Students taking selfie in front of Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge Students taking selfie in front of Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge

Thriving as an international student in Sydney

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Known for being a vibrant and diverse city, Sydney attracts thousands of international students each year. With world-class universities, stunning landscapes and rich cultural experiences, it’s no surprise why students from around the world choose to study abroad in this city.

In this guide, we explore the many aspects of Sydney life for international students and how to make the most out of your time here.

Campus Life

Whichever university in Sydney you accept an offer to, there will be some common services, support and facilities available to you on campus.

Orientation programs

When you first arrive, most universities will offer orientation programs. These opportunities are designed to help familiarise international students with the campus and everything that is on offer - from academic services to social clubs. There will often be social events and activities, information sessions and campus tours.

At UNSW College, we hold orientation sessions for all new students who are enrolled in our pathway programs. We offer a pathway for students who need support to transition into university, with graduates who meet the eligibility criteria gaining guaranteed entry into a bachelor’s or a master’s program at UNSW Sydney.

Student clubs and societies

Making new friends is easy when you get involved in one of the many clubs and societies available on campus. You’ll find that most universities offer students a diverse range of opportunities to engage in uni life. UNSW Sydney has more than 300 student clubs and societies and in addition, UNSW College organises trips to popular Sydney attractions and fun cultural and sporting events.

Possibilities include:

  • Sports and recreation clubs: Keep fit and healthy while meeting new people.
  • Student government: Become a voice for the student body and help create positive change.
  • Academic competitions and teams: Debating to Model U.N.
  • Religious and spiritual groups: Enjoy like-minded discussions with the community.
  • Arts and performance: From choirs and bands to dance groups and theatre sports.
  • Volunteering: Make a difference and give back to the local and international community.

English Language support

If you are looking to improve your English language skills, numerous resources are available. Courses are offered for students who need assistance with presentation skills or academic English to build confidence before or during their university studies. Additionally, study groups are an excellent way to enhance language skills and find support.

UNSW College provides Academic English support for students who have received a conditional offer but do not yet meet the language entry requirements. Our range of courses is designed to ensure you achieve the necessary proficiency level, enabling you to navigate university challenges confidently.

Student services

Every university campus will have a range of student services available to support you during your journey. Academic support, including advisors, are available to discuss any challenges you might be having with your classes and to assist you with finding ways of managing your time, understanding your results or supporting you to build better study habits.

Beyond academics, student support will also include mental health support for you to access in times of personal challenge - from homesickness and general adjustment to a new country to financial difficulties or any other distress. Health services are sometimes available on campus too. These could include a general medical clinic, dentist, optometrist and physiotherapist.


International students often begin their university experience by living in on-campus accommodation. There will usually be a dedicated team that handles student accommodation, including providing guidance on where you can secure housing off campus if that’s your preference. Options could also include living with a local family, or renting a room in a shared house with other students.

Cost of living for International Students

Learning how to manage your expenses is an important life skill, whether you’re living in your home country or overseas for study. It’s vital to consider the costs of living in any location you want to live and study in, with Sydney being no exception.

The Australian Department of Home Affairs has financial requirements that international students need to demonstrate they can meet. They’re a guideline only and you’ll still need to do your own research, but you will need to show that you can cover living costs of at least A$29,710 per year (as of May 2024). This figure doesn’t include your course fees and works out to be roughly A$2,475 every month to cover your accommodation, food, bills and entertainment.

It is recommended that you budget for at least an additional $4,000 for your arrival set up costs on top of the guideline amount from the Australian Government. This will ensure you can pay for textbooks, rental bond if you need it and any other initial expenses to get yourself settled in.

Pre-arrival expenses to keep in mind are:

  • Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)
  • Student Visa
  • University application fee
  • Flights

The Study Australia cost of living calculator is a useful tool that can help your financial planning.

Discover student discounts

Students enrolled in university can access a number of discounts for products and services. Be sure to look at the following websites to see what is on offer

Working in Sydney

Student Visa holders can work up to 48 hours per fortnight. Getting a part-time job can help you to cover your expenses while studying and be another great way to integrate into the local Sydney community. Student services often have job vacancies listed on student hub sites online.

Living in Sydney

You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to fun options for entertainment, dining and adventures in Sydney. Here are a few ideas and tips to get you started.

Getting around - your transport options

Sydney’s public transport system includes buses, trains, ferries and light rail. Get yourself an Opal card and check to see if you’re eligible for a student discount on travel.

Prefer cycling as your main mode of transport? You can check out our network of low traffic streets, cycleways and shared paths with this guide from the City of Sydney.

Exploring the best of Sydney

We are lucky to have some amazing locations and iconic structures in Sydney. Get these on your must-see list:

  • Sydney Opera House: take a tour, watch a show, or simply walk around and marvel at the architecture.
  • Harbour Bridge: you can walk across it free if your budget doesn’t stretch to the pricey BridgeClimb!
  • Sydney’s best beaches: take your pick - all worth a look and a dip.
  • Taronga Zoo: meet our diverse Australian wildlife up close and right by the harbour.
  • The Rocks: a fantastic historic area filled with markets and cafes.

Eating in and out

While there are many great options for eating out in Sydney, cooking at home can certainly be more friendly on your budget. Shopping at local markets and supermarkets with a food plan for the week ahead will make a big difference to what’s left in your wallet. Sydney boasts one of the largest fresh fruit and vegetable markets in the world to get you started.

If you are keen for a meal out, try this list of the 43 best cheap eats in Sydney.

Health and fitness

Sydney has an abundance of gyms and personal trainers and many universities will have a campus gym. You’re also likely to find student discounts available for memberships to many sporting and fitness clubs.

Don’t fancy being inside a gym? Explore the great outdoors and get to know your surroundings by starting a walking or running group with your new uni friends.


There’s always a festival or event taking place in Sydney. These are some great websites to get you started on discovering what’s on in our great city.

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Diploma & Foundation Studies
UNSW Global Pty Limited ABN 62 086 418 582 trading as UNSW College™ currently delivers Diplomas and Foundation Studies on behalf of UNSW Sydney - CRICOS Provider Code 00098G; UNSW Sydney TEQSA Provider ID: PRV12055 (Australian University).
From 26 August 2024, UNSW College™ will commence delivery of Diplomas under its own CRICOS Provider Code - 01020K and TEQSA Provider ID: PRV13020 (Institute of Higher Education).
From 13 January 2025, UNSW College™ will commence delivery of Foundation Studies under its own CRICOS Provider Code - 01020K and TEQSA Provider ID: PRV13020 (Institute of Higher Education).

Pre-Masters Program & Academic English
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