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Becoming a Foreign Exchange Student in Australia

So, you’ve decided to study abroad in Australia. What’s next? Now, you’ve got to find the right University, the right foreign exchange program, the right city, the right area, the right student accommodation, the right student visa, the right…what else?

It all seems a little daunting, doesn’t it? Well, have no fear because we’re here to make your job a whole lot easier. Check out where and how to find the best foreign exchange programs in Australia. Not to mention plenty of helpful tips regarding exchange student requirements, costs and student living in the Great Big Land of Oz


Best Area/Uni’s for Foreign Exchange

When it comes to foreign exchange in Australia, the first steps really are figuring out the best places to live for international students a.k.a the ideal study abroad location for you. Not to mention selecting the best university to study at in Australia. Here are a few of our fave picks:


When you think of Australia, Sydney really is the iconic city that comes to mind. Sydney is a harbour city, home to the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, and is flanked by an amazingly aesthetically pleasing, coastline. Being a student in Sydney comes with all the benefits of city living while still being just a ferry or bus ride away from beautiful beaches.

It’s also worth noting that Sydney is considered one of the world’s most culturally diverse and friendly cities, so it’s heaven and a haven for international students wanting to study in Australia. In light of this, it’s no wonder that Sydney has one of the biggest populations of international students in Australia.

Sydney is also home to some of the most prestigious universities in the country, so you can get a degree with pedigree. These unis include, but are not limited to, University of Sydney, University of Technology Sydney, Macquarie University and University of Wollongong.


Melbourne is lesser-known than Sydney city but don’t let that fool you. What it lacks in major iconic buildings, Melbourne more than makes up for in its vibrant cityscape. After all, Melbourne is renowned as the culture capital of Australia and clinched numero uno on the Economist’s most livable city list for not one, not two, but seven years in a row! If Sydney’s a bubbling glass of champagne, then Melbourne is the full-bodied glass of quality red wine.

Melbourne is an ultra-trendy hub for the arts and culture, with its famous European-like laneways, hidden enclaves of artistic graffiti, tons of live music and art events, and funky coffee shops and bars hiding in every nook and corner. With all this in mind, Melbourne really sets an exciting backdrop to study abroad.

And let’s not forget to mention Melbourne is also a university mecca. There are tons of prominent universities that call Melbourne home, including the University of Melbourne, Monash University, Deakin University, and La Trobe University. So, the unis here really are yours for the picking. Plus, if you’ve got any budget constraints, the abundance of entertainment and restaurant options ensures that there is something for every purse size.


If you’re wanting the true-blue Aussie experience on your student exchange, Perth is the perfect city for you. Perth is famous for being one of the most isolated cities in the world, which pretty much equals Australian culture overload. Perth’s inner city has plenty going on, however, in true Aussie fashion, this city takes life at a slower pace. So, you can kick back and enjoy.

In recent years Perth has become quite a trendy spot to study. Its undiscovered mystique makes it popular with millennials and students studying abroad who want a more off-the-beaten-track Australian exchange experience.

Perth’s biggest drawcard is that it’s home to some of Australia’s most beautiful, untouched beaches. So, you’ll have an overload of day trips up your sleeve. And if you want to experience that classic hot Aussie weather while you study abroad, Perth is one of the sunniest cities in the world with an estimated 320 days of sunshine per year!

Perth also has plenty of top-notch university options for foreign exchange students like University of Western Australia and Curtin University, and while there aren’t as many options as say Sydney and Melbourne, sometimes less really is more.


So, you’ve gotten a feel for where you might like to study. Now what? Exchange Programs, that’s what.

There are so many exchange programs out there that it can get a little confusing when it comes to choosing the right one. Just do a quick Google search and you’ll be inundated with pages upon pages of foreign exchange programs proclaiming to be “the ultimate exchange program for you”.

An easy way to circumnavigate all the marketing hype is to check out the web page for Council On Standards For International Education Travel (CSIET). On this website, you can get a reputable list of exchange programs that’ll help you pick the quality programs from the vast quantity advertised on the web.

ISEP is also a great website for finding exchange programs available to you. ISEP is a non-profit dedicated to overcoming the financial and academic barriers to studying abroad. The website essentially operates as a university finding search engine. Just enter your home university, and ISEP will find you exchange programs in a range of countries (just narrow the search criteria to Australia). You can also tailor the ISEP search results to suit your exchange program needs; academic level, academic qualifications, financial, campus type, and program type.

But ultimately, the single best and simplest way of finding an exchange program is to decide on which university you want to study at. Typically, most Australian universities offer study abroad programs. So all you have to do is pick your university, check out their exchange programs and apply.

To do this, just go to the website of your chosen university and you’ll find plenty of information regarding their exchange programs, courses and policies. Most university pages will outline a step-by-step process to apply for exchange with them. If you’re still feeling dazed and confused by the whole exchange business, you can also contact the uni directly (email/via phone) for any extra information you may need.

If you’re stuck on places to study, some of Australia’s most renowned universities (with great exchange programs) worth checking out include: La Trobe University, The University of Western Australia, Monash University, Curtin University, Deakin University, University of New South Wales, RMIT University, Macquarie University, and University of Sydney,

Applying For A Foreign Exchange Program

Now, if you want to do an exchange program you’re going to have to actually apply for one. Makes sense, right? Generally speaking, registering for foreign exchange programs isn’t a difficult task. You just have to sit down and do it! Here’s a basic step by step:

Step 1. Choose and apply for a Foreign Exchange Program at your desired Australian University. Simple enough.

Step 2. Get Your Language Proficiency Scores & Documentation

This is the part where you need documentation to prove you can speak the Australian tongue (minus the slang). Foreign exchange application processes will require some proof that you can speak English. And if you don’t already have documentation, you’ll need to take a test to prove your English proficiency and subsequent eligibility to study in Australia as a foreign student.

In the case of Australia, you will most likely have to ace the IELTS test in order to be deemed a worthy applicant, though other popular English proficiency tests include TOEFL IBT and Cambridge Advanced English (CAE). The level of your English proficiency and the kind of test you need to take can vary from what University and/or course your applying for. So make sure you check the proficiency requirements of your exchange university to ensure you do the right test.

Step 3. Apply For Your Exchange Student Visa

So, you’ve aced your English proficiency test and have a confirmed place at your uni of choice. Now it’s time to start the Visa Application Process.

For foreign nationals intending on studying in Australia, you’ll need to apply for the Student Visa (subclass 500). To be eligible you must be over 6 years old (easy enough), have health insurance (cheap enough), and finally, you must have been accepted to study at an educational institution in Australia.

For a step-by-step:

1. Create an online ImmiAccount
2. Complete an Australian Student Visa Application Form via your ImmiAccount
3. Upload copies of required student visa documents
4. Pay the application fee
5. Wait to be accepted…fingers crossed!
6. Then if you’re lucky enough to be accepted, time to book your flight and organise accommodation!


Exchange Student Accommodation

Now in order to be an exchange student in Australia, you’re going to need accommodation. How else will you rest your head between studying, partying and exploring in Australia?

Living with a host family is always an option, though it tends to be more popular for students that are on high school exchange. But let’s be realistic… when it comes to university and being a uni student you’re going to want a bit more independence, have your own space, have friends over at your place, meet new people and other exchange students, be central to your uni location, yada yada. This all works out a lot easier if you have student housing (that’s ideally a hop, skip and jump away from your university).

With student housing you are able to create your own home away from home, with your own private or shared apartment close to your university (to suit all your academic and social needs). As an international student, the independence of student housing allows you to really experience student life and adds another dimension to your exchange experience. Living in accommodation with other students (international or otherwise) is a great opportunity to makes friends, find a support group, and explore all that your campus has to offer international exchange students.


When it comes to foreign exchange (and life in general) there’s always the question of money. How do you budget? What are the costs of being a foreign exchange student? Well of course, there are exchange and visa application fees, university tuition fees, accommodation and general living expenses.

The costs come down to how discerning you are with your money. While visa application fees are the same cost for everyone on the Australian Government Website, you have a lot more choice when it comes to exchange program tuition and accommodation. The going rate for university fees varies depending on your course and university institution, along with how many semesters/years you study for. To give you a general idea, a university semester costs on average $10,000-$20,000.

Still, studying overseas doesn’t have to cost you the Earth. Exchange and study abroad students can often qualify for scholarships or grants so ask your study abroad advisor to take advantage of any available funding to you.

Accommodation and living expenses have plenty of leeway to be either super expensive or super cheap. It all depends on how thrifty you are with your finances.  A great way to get a gauge of costs is to look up blogs of other international students who have lived in Australia, along with university price guides.

If you’re worried about general expenses, one of the best ways to keep up with costs is to get part-time work while studying. International students are eligible to clock up to 20 hours per week working in Australia, which will work out perfectly with your study timetable.

All in all, becoming an exchange student isn’t too hard, save for some minor hurdles. So just remember the step-by-step. Decide what city you want to study in—Make a list of your ideal Universities—Figure out which university offers the best exchange program for you—Ace your Language Proficiency Test—Apply for your exchange program—Apply for a student visa—Organise accommodation—Get your funds together—And book that flight ticket!