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Staying Down Under for uni? Here’s what to expect!

Staying down under for uni

We spoke to a first-year student and a professor at Brisbane’s QUT for a low-down on kickstarting your STEM degree as an international student in Australia

Deciding what to study at uni and navigating the application process can be tricky at the best of times, but it can be extra daunting if you’re an international high school student looking to do your degree in Australia.

Bipika Poudya has been there. Originally from Nepal, Bipika spent Years 10-12 at Centenary Heights High School in Toowoomba, Queensland and while she had her sights set on going to uni in Brisbane, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do. 

Bipika attended a bunch of open days at various universities in the city, but a session on urban and regional planning at QUT’s Gardens Point campus sealed the deal. 

“The professors were all very interested in the students’ practical experience and what they wanted to do after uni,” says Bipika, “I also liked that industry partners were involved.”

Bipika selected QUT as a first preference and applied for a Bachelor of Urban Development (Honours) with a major in Urban and Regional Planning. Shortly after applying, she was awarded the QUT International Merit Scholarship, which covers 25% of her tuition fees.  

A major perk of the scholarship is automatic entry into the QUT College of Excellence, which includes access to leadership and development opportunities, such as a three-day camp before the start of uni. 

Make like-minded friends

Bipika says that there are also plenty of other opportunities to meet other like-minded international students on campus. 

“There are all these international clubs and events you can go to,” she says. “There is plenty of support you can find if you need it.”

While Bipika spent most of her first year doing lectures and tutorials online due to the pandemic, she still managed to squeeze in some hands-on experience helping a PhD student collect data on how people use parks. 

“I approached strangers and asked them how they use the park,” says Bipika. “It was really fun.”

Students are also kept in the loop about job opportunities in their field with QUT’s industry partners through a regular email newsletter. Among its 30-plus partners are ARUP, Lendlease, and Telstra. 

Professor Bouchra Senadji, from QUT’s School of Electrical Engineering & Robotics, says that it’s this emphasis on practical experience and engagement with industry partners from the start that makes all the difference. 

“Keeping things hands-on and getting industry involved makes it more real,” says Bouchra. “We have lots of students coming from different countries, and it’s great they can get involved in both theoretical and practical engineering from day one rather than later in the curriculum.”

Bouchra teaches Foundation of Engineering Design, a first-year unit that gives students a taste of what it’s like to solve real-world engineering problems. Like pro engineers, students work in teams to design, test, and build a simple engineering system, such as a crane for moving a statue in a park. 

Bouchra says one of the most rewarding things about engineering is the opportunity to use creative thinking to make life easier for people.

“The world we live in has been designed by engineers,” says Bouchra. “It’s really wonderful to be serving the community now, but also to be a part of designing the future.” 

Take your first steps

International students who have completed or are due to complete Year 12 at an Australian high school this year and are applying to start at QUT in Semester 1 next year, should apply through the Queensland Tertiary Admissions Centre (QTAC). 

Changing your preferences 

If you don’t meet the academic or English requirements or if you want to change your preferences and be considered for a different course, please contact the QUT International admissions team directly via

RELATED: Guide to changing preferences

Key dates

ATARS released for 2020 Queensland Year 12 students: 19 December 2020

Last date for international students to accept their offer: 15 February 2021 

Find out more about how to apply as an international student studying in Australia here.

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