You’ve probably heard of the Gold Coast – Australia’s famous tourist mecca, with incredible beaches, enormous theme parks, stunning national parks, and near-perfect, hot, sunny days year-round. What people may not realise is that it’s also an incredibly popular student city thanks to its easy-going lifestyle, affordability and excellent education providers.
Law student Pritesh Pachchigar told us about his experience as an international student living on the Gold Coast, the differences between Canada and Australia, and the city’s best beaches.
MOVING TO THE SUNSHINE STATE
Throughout his undergraduate degree in Business Administration at Simon Fraser University in his hometown of Vancouver, Canada, Pritesh found himself drawn to law – which was the catalyst in his decision to study overseas.
“I’ve always been curious about the legal side of business,” he says. “That’s what drew me to going abroad internationally and getting international experiences in the legal sense.”
Once he had decided to go abroad, Pritesh started researching. His goal was to find the perfect university in the best city possible. While looking at online resources was helpful, Pritesh found that proactively reaching out to current students gave him valuable insight into specific courses and schools.
“I ended up messaging a lot of people on LinkedIn that go to the University of Queensland, that go to Bond University, and a few universities in Sydney, and I started getting a gist of where I wanted to go,” he says.
Filling all his criteria was Bond University on the Gold Coast, where Pritesh began his Juris Doctor program in 2018.
“The Bond JD program really resonated well with my needs and what my future prospects look like after I complete my degree,” he says. “The Gold Coast also seemed to fit really well in my comfort zone, in terms of moving to a whole new country. The Gold Coast is ranked number one in affordability in Australia, so that was a really important factor.”
SETTLING IN – GOLD COAST-STYLE
Pritesh’s transition from Vancouver to the Gold Coast was a fairly straightforward one. While Canada and Australia are relatively similar in a lot of ways, he attributes the easy settling-in process to the high numbers of students coming from abroad to study.
“There are 32,000 international students living on the [Gold] Coast – I felt like everyone that I talked to around me was from abroad,” he says. “We all knew what each other was going through and that’s something that really makes a difference. Because if there are people around you going through the same thing, the transition is much easier.”
There was also a wealth of resources for international students on the Gold Coast, focused on helping them adjust to their new lives.
“Study Gold Coast, for instance, has a lot of support they give to international students, such as visa help, scholarships, resume workshops and study spaces. Those little things really make a difference because they’re tailored to the different needs of international students.”
The main difference Pritesh notices between Vancouver and the Gold Coast is the weather and climate. Although he can’t enjoy some of his favourite pastimes as easily anymore, he has managed to replace them with some quintessential Australian hobbies.
“I’m an avid skier so I miss the snow and the winter sports, but the beaches over here definitely made up for a large chunk of that – I get to try different things like surfing, [as] the beach is only 10 minutes away,” he says. “I was on the beach on Christmas Day, which was weird for me because I’m usually surrounded by snow!”
As for his favourite beaches on the Gold Coast?
“Broadbeach and Miami are my go-tos.”
STUDYING AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS
Having already completed his undergraduate degree, Pritesh was familiar with university and its expectations. However, he found the approach to learning was different in Australia.
“Studying law, I found I was interested in the corporate and commercial side of things,” he says. “I was able to apply my knowledge straight away. Back in Canada, at law school, you’re pretty much just writing exams and you don’t get practical experience right away, but over here you’re able to apply what you learn in a practical setting.”
By being proactive and getting involved in opportunities offered by Bond University, Pritesh has been able to take part in a range of activities to enhance his resume.
“I’m doing a litigation clinic with the Federal and Supreme Court right now, which allows me to apply what I’ve learnt in my degree right away to the field where I’ll be working. I was selected for representing my cohort for my JD program, so I feel like just being involved made me reassured that this was totally worth going for.”
Pritesh was also made a Mayor’s Student Ambassador and has started his own not-for-profit as part of the program – YouthLab Initiative. YouthLab has impacted over 100 Indigenous Australian students and is about to launch its second event, career coaching with two-time TEDx speaker, Josh Farr.
“At YouthLab, we organise events and workshops for youth [and] we try to provide them with opportunities to connect with industry professionals in the community,” he says. “If someone wants to be a lawyer, they can see someone who’s in the process of that, or someone that’s been in the industry for 20 years, and can decide if that’s what they really want to do. When they apply for university, they will know the direction they want to take.”
While Pritesh had initial plans to head home to Canada upon graduating, he’s now considering staying in Australia.
“When I moved here, I was just thinking of doing my degree and heading back, but after being here, I ended up changing plans and I’m thinking of staying here,” he says. “Things like YouthLab and the Mayor’s Student Ambassador program have allowed me to give back to the community, so I feel like being here will allow me to continue that.
“Once I finish my degree in two years, I’m going to try and get licensed over here in Queensland and then start practising full-time.”
ADVICE FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS
Pritesh offers sound advice for fellow international students, referring to his personal experience and the thorough research he completed before moving to the Gold Coast.
“Don’t be shy reaching out to people,” he says. “Reach out to someone on LinkedIn, or if you have a family friend that’s living here, just reach out and ask them about their experience – you’ll get a different insight [which will] help you get into the process of moving to a different country. Getting that momentum is really important.”
Although, he does acknowledge that a big move can be an adjustment.
“Come with an open mind. A lot of students here get bogged down by the fact that they’re so far away from home, they miss their family… I experienced the same thing.”
However, he has a logical workaround when it comes to battling homesickness and settling into your new environment.
“We do live in the 21st century and we’re in a country that’s fortunate enough to have good technology,” he says. “You can make use of that; stay connected with people back home through Skype and social media. You need to find the right balance of staying connected back home and enjoying your stay in Australia.”