October 2011 issue

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Western wilds

A dramatic coastline, a diverse climate and an enviable proximity to Asia; just some of the reasons international students might choose to study in Western Australia. Nicola Hancox reports.

Western Australia is huge!” exclaims Luisa Maestri from Eurocentres in Perth. “It is larger than Western Europe and nearly four times the size of Texas!” Indeed, an area this vast is something to behold and if an international student can get their head around this state’s 2.5 million square kilometre mass, they’ll discover some truly beautiful landscapes and a way of life free from crowds. “Something that amazes visitors about Perth and Western Australia is the vastness of the empty stretches of beaches, even the most popular beaches near Perth are never crowded,” enthuses Maestri.

In fact, the beach is a good place to start and Maestri asserts that, during the day, this is where most of their students head to. “As our classes at Eurocentres Perth finish at one or two o’clock, students have plenty of time to go to the beach to swim or do water sports.” She singles out Cottesloe and Scarborough beaches as the most popular, but Hillary’s Boat Harbour – which boasts a shopping centre, sandy beaches, an aquarium and a bustling marina – is another favourite. “The water here is calm and shallow for those who aren’t so keen on the surf and it’s also great for shopping, dining and drinking,” says Maestri.

Leanne Everett at Language Links in Perth, meanwhile, suggests students hit the open road and take a drive along the Sunset Coast, the stretch of coastline comprising Cottesloe and Scarborough beaches. Students can either plan this themselves or go as part of an organised tour. Living up to its name, Chelsea Weaver at Perth Education City – the state’s peak industry body for international education – describes a typical evening beachside, “As the sun goes down on the Indian Ocean, beaches are scattered with people feasting on fish and chips and watching the sun set over the sea.”

Indeed, Perth enjoys more sunshine than any other capital city in Australia, more than 3,000 hours worth to be precise, attests Weaver. She also observes that most universities, colleges and schools are located within 25 kilometres of Perth’s city centre, making everything extremely accessible. “In addition”, she says, “Perth has Australian best practice in student travel concessions, with international students receiving a WA government-sponsored 40 per cent discount on all public transport, saving them over AUS$780 (US$796) a year.” Furthermore, she adds, unlike Melbourne and Sydney, all inner city transport in Perth, Joondalup and Fremantle (two neighbouring cities) is free.

Everett notes that the school’s location in the cultural centre of the city – an area that comprises the Art Gallery of Western Australia, the Western Australian Museum, Perth Gaol and the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts – affords students the chance to get to lots of popular attractions on foot. “Students often enjoy wandering across the road to the art gallery or museum after class,” relates Everett. As for other city centre activities, the list goes on and on, she says. “There are a large range of cafés and restaurants to choose from where international cuisine can be enjoyed or an adventure at King’s Park for spectacular city views, magnificent garden landscapes and a tree-top walk – in the heart of the city!”

Perth is all about the great outdoors, says Fiona Taylor at the University of Western Australia’s Centre for English Language Teaching. University students can take part in a mini Olympic games session, comprising of fun team games and a barbeque or visit Caversham Wildlife Park. At Eurocentres, students can sign up for indoor climbing, a bicycle tour or go sailing on the river. For pure adrenaline junkies, a spot of rock climbing at Blackwall Reach at Point Walter may appeal, says Weaver. But Taylor finds that the more daring tend to travel to the northwest/west of the state. Swimming with dolphins at Monkey Mia or snorkelling with whale sharks at Coral Bay and Exmouth are top selections, she notes.

International students might like to visit the historical port city of Fremantle (or Freo), just 19 kilometres southwest of the city, says Taylor. She suggests strolling down the “cappuccino strip” – an area renowned for its fine alfresco dining, bars and socialising, having a drink at the Little Creatures brewery, visiting the state’s oldest public building – the Roundhouse – or taking in an art exhibition at the Artitja Australian Aboriginal Art Gallery.

“Fremantle has a unique culture,” affirms Sandra De Witt Hemala at the University of Notre Dame, based in the city. She suggests students acquaint themselves with Fremantle’s creative, laid-back vibe by wandering round the maritime museum, visiting Esplanade Park or enjoying one of its many sandy beaches. Owing to a perpetual strong afternoon sea breeze (known as the Freo Doctor) many of the beaches are prime spots for wind or kite surfing.

Within a two-to-three hour drive from Fremantle are the famous towns of Bunbury, Busselton and Margaret River, “A region well-known for world class, unique wineries and famous surfing beaches,” says Everett. West Coast International College of English is located in the port city of Bunbury and is, according to Jenny Byatt, safe, affordable and has good work prospects for visiting students. “Most of our students are able to find work soon after arrival and work part-time while studying,” she observes.

Bunbury and the surrounding area has plenty of local activity to keep students occupied, whether it be relaxing on the peaceful shores of Koombana Bay, shopping in the city centre or turning a hand to one of the many water sports readily available – kayaking, waterskiing, scuba diving or even swimming with dolphins at the local Dolphin Discovery Centre, whom the school partners with to offer its English plus dolphins course.

Other landmarks and attractions students might like to visit out of town include the Busselton Jetty Observatory – a 1.8 kilometre long wooden jetty that runs across Geographe Bay and features an underwater observatory, the Yallingup or Ngilgi caves up at Margaret River, the Mandurah foreshore or the magnificent karri trees at Pemberton, which students can attempt to climb. “The abundance of locally produced cheeses, olives, meat, fruit, vegetables, chocolate, taffy, wine, beer and cider means you can spend days on tasting tours as well,” enthuses Byatt.

Agent viewpoint

“Perth is the closest [Australian] city to Europe so travelling there reduces the long travel time. Usually Perth is not as popular as Sydney or Melbourne. However, Perth is a great gateway to all the stunning beaches and Ningaloo Marine Park, as well as all major attractions in the outback like Rock Wave and the Pinnacles. Unfortunately, I was only there for a few days, but Perth was great and I would have liked to have had more time to explore it. However, taking the train from Adelaide to Perth was one of the most fascinating and longest journeys of my life.”
Kathy Halisch, Practigo, Germany

“Our clients love the fact that Western Australia is so vast and has such contrasting geography. Our Chinese students appreciate the quietness of Perth, with easily accessible public transport throughout the metro. Our students comment most on the northern Pinnacles’ day trip, where they can view WA’s famous eroded rock formation. They can also try their hand at sand surfing! They comment on how easy it is to drive to Bunbury, where the Dolphin Discovery Centre provides the opportunity to learn about marine life conservation via dolphin-watching and volunteer work.”
Trish Yeo, International Esteem, Australia/China

“Many of our Swiss students say that they feel Western Australia is ‘the real Australia’. Both Perth and Bunbury are safe places, where the students can easily find their way around. They like the combination of more traditional and modern architecture. And they love the wide open skies – which are almost always blue! Students comment on the fact that the ocean – with all that it offers – dolphins in particular – is so near. There is also easy access to the outback and its austere beauty.”
Mary McKay Vilén, Spracherlebnis Agentur, Switzerland

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Britannia Student Services  
Milhouse Hostel  
Nido Student Living  
Smart City Hostels  

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English UK North  
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Groupement FLE  
NEAS Australia  
Perth Education City  
Quality English  

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TOEFL Educational Testing Service  
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Dr. Walter GmbH  

LTM Digital  

Malta Tourism Authority  

Professionals UK  
St Giles International  

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Language Links  
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Bow Valley College  
Braemar International College  
Niagara College  

Absolutely English Young Learners  
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International House London  
InTuition Languages  
Kaplan International Colleges  
Language Studies International  
London School of Business & Finance  
London School of English  
Malvern House College London  
Queen Ethelburga's College  
Spinnaker College  
Study Group  
University of Essex - International Academy  

Accent Francais  
AGISEFE - Université de Savoie  
Alliance Française Paris Ile de France  
Ecole Suisse Internationale  
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LSF Montpellier  
Lyon Bleu International  
Paris Langues / Club CEI des 4 Vents  

Goethe Institut  
International House Berlin - Prolog  

Dialogo Language Services  

Clubclass Residential Language School  
EC English Language Centre  

Garden Route Language Centre  


EF Language Colleges Ltd  

ELS Language Centers  
UC Berkeley Extension  
Zoni Language Centers  

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