Future Brissie
May 4, 2006 7:13 AM   Subscribe

I'm moving to Brisbane, Australia soon for university. What should I know?

The last time I was in Brisbane - or Australia for that matter - was in 1995, and obviously things have changed a lot. The "Study In Australia" guides all sound pretty same-y, and while I have tons of great advice from elsewhere, they're largely US-centric. What would be useful to know before I head off to Brisbane?

Some thoughts:

1. I'm coming in July, and I understand that's winter - how cold does it get? Do I need to hang on to my best friend's winter coat? (I'm from Malaysia, so 21C is "I need a sweater" by my standards, but I'm familiar with snow to some extent.) Last time I was in Gold Coast, I nearly had a heat-stroke - does it still get drastically hot?

2. I'll most likely be living in International House in University of Queensland; my course is in the Kelvin Grove campus of the Queensland Uni of Technology, 2km from the city centre. IH advertises themselves as being 20 mins away from the city, but the Translink trip planner tells me I need to leave about 45 minutes before I have to arrive if I'm taking the bus. (St Lucia to Kelvin Grove, 411 & 345, and vice versa) How long do the buses actually take? How early should I leave? Is it different at night than at daytime?

3. I'm the sort of person that constantly needs something to do. I know I'd be busy with college work anyway, but what else is there to do around Brisbane? I'm not a partier, so clubbing or pubbing is out; ditto sports (can't play sports to save my life). I'm interested in writing, music, social work, activism, culture, youth, and anything out of the ordinary. What can I do during free days that doesn't get me booted out of the country?

What else should I know? Any and all tips are appreciated. Thank you!
posted by divabat to Travel & Transportation around Brisbane, Australia (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
1. A coat? In Brisbane? You've got to be kidding. Yes it snows in Brisbane like it snows in Egypt.
2. No idea but you will soon find someone at IH to tell you the answer.
3. I'd look for the Malaysian Student Association of UoQ or QUT and try to get a few tips from them.

Not much help to you I'm sure. Just keep your eyes open and don't be afraid to ask people once you're there. You'll be fine.
posted by zaebiz at 10:34 AM on May 4, 2006

You will be cold in winter but there is never snow - it's 10C right now. You will be hot in summer but are you staying over summer? the uni year ends about November and restarts in late Feb so you should avoid most of the 40 degree weather.

That 20 minutes from the city means if you have a car.

The translink planner is very accurate. I use it all the time. ( I work for the University of Queensland but on the Ipswich campus).

THere are a millon clubs available at uni (both of them - I used to work at QUT) and international student organisations as well that hopefully will make you feel welcome. I won't suggest individual activities (museums, art galleries, zoos) because I'm probably about 20 years older than you with different tastes.
posted by b33j at 2:13 PM on May 4, 2006

1. If 21C is cold, then you'll need a coat. July it's starting to get quite chilly, all things considered -- this is the Bureau of Meteorology average temps for Brisbane. Apparently, we got down to 2C once. The stated average minimum of 9C is about right.

2. Translink is probably correct, but honestly the commute to Kelvin Grove (depending on when you're travelling) may take longer given Brisbane's current shithousefuckingroadsystem status. If it's at all possible (and depending on how long you're staying), I would strongly recommend dropping a couple of grand on either a cheap Toyota or (preferably) a 50cc scooter. You would not believe how much easier my life has become after acquiring a scooter -- you can ride it without a special motorcycle license, and for the distance you'd be commuting it would easily halve your commute time.

Also, running costs would be in the vicinity of $AU6 (six) per week.

3. What sort of music? I'm told there's a vibrant local music scene, however I'm not hip enough to be a part of it ;) There are manymanymany international students in Brisbane, however -- previous suggestions to join clubs & socs @ university are excellent.

The other option you may wish to consider, which would simplify your commute significantly as well as grouping you with fellow (asian) International students would be to stay in one of the student apartment blocks in the CBD. There are a few of these, and I gather they aren't overly expensive to rent.
posted by coriolisdave at 2:56 PM on May 4, 2006

Ah! the place I was thinking of in the CBD was Unilodge. Not as cheap as I was expecting, but may worth checking out -- would more than halve your commute.

Heck, another option you may wish to consider is cycling -- the ride from UQ to town would easily take you less than a half hour, in fact I would be surprised if it took you only a little over a half hour to go all the way to Kelvin Grove. There are off-road bike paths the entire way.
posted by coriolisdave at 3:01 PM on May 4, 2006

Response by poster: coriolisdave: I can't drive nor cycle! Never learnt how to do either.

I was thinking that since KG is just 2KM away it might be more prudent to walk - but then it takes me the same time anyhow.

I figured it doesn't snow...but I still didn't want to freeze!
posted by divabat at 5:18 PM on May 4, 2006

Best answer: My dad and brother live in Brisbane, and I visit them all the time.

Yes, you'll need a coat. When I lived in Townsville, where we had summers in the high 30s and overnight winter temps in the high teens, I thought Brisbane in winter was freezing. I remember huddling over a bowl of soup thinking I was going to die - it was 14oC outside. I wore fleece-lined tops and wished I had gloves. Now that I live in Canberra and feel OK ducking out to the mailbox in my Reg Grundies when it's 2oC outside, not so much. But until you acclimatise, bring a jacket. Winters in Brisbane are made up of glorious, clear days, and it can warm up pretty quickly, so make it something you can stow in a backpack - a light polar fleece jacket might be best.

If you're interested in youth, culture, social work and activism, you'll find no shortage of comrades at uni. Just visit your student union office and they'll point you in the right direction. You could also try e-mailing somebody at the UQ/QUT-based Brisbane Young Activists blog, "a web based group who meet at least once a week to discuss grass roots issues of Brisbane and Australian politics. We are an organisation who push for change outside the periphery of party politics. We are non profit, non aligned group of activists, predominantly full time university students, whom are interested in grass roots politics."

You might also try contacting Just Rights QLD, help out at the Northey Street City Farm, or join the Brisbane branch of Resistance.

The inner city hasn't changed much since 1995. Elizabeth Street Arcade is full of designer clothing outlets rather than tarot readers and comic stores, but the noodle bars are still there. There's a Borders Books across from the main entrance to the Myer Centre, but Archives is still around the corner on Charlotte Street. Starbucks is everywhere, but that's about it. It's still a big city with a country town heart.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:21 PM on May 4, 2006

Best answer: 1. Winter - it prolly is cold here compared to Malaysia, but there's definitely no snow! Summer - yes, it still gets hellish hot and humid, mostly November to February.

2. The 411 is the long-way bus - it does a big loop through St Lucia shops and around the hills between uni and Toowong before eventually getting onto Coronation Drive and the city. There are two other busses that go from UQ. The 407 rocket goes straight from St Lucia to city, no stops, and the 412 express goes the same way with just a few major stops. They all go from the same big bus stop at UQ. The 333 from the city (from under the Myer Centre) is awesome. Whenever I've caught it, it takes about 10 minutes to get to Kelvin Grove. If you do decide to drive / walk / cadge a lift, you can get directions from WhereIs.

3. The UQ student union and QUT student guild do, indeed have millions and millions of clubs. Chocolate Appreciation Societyy? Check!

What else? You'll be just in time for the Valley Fiesta. That's last year's program, but I'm pretty sure it kicks off in July again this year.

And there's SOOB in August.

The OurBrisbane site has loads of info about what's on around town, free stuff to do, lists of festivals and markets and stuff. They'll even mail you a visitor's brochure.

The Judith Wright Centre in the Valley and the Powerhouse at New Farm have great performances and stuff on.

Check out 4ZZZ community radio - 102.1FM - and Briz 31 community teev, too. I think QUT are somehow involved with Briz31, too – I'm pretty sure they do their news stuff. Oh, and JJJ.
posted by t0astie at 7:21 PM on May 4, 2006

Or, um, Society.
posted by t0astie at 7:24 PM on May 4, 2006

All you brisbanites need to fix up your lat/long coordinates in your profiles! It's -27, not +27 :p

divabat: cycling is _easy_. Very easy to learn, just practice on grass first! 2km isn't far, but bear in mind that's 2km from the city -- and Kelvin Grove is on the other side of town from UQ. It would take you a couple of hours to walk from UQ to QUT-KG. Also, in your planning, be aware there is a QUT campus in the CBD (QUT Gardens Point).
posted by coriolisdave at 10:51 PM on May 4, 2006

Response by poster: coriolisdave: I know UQ and QUT aren't right next to each other. I meant walking from the Adelaide ST stop to KG. And sigh, never managed to go beyond training wheels (tried learning cycling as a youngster, then my cousin wrecked my bike.)
posted by divabat at 1:03 AM on May 5, 2006

Some suggestions:

If staying at International House is your first most likely option, take it. You can use it as your base to get acclimatised to Brisbane and your surrounds, and search for more suitable/convenient accommodation on your arrival. There are plenty of student-type accommodations around inner-city Brisbane, and I'm sure there are a couple near the QUT Kelvin Grove campus.

(International House is a nice hike away from the main facilities at UQ, iirc.)

Jumpers? Yes, bring the woolens, but layer yourself with something nice underneath, as you'll most likely run around in short sleeves during the day in winter. Some days, anyway. Yes, the heat is how you remembered it; I still can't tolerate the humidity, but it usually doesn't truly heat up until October.

Things to do? Your best bet to quickly immerse yourself in your own interests would be to chase down as many relevant clubs at both UQ and QUT.
UQ: http://www.uqu.uq.edu.au/clubsandsocieties/
QUT: http://www.guildonline.net/page.asp?name=Clubs_AToZ

There's plenty to do in Brisbane, if you're an outdoorsy type. It's taken some time, but there are some decent cultural activities to catch around the place. Brisbane has some good festivals (the Valley Fiesta is a perfect example of a top one, mentioned above). For a quick and dirty guide, read either the ourbrisbane.com website, the brisbane.citysearch.com.au website, or get a visitors guide when you arrive. There's a landmine of useful brochures and stuff at the visitors information centre towards the bottom of the Queen Street Mall. Or you could hop in a (friend's) car and hit the coast (Sunshine or Gold) for a day.

I've lived her for 28 years, and my most common activity is shopping. I do live in the suburbs though.
posted by chronic sublime at 6:48 AM on May 7, 2006

I studied at UQ for a semester and it was awesome. That being said...
I'm from MN (completely different from Malaysia, I know) and I got to Brisbane in July and I was fine. As in I wore long pants maybe 4 times, only at night.
Brisbane is a cool city but isn't exactly "happenin' ", which was perfect for me and, sounds like, for you. Ton of stuff to do outdoors, nearby. My biggest recommendation would be: find a bike and learn as fast as possible. Biking is really great (I used to bike from West End to UQ every morning) in Brisbane due to nice paths almost anywhere. Also, you can get a nice bike guide and go to nearby mountains and stuff, explore the area. Walk around the campus(es) and look for people selling bikes, I bet you can find one pretty cheap.
I came with a study abroad program and most people stayed in a College or IH at UQ. I preferred to do my own thing and just sublet a room in a house. You might want to do that, given how independant etc. you are.
Stuff to do: Ditto what most people said, clubs and what not. The botanical gardens are really nice. Also, you are a bus/train ride away from some pretty neat and beautiful stuff on the coast or in the bush, so try to explore.
posted by shokod at 9:44 PM on May 7, 2006

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