If you’re an international student contemplating studying in Australia, stepping off the beaten track and exploring the opportunities regional Australia presents could open up a new world of experiences.
We’re here to guide you through ten important points to consider, including insights from Madeleine Lena, a Kenyan graduate student at the University of Southern Queensland (UniSQ) in Toowoomba.
1. Quality of education
UniSQ, like many other regional institutions, prides itself on the quality of education it offers. Madeleine echoes this sentiment, assuring that the level of education she’s received at UniSQ Toowoomba is on par with what she might have experienced at a city university.
“The quality of education is the same. My lecturers are amazing and it makes studying very easy,” she shares.
Regional institutions also offer more specialised education, like UniSQ’s Centre for Astrophysics, where research students have the chance to use the university’s observatory to examine the clear skies above Toowoomba. Agriculture is another specialised area of study that sets regional institutions apart from city institutions. In UniSQ’s Agriculture and agribusiness courses, students work closely with agricultural businesses to address real problems within the industry.
Images: University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba Campus
2. Migration benefits
Regional Australia can be a launching pad for your future in Australia if you’re considering making it your home post-graduation. The Australian government extends numerous regional migration benefits to those studying in cities like Toowoomba. These benefits can include additional points for Skilled Migration, priority processing of visa applications, and access to a broader range of occupations on the eligible list.
In category 3 regional areas like Toowoomba, international graduates with a bachelor’s degree or higher qualification from a regional campus of a registered institution will be eligible to access an additional two years in Australia on a post-study work visa. This is on top of the additional two years of post-study work rights already offered by the Australian Government to fill the employment shortage.
3. Lower cost of living
One of the significant advantages of choosing regional Australia for your studies is the economic benefits. The cost of living in regional towns like Toowoomba is significantly lower than in big cities. Accommodation, often a major expense for students, is more affordable, and UniSQ’s student housing options cater to a wide range of budgets. Furthermore, food and transportation costs are lower, thanks to reasonably priced fresh produce at local markets and less reliance on public transport due to shorter commute times. The lower cost of living means your student budget will stretch further.
Many regional universities also offer scholarships, like UniSQ’s International Student Support Scholarship, to help alleviate some of the financial stress of studying abroad.
4. Greater interaction with local Australians
In contrast to the more urban environments of Australia’s larger cities, regional areas offer international students an opportunity for deeper engagement with local Australians. This can be instrumental in helping you improve your English language skills through practical, everyday conversations. It also offers a unique immersion into the rich diversity of Australian culture and traditions.
Living and studying in a regional area like Toowoomba provides plenty of opportunities to mingle with local Australians and understand their way of life. Through this interaction, you will also be exposed to a wide variety of accents and dialects that are quintessential to the Australian linguistic landscape. While it might be a bit challenging at first, gaining an understanding of these linguistic variations will prove rewarding and can assist in your overall communication skills. So, whether you’re exchanging greetings with your neighbour or discussing a class assignment with your Australian peers, every interaction contributes to your cultural competence and language proficiency.
5. Community and pace of life
Regional cities offer a clear contrast to the larger cities. Life in Toowoomba, for instance, is slower-paced and serene, giving students like Madeleine a much-needed respite from the intensity of graduate studies.
“[University] can be very overstimulating, so I need a very temperate atmosphere to balance that out,” she says.
Community connections are stronger, and, according to Madeleine, “the whole town has a charming, hometown vibe”. The warm community, beautiful parks and the overall tranquillity of Toowoomba make it a perfect setting for a balanced academic and social life.
6. Exciting local activities
Regional Australia is rich in unique local activities, allowing you to take a break from your studies and immerse yourself in the local culture. Toowoomba, known as The Garden City, hosts the annual Carnival of Flowers along with many other events, providing a window into the local community’s traditions. The weekend markets are a favourite of Madeleine, with a wide variety of local produce and crafts available. These activities give you a chance to mingle with locals, experience the Australian way of life and create memories that go beyond the lecture hall.
Image: Carnival of Flowers, Toowoomba
7. Smaller class sizes
Smaller towns mean smaller classes. But at institutions like UniSQ, smaller class sizes are not just a by-product of the regional location; they’re a strategic advantage designed to enhance the quality of education. For Madeleine, the benefit of having fewer students in her classes has been great for her learning experience. The smaller class sizes allow for closer interactions with professors and the opportunity to delve deeper into course material. This intimate and focused learning environment promotes better understanding and retention of knowledge, fostering greater academic success.
8. Embrace networking
Creating a solid social network might seem challenging at first in regional areas, but it can become an enriching journey with the right mindset. Madeleine’s experience at UniSQ and Toowoomba demonstrates that being open to new experiences, actively participating in community events and initiating conversations are key. She’s been able to make lasting friendships and form connections with her classmates and roommates. She even joined a rugby team, which not only added fun to her life but also expanded her network.
Regional universities like UniSQ hold frequent events and have clubs and societies for opportunities for students to meet new people. Remember, every conversation is a door to a new friendship or opportunity, and developing confidence and communication skills while at university will set you up for success when networking in your career.
9. Greater exposure to wildlife and nature
Another unique advantage of regional Australia is the chance to be close to the nation’s incredible wildlife and nature. In contrast to the concrete jungles of major cities, regional areas offer a chance to experience Australia’s unique biodiversity firsthand. Whether it’s a weekend camping trip to a nearby national park or a picnic at one of Toowoomba’s many beautiful local parks, living in harmony with Australia’s unique flora and fauna is an enriching experience that adds a whole new dimension to your study abroad story.
Image: Table Top Mountain/Meewah, Toowoomba
10. Future career opportunities
While the larger cities might seem like the hub for all career opportunities, regional Australia offers plenty of untapped potential. Industries like agriculture, healthcare, education, and local business thrive in these areas, providing a wealth of opportunities for graduates. Your regional experience could give you a competitive edge when applying for jobs in these sectors. UniSQ’s strong ties with local and global industries can help facilitate internships and job opportunities, making your transition from student to working professional smoother.
Learn more about studying in a regional city here.