We have lots of easy advice about staying safe, finding your feet and managing your money and if that’s not enough information, be sure to check out the other sections of the University Survival Guide, we have plenty more for you there too.

O Week - your first week of uni

‘O Week’ (short for orientation week) is held the week before classes start and is compulsory for international students. It is designed to help you understand university, enrol in units and register in classes, understand student visa rules and meet other students.

This week also includes connecting with our schools, getting to get to know the academics and learning about the fun activities to join at your new university. Of course, there are lots of social events in ‘O Week’ and it’s a great way to meet people, find your way around and get a feel for your new home away from home.

All your orientation information will have been sent to you by your university.

More information about what to expect in O week

Getting organised

Setting up a bank account

Banks, credit unions and building societies all offer a full range of banking services, including access to automatic teller machines (ATMs), online banking and savings. Banks are generally only open during business hours. However, deposits, withdrawals and transfers may be made at any time through ATMs at many locations. If you are using a debit card from an overseas account, it is important to check what fees they charge for transactions. You may also be charged if you use an ATM not associated with your bank. Make sure you know your own bank’s procedures for lost or stolen cards. You should be aware of your personal safety if accessing cash from an ATM at night in quiet areas where there are not many people around.

The following major Australian banks have branches Australia wide:

Commonwealth Bank

Westpac Bank

ANZ Bank

National Australia Bank

Banks, credit unions, building societies and ATMs can be found in the main street and in shopping centres in your local area.

Setting up a bank account – Many banks have ‘student accounts’ which contain no or minimal fees for transactions normally attached to regular savings accounts. You will be required to show your student ID card as proof; along with other personal identification to establish your identity.

Your passport and proof of your arrival date in Australia will be acceptable if you open an account within six weeks of arrival in Australia. After this time you will be required to produce additional documentation.

Banking hours – Most banks in Australia are open from Monday to Thursday 9.30am to 4pm and Friday from 9.30am to 5pm (excluding Public Holidays) and usually not open on weekends. However some bank, credit union and building society branches have extended trading hours during the week and open on Saturdays. Check your chosen bank for details.

Lost or stolen cards – If your ATM or credit card is lost or stolen, notify the bank immediately to enable the bank to put an immediate stop on your card.

Safety when carrying money – There are two fundamental rules of safety when carrying money:

Rule Number 1: Don’t carry large amounts of cash.
Rule Number 2: Don’t tell people that you are carrying money.

Getting an Australian phone number and internet connection

Before you choose a provider, think about what services you will need such as mobile phone, land line and internet. Australia has many service providers and it is important that you consider which provider and plan best suits your needs. Also consider your location in Australia, as not all providers have suitable access if you are in a regional area.

To set up an Australian phone number you will need a new SIM card. They can be purchased at supermarkets, some newsagents and at telco shops such as Optus and Telstra. If you’re not sure who is the best provider in your new town ask a few people, they will know.

How to make domestic calls –

Dial: area code + local number.

Area Code States:
07 Queensland (QLD)
02 New South Wales (NSW), Australian Capital Territory (ACT)
03 Victoria (VIC), Tasmania (TAS)
08 South Australia (SA), Western Australian (WA), Northern Territory (NT)

How to make international calls –

Dial: 0011 + international access code + area code without the first zero + local phone number.
For example: to call China from Australia you would dial 0011 + 81 + area code (no 0) + local number. Australia’s country code is 61.

Knowing the law

Australians enjoy freedom in their daily lives. We can live where we want, say what we want, dress how we want and have personal relationships with whomever we want. In being granted a visa to study in Australia, you signed a document (Australian Values Statement Temporary) agreeing to respect Australian values and obey the laws of Australia for the duration of your stay. As an international student, you must also obey these laws, even those that are different to the laws you live with at home.

Failure to comply with the laws of this land could result in a fine or the cancellation of your visa and possible deportation back home. If you are convicted of a serious crime, it could result in imprisonment.

If you are in a situation requiring legal advice you can make a confidential appointment with the international student adviser who can refer you to the appropriate legal service.

You can find a comprehensive outline of Australian law and the legal system at www.australia.gov.au.

Some common laws you should be aware of include:

  • you cannot buy, sell, possess or use illicit drugs;
  • you cannot carry weapons, including knives and guns;
  • you must wear a helmet when riding a bicycle, motorbike or scooter;
  • if you drive a car in Australia, you must have a driver’s licence and make sure you are aware of and obey all road rules;
  • it is illegal to offer or receive a bribe for services, including those provided by a government official;
  • it is illegal to discriminate against any person because of their gender, race, country of origin, political beliefs, religious beliefs, marital status, disability or sexual preference; and
  • acts of violence against other people, property or animals is a criminal offence. This includes violence against family members.

Safety and security

It’s important you feel safe and secure in your new surroundings. This may take some time, but you will get there.

If you feel threatened or overwhelmed, try to find someone who will help you. If you are on the street go into an open shop or restaurant and try to ask for help calmly. Most people are friendly and welcoming.

In the case of any emergency there is one number to call for the police, ambulance and fire brigade: 000

While Australia is a safe country, you should ALWAYS take precautions to maximise your safety and security. Study in Australia also provides useful information about your health and safety.

Tips on home and public safety

  • Lock all doors and windows when you are not at home.
  • Do not leave valuable items in view at home or in your car.
  • Do not walk alone at night, walk with a friend or catch a taxi.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and avoid unsafe places.
  • Do not leave personal belongings unattended.
  • Check public transport timetables to avoid waiting for extended periods of time.

Sexual Assault is a criminal offence – if you are assaulted, call the police on 000 immediately, and contact the International Student Adviser for support and assistance or 1800 732 551 outside business hours.

The New South Wales Police Force have developed a series of videos about staying safe in Australia, including subtitled versions in:

Arabic Chinese | Hindi | Japanese | Korean | Spanish | Thai | Vietnamese

Tips on fire safety

  • Check that your accommodation has suitable smoke alarms fitted and in working order.
  • Call 000 in the event of a fire.

Tips on beach, water and bush safety

  • Always swim at patrolled beaches between the red and yellow flags.
  • If you are not a confident swimmer don’t get in, waterways in Australia can be very dangerous and strong.
  • Protect your skin from the sun, especially between 10am-3pm.
  • Always wear a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and protective clothing outdoors.
  • Do not touch or feed native animals.
  • Make sure someone knows your travel plans and always stay on a road or a walking track.
  • Take plenty of water and wear covered shoes and a hat when bushwalking.

Where to live

If you haven’t already found long term accommodation before moving to Australia the best place to start will be your university liaisons. They will be able to help you know where to look, what agencies may be able to help you and how rigorous the processes are. If you’re confused be sure to ask more than once.

If you’re going to be living off campus, it’s important you have all the facts and know what you are signing up for.

Before you rent accommodation in Australia, it is important you understand the rental process and your rights and responsibilities as a tenant. Make sure you are familiar with the tenancy information relevant to the state you will be living: ie New South Wales – Fair Trading  or Queensland – Residential Tenancies Authority.

Things to consider when choosing long term accommodation

Property location and property features

  • Is the property close to transport, shops and campus or in a noisy area or on a busy road?
  • Is the place furnished? What kind of furniture?
  • Is there a refrigerator and washing machine?
  • Are there laundry facilities?
  • Are there enough electrical power points to plug in your electrical appliances without overloading electrical power boards? Is there a telephone line already connected?
  • How big is it? Are you going to live on your own or with how many other people?
Safety and security

  • Is there good security? Where locks are fitted on doors, can they be opened from the inside without a key?
  • Do front and back doors open easily from the inside to allow escape in case of fire?
  • Is a smoke alarm fitted? Does the smoke alarm operate correctly?
  • You can test the smoke alarm by pressing the test button. If the button is out of reach, use a broom handle to press the test button. We recommend once a month check the battery by pressing the test button on the smoke alarm.
  • It is a legal requirement that a smoke alarm must be installed in every home.
Choosing a roommate

The task of choosing a roommate needs to be taken very seriously. The person or persons with whom one decides to live can affect the quality and productiveness of a student’s experience in Australia. You should also consider the following:

  • Bills and expenses: How do roommates expect to share the costs?
  • Food: Do the roommates expect to share the costs of buying food and share in the preparation or have specific food needs you need to respect.
  • Drinking alcohol: Consider when alcohol is consumed and respect others wishes not to drink alcohol.
  • Cleaning: Some students come from a culture where they have not ever been responsible for household cleaning. It is important that you share responsibility for cleaning.
  • Men and women living together: For many students this is the first time they have lived with someone of the opposite gender that they do not know. Be mindful of this in common areas and respect people’s personal space.
  • Respect: others needs and discuss matters which make you uncomfortable.
  • Smoking and drugs: Consider the preference of having a smoker or non-smoker as a roommate. Clarify a household rule on the use of alcohol and/or illicit substances.
  • Where to get help and advice: If you have any concerns about your rental situation please refer to the tenancies authorities listed earlier in this section.
Signing a lease

  • The owner or agent of an owner of a rental property is called the landlord. The person renting the property is called the tenant. A landlord will ask for a security deposit or bond which is usually equal to four weeks’ rent. This is just an amount of money that is supposed to guarantee that you will take care of the home. If you do not care for the property or clean it before leaving, the landlord has a legal right to keep some of or all the security deposit. Otherwise, the landlord must return the security deposit within a month after leaving.
  • The landlord will require you to sign a lease. A lease is a written agreement between yourself (and maybe others) and a landlord that describes the responsibilities of each party. This is a binding legal document that commits you to a specific period of residency.
Inspection of property

  • Most landlords or real estate agents will inspect the property with a tenant on commencement of the tenancy. This is done with a list of furniture and fittings in each room of the property so that the agent and tenant can agree on the condition of the property at the commencement of the rental. Make sure that any damage is noted on this document, so you are not held responsible for it and that you receive a copy that has been signed by both the agent and tenant. Once this document is signed the condition of the property is the tenant’s responsibility.
  • This will be reviewed at the end of the tenancy and the final condition of the property may determine the return of the bond/security deposit. If this inspection is not suggested, you should request it.
Connecting to utilities: electricity/gas/phone/internet

  • Unless someone is already living in the dwelling, you will need to start utility services such as telephone, electricity and gas. This requires contacting each individual company and arranging for the services to be connected from a specified date. The companies providing these utilities sometimes require a small security deposit.
  • There are some on-stop-shop services that will connect all of your utilities, but make sure you shop around to make sure you are getting the best deal!
  • Beware of getting signed up to a long contract, just in case the place doesn’t work out or your situation changes.

  • The lease may contain restrictions, such as not permitting animals or children in the dwelling. Each landlord will have his or her own particular requirements. Make sure that all these restrictions are known and understood before signing the lease. If the restrictions on the lease are not obeyed, the landlord can terminate the lease.

The cost of living

The official Study in Australia guidelines recommend budgeting between AU$85 (~US$61) and AU$440 (~US$317) per week for accommodation, depending on whether you stay in shared accommodation on campus (the cheapest), or in private rented accommodation (the most expensive).

Other weekly expenses include:

  • Groceries and eating out – $80 to $280 per week (~US$57-201)
  • Gas, electricity – $35 to $140 (~US$25-100)
  • Phone and Internet – $20 to $55 (~US$14-40)
  • Public transport – $15 to $55 (~US$11-40)
  • Car (after purchase) – $150 to $260 (~US$108-187)
  • Entertainment – $80 to $150 (~US$57-108)

To simplify, this works out to a minimum of around AU$311 (~US$224) per week.

Most Australian universities provide detailed breakdowns of the cost of living in Australia on their websites, including student accommodation and sometimes even local area prices and advice. For example, Southern Cross University offers this breakdown page with the costs of private rental, compare to on campus accommodation and homestay accommodation.

Remember the costs listed by the university will usually be for an academic year (about 40 weeks), rather than a calendar year, so you will need to budget extra if you want to stay longer.

This advice is general in nature and does not take into account your personal objectives, financial situation, needs or goals. You should consider whether the advice is suitable for you and your personal circumstances.