As cliched as it sounds, 6 months will pass in the blink of an eye. So make the most of every moment!
The time I spent at the University of Sydney was some of the best of my life, and lead to many more amazing moments in a beautiful, exciting country. This blog will be about my time in Australia, but I’m going to try to gear it more towards being a guide for any prospective study abroad students – as there is heaps and heaps I wish I had known before taking the dreaded 26 hour flight. From sea to sand to skyscrapers to surfing, Sydney is one of those places that will take your breath away with both architectural feats and natural wonders; but it isn’t all a walk in Hyde park.
My time in the wonderful world of Oz was a whirlwind of travelling trips, and I managed to see Melbourne, Hobart, Sydney (of course), and the entirety of the East Coast from Cairns down. It still was barely a scratch on the massive surface of the red continent. It’s literally so, so big – I’d advise making all your plans in advance and researching thoroughly how you want to spend the precious time you have out there; it’s so easy to wing it and get stuck in a beautiful seaside town! Of course, before all that happens you have work to do and studying to get on with. At least a little bit, it is university after all.
First things first – accommodation. The way universities work in Australia is different to those in England; with most students opting to live at home and commute to their closest city location. This means that halls are pretty expensive (as well as being controlled by the extortionate Sydney house pricing in general), and that the contracts aren’t always ideal. What I chose to do was get a house share by looking online, but this didn’t really go my way and I was left living in a hostel for three weeks before I could lock down a contract. In fairness, I ended up with a beautiful house in a perfect location with lovely housemates – just go in totally prepared to be knocked back a few times if you go for this option! I would definitely recommend halls for those that can afford it as I ended up spending most of my time there anyway, and the quality is great. If the price really is a deal breaker, the sites I used and were most helpful are Gumtree, Flatmatefinders, and Facebook groups (‘Inner West Housemates’ and ‘Inner Sydney Housemates’).
It doesn’t matter if you’re on or off campus in the end however, as USYD has a wonderful international base that looks after you for the entirety of your stay. If you ever feel uncomfortable or worried, they will be right there for you. The office also runs loads (and I mean, loads) of free socialising events, parties, food deals and much more that are paramount for meeting like-minded friends and mingling with the other international students. These are your best bet if you’re planning on travelling at all during your stay in Australia as everyone I met was totally up for a road trip or a weekend away – you can get a lovely network together that you’ll find from the Northern Territories to Southern Australia and everywhere in between.
Even with all the free food I could possible eat, I had to work my way in Sydney to afford all the fun (namely, a trip down the coast and a pricey nice-y home). Whilst this doesn’t sound ideal during the excitement of being in a new country, it actually was a wonderful experience. I met a lot of travellers, locals, and odd characters that showed me some of the most intimate parts of the city I would never have seen on my own; as well as earning over double the minimum wage in England. Seriously, you’ll be loaded. You can’t work over 40 hours a fortnight on a student visa so there’s no threat to your studies and plenty of time around the edges to explore – it’s something I did and am happy about, but it just depends on the experience you’re looking for.
The University itself is like Hogwarts – it’s so massive and beautiful! There are loads of hidden treasures to find all over campus, and what a campus it is. So big that is spans across two suburbs, USYD is as sprawling as it is impressive. It’s like the bigger, badder brother of Southampton and is full of events and student groups to keep you entertained as you wander to your next class. The societies are awesome and I can personally highly reccommend the chocolate society and the film society – as both were full of super cool people and had weekly events to take the heat off from studying. There’s also a market on most Wednesday’s for interesting finds and vintage clothes, which is a cool addition to brighten up a slow afternoon.
Australia loves markets in general, and you’ll find the best ones in Glebe on Saturdays (this is literally the best day out ever, I love it there). Another nice one is Newtown and the Grounds of Alexandria, and both these places are littered with quirky food shops and independent stores. Of course, there’s also plenty in the upmarket Rocks area (where the Opera House is and the Harbour Bridge), which is a beautiful little place to get lost in.
The time is yours to take around Sydney and Australia overall; so without getting too specific and recounting six months of unforgettable moments in what is turning out to be a huge post – I’ll leave you with some pictures of the best bits. Advice and specific travelling journeys can be found on my blog (www.ashmillman.wordpress.com) if you’re interested in seeing some more bits and pieces – Sydney and the coast I’m still collating, but will be up soon.
The most important thing of all is to treat every moment with the question ‘when am I ever going to be here again’? and I promise you’ll have the best time of your life. There will be ups and downs, homesickness can always rear an ugly head, but the whole experience is temporary. Take every opportunity, grab every second, have the most amazing experience and something to write home about. It’s your adventure!