Clothing/luggage for Friend's daughter's trip to Australia?
December 19, 2016 12:09 PM   Subscribe

She is going to Sydney for a semester abroad. What will she need? (first trip abroad!)
posted by ebesan to Travel & Transportation (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Which semester? Australia has winter in the middle of the year.

Is she planning on travelling to other parts on weekends / mid-semester break?

Generally uni students are all jeans, t-shirts, joggers (or whatever you call casual shoes for running in) or sandals. She will need swimmers / bathers.

Her Australian university website should also have suggestions for what international students need to bring.
posted by b33j at 12:14 PM on December 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

Sydney is a big modern city, and any important missing items can always be bought here or on the internet.

Having said that, things like clothes & shoes would be cheaper to bring from the USA.

If she's coming in winter, it never drops below freezing, and the coldest nights might be around 7C / 44F.

Australians don't really do formal wear except maybe at weddings. No need to dress up for restaurants etc. Even smart casual isn't really adhered to.

Note that the current here is 240V, so she'll need a converter to 120V or else her gadgets will get fried.

It might be nice to bring a bunch of American snacks - Oreos and the like, maybe to share & break the ice with fellow students. A lot of those kinds of things don't get marketed here.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:23 PM on December 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

What is your/their point of reference (ie location?) It would help us explain what she will need. How old is your friend's daughter?

I am Australian but grew up overseas. As well as my own university website the other local uni websites were helpful with information that I could use.
posted by freethefeet at 12:24 PM on December 19, 2016

Travel charger type supplies
Maybe some AU$ so she doesn't have to change any money until she gets to her destination (train, taxi, etc.).
posted by rhizome at 12:52 PM on December 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Note that the current here is 240V, so she'll need a converter to 120V or else her gadgets will get fried.

Only applies to anything that doesn't have a built-in AC/DC converter. Most "gadgets" these days - laptops, phones, tablets, etc - can accept either voltage, and you can plug them in with a cheap (>$5) plug adapter with no problem. Check the thing you plug into the wall to see if it says 110-240V, or 110 only, or whatever. Don't bother with an expensive converter if you don't need it. Things that will fry tend to be things with motors or heating elements, like a lot of kitchen gadgets or hair care gadgets (some have a little thing you can turn to convert, but not all). But for the normal electronic devices, if she just orders a six pack of cheapo plug adapters off of Amazon, she'll be fine.

If she is going at all during the Sydney winter, it's not that cold outside, but having survived the polar vortex winter in Boston I have to say Sydney in winter is the coldest I have ever been *indoors*, because buildings aren't well insulated and no one has central heating since the cold part of the year is so brief and not extreme compared to the hot part. There's a reason Ugg boots originated in Australia - they all wear them indoors as house slippers, and they work great for that. Outside walking around she'll be fine with a sort of North American autumn-oriented jacket, but inside, she'll want warm clothes and pajamas. Clothes are way, way cheaper in the US than in Australia, so err on the side of packing more/varied clothes than she think she might need.

What kind of activities is she in to? There is a lot of good hiking/outdoorsy stuff if she's into that, and she may want to bring appropriate clothes/shoes.

Make sure her cell phone is unlocked. My Amaysim pre-paid plan was cheap ($35/mo or so) and in addition to basically unlimited Australian talking and texting and a bunch of data, I had something like an hour of free calling to the US each month, which was great. If she has an unlocked phone she can just pick up a SIM for when she arrives, life will be easy.

Bring comfort foods like peanut butter (though you can find American style PB in many stores), grape jelly (costs $15 for a small jar at the David Jones Food Hall which is the only place I ever found it), and southern/Latino style hot sauce (Asian-style hot sauces are way more popular in Oz) if she's in to any of those things. Crappy boxed Mac and Cheese if she gets cravings for that like I do. S'mores are a fun thing to introduce Australians to, so maybe bring some of those goods - marshmallows, graham crackers, and thin chocolate bars are hard to find in Australia without paying a lot from the USA Foods store in Melbourne to ship to you. They are strict about quarantine and bringing in food, but it's doable - just don't bring fresh fruits/veggies/meat/cheese, make sure everything is commercially packaged and new/unopened, and declare it. (I just told them "I have some American groceries" at Customs and it was never a problem - they usually didn't even bother to look at what I had)

If she uses Apple products, get her AppleCare on them so she can get them fixed for free at the Sydney Apple store if they break, rather than having to ship things around or buy anything new. (AppleCare works worldwide, speaking from personal experience)

She will want a swimsuit and a good sun hat while she's there. The sun is strong, really strong, even if you're that person who never burns. It's strong. Everyone wears hats - school kids are actually required to wear them for recess - so she won't be out of place wearing one. I would buy both those things when she's there, though, because the Australian sun hat selection is by far better than the American one, and there are usually better ranges of swimsuits, too. I have two swimsuits for Aussie beaches, one one-piece and one two-piece, depending on whether I'm likely to be hanging out on the sand or braving the waves. Body surfing and boogie boarding are super popular among people of all ages (my 70-some year old MIL body surfs circles around me) and in many areas the waves did a great job of trying to pants me as I struggled in them. One-pieces can be handy.
posted by olinerd at 12:56 PM on December 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

No big deal! Check the climate for when she will be here, and adjust the clothing as necessary. Make sure phones, computers etc have multi voltage (120/240v) power supplies/chargers - AND the right adapter for the power points here (but that is readily available here). If she uses a hairdryer, if it is not multivoltage I would suggest she get one here, rather than try and get it to work on 240v.

Tell the bank that she will be in Australia, so her credit/debit card doesn't get stopped. She will probably need a new SIM for her phone, it will probably work here and those are things to check, but cheapie phones are available if needed. You already know global roaming can be very expensive, don't you?
posted by GeeEmm at 12:58 PM on December 19, 2016

19 years. Coming semester (January- May)
Probably not a lot of travel outside the area
Will check the website. thx for all
posted by ebesan at 1:03 PM on December 19, 2016

Oooh, I've never been to Australia but I'd also look into insect repellent and protection things so she doesn't have to worry about poisonous beetles the size of her foot, which I've heard are everywhere there.
posted by rhizome at 1:04 PM on December 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Australia also has better insect repellants than the US. That's definitely something to acquire there. I have no idea what you're talking about with the beetles, though, and I lived for a year and a half in Far North Queensland which is full of all sorts of giant bugs.
posted by olinerd at 1:10 PM on December 19, 2016 [6 favorites]

The only thing I can think of that would be significantly difficult and potentially a real problem when first arriving is that the seasons are reversed from the northern hemisphere. So if she's going for what would be called the "Spring semester" in the US, it'll be midsummer when she arrives. So she'll need summer clothes and shoes and things typically wanted during hot weather. (Maybe one of those little battery operated hand-fans?) If she'll be going next academic year, for what we'd call the "Fall semester", it will be spring when she arrives. I think she'd only need to worry about winter clothes right away if she were going for the northern hemisphere summer, which isn't a typical study abroad term in the US.

Also, from experience, hair dryers are NOT made with built-in converters nowadays the way that techy gadgets like phones, laptops, etc. are. She should buy that in country if she wants one. While voltage switching models are available, in my experience they're crap.

Re packing food, I'll say that when I've spent long periods of time abroad, I've mostly wanted to try all their weird snack foods, not dwell on what I couldn't get from home. There will be plenty of PB&J and oreos and doritos when she's back home in 5 months, if she can't find a way to easily get that sort of thing in Australia. Maybe if there's one particular thing she's addicted to, which she knows there won't be an Australian counterpart for? But even then, kind of excessive. It's not the moon.

I also wouldn't bring cash, since there's an ATM in literally every single arrivals hall in every international airport in the world. I've hit the ATM for cash on arrival in Lima, Istanbul, and Mumbai. Bologna, Italy, has an ATM at the arrivals exit of their teensy and only nominally international airport. There will be a way for her to access cash on arrival in Australia.
posted by Sara C. at 1:13 PM on December 19, 2016

My thoughts as an Aussie now living in the US.

The main suggestion I would have is be aware of just how high the UV gets in Australia. She'll want to buy a good sunscreen once she gets there and to be conscious of covering up even in a sunny day in the winter the winter months. First thing she will want to buy when she lands is a huge bottle of sunscreen and insect repellent (for the flies the big bugs are not the problem she will not believe the number of flies). Slather both on generously as the instructions suggest. Buy a hat & wear it, you can burn your hair part if you're not used to it. Consider a proper swim shirt if she's likely to go to the beach a lot.

If she's from the midwest, while Australians dress casually, they don't dress that casually. I live in a US Ivy league university town & most of the students here dress like Australians dressed where I used to live. (excluding the PJ's in public thing though hey maybe the "kids" do that now too).

For Summer temps in most of the major cities think even hotter than you are imagining, nope even hotter than that. For winter think Fall in the Midwest type temperatures. Jeans, shorts, strappy tops, tee shirts, Long sleeved over shirts to over the strappy tops if going out in the sun. maxi dresses, swimsuit, beach towel, a hoody or 2, a cardigan or 2, sneakers, sandals, flipflops. A nicer outfit or 2 which would really just be dressier versions of all of the previous clothing. Maybe a long sleeve t shirt or 2. The climate is very much like LA for the most part with differing humidity levels. While you don't really get Walmart levels of cheap clothing in Australia, we do have some cheaper options if she forgets anything so she shouldn't stress too much if she forgets anything, though sizing will be different.

Don't worry about peanut butter & jelly. Australian Peanut butter is exactly the same as is the jelly/jam. Though we don't do grape there are plenty of other flavors. Marshmallows & thin chocolate bars also exist in every single supermarket in the country. Bringing some of her favorite US foods if they are small & light is a great getting to know you ice breaker as most Australias see the foods on TV shows & are curious about them.

Another thing she should bring is her sense of adventure. Try all the food, do all the things & have fun.
posted by wwax at 1:19 PM on December 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

We have Oreos in supermarkets. There are no poisonous beetles the size of your feet that I've ever come across or heard of. I would argue that Sydney is more formal than any other state (I'm from Melbourne and have to remind myself that the bar scene is always dressier there). It's not especially formal, but it's not noticeably different to say...London, ime.
posted by jojobobo at 1:21 PM on December 19, 2016 [4 favorites]

I guess this is the part where I explain that rubes like me have heard for years about monster insects there. Flat jokes are my specialty.
posted by rhizome at 1:29 PM on December 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

FWIW, it's probably more tips and advice on living in Australia that are going to be more useful rather than clothing and supplies advice. She will be able to buy 99% of what she wants in Australia anyway.
posted by ryanbryan at 1:36 PM on December 19, 2016

Start with a universal packing list and adapt as required for her location and preferences. I will say that there is a temptation to overpack in these situations and she'll invariably pick up a few things while there as well. So if in doubt don't bring it.
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:46 PM on December 19, 2016

I'm from the US and have been living in Sydney for about five years now, and nth everything above: we have everything, wear lots of sunscreen, etc.

If she has any other questions feel free to memail me though. I assume someone from the college will meet her (?) but if she or her family would feel better I'm happy to touch base IRL when she gets here.

Always carry $10. Lots of places are cash-only, and lots and lots have a $10 min (there's ATM's but it's a PIA to order and have to go back out for an ATM etc).

Make sure she works out healthcare before she gets sick - I assume uni will assist with this (?), but she should make sure she knows where to go. If she wants recommendations MeFi can help. Also, go to the drugstore and get some basics before getting sick - or bring some familiar stuff from home to tide over. All the brands are different and nothing's worse than wandering around a chemist reading all the labels while feeling terrible. Besides - there are no (?) 24hr Walgreens here, and once the chemist is closed, you're screwed. (Also be forewarned that applicator tampons, while becoming more common, are pretty thin on the ground here.)
posted by jrobin276 at 2:10 PM on December 19, 2016

I did the same semester in 2015, though as faculty rather than a student so I can't give fashion advice, but I would suggest one thing: light weight waterproof.
One thing that surprised me about Sydney, even as a Brit, was the frequency of rain - sometimes quite heavy, although often brief, and frequently windy. Umbrellas are hopeless. Most hardy young people seemed to deal with it by recognising that skin dries faster than clothes, wearing almost nothing, and running screaming from doorway to doorway. Your friend's daughter might be more rain-averse, so - lightweight waterproof, possibly waterproof liner for bag b/c soggy notes & laptops are no fun.
posted by AFII at 2:25 PM on December 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

She should buy an Opal card at the airport (if getting into town via train rather than being picked up) or as soon as possible otherwise - it's the re-usable ticket system for all trains/buses/ferries/light rail. You can buy single trip tickets at most stations (not all) and I think still on most buses but they are a pain in the bum.
posted by trialex at 2:32 PM on December 19, 2016 [4 favorites]

If I were a 19yo coming to Australia, and if i were on a typical student budget, I would pack my favourite clothes and shoes. Stuff that she doesn't care about or can be easily replaced with cheap generics can stay home. Plain tshirts, shorts and jeans are cheap at Kmart, like $AU5 for tops and $AU15 for jeans. But more expensive things, like her favourite Levi's, should come with her so she doesnt need to try to buy them again here. I would include one or two outfits that can be dressed up so she doesnt need to think about it when she's invited to a party.

Olinerd is correct. Most Australians do not have central heating, many don't have ANY heating indoors. So for winter, she will want a pair of uggs and polar fleece or thermals she can layer if she is not in Sydney/Brisbane/Darwin. If she is coming to these areas, she'll only need an extra layer (cardigan or hoodie, rather than coat or fleece). It won't be very cold in May.

And yes, people from other countries often don't understand. Sun protection every day is a must, even if the temperature is not high. Hat and sunscreen.

I live in outer suburbia of Sydney and even my small local supermarket and the big mall shopping centre two suburbs away have American peanut butter, marshmallows, and candy. Hersheys and Oreos are in every supermarket. Reeses are everywhere. Only bring that stuff if she wants to give it as gifts and check first if its available here. You can check online by searching at our major supermarkets Woolworths and Coles.
posted by stellathon at 2:42 PM on December 19, 2016

I did my junior year abroad in Australia - in the Sydney suburbs. I found my sleeping bag useful because our Australian condo was freezing! The sleeping bag kept me pretty warm without having to buy extra bedding. As everyone has described above there was no central heating like I grew up with in New England. It was the year of fuzzy Patagonia pullovers until it warmed up.

Most of my friends who shipped over things like makeup and hair supplies regretted it once the packages finally arrived. It was all just extraneous stuff that they didn't really need or want in the end.

One friend went to the ends of the earth to obtain cranberry juice. I don't know if it's as hard to find now as it was when I was in Uni back in the days of yore. Otherwise - I basically forgot about American food items until I saw a brand name in a movie or something.

If she plans to camp (that was a thing that people at my uni did) - a tent would be nice if she's travelling around and staying in campgrounds. Ours was borrowed from a mate and smelled a bit of cat pee.
posted by rdnnyc at 2:54 PM on December 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

To be honest, a young woman coming to a new country and hanging out with a bunch of other young people means leaving room for her to find a "style" that suits. So, bring normal casual clothing but leave room for buying new stuff as needed that suits the weather and trends.

Sunscreen is easily purchased here and there is no need for insect repellent in the city, except if you are absolutely going to be outside, during summer, and want to avoid mosquitos at all cost. I don't know anyone who puts on repellant.

All electronics these days work with just getting a cheap adapter for the plug. Don't bring things like hairdryers, curling irons, etc unless they are certain to work on 240.

If I were a young woman, I'd bring my favourite jeans, t-shirts, club outfit (skimpy = better here), sandals (birks are popular), shorts, swimsuit, "nice" shoes", "nice trousers", "nice shirt", and "nice jacket". The nice stuff is for occasion where it matters, but it'll be rare. Would definitely suggest fleece or thick sweaters for winter months and a good waterproof jacket (NorthFace, Patagonia looks are popular). But I'd be prepared to buy cheap fashion at H&M, or wherever to fully flesh out my wardrobe rather than come prepared for everything. I've actually found that the type/style of clothing to be similar to that of San Francisco.

Make sure any mobile phone is unlocked and as mentioned before, you can get pay-as-you-go SIM from AMAYSIM.

For transport, everyone I know who's under 25 uses UBER quite liberally, but she should also get an OPAL card for buses and trains. I highly recommend getting the app TripView if she has an iPhone.

I know people have suggested bringing favourite foods, but this is a chance to actually immerse and try (and find) new favourites. The people who enjoy Australia the most are the ones who leave (place native country here) behind long enough to explore. That being said, Sydney is pretty western and won't be that different to any other major US city in most regards. The biggest thing Sydney has to offer is the geography of coastlines and the food, which I describe as 'Mediterasian'. Make sure she tries the Laksa. She won't regret it.
posted by qwip at 3:42 PM on December 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

A lot of Australian housing is not heated and not built for cold weather (A german colleague once told me the coldest winter of his life was the one he spent in Sydney). So clothes that can be layered will be needed for May, as it'll be warm and sunny during the day but colder at night (especially if she's sitting still for studying).

N'thing advice about rainwear/umbrellas and sunscreen.

Most Australian brands of tampons don't come with applicators, so if she's squeamish about that sort of thing, best to bring her own.
posted by girlgenius at 4:14 PM on December 19, 2016

I just want to clarify - as someone who lived overseas for five years (including in Australia), and who also spent a semester abroad in college, I was 100% about immersing myself in non-American food/culture/etc... but the three month mark can be a really tough one for homesickness/etc, and having grape jelly (yes it matters that it is specifically grape jelly if you an American raised on peanut butter and grape jelly sandwiches) can make a silly but huge difference. My suggestions were largely around that kind of thing - not stocking for a whole semester, but a few little things that can be comforting on a bad or frustrating day.

Also, as a very poor exchange student in college, buying overpriced versions of American goods locally was a painful way to spend the very little money I had (versus on local travel or local food or whatever) - so yeah, I'd bring s'mores stuff from home if I wanted that to be my "something cool and American to show my new Australian friends". (Finding graham crackers in Australia required around 2 months advance planning on my part because they were ALWAYS out of stock at the American food store online. And standard grocery store marshmallows at Woolies are not the same as s'mores marshmallows, which are much larger and also should not be pink and flavored)

I don't want by any means to threadsit or axe grind here, but don't dismiss "oh blah you can buy it all here" because I actually found that pretty challenging, and I wasn't on a poor exchange student budget. I loved living and studying overseas, and I am on the whole a total trooper about travel and food and experiences - but homesickness did hit pretty hard each time, and the little things really can matter.
posted by olinerd at 8:43 AM on December 20, 2016

DO NOT LIE about bringing in food at Customs. Any food. High chance they will check it and it will be fine, especially if it's just regular pre-packaged, branded stuff. Some stuff might get confiscated if it's like seeds or meat. If you say you don't have any food and you do, they will fine you. They are SERIOUS about the food thing.
READ the questionnaire they make you fill out - if you check NO on "Are you carrying any food?" and you are, you've broken the law. Instant fine.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:56 AM on December 21, 2016

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