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How to settle in to student life in Australia

12 July 2017
Helpful hints for international students living in Sydney

You’ve arrived from overseas, unpacked your bags and are ready to see all that Sydney has to offer. Here are some quick tips to help you enjoy your time as a student at the University of Sydney.

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Start making friends

Moving to another country is a big step! It’s likely you won’t know many people here yet, but don’t worry – that will all change pretty quickly, as there are lots of ways to meet people and start making connections. Before university starts, spend time with your housemates, neighbours or local social groups, and keep an eye out on our international student community Facebook and Instagram pages for opportunities to make friends. Your new mates will be invaluable in helping you to settle in.

You can also sign up for the Welcome to Sydney program, where you'll be connected with alumni, staff and friends of the University through small and relaxed events. 

Once uni begins, keep an eye out for events throughout semester. The University of Sydney Union organises lots of activities, including some specifically for international students, such as tours, welcome parties and day trips. The USU even has a dedicated International Student Lounge on Level 4 of the Wentworth Building, which is a great place to relax between classes.

Last but not least, make the most of your faculty welcomes during Orientation Week. All of your classmates will be there, so strike up some conversations!

Open a bank account (and set a budget)

It’s important to manage your money wisely when living independently. Organising a bank account and setting a budget should be among the first things you do after arriving in Sydney.

To open an Australian bank account, you’ll need proof of enrolment, photo identification, proof of your Australian address and an Australian Tax File Number (available from the Australian Tax Office). Visit your chosen bank’s website to find out more about the specific documents required. You can also exchange currency at our bank branches if you’ve travelled to Australia with money from home.

Establishing a weekly budget helps you keep on top of your expenses throughout semester. Factor in the general living costs of Sydney and utilise a budgeting tool to help manage your dollars. To help get you started, have a read of these student money saving tips.  

Learn the language

Although Australia’s official language is English, your first conversation with a local might lead you to believe Australians speak something entirely different! It can be hard to keep up with Aussie slang and idioms, but don’t be discouraged; there are many ways to catch up, such as attending free English workshops held throughout semester. Topics covered vary from conversational English to dating in Australia. Look out for events scheduled on the USU website. Before long, you’ll know the difference between an avo and an arvo.

You can also sign up for the USU's Language Exchange Program, where you'll be paired with a student who is learning your native language. You can then meet up throughout the semester to help each other practise. 

If you’re confused about university terminology, this glossary will help you to decipher your Unit of Study outlines and other materials you’ll see in class.

Get used to the uni life

When you first get here, the University of Sydney campus might seem huge. But the easiest way to get to know your new campus is simply by walking around. Take the time to familiarise yourself with key locations like the libraries, the Student Centre (Level 3, Jane Foss Russell Building) and the Quadrangle. While you’re at it, check out the museums and don’t forget to take an Instagram photo in one of our iconic locations.

Chances are you’re already familiar with university and how it differs from high school, but each institution is unique in terms of timetabling, expectations and assignments. Learn about the basics with our tips on how to understand uni.

Speaking of timetables, remember to try and work in a lunch break when planning your schedule. Not only is this a great opportunity to meet new friends on campus, but you will also be able to explore local cafes and bars. Follow our guide on how to master timetabling.

Read up on services, safety and support

Sydney is largely a safe and friendly city, but it’s also a busy one with lots of people and traffic. Stay alert when using footpaths and roadways, and don’t let your phone distract you from your surroundings. Read up on pedestrian safety tips from the City of Sydney. If you’re also going to drive while you’re in Sydney, you will need to visit the Roads and Maritime website to find out about our licensing laws and road rules.

It’s important that while you’re in Australia, you know what to do in the unlikely event of an emergency. Should you require police, ambulance or fire brigade services, the phone number to contact is 000. To ensure you are prepared for any situation, read up on how to contact campus security, as well as emergency procedures for evacuations, lockdowns and other threats.

Watch this short video to find out about Australian medical services and what your overseas health cover (OSHC) provides you with. If you need to access any health services, we have plenty on the Camperdown/Darlington campus, including a medical centre, chiropractor, physiotherapist, dentist and optometrist.

See Sydney!

Of course, one of the best reasons to study at the University of Sydney is that you will be right in the heart of our amazing city. The University is surrounded by world famous sites and attractions. There’s no shortage of activities to keep you busy between classes or on weekends. If you’re seeking inspiration, check out this list from Time Out noting the best things to do in Sydney.

There’s always something to do on campus as well, as it’s usually abuzz with free student-led activities. This normally includes BBQs, free lectures, markets, or sports.

You’re going to have the time of your life at the University of Sydney. You’ll learn valuable skills to help shape your future, while making lifelong friends and embracing new experiences. 

For more international student advice visit our website.