How Australia Surprised Us

Study abroad students share the things about Australia they didn’t expect. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

1. How friendly everyone is

Me with my friends — my Aussie best friend, a friend who moved to Oz, and a friend who is moving to Oz soon. Photo by Erica, University of Queensland (home university: Syracuse University)

“I found people to be friendlier than in Europe. For example, I was always greeted with a smile in grocery shops and in public transport. People also readily helped me find my way when I was lost.” — Laura, University of Queensland (home university: University College Maastricht)

2. A less work-heavy lifestyle

Blue Mountains National Park. Photo by Jared, University of Queensland (home university: Syracuse University)

“People [here] value wilderness and travel as much as they value work and education.” — Sukanya, University of Queensland (home university: University of Hong Kong)

3. …And more partying

At Down Under Bar & Grill for a bar crawl sponsored by a university student organization. Photo by University of Queensland QUEST Society

“How much they like to party” — Frank, University of Queensland (home university: Komazawa University)

4. How abbreviated Australian words are

Bottle-O. Photo by Shane Moylan

“I was surprised by how many words were slangily abbreviated and how universal these abbreviations were. Arvo, dino, bottle-o — even South Sydney’s professional rugby team is called the Rabbitohs.” — Brad, University of New South Wales (home university: Syracuse University)

No idea what these words mean? Check out our Down-Under Dictionary!

5. How much the classes vary in difficulty

The University of Queensland Great Court. Photo by Erica, University of Queensland (home university: Syracuse University)

“The college courses I took that were intermediate and high level were extremely easy compared to the classes I took at home. I was actually really frustrated. They just felt like a total waste of time and like we could have learned the info in a more efficient and engaging way.” — Erin, University of Queensland (home university: Tufts University)

“How difficult the classes were.” — Becky, University of Queensland (home university: Northeastern University)

Either way, at least the universities here are gorgeous, right?

6. How easy it is to get around

Melbourne’s free City Circle tram. Photo by Erica, University of Queensland (home university: Syracuse University)

“How easy it was to get around, given it was my first time in the country. It was also similar to Canada in nearly every way, except hotter.” — Kylie, University of Queensland (home university: University of Western Ontario)

7. Differences in TV shows

Photo by Stannered

“That they didn’t have all the modern TV shows that we do.” — Cara, University of Queensland (home university: State University of New York at Geneseo)

8. The amount of public green spaces

Brisbane’s Roma Street Parklands. Photo by Jared, University of Queensland (home university: Syracuse University)

— Jared, University of Queensland (home university: Syracuse University)

9. How large it is

The vast Queensland Outback. Photo by Kristin, University of Queensland (home university: Purdue University)

“How large and diverse it is and how far it really is from New Zealand.” — Sydney, University of Auckland (NZ) (home university: George Washington University)

10. Cyclone season

Cyclone Debbie makes landfall in Queensland. Photo by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

“That I experienced a cyclone for the first time. I knew Queensland was tropical, but when you hear about Australia, you hear about sunshine and heat. No one really talks about the cyclone season. (For the record, all we really got in Brisbane was some heavy rain and a bit of wind, but I still had school off!)” — Erica, University of Queensland (home university: Syracuse University)

11. Lack of grocery brand options

Photo by Erica, University of Queensland (home university: Syracuse University)

“When you’re from [America], you can go to Target or Walmart or something and there’s entire aisles for different kinds of cereal. Then you go to Australia, and there’s like five choices. If you don’t like those five choices then you just don’t like cereal. That’s just it. That really took me by surprise.” — Katie Lofblad, **Working holiday (home university: Syracuse University)

**Katie traveled to Australia on a working holiday visa just a year after graduation. Read about her experience here!

12. How much there is to do

“I was surprised by how much there is to do and see in Australia, and how different each area of the country felt. Even after being in Australia for five months, I felt like I had barely touched the country and that there was so much left to explore.” — Kristin, University of Queensland (home university: Perdue University)

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