The First Day

By Issy (University of Sydney, Australia)

The First Day

Morning

After around 32 hours of travelling between time zones, at 9am local time I arrived at my Halls of Residence at the University of Sydney. With hair like a bird’s nest wrestling my heavy luggage into the building, the sight of me inspired pity in two girls that I will now forever remember as my ‘first friends’ in Sydney. They clearly recognised from experience the state I was in! After an extra sweaty check-in to my bedroom having mistaken the heating unit for air conditioning, I decided that it was time get a few of the important administrative bits and bobs out of the way so I could kickstart my new life.

Afternoon

PHONE – I didn’t manage to get my SIM card unlocked before I left the UK which delayed the process a little so get that sorted if you can – but don’t panic if you don’t manage to either – It just means I had to wait for around two days before I could purchase a new Australian SIM card.

BANK ACCOUNT – Commonwealth Bank in Australia is definitely the one to go for! Take along your passport, confirmation of enrolment and national insurance number for a smooth process – I rang my Dad at 4am English time asking him to rummage through my room at home for my old pay slips to find my national insurance number (This didn’t go down so well with him but the Aussies at the bank found it hilarious!) I suggest sorting your bank account out after you’ve sorted a SIM card as you can set up your Online Banking straight away then.

OPAL CARD – In Sydney, students are entitled to a Concession Opal Card which provides you with city travel at a much better rate than an Adult Opal Card. However, it requires an online application that I hadn’t yet completed. So, if you’re really prepared, get that sorted before you set off and use your accommodation address so that your opal card is delivered ready for your arrival! If (like me) you’re not quite as organised, I’d recommend just using an Adult Card temporarily which can be bought at most corner shops while your Concession Card gets processed – it will still be a life saver for those buses that are ‘PREPAY ONLY’.

DUVET – Taking a bus to Broadway Shopping Centre (with your swanky new Opal Card) is a great way to finish settling in. With a few different shops stocking homeware, I was able to compare prices and sort out a duvet and kitchen supplies on a budget. Even better, there is also a supermarket so you can get that fridge full all in the same trip. Make sure you take note of the size of your bed – I didn’t even know that ‘king-single’ was a size until I realised that the single sheet I had bought wasn’t going to fit!

Evening

Although the sleep-deprivation still prevailed after a power-nap, I decided to explore my Halls of Residence a bit more. It was during this jaunt that I bumped into the girls that had helped me earlier and we arranged a trip to Glebe Market (it has every stall you could possibly imagine as well as live music next to a massive picnic area) for the coming weekend – Our first of many trips to come! Despite being so tired and ready to curl up for the night, summoning up the last dregs of energy really taught me the importance of putting yourself out. Even now, I will always use the communal spaces instead of doing little tasks in my room like working or filling in my diary – coming across new people during these mundane activities is such a good way to engage with others. Who knew that writing a shopping list could spark such great conversation?!

An Ode to Rotto

Where: Rottnest Island, Western Australia.

When: November 2018 (Coming into Australian summertime, so it was hot!)

Rottnest Island a ferry ride away from Perth, is one of the ‘must see’ places I had been told to visit since I moved to Western Australia. For any of my fellow geographers, Rottnest is a sandy, low-lying island formed on a base of aeolianite limestone. Alongside Garden Island, Rotto is a remnant of Pleistocene dune ridge. The island was separated from the mainland about 7000 years ago due to sea level rise. However, human remnants have been found on the island dating back 70,000 years. The indigenous people of land known as the Noongar people, call the island Wadjemup and lived on the island before it detached from the mainland.

 The island is around 20km and we managed to explore it in a day. We hired bikes, stopping off and enjoying hidden beaches throughout the day. However, we plan to go back for a weekend and camp over-night.  The wildlife in Rottnest is what makes it so special. Extensive reefs surround the island, that you can see in the incredibly clear water as you arrive by ferry, and snorkel in the warm waters. Bottlenose dolphins and migrating humpbacks are welcome visitors of the island and the Perth canyon just off the island is one of the main habitats for blue whales in Australia.

Overall, the absolute highlight of Rottnest or as the Aussies call it Rotto. Aside from the great views, beautiful beaches, amazing snorkelling or enjoyable cycling tracks are the super friendly quokkas. These little creatures are marsupials, and like kangaroos carry their joey’s in their pouches. They are about the size of a cat and just as friendly, allowing you to approach them seemingly unfazed by humans. The island actually gets its name from the Quokka. In the 1600’s Dutch colonisers believed the Quokkas to be giant rats, and thus named the small island ‘Rotte Nest’ after the Dutch word Rattennest meaning rats nest. Rotto is one of the few areas in the world where the native quokka can be found. This is due to the exclusion of natural or introduced predators. Their only predators being snakes, who thankfully aren’t as friendly.

Known as ‘the worlds happiest animal’, Quokkas are celebrities on the island with many trying to get a quick pic with the creature.

The picture that made the Quokka famous (2012).
Roger Federer and a Quokka.
If you close one eye and squint, it looks like Michael Buble and a Quokka.

I can’t wait to go back and visit this rare and uniquely beautiful island, and hopefully meet up with some more Quokkas.

See you soon, Syd.

Bhumi Shukla, University of Sydney

I feel like I have overused the phrase “Australia has really changed me” but I can’t stress this enough. Studying abroad has given me a new perspective on life, a new passion to travel and new traits to enhance my character.

Although I returned home quite a while back, I still feel connected to Australia. Even in simple conversations, you are bound to bring up the fact you were abroad – “When I was abroad…” “In Australia we had…” Will people get tired of hearing your stories? Absolutely. Will that stop you from telling your stories? Absolutely not.

The memories you create and the people you meet will always stay with you on your journey. Some of my best friends I made on my time abroad still hold the same value in my life. (Thank you Steve Jobs for FaceTime!) Of course studying abroad means you literally have to study abroad, but making time to socialise and really step out of my comfort zone has helped me in life in more ways you can imagine. For example, I spent part of my Summer 2018 in Singapore with a friend from exchange who was local to the place and offered me a place to stay as well as be the best tour guide you could have! You never know how the people you could meet abroad can help you in life. And vice versa!

I can’t say studying abroad has been all fun and games – because it hasn’t. There were days when I would get homesick, days when I felt down, and days when I was just uncomfortable. But that’s okay! This was all part of the process. This was what contributed to change me as a person. This was what made me adapt.

When you are abroad, you will have times when you feel lonely, the best way to overcome this is keep in touch with your family & friends back home. I can’t stress this enough! I also realised that keeping busy helps! As an exchange student, I met heaps of other exchange students on the same boat as me (tip: ‘heaps’ is Aussie for lots!). For me, spending time with these people and sharing stories really helped me feel better. It’s all about patience and baby steps.

I truly can’t put into words how lucky I feel to have lived my dreams. Scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef? Check! Feeding kangaroos? Triple check! Experiencing these things at the time doesn’t feel so overwhelming, but over time looking back at the pictures really humbles you and you become grateful for this opportunity you had been given.

I strongly recommend the Study Abroad programme, I promise you it will all be worth it.

Thank you for the memories Sydney. I can’t wait to see you again. 

 

 

 

Looking back on Australia

Vitoria Spoorenberg, University of Sydney

Reflecting on my time abroad is difficult because truthfully, I never wanted it to end. The hardest part of studying abroad was leaving. I can confirm reverse culture / re-entry shock is real.

The reason why so many clichés about studying abroad exist is because there is no other way to put it; studying abroad truly was the most incredible experience of my life. I made friends that I know will be there for life, who bring out the best in me and make me laugh for hours on end. I travelled to the most insanely beautiful places and made memories that I will carry with me forever.

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24 hours in Sydney

Vitoria Spoorenberg, University of Sydney 

Although I was lucky enough to spend way more than 24 hours in Sydney, I thought this blog post could be a useful guide for those students who are studying abroad elsewhere in Australia or nearby who only have a couple of days (or hours) in the city!

I also thought it would be a fun way of compiling all my favorite spots in Sydney!

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Exploring Australia!

By Vitoria Spoorenberg, University of Sydney

Exploring new places has been one of the most exciting parts of studying abroad. My mid-semester break was the perfect time to travel since we had a one week ‘holiday’ from university.

I made unforgettable memories with great friends and it is an experience I will cherish forever.

We started the trip in Byron Bay, drove along the Sunshine coast, stopped in Noosa Beach and ended on Fraser Island.

My writing would never do those places justice, so I made a video instead. Hope you enjoy a glimpse into my travels!

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Finally down under! My first impressions of Sydney

By Vitoria Spoorenberg, University of Sydney

It’s hard to believe that today marks exactly five weeks since I landed in Sydney.

The day I flew to Sydney was bitter-sweet. Naturally, I was nervous and sad to be leaving my family and friends but I was equally excited to start my semester abroad.

Soon after I arrived, it become apparent that I had no reason to be nervous. It surprised me how friendly and welcoming everyone was at my accommodation. Everyone is friends with everyone and there’s no real ‘groups’ or ‘cliques’ which is very different to my halls experience in Manchester.

Most of the students who live in my accommodation are also exchange students which I have really enjoyed because everyone wants to discover new places and make the most of their time abroad.

Continue reading “Finally down under! My first impressions of Sydney”

SydNYE

University of Sydney
Bhumi Shukla

My semester at USyd has ended, but I chose to stay here over Christmas and New Year’s. Why? Just look.

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NYE Sydney Fireworks at Harbour Bridge

I was lucky enough to view the New Year’s Eve celebrations in Sydney from the Opera House itself.  Spending 16 hours in the 30 degree heat – yes 16 hours – getting sunburnt, constant naps, few fights, camping outside of the Opera House (literally), it was all worth the struggle at midnight.

The first set of fireworks start around 9pm that last around 10-15 minutes. A “pre” celebration I guess. The second set of fireworks commence at midnight, exactly at 12am as we enter January 1st. Counting down with millions of people from all over the world was an incredible feeling itself. NYE in Sydney is probably the first most watched celebration that occurs around the world (sorry Auckland) and to witness it in person is a once in a lifetime opportunity for sure.

I knew from the start that I wanted to watch the Sydney fireworks. Word of advice: you must start planning at least a month ahead of the date. Figure out your vantage point for viewing that works best for you. You can get all the information you need at this website: https://www.sydneynewyearseve.com/ . If you aren’t very good at planning and have a bit of cash to spend, lots of points around the Harbour Bridge offer a guranteed viewing spot that you can buy, such as restaurants around the harbour will have a “New year’s dining experience” offer. Although, they can be very pricey! Of course, like most people, I wanted to get the ultimate NYE experience. After a bit of research, I decided my ultimate spot to view the fireworks, was at the Opera house itself. The Opera outside house has a straight view of the Harbour Bridge (and it’s free!). I also highly recommend Mrs. Macquire’s Point – it has the view of the Harbour Bridge AND the Opera House. Both spots are very instagram worthy! To get any of the popular spots on NYE, you have to wake up early. Camping is forbidden at the points and points of entry open to the public at around 8am – however, the queue for entry is waaaayyyyyyy too long by then already.

My day started at 7am on 31st December. I had packed all my lunch and dinner preparations for NYE in advanced the day before. I left my room at around 7:30am and got to the Opera House by 7:50am (as entry was at 8am). When I reached, the queue to get in was already so huge! I was so scared we wouldn’t find a spot. About an hour after waiting, we made our way through to security (no alcohol allowed guys, sorry) and tried spot hunting 30 minutes after. All the good spots were unfortunately taken, but we kept walking around and not giving up hope. Luckily, my friend and I spotted this one teeny tiny space right IN FRONT of where the harbour bridge was, enough to fit us both. We literally ran for it and wouldn’t move. We literally camped outside of the Opera House, in front of the Harbour Bridge – surreal.

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My view of the Opera House when I was lying down to take a nap (it was a long day).

Spending 16 hours in the sun is no play in the park, especially if the weather is not what you expect. The weather was scheduled to rain, so of course I brought an umbrella, with high temperatures of 25 degrees. But that’s not what it was. Around midday, the sun appeared out of nowhere and the temperature was probably around 30+ degrees. This probably lasted all day until the evening. And of course, I forgot to pack sunscreen! Luckily, my friend had some, so I guess I didn’t get THAT burnt.
Top tip: Bring lots of water and fluids to stay hydrated, an umbrella and sunscreen. Don’t trust the Sydney weather.

The whole experience was definitely worth it. My advice is to plan early, pack early and embrace the entire experience because it’s definitely worth the eight tonnes of fireworks.

Last but not least, Happy New Year from Sydney!

Where are the Aussies?

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View from ferry in Sydney

It’s been 1 month & 4 days since uni started and I’m still not used to things. But first, here’s some accommodation in Sydney tips:

  • Don’t settle for the first thing you find, make sure you look around as fast as you can and as careful as you can because a lot of people are in the same situation as you.
  • Join waitlists for cheap student accommodation – lots of affordable(ish) on campus accom will have been “sold out” and they will put you on a waiting list. More often than not you will receive a room within a week! I’m currently staying at the Sydney University Village (probably the cheapest on campus accommodation for an exchange student); it’s ran by Campus Living Village which we have in Manchester too!
  • Share houses are much cheaper! If you find on campus living too expensive (which I sadly do), it’s fairly easy to find a room in a share house within 2 weeks. Many exchange students usually take up this option.

One really weird thing about Sydney – hardly any domestic students live out! Where are the Aussies? The answer to this is that students in Aus prefer to stay at home – this is due to how expensive accom is and also the distance. Everything in Aus is so far, if you went to a uni in a different city, there’s an 96% change you’ll have to catch a flight back & forth.

Transport

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View from local train

Aus transport is so great and probably one of my fave things about the city. The buses here are just like the ones in Manchester (but no free wifi, boohoo) and the trains are extremely cool – the seats can move! The University is in such a great location that you have easy access to any part of the city – which you’re going to need because Sydney is soooooo big.

If you’re an exchange student, you’re eligible for a concession Opal card (this is a travel card where you can keep topping up instead of paying coins every time). A concession card means you get a 50% discount on travel, woohoo!!!

A transport tip: keep your Sundays free, unlimited travel for $2.60!!!

Get, Set, Sydney!

Bhumi Shukla (University of Sydney, Australia)

After months of waiting, the time has finally come. I can officially say that I’m off to Australia to start my new adventure. Here’s to new beginnings!

Semesters in Australia are the complete opposite to semesters in the UK. When it’s their Semester 2, it’s our Semester 1 (but it starts late July – so it’s a bit earlier).

I’m all packed & ready to go! Although, I’m not looking forward to my 25 hour journey to get there. I still haven’t sorted out my accommodation, hence I’m leaving 2 weeks earlier than uni starts to leave plenty of time to find something. From reading previous blogs, I learnt that finding accommodation in Australia was relatively easy – especially through different sites, such as flatmates.com! Initially, I’ll be staying in a hostel near USyd (that’s the local nickname for University of Sydney, sort of like UoM). Hopefully I’m able to find something relatively cheap as accommodation in Sydney can be very expensive.

One thing I’ve packed for my 6 months there is lots of sweaters! I’m going there during Australian winter, which is basically around the same temperatures as British summer, but I shouldn’t underestimate the power of the wind.

A really great thing about USyd is that it offers a wide range of activities for Exchange students. You can partake in things such climbing the Harbour Bridge and Breakfast with Koalas for really, really discounted prices. Also, in term of academics, USyd offers Exchange students a rare opportunity to apply for internships!

My eagerness to get to Australia is already killing me and I cannot wait to post all the pictures from my time abroad to make all my friends back in Manchester very jealous.

I’m ready for you, Sydney. See you very, very soon!

Looking back on Aus

Bethan Rowsby, University of Sydney, Geography.

I am writing this having been back in the UK for a month now, and back in Manchester for about 2 weeks. I have just finished my first week back at uni, involving talks regarding my dissertation, introductions to my new classes and seeing friends and coursemates who also went abroad – it has been so great being able to share stories of our years away from Manchester. Amidst all this I have sometimes felt as is my year in Sydney didn’t happen, because everything here has hardly changed and when I returned, I felt the familiarity of it all so quickly.

Leaving Sydney was hard because I was leaving behind friends who I didn’t know a year ago but who had become so close to me. Whilst I was looking forward to being home and especially to seeing my family again, I knew I would miss the people I had met in Sydney and that the goodbye would be a sad one. As well as all this, I knew I would also miss living so close to the beach and going for swims and hangs in the evenings! Sydney really was good to me.

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Sydney: The Final Sunsets

Bethan Rowsby, Geography, University of Sydney.

As I am about to fly to Asia, for a final trip before heading home, I have been reflecting on my year away from home and in my opinion there is no greater opportunity for reflecting than at sunset.

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