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travelling to brisbane from India

Living in Brisbane: Things to do as a student who just arrived in Australia

I have taken an inevitable plunge in life in the last few weeks. I left for Brisbane, Australia, from New Delhi, India, on the eve of Christmas in 2023.

Moving places is tricky. It entails leaving one comfort space in search of another. It also requires one to endure leaving behind a part of their lives (i.e. families, friends, and loved ones) in that certain space and move on into the unknown.

While it can be oft-challenging, people move all the time. They leave one place for another in search of jobs, better education, and a good life. The act of seeking something requires movement—from the present situation to another (for better or worse).

I was scared as much as I was excited about the prospect of having to travel—moving to another part of the world, having to cross oceans literally (and praying that the plane lands safely!), and to a new culture and society.

As a migrant, you are not sure what it feels like to go and to be in another society. At the same time, you are all the more excited about starting it all over again—among strangers, building relations, and not feeling judged for what you are.

I carried with me both the anxieties and enthusiasms. Now that I have stayed over almost a fortnight in Brisbane, I feel happier for doing this.

1079px Michaelmano story bridge
The Story Bridge in Brisbane, Australia | By Michael Mano – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Surely, the society is different.

There are new rules. There are traffic rules—that people follow! I spent the very first few days getting used to the Australian system of rules.

People get on buses without bus conductors (unlike in India), use a tap card (known here as a Go Card), and press a red button for the bus to stop at their destinations.

Traffic rules in Brisbane, Australia

The traffic rules are interesting! There are always vehicles waiting for their turns in the traffic signals. There are buttons to point that pedestrians are waiting to cross the paths.

Whenever these buttons are pressed, the signals blink to allow pedestrians to cross the road without the fear of getting run over by a car or a bus. These two things came as a social shock for me.

Besides that, there are a lot more Indians than I had thought there were in Australia. You may find Indian supermarkets (called Swadesh) occasionally. There is everything one gets in India but for a little extra money.

Starting at the Saint Lucia, Brisbane

The first day I came to my flat in Saint Lucia, I had to do a lot of cleaning and settling myself in. I was nervous. It was hot, and I didn’t go out the entire day. I had no mattress, table, chair, or other things in my shared flat.

In the evening, I looked up a good mattress on the Facebook marketplace—and the next day, the seller delivered it to my place for some extra dollars.

After that, I got myself a table, chair, study lamp, and bookshelf, all for some dollars in the marketplace.

Personally, the FB marketplace has been such a lifesaver in terms of my living in Australia—from searching for empty flats closer to the University to purchasing stuff on the FB marketplace, it’s all been fantastic!

But, while purchasing on the FB marketplace, exercise your caution.

Go Card, Australian sim card, and a bank account

Apart from that, you need three essential things to start as a student in Australia: An Australian sim card, a transportation card (Go Card) and an Australian bank account.

These three are essential. First, get a phone number at a nearby supermarket or any local store. There are several services (Vodafone, Optus, Telstra, to name a few).

While Telstra is considered the best service in Australia, it is not particularly cheap initially. But don’t worry about which service you are buying. Buy anyone for a month, and then you can always port your number to another student-friendly service–and the process is simple.

I have an Optus plan with me, but I will soon shift to a plan that shouldn’t cost me a lot, given some bank offers.

(Also, keep in mind that if you have Wi-Fi at home and university, you don’t need to spend even more money on monthly mobile data packages. That is something you ought to keep in mind.)

Once you set yourself up with a phone number, you must create your bank account in Australia. Remember, this is always only possible after you have gotten yourself a local SIM card. So, first start with a local SIM card and then a bank account.

Since you are an international student, it is manageable to sustain for a few days with your Forex/international debit card, but you still need a bank account to get started. For that, I suggest you visit the nearest Bank to get started. As a starter who did not know much about banking, I am told that most people use CommBank (The Commonwealth Bank of Australia, shorted as CBA) by several individuals.

If you are a UQ student, I suggest you visit the nearest CommBank (one of them is in Toowong Village, and the other is in the West End). But there are other good options as well, so do your research!

To set up your bank account, you must carry a COE, passport, and tax number of the country you come from (in India, it is a Permanent Account Number and a PAN card).

Finally, you can always get a Go Card in any 7-Eleven Store. And there is one very close to the Toowong Village. Soon after you receive your card, you can also apply online for student concession (tertiary concession), which is half the price for every destination you visit.

Moving and commuting around Brisbane

As I settled in a bit, I travelled around Brisbane city. Closer to Brisbane are two prominent beach cities, the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast.

You can travel to these places by public transportation using the Go Card. Although I have not really travelled to most parts of Brisbane yet, I am sure the next few years here will allow me to move around the country.

buses in brisbane
A Bus crossing the Victoria Bridge heading to West End | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The weather in Brisbane is not all that bad!

Brisbane is not all that hot or cold—perhaps, all too gentle for someone who has complained of Delhi weather throughout the four-odd years.

Unlike Delhi’s extreme temperature in both summer and winter, Brisbane receives some rain during the summers, keeping its heat in check. Some people complain about the heat, but the temperature is not all that unbearable for me.

Buying groceries, cooking, and eating as a student

Regarding the food habits of an Indian in Brisbane. We, Indians, love our spices. And it is a well-known fact about our society.

So, if you know a bit about cooking, you shouldn’t have any problem. Since the day I came, except for the first day, I have not faced any issues with cooking and eating—two things you must do yourself.

toowong village in brisbane
Toowong Village in Brisbane | Picture: Wikimedia Commons

I often enjoy cooking my meals. I go to the Toowong Village (a shopping centre closer to my place), Coles and Woolworths to buy groceries in Brisbane.

They are not all that costly if you are sustaining scholarships. Otherwise, you would have to depend on a specific part-time gig/job, which several students readily do.

Take a good walk or run!

After settling in, I also regularly go for runs in the morning. It usually helps to do your chores early and go to the University Campus.

Running next to the Brisbane River flowing into the city feels refreshing. As you run through the streets, you witness aesthetically appealing Queenslander-styled houses lined up on both sides of the roads.

I have not fully explored the University of Queensland (UQ) campus, for it is initially big and confusing. However, I am looking forward to visiting the UQ lake, whose refurbishment, I am told, had cost a significant sum of money.

I will also visit the South Bank, a very exquisite area of Brisbane city. Apart from that, I also have to take a ferry to move between places, because travelling on it feels very beautiful. At Uni, the faculties I am working with are very kind, helpful, and supportive.

That is something I am fortunate to have.

People and lifestyle in Brisbane

Brisbane is a vibrant and diverse city with many things to offer, especially for students. It is known for its multicultural community. As a student, you will encounter diverse people from across societies. Be open to learning from them and making friends.

Local people are very kind.

While walking or crossing paths, many people smile at you and treat you with kindness. They go a step further in helping you once in a while. There is also a thriving cafe culture, with many cafes and eateries within UQ and in the city.

Apart from that, Brisbane also has an excellent arts and entertainment scene. Something called Eat Street invites people from all over Brisbane to come, celebrate, and take a bite. It is worthwhile.

Brisbane’s cost of living has increased in the last few years, but it is still very affordable compared to Sydney and Melbourne.

While there are still things to do, places to visit, and people to meet, I now take your leave. Maybe I will add a few posts on itineraries to travel, visa processes, and other things over the period.

So, for now, I wish you a good day 😊

Cover Photo: Kgbo, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

6 thoughts on “Living in Brisbane: Things to do as a student who just arrived in Australia”

  1. hi Adarsh, delighted to see you starting a new phase (and a degree!) in life. I hope you’ll have a wonderful time in the coming days.

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