|While New South Wales (NSW) may be Australia’s most popular tourist state, it has much to offer students looking for a complete urban and rural experience of Australia. “From the snowy mountains of the south offering the chance to ski or snowboard, to the seat of parliament and the capital Canberra [which resides in NSW but is in a state all of its own], to the famous surf of Byron Bay in the north, students with a passion for learning, who seek an active lifestyle and a sense of adventure choose to study in New South Wales,” asserts Sheryl Jackson from Kaplan, which has two centres in Sydney.
Angela Henderson from the University of Newcastle agrees. “Students choose NSW for the beautiful sea and landscapes, the options for metropolitan and rural lifestyles, the many and varied attractions and landmarks, and the high quality institutions and English programmes,” she says.
Of course, for many international students, it is the lure of Sydney itself, “the Harbour City, its beaches and its lifestyle”, according to Krista Borg at Access Macquarie Limited at Macquarie University in Sydney, which brings students to NSW.
“As a world city,” explains Jackson, “Sydney has a lot to offer, including beaches, cafés, bars, shopping, culture, a thriving sporting and music scene, not to mention beautiful weather!”
Sydney is certainly packed with things to see and do, from the world-famous Opera House and Botanical Gardens to shopping at Paddy’s Markets and going to Bondi and Manly Beach for surfing, beach volleyball and just “hanging out”. Borg reports a lot of students participate in on campus activities at Macquarie University such as sports, gym and fitness and various clubs. In Sydney, she says, “They love checking out the city’s restaurants and shopping. Many parks in Sydney also have free or cheap barbecue facilities so students can go to gorgeous parks right on the harbour with their friends and enjoy the views.”
Despite its size, Ally Lee at IH Sydney, who was an international student in the city herself, says Sydney is extremely welcoming. “Citizens in Sydney are very friendly as they [see] many tourists from other countries and are familiar with speaking with non-native students. Even if a student is not good at English, they try to understand and help them.”
Illustrating the friendliness of the locals, Jackson from Kaplan recalls one student watching a game of Australian touch rugby, then ending up going to dinner with the whole team afterwards.
A fun-loving city, Sydney hosts festivals galore. Richard Arkell at Navitas, which has three centres in Sydney, says they are a real highlight for both locals and visitors, “There is nothing more invigorating than getting the picnic basket and camera and heading to an event set against some of the most stunning backdrops Sydney has to offer.” Events range from a jazz festival, Tropfest short film competition, the quirky street fair at Newtown and the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race. “There is something to enthral everyone, and best of all, most events are free,” he adds.
If students want to be away from the big city feel of Sydney and yet close enough to visit, Wollongong just a 90-minute drive south of Sydney is an ideal choice. Holly Sutherland at the University of Wollongong says it is “close enough to be in daily reach of the [central business district], without the rush and expense of a big city”. Describing Wollongong, she enthuses, “With a population of around 400,000, Wollongong is large enough to offer all the facilities, entertainment and conveniences of the city, yet small enough to retain the friendly, relaxed atmosphere of a coastal community.” It has beautiful beaches and great surfing activities, as well as a thriving music and café scene. Sutherland recommends taking a relaxed walk along the “Blue Mile”, a beautiful stretch connecting Wollongong’s North and South Beaches, as well as experiencing the Illawarra Fly Treetop Walk a 500-metre walk, 25 metres high, providing sweeping views of the region.
Two hours north of Sydney takes you to Newcastle, fast becoming one of Australia’s big attractions thanks to its listing among the world’s top ten cities in the Lonely Planet’s ‘Best in Travel’ 2011. “Since Newcastle came in as the highest ranked Australian city on this prestigious list, students have been arriving full of curiosity, and once they arrive here, it doesn’t take long to work out why,” says Henderson.
Some of the city’s highlights include taking a lakeside stroll around the outdoor sculptures at the Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery, swimming, surfing, snorkelling or scuba diving in the waters surrounding Newcastle, visiting the winemakers of Hunter Valley or cheering on the Newcastle Knights rugby league team during a home game.
For a completely different experience of NSW, Byron Bay, the state’s second-most important tourist destination after Sydney, offers students a truly laid-back and relaxed beachside experience with great surf and diving opportunities. But Michael O’Grady at Byron Bay English Language School says that mostly students are attracted to the city because of its lifestyle. “It is simple yet enjoyable,” he comments. “We have a fantastic climate and people are warm and friendly. Nimbin is also a destination that some students wish to explore.” He recommends a trip to Cape Byron where “there are usually whales and dolphins putting on a show!”
For those who want to get closer to the sea life, Navitas offers an English Plus programme that includes a dolphin discovery programme, or the opportunity to be a conservation volunteer or to join its Sydney sailing class. “Students will create life-long memories participating in activities that are truly distinctive,” Askell highlights.
“Sydney is the most well-known city, but we do send students to Newcastle, Wollongong and Albury Wodonga as well. Sydney is the most popular because there are many kinds of institutes there. Some Korean students say there are many Koreans in Sydney, and some say it doesn’t feel like Australia because there are many different nationalities. Students want to have a very different experience, enjoying outdoor activities, but they also enjoy nightclubs. They love tourist attractions such as Darling Harbour, and also like Byron Bay, the national parks and outback.”
Justin Kim, JE Education Centre, Korea
“Students mainly choose Sydney because it is familiar but we also promote Newcastle, which is less expensive. Most students tend to study for 20 weeks or two-to-four years, therefore they seem not to focus on excursions and activities. However, students find visiting natural features of Australia, such as the Blue Mountains and the beautiful coastlines, a wonderful experience.”
Taeko Yamashita, Melbourne Education Centre, Japan
“We recruit about 2,000 Europeans each year for Australian schools. Sydney probably always will be the number one destination; it makes you pause and consider how great city living really can be. We send students to Byron Bay too, which is popular with European students who want to sample a bohemian sub-tropical town. And Sydney never ceases to surprise visitors with its natural beauty; it has so much green space and water. Our students enjoy that they can find jobs easily; working complements their studies and it makes it easier to afford a longer stay. My highlight is an early morning surf or swim followed by a lazy breakfast a very Aussie experience!”
Gavin Dowling, Go Study Australia