Miranda Cundall/Politics and International Relations/University of Sydney
It’s hard to believe that its only been just under a month since I left my friends, family and comfort zone in Manchester. Travelling to Sydney on the 25th February was a bit of a blur since the 24 hour journey to a new continent left me feeling a bit dazed and confused, however since that point Australia has been treating me well. Having not really looked into my university accommodation before arriving in Australia, getting out of the taxi and seeing the Queen Mary Building was a massive surprise, its definitely no Owens Park.
The Queen Mary Building is an 800 person university-owned accommodation which opened in 2015 and is home to a mix of international and Australian residents, all students at the University of Sydney. As getting student accommodation is pretty hard in Sydney I feel so lucky to call Queen Mary (or QMB if you’re feeling even lazier) my home for the next 4 months, I mean look at that rooftop view! I purposefully arrived in Australia over a week before semester started for two main reasons; to overcome the anticipated jet-lag/post-plane flu and to explore Sydney a little before any uni started. After beating jet-lag by Day 3 exploring Sydney was a priority, especially as all public transport is capped for the day at $2.50 on Sundays. Exploring the different suburbs of Sydney such as Newtown, Surrey Hills and Rozelle shows how diverse Sydney is, as it moves from hipster heaven to city slick in a few miles. Also I obviously took around 1876 photos of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge at Circular Quays which was pretty embarrassing for my new friends travelling with me that day, but hey my Mum demands some good WhatsApp updates.
Only really as semester started and ‘O-Week’ began to get into full swing did it really hit me that I’m studying abroad for the next 5 months. O-Week is basically like English freshers week but without classes and with even more ‘getting to know you’ activities put on by Queen Mary to introduce new residents with those returning for another semester. Events such as ‘Arts and Chill’ although seemed really awkward at first turned out to be good ways to make friends in the building and agree with them about how you sucked at art. The Society and Stall Fair was also a good way to start to find your bearings round campus and finding out that there’s a University of Sydney DogSociety was a particular highlight! Also I got so many free Nature Valley bars over the 2 days I’m stocked up on snacks for life. The big end to O-Week was a QMB cruise round Sydney Harbour on the Friday night which was so much fun, despite the torrential rain failing to dampen spirits. Have I not mentioned that there’s been record rainfall in New South Wales since I’ve come? Manchester weather just can’t leave me alone to tan.
Since semester has properly started its been more academia rather than adventures, however that’s not to say I’m enjoying Australia any less. Having the opportunity to be able to learn about the systems and dynamics of Australian, New Zealand and the Pacific politics has been incredibly interesting to study so far, if not a little challenging to get to grips with at first. The teaching structure here is similar to that of the UK, in terms of weekly lectures and tutorials, meaning that its been fairly easy to balance work and play. Going to the finals of the Australian Open Surf Competition at Manly Beach after classes was surreal to experience and has definitely been a highlight of my study abroad experience so far.
My experience of Sydney so far has certainly been way more relaxed than the ‘Manchester experience’ and I’m feeling right at home. Also with future plans of weekend trips to Melbourne and Easter breaks in New Zealand its hard to not be excited about what the future holds. If anyone was to ask me now about doing a semester abroad to study at Sydney I’d tell them to forget about any worries they have (which I definitely did before coming) and to take the once in a lifetime opportunity to study in Australia. I’ve been here a month and I already don’t want to go home!