So you want to do study abroad, but don’t know exactly where you want to go… Maybe you know which country you want – maybe you don’t. (If you still aren’t sure, make sure you come down to the fair on 2nd November (THURSDAY!!). I’ll be there, trying to convince you to head down under, ‘cos it was the BEST year of my life, and I can’t go back on the same student visa now can I.
Undoubtedly, what made my year so special was where I went. Wollongong, NSW. Most of you reading this have probably never heard of it (I hadn’t until James gave me the inside scoop before I applied), but it’s definitely worth knowing about. So, here’s me trying to convince you that this little unknown slice of the world is really a slice of paradise.
I’ll start with the campus. It’s a little ways away from the town itself, but the free shuttle bus will get you to and from class – wherever you decide to live. If you thought of Sheffield as ‘green,’ you’ve seen nothing. Honestly, it’s beautiful, and you get so much all in one space – wildlife, the whole uni, Unibar, ponds, gym/pitches, pool, parking, accommodation – oh and plenty of outdoor grassy areas to ‘study.’
Now when most people ask me where I went and I say ‘the Gong,’ I get one of the blankest looks ever. So, I flesh this out with – it’s a little south of Sydney, in NSW. Do I wish I’d gone to Sydney? No chance. City living isn’t the one – especially when you have not 1 but 2 beaches on the bus route. When I went to Australia, I wanted to experience the laid-back lifestyle, skate and surf a little, and maybe do a little work on the side. Going to the Gong, as opposed to UNSW, allowed me to do this. See, living in a city is all well and good – you’re never short of stuff to do. Thing is though, Wollongong (a big town) has plenty to keep you entertained. Here, we’re talking AFL /Rugby League /UniGames /Sports / Gyms/ Bars/ Restaurants/ Pubs/ Clubs/ Shopping centre/ Beach/ Mt. Keira (yeah a mountain) – oh and Nan Tien (the biggest Buddhist temple in the Southern Hemisphere).
It’s also pretty damn near to the Blue Mountains (which are beautiful) – and definitely worth a weekend trip. If you do find yourself drawn to Sydney’s bright lights though, it couldn’t be easier to get there. Opal cards will get you there for such a little outlay (life hack – go on Sunday, it’s even cheaper). See, living outside the city gives you the best of both worlds. You have the opportunity to head in (if you want), but also the flexibility to take a chill day at the beach, or just around Uni. No stress, no wokkas.
Another advantage of living a little outside of the city is that it’s cheaper. Here’s where your parents might listen (and you, if you’ve a little sense). Living in the Gong was significantly cheaper than Sydney for pretty much everything. I paid less for a house with a mountain view and a pool than I did in Sheffield for one with an overgrown hedge, a smashed up shed and a little yard. It was also generally cheaper to go out, buy food etc. What’s so good about this? You get to travel more – I literally blanketed Australia, and managed to check out NZ and South-East Asia to boot. What else would you want to do with your free months between semesters?
So I’ve basically told you why you should hit the Gong, and not really spoken about why you should go a little off-piste with your applications (and go for a lesser known uni, or a new one that we offer). Here goes:
1 – You’re more likely to get your choice. Lesser known often means less subscribed. Less subscribed = less competition = you’re more likely to get picked to actually get abroad and go there. Winning – especially if you’re a little more flexible with where (say – country, not city).
2 – You get to explore where others haven’t. Fancy yourself as a bit of a Christopher Columbus? (discovering a place that’s already inhabited, but not by anyone you know)? If so – this is the perfect opportunity: take the small step for man
3 – Give back. By going to newer unis, links between Sheffield and elsewhere get stronger. Stronger links lead to more places at other unis, which means more students can smash the study abroad experience. Once again – what’s not to like?