Arriving Down Under: Adjusting to Life in Sydney

By Lauren Tennant, University of New South Wales, Australia

After multiple push-backs due to the pandemic, and 24 hours of travelling, I arrived down-under in Sydney around three weeks ago. Knowing first-hand the mixture of excitement, apprehension, and uncertainty, I thought I’d make a list to guide you through the transition into an exchange year and offer any tips from both my triumphs and mistakes, alongside my initial reflections.

  1. Booking flights – Search which airlines offer student deals! I flew with Qatar, from Manchester-Doha, then Doha-Sydney. With their student club I was able to upgrade my baggage allowance from 35kg to 45kg, as well as hefty discount of a few hundred £. Emirates also offer student deals so definitely shop around.
  2. Transit – If you have a longer layover or just want to make it as smooth as possible check out some of the lounges at your transit airport. Qatar offered discounted access to a lounge as a small add-on which meant I had access to complimentary food, drink, showers while in Doha. After a long flight with no sleep it was a huge comfort to recharge and have somewhere to base myself for the layover.
  3. Accommodation – Probably one of the most daunting things upon my arrival in Sydney. Having spoken to previous students I had already decided I didn’t want to live in UNSW halls – the options seemed very pricey and I preferred to find a shared house with other students. So, I booked a budget hotel near the university for my first few nights, setting myself the task of ‘knocking on doors’ in an attempt to find somewhere to live in my first few days. If you plan to use this method, the app ‘Flatmates’ will be your best friend. After around a week of viewings and some big fails (pictures can be deceiving!) I found a couple rooms in a share house next to uni for myself and my friend. Something to bear in mind is contract length – a lot of people in halls will only have a housing contract until Christmas so its good to keep your options open in case you’d want to move once you’ve met more people.  
  4. Meeting people – Social media is a huge help if you’re arriving long before orientation day like me. Everyone I’ve met so far has been through exchange group chats (for UNSW see Facebook groups: UNSW exchange students; UNSW discussion; UNSW students rent/sublet accommodation) and then at the orientation day. It may seem daunting but say yes to as many opportunities to meet people as you can – all exchange students are there for the same reason as you, so you’ll often meet likeminded people!
  5. Explore and acclimatise – The time difference is extreme, Sydney is 9 hours ahead of London time, so I found myself with a lot of time completely alone the first few days where it was difficult to get in touch with back home. I spent this time seeing the classic tourist spots like the opera house and Bondi beach, alongside any admin like getting an Australian sim card and bank account. It was useful to set aside a few days for these admin tasks before orientation week began and I had much less free time.
  6. Aussie lifestyle – Be prepared to pay more for nearly everything than you would back home! Aldi does exist in Australia, but it’s still slightly more expensive than back home and K-mart is the best place to go for homeware like duvets and kitchen utensils. On the other hand, the Aussie lifestyle is very much an active one. Jet lag woke me up at 5am on my first morning, and I found the local Coogee beach full of people doing yoga, running, swimming etc. In my first three weeks I have already done the Coogee-Bondi 6km coastal walk four times with other students – one of the few ‘free’ activities!
  7. Be open-minded – Sydney is the perfect balance between city and beach, so there’s unlimited things to do and see. Most of the things we have done so far have been recommendations from local people, so try and push yourself to chat to people and you’ll be offered countless new opportunities.

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