Things to pack when you come to Australia as an International Student

This is a question we don’t put much stress until the last minute: what items am I going to fit in the 30 to 40 kilo weight limit? As soon as I had my University acceptance letter and student Visa in my hands, I thought stressful times are over, all I need to do was move. That bubble pooped a few weeks later when I was struggling to fit all my possessions in the weight limit and having to decide between what I need and what I want.

I think the first reaction when you are arranging your bags is that you need to take every single item a student needs for daily living. The reason for this could be because you are unsure what you need and what is available in Australia, and whether it fits your budget. I will break down essentials you need to bring and common items International Students tend to bring that you need to leave at home. If I had to do it all over again, I will start with a list. This way you know exactly what to buy and of what quantity. 

Don’t worry, let me help you with that list.

Stationery – Leave at home

If you are like me, you love your coloured stationery and have created the illusion you study better with rainbow study notes. Don’t worry, there is plenty of places in Australia to buy quality stationery for cheap. KMART is a great place to start. You can find a wide range of cheap stationery at your local KMART store. If you don’t mind splurging a bit more, head over to Office Works, my stationery go to stop. I am not sure if this is there in all universities, but UNSW (University of New South Wales) had a stationery shop, where you can get stationery for FREE. So in case you are running late to class and realised you forgot your pen, you can just head over the University stationery store.


Clothes and shoes – bring only essentials

Especially for girls, this must be the most important and difficult category to decide. You can find plenty of clothes and shoes according to trends and seasons right here in Australia. If you are coming for the February / March in-take, it is beginning of Spring. The minimum average day time temperature during this period is about 15 to 20 degrees. For those from colder countries, this is considered perfect weather. If you are tropical like me, this is considered brisk weather. Definitely pack your cardigans, sweaters and leg warmers, you will need it at touch down. If you are coming for the July in take, a thick winter jacket and clothes to keep you warm is a must. At least until you start to shop. 

You must pack a bath towel, a napkin, a bed sheet and two pillow covers as these are not provided and you need these right from the first day.

Cash in hand

cash in hand at australia

The amount of Australian dollar you need to bring depends on your circumstance. If you have any outstanding fees to pay, such as rental bond, tuition fees, be sure to bring this with you in form of cash or money orders, whatever is accepted. In addition to that if you are looking to take a post-paid or under-contract mobile plan, the service provider will request you for your bank statement with a minimum AUD 1,000 balance. If you don’t want such complications, you can opt for a pre-paid plan. 

If you are bringing over AUD 10,000 you will be required to declare this at customs. 

Prescribed medication 

If you have prescribed drugs, it is best bring that along with a prescription since you need to declare this at customs. You are allowed to bring three-month supply accompanied by a prescription. I’d suggest you do so because you may not find the same drugs in Australian pharmacies. However, there are substitutes, most of which are not available for over-the-counter purchase, and requires a prescription by an Australian practitioner.  

Don’t worry about adaptors

You can find any type of adaptors at any convenience store or electronic stores like JB HiFi. It might be a good idea to have one adaptor packed so that you won’t have trouble charging your electronics on the first day. Australia uses two flat pins in a V-shape as well as a grounding pin.

You can visit Australian Border Forces website to see what you cannot bring in to the country and what goods need to be declared.

Toiletries – bring travel size 

travel size toiletries

Toiletries are very heavy and can take a lot of space and weight. Let’s also not forget possible liquid explosions in the bag. You can find toiletries ranging from convenient store brands to premier brands here in Australia. Don’t waste your space and weight. Simply bring travel size bottles just enough for the first couple of days.

Food – no fresh produce, only packaged

All food items must be declared at customs. I think it goes without saying, it is illegal to bring any fresh produce in to the country. If you want to avoid the inconvenience of declaring, I’d suggest you avoid any food items. Since Australia is a multi-cultural country, you are able to find stores catering to different nationalities and products from your home-country. You just need to do a bit of research on where to find these stores. Alternatively, you can bring packaged food items provided it has a label with ingredients.

Cookware like a saucepan, cups, plates, bowls, spoons – leave at home. You can find everything here at KMART at affordable prices.

Sentimental and valuable possessions – only if it is essential

If you want to bring sentimental or valuable items which are irreplaceable or costly to replace, just bring only if it is essential. Only reason being you will have to take extra care of these items during your travels, shifting apartments and on a day-to-day basis. 

Finally, travel light

The 30 / 40 kilos you receive from the airline is plenty when moving to Australia for the first time as an International Student. It is always best to have fewer possessions as it will make your move comfortable. A typical International Student changes living spaces at least three times during their University period. It is very convenient to have less clutter and only essentials during these moves. Furthermore, student accommodation is not spacious, hence limited storage.  

I really hope this helped you to start planning your move. Let me know if there are any items that you would add to this list.

Until next time… 

The Best University for YOU | International Students

I remember returning home, full of excitement, carrying a bunch of University prospectus from the Education Fair, getting on bed, laying them one next to another, admiring and feeling blessed at the opportunity right in front of me.  What once felt like a wish, is now becoming a reality. I spent days reading though different courses on offer at each University. I was overwhelmed with all the alternatives. On the other hand, isn’t it a “good problem” to have, all the choices for an education? 🙂

Enough said, let’s dive right in to finding the Best University for You!

Selecting a University is the first dilemma for International Students. Keeping in mind being selected to a top-ranked University is not going to be the make or break of your career, it is still a pretty BIG decision given that you are about to invest between A$10,000 to A$50,000 a year for tuition alone. Hence, don’t make a decision that you will regret.


After being through the tedious process myself, I realised that you will not find the perfect fit with any University, but you will be able to narrow the search down to Universities that meet your requirement closely. Firstly, you need to ask yourself why do you want to study overseas?

Academics and Campus Community

students at an Australian university

Each University have fields in which they triumph. Some Universities are known for their research facilities, whilst others lead in specific fields of study. You can refer Top Universities website’s breakdown of University rankings by subject in Australia.

It is a fact that 1 out of 3 graduates are unable to find full-time employment, no matter how prestige the degree one holds. The degree is a merely a basic requirement. Employers are more interested in the candidate’s soft skills and their ability to juggle academics with work and extra circular activities. Do consider what the University offer in terms of student life over and above academics. One of the benchmark student bodies in New South Wales, if not Australia, is ARC @ UNSW. They definitely live by their mission of creating the best student experience.

Permanent Migration

Let’s also address the students who study overseas with the primary intention of permanently migrating after completing their education. For these students, planning ahead is important. If this is your ultimate goal, then be sure to select a field that is valid for migration. In Australia, look if the field of studies fall under the Skilled Occupation List and selected course is a minimum two-year program. I would also recommend you to read our article detailing out on the Temporary Graduate 485 Visa.


Once you have established your goals and courses you wish to pursue, it is time for some research. Most students are quick to settle for the popular option or what is recommended by family without evaluating other factors. Since you are committing to one University for the next 2-4 years (depending on your line of studies); just as any other luxury purchase, , take your time to dig deep in to finding best combination of your requirements.

university open day

Visit open-day

If you have the time and money, I would recommend this to be the most effective way to feel the University and its surrounding environment. You have the opportunity to talk to peers and other students of similar background. Take time to stroll outside the campus to get a feel of the neighbourhood. So keep a tab on the calendar for upcoming open days at the Universities. Do remember, open days are designed to awe you with colourful events, green courtyards, freebies and shiny new buildings. While you enjoy those, take a look at what really matters. Here are some questions you can ask fellow students / faculty members at open day.

  • How long have you been at the University?
  • How do you like the University?
  • Which buildings hold lectures for [insert major]?
  • Are lectures held at off campus locations?
  • What clubs and other activities could I participate?
  • Do they have a/an [insert your interest] society?
  • Is there any flexibility in course section?
  • Are the courses more exam based or assignment based?
  • Do they assist with job placements?
  • Does the University offer support services like counselling, legal aid, etc.?
  • Do you live on or off campus and how are the accommodation options?

If you are unable to attend the open day at the University, remember your country may host representatives from foreign Universities. This is a popular promotional method amongst Universities in developed countries to attract International Students. Although this is not the same as visiting the University, it is still a good place for you to ask questions and clear out any concerns. So keep a tab on these events through local education agencies.

FinancesAustralian currency

It is no secret that International Students are a University’s main revenue stream given how much is spent yearly on tuition. On a general scale, I don’t see a significant variation in course fees between top Universities. In Australia, if you are looking for something in the lower – middle range, expand the search beyond Group of Eight Universities. You will be surprised with the choices and most of these Universities are still recognised by employers.

According to the Australian Government’s Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching 2017 Employer Satisfaction Survey, James Cook University (Australian ranked 21) graduates received the highest percentage of favourable ratings from employers, out ranking all other top universities.

University scholarships are another great method to support you financially. Most Universities want to attract the best and brightest through scholarships. Head over to each University’s website to apply for active scholarships.

You may also consider other options like TAFE Institutes that offer good panel of lecturers and courses at a much affordable rate.

I will be covering more on the topic of finance in a later post, so stay tuned.

Cost of Living

university student accomodation

While on-campus accommodation is costly, there are definitely pros of choosing this option. For now, I am focusing on cheaper but yet comfortable off-campus options. Accessibility is key. Try to find a University within close proximity rather than travelling over an hour to attend lectures. Especially in states like New South Wales, you will spend between $30 to $50 per week for public transport. Travel costs are generally high in New South Wales as it is one of two states that doesn’t offer travel concessions for International Students.

If you are concerned about costs, have a grasp of the living cost in the suburb / state where the University is located. For instance, within New South Wales, the Western suburbs are far more affordable than the Northern and Eastern suburbs.

Find out more about how to find cheap accommodation and everything you need to know on this subject on our other article.


Start University hunting well in advance. Allow yourself plenty of time to make an informed decision. Otherwise, you will settle with the first University to send an offer. Australia has two in-takes for International Students, February and July. Now is a good time to get started for February 2019 intake.

Share in the comment section, what other factors do you consider important when choosing a University?

Until next time….