Hey there! I’m Matt, a first-year medical student at The University of Queensland (UQ), originally from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Whether you’re a prospective international student exploring your options for Universities abroad, or an Australian student who is navigating the different stepping stones to your future career, I hope that my experiences so far as a student at UQ can give you some insight and provide you with some useful tips.
In these series of blogs, I will be focusing on moving to Australia (from Canada), my thoughts on UQ so far, student life, Brisbane, my adventures around Australia, some travel tips, as well as why I am grateful every day that my journey in life has led me to Brisbane. I hope you enjoy!
As someone who hasn't travelled much outside of North America before moving for school, I always knew I wanted to visit Australia. However, I always felt it to be a bit more out of reach because of how far away and how isolated Australia is from other popular travel destinations in Europe, Asia, and South America. I told myself that I’d certainly see Australia one day, but I never knew when I’d get the chance. When I found out I was accepted to UQ, I was both excited and nervous.
I’m sure that even Queensland locals can appreciate that, from an outsider’s perspective, most people think of Sydney and Melbourne when they think of travelling to Australia. I had a general idea about Brisbane; it was about halfway up Australia and warmer than the rest of Australia’s major cities for most of the year. Honestly, I didn’t really know much about Brisbane until I got here and I had no idea what to expect. It didn’t take long before I fell in love with the city and its easygoing atmosphere. There’s something about Brisbane that is different; I’m told it’s a Queensland thing, that the people here are more laidback, and that Brisbane really is a big city that thinks it’s a country town. Having visited Sydney, I see the comparison. For a large city, Brisbane doesn’t feel like it. It’s clean, quiet in the evenings and rarely congested outside commuter hours. Different farmers markets and festivals are around each corner and there is a feeling of life in the air.
Though I’ve only lived here for about six months, I’ve quickly come to feel that Brisbane is somewhere I could call home. Sure, if you’d told me two years ago that I would move away from my family, friends, and the country I am so proud to be from, to a new city halfway across the world, I wouldn’t believe a word you said, but the more I’m here, the more I can see myself staying…*sorry Mom!*
Brisbane is the ideal place to live. Affordable, not overly congested, rich with trees and water, and other than the odd heatwave in the summer, the temperature is always tolerable. The kind of place that you could leave your window open all year if you had a cozy blanket for winter and a fan for summer. Aside from that, it’s only a short drive to gorgeous beaches, world-class surfing, and vast forests and mountains for hiking enthusiasts.
Life outside Med School
Regardless of what you’re studying or where you are from, it’s important to take time to relax and explore the world around you, and to try your hand at the experiences each new place offers you. Considering I’d never been to Australia before moving here, I’ve done my best to explore the country in my free time!
After first settling into Brisbane, myself and a friend of mine (another Canadian in 1st Year med at UQ) ventured to Sydney, staying in Bondi Beach for a few days after meeting up with my closest childhood friend. We took a day and toured around Darling Harbour; saw the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, as well as the aquarium and zoo. There’s something special about catching up with a close friend somewhere entirely new.
It was in Sydney that I also experienced my first cricket match (Big Bash League), shamelessly cheering for Brisbane – my adopted city – in foreign territory. When our time in Sydney came to an end, we rented a car and drove up the coast back towards Brisbane. The vast forests and coastal mountains, the impressive and wide floodplains, and the charming little riverside towns we passed showed me another side of this country. We caught the sunset and the 5am sunrise in Coff’s Harbour, a charming little beach town in north-east New South Wales, before continuing towards Byron Bay and back to Brisbane through the Gold Coast.
To celebrate completing half of our first semester of medicine, I went to the Sunshine Coast with close friends, staying in Peregian Beach, where we swam and hiked up the coast towards Noosa. In my short time here, I’ve also been fortunate to camp and hike in the mountains of southern Queensland, where we swam in natural freshwater rock pools, enjoying the vast blue skies along the way. With no exaggeration, I’m quickly realizing how a lifetime wouldn’t be enough time to see everything this amazing country has to offer.