Overseas university spotlight: University of New South Wales (Australia)
Updated: May 27
I've had a long-standing connection with the University of New South Wales (UNSW Sydney) since I first decided to study there for my Master of Education back in 2011.
This year-long program taught me about leadership, learning differences, teaching styles and more -- also saving me time and money given most M.Ed. programs in the U.S. are two years.
Whilst there, I got to enjoy the vibrant student life in Sydney and beautiful beach areas like Coogee, just a half hour walk from campus.
Years later, I was fortunate to be hired as UNSW's Future Students Manager, based in the U.S., which was actually my last role prior to my decision to start College Apps Abroad.
Nevertheless, last October, I traveled back to Sydney to visit the campus again, and here are some of the highlights!
Regularly crowned winner of the "Most Instagramable City in the World," Sydney is one of the world's most attractive places for international students.
And it's not hard to see why!
My experience of the city during the year I lived there was overwhelmingly positive; I adored the laid back Australian lifestyle and particularly Sydney's famous coffee/brekkie culture.
The city's food and music scenes are diverse and accessible, and its people are welcoming and friendly.
With warm weather, stunning coastlines and a diverse natural environment, the Sydney area is also a dream for the outdoor adventurist.
And it's not just surfing and swimming; the city offers so many opportunities to 'get out there' and soak up its beauty.
Some of those ways include climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge itself!
Despite the height, it wasn't really that scary!
But as great as it is to visit the splendid centre of Sydney, it's also important to remember that it's a city of neighborhoods; locals don't tend to hang out in the downtown central business district (where the Opera House is located) outside of work hours.
The city's suburbs are vibrant and thriving community hubs, including the eastern suburbs, where UNSW's main campus is located (Kensington).
Most people will be familiar with Bondi Beach, but my favorite area is actually Coogee, which is less touristy (and closer to UNSW!).
Founded in 1949, UNSW is a public research-focused institution and member of Australia's Group of 8, the equivalent of the Ivy League in the U.S.
It's ranked #43 in the world (4th in Australia) in this year's QS World Rankings, which is comparable to the world rankings of UCLA, NYU and UC San Diego.
Perhaps more importantly, it ranks #29 in the world in the QS Graduate Employability rankings.
This is because career readiness is a major element to its degrees, which often include compulsory work-integrated learning placements.
For example, all engineering students must complete a 60-day Industrial Training placement prior to graduation, and many students end up employed by the companies in which they train.
Speaking of engineering, UNSW is often thought of as the go-to place to study STEM subjects.
Innovation is at its forefront, and it has invested a lot in offsetting its carbon usage to achieve net zero operational emissions.
Researchers at UNSW have also created the world’s first hydrogen battery, developed lifesaving HIV drugs and figured out how to transform waste plastics into steel.
Also notably is the fact that UNSW researchers achieved a world record in solar energy efficiency with the highest electricity conversion rate ever reported (more than 40 percent).
So it's no surprise that UNSW has the top solar and renewable energy engineering degree in Australia.
In addition to innovation, however, entrepreneurship is a big part of student life at UNSW, in part due to the Founders Program.
This program is open to all students and includes workshops, pitch competitions, hackathons, coaching and more.
As a result, UNSW is widely viewed as the go-to institution for aspiring entrepreneurs, having placed first in Australia for capital raised by its spinouts, with 160 start-ups raising $5.6 billion of capital in the past 10 years.
With around 60,000 students, UNSW is a comprehensive university though, with really strong business, law and medical schools as well.
Most undergraduate degrees can be completed in three years, but there are so many double degree combinations, such as the Bachelor of Data Science & Decisions & Bachelor of Law.
This program, while it takes 5.7 years to complete, produces students with a skill and knowledge set in such high demand that they typically have 6-figure job offers in hand prior to even graduating.
And if you're wondering why the duration is so specific (5.7 years), it's because UNSW operates on a trimester system, so 0.7 years is essentially two trimesters.
The main UNSW campus is located in Kensington, which is now a super easy 30-minute tram ride from the city centre, thanks to the new line.
This line would've saved me so much time and hassle back in the day, as I chose to live off-campus and commute in.
Whilst this did give me more independence and freedom, it was much harder to make friends and meet other students besides in the classroom, so I do recommend living in the UNSW accommodation!
There is a wide range of choice, from residential colleges (more of a community feel, with an option for meal plans) to apartment style living as well as buildings that also accommodate families and children.
One thing I loved about being a student at UNSW was the number of places to get a coffee or food.
There are often events with free food, too, as there was on this day, courtesy of ARC (UNSW's student organization).
There's also an on-campus pub called the Roundhouse, which hosts many student events, too, such as orientation barbecues, etc.
After eating, if you want to work off some of those calories, UNSW has an active sports scene with a gym and also a fitness & aquatic centre.
The facilities have changed (improved) a lot since I attended, and what used to be a 'footy' oval is now a different kind of pitch with climbing walls and other exercise equipment nearby.
Once feeling refreshed, when it comes time to study, the main library has multiple levels, laptops available on loan for free and even nap pods in case you need to switch off for a bit.
Inside the library is where you'll find The Nucleus, which is the main student hub where you can get help with any sort of question or need.
And of course, there's a small shop, too!
UNSW also has a small campus in Paddington, a suburb much closer to the city centre, which is the home of the School of Art & Design.
It's a really funky and hipster type of environment with amazing facilities, such as museum-standard galleries, workshops, digital labs, student lounges and spaces for collaboration.
At Paddington, it's almost like studying at a small arts school, as professors get to know students individually and often put on movie nights in the courtyard, etc.
It's not common to have classes at both campuses though, but students do have access to facilities at both should they need them and can take the free shuttle bus between the two, which runs hourly during term time.
University of New South Wales: Summary
Since I studied at UNSW Sydney from 2011-12 and worked there from 2019-20, I have witnessed the campus undergo a massive transformation -- like the library, which has been fully renovated with cool study spaces.
There are more cafes as well (always a plus in my book!), and it's now 10 times easier to arrive on campus from the city centre via a brand new, direct tram line.
Being on campus again brought back such wonderful memories and reminded me why I chose to study there in the first place; the energy was buzzing.
I found the actual classes and discussions within my program to be interesting, thought-provoking and challenging.
There were probably 12 different nationalities in a classroom of 20 students, so whilst I came in thinking I would have an Australian study experience, what I really gained was a world view.
If I could go back in time, the only thing I would change is to get more involved in the on-campus clubs and societies.
But overall, I can firmly say I would not be where I am today without my study experience at UNSW, and for that, I am thankful.