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Study abroad in Perth, Melbourne or Auckland? (USA student)

Travel Forums Australia / New Zealand & The Pacific Study abroad in Perth, Melbourne or Auckland? (USA student)

1. Posted by bmexman (Budding Member 2 posts) 9y Star this if you like it!

Hi! I'm an American college student (in California) who wants to study abroad. My top choice is Australia, followed by New Zealand. I'm planning to go abroad during the AU/NZ Fall 2010 term (Feb-July), the spring term here in the USA. If I go to NZ, I'm defintely going to the University of Auckland. But I'm still trying to decide where in Australia I would go.

Here are my school choices in Australia I'm considering:
Melbourne: Monash, University of Melbourne
Perth: UWA

Sydney was my first choice for Australia, but the programs (at the Univ. of Sydney and UNSW) are year-long only. I was really liking Brisbane too (at UQ), but it's also year-long only. I don't want to stay a whole year, I'll get homesick!

I have a slight preference for Perth. I've seen pictures and maps on Google Earth and it looks like a beautiful city with nice beaches. Also, the climate is very similar to L.A. so it won't be an issue for me. ;) The things working against Perth for me is that it's far away from everywhere, and it doesn't have as much of the big-city vibrancy and cultural/ethnic diversity of Melbourne or Auckland. As for Auckland/Melbourne, they might be a bit cold/wet for my tastes, but they are still very diverse. Also, NZ is US$3,000 cheaper than Australia, so if we can't come up with enough for Oz that'll be my next choice. Nonetheless, I would still love to go to NZ as it offers so much in outdoors activities and big-city life (in Auckland).

The other single-semester options are in Hobart (at UTas) and Adelaide (at the Univ. of SA). If anyone has any input on those cities, I would appreciate it.

At this point, the city and what it offers is the only determining factor. I've looked up all these schools, and they are all top-notch. I'll be intellectually satisifed at any of them.

The following are major pluses for a city:

Agreeable climate: no snow, ice, freezing temps or excessive heat (above 100 degrees F), especially for long periods of time
Big-city nightlife (clubs, bars) and culture (especially museums, music performances)
Cultural/ethnic diversity
Easily accessible outdoor activities (especially hiking, national parks)
Gay-friendly (I'm a gay man so this matters: not too much into the scene at this point but a scene is a plus)
Good public transit, especially to the city center, beaches, and shopping centers
Nice beaches and city parks
Tons of shopping

Also, What is the minimum age to rent a car in AU/NZ for a possible weekend at a national park?

Which one of the three cities (Auckland, Perth, Melbourne) offers the most of those pluses, in your opinion? I really need help on this decision, even though I still have a few more months to decide. My problem is not deciding "Do I want to go abroad" but "Where do I want to go?"


2. Posted by Sander (Moderator 5178 posts) 9y Star this if you like it!

I'd scratch Perth of the list. Admittedly I only spent a week there, versus 7 months in Melbourne and 5 months total in Auckland, so I don't know it nearly as well - but it just struck me as a horribly boring city, and it pales in comparison to Melbourne and Auckland on most of the criteria you list.

Melbourne is really nice, although during your chosen time period, you'll still be bothered by the flies in February, and it'll get surprisingly cold from May through July. (Especially at night, when the temperature can drop town to just a few degrees above freezing. Now that isn't that bad really, except that houses aren't built for it. (Australians don't believe in cold.) :) Still, you'd be fine if you find something well isolated.) In general the weather in Melbourne is very unpredictable (blue sky one minute, hail the next), but mostly and overall it's really nice.

Auckland has more stable weather, though it also has a lot more rain. Average temperature should be really close to that in Melbourne.

Both Auckland and Melbourne are really vibrant cities, where there's always something going on. Both have a great live music scene, although I'd say Melbourne has the better. Public transport is absolutely excellent in both. (Though in Auckland it's limited to buses, which causes slowdowns if you need to get to a far-off suburb during rush hour. Melbourne has buses, trams and trains, which means much more options, although also a harder time working out which you want for any given journey.) Auckland wins hands down with parks and especially the variety of landscapes accessible during a weekend trip, though Melbourne does have a couple of really nice things nearby (Grampians, Great Ocean Road, Wilson's Promontory), so you wouldn't be disappointed with that either. Beaches in both Melbourne and Auckland are kinda disappointing, though there's better ones further out from the city (much better ones from Melbourne if you're willing to drive for 2+ hours). I wouldn't expect to be able to swim in the sea in either city beyond March.

I think both cities have rental car companies which rent to 18 year olds, although you'd pay a heavy premium over what the cost would be for a 25 year old. Gas is cheaper in Australia, but car rental is much cheaper in New Zealand, especially from April onward.

3. Posted by steff (Travel Guru 1162 posts) 9y Star this if you like it!

I can only agree with Sander and would not want to spend an entire semester in Perth. It's a pretty city but compared to Melbourne or Auckland no way near as interesting or exciting.
Auckland definitely has its things going for it as mentioned by Sander but personally I'd definitely chose Melbourne.
I was an exchange student at Melbourne Uni and I had the best time ever. Loved it so much that I'm planning to return permanently next year !

Anyway, the features you've listed you will definitely find in Melbourne.
Climate between February and July will be going from summer to winter, it might rain a little more often but I didn't find it unpleasant at any time.

Nightlife and culture is awesome, there's always something interesting going on (comedy festival, film festival, special exhibitions at one of the museums or galleries).

Easily accessible outdoor activities (especially hiking, national parks)
If you decide to go to Melbourne Uni, they have plenty of clubs and unions you can join for little money and go on trips with them to the national parks nearby or spending a weekend at the beach learning how to surf. I was a member of the diving and hiking club and really loved it! They also organize student trips to New Zealand for the semester break, so you could always consider that an option before heading home to the U.S.

Gay-friendly (I'm a gay man so this matters: not too much into the scene at this point but a scene is a plus)
For some reason most of the really close friends I made in Melbourne are gay (I'm not), so I know the scene is thriving and very friendly.

Good public transit, especially to the city center, beaches, and shopping centers
Public transport is almost flawless, but I recommend anyone to get a bike in Melbourne, because it definitely is the easiest way to get around the inner city.

Nice beaches and city parks
Parks and beaches in the city or close by are nice but not outstanding. It pays of traveling a little further for stunning beaches.

Tons of shopping
You'll find heaps of malls and plenty of little shops in the city, so no need to worry about that.

Hope this makes your choice a little bit easier and if you have more specific questions about studying at Melbourne Uni let me know.


(who now goes off to Melbourne Tourism and Melbourne Uni to be paid for the promotion... )

[ Edit: Edited on Sep 5, 2008, at 2:01 AM by steff ]

4. Posted by ToniL (Budding Member 52 posts) 9y Star this if you like it!

As a former President of American Universities International Programs I spent nearly 30 years placing US students into various overseas universities and can offer the following advice for what it is worth.

You have to first consider your field of study, and from your extra curricular interests it would seem that a university of technology would not really suit you. Next you have to consider the quality of the prospective university. In general Australian universities fall into two groups - the pre Dawkins (1984) ones and the post 1984. As a broad generalization the former tend to be the better. In 1984 a number of teachers Colleges were either incorporated into existing universities or else given the title of university themselves. Academically these moves proved a disaster both in Oz and also in the UK where a similar procedure was followed. One exception that I can immediately think of is Sunshine Coast Univ. which was set up as a university from scratch in about 1996. There is also a group of Univs of Technology in many states which were given uni. status in 1984 and which generally have high academic standards but obviously specialize in technology, engineering etc.

As you are from California and used to reasonable weather possibly Queensland would be your best choice.As you want city life then Brisbane seems to be the best location. You have looked at UQ and report that they only have year long programs so your best choice would probably be Griffith Univ. in Brisbane. I would also advise you to plan some travel time post your semester abroad - a return flight to NZ is only about $300 and you would find South island much more suited to your outdoor interests.

Must make a phone call to the UK in 5 mins so will sign off but feel free to contact me if you need any more help.