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The basics
Australia: Destination Guides

The ultimate student guide to Wollongong

Wollongong is a friendly, safe, and affordable student city to call home with plenty to see, while being just 90 minutes from Sydney.

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Wollongong is a city that sits between the ocean and mountains, inhabited for thousands of years and given its original name meaning ‘the sound of the sea’ by the Aboriginal Dharwal people. Though known for its industrial production in the 20th and 21st centuries, today Wollongong is a stylish and cosmopolitan city. 


The city’s clean, bustling streets give way to white sandy beaches and perfect surf waves, while inland rainforest-covered mountains stretch into the distance. Wollongong is well known for outdoor activities and is home to range of thrilling sports, from paragliding to windsurfing and competitive fishing.


Away from the water, there’s still lots to enjoy, with endless coastal paths and lookout points providing the ideal scenery for a morning or evening walk between classes.


Wollongong is a smaller city than Sydney but still offers a great cosmopolitan experience while having a reputation for safety and affordability. You’ll be able to go shopping in 19th-century malls, relax at rooftop bars or terraced restaurants, as well as visit galleries, museums, and markets all within walking distance of each other.


The entirety of Australia’s east coast is yours to explore with Wollongong as your base, with road, rail and air connections providing quick and easy access to places like Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, and Brisbane.


World-leading universities like the University of Wollongong are based in the city, offering a range of excellent study opportunities, whether you’re looking to complete a whole degree in the city or make use of your university’s connections with Wollongong institutions.


What is Wollongong like?


Location and demographics


Wollongong is a city in New South Wales and is about 85 kilometres south of the state capital, Sydney. You’ll be able to drive there or hop on a train to travel between the cities in just 90 minutes.


Wollongong is the 3rd largest city in the state and the 10th largest in Australia. It’s a very diverse city of just over 300,000 people, with just under a third of the population born outside of Australia. In addition to that, just over half of the city’s residents have at least one parent not born in Australia. 


Culture and history 


Wollongong has been inhabited for thousands of years by Aboriginal communities, with the Dharawal people being its original custodians. The city’s name is thought to originate from an Indigenous term 'woolyuhgah', meaning ‘sound of the sea’.


From 1815, European settlers began to live in the area, and in 1970 it was officially established as the City of Wollongong. Over time it has grown into a farming, manufacturing, and tourism hotspot, offering international students an interested and varied place to live and study.


If you’re interested in studying in Australia, you may want to get familiar with the higher education system.


What universities are in Wollongong?


Wollongong is home to several notable higher education institutions that, combined with its ideal coastal location and medium size as a city, make it a sought-after location for university-level studies.


The University of Wollongong is a modern, research-focused institution that excels in the engineering and technology disciplines. It ranked 30th worldwide for minerals and mining engineering courses, along with civil and structural engineering, for which it ranked in the top 100 (QS World University Rankings by Subject, 2022).


It’s a global institution with campuses across the world, including Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Malaysia, and the UAE. In total, it’s linked to over 400 institutions globally, making it an increasingly attractive option for students looking to do part of their studies in Australia.


Other universities and colleges, such as the Nan Tien Institute of Higher Education, offer even more educational pathways to international students who choose Wollongong as their home.


Discover more universities in Australia.


What’s on offer for students in Wollongong?


What is transport like? 


Wollongong benefits from a great coastal location, just south of Sydney, and is linked to other major cities like Canberra and Melbourne by motorways, allowing students to explore easily. Wollongong itself is served by buses and trains which can take students to most parts of the city. All transport options can be paid for using the Opal Card, making it easy and efficient, and the city is investing in a great network of cycle paths.


What entertainment and food is there?


Wollongong, often referred to as ‘the Gong’, is home to a thriving art and cultural scene. With a range of venues such as the Wollongong Art Gallery, Illawarra Performing Arts Centre, and Merrigong Theatre Company, along with a wide range of bars, gig spaces and other entertainment options, you’ll be able to find fun things to do whatever your taste.


The city is popular with foodies and party people alike, with a wide variety of restaurants, bars, pubs, and breweries offering everything from local, organic food to craft beer brewed in the Gong. We can help you prepare for study in Australia, with our guide to understanding Australian English.


What accommodation is there?


Students in Wollongong can choose from university-managed accommodation, private halls of residence or private rented houses and flats. All budgets and lifestyles are catered for. Whether you’re looking for a social lifestyle in the heart of your university campus, an all-inclusive and safe hall of residence, or a place in a vibrant Wollongong neighbourhood.


What public services are there? 


Along with university support services, international students can get other help and support while studying in Wollongong. You can explore advice and resources from organisations like the Council of International Students Australia (CISA) and the Australian Federation of International Students (AFIS), who work to represent the interests of international students and help them get the most out of their time abroad.


Find out how you can apply to study in Australia.


How much does it cost to study in Wollongong?


The general cost of the city


Wollongong offers a fantastic student lifestyle at a significantly lower cost compared to nearby Sydney. Rental costs are much cheaper, while other regular costs like transport and meals out are less too. 


As a result, by choosing Wollongong as your student city, you’ll be able to stretch your budget further and enjoy everything the region, and its other cities have to offer.


Explore the cost of tuition fees in Australia.


Student budget


You can typically expect to spend between AUD 400 and AUD 800 a week as a single international student living and studying in Wollongong. This estimate includes rent, utilities, food, transportation, and other day-to-day living costs. 


Discover more about the living costs in Australia.


Financial requirements


The Australian Department for Home Affairs asks international students to demonstrate that they can access a minimum of AUD 21,041 per year before starting their studies in Australia. This is equivalent to AUD 1,753 per month or about AUD 405 a week.


If you’re looking for financial aid, why not explore the top scholarships in Australia?


What are the main attractions in Wollongong?


Wollongong is a rising star of Australian destinations, for tourists and students alike. The city is located on miles of beautiful coastline and enjoys a perfectly temperate climate, making it ideal for various outdoor pursuits from hiking along forest trails to cycling, skydiving, sailing, fishing and more.


The city is connected to the Grand Pacific Drive, one of Australia’s most iconic road trip routes that offer incredible views along the coast of New South Wales and takes travellers through world-famous rainforests and sea cliffs.


Visitors to Wollongong will also be able to see Nan Tien Temple, the biggest Buddhist temple in the southern half of the globe. It’s home to tranquil gardens and world-renowned training courses, as well as being a stunning piece of architecture.


Wollongong Breakwater Lighthouse and Wollongong Botanic Gardens are other must-see attractions in the city to enjoy all year round. Like many Australian cities, Wollongong is on the coast and allows residents to make the most of life on the water’s edge. 


Long, golden beaches provide endless opportunities for relaxation in the sun, while excellent conditions on the water make surfing a popular activity for visitors to ‘the Gong’.


Wollongong is a popular choice for overseas students visiting Australia due to its ideal location near Sydney and the rest of the east coast. The city itself is a bustling town that combines a range of outdoor activities with a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. Start searching for your perfect degree in Australia using our course matcher tool.


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