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Pop quiz time: where can you explore coral reefs, cross the street with a kangaroo, visit the villages of indigenous peoples, and hang out with your "mates" all in a few days? Well, you might have just guessed Australia, but actually, it's Oceania!
You might not have known that the Oceania region contains more than just Australia and New Zealand. Papua New Guinea, Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia (regions made up of thousands of awesome islands) are all included, allowing for some pretty adventurous island hopping to take place. Though the universities in Oceania can cater to all academic interests, they are great for students interested in Biology, Ecology, and other life science (marine life is particularly popular). Students interested in international development or anthropology might find just what they are looking for in the smaller countries!
Australia and New Zealand often get a bad wrap for being quite expensive, but lucky for you, it isn't as bad as it's talked up to be! On the other hand, Polynesia's pristine beaches and greenery come with a bit of a hefty price tag. French Polynesia and Tahiti top that price mountain, with other islands like Samoa and Papua New Guinea being more comparable to Australia and New Zealand.
It's important to note that international students studying in Australia must show the Australian government proof that they have the financial means to study abroad in the country. While it might seem kind of crazy, this is actually done to ensure that the students will have a great experience and not have to worry about money too much.
"G'day mate", "sheila", "bogan", "footy"...The list of Aussie-isms goes on and on! Though plain-old English is Australia and New Zealand's national language (New Zealand has both English and Maori as official languages, while Australia has no designated official language), the amount of Aussie slang thrown around by locals might make it seem like a language of its own! Many of the islands have two official languages: the native language which is usually of the Austronesian family, as well as English (you'd get major brownie points in our book if you studied the indigenous languages, though).
Though originally home to indigenous peoples, many of Oceana's countries and islands have, at one time or another, been European or American colonies. All of the colonization had a pretty strong influence on the culture, making a pretty cool mix of East and West. Australia and New Zealand in particular, are very Western. But the aborigines' presence definitely throws in a bit of a twist on the art, music, and folklore. "Mateship" or brotherly camaraderie and egalitarianism are also highly esteemed values (making locals super friendly, fun, and supportive!) If you plan on heading to either of these countries, you should know that they have a sort of friendly rivalry, so you best figure out the accent differences before you accidentally call an Aussie-native a New Zealander or vice versa!
For all you geneticists, super fancy, high-tech DNA evidence shows that the peoples of Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia all come from Taiwanese descent, but they broke off and forming their own subgroups when they migrated to Oceania. There are tons of tribes and cultures found throughout Oceania (with an estimated 700 cultural groups in Papua New Guinea alone!). Generally speaking, these indigenous cultures resemble those of Southeast Asia.
Sports are pretty popular in the area, particularly in Australia. Given the number of beaches and the amount of sun, it's no surprise that Oceania is big on water sports like swimming, surfing, and rowing. But they also have a huge interest in cricket, rugby, and Australian football (called footy by the locals)--a super intense sport similar to rugby but played in much shorter shorts.
If your main concern is "what delicious grub can I get my hands on when I'm there?", then this food section if for you! Typical Polynesian cuisine is prevalent throughout the whole area. Their food is a sort of mix between Indian, Taiwanese, and Chinese cuisine, and they use lots of root vegetables (think sweet potatoes and taro) with fish. Again, all the European immigrants (particularly the Irish and British) have definitely made their mark: meat pies and Sunday Roasts with potatoes are now staples on any Aussie dinner table. Australia is also quite famous for it's wine, for those of you old enough to drink it, of course!
Despite the sunshine, cute animals, and beach access, education is still top notch in Oceania. Australia and New Zealands each have a bunch of universities, many of them high up there on all those rankings. Australia's University of Melbourne, Australia National University, and University of Sydney are all in very high regard. As is New Zealand's University of Auckland. Though less famous, there are still a handful of fabulous and well-equipped institutions throughout the rest of the area, including University of French Polynesia in Tahiti, the National University of Samoa, and the University of the South Pacific in Fiji.
So if fuzzy animals, beaches and jungles, fabulous universities, and adventures are your thing, Oceania is undoubtedly the place for you! In the process of planning a study abroad trip in Oceania, you should ask yourself a few questions: How large of a country would I like to live in? Do I want to live in a rural area or a city? Which countries have the best schools for my interests? What kind of accommodations would I like--homestay, apartment, dormitory? Once you've got this all figured out, you'll be heading to the "outback" (or the outback's neighboring areas) in no time!
Since Oceania definitely isn't the cheapest temporary home you can find, you might want to check out the following sources for information on scholarships and funding:
Emma is a senior at UC Berkeley, majoring in Cognitive Science. Since she studied abroad in Utrecht, Netherlands, she has been itching to travel more. When she isn't in school or working at Go Overseas, she loves to dance and browse Pinterest.
Photo Credit: Passage Bay of Islands