April 2011 issue

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Famous for fun

Australia’s Gold Coast draws tourists, students and Australians who are all keen to enjoy themselves in the region that styles itself as a party capital of Australia. Amy Baker joins in.

Gold Coast offers “a unique experience, balancing fun in the sun and study; students can enjoy a relaxed beach culture and a quality academic environment,” says Victoria Moyle, Centre Director of Embassy CES at its Surfers Paradise campus.

Marketed as Australia’s favourite tourist destination, Gold Coast certainly lives up to its name, with golden beaches and a wonderful sunny climate, ensuring that any English language student keen on working on their tan as well as their linguistic skills will be well served. And it is not only the beaches that attract students here, according to Niesha Brown, Co-Director of Browns English Language School in Southport. She explains that the Gold Coast region mixes a fast-living city with a beachside locale: think little Las Vegas by the sea.

“Gold Coast is a perfect fusion of city and beach lifestyle,” says Brown. “It provides non-stop action with theme parks, beaches, shopping during the day and by nightfall, bars and clubs.” She continues, “If you like sun, surf, unpolluted air and an outdoor lifestyle with a youthful energy, then you’ll love the Gold Coast.”

Paulo Vieira, Director of Studies at Bond University English Language Institute in Gold Coast City, actually says the Gold Coast skyline is reminiscent “of a sort of ‘Manhattan-on-sea’, where Dubai-style (some would say garish, some would say stunning) modernity is juxtaposed with (a few would say charming, some would say tacky) pastel pink and baby blue seaside architecture”. He is clearly passionate about the welcome that the Gold Coast region can offer students and aware of its chief attractions: “Architecturally, the Gold Coast is not to everyone’s taste, but for the most part, international students are in an age group where this sort of urban setting really just evokes ideas of excitement, fun, activity, people, clubs and parties. We all know that the ‘fun’ factor will always be a strong driver for young people keen to experience life in a new environment.”

If students ever fancy a change from study, beach and bars – although many may not – the Gold Coast also offers some fantastic scenery just a small way inland, in what is called the hinterland. Students can access farmland, vineyards, quaint villages, World Heritage-listed rainforests and sprawling national parks within 30 minutes of the urban area.

For example, Lamington National Park – named after the governor of Queensland in 1915, Lord Lamington – has extensive walking trails that afford views of the area’s forests, creeks, waterfalls and gorges, such as the 160-metre deep Coomera Gorge. The Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk is a 54-kilometre trail that takes in volcanic landscape, rainforests and the Springbrook Plateau.

Without doubt though, the beach, weather and city combination are the major motivators. Moyle gushes, “It is beautiful one day, perfect the next!”, underlining that Gold Coast boasts 35 miles of coastline with some of the most popular surf breaks in Australia and the world.

She also points out that the region has many canals too. “With canals over nine times the size of Venice, waterfront canal living is a feature of the Gold Coast, and most canal frontage homes have pontoons giving easy access to the open water.”

Nathan Evans from Shafston International College’s Gold Coast campus in Southport notes that accommodation is another plus point here. “There are canals with beautiful waterfront homes and more high rise apartments than you can count, which makes cheap accommodation easy and abundant.”
Vieira also emphasises the quality of the accommodation on offer in the region. “Rents and accommodation options are much more reasonable than in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane certainly, and for the most part the standard of accommodation for what you pay is higher here than you would find for comparable housing elsewhere,” he says.

He and Evans both point to another central consideration for many students: the ease with which many students can find a job. “Being a tourist destination, casual jobs are also usually in plentiful supply, what with local restaurants, hotels and pizza delivery companies often vying for the services of our young French, Brazilian, Korean or Chinese students,” relates Vieira. “Well in peak times this is certainly the case and indications are that these are returning. Post-GFC [global financial crisis], our streets are starting to bustle again, since we are in fact heavily reliant on the international tourist and student market.“

In terms of particular activities that students like to enjoy while they are living in the region, there are a number of amusement parks and/or theme parks as well as wildlife sanctuaries that students may be keen to discover. These include the Australian Outback Spectacular, Currumbin Wildlife Sancutary, Sea World and Warner Bros. Movie World as well as Dreamworld and Dracula’s Haunted House. Moyle says that students particularly enjoy four-wheel drive trips to local islands as well as international student parties with other local schools, whale watching, scuba diving and of course, surfing.

As well as all the fun on offer, there is, of course, plenty of time for serious study, as educators are keen to point out. Vieira at Bond University – where around 30 to 40 per cent of the student body is international – says, “There is a serious side to [studying here] and the main point we stress to prospective students considering the Gold Coast is that it really is the sort of place where you can play hard, but the opportunities to work hard are certainly there and are in fact expected of them. Most international students… are here for serious opportunities, to live and study, get ahead and make a life for themselves, to invest seriously in their futures.”

George Nelson at the Gold Coast Institute of Tafe, which has five campuses throughout the region, reiterates this. “Gold Coast Institute of Tafe is a leading vocational education and training provider in Australia,” he begins. “We have strong links to the industry, enabling us to develop innovative solutions that meet the needs of employers both locally and globally.”

He continues, “The International Student Centre has a dedicated Education Manager who is tasked with engaging successful student participation and progression, fostering educational pathways and product development for onshore and offshore opportunities and curriculum mapping for international delivery. Combined with comprehensive student support facilities, Gold Coast Tafe’s International Student Centre is well equipped to support international education, international delivery and new business opportunities.”

Within a region of 541 square miles (incorporating Gold Coast City as well as Surfers Paradise, Burleigh Heads and Coolangatta among some of the main urban areas) there is plenty of choice for students in terms of the type of programmes or educational experience they may be looking for, not to mention location – all the towns and cities in the Gold Coast region are easily connected and promise a fun-packed experience.

Evans at Shafston International College points out that it is also less than an hour to travel from Southport to Brisbane, the state capital of Queensland just north of the Gold Coast, despite Gold Coast having its own international airport. “The Gold Coast region is often described as Australia’s playground,” he says. “It has a very relaxed atmosphere and has some fun-loving locals.... even the police wear shorts!”

Agent viewpoint

“I think word-of-mouth recommendation is the main reason that students study on the Gold Coast. Furthermore, I have been in Gold Coast and therefore I can give my clients a good impression about the location, [explaining that] it is a lot of fun, there are a lot of university students, the location is directly next to the ocean and the weather is good. Students love to go to the beach, go to nightclubs, meet new people and all have fun together.”
Daniele Genna, Link Study, Switzerland

“I was a student, and I was living in a very busy city called Sao Paulo, where traffic jams were consuming one-third of my life. I was looking for a place I could have a break from the craziness of the huge city and have a good time, learn English and surf while in a serious university. I found the perfect combination at Bond University on the Gold Coast. Most students that come to the Gold Coast also look for the same combination. Normally they like to go to Byron Bay, go surfing on the various famous surf breaks on the Gold Coast, and in the region. If they don’t surf, they go out a lot, dancing, drinking, and having fun. The ones studying in serious courses cannot go out every night, but the other ones, less concerned about their attendance, would go out every night. The Gold Coast offers a lot. The mountains are also amazing, and a lot of students go to the mountains (Tambourine Mountain, Springbrook, etc) for nice weekends or day tours. Some of them go paragliding, or do other action sports like that. Surfing is still the main sport. The Quiksilver Pro is one of the most popular events of the whole year, when the professional surfers come from all over the world and the international students can come to watch and support their idols, from their own countries. Culturally, when they want to go to the movies, theatres, or shows, there is the Gold Coast Convention Centre [and] Brisbane is not far away. In my opinion, every one would love to study on the Gold Coast, I do not see any other place as perfect to have a great learning experience. I had students in my MBA class that were from 25 to 72 years old from 110 different nationalities. It was amazing... I miss it.”
Alain Daniel Ruthenberg, Australia Go, Brazil

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