October 2010 issue

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Best of West

With its wide variety of scenery and experiences, Western Australia cannot fail to impress. What’s more, it’s not crowded with students and tourists guaranteeing international students an exclusive experience. Gillian Evans reports.

For an experience of Australia that is off the beaten track, Western Australia (WA) is an ideal choice for language travellers, as two students studying at Perth International College of English (PICE) found out. They were looking for surf beaches so headed for the Yallingup/Margaret River area. “They went for a long weekend and came back ecstatic about the beaches,” recounts John Paxton at PICE. “They thought the water, surf and sand were fantastic, but the most important element was that they were the only people on the beach!”

Indeed Western Australia has a lot to offer those who venture to this part of the country. According to Neil Butler from Sunset Coast International English School on Scarborough Beach, Western Australia is the richest – Perth has the highest population per capita of self-made millionaires in the world – and least populated state in Australia, boasts amazing beaches, a perfect climate with year-round sunshine, is a safe destination and has a high quality lifestyle. He continues, “Western Australia has some spectacular scenery from the Ningaloo Reef, with its diverse ecosystem, to the immaculate vineyards of the Margaret River area. The ocean is an amazing draw card with waves that will make you stare in awe. Every kind of water sport imaginable is available and Sunset Coast International English School prides itself on being the only school located on the beachfront.”

It is not surprising that beach life is an integral part of a student’s stay at Sunshine Coast. “Many of our students share our passion for the ocean,” asserts Butler. “Surfing before and after class is part of the routine. Some people prefer to get on a bike and tour the coastline on the new bicycle paths that have been made along the entire length of the coast. Students at Sunset love to get together and organise a barbeque – or barbie – on the beach, just across from the school. At night, the choices are wide. If it’s a cocktail, movie, nightclub, sports centre or just a place to hang out and watch the world pass by, Western Australia has it all.”

Three-and-a-half times bigger than Texas, and six times bigger than the British Isles, Western Australia offers visitors plenty to see and do, from the Golden Outback with its wide clear skies and dramatic scenery, offering authentic Aboriginal experiences and visits to settlements built by goldrush pioneers to Australia’s northwest, one of the world’s last true wilderness areas.

“Western Australia provides unique experiences and adventures that will stay with students for the rest of their lives,” asserts Angelina Koroleva, Administration Officer for Perth Education City, Western Australia’s industry body for international education. “They can swim with wild dolphins at Monkey Mia, trek the 350-million-year-old Bungle Bungle range, dive with the largest fish in the world at Ningaloo Reef, surf the awesome waves at Margaret River and climb the towering Karri trees of the southwest.”

According to Jenny Byatt from West Coast International College of English, the southwest region of Western Australia has been listed in Lonely Planet as one of the world’s top 10 destinations to visit in 2010 and their Best in Travel 2010 guidebook comments on the state’s diversity. She elaborates: “We have oceans and desert, mountain ranges and plains, forests and farms, rivers, caves and unique native flora and fauna galore all within a day or weekend trip from Perth and Bunbury,” where the school is based.

A must for visitors to Perth is a trip to Rottnest Island, according to Roberta Alves, Marketing Manager at Study Group Australia (Perth Campus). “Hiring a bike is the best way to get around and find those secluded beaches and secret surf spots on the other side of the island,” she says. “There’s also a free hop-on-hop-off bus service, as well as guided tours exploring the early colonial buildings, lighthouse and the island’s crucial role in World War one and two.”

Despite its small population, there’s lots to see and do in Perth. “Cafés, restaurants, bars and clubs provide a bustling nightlife for those who seek it,” relates Julianne Sparke, Principal of Kaplan International College in Perth. “Movies and live theatre are always accessible and there are art galleries, museums and other places of interest. Shopping is good and the supermarkets stock a wide range of food.”

And activities do not have to put a strain on the bank balance, as there is much to do in Perth that is free, says Butler. “For those in the know, there are lots of free activities you can get involved in. Some examples of these are free didgeridoo lessons, bush walk tours, bell tower visits, the historic Perth tour and lots more. Some of the clubs and bars in the city provide international students with special student nights where drinks and barbeques are free.”

Just 175 kilometres south of Perth lies Western Australia’s third largest city, the port city of Bunbury. “Bunbury is known as the City of Three Waters, as the city centre has water on three sides,” says Byatt. “I regularly see dolphins and whales from my car while driving to work and Bunbury’s Dolphin Discovery Centre has been named as Western Australia’s premiere tourist attraction.” Other indigenous wildlife also abound in Bunbury. “While it is possible to live in a large Australian city and not see a wild kangaroo, it is virtually impossible to live in Bunbury and not see one!” exclaims Byatt. “They are everywhere, especially on our golf courses and farmland. We have even had a confused kangaroo try to enter the college and a few homestay families are licenced kangaroo carers.”

According to Byatt, students enjoy the friendly atmosphere and convenience of a small city with comparatively few international students. The college itself is situated in the city centre, close to shopping centres, cafés, restaurants, cinemas, pubs, nightclubs, the bus station, beaches, parks, free public barbecues and sports facilities. “Within 20 minutes’ drive students are out in the countryside touring wineries and farms selling cheese, cider and fresh produce,” says Byatt. “Within a radius of two hours’ drive students can see all the famous tourist attractions of the southwest including the waves of Margaret River, the tall trees of Pemberton and the delights of our capital city, Perth.”

As student visas holders are allowed to work part-time for up to 20 hours a week, the relative ease of finding employment in the state is a major draw for many international students. “Perth city provides great opportunities for students to earn some extra cash,” states Koroleva. “Most work in Perth’s cafés and restaurants. They make many friends through working and it also helps them to improve their English.”

Agent viewpoint

“Western Australia is safe, has great beaches and the local people are very friendly. Moreover the city offers public transport discount for international students. The unemployment rate in WA is one of the lowest in Australia, and the students who have the permission to work and have a good English level can find a part-time job while studying. The most popular destination in WA is definitely Perth followed by Joondalup and Bunbury. Students are most surprised by the great beaches and the excellent lifestyle. They enjoy going to Kings Park, Scarborough Beach, Fremantle and Swan Valley – Kings Park is unique and its view to the city is gorgeous.”
Vinicius Barreto, Australian Centre, Brazil

“Students choose to study in Western Australia for a number of reasons: good climate all year round; high quality of life; attractive destination not only to study but also to travel – all our students travel after they have finished school; safe destination; easily accessible from Europe; and word-of-mouth recommendation. Perth has a very good reputation in Switzerland and it is one of the most favourite cities in Australia to study. Students are generally surprised by the friendliness of the people, the good infrastructure and the good quality and variety of food, beer, wine etc. They enjoy the warm climate, the sea and the opportunity to travel during and after their studies - eg. the Margaret River area, the Pinnacles, Monkey Mia, Exmouth/Ningaloo Reef and Kimberley.”
Dominic Eckert, Dreamtime, Switzerland

“Western Australia became very attractive to international students in the last five-to-seven years when the main educational centres in Australia were receiving too many students from one nationality, when the cost of living in WA was considerably lower in comparison to other capitals such as Sydney and Melbourne and when WA’s economy was booming with lots of jobs on offer. Perth is by far the most popular destination for international students in WA. However, I believe there is an increasing number of students going to regional areas like Bunbury. The students enjoy going out in Northbridge, meeting friends in Cottesloe Beach on Sunday afternoon, having a barbeque at Kings Park, visiting the Fremantle markets and kitesurfing in Augusta.”
Lucia Deiro, Australia Brasil, Brazil

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