Finding out that I had been chosen for the exchange program at the University of Sydney was definitely in the top 10 moments of my life. I knew that the next 6 months of my life would be packed with once-in-a-lifetime experiences…and I was right.
I remember a friend of mine asking me this question before I left: “Aren’t you afraid of the unknown?”. I was going to live half way across the globe for half a year, I had no idea where I was going to live, I barely knew one person there, and I did not even know what modules I was going to select. But in all honesty, the unknown seemed far from frightening. It felt exciting, as if I knew I was meant to be in Sydney. Even when I landed and looked out the aeroplane, I had a feeling of being home.
Before the picture gets too rosy, however, I should mention that its not always rainbows and butterflies. If you are thinking of going on exchange, you must be prepared to face a lot of emailing, researching, and bureaucracy. Especially with a place as far as Australia, the time difference means that you will receive a reply two days later at the earliest. Furthermore, you need to save your pennies, as there is not enough funding for non-erasmus exchange programs. The scholarship that I received covered half a months rent, and then you’re on your own. So this might be a factor you want to consider when choosing between erasmus and non-erasmus. Finally, as you are dealing with two different universities, you are going to have to be the mediator in many circumstances. Like I said, be prepared for a lot of emailing.
But don’t let this get you down. The most important thing before you leave for a new place is your attitude. I was so sure that I was going to have the time of my life, that it inevitably happened. As soon as I stepped foot in Sydney everything seemed to work out. I found a place to stay, called Queen Mary building, which is a newly renovated student accommodation next to the University. I chose my modules, which turned out to be very interesting subjects. I only had to attend uni Monday-Wednesday so that gave me plenty of time to work and travel around on weekends. I found a job as a bartender in Darling harbour, so my pocket did not bleed as much, and by the time summer came around I was able to do some travelling. (For more tips check out my personal bog post here)
I visited Melbourne, Alice Springs, Uluru, Gold coast, Cairns, New Zealand and Bali. I did skydiving, scuba diving, flew a helicopter, hugged a koala, patted a wallaby, rode a horse in a rainforest, swam next to a sea turtle, surfed, and kayaked.
I kept busy all the time, meeting new people and exploring new places. And that is how 6 months felt more like 6 days. The hardest part, even harder than getting there in the first place, was leaving. I met so many beautiful people, and had so many memories that leaving seemed impossible. I guess there is no other choice but to go back!
All in all, I had the best time of my life. Yes, its challenging at times. Yes, you feel helpless at times. But oh boy is it worth it…