The pets won't be able to come, I'm afraid. Australia takes bio-security very seriously -- you'll even have serious problems if you have an apple in your luggage!
For a list of foods and other things to avoid, Quarantine has a list:
Quarantine has information on bringing pets, too:
There's an official website that has a lot of information for people who would like to "Study in Australia":
There is information on courses, fees, visas, requirements and all kinds of things. There are also stories from other people who have come to Australia to study, including a couple of people from the USA. Scholarships don't really exist in Australia the same way they do in the US.
Each university has its own website for detailed information. For example, the University of Melbourne:
Australia's a big place -- almost as big as the mainland US, in terms of square miles. That means that it takes a lot longer to get to Perth (west coast) than Sydney (east coast). Tourism Australia <>http://www.australia.com/> and Lonely Planet guidebooks are a good source of inspiration.
You can fly direct from a couple of places in the USA, especially Los Angeles. Just avoid flying United - their planes are old and the entertainment systems aren't very good. "V Australia" is a new and very good airline; Air New Zealand and Qantas are both pretty good too. You can get an idea of flight times and prices by looking on a travel website like SkyScanner <>http://skyscanner.net/> or Australia's own JetAbroad <>.http://www.jetabroad.com.au/>.
Remember that travelling outside your own country -- even for a year -- is likely to be an unforgettable, life-changing experience. It might not be all sunshine and roses, but you'll have stories forever and a new perspective on the world.