Hacks to Save Money When Travelling in Europe

  1. Find a Geographical Focus

It is easy, if not natural, to get wrapped up in the excitement of endless possibilities when planning your voyage throughout Europe. When considering what historic streets and enchanted cities you want to roam, many look solely at the well-loved destinations such as Paris, London (although no longer in the European Union), Milan, Rome. Whilst some do jet-set from corner to corner of Europe to experience major cities, it is imperative to be methodical and geographically focused when planning your route.

My best friend and I ran into this issue whilst booking our voyage.

We had both visited different countries respectively and neither of us were willing to overlook unseen cities for those that were familiar. In out attempts of working around said issue, it became apparent that we would have to invest thousands upon thousands for a few weeks of travel to jet-set throughout Europe.

AUSTRIA>LODZ>WARSAW>KRAKOW>BUDAPEST>ZAGREB>SPLIT>HVAR>ZDAR>

DUBROVNIK>KORCULA>PRAGUE>AUSTRALIA

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In retrospect, our excitement and naivety led us to making inefficient decisions that lost us valuable time and wads of cash. What is painfully apparent is that you cannot see all of Europe at once, and to be frank, you probably shouldn’t either. If you are lucky enough to do so, travel at multiple stages throughout your life, when you have different passions, interests and desires.

If you, like us, have no idea where to start and how to determine what the natural route of travel is, I recommend referring to established bus and train routes to grasp the most efficient way of seeing as many cities as you can.

2. Stay Central and Travel by Foot

An ethos I have worked by throughout all my trips domestic and abroad. Whilst residing in
central city locations can be on the pricier side, savings from not using public transport, taxis and ride-sharing services should be accounted for in the price of your central location.

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3.  Continental Breakfasts 

The gift that keeps on giving.

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I am yet to stay at a hotel or hostel in Europe that does not provide a continental breakfast,complimentary or not. A sneaky penny saving tactic that I have used in the past is packing lunch on the go at the breakfast bar.

A simple ziplock bag can house a sumptuous rustic sandwich made with fresh and healthy product, too often overlooked whilst travelling.

In doing so, I am unashamed to have saved hundreds if not thousands of dollars with packed lunches.

4.  Travel with Countries not on the Euro

Exchange rates can be a make or break when travelling on a tight budget. Eastern European nation such as Poland, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania that have a favourable exchange rate in comparison to the AUD/US Dollar/Pound will not drain your pockets and accounts.

Note: Strong economies that do not adhere to the Euro currency, such as Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark and the UK can be onerous on the back pocket. 

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5. Pack a Flask

No, not that type of flask.

I mean, each to their own but that’s not what I’m referring to.

A trick I recently learnt on my cruise is to take a lightweight flask that can maintain theh999bu078_t2-stainless-steel-flask-lilac_r1
warmth of tea or coffee for the duration of the day. Whilst some may see this as a ludicrous proposition, for someone like me who drinks 5+ cups of
tea daily, I can save on average $700AUD within the month of travel.

6. Beauty Maintenance 

Calling it out for what it is, beauty maintenance services in travel hubs is the equivalent of a daylight robbery.

Forget the gypsies and pick-picketers, the lay-traveller should fear the beautician and how much he/she will charge you.

Every time I return to Europe, I learn the hard way (over and over again) that shellac is not anywhere near as popular and affordable as it is in Australia.

Whilst I am consistent with my fortnightly shellac maintenance, affording that same maintenance overseas makes me feel like I’ve sold my soul for a fresh pair of non-cuticle, coloured claws. For the sake of your monobrow, nails, spirit and account – tick a pair of tweezers, a bottle of nail polish and hair treatments off your ‘to pack‘ list.

7. Be an Aware Passenger (Taxis)

Before departing for Budapest, I was advised by fellow travellers that the taxi-drivers in Eastern Europe are notoriously known for ripping tourists off. I, ever the optimist, paid little attention to the advice offered to me, being:

A. Familiarise yourself with the rate of the side of the taxi.
B. Ask the driver whether they can estimate how much the fare will come to, and/or whether they are willing to establish a set price before the meter begins.
C. If all else fails, bargain with different drivers until you are offered a reasonable price.

Even with this advice, we were ripped off and charged a ridiculous amount for a 10 minute adventure. Ironically, the driver who was perfectly competent in the english language and conversed with us throughout the whole journey, claimed there was a language barrier when we questioned the final fare cost charged.

8. Hop-on-Hop-off Buses

2016 was the year of the hop-on-hop-off adventures. The amount I crammed into a limited amount of time stands testament to how fantastic these services truly are.

The beauty of the hop-on-hop-off service is that it is tailored to facilitate the ‘go-to’ placed for tourists whilst still allowing the option to sight-see solo.

When I sit and calculate how much time, effort and money would be funnelled into catching public transport and hiring a tour guide, it is evident that these services are both efficient and economical.

9. Travel Insurance

Need I say more?

You are potentially saving yourself hundreds of thousands of dollars if one of your adventures turns pear-shaped.

In the meantime, happy travelling!

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Travel Tips & Tricks: Cruises

 

I went on a cruise.

Now there’s something I never thought I would say/write.

Whilst I have always loved travelling (if you couldn’t already tell after reading Honestly, Is Travelling In Your 20’s Really Worth It?), I never really gave crusing a second thought. For me a holidays correlated with planes, trains and everything in between, bar boats.

I suprised myself in agreeing to book a quick little getaway with my partner on the Pacific Jewel, and at the other side of the trip, and I readily await my next cruising experience (and when that time comes, I will be sure to return to this post as a refresher).

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1.Calculate your expenses using the cost-per-day method

When determining what cruise to book, calculate the cost per-day expenses.

Whilst it may seem daunting to shell out hundreds of dollars for a few days of excitement, when you break down the daily costs and what those funds include, the value of the cruise really speaks for itself.

Sidenote: Seems that the cost-per-wear ideology is trickling into other areas of daily life!

2. Make a standing reservation for dinner at the Waterfront Restaurant

The Waterfront Restaurant was honestly one of the highlights of the cruising experience!

My partner and I determined by the end of the trip that if we were to dine at a restaurant in Sydney for four nights in a row, our bill would amount to more than what our cruise fare was.

The Waterfront Restaurant is a gorgeous dining experience where a large selection of fine-dining meals are available and included in your cruise fare. The Waterfront to me felt like a date night every evening – with the impeccable service, food, decor and attention to detail, it was easy to forget the fact that you are actually on the high seas.

Every day our anticipation grew throughout the day, wondering what we would indulge in that evening. Needless to say my extra 2kg of weight on my frame was well worth the experience of the Waterfront Restraunt. I am happy to run on a treadmill for a few weeks for my few days of unrestricted indulgence.

If you are cruising on the Pacific Jewel, as soon as you get on the cruise liner, head to level 7 and make a standing reservation for each evening at a consistent time… thank me later!

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p.s if the images do not look appealing, blame it on the photography – in reality the food was flawless.

 3. Bring an empty flask or water bottle

My biggest concern before boarding the boat is quite possibly the most ridiculous concern anyone could ever have – I was concerned with the tea situation. My browsing history was all kinds of odd – I neurotically googled and enquired whether there was tea available onboard, whether I was required to purchase a ‘drinks package’ and whether it was humanly possible to sneak a kettle in my bag without detection.

One of the better decisions I made was taking one of my valentine’s day presents on board with me, that being a T2 tea flask that keeps drinks hot for 6-8 hours on average. I quite literally probably spent more time on level 12 where the tea dispenser was than I did in my room.

If you on the other hand are not a tea fan and you are wondering how you are to have water onboard (because let’s be real, who wants to spend copious amounts of money on water), I recommend brining an empty water bottle and filling it up onboard. Whilst it is asked that you do not directly place your water bottle under the water dispenser, I filled cups of water and poured that water into my bottle to ensure I was hygenic and respectful to other patrons and that I was not going to die of dehydration.

4. Prepay your ‘Cruise Card’

Two words – accountability and security

Call me paranoid, but I prefer to keep my card details to myself, rather than share my financial details with business and corporations. Whilst I acknowledge that there is little chance of banking details falling into the wrong hands – I will take any and every precaution I can take.

Further, why not keep yourself financially accountable and stay on-top of your onboard spending habits?!

I know that this is a tip that the cruise liner would prefer you not take, and might I note that we were not informed that there were pre-paid cruise card options onboard, but be sure to ask about the option when boarding the ship.

5. Schedule your daily activities the night before

Cruises are fantastic not only for their great service and culinary delights, but also for their on-board experiences. With the amount of comedy shows, dance classes, tournaments, trivia games and movies on offer, it can be difficult to schedule in everything that you want to experience within the hours available.

As I was travelling with my partner, we had to compromise with one another and determine what our daily activities would be the night before. P & O Cruises leave the daily schedule for the next day, ‘Good Times‘, allowing you the opportunity to pre-plan your onboard experiences.

We sat with a pen and initialled the activities we wanted to be involved in and debate why we should choose one over the other… (ladies, you know you’re onto a good thing when your partner agrees to take two dance classes at the cost of their table-tennis tournament).

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6. Get to know the cruise staff members

Cruise staff work ridiculously hard, they are always so chirpy and helpful and should be recognised for their amazing service and professionalism. Say good morning when you pass them in the hall, take the time to talk to the entertainment staff and find out about their stories – after all, that is the beauty of travel.

7. Forget about the internet (and WIFI for that matter!)

Yes, you will feel like Tom Hanks in Castaway without internet.

Yes, you will survive. No, the ‘free wifi’ will not work, even in public spaces.

8. Pre-purchase your adventure activities prior to the cruise

Moreton Island is a beautiful destination, yet given the stringent time frame allocated for activities on the Island, I am so grateful that we booked our adventures before the cruise commenced. If we were to book on the Island, the time lost in determining what adventures we wanted to take and organising the experience would have eaten away a chunk of the day that would be better spent in the water.

Note that there was no price difference in our experience between repurchased activities and those that could be bought on the day.

9. Pack a capsule wardrobe

A golden rule for any travels is organising a versatile capsule wardrobe.

Packing Rules:

1. Do not pack anything you don’t absolutely love–you won’t wear it. Like an capsule wardrobe, you wan’t to focus only on what you adore. Instead, you’ll re-wear the things you do love, and will have wasted space for nothing. (If you don’t love something, why do you own it anyway?)

2. Pick a color scheme, and stick to it. Every single item you pack must also match every other item you pack. This results in dozens of outfit combinations and virtually zero effort required to get dressed every day. Sticking to classic basics also ensures you won’t look back at photos and think, “GOD what was I wearing!?” Remember, there is nothing chicer than all-black.

3. Limit yourself to three pairs of shoes. There’s a reason most capsule wardrobes limit footwear choices, you really don’t need that many!

A Travel Capsule Wardrobe: Your Ultimate Packing List

10. Take a power-board with you

With two power ports in each room and multiple appliances to charge, packing a powerboard was an ingenious idea!

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Museum of Broken Relationships, Zagreb

Somehow in our endeavour to plan the best and timely European adventure, my best friend and I mistakenly attributed too many days of our trip to Zagreb, Croatia. Whilst Zagreb’s scenery and culture differs greatly from others around Croatia, my best friend and I respectfully felt like one day was appropriate to cover the whole city centre – rookie error, we know.

Somewhat underwhelmed by the range of activities available, at the recommendation of our bus conductor, we decided to pop into ‘The Museum of Broken Relationships’. Located on a side street just off the central shopping strip, the quaint minimalist museum turned out to be the saving grace of our Zagreb-ian encounters.

The Museum of Broken Relationships is like nothing we had ever seen. A museummuseum-of-broken-relationships-exhibit-in-zagreb-croatia-the-blonde-gypsy-1024x768 solely dedicated to the conclusion of relationships, whether they be romantic, platonic, familial, working or an intrinsic relationship. Comprising of hundreds of submissions donated from all over the world, the museum chooses from the pool of submissions and displays of people who want to share their experiences, sentiments and wisdom pertaining to broken relationships. Each submission consists of a physical object (although some submissions are multimedia presentations) accompanied by a short statement or explanation about said relationship. A relatively simple concept that can somehow impact you to the core.

My best friend and I were advised by our bus conductor that the museum was thought up by a previously married couple who had recently divorced. Whilst in the process of sorting through their home and their shared physical possessions, it became apparent that some physical items were of great sentimentality, holding memories of a better time where the couple were happy and passionately in love. Unknowing how to either dispose or split the items, they thought up the genesis of “The Museum of Broken Relationships”.

If you let it, the museum can take you on a 360-degree emotional journey. You will laugh, you will cry, you will question the depths and the depravity of humanity, you will reflect and you will thank yourself for going (and me for recommending it to you). Submissions range from childhood sweethearts aching for one another decades on, from children neglected by their parents, widows who will not allow themselves to move on, to refugees pining for their former lands and lifestyles. The museum reminds you that everyone has a story and whilst you might be in pain from any type of loss, you are not alone – hidden inside all of us are scars of the past.

Nothing in the Museum of Broken Relationships is hidden behind glass. Visitors are asked not to touch objects (too much) but it’s not the objects that are ‘sacred’; it’s the story they tell. And thus, although the facilities are great, lighting isn’t always perfect, some of the walls have cracks and the presentation isn’t always very subtle. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that the museum tells a real story. Museums of the Future

Some original images I captured at the museum:

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What I admire most is the museum’s openness to visitors contributing to the exhibition. A large black book sits upon an altar at the back of the museum with a pen beside it. There visitors are able to share their stories, their trauma, heartbreak and their second chances after their broken relationship. Considering how emotionally impactful the museum is, it was no surprise to my best friend and I that both men and women sobbed over the book, writing their stories for people from all over the world to read. We too capitalised on the experiences and shared some wisdom, wrote some profanities and walked away with a sense of relief.

Other messages we enjoyed, include:

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I honestly can not recommend the Museum of Broken Relationships enough. What was a ploy of wasting time, turned into one of the most enjoyable experiences of my euro-trip. If you find yourself in Zagreb (or any of the nations that the museum is touring in), put the museum on your ‘must see’ list!

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Honestly, Is Travelling In Your 20’s Really Worth It?

Upon my return from my first parentless grand european adventure, the most common question I have encountered from every Tom, Dick, Harry and Jane is “is travelling Europe at this age really worth it?“.

My answer has always and unreservedly been “YES!“.

Whilst this question has been posed by friends and colleagues of varying backgrounds, from those living a modest on-campus university lifestyle, to those in their late twenties wielding the newest and most luxurious handbags, my response remains unchanged.

Understandably, many would see near ten-thousand dollars for a four-week escapade as a farce. I get it. However, I actively sought to travel comfortably; staying mostly in hotels, consuming cultural foods on the streets or in restaurants and sniffing out european bags, leathers, cosmetics and sales as a past-time. I will be the first to admit that my trip was nowhere near as money savvy as it could have been. Yet, irrespective of what your bank account  does (or doesn’t) have, you can mould your trip to work for your financial situation. If you want champagne and caviar for breakfast and enticing, palatial hotel rooms – easily done. Equally, if you’re after youth hostels, cheap alcohol and wandering the street with new-found friends – power to you! Apart from the obvious deterrent for most young people wanting to travel, that being funds, other reasons you should travel are as follows:

  1. Self-enlightenment

Learning how to ‘adult’ is a terrifying, sometimes unpleasant and a humbling learning curve. No-one warns you that one day the bills will come and they won’t necessarily align with your payday. No one warns you that now you are legally fully culpable for any action you take and that now you have to call and make your own appointments and communicate on your own behalf. Adulting can suck.

In-between new-found responsibilities, work and university courses, it can be easy to lose a little piece of your identity and continue merely existing, because that’s what adults do right?

Experiencing the world from a new perspective can re-enlighten that fire and thirst for life, you one held dear as an idealistic teenager. You can engage your passions, fascinations and be inquisitive when travelling. You learn so much about who you are and who you want to be when removed from your menial day-to-day adult life.

My great catharsis that eventuated from my trip was how I fit into the perceived IMG_2978.jpgtwenties culture. I have always thought it a right of passage for any young Australian to have their partying phase. Before any great commitment, I thought it was necessary to go out every weekend, share affections with many and drink far too much. At twenty-one, I figured perhaps this phase of my life was bound to occur. When placed in these situations in Europe, I quickly determined that this right of passage wasn’t for me. Surrounded by beautiful people from all over the globe, who loved their drinks and party, quickly taught me that I hadn’t experienced this ‘right of passage’, as it wasnt in my disposition. Croatia Sails taught me that I much prefer a cheese platter and a few episodes of Criminal Minds with the girls on a Friday night. Travelling enlightened the faults in my perception of who I am and what I should experience as a young adult and helped me reconsider my future.

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We all have those great moments of self-reflection when removed from the security of our own cocoons. Why not self-reflect in a picturesque location?

2. Minimal responsibilities

Your early twenties signify a period of your life where it’s okay to be selfish – in fact, it’s expected.

In your selfish years, you usually don’t have a mortgage, kids, wives/husbands or others to look after. Whilst I understand that statement is a vast generalisation, I found this to be the case in my situation. Bar my monthly one-hundred dollar phone bill (thanks Virgin), my responsibilities were and are minimal. Saving money for worldly adventure is significantly easier when you don’t have recurring expenses and when you live at home. The implications that the responsibilities of the adult world can have on your adventures are evident in the multiple conversations I had with fellow travellers who imminently quit their jobs and were travelling without a return-home timeline. I humbly believe that you will get more out of a trip, if travelling when you are not bound by fiduciary relationships or steep financial situations.

3. People-watching

Commonly know as the act of spending time idly observing people in a public place… yes this is IMG_0209.jpgactually a thing (and I love it). As an admirer of all things fashion, I was captivated to hear of that Croatians (namely in Split and upon the Dalmatian Coast) are big people watchers. As a tourist from the other side of the world, and then some, it was fascinating to experience the styles, combinations and pieces people sported upon the streets. Admiring the distinct flair of European fashion and the admiration their citizens had for leathers, furs, detailed accessories and godly shoes was alluring. Walking the cafe strip of Split at night is fascinating; the equivalent of watching beautiful men and women casually strolling in their Sunday best. No longer is there a need for magazines with posed women, when the city streets are lined with the best fashions and inspirations.

4. Shopping

The shopping prowess in Europe (amongst other places in the world I hear) is mind-boggling. Following on from the people-watching culture, finding outfits to replicate/that were inspired by the glamorous women at night is highly enjoyable. Further, if your escapades take you to countries that do not adopt the Euro, or other onerous currencies, your money can go a long way. Poland, Budapest, Croatia and the Czech Republic were a godsend for my wardrobe (and my back pocket). Where else in the world will you ever find Hugo Boss shoes for one-hundred and fifty Australian dollars? (if you genuinely have an answer for that, please message me – a girl needs to know these things).

5. The unlikely friends you make and the people you meet

TIMG_2878.jpgravelling is a funny thing – you pay great sums of money to be shipped to the other side of the world, where often you know no one, where there is a language barrier and your bearings are obscured. Somewhere within the stress and experiences, you hear another person speaking English and you automatically want to become best friends with them. Irrespective of their values, beliefs or their life waiting for them at home –  humans are after all social creatures. The vast array of people you meet and befriending is enough of a reason to pack your bags and go. Often you will leave a city with new friendships and experiences under your belt – well knowing that if you ever travel to their part of the world, you wont be alone.

 

6. Magnificent views and cityscapes

The views speak for themselves. Learning the concise version of other others history, appreciating intricate architecture and trying to comprehend how people who live in these cities become so accustomed to such beauty.

(sidenote: you will never run out of social media content after a trip).

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7. That unspoken element

You return to that adult life, a little poorer, a little more tanned and with a lot less phone memory – but you return with something money can not buy. You return with experiences, memories that you can hold dear and reminisce about and your return with practical experience. You travelled to a different continent and survived. You return with beautiful images of unspoken places imprinted in your head and memories or the drunken conversations you had with people whose names you cant recall and memories of the scent in the air.Somehow you have changed but the world continues around you. Whilst I wouldn’t say no to a designer bag or a car upgrade, experience trumps every imaginable material object said money could have paid for.

I return home empowered that I am an independent adult, proud that I was frugal to enough save the funds and impatiently awaiting the next stamp of my passport.

I assure you – if you are in a position to and there is something you should do –

travel!

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P.s you should also travel because you boyfriend might surprise you…

 

 

Does Internationalising Education Promote Cultural Competency?

‘International education is Australia’s third biggest export earner, second only to the sale of natural resources of iron ore, coal and natural gas. It is worth $16 billion per year to the country’ (Sydney Morning Herald – The Threats of Exploiting Foreign Student). Students are sold the image of Australia as a secure nation, where multiculturalism and cultural competency are central. However, the trend of commodifying and valuing international students on the basis of how deep their pockets are proposes the question; within a global age and workforce, has the internationalisation of education within Australia succeeded in promoting cultural competency?

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Cultural competency is a multifaceted concept, requiring cultural negotiation, the understanding of divergent points of view, coping with ambiguity and uncertainty and being conscious of identity history (Marginson (2012)). Without purchasing a ticket, one is able to engage in worldly experiences by seeking an international insight, perspectives and experiences.This  can inform and expand the understanding of individuals and society. To our detriment, ‘Australians are often too parochial, trapped within an Australian-centred view of a diverse and complex world’ (Marginson (2012)). Effectively, the cultural contributions of global students have been overlooked through social and systematic isolation.

This ethnocentrism and disparity can be attributed to the “them”, “us” rhetoric employed  within the media, educational institutions and by governments when discussing international students.

Marginson concludes ‘most international students want closer interactions with local students, and are prepared to take risks to achieve this…most local students are not interested.’  Personally, I value myself as being a culturally astute, friendly and inquisitive student. However, within my two years at the University of Wollongong, where over one-third of those enrolled are international students (UOW Facts and Figures 2015), I have had zero interactions with international students. Perhaps the nature of a law degree is not accommodating to said groups. Irrespective, I question;

how many other domestic students show indifference to engaging with others to promote cultural competency?

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Genuine peer interactions are imperative when adjusting to being part of a culture where individuals are the social minority and may encounter difficulties associated with being different (Burke (1994)). Becoming accustomed to a foreign environment, different teaching models, grasping language, developing connections whilst being self sufficient, are all examples of cultural adjustment or ‘culture shock’ which creates emotional stress and anxiety for international students (Forbes-Mewett and Nyland (2008)). Perhaps knowingly signing up for a temporal friendship is not appealing to local students. Global students may  equally encounter language barriers, lack confidence, face financial difficulties or be apprehensive about intercultural engagement. As international education is a fairly recent phenomenon, future generations may realise that the current disengagement is a lost opportunity and become more liberal with cross cultural engagement.

Stereotyping and media hype regarding high student numbers can be attributed to this isolation. Although global students fund a large portion of institutions and are not entitled to domestic benefits such as “student” travel concessions, many perceive students (particularly those of Asian heritage) as wealthy, exploiting the housing, education and job market of Australia. These biases were furthered by reports of international students cheating by buying assessments and notes, before wilfully blind universities (‘Degrees of Deception’).11942250_10204486985882593_1254561792_n

It is imperative that domestic students recognise that only a minority of international students are engaging in cheating and plagiarism practices. Public discourse must begin to address exploitations and vulnerabilities of these students within the workforce, housing market, social sphere and ensure appropriate protections are in place for the mental health and wellbeing of students.

11913039_10204486986242602_1099422509_nThrough mutual respect, engagement and negotiation, Australia can continue using the internationalisation as a primary export, whilst simultaneously ensuring cultural competency.

(Images presented are photographs of current international student/international experience advertisements within building 19 of the University  of Wollongong)

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