University of Newcastle, Australia

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1 Judith Prechtl, My Semester Abroad University of Newcastle, Australia February 17 th to July 28 th 2004 Final Report: In October 2003 I got the chance to spend a semester at the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia. The possibility of going to Australia had initially been one of the reasons why I decided to study in Klagenfurt so when I got the news that I was on the programme, I could have hugged and kissed the world! In the following three and a half months I did a lot of organising. The visa application is a fairly time consuming venture and also the application processes for the University and the On-Campus-Accommodation are quite different to what we are used to in Klagenfurt. What helped me a lot with this was that I knew a student who had been in Newcastle before and she was very kind in helping me through most of the bureaucracy. Especially confusing was, that I already had to pick some courses for my university application but there was no valid course registry for Semester at least not until after Christmas. My application had to be sent over as soon as possible so I decided to pick some courses and hope that they would be offered the next term. When I arrived in Newcastle I learnt that this was not a problem at all during the first two weeks of the semester it is possible for students to change their courses as often as they want. Therefore it did not matter which courses I had selected for the application. Concerning the flight I have to say that it might be a good thing to shop around a bit and try different travel agents. If you are interested in travelling to New Zealand as well it is clever to try to get a ticket to New Zealand with a long term stop-over option 1

2 in Sydney or Melbourne. This option is a lot cheaper than flying to Australia and paying another flight to New Zealand. What might also be a good idea is, to ask for a stop over option on the way to Australia. On my way over I spent two funny and interesting nights in Bangkok which I regard as a very special part of my trip to Australia. Flights within Australia, especially flights with Jet-Star and Virgin blue, usually get more expansive the closer the departure date is to the date of booking. Online booking is usually cheaper than when booking at an agent. When I arrived in Australia I got picked up by a shuttle service that was organised by the University. I had to spend the first night at the YHA in Newcastle because I arrived so late that I could not check in to my On-Campus-Accommodation at International House on the day of my arrival. The shuttle, organised by the University, turned out to be quite a rip-off (50 A$). The driver had been collecting students all day long (some Americans had already arrived at 2 pm while I arrived at 9:45 pm) and it took us until 02:30 am until we all finally saw a bed. I believe it would have been better for me to spend the night at the YHA next to the Sydney train station, which is easy to reach from the airport, and take the train up to Newcastle the next day. Firstly because it would have cost me half as much as the taxi and secondly it would have meant more time to sleep and far less stress! During my stay in Newcastle I lived on campus at International House. I decided for this type of accommodation because it was recommended to m. International House is modern, clean, spacious, fun, close to University, far from the city, friendly, well equipped but also expansive, loud and full of (very) young students. The good things about it are that there are people from all over the world, the units, which are 5 or 10 share flats, the pool and that there is always something going on. Dinner is served Monday to Thursday in the Dining Hall which is also the home cinema of the college. Concerning dinner I have to say that if you are able to cook for yourself you will be better off unless you like fatty and greasy junk. Looking back I feel that International House was not the best choice for me personally. I think this is because I have been living on my own since I was 16 and the supervision at IH got on my nerves. Being 23 years old, I was one of the oldest. Australians start Uni at around 18. Usually they move off campus after their first two 2

3 years at Uni so most people are between 18 and 21. American Students make up half of the Internationals. They usually go abroad at the age of 20 when they are jet not allowed to drink alcohol at home but they are in OZ ;o) I am certainly not conservative or against going out to party but IH was a bit toooo over the top for my liking. Newcastle University itself is way larger than what we are used to in Klagenfurt. There is a tremendous variety of courses, which can leave you with a hard decision. During the first week, so called O-Week or Orientation Week, the Colleges as well as the University organise a variety of events. Scavenger Hunts, excursions, parties, games introductory lectures that help you find your way around University - all that should make it easier for you to make first contacts and get to know people. You will also be helped with the enrolment process and when picking your courses. I would suggest attending as much of these events as you can because they are a good opportunity to get to know other Internationals. Generally I can say that the staff at Newcastle University are very helpful and friendly. There is an office especially set up for Internationals and the staff there knows about possible problems because most of them are internationals themselves. Also the teaching staff are very friendly. Usually you can call them by their first name which I found very confusing at the beginning. However once you get used to that, it is great. I generally had the feeling that Australian teachers were closer to their students than they are back home. Concerning the courses I must say that the work load is far higher than what we are used to. For my Australian literature course I had to read 9 books, watch 5 films, pass a test and deliver 3 essays together with a 2h lecture once a week. However, I also experienced the courses I took as extremely interesting and I feel that I learnt a lot through them. Especially my two journalism courses, Radio Industry Studies and Magazine Journalism, were far more practical than they are in Klagenfurt. Also here the workload was almost three times as much as for a comparable course at home. What is also special about Newcastle Uni are the two on campus bars. Tanner s Bar and The Bar on the Hill are great places to hang out and the latter usually offers great concerts every Thursday. Sometimes, if you go there past 10pm, you can even get in for free. ;o) 3

4 The city of Newcastle itself is certainly not the most beautiful spot on earth. I suppose I would not go there for its great touristy value but it has everything you can find in any other Australian city and it has great beaches that are well known for their good surf! The city centre itself is rather small but there are vast outskirts with large shopping centres. Some streets in Newcastle are well known for their international and multi-cultural flair. Darby Street and its large variety of restaurants and bars is a great spot to go for a coffee or eat out. The night live in Newcastle is good. There are many bars in the city centre although the current hot-spot shifts from time to time. When I was there Custom House was the place to be! The Australians themselves are a very friendly and open minded people. Many of my Australian friends invited me to stay with their families or to birthday parties. What s interesting is that in Australia driving 5 hours one way to a birthday party is considered nothing. That s close! I would suggest to anyone that if you get an invitation to someone s home, take it no matter where it is. In living with people in rural as well as coastal NSW I got to see that there are differences in lifestyle and got a better understanding of how different Australia actually can be. Concerning travelling I have to say that Australia is a huge country that has a lot to offer. I spent 6 weeks travelling mainly by rental car. I suggest getting a travel book such as The Lonely Planet or the Let s Go Guide. I have used both and both have been very useful. These books include a lot of information on organised tours but also hikes and National Parks that are off the beaten tourist track. If you decide to travel central Australia I would suggest joining an organised tour that takes you to the major tourist attractions and provides food and shelter. Usually I do not like organised bus tours but the ones we did in the Outback were great. People sleep in swags - a typical Australian way of camping and collect their own firewood. Considering what is included in the whole package the price is actually more than OK. Generally I have to say that Australia is an extraordinary land with stunning nature and I am glad that I went to see as much as possible. 4

5 In conclusion I think that going to Australia was one of the best things I did so far. The whole trip was a wonderful adventure and I enjoyed meeting people from all over the world. Also the challenge of getting used to a different study system and living at International House are valuable experiences for their own right. Actually I am thinking of going back on a KWA (kurzfristiges wissenschaftliches Arbeiten) but I haven t made up my mind jet. However, it has certainly not been my last trip to awesome Australia! Concluding I want to thank Professor Adi Wimmer, the staff at the International Office and also the Stipendienstelle for making this possible for me. Studying in Newcastle made a dream come true and this would not have been possible if it wasn t for their support, their cooperation and help and also for their patience! Thank You! 5

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