August 2005 issue

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Australia's sunshine

Think of Australia and sun, surf and barbecues may spring to mind. But it also offers international students plenty of educational opportunities in a variety of locations. Gillian Evans reports.

As an attractive study destination, Australia certainly ticks all the boxes; it boasts great weather, varied scenery, miles of unspoilt beaches, interesting wildlife and vibrant cities. And all at a bargain price, as Marc Barry at RMIT English in Melbourne, VIC is keen to note. "Australia offers cheaper study options compared to the US and UK," he says.

Another of Australia's assets is its people. "Australian people have a great reputation for being hospitable and friendly," says Scott Spragg at Russo Institute of Technology in Brisbane, QLD. Susan Perry at the CHEC English Language Centre in Coffs Harbour, NSW, adds, "Australians do not take themselves too seriously - we love to laugh."

The fun-loving Aussie population means that most international students easily feel at home in Australia, with many schools providing opportunities for students to mix with locals via, for example, beach barbecues and volunteer work. It is also relatively easy to find paid work in Australia. "Many students find work locally," confirms Sorrell Lambie from International House Sydney, NSW, "and this enables them to meet locals and visitors in another context and utilise their language skills."

Because of the Australians' deep-rooted passion for sports, attending sporting events is another way for international students to get to know local people. Spragg says, "Given that Brisbane is sports mad, the students can go to any number of rugby, rugby league, AFL [Australian football league] and cricket games. It's a great way to get involved with the locals!" Language schools also organise a whole raft of interesting courses to introduce students to Australian culture. For example, International Institute Australia (IIA) in Brisbane offers courses in everything from Australian slang to boomerang painting.

Just as diverse as the range of language course options offered by schools across the country is Australia's scenery and wildlife. "Nowhere else offers sweeping deserts, snow fields, tropical islands and hundreds of national parks and rainforests," claims Lambie. "[Australia is] a huge country and visitors are often surprised by the vastness."

Many students are also amazed by the indigenous wildlife, according to Robyn Donnelly at the Centre for English Language in the University of South Australia in Adelaide, SA. "The constant presence of animals and birds is usually a surprise to the students. For example, at homestays in the Adelaide Hills or the eastern suburbs, koalas often come into the garden and parrots are to be seen everywhere even in the city."

According to Barry, "the vastness and variety of Australia's country regions present an exciting range of outdoor activities to experience and enjoy". These outdoor pastimes are generally incorporated into most schools' activity programmes and include anything from surfing and scuba diving to beach volleyball and bush walking. "Our students can take part in over 75 extra-curricular activities including a variety of ‘extreme' sports," says Perry. "This past weekend, seven students took part in sky diving, whilst our Head Activity Officer took a group on a horse trek with a night under the stars."

Australia is also home to some of the world's most vibrant multicultural cities, which Barry says, "provide visitors with a taste of the good things in life". With its warm year-round climate and iconic Harbour Bridge and Opera House, Sydney has always been one of Australia's most well known cities but its notoriety grew when it hosted the Olympics in 2000. As Lambie says, this event showed the world that "Sydney is a friendly, multicultural city where all nationalities can feel safe and welcome".

International House Sydney itself is situated in Sydney's beach resort, Manly, which is just 30 minutes by ferry from the Central Business District. "Nowhere else is quite like Manly," says Lambie. "Manly offers a variety of wide ocean beaches on one side and calm harbour beaches in a picturesque setting on the other, just one block from the school." Another city that visitors to the country enjoy discovering is Brisbane. "Brisbane, and southeast Queensland in general, is Australia's fastest growing region," reports Page. "‘Southerners' - from the southern Australian states - move to Queensland each week." Despite its expansion, the city still has "a friendly, welcoming" atmosphere, says Spragg. Page adds, "Brisbane has become very cosmopolitan in recent years while still retaining an easy and relaxed lifestyle."

Melbourne is another lively city, considered by some to be the country's capital for sports, cuisine, fashion and culture. "Melbourne is known for its passion for sport, food and wine," confirms Jenelle Klintworth at RMIT English Worldwide. "It has fabulous arts, great shopping and there seems to be a festival for everything and everyone to enjoy."

For a more laid-back pace of life, Adelaide is an ideal choice. Denise Von Wald of Study Adelaide - a government-funded marketing body - describes some of the city's attributes. "With 1.2m people, [Adelaide] has all the advantages and vigour of a modern city, but few of the pressures - and costs - that come with the big-population [cities]," she says. "We have little in the way of traffic jams, rush hours and high-density living; but we've got a surfeit of clean beaches, bush-covered hills and idyllic winelands. Adelaide people enjoy space and leisure without having to pay a premium."

Von Wald says the city is happiest "when gathered at an al fresco table on a warm summer evening". Perth in Western Australia is another city with a taste for good cuisine. Restaurants there serve up everything from local seafood to Asian, Mexican and Lebanese. But, according to John Paxton of Perth International College of English in Perth, the big attractions of the city are its "friendliness and safety". It is also not such a well-known study destination as "the big guns on the eastern seaboard", he says, and this has advantages, such as "less expensive accommodation, transport and living costs".

When summing up Perth's attractions Paxton could very well be talking about much of Australia: "It is a place for quality study as well as a place to sit on a beach!"

Agent viewpoint

"At the moment Brisbane is very popular. We work with excellent education providers [there], the climate is one of the best in Australia and [there are] a lot of interesting weekend getaway destinations. Sydney and Perth are popular between January and March [due to the] excellent weather and [proximity] to the beach. Our students like the friendliness of the Australian people; the climate, the vast spaces and the beautiful beaches."
Antonella Hutton, GA International Study, Australia

"We send students to almost everywhere but Chinese students just 'love' big cities. Moreover, institutions in NSW and VIC normally have better ideas [about] promoting themselves in the Chinese market."
George Ser, A&A International Education, China

"The quality of schools, teaching and the range of programmes are excellent [in Australia]. It's cheaper to study and live compared with most other English-speaking countries - and that includes the airfare. Some [students] are attracted to vibrant Sydney as the little New York of the southern hemisphere, but many others like the smaller cities. Perth is a magnet for Swiss students because of its superb sunny climate and the fact that it is more relaxed, smaller and cheaper than Sydney."
Garry Littman, The Language House, Switzerland

"We send students to Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast, Perth and Cairns. Brisbane is popular as most Taiwanese students are familiar with the city; second, it has a similar climate to Taiwan; third, there are frequent direct flights and it takes only eight hours to get there; and fourth, the cost of living is lower than Sydney and Melbourne."
Martijn Dijksterhuis, StudyDIY, Taiwan

"Thai students tend to go to Sydney and Melbourne as they prefer a city life. However, right now, other cities are becoming more popular due to their cheaper cost of living and less hectic environment."
Sasaikorn Trongkamoltum, Overseas Ed Co.,Ltd, Thailand

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