Maybe you’re Newcastle born-and-bred, or maybe you just arrived in Australia yesterday! Either way, starting postgraduate studies can seem little daunting at first. Here’s what you need to know to get off on the right foot.
The first thing you need to know about UON is its history – its ancient history. Callaghan campus is located on the traditional Aboriginal lands of the Pambalong Clan of the Awabakal Nation; Ourimbah campus is located on the traditional lands of the Darkinung people; and the Gadigal of the Eora Nation are the traditional custodians of the site of UON’s Sydney City campus.
Acknowledgement of Country is an act of respect for the traditional custodians of the land where we now live and work. The Wollotuka Institute play a pivotal role at UON by consolidating all Indigenous activities of the University under one operational body.
“We would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land and pay our respects to elders past, present and future, for they hold the memories, traditions, culture and hope of Indigenous Australians.”
Do you want flatmates, or are you happy flying solo? How much of your budget is going to rent? How close do you want to be to campus? There are lots of factors to consider when looking for accommodation.
A good place to start is UON’s Accommodation Portal, which has info on campus living, advice for tenants and a share house survival guide. They keep a directory of available rental properties and share houses near to both Callaghan campus and NeW Space, which you can sort according to your budget and living preferences.
If you’d like to live directly on campus, UON Student Living has a website that will give you pricing and accommodation options, and answer any questions you may have. Living on campus can be a lot of fun; you’ll really immerse yourself in the student experience, and the ResLife team runs all sorts of activities at the residences to help you make friends and build a sense of community.
If you’re fairly self-sufficient and would prefer to cast a wider net, there are plenty of other places to rent around Newcastle. And there are just as many real estate agents managing them, so it’s best to do some research, figure out which factors are critical (such as location, distance from campus/public transport, ambient noise and choice of housemates), and narrow down your options.
Aerial view of new residential towers at UON Callaghan campus.
Any UON student will tell you that parking at Callaghan can be a nightmare, so you might want to think twice before picking up your car keys. Consider cycling, walking, catching the bus or carpooling with some friends using the University’s Rideshare system – the planet (and your wallet) will thank you for it! To help you out, there’s list of transport options for each campus on the University’s website.
If you’re going to catch public transport regularly (in NSW), you should definitely get an Opal card. Full-time domestic students can apply for a concession version through UON’s myHub. Unfortunately, under current federal law, most international students are not eligible for transport concessions (but we’re working to change that!).
For more information on tertiary concession, check the Transport NSW website.
UON Shuttle Bus (Callaghan / Ourimbah)
If you need to get around campus, or to and from your house safely (particularly when it’s dark), the University operates shuttle buses for students at both Callaghan and Ourimbah. They’re really handy, and free to use!
At Callaghan campus, the shuttle operates from 8am til midnight. It loops past Warabrook Train Station in the early morning and afternoon, and does complete circuits of campus during the day.
At night (6.30pm til 12am), you can call the shuttle to pick you up and take you anywhere on campus or the surrounding suburbs – Jesmond, Shortland, Birmingham Gardens and Waratah West. (You’ll find a map of the area it covers here.)
To see where the shuttle during the day, use the Double Map smartphone app. To arrange pick-up during the evening, call 0407 951 470.
Finally, free shuttles run all day between Callaghan campus and NeW Space. If you can’t find a parking spot in the city (or live near Callaghan), why not catch a shuttle in and back? You’ll find a schedule of departure and arrival times here.
Callaghan and Ourimbah are bushland campuses – beautiful to look at, but often confusing to navigate. Luckily, the University has interactive maps you can use to find your building, and the Lost on Campus site will help you find your classroom, lecture theatre or 9am caffeine hit. HOT TIP: download the app version for a portable interface.
Using these together, you should be able to find your way around pretty well. One notable exception, however, is the Hunter Building at Callaghan, which is a straight-up maze that defies logic. It’s like an M.C. Escher painting, or the corridors of Hogwarts. The rooms will literally rearrange themselves every evening after you leave.
To help you navigate this Cretan labyrinth, the university has a webpage dedicated to the Hunter Building here. We’ve also uploaded the floor plans for floors A/B, C/D and E (yes, each floor is actually two floors – it’s that confusing), which may or may not help. God speed.
The Hunter Building. To the left is Huxley Library; note the stairs that are, in fact, walls.
There’s also an upside-down Boost Juice in the vertical courtyard just off to the right.
Let’s be honest: nobody likes reading through policies and regulations. As a postgrad student, you’ve got mountains of boring documents to read already. But there’s one in particular you should be familiar with: UON’s Code of Conduct, a master manual that outlines the behaviour and standards you should expect of the University, and the standards it will expect of you in return.
UON keeps a list of official documents on its website, including its Code of Conduct. If you have any issues at all during your degree, or are uncertain where you stand, it’s a great place to start.
And hey – it’s easier to read than Atlas Shrugged.
Thankfully, the University’s Code of Conduct is based neither on the
writing style nor the personal ethics of Ayn Rand.
If you’re a Coursework student, your academic year will be divided into two Semesters or three Trimesters, depending on your degree. These typically end with an exam period (boo!) and then a holiday period (yay!), so it’s good to check these dates in advance and plan the trajectory of your year. The University keeps a schedule of key dates on its website.
If you’re a Research student, these dates aren’t quite as important to you, since you’ll have your own independent research project that will determine your calendar. There are still some very important milestones, however (such as Confirmation, at the end of your first year), so check with your supervisor early on – or with the Office of Graduate Research – to map out a timeline for your project. Getting on track early will make things far less stressful for you down the road.
What constitutes ‘calendar’ and ‘timeline’ may very from student to student.
As a postgraduate student, you’ll rarely have any money. But if, by chance, some money does come into your possession, and you need to set up an Australian bank account, convert currency, transfer funds and so on, there are several options on and off campus.
Callaghan campus has its own branch of Commonwealth Bank (next to Park on the Hill), as well as general use ATMs dotted about. If you’re withdrawing money from an ATM or branch that’s not your regular provider, there’s often a small fee; if you’re not in a hurry, you can save a few dollars (and burn a few calories) by wandering a little further to find your own.
Most banks and building societies in Australia have their own websites and smartphone/tablet apps that make transferring money and paying bills much easier. You’ve probably already set up online banking before coming to UON, but if not, don’t be afraid to contact your bank (or one of ours) and have it activated.
This is money. Take a good look.
Postgrad students, of course, live in caves or hermetically sealed laboratories and seldom, if ever, communicate with the outside world. If, however, you’d like to be able to do this for some deluded reason, a mobile phone is critical.
There are three major communications companies in Australia – Telstra, Optus and Vodafone – and a host of smaller ones as well (which are usually more affordable, and definitely worth exploring). Depending on the duration of your visa, you can either sign up for a pre-paid plan or post-paid contract, each of which has different conditions and advantages.
Pre-paid plans are shorter-term and require less commitment – essentially, you pay for the calls, text messages and data you need as you go. You can top up your account with credit through your banking app, website or branch, and expend it with each phone call, megabyte of data, etc. If you don’t spend all day checking Facebook, only call in an emergency, or aren’t staying in Australia long enough to complete a full contract, a pre-paid plan may be ideal.
The downside of a pre-paid plan is that you have to provide your own phone (or buy one up-front from your provider), so there’s an immediate expense at the beginning. Check the website of each phone provider and see what deals are best for you.
Post-paid contracts are longer-term, and commit you to monthly payments over a period of (typically) two years, so you’ll need to ensure your visa will allow you to stay in the country that long. You’ll also need to provide 100 points of ID to your phone provider, since you’ll be signing a legal document.
In exchange, there are some notable benefits to going post-paid. First, your provider will give you a new phone at a subsidised cost, which is folded into your monthly bills so you pay nothing up-front. Second, you’ll know exactly how much you’ll be paying each month, and how much data/how many calls that will cover. This allows you to plan your monthly budget, which is a pretty important survival skill as a student.
All the major communication companies have stores you can visit, and there are other options too; if you’re after an iPhone, for example, there’s an Apple Store in Charlestown Square shopping centre that can sell you one outright or set you up with a Telstra, Optus or Vodafone contract.
A smartphone will also give you access to the Facebook and the Twitter, both
critical tools in your daily avoidance of actual work.
SSAF is the Student Services and Amenities Fee, and it’s super-important – particularly to student entities like us. It’s a regular fee you pay in addition to your enrolment, and it funds all the various student services and activities you see on campus (or online): new social spaces, live music, student workshops and events, festival days, you name it.
Enjoying the beanbag lounges in the Hunter Commons? Try out that free bouncy castle during Mental Health Week? Jump into that online webinar? You paid for that through SSAF. You’re a legend.
NUPSA is entirely SSAF-funded, which means that everything we do – our advocacy, student support, workshops, social events and club sponsorship – is paid for by students, not the University. Never be afraid to get in touch with us if you have a question or concern, and come to as many of our events (and eat as much of our free food) as you can. After all, you’ve already paid for it!
UON sends out annual surveys to find out how you’d like your SSAF money spent, but there’s also a page on its website where you can give feedback anytime you like. It’s your cash, so feel free to make suggestions on where it should go.
Look for this logo around campus and online.