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Rachel Hutton

SFU Student Undergraduate
Education › Curriculum + Instruction | Environment › Geography
Study Abroad

Experience Faculty
The opportunity to try out a new lifestyle.
Experience Details
Introduction + Preparation

The main things to prepare are a travel visa (I opted for a working holiday visa so I could stay in Australia longer after I finished my studies, while still being able to study for up to 4 months), finances (saving up funds and letting your bank know you'll be traveling I did this with my bank and they still tried to cancel my card. 

  1. Visa and Documentation:

    • Check the visa requirements for your specific situation and apply well in advance.
    • Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your planned return date.
    • Make copies of important documents (passport, visa, university acceptance letter, etc.) and keep them in a separate place from the originals.
  2. Finances:

    • Create a budget for your time abroad, including tuition, accommodation, food, transportation, and leisure activities.
    • Inform your bank about your travel plans to avoid any issues with accessing your funds abroad.
    • Consider opening a local bank account in Australia for ease of financial transactions.
  3. Accommodation:

    • Arrange your accommodation well in advance. Options include on-campus housing, off-campus apartments, or homestays.
    • Familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations of your chosen accommodation.
  4. Health and Insurance:

    • Purchase comprehensive health insurance that covers you while in Australia.
    • Ensure you have any necessary vaccinations and carry a copy of your immunization records.
    • Familiarize yourself with the local healthcare system and the location of nearby medical facilities.
  5. Packing:

    • Pack appropriate clothing for the Australian climate, which can vary depending on the region and season.
    • Don't forget power adapters, as Australia uses a different electrical outlet type (Type I).
    • Bring essential personal items and any prescription medications you may need.
  6. Cultural Preparation:

    • Research Australian culture, customs, and etiquette to avoid cultural misunderstandings.
    • Learn some common Australian slang and phrases to help you communicate more effectively.
  7. Academic Preparation:

    • Communicate with your university's international office for guidance on course selection and enrollment.
    • Understand the grading system and academic expectations at your host institution.
    • Familiarize yourself with the local academic calendar and important dates.
  8. Safety:

    • Stay updated on the local safety and emergency procedures.
    • Register with your home country's embassy or consulate in Australia.
    • Keep a copy of important contact numbers and addresses.
  9. Travel and Exploration:

    • Plan your travel within Australia and explore the country during your free time.
    • Take advantage of student discounts and travel opportunities.
  10. Stay Connected:

    • Get a local SIM card for your phone to avoid expensive roaming charges.
    • Keep in touch with family and friends back home to stay connected and share your experiences.
Financial Preparation

For this one, I do not have good advice. With so many fleeting opportunities to try new things I went over my normal spending habits in the first two months and had to reel it back in the latter half. However, I don’t regret it and thoroughly enjoyed making the most of my Australia time but would recommend pacing yourself with the activities to do as well as saving up before your trip to maximize the things you can do while you’re abroad.
I had hoped to find a job upon coming to Australia though found it to be unexpectedly difficult. I believe this was due to the high number of other students and working holiday travelers looking for a job around the same time, and at the end of summer I think they were going into a slower period. I ended up finding a job but not until near the end of the semester. If you’re looking to find a job while abroad I would recommend arriving a few weeks before orientation week to start looking as those who found jobs easily had started looking around that time.


Don’t bring so much. At least for myself, I didn’t need to bring as many clothes as I did, just bring your favourites, and cut down on the multiples, odds are you’ll want to get a few items while you’re away anyway. I brought a large suitcase and a 55L backpacking bag which was particularly useful hiking around New Zealand.

Preparation Tips for Future Students

I recommend taking some time to travel around before your studies start. a friend spent a month backpacking around east Asia with only a backpack and picked up the extra things she needed once she settled in here exchange location. I’m thankful I took some extra time to visit New Zealand and Sydney before starting my exchange. The less you bring the less stuff you’ll have to coordinate moving around. If you can afford the time and expenses, it can be worth it to explore a different part of the world when you’re in the area.

During my Experience
Orientation and First Weeks

I loved orientation, I could not recommend it enough. The university had organized many international/exchange student specific special activities so I would highly recommend looking into them beforehand as I am so glad I signed up for them all. In doing so I was shown around the area, received free meals, went on a day trip to Byron Bay, and had many opportunities to meet others in the same situation as myself (new to the area and also looking to make friends), it was there that I made the majority of my friends.

Accommodation and Living

I opted for living in shared housing because I was going to be traveling abroad with my partner. I’d recommend student housing if you can so you can best be around your peers, but it was nice being able to connect with people outside school through shared living which was also a bit cheaper. Many students opted for shared student housing nearby the university which is an excellent option to live with others studying at the university.

Learning and Adaptation

The schooling structure of Griffith University was similar to Simon Fraser and therefore wasn’t overly difficult to adapt to. Griffith University also uses canvas and a similar lecture & tutorial format. The main differences were, fewer assignments worth more, smaller class sizes, and more focus on experience instead of theory.

Accomplishments and Challenges

I was surprised to find a number of political differences in some of my classroom settings and found myself alienated at times, however overall the discussions we had lead to further insight for both sides. I'm glad I remained outspoken and learned a lot.

Social and Extracurricular Activities

It was great having the opportunity to experience a different lifestyle while in Australia. I joined the surfing club, Serotonin an Acapella choir, and joined the gold coast rowing team. In the first weeks of your stay, please do yourself a favour and put yourself out there as much as you can to meet people, you will be surrounded by others who are also away from their normal social circles so everyone is eager to make friends and you can do so quite easily as long as you put yourself out there.

Reflection & Tips
Advice for Future Students
  • Go on an exchange, when else will you have this opportunity to try out university life in a different country (and without the international student fees) it has probably been my favourite part of my university experience thus far.
  • Follow the school social media and clubs beforehand to help give an idea of the resources available.
  • Before going on your exchange spend time envisioning the lifestyle you’d like to have and once you’re there make strides in creating it. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed adapting to a beachy lifestyle, surfing and early morning swims, and yoga.
  • Highly recommend joining clubs, they plan out lovely events and can be very nice to create a regular structure of fun activities for your week.
  • Spend as much time outside as possible, reading, journaling, and studying on the beach can not be overstated.
  • Try being an Australian morning person. I’ve never been much of a morning person but miraculously, and with a big help from the time change it made me wake up around sunrise each morning, and on the east coast of Australia the sunrise over the water is not something you’d want to miss.
  • Meal prep and limit eating out. The Australian food is very similar to Canada, definitely try a meat pie, sausage roll, snag (not overly vegetarian friendly Australia) but otherwise, try and cook bulk meals and eat throughout the week to save some money.