Student Stories

Michelle Kizer

Michelle Kizer


Exchange Student at UNSW

Sydney, Australia, Fall 2012


What were the most useful things you packed, and what do you recommend to leave behind?

You should bring a camera, laptop, and the clothes you really need. It's commonplace to shop in Sydney, but to buy necessities there can be pretty expensive. Also, make sure to have dress clothes for going dancing, as there are many exchange parties at places like Ivy and the Marquis which require more than jeans and sneakers.


How did you get from the airport to the university and around town? How much does it cost?

A taxi from the airport to my place in Bondi was about 50 AUD. It's better to take the airport shuttle train (~20 AUD) or a shuttle bus coordinated at the airport or in advance with a hostel you may be staying at upon arrival (~15 AUD). Otherwise, public transport is the way to go. It's about 3.50 for medium length journeys, and there are no free transfers. MyBus Travel Ten tickets will save you money, but international students are ineligible for a concession card.


What were the most reliable sources of information for cultural events, news, travel, weather?

Exchange students often know the most about what's going on in Sydney. There will likely be an exchange group on Facebook with info on upcoming excursions and clubs offering free entry and a free drink.


How did you exchange money, and where did you find an ATM?
Check with your bank before leaving the country. Bank of America is partners with Westpac, so there are no atm fees for withdrawals, although there is an international exchange fee which can't be avoided. Make sure to remove holds on your account for international travel, so you can use your card. If you will get a job, it makes sense to open a local bank account.


What dorm would you recommend to future students? Why?

I would not recommend living on campus. I lived in Shalom College, and the food was either hit or miss. I wound up spending money in addition to the room and board to eat. Most students live together in Coogee or somewhere nearby, with weekly rents cheaper than dorming (~180-250 a week).

Campus Life

What were orientation & field trip events like?

They are very fun and include going to the Opera House, pub crawling, barbies, and going to exchange parties at the best nightclubs. Check with student exchange leaders to find out about excursions.

What were your favorite places to hang out?

I loved to sit and read by Circular Quay and I loved walking about Sydney CBD overall. Manly is also a popular hang out space.

What were your favorite extracurricular activities?

With a lot of free time, I enjoyed almost everything I did. From going out to eat with Sydney locals and dancing at Trademark Hotel, there are many fun extracurriculars to do. Skydiving with a group of friends was probably the most exciting thing I did.


Name one interesting place you visited and tell us what you liked about it.

It's easy to get to a variety of places from Sydney. I visited Gold Coast, Nimbin, Byron Bay, several places on an adventure tour in Tasmania, Melbourne and Brisbane. I loved Cairns the most, since it is very tropical with dozens of adventure and natural sites to explore. The Great Barrier Reef, Port Douglas, Kuranda, and other attractions are just a shuttle bus or cruise away. Traveling with JetStar and Tiger Airways will save you money.

Communication & Computers

Was wi-fi available in the dorms and on campus?


What was the nature of your communications with the exchange program coordinator? In what way was it supportive?

You don't have to coordinate with the exchange office, although they did schedule several events for the hundreds of students on exchange. Students are often exchange ambassadors, and provide the best information you will need.

What was the check-in process like at the international students office?

Very straightforward. The exchange office provides you with a lot of details at the beginning of the semester and is available throughout your stay.

Share any tips on communication that you think is helpful to future exchange students.

Join Facebook groups for exchange students.


What was your favorite course? What did you like about it?

I really loved MGMT3728: Managing Pay and Performance. The teacher, Donna Wilcox, was very informative, clearly explained complicated subjects, and provided assignments that were extremely helpful in understanding and practicing material. It contrasted greatly with MGMT3729: Managing Workplace Training taught by Louise Fitzgerald. Although both professors clearly had a strong knowledge base, the second was unable to articular many subjects to the class in a clear, coherent and organized manner.


Did you work while on exchange? if so where, what did you do, and what was it like to work in another culture?

No. I didn't work, but I looked at listings in  Students may inquire with local businesses and check with friends to find out what jobs are available.

How much did it pay, and did you have to pay taxes?

Most jobs pay at least $20 an hour.

Health & Safety

What health and safety issues did you encounter, if any? How did you resolve it?

Even though I'm usually never sick, I had a few 2-4 day instances of being sick. The medical center on campus can adequately cover whatever you need, and hospital visits are easily refunded if you have a good insurance plan.


Is there anything else you would like to share with prospective ILR exchange students and the ILR community, that we haven’t asked?

I had a great time in Australia. I enjoyed it so much that I will return within the next year. It is easy to balance school work with having fun. Make sure you take as much advantage of the sights as possible, because there is so much to see and so little time. Trips to New Zealand are common for short breaks.

How did you choose this particular program for a student exchange program?

I applied to all exchange programs as well as the Dublin program. I figured that I would likely end up going to Europe, so I should visit a country that I would not normally visit. Also, it helps that Australians are very laid back and friendly, and that the Great Barrier Reef and other sites like the Blue Mountains are places that must be seen.

What was your overall academic experience like?

It was very simple to do well (at least a distinction grade) in the class. Make sure you do the readings, answer the weekly assignments, start group projects ahead of time, and attend lectures. The groups and professors will rehash important information and slightly build upon it in classes, so be sure to attend. However, some classes did not require attending lectures in addition to discussion/tutorial sessions, so ensure that you at least do the readings and attend tutorials. Even though this seems like a lot, you will find that you have a lot of free time. My weekend started Wednesday at 2pm and lasted until Monday at 4pm; the mentality is that you can attend uni full time, but it is still something that does not take up a big part of life as it does at Cornell. 

- Michelle Kizer, BSILR 2013