Hello again The Abroad Blog readers! Nicole here, and today I’m super excited to dive into a topic I’ve been asked about many (many) times! That is, the differences between studying in Europe vs. Australia. After my second semester abroad, the first question I was asked by almost everyone was which semester I liked more. This was almost impossible to answer as my semesters couldn’t have been more different from one another. In this post I’m going to spell out all of those differences, plus touch upon a few of the similarities. I’ll also list out some pros/cons of each continent. Without further ado, let’s get into everything you need to know about studying in Europe vs. Australia!
Disclaimer: This post was originally written in February 2021 and was updated during spring 2022 for relevancy.
First, let me begin by saying these continents can’t be generalized and described in just one blog post. Please take what I’m going to share about my personal experiences with a grain of salt. Also, if anyone has any additional questions, please feel free to reach out in the comments below or via Instagram DM @nicole.rosania.
I’m beginning with Europe because this is where I did my first semester abroad during Fall 2017. I lived in Florence, Italy for 4 months while studying at Florence University of the Arts and teaching English. If you’re interested in learning more about what it’s like studying abroad in Florence, check out this post I wrote!
Why You Should Study In Europe
Disclaimer: Each city in Europe is very unique for one another, so your experiences will be different depending on where you go. Florence will be completely different from Dublin and Dublin won’t be anything like Paris. I’ll just be discussing Europe as a whole here!
You should consider studying abroad or working abroad in Europe if you enjoy sightseeing, walking, cultures, languages, and history. Europe is the perfect place if you’re a newer traveler and haven’t traveled much outside of your home country. It’s a great opportunity to see several countries in a short period of time since they are relatively close to one another and easily accessible.
Pro-tip: There are multiple ways to country hop in Europe. The most common is probably an overnight coach bus, as countries can be as close as one hour away from one another, or up to 15+ hours. There’s also an advanced train system, called the EuroRail, cheap flights, and more.
If you don’t think you’ll prioritize traveling in your future, I think Europe is a great option to see a lot at once. It’s also way more affordable to travel around Europe once you’re already there than paying for one off roundtrip flights in the future. The transportation in Europe is extremely affordable and the hostels are cheap. Unless you plan on living in an expensive city like London, Europe is much more affordable than Australia.
Why You Should Study In Australia
Australia is the perfect destination for all you adventure-seekers out there. The options for exploration are truly endless in Australia and your weekend adventures may look a little like this: Skydiving in Byron Bay, Scuba Diving the Great Barrier Reef, Camping in the Australian Outback, Sailing the Whitsunday Islands, posing with the happiest animal in the world on Rottnest Island, holding a baby koala, exploring Melbourne’s cafes, Sydney’s beaches, and more!
As you can see, you’ll be very active in Australia. Most of your trips will entail hiking, swimming, or a combination of both, and less sightseeing than Europe.
Living in Australia is more expensive than Europe. In fact, Sydney and Melbourne almost always rank in the top 10 most expensive cities to live in the world. Cocktails are ridiculously expensive in bars, flights aren’t dirt cheap, and don’t even get me started on Uber. Which yes, they do have.
Now that you know a little bit about what your time in Europe and Australia may look like, let’s get into a list of 10 differences and some pros/cons about studying in Europe vs. Australia!
Differences Between Studying In Europe vs. Australia
1. Europe Is Cheaper
The budget airlines in Europe, including RyanAir and Norwegian, can offer international flights for as little as $10 USD. The cheapest flights I found in Australia on budget airlines such as TigerAir, Scoot, and Jetstar, were usually between $50-$80 USD. And this is just between Australian cities. A flight to New Zealand may cost you upwards of $300 USD.
2. Europe Is Easier To Travel Around
Since this continent is more compact, you can easily access nearby countries via overnight buses and trains. I used FlixBus for some rides, and was able to drive the 3 hours from Brussels to Paris for $10 USD. Australia is far too large for bus rides. Most people underestimate the size of the country. For example, if you were to take a bus from Sydney to (somewhat) nearby Melbourne, it would take 9 hours. Sydney to the Great Barrier Reef would take a whooping 26!
3. Europe Is For Sightseeing, Australia Is For Adventure
Of course you do your fair share in both, but it’s going to look different. For example, in Europe, you’re often going to find yourself in different churches, palaces, government buildings, etc. each weekend learning about the history of the country. If this makes you want to yawn, check out Australia! Where your weekend sightseeing will consist of exploring different beaches, reefs, and deserts. While you will have your fair share of adventure in Europe, I certainly did when I went paragliding in Interlaken, Australia is much more adventurous. In one month alone, I jumped out of a plane, swam with a shark, and camped under the stars in a desert.
The weather in Australia is going to be HANDS DOWN better than Europe. Even if you’re staying on Italy’s Mediterranean Coast, Australia is famous for its strong sun and mild climate. The coldest it got in Sydney was about 60 degrees, a big difference from the 30 degree temperature Florence experiences in the winter. The downside? You can’t leave your house without sunscreen in Australia. The hole in the Ozone is apparently right over the continent, making it the skin cancer capital of the world.
5. Australia Is More “Off the Beaten Path”
It’s much harder to get to Australia than Europe for most of us Americans, so why not study abroad there! Ask yourself this, when will you ever visit again? And for more than just 10 precious days of PTO…? You can ALWAYS go to Europe. As mentioned above, Australia is GINORMOUS, and requires multiple weeks, if not months, to really scratch the surface. It also takes two whole days to get there, so don’t do it dirty and visit for a week. Please.
First, there’s going to be an obvious difference in cost here as a flight to Europe could range from $300-$2,000 while a flight to Australia is more in the $1,000-$4,000 range. YOU can score some serious deals though! I know of roundtrip flights to Sydney for like $600. However, if you despise flying, the 24 hr+ flight may not be worth it for you, even if you only have to do it 2x in 5 months. I personally didn’t mind it at all, but you are much farther away from home in Australia, relatively speaking.
7. Time Frame
You’re probably most familiar with the typical semester system of August/September – December and January – May, however it’s different abroad. In Europe, this is pretty much the norm. I was in Florence from late August to mid-December, so about 4 months. In Australia, however, the semesters are skewed. If you study abroad in the fall (their spring) you’ll be there from July to November and return home around Thanksgiving. If you study abroad in the spring semester like I did, you’ll be in Australia for the fall, which is February – June. The reason why it’s like this is because their 3 month summer break is November -February and their one month winter break is June – July. This is very different from our May – August summer break here in the US and our December – January winter break, so keep this in mind!
8. Class Structure
Classes are very different overseas than they are in the US, but this entirely depends on the country. In Europe they will be typical lecture-styled classes that probably meet about once a week with a few major assignments throughout the semester.
In Australia, you’ll have two types of meetings per class. A lecture and a tutorial. Luckily, the lecture and tutorial will usually be back to back, so it’s really just one 3 hour class (like in Europe), that meets once a week. I did have to change rooms though and had different people in my tutorials than my lectures. Some of my friends had to return to campus on another day for their class’s tutorial. The lecture is exactly what it sounds like, it’s the portion of class meant for notes and learning content. The tutorial is where you do group work, in-class participation, and cover skills such as citing a paper.
9. Language Barriers & Culture Shock
Since Australians speak English, you’ll have no problem communicating if English is also your first language. It’s a misconception to think Australia is just like the US in terms of culture, because it’s really not, but you won’t experience severe culture shock when transitioning. In Europe, however, there’s a multitude of languages spoken, most of which will be very foreign to you. Although most Europeans learn English in school, there will definitely be a language barrier present most places you travel. Also, you’re bound to experience culture shock often as each country is very unique and quite different from the US. For starters, I had to adjust to living in an apartment in Florence that was 300 years older than our country. Let that digest…
10. Quality vs. Quantity
The last difference between studying in Europe vs. Australia has to do with quality vs. quantity. Spending a semester Down Under will be full of quality travel throughout Australia, where you will become fully acclimated to the Aussie culture and way of life. On the other hand, if your focus isn’t so much on truly getting to know your host country and you just want to visit as many places as possible, Europe is probably the option for you. The quantity of countries you can visit abroad and cultures you can experience will far out weigh those in Oceania. It’s really just a personal preference and choice you’ll have to make as a traveler in determining which one you deem most important. So ask yourself, quality travel or quantity?
Similarities Between Studying In Europe vs. Australia
Now that I’ve outlined all of the differences between studying in Europe vs. Australia, it’s time to highlight a few similarities.
1. Epic Nightlife
Studying abroad entails only a little bit of studying and a whole lot of fun. Whether you’re looking for picturesque rooftop bars or clubs that bop until the sun comes up, you’ll be able to find these across both Europe and Australia. I had some of the wildest nights of my life in both places, so don’t worry about this one.
2. Established Abroad Programs
You’ll be with TONS of other study abroad students! Although Europe probably takes the crown for the most popular study abroad locations, Australia is a close second with herds of students congregating in places like Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Gold Coast. You will have both American and local friends in either location.
3. International Travel
Travel is possible in either, but it will look different. You’re bound to come home with a few more passport stamps than when you left. But ask yourself – do you want these stamps to be from Germany, Spain, and France or New Zealand, Fiji, and Thailand?
Europe and Australia are probably two of the safest continents in the world. Especially Australia. Although you ALWAYS need to have your guard up abroad, you can rest easy in either location. Tourists frequent these places by the millions each year, so you won’t be the only foreigner.
5. You Will Have The Time Of Your Life
Coming from someone who was lucky enough to experience both of these continents to the fullest, you will undoubtedly have the time of your life wherever you end up! Although this may seem like an overwhelming decision at first, it’s a fun one. You really can’t go wrong here.
I included a lot of pros/cons about studying in Europe vs. Australia in the differences and similarities above, but the general takeaway here is that Europe’s main pro is the ability to country hop affordably while Australia’s pro is the adventures you’ll have. My number one con for Europe is the pressure most students put on themselves to see everything they can and never fully appreciating their host country. For Australia, the con would be the expensive cost.
Hopefully these differences and similarities paint a picture of what your semester abroad could look like in either Europe or Australia, and help you come to your decision. Even if you don’t plan on going abroad for a few years, it’s a big decision to make and something you should spend a lot of time thinking about. Like I mentioned above, if anyone has any additional questions, please feel free to reach out! I hope this post helps you determine whether a semester abroad in Europe or Australia is the better option for you!
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