Category Archives: Australia

Australia to France in December

Traveling from Australia to France always involves a lot of flying (ok, Australia to Anywhere involves a lot of flying), but changing seasons is another big shock that is hard to get used to. I spent Christmas in summer with temps in the 30s C / 90s F and then I came back to the Alps where it is snowing and barely above freezing.

I went from this:

to this:

and on Sunday I will be heading to Michigan where it is even colder and more snow is in the forecast.

I am enjoying my time in France even though this trip is rather short (only 4 days). I went to Grenoble yesterday to meet up with Crystal (Crystal goes to Europe) and Dana (grenobloise) and today I am spending New Year’s Eve in Annecy. Actually, I’m spending most of my time with this furball since I haven’t seen him in nearly six months:

He hasn’t changed at all.

Bonne année à tous et à toutes !

Happy New Year everyone!

Dr. Wagner has a PhD in Linguistics and is dedicated to learning and teaching languages online and abroad. She has studied in Quebec and Australia, taught English in France, and is currently based in the US.

Aussie Christmas Songs

In honor of my first Australian Christmas:

Aussie Jingle Bells by Bucko & Champs (they have quite a few funny songs, such as Deck the Shed with Bits of Wattle and Australians Let Us Barbecue)

Christmas in Australia by Brian Sutton

Six White Boomers by Rolf Harris

Christmas Day the Australian Way by Angry Anderson (nice geography lesson of Australian places)

White Wine in the Sun by Tim Minchin

Dr. Wagner has a PhD in Linguistics and is dedicated to learning and teaching languages online and abroad. She has studied in Quebec and Australia, taught English in France, and is currently based in the US.

Australian Society for French Studies Conference 2011

I travelled to Canberra this past weekend to attend the Australian Society for French Studies Conference at the Australian National University. To coincide with the Applied Linguistics Association of Australia and Australian Linguistics Society conferences also taking place in Canberra this week as part of Langfest, the three themes of the conference were translation, language teaching, and discourse analysis. Obviously I attended most of the teaching presentations, though I do have an interest in translation. The conference was bilingual but most presentations were in French. I was excited to find out that the 2012 conference will be at the University of Adelaide on September 27-28, so I hope other French researchers will join me there because I am definitely attending.

Béatrice Chassaing from the French Embassy offered some interesting statistics on Australian-French studies. About 6,000 students at Australian universities are studying French, but only 500 study abroad in France. In fact, less than 1% of all Australian students study abroad. In comparison, there are 3,700 French students currently studying in Australia. The French Embassy has recently started a program to increase Australian student mobility to France and to develop Australian universities / French companies partnerships by offering paid internships for Australian students in French companies established in Australia  or in Australian companies operating in France. For more information, download the Internship Program information sheet. And if neither study abroad nor internships sound appealing, the teaching assistant program is still an option. There are about 65 positions available for Australian citizens to teach English in primary or secondary schools in France or the DOM-TOMS (including New Caledonia) for seven months. The application deadline is December 12 to start teaching in October 2012.

Other plenary talks included Pierre Bondil reflecting on his translations of crime fiction (polars) over the years and Pierre Labbe explaining the concept of le Softpower à la française. Two adorable Americans who have lived in France for 45 years, Sheila Malovany-Chevallier and Constance Borde, also spoke about their translation of Le Deuxième Sexe (and I really hope they attend the conference next year because I loved talking to them about how great Australia is!) Unfortunately I had to leave early on the second day so I missed Philippe Met’s talk on “Le lendemain matin…”, ou la traduction d’une ellipse : scènes post-coïtales dans le cinéma français des années 30.

Australia-France websites to check out:

Dr. Wagner has a PhD in Linguistics and is dedicated to learning and teaching languages online and abroad. She has studied in Quebec and Australia, taught English in France, and is currently based in the US.

Multicultural and Multilingual Australia

One of the many reasons why I love Australia: an official Multicultural Policy

Multicultural and Multilingual Australia

From the government’s Multicultural Policy released in February of this year:

“Australia is a multicultural nation. In all, since 1945, seven million people have migrated to Australia. Today, one in four of Australia’s 22 million people were born overseas, 44 per cent were born overseas or have a parent who was and four million speak a language other than English. We speak over 260 languages and identify with more than 270 ancestries. Australia is and will remain a multicultural society.”

Multiculturalism in Australia produced the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS), which offers television and radio programs in 68 languages. Luckily they have a free to air channel (as well as an FM channel) so I don’t have to pay extra to watch France 2 news every morning. They also have several podcasts available through iTunes (which is how I discovered them while still living in France.)

Australia is also the most multilingual of the English-speaking countries, and was the first to create a multilingual language policy. The most commonly spoken foreign languages are Italian, Greek, Cantonese, Arabic, Mandarin and Vietnamese. Most bilinguals or multilinguals in Australia are either Aborigines or immigrants who speak English as a second language. The majority of native English speakers do not speak another language, similar to the situation in the US and UK.

Though some states and territories do require the study of a foreign language at primary/secondary level, by the final years of secondary school, only about 10% continue their studies (Years 6-8 have the highest percentage of students). The main languages studied are (followed by enrollment figures for 2006):

1. Japanese 332,943
2. Italian 322,023
3. Indonesian 209,939
4. French 207,235
5. German 126,920
6. Chinese (Mandarin) 81,358
7. Arabic 25,449
8. Spanish 20,518
9. Greek 18,584
10. Vietnamese 11,014
11. Other 45,567

The situation at the tertiary level is a bit sad. Unlike the US, no Australian university requires the study of a foreign language and many language departments have been incorporated into schools of other disciplines. For example, my particular school is called Communication, International Studies and Languages. Only 10% of first-year university students are taking a foreign language, and less than a quarter continue language studies through the third and final year of a Bachelor’s degree. Thirty-one languages are taught at universities, though 12 are taught in only one jurisdiction while 8 are taught in all states (Chinese, French, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latin and Spanish).

For more information on languages in Australian schools, download the PDF of Second Languages and Australian Schooling from the Australian Council for Educational Research.

Multiculturalism Links:

Multicultural Australia (government site)

Australian Multicultural Foundation

Making Multicultural Australia

Dr. Wagner has a PhD in Linguistics and is dedicated to learning and teaching languages online and abroad. She has studied in Quebec and Australia, taught English in France, and is currently based in the US.

Doing a PhD in Australia

Doing a PhD in Australia and Being a Higher Degree by Research (HDR) Student

Doing a PhD in Australia as a Higher Degree by Research (HDR) student

Let me tell you a little about doing a PhD in Australia as a Higher Degree by Research (HDR) student. As the name implies, it is a research only degree that is supposed to take 3-3.5 years before you submit your thesis – meaning you don’t have any courses to take and your “full-time job” is to do research. You can teach/tutor if you want to, but it is not a required part of the degree. So unlike North American PhDs, there is no coursework, no qualifying exams, and no oral defense with your thesis supervisors. You simply submit the examination copy of your thesis, one examiner from Australia and one international examiner tell you what corrections to make, you make those changes, and submit the final thesis. (This submission process can take anywhere from 3 months to a year though.)

Most universities offer Masters Degrees and PhDs as well as Professional Doctorates by Research, while the regular postgraduate degrees that require coursework include Graduate Certificates, Diplomas, and Masters Degrees. However, since Australia has the Honours system for their Bachelor’s degrees, which adds another year during which students undertake a research project and write a thesis, many students go from an Honours Bachelors degree into a PhD without getting a Master’s degree. Obtaining a PhD can be done in seven consecutive years (3 years for Bachelors + 1 year for Honours + 3 years for PhD), though it is more common to start a PhD later in life than directly after a Bachelor’s degree. The average age of beginning PhD students in Australia is 28 for science degrees and 38 for humanities degrees.

I was lucky enough to receive a full scholarship and living stipend so that my tuition and health insurance are both already paid for and I receive a “salary” of almost $2000 AUD every month to cover rent and living costs. This scholarship is guaranteed for 3 years, with the possibility of a 6 month extension. It is not a high salary by American or Australian standards, but it is much more than I ever made working full-time in France. Don’t be fooled though – the cost of living in Australia is very high, and $2000 a month is actually less than minimum wage, so it doesn’t go very far!

Scholarships are quite competitive for international students though, and you must be full-time and doing research on campus (internal, not external, student) in order to receive them. The application itself for admission/scholarships was quite long (a lot of writing on your proposed research, obviously), but did not require the GRE or any other standardized test scores. My program provides a research fund that includes reimbursement for books or equipment that I might need to buy (which includes home internet costs!) and travel funds to pay for plane tickets and accommodation when presenting at conferences. Since I am also attached to a Research Centre within my School and Division, there are other grants I can apply for if I need more funding.

On campus, I have my own desk and shared office with other PhD students, but since I am a student and not staff, I still get the many, many perks of having a student ID (discounts galore! MS Office for $99, for example, and half price bus tickets). I don’t have any office hours, nor do I actually have to use my workspace if I don’t want to. I am free to work at home or in the library if I wish to do so. It is essentially a Results Only Work Environment (or perhaps Learning Environment) which I love, as it allows me to work when I am the most motivated. I have monthly meetings with my supervisors to make sure I am on the right track and actually doing something, but other than that, I am free to do what I want. So Research Degrees are not for everyone – if you have motivation problems, I wouldn’t suggest them – but they are great for those of us who work best independently and on our own schedule.

And don’t mind being buried under massive amounts of books and articles…


The UN’s Education Index ranks Australia’s education system as tied for first place with Denmark, Finland, and New Zealand. Canada is next, but the US is down at number 20. The average length of Australian PhDs is 4.5 years, while Americans PhDs average 8 years because of the extra coursework (and perhaps teaching). About 50% of people with PhDs in Australia do not continue in academia, and students are not required to publish or teach as much as in the US (especially in the Humanities), so the push to remain in academia is not as great. Since I am still not sure what I would like to do after I finish my PhD (become a professor or researcher or leave academia altogether?), I like the flexibility of my program and not feeling as though I am already being forced towards a career in academia, which is the impression I get when reading about American Humanities PhDs.

I do have a plan!


I’ve only been a student for about a month, and these are simply my own experiences and observations at my particular university for a humanities degree. I’d love to hear from other HDR students and PhD students in the US to know more about different programs.

For more information on the various Australian universities, check out Universities Australia and the Group of Eight (the Ivy League of Australia) as well as the Australian Technology Network, which is the best bet for international students – though don’t let the name fool you; my university belongs to the ATN and my PhD is in Languages & Linguistics rather than science or technology. There is also a forum at Study Connect if you want to talk to other students and find out about life in the major cities.

Feel free to ask me questions if you plan to apply. The main deadline for the International Postgraduate Research Scholarship is August 31 for commencement early the following year. There are other scholarships at the Australian Postgraduate Awards rate available for international students starting mid-year as well (July), which is what I received.

UPDATE: I have now finished my PhD and left Australia. Since I started my program before November 2011, I was not eligible for the new post-study visa which allows you to stay in Australia for 1.5-4 years after graduation. I only had 3 months to find a job and with all the cuts to university funding because of changes in government, there were very few jobs to apply to. The cost of living and being so far away from family in the US were also major factors in why I left. (Check out 5 things I do not miss about Australia.)

A few things have changed over the years, which unfortunately made my experience worse. My school cut the funds for books and equipment after a year which was extremely disappointing. We had a few problems with PhD students’ offices being forgotten with regards to workplace safety regulations. It is much harder for international students to get scholarships now, and nearly impossible to get the 6 month extension. Although the stipend does increase slightly every year, the cost of living in Australia continues to spiral out of control. There was a also a lot of staff turnover in my school, which made things confusing for students who didn’t know who to talk to when they had questions.

Note that some Australian universities have one or two required courses for PhD students, and a few are starting to implement the oral defense in place of the traditional thesis examination.

Make sure to check with your division and school for funding opportunities, but beware that they can be cut at any moment.

Dr. Wagner has a PhD in Linguistics and is dedicated to learning and teaching languages online and abroad. She has studied in Quebec and Australia, taught English in France, and is currently based in the US.

Aussie English for the Beginner

Australian English for the Beginner

And now for the post on Australian English!

Thanks to Australian friends and the internet, I had learned some Australian English words before arriving so I wasn’t lost when reading about diggers in the news or picturing the wrong thing when hearing the word thongs. Being a linguistics nerd, I am endlessly fascinated by the mixture of British and American terms used here, plus the words borrowed from the languages of the Aborigines. This cute website from the National Museum of Australia gives a nice overview of Aussie English and Australia Network has several video podcasts mostly designed for ESL students but still useful for native speakers of English who want to learn about Australia and the variety of English spoken here.

Some words are the same as in British English (zed for Z, holiday for vacation, fringe for bangs, boot for trunk, porridge for oatmeal, car park for parking lot, mobile phone for cell phone, torch for flashlight, trolley for cart, hire for rent, etc.) as well as the spellings (tyre, colour, socialise, etc.) Oddly enough though, the Australian Labor Party does not use the u in their official name because they kept the spelling that was preferred in Australia in the early 1900’s. In other cases, there are similarities with American English, such as eggplant and creek, though I am still a little confused as to the series/season distinction when referring to television shows. (Any help here, Aussies? Brits say series where Americans say seasons to refer to the year, as in Everyone loved season one of Heroes, but man, season two sucked.)

Most Americans are familiar with outback, bush, g’day, no worries mate, crikey, and that’s not a knife; that’s a knife, but the phrase that still catches me off guard is How are you going? I’m expecting to hear How are you doing? or How is it going? and so I always hesitate for a second before replying to make sure I don’t say something weird like I’m going good.

Other Australian words that I have actually heard in the past few weeks include:

tucker (food)
take a burl (take a whirl)
bung (broken)
sanger (sandwich)
salads (vegetables)
ute (truck)
capsicum (bell pepper)
light globe (light bulb)
anti-clockwise (counter-clockwise)
serviettes (napkins)
bathers / swimmers / togs (swimsuit in most areas / New South Wales / Queensland)
paddock (field)
oval (field for Australian Rules Football WHICH I DO NOT UNDERSTAND AT ALL)
bogan (lower-class person)
flat white (espresso with steamed milk; I don’t think you can find this drink often outside of Australia/New Zealand)
short black (espresso)
long black (espresso with water; similar to regular American coffee)
bottle shop (liquor store)
fair dinkum / dinky-di (true, genuine)
dunny (toilet, though usually outdoors)
Macca’s (McDonald’s)
pom (Englishman/woman)
snag (sausage)
ta (thanks)
good on ya (well done)

Bastard is a term of endearment, while root/rooting has a very vulgar meaning so Americans should never say they’re rooting for someone… Numbers and letters are often said as double or triple instead of saying each one individually. My name is J, E, double N, I, E. On most forms, you have to fill in the name of your suburb, and not your city.

Abbreviations and shortening of words is very common, especially with the addition of -y / -ie or -o:

bikkie (biscuit / cookie)
brekky (breakfast)
barbie (barbecue)
mozzie (mosquito)
sunnies (sunglasses)
pressie (present)
arvo (afternoon)
garbo (garbage)

Here in South Australia, stobie pole is used for electricity pole while heaps is a common intensifier (instead of very). And back to the beginning, a digger is a soldier and thongs are flip-flops (though I’m sure older Americans still remember when they were called thongs in the US too, but to us young’ins, it now refers to G-string underwear.) Even though Paul Hogan did say “I’ll slip an extra shrimp on the barbie for you” in a tourism video aimed at Americans, Australians actually use the word prawn. Oh, and Foster’s is NOT Australian for beer because no Australian would ever drink that stuff.

I have now been in Australia for one whole month! More cultural observations and comparisons (for America and France) to come!

Dr. Wagner has a PhD in Linguistics and is dedicated to learning and teaching languages online and abroad. She has studied in Quebec and Australia, taught English in France, and is currently based in the US.

Catalan Tutorial – Learn to speak Catalan

Thanks to Jonathan, you can learn to speak Catalan on

Catalan is spoken by 11.5 million people, mostly in eastern Spain (Catalonia, Valencian Community, Balearic islands) as well as in southern France, Andorra, and Sardinia, Italy. Barcelona is the largest Catalan-speaking city, and Catalan is recognized as a co-official language with Spanish in the regions where it is spoken in Spain.

The first thirty lessons of the Catalan tutorial are now available.

If any Catalan speakers out there can provide audio files or spontaneous listening resources, please let me know!


Dr. Wagner has a PhD in Linguistics and is dedicated to learning and teaching languages online and abroad. She has studied in Quebec and Australia, taught English in France, and is currently based in the US.

Moving to the Other Side of the World, Part 3: Settling in Australia

I have now been in Australia for two weeks, and things are going amazingly well. I arrived via the Overland train from Melbourne. It does take 10.5 hours but time goes by quickly. I definitely recommend it for those who do not like flying or driving long distances.

I have settled in my apartment, obtained my student ID/discount card (oh how I love being a student again!!), met with my supervisors at the university, and explored the library already. I have had absolutely no problems with the paperwork or university bureaucracy, which is a miracle. The day after I arrived I was able to obtain my student ID right away as well as receive my login credentials for the university system and e-mail. Then I signed my lease at the accomodation office and received the keys to my apartment. I managed to get the electricity in my name within 2 hours and since the unit is internet ready, I simply plugged in my ethernet cable and set up a pre-paid account for the data usage. I don’t have a landline or cable TV because I would never use them.

I am less than a 5 minute walk from campus, and a 2 minute walk to the post office, grocery store (open on Sundays!!), bakery, fruit & vegetable vendor, etc. There is a bus stop across the street where I can hop on a direct, and sometimes express, bus to the CBD of Adelaide every 15 minutes (and thanks to my student ID, one two-hour trip is only 81 cents!) My apartment is very quiet as I was lucky enough to be in the building that is not on the street, but back in the corner by the parking lot.

I have received my bank card and PIN so I no longer have to use American dollars (thankfully, since the exchange rate is not so good). Here’s a timeline of what opening by bank account was like:

  • One month before leaving France: Opened account online and transferred money into it
  • Two-three weeks later: Received first bank statement and welcome letter in France, stating which identification documents would be necessary n Australia
  • After arrival: Went to a bank branch that was not my own (remember, I arrived in Melbourne and then came to Adelaide later on), gave them my passport, signed two papers, got my telephone/online banking set up, ordered my debit card and could start withdrawing money immediately. I did not need any actual proof of my address in Australia – I simply told them what it was, and they printed out an official paper just in case I did need to prove my address (such as buying a cell phone on contract.)

Then I went next door to the cell phone store and bought a pre-paid phone. I only needed to tell them my address and show my passport. I could not believe how incredibly easy everything was. So there you have it. Housing, bank account and cell phone are completely taken care of, as are utility hookups in my apartment. Now I’m just finishing up some shopping for little things for the apartment.

I haven’t been experiencing much culture shock, but I have noticed that I automatically behave or think how I used to in France because I’m more used to the French way than the American way. The first time I went grocery shopping, I started to get ready to bag my own groceries and then realized the cashier was already doing it for me. I had second thoughts about ordering the debit card while at the bank branch in Melbourne because I was afraid that it would not be delivered if my name wasn’t on the mailbox at my apartment in Adelaide. But just like the US, your name isn’t always on the mailbox and the post office just uses the number. While at the large shopping center, I started looking to see how much change I had so that I could use the bathroom and then remembered that they were free to use.

Other things throw me off a little: cars driving on the left, not receiving mail on Saturdays, data caps on home internet, most stores closing at 5pm on Saturdays (I understand closing at 5 on Sunday, but why so early on Saturdays?) Not having a car is probably the only “problem” I have, but I would really only need one for bringing home larger items that I can’t carry. Fortunately my colleagues are helping me out on the weekends.

I am doing rather well and the weather is lovely. It’s good to know that this winter is “unusually cold,” which at 15° C / 59° F is a nice spring day to me. It hasn’t really set in yet that this is as cold as it will get all year. That is perhaps the best part so far! Besides the cute animals, of course.

Dr. Wagner has a PhD in Linguistics and is dedicated to learning and teaching languages online and abroad. She has studied in Quebec and Australia, taught English in France, and is currently based in the US.

First Impressions of Australia

I arrived in Australia a week ago today! These were my first thoughts:

This is winter?

Everyone speaks with such an adorable accent.

It’s not that expensive.

After two pleasant flights with Etihad Airways that seemed to go by extremely fast (I highly recommend them!), I arrived in Melbourne last Tuesday night. Customs went smoothly, the airport staff was kind, and the sniffer dogs were too cute. I boarded the SkyBus (buy and print your ticket online to avoid waiting in line) to head to Melbourne CBD, i.e. the central business district, or what I would call downtown. I was only wearing a sweater and cardigan, but did not feel cold when I stepped outside at 7pm. Even during the hour-long train & bus rides back to my friend’s place in the suburbs, I never once put on my jacket. I nearly laughed when I looked up the record low temperature for this area: -2.8°C / 27°F way back in 1901. So this is winter, eh?

Even though I arrived in Melbourne, I won’t actually be living here. I am currently visiting a friend from the States, and will head to Adelaide soon where my university is located. I absolutely love Melbourne and imagine that I will feel the same in Adelaide. Melbourne may be the second largest city in Australia, but it doesn’t have that big city feel to it that I don’t like about many of the other large cities in Europe (especially compared to Paris). There aren’t that many skyscrapers blocking out the sun, you can walk everywhere in the CBD – plus there are free trams and buses for tourists to get to all of the major sites – and there are beautiful parks on the edge of the city with plenty of green areas. Even a two minute walk away from the CBD you will find pretty residential areas. This is what (my idea of) a city should be like.

Besides the sightseeing, I’ve mostly been shopping for stuff that I couldn’t bring with me and finishing up the administrative things. Everyone has been so helpful, and it’s certainly a change when the cashier starts up a conversation with you while bagging your groceries and the bank employees fill out all the paperwork and wait in line with you to make sure you’re able to accomplish all of the things you need to. Everyone seems so polite and kind and ready to chat with you even if they don’t know you, which is a major difference from European culture that I had been missing. I’m already learning some Australian words, such as Flybuys (loyalty program owned by Coles), Maccas (McDonald’s), esky (cooler), sultanas (raisins) and tasty (cheddar), and the shortened forms of other words such as brekky (breakfast) and bikkies (biscuits, or cookies/crackers since a biscuit is an entirely different thing to me).

Prices are not as high as some (Americans) have complained about. Coming from France and the euro, it’s pretty much the same. Melbourne’s population is about 4 million people, so it’s a bit difficult to compare to Chambéry or Annecy in France with their populations of 50,000. Thanks to the strong Australian economy and dollar, the capital cities are now among the most expensive in the world with regards to cost of living. Sydney and Melbourne are now ranked between Paris and New York, while Perth and Brisbane also made the top 20. Luckily for me, Adelaide has the cheapest rent out of all of the capital cities (not to mention the driest weather).

From what I’ve seen so far, groceries are nearly the same as in France, gas is definitely cheaper (more like 1€ a liter) but restaurants and books are a bit more expensive. Clothes and electronics seem to be the same – that is to say, higher than American prices because of the exchange rates, but then again, what isn’t cheaper in the US? The only thing that does seem cheaper in Europe is internet. Unfortunately Australia has broadband caps on internet usage (same as Canada, New Zealand and AT&T and Comcast in the US), so paying only 30€ for unlimited internet plus cable TV and free calls to several countries is one thing I do miss about France. Nevertheless, I think I will be better off in Australia because I will have a higher income to compensate for the higher rent.

I am slowly resisting the urge to say bonjour to everyone instead of hello – Chinese and Italian are the major foreign languages here – and discovering the subtle, or not so subtle, differences between Australia, France, and the US. Australia definitely has a lot in common with the US (stores open on Sundays!), but it does share some similarities with Europe that are a welcome change from the American way (you only pay for calls you make, for instance.) I’ll post again soon about all the differences and similarities among the three.

Once I get into my apartment on Friday, I’ll update with part 3 of moving to the other side of the world. I nearly cried at the bank here because of how easy it was. Oh Australia, I hope I never have to leave you.

Dr. Wagner has a PhD in Linguistics and is dedicated to learning and teaching languages online and abroad. She has studied in Quebec and Australia, taught English in France, and is currently based in the US.

Moving to the Other Side of the World, Part 2: Relocating to Australia

As I mentioned earlier this week, moving to Australia seems to be much easier than moving to France. However, I moved to France to work temporarily through the Teaching Assistant Program in 2006 and I am going to Australia as a PhD student, so the comparisons aren’t exact. Nevertheless, here are my experiences:

France France

Visa: Luckily I was able to mail my application and passport to the consulate in Chicago; however, shortly afterwards they changed the procedure and now require you to go there in person to apply. Depending on how far away you live from your consulate (poor Alaskans & Hawaiians have to fly to San Francisco), it can be quite expensive. Receiving my visa by mail probably took 2-3 weeks. Within three months of arriving in France, I had to go to the préfecture to apply for my residency card (carte de séjour), which I had to renew every year with the same stack of paperwork, for 70€, then 110€, then 85€ (the price keeps changing!) Nowadays, most long-stay visas for France don’t expire for a year, but after that you still need to go to the préfecture to ask for a carte de séjour and renew it every year. Depending on what type of visa you have, you could end up paying anything from nothing to 340€ for your first carte de séjour, and the yearly renewal for most types currently costs 85€.

Housing: I had a string of bad luck trying to contact my school, so I had no idea if they had housing available or would help me find a place to live or not. I ended up arriving in France homeless and spent the first 5 nights sleeping on a couch. It was a very stressful time. I assumed that the program would try to help the assistants find housing, especially since many of us had never lived abroad before and did not speak French all that well, but I was wrong. Even our three day orientation in the mountains was completely useless to me (they did not help us with regards to housing, bank accounts, cell phones, etc.) and I was still homeless at the end of it. Plus I did not know how I could pay rent or the security deposit without a bank account, except for carrying around large amounts of cash, which I was not ok with. But opening an account took more time than I thought because…

Bank account: France does not allow you to open a bank account without proof of a French address. I had to make an appointment (for three days later) to open an account because it was not possible to do it immediately, and provide several justificatifs of my identity and address in France. Luckily by the day of the appointment, I had started renting a room in a woman’s apartment and she provided the documents for the proof of address.

I did finally get in touch with the people at my school and they helped me buy a cell phone (which in itself was another long, slow process even though I just wanted a cheap pay as you go phone), and after the first few stressful weeks, everything else was fine. The housing and bank issues were the worst, so I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Australia would not be the same.

Australia Australia

Visa: I applied online and received it in three days. No need to visit a consulate or mail my passport anywhere. Everything was electronic. It is good until late 2015 provided that I continue to do my PhD. The fee was $550 AUD but I do not need to renew it every year or change it into a residency card.

Housing: I contacted student living and asked if they had apartments on/near campus available in July. Within a few days, I had a furnished 2 bedroom apartment reserved. (FYI: you don’t always have to be a student to live in an apartment managed by student living.) I had to transfer the first two weeks’ rent as a deposit to reserve (I used XE Trade), and I just need to sign the lease and give them a bank check for the security deposit when I arrive (sorry, cheque for the bond), which I will be able to get easily because…

Bank account: Many Australian banks allow you to open an account online with your current address and transfer money into it up to an entire year before you are scheduled to move to Australia. Then you just need to show them your passport and give them your new Australian address (even a temporary one will work) when you arrive and you can set up telephone/online banking and withdraw money immediately.

So yes, I am very happy with Australia already. Everything just seems so easy, which is often what I didn’t like about France since most things here seem unnecessarily difficult. I’ve noticed that some Americans in Australia complain about the same things that I complained about in France: stores not open long enough, everything is too expensive, the pace of life is a bit too slow, etc. Yet Australia does seem less frustrating than France (see housing and bank account above!) and hey, at least the stores are open on Sundays.

Next week I’ll update with part 3 on arriving in Australia and finishing up the banking stuff as well as buying a cell/mobile phone. Later in July I’ll post about the cost of living and how much I’ll be paying for everything (my lease doesn’t start until July 15 so I’ll be staying with a friend until then), to compare it with my situation in France that I posted about last November.

Dr. Wagner has a PhD in Linguistics and is dedicated to learning and teaching languages online and abroad. She has studied in Quebec and Australia, taught English in France, and is currently based in the US.