This blog is to document my adventures and experiences while studying abroad in Sydney Australia. I hope to encourage other students to take the same leap I did and experience a new and completely different culture. Enjoy! :)
Hello again! Not much has happened since the last time I posted…except for the fact that I went camping for my first time ever! Yes, I am 21 years old and I have not been camping until I reached Australia; it is not exactly my family’s thing. Anyways, the program that I am studying abroad with took us out to Jervis Bay for a weekend trip. The second we got off the bus they put us straight to work putting up the tents and setting up our sleeping arrangements. I shared a tent with 3 other girls who also have never been camping before, so setting up the tent was quite a process. Nonetheless we did an ok job since it didn’t collapse on us halfway through the night. After we ate dinner we all went down to the beach to look at the bioluminescent plankton. It was one of the coolest things I have ever seen. If you ran your feet across the sand you could see them light up. I also decided to put my feet in the ocean and you could even see them as the water rushed past you. It was unreal.
The next morning we met with an aboriginal woman who has lived in the area for her entire life. She told us about aboriginal culture and taught us how to make rope/jewelry out of water reeds. Later that day we all went surfing. Besides someone breaking one of the boards everyone had a great time. I’m not gonna lie, I am getting a little addicted to the sport. Later that night we met up with the same aboriginal woman as before and she told us a few aboriginal stories around a campfire. Sadly it was cut short because it started raining. It rained for the remainder of the night, definitely not my favorite part of the trip.
The next day we packed up and we headed out to Hyams Beach to see the whitest sand in the world. Of course it was absolutely beautiful and I wished that I could just stay there for the rest of my life. Definitely the best beach I have ever been to. All and all I had a great time camping and I might even do it again.
After being on this trip I realized that my marker for success while studying abroad wont necessarily be how well I do at uni, but rather the experiences I have and what I take away from them. I am so fortunate to have the chance to experience a new culture and meet so many different types of people. I found it so interesting to hear about aboriginal culture. I thought it was really cool how they have so much respect for nature and do not care how others perceive their beliefs or traditions. They only care about being true to themselves. While being in Sydney I have definitely put myself in situations out of my comfort zone (for instance camping) that have really allowed me to grow as a person. If I had not studied abroad I don’t think I would have pushed myself to experience new things in the same way I have here. Now that I have a taste of traveling I am addicted. I love meeting new people and hearing their stories so I really hope I have the opportunity to travel in the future.
Since arriving in Australia I have made a few stops in souvenir shops (because everyone back home wants me to bring them back something). These shops LOVE to market kangaroos on everything! Kangaroos and koalas can be found on anything from magnets to bags to t-shirts. In addition to kangaroos, many of the shops have merchandise with aussie slang translations….most of them are pretty funny. They also sell lots of products that have images of beaches that look like a tranquil paradise. When I visited up north around Cairns, they sold many aboriginal souvenirs such as pieces of art and didgeridoos. I feel that these types of products are attractive to international travelers because the wildlife, the rich aboriginal culture, and the natural beauty of the country make Australia so unique compared to the rest of the world.
It has been a while since my last post and I greatly apologize, it is just too easy to get caught up in the Aussie lifestyle and the course load at Sydney Uni. Anyways over the past month I have done a lot of traveling and experiencing the local culture. I went up to Cairns and the surrounding areas to dive the Great Barrier Reef; it was the most amazing trip of my life. We went up to Cape Tribulation the first night we were there. It was the most remote place I have ever been in my life. The hostel we stayed in was literally in the rain forest. Needless to say, I had no cell phone service. While we were there we went snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef and I got to swim with sea turtles. It was amazing! The next day we went down to Port Douglas to go diving the outer reef. I did three separate dives and saw more fish I could ever imagine…including a shark! I had no idea how beautiful the reef actually was in person.
After visiting the reef and seeing how gorgeous it was, I realized why it is so special to the locals. I have noticed that local Australians really take pride in the beautiful landscape. The government makes a sincere effort to preserve it’s beauty by creating multiple national parks and limiting the amount of people and boats that are able to visit the reef. Further more, the Australian culture is much more environmentally friendly compared to what I am used to back in the states. I see a ton of recycling bins and posters all over the city. I really like how most of the population is very environmentally conscious to keep their country beautiful.
I can’t believe I have been in Australia for over a month! Time has flown by! Classes have already started and its a lot different here compared to Claremont McKenna. First of all the classes are huge! There are easily over 100 students in each of my lectures. The campus is huge as well, I’ve gotten lost at least three time already. For most classes the final is worth more than half your grade….that’s pressure. Sydney University is gorgeous though. I love all the old buildings and how many coffee stands they have :)
Even though Australia is a western English speaking culture, a few of their customs are still quite a bit different then ours back home in the states. I have only been here a little over a month and I have made more than a few embarrassing cultural faux-pas. For the longest time whenever someone asked me what I was doing out here I would always reply, “O I’m going to school.” They would always look at me a little funny. Soon I learned that “school” means high school here and that I should be saying “I’m studying at the uni”. I still make the mistake sometimes. They even walk on the left side of the sidewalk in Australia. My friends and I were just walking through the city and a grumpy old man yelled out at us, “We walk on the left side here!” After that we all got to the left side of the walkway real quick. Finally a lot of the shops out in Australia (especially cafes) only take cash! I have definitely gotten caught at a few places where I didn’t have any cash on me. Its always a little embarrassing and sad when you can’t get your coffee. One time this cafe let me have my coffee anyways and told me to just pay him back later. That made my day. Overall these little cultural differences have taught me that I need to always stay on my toes because I am in a different country. Even though it is very similar to the U.S. it is not the same. Australia is an amazing country with so many different little cultural quirks that should not be overlooked especially if you are trying to immerse yourself into the society. Well til next time…See ya mate!
Australia is famous for their Vegemite so of course I thought it would be fitting for me to try it while I am here. BIG MISTAKE! It was honestly the worst thing I have ever tasted. I do not recommend it. However, I also tried Tim Tams which are the signature chocolate cookies made in Australia. They are absolutely delicious and highly addictive. I will probably bring back a few boxes when I leave….
I don’t even know where to begin! These past two weeks in Australia have been some of the most stressful, exciting, and best days of my life. Before this trip I had never traveled outside the US or even lived more than an hour away from my family….now I am over 7,000 miles away from everyone I know! It is a shock to say the least. The little things back home you take for granted are suddenly a huge deal. Everything from knowing the streets to understanding the slang used by the locals becomes a lot harder in a different country. I never thought I would have a problem understanding someone who spoke English, but Australian slang definitely deserves its own dictionary. Really though who would think that a schooner would be referring to a beer or that footy meant rugby? Hopefully by the end of my semester I will be somewhat fluent (and come home with an accent) :) Even in the middle of winter Australia is a gorgeous place to be. So far I have only been to Melbourne and Sydney but the beaches are still beautiful and it has been mostly sunny with the exception of a few rainy days. The one thing I do regret is not bringing any of my really warm coats out here. It is super frustrating to wake up in the morning knowing what jacket you want to wear and then realizing it is back home with the rest of your closet. Honestly though, that is not the worst problem to have so all in all I am pretty “stoked” with my situation.
Since I am only going to be here for four short months I figured I would set some goals/ create a bucket list of things for me to do and accomplish before I leave paradise. This is what I have come up with so far…
1. Meet as many Australians as possible (or students from other foreign countries). Being an international student from the United States I am surrounded by other American students. I really want to go outside my comfort zone and make an initiative to see what other cultures are like.
2. Do well in my classes. After all I am here to study. (the semester starts this Monday at the University of Sydney or “Uni” as they call it here)
3. Make a trip up to Cairns to dive the great barrier reef….and hold a koala!
4. Volunteer. While I am here I want to become a part of the Sydney community. Hopefully I can find volunteer opportunities at the wildlife park, aquarium, or SIMS.
5. Navigate myself through Sydney on my own. I have never lived in a city as large as Sydney and my navigational skills are not exactly the best to begin with.
Til next time, “take it easy” :)