WHEN Louis Wong's plane touched down at Sydney airport, understandably he felt nervous. After all it was only a few months ago he had been a schoolboy finishing his education in Hong Kong. And, now, the 18-year-old was about to start a new life as a student in a country he had never visited before and where he knew no one. Despite planning and discussion with his parents, and the assurance that he had enrolled in the course most suited to his future plans, there was little they could do to prepare him as he embarked on a new life of independence. What they had not banked on, was the warmth and friendliness of the countyr. But the youth was soon to find out. After clearing customs, Mr Wong asked a stranger how he could find a taxi to his university. ''I'll show you,'' the man said, and walked with him to the taxi rank. ''He even gave instructions to the driver, who was also really helpful,'' Mr Wong said. ''That was the first moment that I really thought I was going to like Australia.'' The friendliness and openness of Australian people is one of the main reasons Hong Kong people give for enjoying their student days Down Under. A survey was carried out a couple of years ago over three countries - Australia, Britain and the United States. Two people were ''planted'' in a bus queue. One as the other about which bus they should board and the second gave incorrect information. It was found that British people were least likely to speak up when they heard this incorrect information given. Americans would offer the correct advice rather than see the person possibly board the wrong bus. Australians would not only set them right, but in some cases got on the bus with them to make sure they got off at the right stop! Australia is considered a relaxed place to be, which means foreigners are easily accepted and students develop a sense of independence and responsibility. Most Australian institutions are well-prepared for welcoming and looking after overseas students. Many arrange cars to pick students up from the airport when they arrive and all major institutions catering for overseas students have a strong network in place to make sure they are as happy as possible when they are in Australia. The reputation for caring does not stop at arranging appropriate accommodation for new arrivals and making sure they have maps and study timetables. There are counsellors who specialise in the particular needs of Asian students who are employed on a regular basis to make sure that problems - whether domestic, academic or emotional - do not get out of hand. Some schools and institutions arrange guardianships and home-stay opportunities so students, whatever their age, have someone to look after them. Most institutions have special clubs and facilities for overseas students, which help them to make friends easily, as well as enjoy social activities and even have the opportunity to brush up on their English. Australia is not only a nice place to be, it is a great place to study. The standards of its educational institutions are high and, with those standards constantly monitored by professional bodies, students can make sure their qualifications will be acceptable to employers throughout the world. The variety of institutions in Australia ensures that students will be able to find the course that suits their needs, whether it is training in how to run a hotel, start a marketing business, or study archaeology. Students can also choose the environment they prefer, whether they want to study in the heat of the north or the cooler south, in a city or in rural areas.