GROWING up in Tamworth, Alix Sills used to have to travel more than 270 kilometres to reach the coast.
"I've always wanted to live at the beach and the University of Newcastle (UON) has always been a favourite, ever since my year 10 excursion, so Newcastle was the place," Ms Sills, 20, said.
"I live on campus so it's a bit of a drive to the beach, but much closer than three-and-a-half hours away. They're 100 per cent the best thing about living here."
Ms Sills is one of thousands of undergraduate students who commenced their studies at UON this week.
She started studying pharmacy online through the University of New England last year, but moved this year to Newcastle, where several friends and relatives live.
"I wanted to do medicine or paramedicine but didn't want to look at gory stuff as much as they have to," she said. "Pharmacy is the closest thing and is more research based, which is what I like."
UON has introduced compulsory 80 per cent attendance for first year students, who are required to check in at classes via an app.
First-year biomedical science student Aleksandr Fitzgerald, 18, said the new rule "doesn't phase me or affect me".
"I'd come anyway," he said. "I'm coming for my own benefit - I chose to go here, why attend less than 80 per cent of your classes here?"
First-year radiography students Anna Cooper, Ryan Dean and Josh O'Shea, all 18, agreed.
"I think it's good," Mr Dean said.
"I'm coming to uni, it's my own independent thing, I want to be here so I might as well turn up and see things hands-on."
Ms Cooper said it was the content from the "more practical side you need for a job".
"If you miss it you won't have the basics and will understand less - it's just better to go."
Mr O'Shea, who travels from the Central Coast, said if the rule was applied to lectures it would be "annoying", but he supported it with classes.
Mr Fitzgerald, who will attend classes five days a week, said university was "very different" to school.
"I thought things went along too slowly at school," he said.
"This allows you to go how fast you want to learn. I get to go as quickly as I want, when I want and how I want."
Ms Cooper said the "mozzies are bad" and so far lectures and classes had been about introductions and reviewing the syllabus.
"But we just came out of Medical Radiation Science 1A and started going over content which was really interesting," Mr O'Shea said.
Mr Dean said parking had been "pretty hectic", but the lecturers were "lovely and sweet".
Semester has started without about 1000 Chinese students who haven't been able to return due to the coronavirus travel ban.
They can access work online and may start their studies after April.
Ms Sills said she had found studying online difficult "and they wouldn't have the full resources that I had".
"If the courses are prerequisites to get their degree this could add another six months to their degree," she said.
Mr O'Shea said it was a "very complex situation" and would weaken the economy.
Vietnamese international student Finn Bui, 26, said being able to study online was a better option than not being able to do any coursework.
Mr Bui is studying a foundation of health course before starting nursing next year, saying he wanted to care for people.
"I looked online and saw a few like UTS, Curtin and this university," he said.
"I saw a lot of information about environment, transport and facilities but thought this is the best one."