University of Newcastle, Australia
The grading system is different, not too challenging to get used to though. AustraLearn does not have its own classes. AustraLearn can however help find an internship for students who would like one.
City and Local Attractions
*Hunter Valley—Loads of vineyards there and the beaches are beautiful.
(Did you buy a cell phone? How did you send and receive mail? Did you have Internet?)
There are a few cell phone companies, but AustraLearn suggests GlobalGossip. As far as Internet, there is unlimited internet use in the dorms, which is fairly fast.
(What excursions are included through AustraLearn?)
AustraLearn is truly a great program to travel with. They really help student get acquainted with Australia and also help prepare students for various aspects of study abroad while they are still in the states (for example: they had a cell phone company that they recommended that would get phones ready and have them ready to be picked up at the hostel on the first day). The first week is all planned out for students in Cairns. They have a few days of events planned, including seeing the Great Barrier Reef, volunteer day, and going to a place called Rainforest Station where students get to see and do so many different things like petting kangaroos and learning how to throw a boomerang. A huge benefit to this first week is getting to know a few friends before going to the university. The first week is mostly paid for by AustraLearn, the only thing students have to pay for are excursions such as scuba diving and 2 or 3 meals.
(When do they eat? What do they eat? Is there an expected restaurant etiquette? How do prices compare to the United States? Where are some popular places to eat? Do you tip? How does AustraLearn handle your meals?)
Australians generally eat a bit later than Americans. The food is fairly similar, with a few variations and much more seafood due to the proximity to the ocean. There are also many more ethnic restaurants due to the diverse mix of cultures in urban areas all around Australia. Australians typically drink wine with meals, often locally grown. At restaurants it is not customary to leave a tip as waiters and waitresses make much better salaries than in the US.
Health and Safety
(Is there non-violent crime? Is there violent crime? What necessary precautions would you suggest? What health insurance did you use? How accessible is it to go to the doctor's/the hospital?)
Generally, students feel very safe in Newcastle. While there are some instances of crime, it is extremely rare for crimes other than muggings to occur. Students are encouraged to call campus security if they need a ride somewhere. On campus, a medical center is available for students free of charge, and there are several hospitals in town.
(What kind of accomodations did you have? Where in the city do students live?)
On and off campus housing is available. The benefit of living in a dorm is the opportunity to meet locals and participate in dorm activities. Edwards Hall has the option of a meal plan. Off campus housing is available as well but can involve a significant commute by bus to the campus.
(What are some common slang words? Were any other languages spoken?)
The most common language is English. There are many Australian slang words, so becoming acquainted with slang beforehand is advised. Here’s a slang website: http://aussieslang.org/ Expect to be referred to as ‘seppos’ or ‘septic tanks’ (it rhymes with ‘Yanks’). This is just good humor, Aussie-style, and is not meant to offend US citizens.
(Did you use your American bank accounts? How much did you spend? Where were you able to exchange money?)
Students are able to use their American bank accounts. In order to avoid large transaction fees, it is a good idea to take out large sums at once, and keep excess money in a safe place. Don’t carry large sums of cash on your person!! It is necessary for students to inform their American bank that they will be in Australia. It is also a good idea to bring a debit and a credit card, if possible. Some places do not accept American debit cards, but credit cards work. Money can be exchanged at the airport. Before leaving, try to go to AAA or another provider to get Australian money if possible, and be sure to keep some American cash for the airport.
(Where were some popular places to go out? How much did they cost? Were they safe?)
Most places are in town so the best way to get there is by train or bus (or a ride if you are lucky). Some popular spots included Crown and Anchor (AKA Cranka), Finnegan’s, Customs, The Kent (karaoke on Thursday nights), The Cambridge, and The CBD. By living in the dorms, students are knowledgeable on where most people go on certain nights. The dorms also plan themed parties at certain pubs which is another benefit to living on campus. These places did not have a cover charge to get in, but drinks are fairly expensive.
(How many suitcases did you bring? What did you pack? What didn't you pack?)
“I brought two suitcases, a carry-on, and a purse. I packed a few things that I knew I wouldn’t bring home (like towels, shampoo, older shoes, etc.) which made sure that I’d have room to bring home souvenirs. I didn’t pack a hair dryer or hair straightner since they have different outlets there. I also waited until I got there to by a converter (go to any department store). It’s also probably cheaper to just buy sheets, comforter, and pillow there.” -- Katie Merk
Religious Life (Did you go to church? Where?)
There is a church on campus, called Uni-Church, which is a Christian based church with a youth group. There are also churches in town, such as the Christ Church Cathedral.
(Were you involved in any community service? What did you do?)
“I volunteered twice while I was there. The first time was during the first week where all of the people travelling through Australearn went to a Cassowary Conservation Center and planted trees and plants. That day was organized completely by AustraLearn. The second time I volunteered I went to a place called Walkabout Park. I found out about this through Australearn. It was a neat weekend. A group of us did a few things around the park including fixing some of the animal enclosures, planting food for the koalas, catching baby emu’s, and much more. Good experience.” -- Katie Merk
(where to go, what to get, How did prices compare to American prices?)
Most students go to Jesmond, which is right down the road from the university. There is a free shuttle on Thursday nights that run to and from Jesmond. It is within walking distance and there are a few buses that go to and from as well. Jesmond had a department store (Big W), grocery store (Woolworth’s), liquor store (Woolworth’s), and a few other stores. In town there is some shopping as well, typically on Hunter Street. There are also two malls close-by...Kotara and Charlestown. The prices are a little more expensive than American prices.
(How much travelling did you do and where did you go? Did you take the bus? Is there a subway? How was the airport? Did you take the train? Were you able to ride bicycles or walk?)
I did a ton of travelling when I was there. I only managed to see the East Coast though. I went to Melbourne (amazing!!), Cairns (with AustraLearn), Airlie Beach, Whitsunday Islands (absolutely beautiful), Port Macquarie, Coff’s Harbour, Griffith, Dubbo, Sydney, and much more.” --Katie Merk
In Newcastle, the easiest way to get around is the train. However, on Wednesday nights (student night in town) there is a 10:10PM bus that a lot of students on campus catch. The airport is about 20 minutes away and the easiest way to get there is to get a ride. Sydney is about 2.5 hours away by train, so getting to the Sydney airport is fairly easy. Once getting into town, everything is within walking distance, but the walk from the university into town is very long, so transportation is recommended.
(Is there more than one campus? Where is it located in the city? What are some popular clubs and student activities?)
There is more than one campus in Newcastle, including the Callaghan campus. Intramural sports are offered, which is an easy way to make friends.
(average temperatures, proper clothing to bring)
Students going in the fall semester will experience Australia during its winter months. Temperatures are not too cold; students will only need sweatshirts and jeans, not heavy winter jackets. As the year goes on, temperatures get warmer.