Whether it's spotting koalas in the sparsely populated outback, surfing the waves of the Gold Coast or mixing with the locals in both big cities and small towns, life down under is always interesting. Learn about ancient Aboriginal culture, get involved with Australian sports and revel in the array of unique wildlife you'll find in the sixth largest country in the world.



Languages Spoken:

English

Education System

HIGHER EDUCATION

Most Australian bachelor’s degrees take three years to complete. Typically, Australian students complete their general education requirements in high school. When they begin university they have already decided on a major and start taking major courses immediately.

Students who receive high grades can be invited to a fourth, or "honours" year, during which they complete a major research project or thesis. If an Australian student decides to pursue a double major, the bachelor’s degree program can take four to five years.

Some academic fields including law, engineering, medicine and dentistry can take up to six years to complete. If a student then goes on to pursue a master’s degree, it typically takes one to two years to complete depending on the academic field.

The majority of students live at home and attend university in their home state. In all universities, students have substantial control of the student unions, councils and athletic clubs. Compulsory fees that support these activities are collected from students by the universities.

ACADEMIC CALENDAR

The academic calendar is based on the Southern Hemisphere calendar. The academic year generally runs from February to November. The first semester typically begins in February to early-March and ends with an examination period in November. The second semester typically begins in late-July and ends in November.

TEACHING AND LEARNING STYLES

Classes involve a combination of fairly formal lectures (often with large numbers of students in attendance) and discussion-oriented "tutorials" (with around 10-15 students). Professors present core material during lectures but you should not expect to ask questions during that time; the tutorials are the time to work through the material in small groups and student participation is encouraged. Laboratory sessions for students in the sciences and practical studio time for design students are also incorporated into the curriculum.

You will typically find yourself in lectures and tutorials for 15 hours a week. The rest of the time you are meant to study and research on your own. The Australian education system generally emphasizes independent study over class time, attendance and participation. There are usually fewer assignments counting towards the final grade, so a final exam or paper carries much more weight. For all these reasons, independence and self-discipline are very important in keeping up academically.

The student-teacher relationship in Australia tends to be very informal, with students addressing lecturers and tutors on a first name basis. Most lecturers will keep office hours during which you can schedule an appointment.

TERMINOLOGY

Australians do not use the terms "school" or "college" to refer to the university level of education; rather, they will simply say "university" or "uni."

The term "course" is used to refer to an entire program that leads to a degree (For example, a course is a bachelor of arts).
A class, or subject is a "unit".
A "mark" is used to refer to a grade.

COURSE LOAD, CONTACT HOURS AND LEVELS

Typically, a normal course load for an Australian student is three to four classes (units) per semester. The number of credits a unit is worth does not derive from the number of contact hours (hours spent in class). Rather, time spent in private study, group work, etc. is taken into consideration in addition to class time spent with instructors. Even then, the total number of hours required to get the necessary work done will vary from unit to unit, and does not directly relate to the number of credits the unit is assigned.

Because Australians start specializing in their majors early on, you may find that a unit with a seemingly lower level or number may actually be equivalent in content to a mid-level class in your country.

ASSESSMENT

In Australia, you will generally not encounter continuous assessment, in which assignments are given frequently throughout the semester and you can track your academic progress. Rather, the final grade will be based on two or three major assignments or essays plus a final exam or essay. Essays must be well-written and academic; professors will not be looking for "reflection papers" among these relatively few assignments. You are responsible for keeping up with the outside work throughout the semester, even though professors will not necessarily be checking up on them regularly.

CREDITS AND GRADES

In Australia, the term "credit" represents the weight of an individual class in relation to others within the major, rather than the number of classroom or study hours. Therefore, an introductory breadth course may be worth ten credits, while an advanced core course may be worth 20 credits. Thus, the credit value listed on your transcript may not have any bearing on the number of credits actually transferred to your home institution.

Grades are usually offered as qualitative assessments and are recorded on transcripts as high distinction, distinction, credit, pass and fail. This system represents a mixture of the pass/fail system and a numerically-graded system. Most institutions also provide a number to represent the qualitative descriptions with "high distinction" reflected as an 80 to 100 percent, down to "pass," as 50 to 59 percent.

It is important to note that in Australia instead of beginning with 100 percent in a unit, you begin with 0 points and earn points for correct answers. Therefore, earning 75 percent is actually a very good grade.

Visa and Residency

STUDENT VISA/RESIDENCE PERMIT
In order to study in Australia, you are required to secure a student visa prior to your departure. All ISEP students should apply under Student Visa Subclass 500.

 To apply online, visit Student Visa Online Applications.

Application Guidelines

  • Students from countries with an assessment level higher than one should contact the nearest Australian consulate to verify the procedure and documents that must be submitted.
  • If you are not from a native-English speaking country, but you are currently studying in a native-English speaking environment, please pay particular attention to all language requirements. You may still be required to show proof of English proficiency through the IELTS or TOEFL exams.
  • There is a fee associated with the student visa application.
  • You will need your COE (‘Confirmation of Enrollment' letter mailed or e-mailed to you by your host institution upon your acceptance) before you can apply for your visa. During the online visa application process (or on your visa application form), you will be asked for the number that appears in the upper-right hand corner of the COE.

    Please note: You will not receive your COE from your host institution until after you have enrolled in the Australian Health Insurance, OSHC. Your host university will send you information about how to apply for OSHC - this is not done through ISEP. OSHC is not included in the ISEP Direct or ISEP Exchange benefits. For more information, please see the Health and Safety section of this country handbook.
  • If you apply for your visa more than two months before your scheduled departure date, your information may not yet be in the Department of Immigration & Multicultural & Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) database.

For E-Visa Enrollment
An Australian student visa can be granted a maximum of 12 weeks before your program begins. If you are able to apply online, your visa application is typically processed within 10 business days. You will be notified by email when your visa has been granted. Take note of your Transaction Reference Number (TRN). This number, along with your passport number and date of birth, can be used to track the status of your visa application.

Culture

CULTURAL ADJUSTMENT

Multiculturalism
Australia was first inhabited by indigenous Aboriginal peoples and later vastly populated by the British. However, following liberal immigration policies just after World War II, Australia's population is now vibrantly multicultural, and composed of people from at least 210 different nationalities. Due to (relative) geographical proximity, many of these people hail from Asia originally, although there are also significant Greek, Italian and Turkish populations, among others. You will find the student population to be likewise diverse. Therefore, it may be difficult to precisely define what Australian culture truly is. Not surprisingly, you will find that values of egalitarianism and tolerance are paramount. To learn more about the people of Australia, see the Australian government's "Our People" page.

Try to make a sincere effort to meet and get to know the locals. You will find that people are generally friendly, good-natured and willing to give you a "fair go." In conversation, show an interest in Australian sports (perhaps the fastest way to an Aussie’s heart!), politics and social issues, or Australian movies and arts. Meanwhile, prepare yourself to be asked and challenged about your own political beliefs. If you notice that Australians have a habit of frankly mocking political figures or others (no topic is sacred), try not to be offended or take it personally – this is just part of the Australian sense of humor. If you don't want to talk about these issues, simply politely decline to talk about them. Read more about Australian society and culture on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website.

LIFESTYLE

Greetings
With family and friends, women may greet each other and say goodbye with a kiss on the cheek. Men will greet each other by shaking hands.

Time, Work, and Leisure
Australians work hard, yet perhaps take their "leisure ethic" more seriously. They are infamous for their relaxed lifestyle and quality leisure time is a strictly enforced priority.

Sports
Sport is perhaps the favorite pastime of Australians, and you may miss out on a significant part of the culture if you choose to avoid it. Read up on Australian Rules Football (or Aussie Rules), cricket and rugby before you leave and get ready to dive into the mania and root for a side upon your arrival. Since most cities are along the coast and weather is quite good for most of the year, water sports and activities are also very popular.

Alcohol
Australia's beer-drinking culture ranks up with that of Germany, Belgium, the Czech Republic and Ireland, and the legal drinking age is 18, so don't be surprised if you find much of student social life takes place at the local pub — especially after sporting events. It's common for friends to take turns ordering rounds of beers for each other ("shouts"), so be prepared; if you accept a beer from someone, the implicit expectation is that you will return the favor next time.

It is important to keep in mind that although alcohol consumption does play an important role in Australian society, binge drinking is dangerous and a significant social problem. Please be responsible in your habits, as this will impact your own health and safety, as well as the reputation of study abroad students in general.

Daily Life

CULTURAL ADJUSTMENT

Multiculturalism
Australia was first inhabited by indigenous Aboriginal peoples and later vastly populated by the British. However, following liberal immigration policies just after World War II, Australia's population is now vibrantly multicultural, and composed of people from at least 210 different nationalities. Due to (relative) geographical proximity, many of these people hail from Asia originally, although there are also significant Greek, Italian and Turkish populations, among others. You will find the student population to be likewise diverse. Therefore, it may be difficult to precisely define what Australian culture truly is. Not surprisingly, you will find that values of egalitarianism and tolerance are paramount. To learn more about the people of Australia, see the Australian government's "Our People" page.

Try to make a sincere effort to meet and get to know the locals. You will find that people are generally friendly, good-natured and willing to give you a "fair go." In conversation, show an interest in Australian sports (perhaps the fastest way to an Aussie’s heart!), politics and social issues, or Australian movies and arts. Meanwhile, prepare yourself to be asked and challenged about your own political beliefs. If you notice that Australians have a habit of frankly mocking political figures or others (no topic is sacred), try not to be offended or take it personally – this is just part of the Australian sense of humor. If you don't want to talk about these issues, simply politely decline to talk about them. Read more about Australian society and culture on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website.

LIFESTYLE

Greetings
With family and friends, women may greet each other and say goodbye with a kiss on the cheek. Men will greet each other by shaking hands.

Time, Work, and Leisure
Australians work hard, yet perhaps take their "leisure ethic" more seriously. They are infamous for their relaxed lifestyle and quality leisure time is a strictly enforced priority.

Sports
Sport is perhaps the favorite pastime of Australians, and you may miss out on a significant part of the culture if you choose to avoid it. Read up on Australian Rules Football (or Aussie Rules), cricket and rugby before you leave and get ready to dive into the mania and root for a side upon your arrival. Since most cities are along the coast and weather is quite good for most of the year, water sports and activities are also very popular.

Alcohol
Australia's beer-drinking culture ranks up with that of Germany, Belgium, the Czech Republic and Ireland, and the legal drinking age is 18, so don't be surprised if you find much of student social life takes place at the local pub — especially after sporting events. It's common for friends to take turns ordering rounds of beers for each other ("shouts"), so be prepared; if you accept a beer from someone, the implicit expectation is that you will return the favor next time.

It is important to keep in mind that although alcohol consumption does play an important role in Australian society, binge drinking is dangerous and a significant social problem. Please be responsible in your habits, as this will impact your own health and safety, as well as the reputation of study abroad students in general.

Health and Safety

https://www.isepstudyabroad.org/guides-and-tips/health-safety

Currency

CURRENCY

Australian currency is the Australian dollar. Similar to the US dollar, it is divided into 100 cents. Dollar bills come in $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 denominations, while coins come $2, $1, 50c, 20c, 10c and 5c. Exchange facilities are available at international airports, banks and major hotels. Exchange rates vary depending on the facility used, although banks often have some of the best rates. See Xe.com for the current exchange rate.

BANKS, ATMs, AND CREDIT CARDS

In Australia, the banking system is regulated by a central reserve bank. The banking system is rigorously controlled and "standardization" is such that there are fewer independent savings banks. The Commonwealth Savings Bank has the most branches throughout Australia (it is federally owned). In general, it is most convenient to have an account with one of the larger banks such as Commonwealth or ANZ and obtain an ATM card. As such banks are located throughout Australia, you can withdraw money with the card from almost any city. To open a bank account you will need your passport (stamped by Australian Immigration), student ID card and money to deposit into the account (it can be as little as AUD $10). Most bank branches are open from Monday through Thursday 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (except public holidays).

ATM’s are widely available, and you should be able to use your own debit cards to withdraw cash from an Australian ATM. Most major credit cards and debit cards are accepted. However, Discover Card is not accepted in Australia. You can also usually use your own credit cards or debit cards to pay at most restaurants, shops, hotels, etc. Just be sure to call your bank and credit card companies before departure to notify them of the dates you will be traveling; otherwise those monitoring your accounts may notice foreign charges and disable the cards for security purposes. It is a good idea to have a backup card, should you encounter a problem withdrawing funds for any reason. When traveling to more remote areas or smaller towns, have a small amount of cash on hand.

DISCOUNTS

Look into purchasing an International Student ID Card (ISIC) card from STA travel. It can often get you discounts on travel, movie tickets and more. You should also research whether a monthly public transportation pass is available for purchase, and whether this is more cost advantageous than individual fares, which can add up quickly.

TIPPING

Tipping is always optional as Australian workers receive a minimum wage and do not need to rely on tips as a means of income. However, a 10% tip for good service at a restaurant is common, as is simply rounding up your fare to the next dollar or two when tipping taxi drivers.

Sources of Information

LEARN MORE ABOUT AUSTRALIA

Check out these great websites below to help prepare for your Australian experience!

Australia Tourist Commission

BBC Australia Country Profile

Lonely Planet Australia

Check out these great guide books to help prepare for your Australian experience!
*All links below will take you to the Amazon.com Web site for content and purchasing information

Frommer’s Australia
Australia (Country Guide)
CultureShock! Australia: A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette
Let's Go Australia

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