Michael Darde at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia

During the summer semester 2008, I have done an exchange program at the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) in Australia. I have passed 3 classes there and one of them was an internship under the direction of Dr. Bishnu Sharma. My Objective in the internship was to write report for the council of the Sunshine Coast that gives the impact of the tourism and the key issues to guarantee the quality of life on the Sunshine Coast according to its inhabitants. Studying, working and travelling in Australia were a great experience. I have discovered a new culture but also a new lifestyle characterised by a nice weather, nature and beautiful landscapes. The Sunshine Coast is a coastal region that offers a huge natural heritage with 211 kilometres of coastline, more than 100 kilometres of white sandy beaches, protected natural areas with unspoiled beauty... The Sunshine Coast region is safe, symbolised by the sun element and at a distance from the pressures of major cities. The purpose of this paper is first to explain and describe my activities during this semester, and secondly to report my experience of the Australian Lifestyle and to advise and encourage the students of the RheinAhrCampus to spend one semester or more there.

University of the Sunshine Coast

Located in one of the country's fastest growing regions, the University of the Sunshine Coast campus has grown to accommodate more than 5,000 students since 1994. Major centres such as Maroochydore, Mooloolaba, Caloundra and Noosa are a short drive away. The 100 hectare campus is located in Sippy Downs, the heart of the Sunshine Coast, approximately 100km north of Queensland's capital city, Brisbane. We enjoy modern facilities in the campus centre. The student card provides, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, access to computer rooms and internet on the campus. A Library, located in the centre of the campus, is the main literature source for all assignments. A student service provides help, especially for international students by correcting assignments or presentations. The staff is friendly and very helpful by giving tips about the Harvard referencing style. 3 Cafés offer a range of sandwiches, snacks, and a variety of drinks. There is also a great variety of proposed sports in the indoor sports stadium and of the USC sports fields like outdoor tennis, basketball, badminton…

Wildlife is also present with eastern grey kangaroos living on the campus. These elements, combined with the friendly atmosphere only a smaller campus can provide, create a unique environment.

In 2008 there were 5,833 Student with 60 percent female. 977 international students from 50 countries were enrolled at the University. The highest number of international students studying on-campus was from Germany. A large number of students also came from the United States of America, Canada, France and Sweden.

My three Classes

A class is divided in 2 parts. First the lectures are oral presentations where professors teach all students about a subject in amphitheatre and tutorials where students are divided in small groups of 20, in which the tutor gives individual attention to the students. For each class, we had to read every week one text to prepare the next lecture. It is really a lot of work if you want to make everything properly.

Australian Internship

Tasks description

Learning/Assessment Tasks


Word Length

Assessment Weighting

Participation in Seminars & the final Thank You function

Dates listed in the Course Schedule



Outline of Learning Objectives

Due in Seminar 2

500 Words


Internship portfolio

Week 13

250 words each Week


Workplace experience (150 hours over 10 weeks)







My learning objectives were

  • develop a good understanding of the survey’s respondents’ profile on the Sunshine Coast, Australia.
  • develop and enhance my research skills.
  • develop my skills of using electronic Data-bases in the library like ‘Proquest 5000’, ‘Informit’…
  • identify the current economical, environmental and social situation of the Sunshine Coast.
  • provide a clear, understandable and complete internship report for possible publication and to convince the new council of the Sunshine Coast of the urgency of the presented issues.

I chose articles about new trends in surveys and new methods of data collection. The second text underlined some important questions to bear in mind like "should we be satisfied with the quality of public opinion?" The third text was my favourite and talked about evaluating the reliability and validity of information published from public opinion polls. This text provides all the important questions to take into account, the purpose of the poll, the sponsor of the poll, the organization that conducted the poll, the questions asked, who was polled…

This internship done at the University of the Sunshine Coast was under the direction of Dr Bishnu Sharma. A survey created by Dr Bishnu Sharma called "Project: your coast your say" has been distributed through the newspaper "Sunshine Coast daily".
The project aimed to convince the council of the Sunshine Coast about key issues to guarantee the quality of life on the Sunshine Coast and to show the impact of the tourism according to its inhabitants. This study was also extended further to compare the Sunshine coast with the Gold Coast.

The survey ‘Your Coast Your Say’ attracted 1589 entries, making it the largest residents’ survey ever undertaken on the Coast. The survey was divided into five main sections: Lifestyle, Priority Issues, Environment / Development, Economy & Money and the respondents’ profile. The results are vital information for the council, because if we know what people are thinking, we can plan.

I have first searched intensively on the economical, environmental and social situation on the sunshine coast with the databases Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), ‘Proquest 5000’ and ‘Informit’. I have asked librarians of the university about some tips for my researches and they identified that academic sources were very difficult to find for my subject. But there were still a lot of possibilities to find sources trough newspapers and websites for example. The online newspapers were the most useful sources. I have found a huge amount of articles relevant to the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast. I have used the programs Microsoft Excel, Microsoft word to present my researches to my mentor. The Database ABS provides lots of data describing many aspects of Australian life at a regional or town level. I have reorganized the information into charts to simplify the comparison between the profile of the respondents of the survey and the inhabitants of the Sunshine Coast in 2006. I have introduced percentages to point out important facts. Some of the charts of ABS are interesting because it compares data from 1996, from 2001 and from 2006. We can actually see the evolution of the value in this period of time.

The first problem that I have encountered was that students have a limited access to internet. I went to the Human Resources Department of the University to get a staff account. The problem has been solved quickly by the help of the internship coordinator Joanne Scott. I had a staff access which allows me to use internet for my research without restriction. After identifying the current economical, environmental and social situation of the Sunshine Coast, I have begun with the second part of the project by understanding the survey’s respondents’ profile and write the final report. During week 5 of the placement I have submitted a Reflective Journal of the first three weeks of placement, which has integrated theoretical and practical learning experiences and reflected the Learning Objectives. This was accompanied by three journal articles highlighted to point the relevance to the Internship placement.

We had to complete 150 hours at our worksite over the 10 week program. This equates to 15 hours per week. I could negotiate the days and times I was working. Performance at the workplace has been assessed by the course coordinator Joanne Scott in conjunction with my supervisor Dr. Sharma Bishnu. I had also to submit weekly signed time sheets indicating the hours I have completed.

The Internship Portfolio consists of:

  •  Outline of Learning Objectives (500 words)
  • Copies of signed weekly time sheets
  • Copies of all progress reports (due Week 2 and Week 5)
  • Reflective Journal Entry for each week of placement (250 words per week)
  • Additional Final Overview (1500 words)

Process of my internship

I have based my report on 3 key issues:

  • Most urgent priorities issues on the Sunshine Coast
  • Tourism priorities
  • Problem of housing affordability on the Coast.

Thanks to my research I have. After a 10 week internship, I was very happy and proud to finally hand in the final version of the report about the situation on the Sunshine Coast 2008: ‘Perception and opinion of the residents of the Sunshine Coast: how to improve the quality of life on the sunshine coast and the impact of tourism’. I have sent it to my mentor and Joanne Scott. Dr. Sharma Bishnu told me that I have done a nice job.

Final overview of the internship

I interpret my internship as a success. I have learnt many things and I will never forget what I have experienced there.
Dr. Sharma Bishnu let me free to organize myself and to get things done in time. It was really rewarding to plan my timetable and very positive for my self- development and self-confidence. A good organisation was crucial because there were many tasks in the other classes to attend. My mentor gave me frank feedback on the progress of my work every week. I have learnt that a report is not about transcribing every single fact measured in the survey. This report is more about identifying which data are the most useful to convince the council of the Sunshine Coast. I have presented only the critical issues illustrated in the survey. I had to focus only on researches that confirm the respondents and not confuse the reader. The most important thing is to focus on precise goals and objectives. This is crucial for the quality of work.

Another important thing is that facts and trends have to be clearly and simply presented. I wanted first to compare facts with some tables but using figures was clearly the clearest method.

Referencing was also hard work because I have waited too long to do it. In the Harvard method, every thoughts coming from another author has to be referenced. To simplify the referencing I have used different colours for each source during the conception. I have gained some time with this trick for the quotation at the end.

One of my disappointement was that I was not working in a real firm with economic purposes. I would have been pleased to work in a team and interact with other departments. I was really looking forward for an internship in the food industry and I am sorry that no positions were available on the Sunshine Coast at this moment. I am now more aware of the situation and of some the problems that faces a region with a high growth rate. And if I had to keep one thing in mind, it is that economic and job aspects are not the only keys for people to be happy and pleased in their life.

Studying on the Sunshine Coast and writing about issues to improve the quality of life has made me a supporter of the respondents’ cause. I hope I have made the contribution to create a critical report for the council of the Sunshine Coast that describes and explains the key issues to guarantee quality of life in the future.

Lifestyle on the Sunshine Coast

Varsity student accomodation

I have stayed in Varsity Apartments during the all semester. When 100% occupied, 503 residents can live there. Located in Sippy Downs, Varsity is just a short walk from the University of the Sunshine Coast campus and is 30 minutes by bus to the beach and shops of Mooloolaba. This student accommodation is equipped with swimming pools, tennis courts, and barbecue areas. The four bedroom apartments are fully furnished and have large kitchen and living areas. Each bedroom was individually locked and had a private ensuite bathroom, high speed broadband Internet access and telephones. I was living with 3 Australian guys; it was very good to get to know locals. My bedroom was very comfortable, clean and I had a double bed. It was free to call inside Varsity, so it was easy to keep in contact in the all complex. In each apartment, we had the Cable TV: 2 canals proposed moovies all day long. It was really good to improove my understanding skills when I was too tired to speak with anybody.

Varsity is a great place and offers a lot of sport facilities and great social and party life. I was living in front of the lap pool. The resort pool was on the other side of the complex. Not far away you can eat at some Bbq’s areas and that’s really good organized. You just have to press a button, then the plate gets hot and it’s ready for cooking. You do not have to buy gaz or anything else, just clean after the meal. I have met a lot of people from different countries and origins. If you want to make some sport, you can work out in the gym, play beach volleyball, basketball or hit the tennis court. I could wash my clothes in the two laundrettes equipied with washers and dryers. It costs you a little bit to wash your clothes and the dryer is not working properly but you can hang your clothes in some special places. There are also 2 vending machines, which are quite cheap. Varsity is a fun place to live and study.

Shopping centres and banks are quite far if you do not have any car, it is in total 55 minutes walk. I choose to take 60 minutes bus round trip to Sunshine Plazza, the closer big shopping center. This solution takes more time but you do not have to carry your shopping only from the bus stop to your accommodation. The only disadvantages of this place are the following, it is too far from the beach and the bus connections were so bad that without a car it was anoying to go there. Some security guards are watching after troubles and noise after 10 pm. It was difficult to hang out with some friends there because they shut everything down quite quick even on Friday and Saturday night.

Integration, contact and English comprehension

There were a lot of germans in Varsity and it was really easy to speak German all day. That is why I have tried not to stick with them. I have met a lot of nice American and Canadian people there. It was first difficult to understand them but after few weeks things get easier. I met also some Australians but there were not so many in Varsity. The Australian accent is pretty difficult to understand at the beginnig and some of them are even more complicated to understand because either they did not pronounciate clearly or they were always too drunk. The night life is very important for them and every Thursday and Saturday, everybody is going out. Every Thursday you can take free shuttle busses between Varsity and the 2 nearest clubs for free. That was great because every body from Varsity went there. Australians like to joke and are very friendly. Everybody greet the bus driver for example, it is really easy to have small talks with anybody.

In Varsity, I have met a lot of people at the chilling-pool, at the beach volley court or at the Bbq areas. Students are very friendly there and open to new friendships. It was not a problem to follow the lectures and the tutorial in English. Professors are easier to understand, they talk slowly and clearly. Assignments are quite easy, like I said you are not aloud to give a judgement or express yourself on the topic. The main challenge is to read books about the topic and retranslate the main ideas. The most difficult as far as I am concerned were presentations in front of the class. If you only read you notes or nobody will pay attention. You have to be persuasive, attractive and clear enough that everybody understands you. I had also no English problem in the exams, because we know already what was coming and we could prepare essay in advance.

Differences between Australia - Germany- France

People are much friendlier in Australia. They excuse themselves if they disturbed or push you on the street for example; they are very polite on the streets or at the bus stops. They greet other people easily and they are always disposed to help if you are lost or searching for something in the street.

The university life is completely different in Australia and Germany. You have to get many things done for one subject during the semester in Australia and not just prepare for one last exam. There is also a mid-semester break; it is a week break where we had holidays. The level at the university is not so high and you have to reformulate ideas expressed in books. It was only important not to plagiarism (copy and paste). Professors are friendly, a little bit more than in Germany or in France. You can joke with them for example and they were looking for communication with students. The mix of tutorial and lecture creates an interaction and complicity between students and professors.

The density of people plays a role on the student’s mood in the University. The USC has actually the same number of students that our campus in Remagen but it is much bigger and offers more facilities and nature. You can sense it in the lifestyle and in the student’s behaviour, they are more relaxed. The food is also much better in the USC and consequently much expensive.

The major problem at this University was the internet. For students the internet access is restricted. At the beginning of the semester, each student is aloud to download 100 Mb and this is the limit. If he uses it, he gets 10 Mb per day back. It is frustrating when you are used to unlimited internet because 100 Mb is quite few. Moreover Internet is very important for student to do some research for example and even more for foreign students to get in touch with their family, their friends and get information about the country.

The nature is amazing in Australia. Flowers, landscapes, animals, birds are beautiful. Studying and living near the beach offers really a great lifestyle. The Atmosphere is more relaxed and people look happier and healthier. Sandy and rocky beaches are beautiful on the Sunshine Coast. . After the last exam, we have rented a van with three of my friends for a road trip from Brisbane to Cairns. During the three week, we have driven about 4000 kilometres and this was one of the best experiences during the all semester. We have done so many things, seen so many curious animals and beautiful landscapes, and met so many different peoples. I will never forget this experience. We wanted to reach Cap town in the far north east but the road where so bad that we had to rent a 4-wheel-drive car. This place has one of the lowest density of population in Australia. People do care much more about the nature down there in Australia than in France for example. I have felt that people are more sensitive about topic like, protection of the natural environment and the nature. Some tv canal like "animal planet" are just great. Studying among Kangaroos at the USC for example was amazing and unique.

I spent the last week in Sydney and this city is so great. It is one of the biggest cities in Australia but its size is enjoyable. I was living in a hostel in the city center and I have walked most of the time to visit. I have met a lot of people in my hostel from Ireland or England, who try to work in Australia. The zoo and the aquarium are simply amazing; I have never seen so many different animals alive. The weather is very enjoyable in Australia. I arrived on February and it rained a lot during 2 weeks. Then the sun never left the place. The only difference is that it goes down very early. After 5 pm, it is cold on the beach. In Australia the sunlight follows the opposite rules. In summer the sun goes down at 5 pm and in Winter the sun stays late until 9 – 10 pm. The temperature can vary a lot in day, from 20 °C until 5 pm then 14°C when the sun disapeared.

The cities are way smaller in Australia and after 3 month on the Sunshine Coast, it was kind of strange to see so many people when I went to Brisbane for example. This contributes to a relax lifestyle. There is in Australia a certain type of freedom and lifestyle that is not possible in Germany and the density of population plays certainly a major role in it. The adventure and the freedom of travelling in a place where nobody is around and anything could happen are simply amazing.

After the enumeration of all theses differences the thing that Australia and Germany have in common are the monetary fines. Like in Germany, there fines for almost everything you can imagine. In Australia, the police is not as numerous as in Germany but the cities are way smaller.


I have spent a lot of time in the lap pool in varsity or on the beach volleyball court. I have not tried so much surfing because the beach is too far away from Varsity and the bus connections were really bad. I had to wait from 1 to 2 hours sometimes between each bus and the last service is quite early. It is even worst on Sundays, the last bus comes at 7 pm. It happened often that we missed the bus or we did not know at what time it will come. They have changed the timetables on January and they were still not updated on the bus stop in June. Many busses did not simply come or a little bit earlier or later. The best is to buy a car.

There are many things to visit on the Sunshine Coast like walk in rain forests, swimm in Waterfalls or spend a week end on Fraser Island, the biggest sand island of the world situated few kilometres away from the University. A bus brings you in 30 minutes to Noosa Natural Park, awesome. One of my favourite hobbies was to spend some time and go out with my friends and meet a lot of different people and to try to enjoy the Australian culture and traditions. I spend also a lot of time in Varsity meeting people. Studying takes you also a big part of your free time. There are a lot of texts to read and many assignments and presentations to prepare.


I could not get any financial help from any government for my exchange program and the university is really expensive. My parents helped me unless I could not afford it myself. We have paid about 5000 euro student fees for one semester, 1100 euro flights and I have spent like 6000 euro pocket money during the all semester, trips included. Life is not so expensive like everybody thinks in Europe. Food like fish and basic stuff is affordable for example. To call with your cell phones is way cheaper than in Germany and France with the system of prepaid card. If you buy a 30 Australian dollars card you can call for 130 dollars 30 days, this was great. With the student card, public transports a really cheap but can get expensive if you have to take the bus everyday to get to the university. It costs you only 6 dollars to go to Brisbane, the nearest big city with about 1 millions inhabitants. The most expensive things are Internet, which is quite slow and alcoholic drinks like beer and liquors (minimum 30 dollars a bottle).

In the student accommodation Varsity, I have paid $140 per week. Electricity and water costs were included in the price. I have applied for a long term, that mean that I had to stay the all semester there and I could not move from here. Internet is pretty expensive there in comparison to Germany, I did not bring any computer with me but you can download 100 MB for free every month and you have to pay for more.

Final advices for exchange student on the Sunshine Coast

If you want to stay one year there, I would advise you first to live in Varsity for a couple of months to make new friends and then moove out in an appartment near the beach to enjoy life there. I found that 6 months in Varsity is way too long, because it is more like a traditional student accommodation. But Varsity is the best location to spend one semester, because if you move with some Germans in an apartment, you will only speak German and meet few foreigners or Australians. If you can buy a car with some friends, do it, it will be much easier for shopping, go to the beach or travelling.

Try to travel as much as you can, the nature and the lifestyle are completely different. You can easily stay 2 or 3 months after the last exam in Australia, this country is huge. Once again, try not to stick with germans to learn new cultures, lifestyle, traditions, and food from all over the world.


This experience was great. I am happy that I have spend one semester there to improve my English skills and to discover the Australian lifestyle. One of the best aspect of this experience was to combine an internship and study and I can value that in my curriculum vitae. I have discovered the Australian university system and improved also my English skills by writing my report for the council of the Sunshine Coast. It is really good to see that somewhere in the world an industrialized country still has wild places where every adventure is possible. The nature and landscape are amazing and I have seen sunset like no others. I have made some unbelievable friendship and feel more confident in the organisation of my work.

Michael Darde

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