First of all, Welcome! If you’re completely new to Australia, starting out can be tricky. The following top tips come from some of our international students at RMIT, and are things they wish they had known when they first arrived in Australia. We hope they are helpful...
A place to live will likely be your biggest expense while you are here. Most new students that come to Australia don’t have anything sorted out for a place to stay beyond the temporary. There are lots of options available, so to make sure you choose the one that’s right for you, check out our comprehensive guide to finding accommodation.
Lost passport = nightmare. If you’re worried about bringing your passport out and about, particularly on nights out, you can get a proof of age card from the Victorian government for $10. This is a legal document, and you’ll need to prove your identity to obtain one, and get everything verified, but once you have it, it makes life much easier, and gives you peace of mind. A Victorian driver's licence can also be used as identification, see the section on Transport, below, for further details.
Myki is the public transport card system used in Melbourne. International undergraduate students can save 50 per cent on an annual Myki with an international Undergraduate Student Education pass (iUSEpass) Myki card. You can save even more if you usually top up with myki Money. The iUSEpass can save you money even if you’re not in Melbourne all year round - you only need to travel in Zone 1+2 for 98 days of the year to make your money back. For more information on transport in Melbourne, check out our full guide to getting around, below.
Melbourne has some driving rules that are unique to the city such as Hook Turns. As these are road rules that are unique to Melbourne, it is important to know what you need to do to be able to drive legally in Melbourne. You can check out the latest updates on what you need to do as an International Student seeking to get their drivers license in Victoria at the website below.
You’ll need a local bank account, so make sure you apply for one straight away. You can open one online, but don’t forget you will need to supply documentation such as your passport, proof of address, and possibly your university offer letter. Most major banks (e.g. NAB, CommBank, WestPac, ANZ) offer some kind of account aimed at International students. Things to look for include low or no account fees, free international money transfers and hidden costs, such as overdraft fees. Some banks also offer perks, such as discounts or cashback deals, so it pays to shop around.
When you sign up for services such as phone, electricity, etc., most companies will encourage you to pay by direct debit. What this means is that the company is that you have authorised the company to take the fee from your account each month, without asking you first. While direct debits can be an easy way to manage bills, they can also send your account into the red if your income is sporadic. You should know that direct debits are not compulsory – if you prefer to pay your bills manually, that’s totally allowed, so don’t feel pressured to use direct debit if it doesn’t work for you.
If you’re an international student, working, shopping and day-to-day spending here, you are probably considered an Australian resident for tax purposes, even if you are not an Australian citizen. That means you will need to lodge an annual tax return. There is a tax free threshold, which means you don’t pay tax until you earn $18,200, but your employer may tax you on a ‘pay as you go’ basis, meaning you pay the tax, then claim it back at the end of the year – so, for any tax you pay on earnings below that amount, you can it claim back at the end of the tax year (end of June).
While studying, you can work up to 20 hours per week during the semester and full-time during the semester breaks. Volunteering (see RUSU, below) is a great way to build your personal and professional skills, as well as your networks - for example, learning office skills or food service. If language is a barrier, many companies may look for staff who can speak a foreign language, so don’t give up!
If you are ready to get started, check out all the opportunities listed on RMIT CareerHub. If you just getting started, come along to the free sessions with Volunteering Victoria to find out more about your rights, responsibilities and how to find that first opportunity. In order to work, you need a tax file number, which you can apply for through the Australian Tax Office (ATO).
For further information on finding a job, check out our guide to finding work at the link below.
You need a smart phone for ready access to internet, calling home, etc. You can sign up for a handset & call package through any major provider (Optus, Telstra, Vodaphone, etc). If you already have a phone, there are SIM-only plans. Look out for perks, such as free local calls and texts, free/cheap international calls, and a large data/download allocation. Most suppliers offer monthly contract or pay as you go options, and many offer home broadband, so it’s worth checking to see if they can give you a package deal.
Don’t forget to download all the free communications tools on your phone, such as Skype and Whatsapp, and use wifi whenever possible to avoid running up your bills!
Most apps and social media services are free, legal and readily accessible in Australia. Online platforms such as Facebook and Instagram are great ways to interact with others, and they’re easy to open an account and set up a profile. Make sure you follow RUSU, RMIT Students, RMIT Stalker Space & RMIT University on Facebook, to stay up-to-date with all the latest news and gossip!
It’s a requirement of your Visa to have health insurance while you are studying here. Most healthcare providers offer Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC), which provides you with medical care and hospital cover. It is easiest to pay for this on a monthly billing basis. Some of the major suppliers are Medibank, BUPA, NIB & HCF. NOTE: Make sure ambulance is covered, or you will have to take out extra insurance to ensure your safety (see below).
Medical Hub is a new Medical Centre situated right on Swanston Street, at RMIT City Campus. Direct billing is available, which means there are no up-front costs, and a wide range of health services are offered. Students must bring their student card and OSHC card to every appointment to ensure eligibility.
Some of the doctors at the Medical Hub @ RMIT are multilingual. Languages spoken include Mandarin, Malay, Hokkien, Cantonese, Telugu, Pidgin, Polish and Tamil.
Medical Hub is a confidential service, and is completely separate from RMIT University – your medical information will not be shared with RMIT University under any circumstances. Visit the website for more information.
The emergency services number for ambulance, fire and police is 000. This number is ONLY to be used in absolute emergencies, and there can be a fee for false alarm call outs, so be careful.
Ambulances are not a free service, and you must either make sure that your health insurance covers ambulance costs, or sign up separately for ambulance insurance through Ambulance Victoria – it’s cheap, and definitely worth the cost.
You should also find out exactly where your local Emergency Department is, nearest to your home, just in case.
You will need some level of English to get by in your studies, and day to day in Australia. But don’t panic if your English is not good – if you immerse yourself in Australian life, your language skills will develop as you go along. RUSU offers free English language workshops during semester one, to help you sharpen your skills, and the university offers paid courses if you are struggling.
Look, it's important to understand that Melbourne is a pretty safe place to live, work and study. But, just like anywhere, problems can and do happen. Make sure they don’t happen to you, by thinking, planning, getting help from friends, and being smart.
Personal safety has many different facets, and any time that you expose yourself to risks, you should first think about the safety aspects. Areas where safety could be an issue include:
For more comprehensive information on any of the following, you can check out the link from Study Melbourne below.
Victoria has a range of beautiful beaches to explore. Whether you are looking for a Saturday afternoon get away or planning a road trip with friends, if you are planning to visit a beach, it's important to know about water safety. This includes information that might be unfamiliar to you, such as identifying unsafe currents, and knowing the potential hazards of swimming in rivers and dams. Check out information on water safety by viewing the guide below.
Cycling in Melbourne can be a good an efficient way to get around, especially with bike rentals being available in the city. However, before you start your trip it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with Melbourne’s road rules. And, don't forget to wear a helmet!
They say Melbourne has four seasons in one day, and it’s true that the weather here can be temperamental, so if you aren’t used to temperature extremes, Melbourne weather may be a shock to you.
Melbourne summers are generally easy. Dress how you like, but make sure to wear a hat and plenty of sunscreen. It's possible to burn, even on cloudy days, or when the sun seems mild.
Melbourne Autumn and Winters can be very cold, especially if you are not used to low temperatures. We might not get snow, but the wind and rain do feel chilly. Make sure to wear layers, as it will be easier for you to take off a layer if you are walking into a warm building.
Remember the weather in Melbourne can change very suddenly, so ensure you are prepared for all weathers – sunscreen, hat and water bottle when it’s hot, and umbrellas and warm layers for colder days. You’ll get used to the weather here eventually! It's part of Melbourne's charm.