Living in Wollongong
Wollongong is a vibrant, multicultural city, situated on one of Australia’s most picturesque coastlines. Regarded as Australia’s ‘most liveable’ regional city, Wollongong combines a relaxed, coastal atmosphere with cosmopolitan dining, shopping and culture.
Wollongong is just 80km south of Sydney – about one hour from Sydney International Airport and 90 minutes by road or train from the centre of Sydney.
Wollongong is the primary city of the Illawarra region of New South Wales, and is Australia’s tenth-largest city. More than 400,000 people live in the region. Historically, the city prospered through farming, fishing, coal mining and steel making. However education, IT & telecommunications, manufacturing and tourism have emerged as the industries of the future.
Getting to know Wollongong and UOW
Take a walk around your accommodation and around the town centre in Wollongong. You will notice the green buses 55A and 55C travelling around Wollongong all day. The green bus is the Gong Shuttle. This service is free and links UOW to the city, the beach, the Innovation Campus and Fairy Meadow; it also connects to Campus East and Weerona Colleges. The shuttle is free for everyone; it runs every 10 minutes in both directions, 7am-6pm (Mon-Fri); every 20 minutes 6pm-10pm (Mon-Fri) and 8am-6pm (weekends). It operates all year round. For more information, see UOW shuttle bus pocket guide.
Attending Orientation and Enrolment
If you are starting your studies at UOW College as an English student, you will arrive at the College early in the morning and be welcomed to the College by the Campus Director and Program Managers. You will sit an English test so you are placed in the correct class and you will then attend orientation. At orientation you will hear a lot of very important information so please do not miss orientation! You will have a free BBQ lunch and a tour of UOW and UOW College.
If you are starting your studies at UOW College in a Diploma or Foundation Studies program, you will not need to do a test on your first day, but you will need to enrol in your subjects in the computer lab after you have checked in at College reception.
You must attend Orientation too.
Opening a bank account
You will need to show your passport when opening an account. Every bank offers a key card account suitable for your day-to-day banking needs. These allow you to deposit and withdraw cash, and transfer money from any automated teller machine (ATM) or to use EFTPOS (electronic funds transfer at point of sale).
When choosing an account, make sure you ask about the transaction fees and charges on that account so you know how much it will cost you to have an account with that bank. If you are starting in an English program at UOW College, you will have the chance to open a bank account on your first day with the National Australia Bank, located on the UOW campus.
The exchange rate for the Australian dollar (AU$) fluctuates, depending on the foreign exchange market. Click through to see the current exchange rate with your currency.
We recommend you do not carry large amounts of cash around with you in Australia. $200 should be enough to cover incidental expenses until you arrive at your accommodation in Wollongong. There are money exchange facilities at Sydney International Airport, and you can also exchange money at banks in Wollongong (9.30am-4pm Monday-Thursday & 9.30am-5pm Friday).
You will require at least $500 in your first few weeks to cover personal expenses and textbooks. We recommend you bring this in traveller’s cheques or on a credit or international debit card.
The biggest four banks in Australia are: The Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, National Australia Bank and ANZ.
The National Australia Bank (NAB) has a branch on campus at UOW.
Mobile phones and calling overseas
If your existing mobile phone provider has an ‘international roaming’ agreement with a network in Australia, you can use your phone to make and receive calls in Australia. However this can be expensive – your home network provider can supply you with details on charges.
You should also check that the technology and handset are supported by mobile networks in Australia. Most phones in Australia are connected to GSM networks which operate on 900MHz and 1800MHz frequencies.
A cheaper alternative may be to purchase a ‘pre-paid’ mobile phone package in Australia. You will need to buy a mobile phone, or bring a mobile phone into which you can insert an Australian SIM card. You can then buy credit and use it until you run out of credit. You can still receive calls when you have no credit on your phone. Some of the biggest telecommunications providers in Australia are:
You can also use international calling cards – available in news agencies and post offices – as a cheap way of calling your country.
The electricity supply in Australia is 230-250 volts/AC 50 Hertz. Electrical goods from other countries usually need a conversion adaptor, and 100 volt appliances (shavers, hairdryers etc) cannot be used without a transformer, which you can buy either in your own country, or in Australia.
Transport and Driving
As well as the Gong shuttle, there is also the North Gong shuttle – which runs between the University and North Wollongong train station, and the Gwynneville Keiraville shuttle bus. These are all free. For more information visit the free shuttle buses page.
Trains run regularly up and down the coast north and south of Wollongong. For more information, visit the City Rail website.
Buses also service the area. For more information, see the Premier Illawarra website.
If you want to drive in Wollongong, see the New South Wales Roads and Traffic Authority website.
Weather and Clothing
Students often dress casually. Jeans and sports shoes are commonly worn at university. Some students wear clothing which adheres to their cultural and religious beliefs.
Summer in Wollongong and Sydney is hot and can be humid. Many students wear shorts, skirts, t-shirts and sandals. You may require a light jacket or jumper in the evenings and in air-conditioned lecture theatres.
Winter is generally mild but you will need warm clothing if arriving in July. Most private housing is not centrally heated, and heating in university accommodation may not be available or as warm as you are used to. It does not snow in Wollongong, but a warm coat or jacket is recommended.
Wollongong’s Average Temperature in Degrees Celsius
You should bring at least one set of semi-formal clothes. A sports coat or suit and tie for men, and dress or suit for women are necessary for some university functions. You may want to bring traditional dress for festive occasions.
Australia’s emergency phone number is 000. It is a free call from every phone in Australia, including mobile phones.
You should call 000 if you are in a life-threatening situation and need the help of the police, fire brigade or ambulance service. This includes if you are witnessing a crime in progress. Do not call 000 if it is not an emergency.
When you call 000, you will be connected to an operator who will help progress your request for help. You will need to tell them which service you need—police, fire or ambulance.
UOW College has an after hours emergency number. This number should only be used in case of an emergency and will ring through to one of the College managers. The number is: 4252 8815.
Sun Safety and Sun Protection
Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. The good news is it can be prevented. By minimising your exposure to the sun’s damaging ultraviolet radiation, you can protect your skin.
There are 5 simple steps you can follow to reduce your risk of skin cancer and protect your skin:
- Apply SPF 30+ broad spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen 20 minutes before you go out into the sun.
- Minimise your time in the sun between 10am and 3pm.
- Wear a hat and suitable clothing that provides good sun protection.
- Seek shade.
A rip is a strong current running out to sea. Rips are the cause of most rescues performed at beaches.
A rip usually occurs when a channel forms between the shore and a sandbar, and large waves have built up water which then returns to sea, causing a drag effect. The larger the surf the stronger the rip. Rips are dangerous as they can carry a weak or tired swimmer out into deep water.
Identifying a Rip
The following features will alert you to the presence of a rip:
- darker colour, indicating deeper water
- murky brown water caused by sand stirred up off the bottom
- smoother surface with much smaller waves, alongside white water (broken waves)
- waves breaking further out to sea on both sides of the rip
- debris floating out to sea
- a rippled look, when the water around is generally calm