Nowadays, an increasing number of young people are choosing to study abroad. I completed a master's degree at Cracow Jagiellonian University after finishing my BA in Ireland. Now, years later, I have started a master's degree in International Relations in Perth, Australia.
Curtin University of Technology is the largest Uni in Western Australia, a huge state which covers a third of this continent, but has less than two million people. I came here after spending two years working for a newspaper in Singapore. I chose Perth because I wanted to live somewhere comfortable, with a nice climate and where people speak English. I spent a few years in Australia before, and had enjoyed my time Down Under.
I visited Perth several times before coming to study here. It's only a five-hour flight from Singapore. I knew I would find Perth easy to live in, but was concerned about the lack of work here. Foreign students in Australia are permitted to work up to 20 hours a week during the semester, and as many hours as they want during the summer and winter vacations.
Unless you speak excellent English AND have good qualifications that are in demand, you will find it hard to get decent work here. It took me months to find part-time work with a newspaper. Most foreign students working here have menial jobs in restaurants or as cleaners. Wages are low by Western European standards, though for most jobs the money is better than in Poland. On the plus side, the cost of living is lower than in Western Europe.
Perth has a pleasant, sunny climate, which is usually described as "Mediterranean". The seasons are reversed in Australia, with summer from December to February, and winter from June to August. So, the Christmas holidays are also the summer holidays! The summers are hot, with top temperatures over 400C, and most days in the 30s.
The academic year usually starts in February and ends in November, when the end-of-year exams take place. Most Australian universities operate on a two-semester system. Semester 1 lasts from late February till June, while Semester 2 starts in July and ends in November. At Curtin, we have a six-week winter break, and a long summer break of about three months. The actual dates vary, depending on when you have exams.
Australia is a great place to be if you're young and love travelling in open country. Ideally, if you come here you should buy a car. Cars are relatively cheap. With a car, you can journey to out-of-the-way places that the tour buses never go to. The land is clean, spacious, largely empty of people but with lots of animals, plants and sunshine. Outside Perth, you're likely to encounter kangaroos and sometimes emus when you drive on the smaller roads. And everywhere are brightly-coloured parrots, cockatoos and the cheeky Australian magpies.
Australians are sports-mad and Perth has a great climate for swimming, bushwalking and running. Sports facilities are excellent. Perth has miles and miles of fine beach, with lots of space to sunbathe, swim or play beach volleyball. I go to the beach about once a week. There are lots of public swimming pools - both indoor and outdoor - and gyms.
Perth has five universities: Curtin, Murdoch, the University of Western Australia, Edith Cowan and Notre Dame. Four are state-run, while Notre Dame is private Catholic. You can study a broad range of subjects at the unis here - from engineering and the sciences to business and liberal arts. You can find more information about each of the universities on their websites (listed below). You can also check the Australian government website for general information about studying in Australia. You can expect your annual tuition fees to be about AUD 6,000-8,000 per semester (about 15,000 zł).
Perth has many international students. Perhaps a third of the students you see and meet around campus are foreigners. Many are Asian, coming from countries like Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and China. Some are on Australian scholarships. There are also many African students, mostly from Kenya, Tanzania and Mauritius. There are smaller numbers from America and Europe. I have met no Poles studying here, but have met several Germans, French and Norwegians.
The best thing about studying in Perth is the relaxed pace of life. The worst thing is how far Perth is from Europe. Still, Perth is the closest major Australian city to Asia and Europe.
There is some red tape that must be overcome before you can come to study in Perth. You will need a student visa. Poles and most other Europeans need to apply for, and obtain one, before arriving in Australia. If you study at a Polish university, you might be able to arrange the visa through your uni. There might be an exchange programme. Until now, Australian universities have concentrated their marketing programmes on Asia, but increasingly unis here want to expand their intake of European students.
Don't be put off by the red tape. Most Australians are friendly towards foreigners and I am sure if you do make it out here, you will find all the hassle worth it.
List of Websites
www.curtin.edu.au Edith Cowan University
www.ecu.edu.au Murdoch University
www.murdoch.edu.au Notre Dame University
www.nd.edu.au University of Western Australia
www.uwa.edu.au Australian Embassy in Warsaw
www.australia.pl Other useful sites: