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Thursday, June 20th, 2019

OzTREKK Ambassadors: Taking dogs to Australia

When people heard that I was planning to take my dogs with me to medical school in Australia many thought I was crazy. But the truth is, even before I applied to school in Australia, I had already looked up to make sure I could take my dogs. They are a part of my family and going without them was never an option.

Are you considering taking your dogs to Australia?

Thinking about taking a dog (or cat) over is a daunting process, but I want to reassure you it is possible! The biggest thing to know is the timeline of events and to understand the costs.

First up, timeline

Take a look at the Government of Australia Department of Agriculture website http://www.agriculture.gov.au/cats-dogs for all of your timeline specific questions. I will go through a little bit of the important information for you. When you click on the link, you will input the species (dog/cat) country of export (Canada) and date of export. I put in January 6, 2020 seeing as many programs in Australia start the end of January. It will then generate a schedule of events, like the one drawn up for me (as your example).

You can click on each one of the links (e.g., “Visit your vet”) and it will tell you exactly what you need to do during that visit. Pretty straight forward, hey? Yes, in essence it is very straight forward. In reality, things can get complicated.

First of all, take note of the dates in the timetable. If you’re planning to take your dog over in the beginning of January, your first vet visit needs to be in the next 10 days. I didn’t know about this calculator until much later than June of last year so don’t panic. The first visit is just to check microchip number and confirm rabies vaccination. Most dogs should be up to date on their rabies vaccination regardless.

The important thing to not miss this summer is the second vet visit (in this calculator it says July 10) and that is for a blood test for rabies. The blood needs to be drawn a minimum of 180 days before the dog can set foot in Australia and they are very strict about these dates. Also, the blood test is $400 (I for one was surprised by the cost for a blood test, but it is what it is). I had this blood test done for both dogs before I even knew I was accepted to school (that didn’t come until the end of August). So sometimes it’s a bit of a gamble if you want to bring your dogs in January. Of course, they can come later if you want to wait to get confirmation of acceptance first.

Taking my dogs with me was worth it!

Second thing I learned the hard way—get the test for Ehrlichia canis early! This is a test for a tick disease that is quite common in tropical areas, but dogs can get it in lots of different climates. This test is performed (as per their schedule) a week before the dog is going to travel. One of my dogs came back positive for it, I got the news on Christmas Eve and the vet said he might never be able to go to Australia. It was one of the worst days I can remember. We were able to treat it with antibiotics (30 days) and when we retested him he came back negative. However, it is difficult to treat because the test they require looks for the antibody count rather than the active bacteria, meaning my dog didn’t have any symptoms but had the leftover antibodies because he had the bacteria years before I ever rescued him from Mexico. There is no guarantee that treating a dog that tests positive will lower their antibody count enough to test “negative.” If you go online to web forums you will find that this surprise a week before travel is not all that uncommon. There are tons of stories just like mine where the owners are floored, travel plans have to be altered, and emotions run high.

Now, just because your dog has tested negative to Ehrlichia canis early (say this summer) you still have to repeat the test a week before travel; however it should hopefully avoid the panic and heartache that I experienced. You will have your dog on tick medication from this summer up until the travel so it should avoid any surprises.

Second up, cost

Taking a dog to Australia is not cheap, and there’s no way around it. But it’s doable and completely worth it! Here is the cost breakdown (very rough):

Rabies test: $400
Flea/tick meds: $70
Each vet visit: ~$70 (x5 total vet visits)
Other tests required (Ehrlichia, lepto, etc.): ~$300
Microchip: ~$100 (I forget the exact cost)
Application permit fee: $1200
Flight (they have to fly directly into Melbourne): ~$1100
10 days of quarantine: ~$400
Airline-approved dog crate: ~$80
Total: ~$3900

Keep in mind this breakdown is very rough and varies by vet, flights, if you already have a microchip, etc., but it’s good to have a rough idea.

I would do the process again in a heartbeat

We used a wonderful company called Worldwide Animal Travel to help with this whole process. They helped organize all of the paperwork, double checked that we had the correct lab results, vet signatures, took the forms to get the government approval, etc. They’ve done this a million times and really know what they are doing. Think of them like OzTREKK for pets! They even have an office at the Vancouver airport where the dogs got to be out of their crate relaxing before the flight. They took them for a walk, fed them dinner, sent us picture updates and then put them on the plane. The peace of mind knowing we weren’t alone in this process was well worth the money. I believe the cost difference working with them compared to doing it on our own was about $2000 (for both dogs).

Our journey with the dogs was far from straightforward and got so much more complicated when we were in Australia and the dogs were back in Canada (delayed because of Brek’s positive Ehrlichia canis result). We had to reset the dogs’ travel dates three times. With each change of date we had to redo different tests because they are only valid for a set number of days before travel. Thank goodness I had Worldwide Animal Travel to fall back on because otherwise I would have been even more overwhelmed in the first few months of medical school trying to organize vet visits while I’m halfway around the world. This is in no way sponsored by them (although I would have happily agreed to that lol). They did a phenomenal job helping us out at such a stressful time and I am so thankful we had their support.

I could go on and on about every detail regarding taking dogs to Australia. It was a very long and somewhat tedious process. I know ours was especially complicated (you can read a bit more on my instagram page @noborders.md), but it was completely worth it! The dogs did wonderful and they survived the 10-day quarantine. They were of course very excited to see us but they didn’t have any signs of distress or maltreatment. You aren’t allowed to visit them during quarantine, but you can call them daily and ask for updates (which I did).

I know this process seems scary and a bit overwhelming, especially on top of moving your entire life around the world. But take it day by day, one vet appointment at a time, and just use the website as a checklist. If you’re able to afford some help, I recommend talking with Worldwide Animal Travel; I believe they have offices across Canada.

Having your dog(s) over here when you’re in school is incredible! It makes this place feel so much more like home and it’s such a great balance to the grind of school. I would do the process again in a heartbeat. I hope this brief introduction helps clarify some of aspects of bringing dogs over. If you have any questions at all please don’t hesitate to reach out!

Cameron
First-year Griffith Medical School student
Follow Cameron on Instagram! @noborders.md

Thursday, June 13th, 2019

OzTREKK Ambassadors: Meal prep tips to save you money

One of the biggest issues in coming overseas to study in Australia stems from the financial responsibility and debt you take on while you are studying.

meal preparation

Save money: weigh it into individual bags and freeze it

Although one of the things that you shouldn’t “short” yourself is on your food. I know the classic “university student diet” consists of instant noodles, KD, crackers and Uber Eats, but I’m here to tell you that you can have really good, healthy, cheap food for all your meals—as long as you “meal prep” and cook your own meals since groceries in Australia are actually way cheaper than back in Canada (at least in the big cities). I’m saving money and eating more than I was in Toronto compared to here.

If you get things like Uber Eats, any take-home meals, or eat out, it’s going to be very expensive (1.5x the Canadian equivalent price), so your best bet is to learn how to cook and make your own meals.

Your health is the main reason you can focus and have energy to actually study for your program, so here is a list of my top four veggies, carbs, and meats compared to Canadian prices (hint: it’s way cheaper in Aus).

Another thing you have to think about is Australians don’t use pounds—they use kilograms, so it was a little bit of a shock on prices. Once I made the conversion I realized how much I was saving. Prices have been switched to CAD for both Canadian and Aussie food products. The prices in red show when the prices have dropped, when I caught them on a sale. If you are organized enough, you can stock up and save a lot of money when the price on something drops.

international student in australia meal prep

When it’s on sale, get dry food in bulk!

Veggies Price/kg (AUS) Price/kg CAN
Broccoli $5.15 $13.33
Asparagus $4.26 $6.59
Red peppers (capsicum) $3.73 $6.59
Brussel sprouts $9.34 $11.20
Carbs Price/kg (AUS) Price/kg CAN
Quinoa $9.34 $14-15
White rice $3.00
$1.50
$4.40
Brown rice $3
$1.50
$4.40
Pasta $1.20 $3.33
Meat Price/kg (AUS) Price/kg CAN
Chicken breasts $8.40 $16-19
Ground beef $9.34
$8.40
$12
Ground turkey $6.50
$5.60
$14
Salmon $22–$28 $22–$38

Store dry goods in containers

I don’t mind eating the same three meals six days a week in order to save some money and time (cooking new recipes). I know that sounds insane, but when I have disposable income, I would love to eat new food, but for now, school comes first (and with sacrifices).

I can meal prep three days’ worth of food in a little under one hour, so it saves me time eating this way. Also, when food goes on sale, I buy in bulk and either keep it (dry food like pasta, rice, quinoa) in a container or weigh it into individual bags and freeze it (meats) for when it needs to be cooked (top pic).

Also, don’t worry—I reuse all the plastic bags since I’ve moved here (eco-conscious)!

Those are my biggest tips in saving money. I usually spend close to $100 or a little less a week on groceries, depending on snacking, sales, and the occasional hangover meal. So, before you make the big journey over, I would say learn how to cook—at least the basics—and you can end up saving yourself thousands over the two years you’re here!

Cheers!

Anthony Caiazzo
First-year UQ physiotherapy student

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Follow all our ambassadors’ stories! Are you interested in becoming an OzTREKK Ambassador? Contact us at social@oztrekk.com—we’d love to hear from you!

Friday, May 31st, 2019

OzTREKK Ambassadors: Why I chose to study at the University of Sydney

Since being an OzTREKK ambassador, I’ve been asked why I chose to move to Sydney for my post-grad endless times. My answers have been pretty generic:

I fell in love with Sydney when I was here during my exchange in my undergrad.

I want to move to a different country to get an international experience.

It is hard to get into a Canadian university so it is just easier to apply to Australia.

Although these are all true, I haven’t been completely honest with myself or with others. The truth is that I’m pretty embarrassed with what has happened and I’ve avoided talking about it. But recently it has hit me that I am actually quite proud of myself for taking such a big risk and pushing myself outside my comfort zone, so I thought I’d share my story of why I picked Sydney.

Embrace yourself for the most cliché reason ever: I chose to do my post-grad in Sydney to be with a guy (barf).

I met him two years ago when I was on exchange. I knew at the time that it would never work because he’s from Sydney and I’m from Vancouver, but ever since I left Sydney, we had a hard time ending our relationship. We did long distance for another year and a half. I decided I wanted to move somewhere outside Vancouver for my post-grad anyways, and universities in Canada are generally tough to get into—so Sydney would be a good option, especially since I got so sick of doing long distance not knowing if it will ever end.

To my surprise, I got into chiropractic at CMCC in Canada and was stuck between choosing chiro in Canada or occupational therapy at the University of Sydney. Every person in my family tried to push me toward doing chiro since it was closer to home, it would be domestic fees, and you would get the “doctor” title. Something about chiro didn’t appeal to me the same way as it used to and I wasn’t sure if it was because I really wanted to move to Sydney to be with this person or because chiro just isn’t something I want to do anymore. This caused a lot of anxiety and pressure for me because I was very afraid of making the wrong decision and nothing scares me more than disappointing my mother—Asian stereotype, but very true.

After countless sleepless nights stressing about what to pick, I finally decided that I wanted to take my offer at USyd for OT. It was very hard to confront my parents because they all felt I was basing this life decision on a guy that I had only met briefly on exchange. Four months before my big move to Australia, we broke up. To be honest, this broke my mom’s heart more than it broke mine. She was shattered that not only did I have to move to a foreign country all alone and far away from any family, but I also had to be constantly reminded of the bitter memories of this person that I was initially very excited to finally get to be with.

My mom tried everything to talk me out of it. She even got my older sister and younger sister involved to “talk some sense” into me. Despite the unfortunate turnout with my relationship and my family’s concerns for me, I pushed through and carried on with my decision. Maybe I was just stubborn, but I was determined to prove that I made the right decision.

Fast forward to the present, I am extremely grateful for everything that has happened. Yes, the relationship is what pushed me in the direction to do my post grad in Sydney but it was not something that I did for someone else. At the time, I doubted myself, but I know now that this decision was what’s best for myself and not what others told me was best. I took a risk to just drop everything and move countries. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone to move to a city that brings back a lot of bitter memories. I forced myself to have to try twice as hard to branch out and make new friends and not to be stuck in the past.

I am honestly surrounded by some of the best people now and I love everything that I am studying. Super cheesy, but I don’t think I can be in a better place. My situation isn’t exactly something that everybody would relate to, but I guess the purpose of this blog is to demonstrate how scary it was for me to move here with the burden of letting down my family and the emotional barriers I had with my ex-boyfriend. But I put all this down and did this for me, just like you can do it for you. Thanks for reading my long, sappy blog. 🙂

Want to follow Kim’s journey? Follow her on Instagram!

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Would you like to learn more about studying occupational therapy at the University of Sydney? Contact us at info@oztrekk.com for more information about how you can study in Australia!

Friday, May 17th, 2019

Must-visit places when you study in Sydney, Australia

Hey, OzTREKKers! Meet OzTREKK Ambassador, Kim Li—she’s currently studying occupational therapy at the University of Sydney.

Figure Eight Pools

If you’re thinking of attending university in Australia, specifically the Sydney area, you may want to tuck this blog away somewhere for future reference! Here, Kim has prepared a thorough list for everyone interested in enjoying the sights, the sounds, the smells, and all the feels of beautiful Australia!

Royal National Park (Figure 8 Pools)

Blue Mountains

Blue Mountains

Bondi to Coogee Walk

  • 6 km coastal walk along Sydney’s eastern suburbs
  • 1-hour walk without stopping (will want to stop to enjoy the beaches and take pictures)
  • You can start either at Bondi or at Coogee beach

Palm Beach

  • Approximately 1-hour drive / 2 hours by public transportation

Bondi to Coogee Walk

Barrenjoey Lighthouse walk

  • 1 hour; easy walk

La Perouse

Must-go-to beaches (and you’ll hit most of these beaches if you do the Bondi to Coogee walk, as mentioned above)

  • Bondi Beach
  • Manly Beach
  • Coogee Beach
  • Freshwater Beach
  • Tamarama Beach
  • Bronte Beach
  • Milk Beach

Bondi Iceberg Pools

Taronga Zoo

  • Zoo overlooking the Sydney Harbour

Sydney Fish Market

  • Second largest seafood market

Nightlife (I haven’t been to that many)

  • Old Mate’s Place (CBD) – rooftop bar
  • Archie Rose (Rosebery)
  • The Little Guy (Glebe)
  • O-Bar (CBD) – expensive but great views
  • Bar Luca – Blame Canada burger is pretty bomb
  • The Two Wolves

Other tourist places to visit

  • Darling harbour
  • Circular Quay / The Rocks – good spot for pictures with the Opera house
  • Royal Botanic Gardens
  • Queen Victoria Building
  • Chinese Garden of Friendship

Check out a National Rugby League game!

Things to do

  • Horse Races
  • NRL or AFL game
  • Discover as you go!

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Kimberly Li | University of Sydney Master of Occupational Therapy

I chose OT because I am passionate about helping individuals gain function in day to day tasks and promoting participation in meaningful activities. In my final year of my undergrad, UBC was ranked 4th for sports-related subjects and USyd was ranked 1st  in the QS World University Rankings.

Want to follow Kim’s journey? Follow her on Instagram!

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Are you interested in studying at the University of Sydney? Contact us at info@oztrekk.com for more information about how you can study in Australia!

Wednesday, May 1st, 2019

OzTREKK Ambassadors: Life doesn’t stop when you’re in medical school

Griffith Medical School student Cameron Bowers would like to share some valuable advice for everyone considering studying medicine in Australia!

Griffith Medical School

Life doesn’t slow down when you’re in medical school!

We are so focused on the future.
I just need to finish my undergrad, then I’ll…
I just need to study for the MCAT, then I’ll…
When I finish with med school applications, then I’ll…
After I get prepared for medical school to start I’ll…
Once I get settled into med school I’ll…

But the truth is that life doesn’t ever really settle down, especially in this career that is so future-focused. It’s always about the next degree, the next exam, the next placement, the next specialty.

I was naïve in thinking that life would somehow magically settle down once I was finally in medical school, a goal I’d been working towards for years. That my days would just be classes, study groups and late nights of self-studying. Don’t get me wrong, all of those things happen, but life doesn’t stop just because you’re in medical school.

All of the normal stressors are there, just take away energy and time to deal with them.

When you go abroad for school you add new issues to deal with. They say Canadians actually have the hardest time with culture shock because it feels so similar to Canada here that it’s easy to forget it’s a different country—until something very different happens. Take holidays for example. Fun fact in Australia, all the supermarkets are closed on certain holidays (e.g., closed Good Friday but open Easter Sunday and Monday). It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but if you forget that all grocery stores in the country are closed on a certain day it can be rather difficult to get the last ingredients you need for dinner, potentially leading you to buying mozzarella cheese from a pizza restaurant.

When you’re far away for school your friends and family’s lives don’t stop either. Things happen and you suddenly have to learn how to deal with it while being 16 hours in the future. Phone calls and texts require an eight-hour delay sometimes for a reply. The best time to call home is in the morning, but those moments are limited because classes start at 8:30 a.m. most days. By the time you’re out of class at 4 p.m. it’s too late to call North America.

medical students

Try to take time for some adventure!

The truth is it’s hard to manage it all while attempting to stay on top of school. A lot of times I put school first and my to-do list grows week to week, but the pace of medical school doesn’t allow for anything other than full focus. I laughed the other day remembering what is was like to procrastinate when I was in my undergrad. There’s no option to procrastinate in medical school. You stop for a minute and everyone has already ran past you.

I wish I could offer some concrete advice for how to manage it all, but the truth is I am still trying to figure all this out. Some days I feel like I’m on top of the world: exercising, studying effectively, marking off my to-do list, eating healthy, making time for my relationship, making time for myself. But other days attending seven hours of lecture with only a 30-minute break in the middle is all I can accomplish and I try to tell myself that it’s okay.

It’s okay to not have all the answers right now. It’s okay to not pre-read for lectures for the sake of sleep the night before. It’s okay to have breakdowns and let it all out. It’s okay to wake up the next morning and be excited that you’re in medical school and one day you will become a doctor.

So for now, all I can say is wherever you are in your life and your career journey, try to be present and enjoy it. Life doesn’t happen in the future, and learning to be present, while never easy, is so important because none of us has a guarantee of what the future will bring.

Cameron
Griffith Medical School student

Follow Cameron on Instagram! @noborders.md

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Would you like more details about Australian medical schools? Contact OzTREKK’s Medicine Admissions Officer Amanda Rollich at amanda@oztrekk.com to learn more about your options!

Thursday, April 25th, 2019

OzTREKK Ambassadors: Transferring your money

In part one of my banking and finances blog, I talked about banking in Australia. Here, I’d like to chat about transferring your money!

transferring your money

Consider using a money transfer app

My first little bit of advice would be before you even arrive in Australia, go to a foreign exchange place and take out probably $500–$600 for the first couple weeks you are in Australia just to get settled in. Once you have the bank account set up and are actually in Australia, then you can think about transferring some money over.

Don’t use your bank to transfer funds

Do not use your bank when transferring money to Australia. Why? First, you will pay their exchange rate from CAD to AUD, which is outrageous and close to 3–4 cents on the dollar, worse than what you get with other transfer companies. Second, it will take weeks for your money to come in, and sometimes it doesn’t even come in full installments. Third, they will also change you an extra amount to deposit it into your account along with a bunch of other fees—just awful altogether.

The way that I transfer my money is through a third-party app called “TransferWise.” Now, this app only lets you transfer amounts of up to $9,500 at one time and $25k per week. I don’t see why you would need any more than that so this app is perfect. Unless of course you want to transfer all of your money at once (which I would highly suggest against), then you would have to go the direct wire transfer through a bank.

The TransferWise app is very easy to use. All you do is register for an account. They ask for two-factor identification as well as a bank statement or rent cheque to make sure you are a Canadian citizen living there before coming to Australia. Then once your account is verified, it is easy to go on and see what they are offering for rates. As an example, $9,500 CAD got me $10,041.85 AUD.

Keep an eye on the exchange rate

When you are using this app it will always tell you the current rate that you are getting and the rates will vary each minute. So, in saying that, please be careful and make sure you check the forecast before changing money over. Wait until the dollar is on a rise before transferring your money over. Because I was watching the rates, I made more than $400 on the exact same dollar amount transfer than a friend did—just by waiting a day and a half! This may seem small to you, but over the course of a two-year program (or longer) and transferring money over in small amounts, you could net a total of an extra $10k based on current standards, which would really help! I would also suggest to download a Forex (foreign exchange) currency converter that converts currencies in real time just to keep up to date.

That is the major basics of finances for Australia and if you have any questions at all about physiotherapy, finances, UQ, and Brisbane life don’t be afraid to DM me on my Instagram! I will be uploading weekly content and be following the top professionals in my field come this mid-semester break so stay tuned!

Anthony C, first-year UQ physiotherapy student

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Find out more about Anthony! Read part one of his “money” blog OzTREKK Ambassadors: Banking in Australia, or follow all our ambassadors’ stories!

Would you like to be an OzTREKK Ambassador? Let us know! Please contact us at social@oztrekk.com and share your stories!

Thursday, April 11th, 2019

OzTREKK Ambassadors: Banking in Australia

I feel like I can speak for the entire population of international students when I say that this is a very big financial decision that you are making to study abroad.

Don’t be taken aback by the fact that you are going to be looking at paying six figures for your education, but instead look at this as an investment for your dream job that you will have for the rest of your life.

Now, with all of that being said, let’s talk finances and banking in Australia.

study physiotherapy in Australia

When in Australia, don’t forget to explore! Hanging out in Hosier Lane, Melbourne.

Banking

Australia has four major banks: Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), Westpac Banking Corporation, National Australia Bank (NAB), and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ).

The bank I chose is Commonwealth Bank of Australia because from the upper-year students NAB was not the greatest for customers service; ANZ was a little less common so it was harder to deal with; and then Westpac had kept a hold on some of the students’ wire transfers for tuition (which charged them extra money for late fees).

I will talk about money transfers and all of that in my next blog, but for now, let’s stick with banking.

1. Get a Student Card and a Cell Phone

First thing you need to do is when you become a University of Queensland student is receive your student card and also get a cell phone number. You will need this in order to set up your Commonwealth bank account.

2. Set Up Your Banking

Once you have those two pieces of information (including your Australia address, which can change after), you just need to walk into a Commonwealth bank and talk to a specialist there.

3. Get a Travel Money Card (if you want!)

Third, this is by no means a necessity, but if you want, CommBank offers something called “Travel Money Card.”  This is a free feature (when you apply online) and it is great for someone who either buys a lot of things online or travels. The card is good up until three years after you order it and it holds up to 13 currencies on the card at once. You just pay the conversion fee from Forex trading rate and it changes on your card automatically. I got this card because I frequently travel and it just takes out all the hassle from paying your own bank fees for international conversions each time.

Let’s say you travel to the states, with this card if you have $100 USD on the card, it acts as an American credit card (valued at $100). Then when you buy things there aren’t any extra accumulated fees associated with your purchase.

Pretty cool, right? And this works for over 47 different currencies around the world! So even if you don’t think you will use this once you are in Australia, I think (if you travel) it would be a good thing to get a month or so before you leave. As long as you have some money in your Australian bank account, you can have an international credit card for travelling with no secondary bank fees!

Another cool aspect of the app is that all of their features are instantaneous. From daily purchases to sending friends money it all happens within seconds of each other (rather than a couple days for e-transfers back home).  It also works from bank to bank (you send it via SMS) to any contact in your phone! I have an apple watch (CommBank also offers Apple Pay) and every time I make a purchase I’m notified on my watch and cell phone; therefore, if any purchase is made that wasn’t from you (card is compromised), you will be notified the second it happens and where it happened.

The app itself also groups all of your spending based on groups for you to see how much you have spent on food, health, entertainment, groceries, rent etc., which helps to easily keep track of your budget (which I’m seriously hoping you have!).

Another cool thing about this app is it also shows you where the closest ATM is located (which comes in handy), although there is a CommBank full branch right on the UQ St Lucia campus—which is really convenient!

Anthony out.
@ac_mpt

First-year UQ physiotherapy student

Interested in Anthony’s blogs? Read his blog OzTREKK Ambassadors: Moving to Brisbane, or follow all of our ambassadors‘ stories! Would you like to be an OzTREKK Ambassador? Let us know! Please contact us at social@oztrekk.com and share your stories!

Tuesday, March 12th, 2019

OzTREKK Ambassadors: Moving to Brisbane

“Housing” the big move

I think I can speak not only for myself, but the vast majority of others when I say that your home should be your own personal oasis. A place where you can come home from a long day of studying/working and be able to sit back and relax. With that being said, as a student your home should also be close to bus stops, places to eat and entertainment.

The first thing you should do (while in Canada) is try to find an Airbnb or a place that would be cheap for the first couple weeks when you arrive.  I was lucky and had a friends’ parents put me up for three weeks before I could actually get my lease to my condo.

Once you are in Brisbane, you can actually see the houses/condos in person and get a better feel for what is around them as well.  This is the best way to find a good place to live.  Accommodation in Brisbane can be a bit of a tricky situation. Considering the town itself is built around a river that flows throughout the city, you need to take that into account when you are looking for a place. So, with that being said I have made a list of the top seven suburbs to live in Brisbane with a little description of each and what you will expect to pay per week.

1. St. Lucia

This would be a good option if you want to live right beside/on the University of Queensland campus. Its major plus is that it is close to campus, grocery stores and a gym. Other than that, there is not really any entertainment/nightlife. If you aren’t looking to live by a very loud and busy place and be walkable to classes, this is your area. Accommodation here can go anywhere between $180 –$250 for shared accommodation.

2. Toowong / Taringa

I’m going to be a little biased with this one because this is the area where I live.  It’s really close to campus and Toowong village. Buses come every five minutes in the morning, and takes only seven minutes to get to campus. Toowong village has a grocery store, gym, Kmart (it’s big here still) and a post office. There are also a couple little food shops around the village. There isn’t much for entertainment: no movie theatre, sports venues or bars really (minus the Royal Exchange). Shared accommodation can be around $260 – $300 per week.

3. Bowen Hills

If you don’t want all the fast-paced aspect of downtown and tall buildings, Bowen Hills would be your option. This area has a lot of modern apartments that can start at $250 per week. The only downside is that it is quite far away from campus and doesn’t have a great entertainment aspect.

4. South Brisbane

South Brisbane is right in the heart of South Bank: a busy riverfront stretch with cultural and science exhibits at the Queensland Museum, as well as art galleries and a giant Ferris wheel. Other major entertainment venues are the cineplex, brewpubs and uptown tapas bars. This would be a great place if you want to experience Brisbane culture and are a true foodie. You can find shared accommodation from around $250 per week, or a one-bedroom apartment from around $350 per week.

5. West End

West End is a good place to look if you are looking for cool cafés, weekend markets, and a big artsy vibe. Shared accommodation can be around $300 per week, or if you want to go up to around $500 for a really nice place if you have a bigger rent budget.

6. Highgate Hill

If you are on the lower end of the budget scale, Highgate hill is a good option. It’s close to transportation and tons of shops but does not offer very much for entertainment. If you just want a place to live to live this is a good place to look. Shared accommodation can start at $140 per week.

8. Woolloongabba

This is one of the main hubs for transportation to and from UQ. Woolloongabba is also home to the Brisbane Cricket Ground, also known as the Gabba, a vast sports stadium that hosts professional Aussie Rules football and cricket matches (a lot of fun to go!). There are a ton of great restaurants and vintage fashion shops. You can find shared accommodation from around $180 per week, or a one-bedroom apartment from around $300 per week.

Figuring out your housing arrangements

With all of these areas, the prices are just a guideline.  If you search hard enough, you can find some really good places at really good prices. It all depends on where you want to live and what you want to be around you. Do you want to live right in the thick of downtown with all the bars? Maybe a happy medium with food marketplaces and an art vibe? Once you have the area mapped out, you can start to look to getting all of your utilities and all that sorted.  Below, I’ve provided five tips to remember when figuring out your final housing arrangements.

  • Rent in your contract is due weekly rather than monthly. This seems like it’s a cheaper option when you look at the price initially but you have to remember that there are 52 weeks in a year and that you will be paying an “extra” four weeks of rent this way. Just something to think about when you are planning your budget.
  • If you get an apartment or condo, it doesn’t come furnished at all. My roommate and I were lucky enough that the two girls who lived there before us sold us everything in the apartment when we moved in. I mean everything: beds, desks, chairs, tables, washer, dryer, dishwasher, etc. When you look at the ad, be sure to check if it is furnished or comes with beds because it would be a nightmare to get all that settled.
  • Use Facebook marketplace or Gumtree (the Australian Kijiji) to find couches, TVs, and other appliances. If you are looking for a TV or a couch, Facebook marketplace usually has people giving them away for free as long as you come pick them up.
  • The price for rent is almost always without utilities. Sometimes back in Canada you have your utilities paid by the owner and included in the price. Here, it almost always doesn’t include utilities so you will need to set that up yourself as well as internet.
  • Don’t cheap out on the internet. Home truly is where the WiFi connects automatically. Get unlimited Wifi for your place, because after studying you’ll want to relax and binge watch Netflix. Trust me.

Before I end this blog I’m going to list a couple websites you can use to find your accommodation! As always, may the odds be ever in your favour.  😉

Anthony out.
@ac_mpt

First-year UQ physiotherapy student

Links

Monday, March 4th, 2019

OzTREKK Ambassadors: Getting around Sydney

So I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for a good transit system. I know that seems really random, but hear me out!

Macquarie University Medical School

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I think you can learn a lot about a city, it’s infrastructure, and it’s people just by observing the transit system. As someone from a small city in Ontario (with kind of a laughable transit system) my only exposure to large city transit has been Toronto. I know I can hear the groans, but honestly I don’t think Toronto transit is that bad… for the most part things are on time and you can usually get to where you need to go easily.

But boy oh boy, was I in for a treat when I moved to Sydney. The transit here is—so far—impeccable. I’ll go into the details in a bit, but first I want to address that I understand this is pretty Sydney-specific, so USyd and Macquarie University, you’re welcome. For all of you reading who know you won’t be living in Sydney, scroll down to the last section for my general tips, tricks, and some links!

Types of Transit in Sydney

Throughout Sydney you have your standard busses, and of course it’s a large city so there are also inner-city trains (think subways but better), and Sydney is built around a harbour, which means ferry boats (McDreamy is swooning—I just know it)!

To board any of the transit you can use an Opal card. For anyone in the GTA it’s the same as a Presto Card. You can load the Opal cared with a specific amount of money or connect to a credit card. To board you simply tap on, and tap off—even the busses! Opal also has an app for iOS and Android which you can use to monitor your balance, plan routes, and see live updates of bus timings.

Ferry Boats

While you probably won’t use ferries for your day-to-day commute, they are a must for the days you have free to do some gallivanting and be a real tourist. My first view of the Sydney Opera House was when I took the ferry from Milsons Point to Circular Quay and I definitely recommend it.  If you’ve been on a ferry before I don’t know that these boats will be any different. I have to admit my ferry experience is limited. Weather permitting, try to be near the front of the line so you can stand at the front of the boat for the best views.

A cheap tourist trick is to take the “slow ferry” (the lines are labelled, don’t worry), for the entire route. You’ll see all the different docking points and get all the great views of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. All from the water which is just gorgeous! Remember to wear sunscreen during that trip for sure!

Busses

Busses are much more likely to be your main mode of transit day in and day out. I know that sounds like a drag, but the busses here are actually really clean. In fact, all of the transit is. The bus stops are frequent enough you never have to walk too far. The bus routes overlap in a good way with more direct routes passing some but not all the stops, and while the busses may not be on time there is a transit app which is very accurate. Also, the busses are air conditioned, which makes them little oases on your trip about town.

Sydney is covered in bus-only lanes, which means that some routes (at least the one I’m lucky enough to live on) gets to dodge a lot of the Sydney traffic, meaning my commute to and from school doesn’t really change depending on the time of day.

I did realize there is a caveat to such nice and clean busses. They *technically* don’t allow food and drink on board. That’s not to say I haven’t been let on a really busy bus with a coffee, but that’s also not to say I haven’t been not allowed on because I’ve had a coffee in my hand. So if you want to bring anything other than water and it’s open in your hands, just be aware you’re playing with fire.

Macquarie University Medical School

Visiting the Sydney Opera House

Trains

The trains here were my first exposure to Sydney transit and they are beautiful. To me they are used like a subway but appear more like a GO train (again, references for my GTA peeps. Sorry!), but better!

I remember first standing on the platform and not being aware of how close the train was, because it was so quiet! Can you imagine a GO train or a subway sneaking up on you? That quietness continues inside, and riding in the trains is really quite pleasant. The quiet engine means it’s quiet inside. Generally, the people are polite and quiet too, and it’s really clear which stop you’re at and which you are approaching.

The trains are mainly above ground, but do go through the occasional tunnel so don’t entirely rely on your app for accurate location readings. Just make sure you keep track of the stops and you’ll be fine!

The coolest thing about the Sydney trains is that you never have to sit backwards! In the middle of each carriage, the backs of the chairs are on hinges that let them flip so you can always face the direction of travel. I received some really funny looks when I purposefully sat backwards to avoid sitting beside a stranger, and I could have avoided the interaction and still faced forwards. It’s the little things in life really.

What Sydney Does Well

So to summarize all that gushing, here’s what I love about the Sydney transit:

  1. Opal! – The Card and the app. It’s easy to pay, it’s easy to navigate, it’s a plus.
  2. Air conditioning – making your commute cooler with each trip.
  3. Cleanliness – It’s honestly so nice to sit on a bus that doesn’t smell*

*I have been on one bus that was a bit musty… but it was also full of high school students who appeared to have just left gym class… so I’ll let you be the judge of that.

My General Tips and Tricks

  1. USE IT. Try it out when you first arrive; it will help your adjustment so much. I know it can be really intimidating to understand any new city let alone how to get around, but the only way you’ll master it is by trying. So when you first arrive, make a point of using the transit to find your school, a shopping mall, popular tourist destination, or anything really. Make sure to give yourself lots of extra time these first few trips to make them a little less stressful, missing a bus your second day in your new home is a lot less stressful than missing the bus or getting lost on your first day of classes.
  2. ASK. Seriously, don’t be afraid to ask. I’ve had a few bus drivers save me from heading in the wrong direction. That can be a bit nerve-wracking for some people (me being one of them), but you can always ask any locals in your class Facebook pages, other OzTREKKers who were there before you, or any roommates/hosts you have. Find out how to pay, where you can buy a pass if you need one, and they can share any tips they have.
  3. BE PREPARED. For your first few adventures bring some change (just in case), have a fully charged phone (just in case), and write down the route and stops (just in case!). It makes it a lot less stressful and means you’ll be ready if the pass doesn’t work, you get lost, or your phone dies.

Exploring a new city can be really scary, so give yourself some time to get used to it. Honestly, feeling like I mastered the transit was the first moment I really felt like I could live here. It was a sense of freedom, independence, and belonging all rolled into one that I didn’t expect and I’m so happy I found it pretty quickly.

I know that was a lot about transit, but I hope you could get something from it!

See you in the next one! Bye!

Emma
@emmab_md

First-year Macquarie University Medical School student

Links*

*I quickly looked up these links. Be sure you do your own research if you’re moving to any of these cities, including Sydney! The information may have changed.

Tuesday, February 26th, 2019

OzTREKK Ambassadors: My first impressions of Griffith Medical School

OzTREKK Ambassador Cameron Bowers has just begun her journey at Griffith Medical School, and she’s here to share her very first impressions!

Griffith medical school

First day at Griffith Medical School!

My first day

I’d been dreaming of the first day of medical school for years. I didn’t quite know what to expect, but I was so excited. I felt like a little kid on their very first day of school!

Truth be told the whole day felt surreal. It was a lot of different presentations by faculty welcoming and congratulating us on getting into medical school. They told us that our careers would be full of ups and downs, and stressed the reality that we would be in charge of people’s lives in a matter of years. I soaked it all up and with each “congratulations,” it started to feel more and more real.

The day ended with all of us standing and reciting our “Medical Students’ Affirmation.” It’s the equivalent of vows for medical school—promising to uphold respect for the profession we are entering, pledging to pursue our study of medicine with integrity and honesty, etc. I must admit that hearing ~160 students reciting these affirmations about our future was very powerful. It was the moment that made all of this feel real for the first time. I could feel the emotions mixing up inside, a combination of sheer joy, giddy excitement, fear of the unknown, and being overcome by the power of all of these voices together. We were all about to start something that would fundamentally change every single person in the room and yet no one could possibly know in which ways we would all evolve.

Some things I wish I had known

The first few weeks have been incredible, challenging, exhausting, exciting, and inspiring. It’s really fun to learn about a topic that I am so passionate about. It feels very different compared to undergrad (or grad school) because everything we are learning is applicable to a future patient. I think that might be why sometimes it feels more exhausting, because everyone is so keen to take in all of the information for fear we won’t know everything. But I am trusting in the curriculum to eventually get us to become competent physicians in four years (which at the moment still sounds surreal).

With all of that said, there are a few things that I wish I had known in the first few weeks:

Griffith University medical school

Enjoying the view — view of Griffith University campus from PBL rooms

1. Griffith undergraduate bridging program
Griffith has a two-year “bridge” program for Australian high school students to go directly from high school into a two-year medical science undergrad program. After those two years, the entire medical science cohort (~60 people) enters the medical school. This has a few implications:

  1. The age of the “med sci” students is young; I believe about 25% of my class is <20 years old.
  2. They have been in a program together for the last two years so they all already have friends and friend groups. This was a bit confusing to a lot of us Canadians on the first day as everyone appeared to already be in friend groups.

2. Anatomy labs
The anatomy labs (cadaver labs) are “self directed,” which means it’s a bit of a free-for-all. There are a number of second-year students you can ask for explanations or to clarify where something is, and they are fantastic! Seriously hard to imagine I will get to that level in just a year.

But other than that there is no structure. They give you a few pages as a lab worksheet to fill out the night before that outlines the main topics for the lab, but the actually learning is up to you. It’s definitely not like undergrad anatomy labs. You have to make sure you bring questions to ask, and be outgoing enough to ask those questions in a loud environment with lots of other people trying to learn using the same cadavers. It is an adjustment, but I’ve had three labs so far and it’s completely doable, just a bit of a surprise in week 1.

3. Griffith is amazing
I wish I had really understood how incredible Griffith University is and how they focus on creating well-rounded people, who are also fantastic doctors. I didn’t realized how unique Griffith Medical School is compared to other schools with regard to their focus on communication and the other “softer” part of being a great doctor (more on that to come in future blog posts!).

Overall I couldn’t be happier with my decision, and I am slowly settling into a schedule trying to work on finding balance between school, exercise, social life, and my relationship with my incredible husband.

If you ever have any questions about Griffith medicine, please feel free to reach out.

Until next time!

Cameron
@noborders.md