Sydney vs. Melbourne Study Abroad: Which is Better for You?

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Arts + Sciences (University of New South Wales)

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College Study Abroad

You’ve decided to study abroad in Australia. Exciting! This incredible country is the perfect place to take your studies. With its rich biodiversity, fascinating history, 200,000+ diverse species, and unique culture, living and learning in Australia is sure to be a life-changing experience.

Now that you know which country suits you, it’s time to choose between two of its equally vibrant cities: Melbourne or Sydney study abroad. Both places are must-see destinations. On the one hand, Sydney is an iconic harbor city famed for its urban skyline and cosmopolitan vibe. On the other hand, Melbourne is a cultural hub known for its art scene, lush gardens, and world-famous café culture.

You can’t go wrong either way, but let’s dig deeper into each city to help you decide whether Sydney vs. Melbourne study abroad is a better match for your academic goals, personal interests, and lifestyle preferences.

Quick Overview: Sydney vs. Melbourne Study Abroad

CityPopulationLocationAvg. Student Monthly Cost
Melbourne5.1 millionSoutheastern Part of Mainland Australia$1,800 AUD
Sydney5.3 millionSoutheastern Coast of Mainland Australia$2,300 AUD

Sydney Study Abroad

Sydney, the most populous city in Australia and one of the country's largest, is a multicultural destination that hosts thousands of international students every year. Tourists and international students alike flock to this cosmopolitan city to enjoy its 100+ beaches, 400+ parks, 3,000+ restaurants, and roughly 200+ days of sunshine per year.

Not only is Sydney brimming with natural beauty and a rich outdoor lifestyle, but it’s home to renowned educational institutions and rigorous academic programs, giving you more ways to earn credits toward your degree. From environmental science to the arts to business to finance, there’s no shortage of subjects to study while living and learning in The Land Down Under.

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Read More: Why Study Abroad in Sydney (Top 5 Reasons)

Fast Facts About Sydney

  • Population: 5.3 million
  • Climate: Temperate with warm to hot summers and no dry season
  • Location: The southeastern coast of Australia
  • Currency: Australian Dollar (AUD)
  • Language: Australian English
  • Airport: Sydney Kingsford Smith International Airport (SYD)
  • Local Attraction: The Sydney Opera House – a 20th century multi-venue performing arts center and UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Bonus Fact: Bondi Beach is the most famous stretch of sand in the world

Sydney Language and Culture 101

English is the primary language spoken in Sydney, making it an accessible destination for international students. Of course, Aussies have a distinct accent characterized by slower speech, a more nasal tone, and diphthongs (gliding vowels). Don’t be surprised if you have trouble understanding the Aussie accent or local slang.  

Some common slang words you may come across include:

  • Bathers (swimsuit)
  • Cobber (very good friend)
  • Tea (dinner)
  • She’ll be apples (everything will be alright)
  • Runners (sneakers)
  • Hard yakka (hard work)

When it comes to the local culture, Sydney is rich and diverse, influenced by its indigenous heritage and waves of immigration from around the world. From Aboriginal art galleries to multicultural festivals, Sydney embraces its cultural diversity, offering students a chance to engage with different perspectives and traditions. Take advantage by visiting a museum or attending a local festival!

Read More: Eat, Drink, Explore: Sydney

Cost of Living for a College Student in Sydney

The average cost of living for an international student in Sydney is estimated to be around $2,300 AUD per month, excluding tuition fees. This estimated amount accounts for food, transportation, utilities, and other miscellaneous expenses. Remember, this is an estimate, and your monthly expenses will vary depending on your lifestyle.

Additionally, keep in mind that housing, excursions, study tours, travel protection, and 24/7 on-site emergency support are all included in your CIEE tuition.  

To help offset costs, CIEE also awards millions in scholarships and grants for students to study abroad each year based on demonstrated financial need, academic merit, and specific programs. To see if you qualify for CIEE funding, submit the Scholarships & Grants portion of your CIEE application. On average, it only takes students 15 minutes to complete!

australia study abroad student jerseys

Read More: How to Apply to a Study Abroad Scholarship at CIEE: 4 Steps

Melbourne Study Abroad  

Now that you know more about Sydney, let’s take a closer look at Melbourne. When you study abroad in Melbourne, Australia you’ll be living in one of the world’s most livable cities, famed for its vibrant arts scene, diverse culinary landscape, and eclectic neighborhoods. Melbourne is also the epicenter of Australia’s caffeine scene, with roughly 2,000+ cafés situated around the city and a rich multigenerational café culture. If you want to drink your coffee as the Melbournians do, order a latte, flat white, cappuccino, long black, or espresso.

In addition to Melbourne’s cosmopolitan atmosphere, the city boasts thriving creative industries and academic excellence. From gaining real-world work experience on an international internship to earning credits in business, the arts, or sciences, you’re in for a rewarding journey with Melbourne study abroad.

melbourne river cityscape

Read More: What are International Internships? Everything You Need to Know

Fast Facts About Melbourne

  • Population: 5.1 million
  • Climate: A mild, temperate climate with warm summers, moderate autumns, cool winters, and sunny and bright springs  
  • Location: The southeastern part of mainland Australia
  • Currency: Australian Dollar (AUD)
  • Language: Australian English
  • Airport: Melbourne Airport (MEL)
  • Local Attraction: Melbourne Cricket Ground (“The G”) – an Australian sports stadium
  • Bonus Fact: Melbourne has been voted “World's Most Livable City” almost every year since 2011

Melbourne Language and Culture 101  

Like Sydney, English is the predominant language spoken in Melbourne, making it an accessible destination for international students. Remember, you’ll need time to adjust to that unique Aussie accent and local slang!

A few more slang words to keep in your back pocket include:

  • Going off (busy; lots of people)
  • Crikey (surprise)
  • Brolly (umbrella)
  • Deadset (true)
  • Sick (awesome)
  • Straya (Australia)

As for the city’s culture, Melbourne prides itself on its cultural diversity and creativity. From street art to indie music venues, Melbourne's cultural scene is dynamic and eclectic. During a Melbourne, Australia study abroad program, you’ll have every opportunity to immerse yourself in the city’s melting pot of cultures, fostering cross-cultural understanding and appreciation.

Read More: Eat, Drink, Explore: Melbourne

Cost of Living for a College Student in Melbourne

The average cost of living for an international student in Melbourne is an estimated $1,800 AUD per month, excluding tuition, although that figure will vary depending on your lifestyle. This estimate takes into account food, transportation, utilities, entertainment, and so on.  

Remember, expenses like housing, excursions, study tours, travel protection, and 24/7 on-site emergency support are automatically included in your CIEE tuition. Additionally, you can apply for scholarships and grants to see if you qualify for CIEE funding.

melbourne city skyline

Read More: Study Abroad Scholarships: Everything You Need to Know

Melbourne or Sydney Study Abroad?

So, is Melbourne or Sydney better for studying abroad? Clearly, we think both cities are must-visit destinations with a host of exciting parks, beaches, restaurants, and cultural scenes to offer.  

Our advice to you in the Sydney vs. Melbourne for study abroad debate: Find the program that best aligns with your academic goals, schedule, budget, and lifestyle. Because trust us, either city will provide you with a life-changing experience!