How to Choose Where to Study in Australia

Three photographs of Australian landmarks: the Sydney Opera House, Melbourne's beachfront, and the Parliament buildings.

Australia is a compelling study abroad destination for international students, and it’s easy to see why. Institutions like the Australian National University and University of Canberra are regularly ranked as top universities. Plus, locals are welcoming and friendly, and Australia’s cities are vibrant and safe, boasting a high standard of living. 

Some institutions or communities may be a better fit, depending on your field of study and preferences. Some questions to consider:

  • Does being in a larger city matter, and fit your budget? Some Australian cities have a high cost of living—but offer world-class opportunities.
  • Does your course require fieldwork? Unless you don’t mind commuting, it’s a good idea to study near the landmarks or environments of interest when possible.  
  • How long do you plan to study abroad? If your studies are shorter (one to two years), it might be easier to live somewhere completely different than what you’re used to.

Curious about top Australian universities? Check out our list!

An illustration of a building in Australia.

Community Size

A community’s size impacts its cost of living. The Australian Government’s estimate for an international student’s yearly living expenses was AUS$21,041 in October 2019. Given supply chain shortages and rising inflation rates, this number has likely risen. To get a more personalized estimate, students can use cost of living calculator tools.

Cost of living ranges across Australia. As we note in an earlier blog post, residents of smaller cities like Perth enjoy a cost of living that’s 20% lower than folks in Sydney. That said, enrolling in a specific course or access to exclusive work experience opportunities can make the cost worth it. Cities like Melbourne and Sydney often place on best student cities lists for: 

Check out our blog on work-integrated learning in Australia to learn more about your options.

Also, think about your ties to your first language and the culture in your home country. If you’d like to dive into Australian culture, smaller communities can be very welcoming, and can show you a part of the country many visitors never see. Conversely, if religious or cultural services are important to you, consider studying in larger communities. In a bigger city, you’re also more likely to find other international students, expat communities, or restaurants with meals that remind you of home!

Illustration of a kangaroo on a beach.


Australia’s Outback and its landmark Uluru (Ayers Rock) are known world-wide. The Outback ranges from arid to semi-arid climates, and stretches across Australia’s heartland. It can be a challenging environment, but happily for incoming international students, most of Australia’s cities are near the more temperate coasts.

Australia’s Northern Territory ranges from tropical climates in the “Top End,” which has a wet and a dry season, with temperatures from 21°C to 33°C. In the “Red Centre” sub-region, which includes parts of the Outback, there are four distinct seasons, with temperatures from 3°C to 35°C. Many NT residents live in or near the city of Darwin, in the Top End. Because of its northern location, this region enjoys sunny and warm weather over the winter months of June and July!

In northeastern Australia, Queensland‘s lush rainforests, vibrant cities, surfing beaches, and access to the Great Barrier Reef endears it to locals and visitors alike. Plus, Queensland averages eight to nine hours of sunlight every day. So, it’s earned the nickname of the “Sunshine State!” It’s a little warmer than the Northern Territory, with temperatures averaging from 24°C to 37°C.

If you were nodding earlier as you read about immersing yourself in Australian culture, South Australia might be the perfect match. South Australia is called the “Festival State” for its lively cultural scene. Some of South Australia’s largest festivals are the Santos Tour Down Under bike tour and Tasting Australia. Its Mediterranean climate (15°C-29°C) enables production of over half of Australia’s wine, and vineyards like the ones in the Barossa Valley are beautiful parts of the region for students to explore.

Curious about other parts of the world? Check out our blogs on how to choose where to study in Canada, or the United States!

An illustration of a blond man surfing a huge ocean wave.


Think about the experience you’d like to have while studying abroad:

  • Would you like to live on- or off-campus? 
  • What hobbies would you like to continue or start while living abroad? 
  • Does being part of a community with many entertainment options matter, or would you rather have easy access to outdoor activities?
  • Is it important to have access to food that meets your dietary restrictions, like halal or kosher?
  • Do you plan to work part-time? If you’d like to work in your field, look at what the local industries are.

Answering these questions can help determine where you’ll thrive.

Also, look at on-campus culture. The campus size can help you determine how large your classes may be, and from that, whether they are lecture-based or more hands-on. Larger schools with lots of clubs and athletics may be a perfect fit for some international students, but could be distracting for others.

Attending a virtual college or university fair can help you learn about your target schools’ culture. Wondering what to ask? We’ve got you covered with this list.

Choosing where to live and study abroad can feel like a lot to manage. However, if you keep the three Cs (climate, culture, and community size) in mind, you’ll be able to choose a college or university in a city that fits your needs.

Search for study abroad opportunities in Australia on ApplyBoard!


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