Hi I’m Sarah,
I’m from Vancouver, Canada, with a Romanian heritage. I came to the Gold Coast to study a Bachelor of Psychology (Honours) at Griffith University! I arrived on the Gold Coast in September 2022 to begin my studies in Trimester 3.
Before arriving in Australia, I did all the preparation I thought I needed, and I researched for years to prepare myself for every detail that would entail my arrival. When I arrived, I realised I had barely scratched the surface of the important things I needed to know before arriving here.
You may be told that you need to find accommodation, get a bank account, or get a SIM card when arriving, but these general suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg for how much you’ll need to know in your first couple of months of living in Australia.
Details are difficult to predict from an offshore perspective, which is why I hope this article about five things I learned in my first month of arriving in Australia will clear up a few more things you might need to know right away.
1. Budget time for finding a rental.
No matter what trimester you’re coming to study in, the rental market is reflective of trends, especially since the lifting of Australia’s COVID border restrictions. Now in Trimester 3, the supply of rentals is affected by end of year school holidays (graduating high school students celebrate “Schoolies”), a supercar racing event, a huge influx of new residents coming from all over Australia to the Gold Coast, a massive amount of international students and skilled workers arriving, and the nearing Christmas holidays.
I arrived a little over one month before my orientation start date, and it took some time to find a rental property.
Download the app “realestate.com.au” and send messages, email the property managers on the rental listings for showings and updates, click the ‘apply’ button, and especially call to follow up with all of the agents!
Not many people mention how pivotal it is to call (instead of just emailing) and follow up with an application or inquiry you sent, but sometimes that can make all the difference to help you secure a rental. Real estate agents receive thousands of emails constantly, and so a call will not slip through the cracks as easily as an email will.
A great resource for starting your search is Griffith’s accomodation webpage: www.griffith.edu.au/accommodation.
2. A Ute, a can of Mortein/Raid, and screen doors.
The last thing you want to do when you come to Australia for the first time is to spend money, but it might be necessary. Not all apartments come furnished, so it would be in your best interest to either invest in a Ute (Aussie for “utility truck”) or budget for moving services, like “A Man with a Ute”.
If you plan on purchasing pre-owned household items or appliances (like I did) to furnish your apartment, you’ll soon discover that a Ute is worth its weight in gold.
Your next best friend is a trusty can of Mortein (or Raid, as it’s more internationally recognised).
De-bugging your apartment will become as much part of your daily routine as sweeping the floor. Speaking from experience, I slept with a can of Mortein by my pillow for the first few nights. When it comes to self defence, Australians might not carry guns, but they do have Mortein, which may be worse.
The last necessary item to keep in consideration for your house is a good screen door. Not all apartments come with air conditioning, so for your peace of mind and freshness of air, make sure your apartment has bug screens.
3. A tale of two brothers: TransLink and rideshares.
The Gold Coast is one of the most beautiful, bikeable areas in Queensland. However, what some might not know is that bikes are not allowed on some forms of public transport. Trams only allow foldable bikes (see below photo) and if you are taking your bike on a train during peak times, you need to board using the first or last carriages. See more information here.
TransLink is the public transport company that operates in Queensland. As far as options go, you have buses, trams, and trains. Students are eligible to benefit from reduced “concession” fares on all public transport. While reliable and convenient, there are occasional hiccups, so you might consider ride-sharing as another option.
The two most commonly used ride-share companies here are Uber and DiDi. They both function somewhat identically, however, Uber has food delivery as well. Uber (seems to) have more drivers readily available than DiDi, which means that though you may get lower prices on DiDi, you may not always get a driver immediately to get somewhere fast. Small discount coupons pop up more frequently on DiDi, which sometimes makes it cheaper than transit depending on the area, time of day, etc.
4. “Do you have a rewards card?”
Do you like to save money while you shop?
If you answered ‘yes’, then familiarising yourself with the rewards cards here will help you do just that!
Most of Queensland’s large retail and grocery stores group their rewards into two rewards systems/apps: Everyday Rewards and Flybuys.
Everyday Rewards covers several shops, my most frequently used being Woolworths and Big W. Flybuys covers Coles, Kmart, Target, Bunnings, and several other stores.
Woolworths and Coles (grocery stores) frequently compete in promotions, but Aldi often beats both at prices, which is ironic as they don’t have a rewards card.
5. If you want to eat out – plan ahead.
You can absolutely eat out at a restaurant, but it can be expensive if you do it regularly, especially in the popular tourist locations. Look for the mid-range or cheap eats near you, such as sushi and ramen places.
Depending on where you go, restaurants and fast food can be expensive in Australia. If you’re a foodie like me, you will find that eating out is a luxury, and your bill can grow very quickly from ordering just a few items.
So, if you’re on a budget (especially as a student), I would recommend meal prepping and planning ahead so that you don’t find yourself hungry after class with nothing to eat and high prices for burgers everywhere. Speaking of burgers, McDonalds (or ‘Maccas’ as the Aussies call it) can be expensive compared to Canada and the US. It’s $5 – $10 AUD for a burger off the menu. I would recommend dropping by Hungry Jacks (equivalent to Burger King) if you want similar burgers and fries that won’t break the bank, or keep an eye out for Macca’s daily deals.
Moving to a new country (or even continent in this context) is stressful and can be unpredictable, but it’s also incredibly rewarding and life changing.
No matter what questions you might have or difficult situations you may go through, you will never feel alone here. Allow yourself to be open, ask questions even if they seem silly, and don’t doubt your ability to persevere through tough circumstances.
The Australians I have met so far in Queensland have been delightful, and are some of the most selfless people I have ever met. I am so proud to be part of a community and city that echoes the outstanding quality of life that I moved to Australia for. From stumbling upon the idea to study here four years ago, to miraculously finding a rental in an impossible market two weeks ago, my journey to and in Australia is what it is today only because of God’s divine providence.