Had I knew…

In Blog, Reflections on March 13, 2010 by Jim Tagged: , , ,

Being a student who previously studied in another Australian university has had its advantages—I knew what to expect. Well, so I thought. I was on a different program this time. I registered for an advanced graduate training that I felt like I’m a novice.

Things I know
Having a bit more package, i.e., a wife and three lovely girls, meant that I needed more preparation (and stress) than most students. In a gist, I’ll try to list some of the things that I know that a student (especially an international one with a family) needs to know:

Prior to registration, there were things that I’ve prepared way before I and my family actually travelled to Perth. Here is a quick rundown:

  • Secure your local driving license. Get an international driving license if it is not in English. A translation of your local driving license will usually suffice for you to drive around Perth.
  • Fund for a second-hand car.
  • Fund for house deposit and around three months rent. If you have a family, then the minimum deposit you’re looking at is around $800.
  • Buy a laptop.
  • If you come from a tropical country, buy as much winter clothes as you can. I found it cheaper to buy winter clothes in tropical countries—who’s crazy to don those three layer jackets in a tropical country anyway?!! 🙂
  • If you are privately funded then it is safe to set-aside around three-months worth living allowance otherwise a month’s allowance will suffice to get you by.


  • Research for a local migrant community group around the university. Chances are you might find an acquaintance or better yet a friend in the community. I was lucky enough that I have a friend who was also studying at the uni. Her landlord was kind enough to agree to my family staying with my friend temporarily.
  • Research in advance for real estate websites and prospective properties for rent.
  • Secure a letter of recommendation from the Uni’s International Office.
  • Secure a shortlist of accommodation that you like and secure an appointment for inspection within the first week of your arrival.
  • For a student with a family, searching a bit farther from the uni means a better chance for securing an accommodation.

On arrival

  • Don’t bring in any food and counterfeit goods.
  • Things that you need to secure right away:
    • Buy a car so you can get around house inspection appointments easily.
    • Meet your supervisor or representative from the uni’s international office
  • Register
  • Attend the uni’s orientation week. This is the best way to get to know the university and the services available to you.


  • Secure ID. This will be your tool to access the internet, print and other services.
  • Get your concession stamp for your public transport discounts
  • Locate the library and befriend the IT guys so they can have you set-up for your learning journey.
  • When taking the bus, research online first where you want to go. You can plan your travel online.
  • Transport cost is by hour/zone. You must know how long it will take you to travel to your destination, this will tell you how many zones and how much you’ll have to pay.


  • Take a stroll and know where your local grocer is.
  • Locate migrants from your country, they are a source of local knowledge from where you can send money home to where you can buy imported goods and food from home.

Things I wish I’d known
The first time I was in Australia was back in 2004 and it was in the East Coast. While it’s been a while, there were things that I wish I’d known. For one, Quokka is one thing I wish I’d earlier known—finding almost anything is almost a breeze if you have your fresh issue of Quokka, which comes out every Thursday.


  • Real estate agents are prohibited from discriminating from families with (lots of) children but based on my experience, it is not always the case. I suggest that you find out which properties are being rented out by owners. These properties are relatively easier to secure although maintaining your relationship with the landlord is hard work.

On arrival

  • Don’t depend on the recommended bank by your sponsor or the uni, research for the best bank that suits your needs. All of the banks have online presence and comparing rates and products is easy if you have an internet connection.
  • Find out what telephone provider most of your friends are in. Depending on your preference, you can either go for a post-paid or pre-paid. I went for post-paid because of the free phone! But if you’re going for post-paid, be wary of your usage!


  • Join the orientation week especially the university tour.
  • Enroll or join the lectures on “Introduction to University Learning” TLC120 []. I have never attended this but realized that I should have. This is good for students who just returned to studying after years of working or to students who are used to other systems.
  • Training and Learning Centre lectures and seminars on language and academic skills are very helpful. Make sure that you are able to attend when you sign up.
  • If you’re a postgraduate or graduate student, you might want to attend lectures that are of interest to you. Consult your supervisor first if this is allowed in your program. If you have a green light, contact the lecturer directly and seek permission to attend the lectures. They call this activity as ‘unit audit.’


  • There are a number of Asian shop near Murdoch, the nearest is in Kardinya Shopping Centre.
  • The ‘biggest’ mall and nearest the uni is Gateway Shopping Centre in Success. Easiest way to get there is taking the Mandurah line and get off the Cockburn Station. If you want to see people from your country, chances are they will be in shopping malls on a Thursday night.
  • Most migrant groups have clubs; contact them ASAP so you won’t feel homesick.
  • Learn the local jargons and study how local pronounce some terms—this will help you in communicating with the locals. If it means mimicking Australian accents when your speaking, don’t be ashamed, it’s for your own (and their) sanity.

I reckon these are all the things that I would tell any newcomer. I would put in some things that some people might think are very simple but there are things that locals deem simple but for some foreign students, they are a big deal and needed to be learned. If you have any other questions, I will try to answer it if I’m able. 🙂


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