Although Australia may be better known for sending its youth away on gap years throughout the globe, Australia has also long been a popular gap year destination for gappers.
In addition to having a fantastic working holiday visa that allows citizens of several countries to work legally in the country, Australia is full of natural wonders and lively cities to explore.
From its beaches, deserts, "the bush", and "the Outback" to the cosmopolitan attractions of its large cities, you'll have so much to see -- too much, in fact! -- while on a gap year in Australia.
Not to mention, the overall safety, ease of travel, and friendly locals within Australia makes it an ideal location for newbie travelers and first-time solo travelers.
But whether you're trying to break into the travel world, or just want a vast expanse of land to roam and explore, a gap year in Australia is sure to meet your travel goals.
Perhaps one of the biggest draws to Australia for gappers is the opportunity to live and work legally in the country on a working holiday visa. Available to youth ages 18 - 31 (you must not have turned 31 by the time you apply for the visa), the Australian working holiday visa will allow foreign nationals from several countries (yes, even Americans!) to work for up to six months at a job (or two -- you have a full year).
Typically, these jobs are in the service / retail, tourism, or agriculture industries. Work as a barista, hostel receptionist, or picking grapes -- whatever meets your fancy.
If you want to get more involved with the real Australia, try volunteer work. Link up with fun and rewarding wildlife conservation projects in the rainforest of North Queensland, work with the elderly, tutor, or join a local gardening project. You can also volunteer with local charities and NGO’s in Australia such as Friends of the Earth or Greenpeace Australia Pacific.
Australia is the smallest continent, but the sixth-largest country. It’s as large as 48 contiguous United States. Australia is highly urbanized; most of the population is heavily concentrated along the Eastern and Southeastern coasts, but the distance between cities and towns is easy to underestimate.
Melbourne boasts the largest tram network of any city in the world, but most of Australia is not easy to travel through. Buses cover more of Australia’s rural landscape than trains, but traveling off the beaten path may require a few days’ wait. If you want to see all that Australia has to offer, you’ll have to take domestic flights throughout the country.
For the adventurers at heart, Australia offers plenty of fun activities. You can scuba dive off the coast of King Island, contemplate at MONA (The Museum of Old & New Art), or lose yourself on a road trip through the natural splendor of the Outback. Australia offers something for everyone.
Make your resume stand out! An internship in Australia adds something extra to your resume. International experience is sought after in today's market and undertaking an internship in Australia offers interns the opportunity to show employers that they’re flexible and confident when working in a new environment. If you don’t want to be tied down during your gap year, many internships are as short as 6-10 weeks and allow you to customize your internship if you’re a student. Many internships offer academic credit as well.
Alright, so you're committed to taking a gap year down under, what should you know about planning your trip?
Cost of Living in Australia
Living in Australia is equivalent to living in the U.S. Some items are cheaper, and some are more expensive. It’s completely relative. While youth hostels and inexpensive dorm accommodations are common throughout the cities, Australian currency, also called the dollar, is essentially equal to the USD.
Again, you can offset the costs of living in Australia by working on a working holiday visa. Though cost of living is generally much higher than the U.S., so is their minimum wage.
Also, don't plan on buying any electronics in Australia -- they're all imported and much more expensive than in North America / Europe.
Health and Safety in Australia
Exposure to the sun at Australian latitudes frequently results in sunburn. Getting sunburned can make you feel feverish and unwell, taking a few days or even weeks to heal. You can burn in as little as 15 minutes during the Australian summer. You should wear sunscreen (SPF 30+), clothing, and a hat to shade the sun.
Australia's cleanliness standards are high. Restaurants are required to observe strict food preparation standards. Carrying water on hot days is a good idea in urban areas, and it is a necessity if hiking or driving out of town.
Australia does not have endemic diseases that will require non-standard vaccinations. Like many other countries, it will require evidence of yellow fever and other vaccinations upon entry.
Gap Year Programs in Australia
How much does a gap year in Australia cost?
The cost of a gap year in Australia will vary greatly depending on what you hope to be doing. It's possible to only have to cover airfare if you decide to go overseas with an au pair program, where you might even be paid a stipend. You can apply for a working holiday visa which allows you to work while you travel. Or you can do a programed gap year which will be on the costlier side and could cost as much as $5,000 or more. Remember that the cost of living in Australia is pretty equivalent to the US, so budget accordingly.
Can I stay in Australia after graduation?
The length of time you can stay in Australia after you graduate depends on the type of degree you received. You will need to apply for a 485 skilled graduate temporary visa so that you can stay in the country for work, travel, or to continue your studies. You can stay for an additional 2 years after graduation if you received a bachelor's degree, master's degree, or master's by coursework degree. You can stay for 3 additional years if you received a master's by research degree. And you can stay for 4 years if you received a PhD.