Putting the ‘study’ in study abroad

by Lauren Tennant, University of New South Wales, Australia

Most my posts have been about settling-in and the travelling experiences on offer in Sydney, however I thought it was important to touch on the studying itself!

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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.

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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.

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!

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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Still Sydney-siding

Bethan Rowsby, Geography, University of Sydney, Australia.

Whilst many of my friends who are also studying abroad are coming to the end of their semester, mine has only just taken off. I’m currently in week 5, with 8 weeks to go and then exams so I will be finished by the 26th June! Or rather I would be, if I didn’t take a class that has a field trip in July to… Indonesia! Oh, the perks of being a Geographer. I am glad as it does mean that I am able to spend more time in Australia before I have to leave (plus it gives me more time for my dissertation research that needs to be done…). Sydney has become another home for me and I’ve been here for 10 months now yet there is still so much to explore.


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Christmas in Australia

Bethan Rowsby, University of Sydney

I knew I wasn’t going to be going back home to the UK for Christmas, which was sad but it meant I got to experience Christmas in Australia! Since I wasn’t able to spend they day with my family, I was kindly adopted into the home of one of my housemates, Rachel, who lives in Kyneton which is near Melbourne but very much not urban at all. I had a great time out in the country for a week! Continue reading “Christmas in Australia”

One semester down (under)!

Bethan Rowsby, University of Sydney, Australia.

After almost finishing my first semester here at the University of Sydney (it’s gone so quick!), now is as good a time as any to think about my experiences here in comparison to Manchester. Currently I have two exams to go until I get a 15 week long summer break which I am so keen for! And despite my looming exams, I’ve managed to get in a good amount of beach time, as the weather here is just too good not to! The two exams I have are each worth 40% of the class, which is not a lot for a final exam compared to Manchester, which may be why I am not feeling too stressed out about them. This semester I took two classes outside of Geography which have both been really interesting and I’ve learnt so much each week. The first one is an Indigenous Studies class which I would recommend to anyone going to an Australian uni to take a class in as it really opens your eyes to Australia’s history and how it’s still affecting people today. The other non-geography class I decided to take was one in Biblical Studies since I was really interested in studying the Bible from an academic perspective, and whilst the class and the assessments were nothing like I was used to, it was a great opportunity to learn and step outside of my comfort zone! Despite being a geography student, I have actually enjoyed these two classes more than my geography ones since they are so different and new to what I have studied back home. Although, I could never shake my love for geography, especially as next semester there may be an opportunity for me to go on a field trip to SE Asia!

Sunrise over Bondi Beach

The tutorials, referred to as tutes here are compulsory and most of the time there is 10% of your grade dedicated to your participation in them. I found this hard to get used to at first, especially since I’m not usually someone who offers my opinion all the time. In some cases the tutes worked well, however the model I think works the best is where the tutes are compulsory (if you miss more than two you fail the class) but there is no participation mark as then there is no pressure to ‘perform’ and there is still a good discussion – this was the case in my Indigenous Studies class and I found those tutes to be the best and most helpful.

The walk up to uni

One helpful thing at USyd is that all the lectures are recorded which means that if there is a timetable clash with lectures it is possible and easy to listen to the recording of one each week. Not all of my lectures were recorded in Manchester (though they might be now) so this was really helpful as I did end up having a clash on my timetable. If this happens to you, I think it depends on how you learn best, and whether or not you can make yourself listen to a recording each week; I found it hard but it worked out in the end! It’s also worth me saying that the online system at USyd is exactly the same as Manchester – both use Blackboard – so it’s really easy to navigate the system.

on a stormy day

The actual USyd campus is pretty beautiful, as well as being huge. The main building is the Quadrangle and it gets a lot of tourists visiting! Apparently its architecture is based half on Oxford university and half on Cambridge. I have one class in there and there’s one big jacaranda tree in the quad, of which they say that if you haven’t started studying by the time the purple flowers bloom then you’re in trouble for your exams. I’ll hopefully be ok!

heaps of tourists!

Arrival Reflections from Sydney!

Bethan Rowsby, University of Sydney

Upon arriving in Sydney, I was met at the airport by my friend Snow, who I actually lived with in my first year in halls when she was on exchange from Australia in Manchester! It was so great to be met with a friendly face and as I battled jet lag we explored Sydney together (she lives in Canberra) and had a long overdue catch up. I am going to visit her in Canberra soon which I am really looking forward to – most people I’ve met in Sydney make a bit of a joke about Canberra in that there isn’t much to do there but I’ve heard good things about Floriade, their spring flower festival and of course the extravagant milkshakes that went viral a couple of months go on buzzfeed! So I am very much looking forward to my trip there.

Sydney Opera House

Seeing the Sydney Opera House in real life for the first time was pretty surreal as it’s so iconic, and even now whenever I see it I feel the need to take a photo of it! Another Sydney icon is the Harbour bridge, which to my surprise and excitement can be seen in the distance from the end of my road. It has become one of my favourite things; to walk down to the end of the road and around the water there, taking in the city. As I mentioned in my last post, I am living in a shared house with 7 other girls, which could not have worked out better. I’ve definitely picked up some Australian phrases since living with them, such as ‘heaps’ (loads/a lot/many), ‘defo’ (definitely) and adding ‘hey’ at the end of sentences, and we’ve had many conversations about what I consider to be ‘Australian’ and the differences in the weather compared to home.. Several days this ‘winter’ over here have been the same temperature back home where it’s summer!

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At the end of my road: The ANZAC bridge with the Harbour bridge in the background

After the stress of finding a place to live had been lifted, the tasks that were left for me to complete were life admin type things; getting a bank account, a phone contract and enrolling at the university, all of which went very smoothly. There were several events organised by USyd that exchange students could go to to meet other exchange students; one which I went to was a ‘Koala Breakfast’ where we had a tour round the wildlife zoo at Darling Harbour which finished with us eating breakfast surrounded by Koalas (no koalas were consumed)! Overall, my first few weeks here have been filled with meeting heaps of new people – from Australia and all over the world, planning trips (further afield than the 3.5 hour trip to Canberra – I’m heading to New Zealand at the end of September!) and getting stuck into uni life at USyd which is what my next post will probably be about.




By Bethan Rowsby (The University of Sydney, Australia)

G’day! The posting of this blog is a little late as I arrived in Sydney about two weeks ago (!!!), but here’s what I thought and felt pre-departure!

I had everything sorted; visa, health cover and my flight, everything except where I was going to live when I arrived in Sydney. Whilst this was a deliberate decision (I didn’t want to go into university accommodation due to the cost!), it was the thing I was most nervous about. I took my mind off the nerves and my looming departure date by travelling up and down the country, visiting family and friends and saying final goodbyes before I left! However, it didn’t fully hit me until the night before my flight that I was actually leaving my homes in London and Manchester for a year. And that felt awful! I was definitely excited for my trip, but at that moment I really didn’t want to leave.

Whilst I was still in Manchester, my mum had rung me and told me that she’d bought me a massive suitcase for my trip, and she wasn’t lying! I’m pretty sure I could fit myself Snapchat-8265857916513867857in that case. Because I was ill before my flight (and also due to my lack of proper preparation) I ended up packing the day before and off I went hoping I had remembered everything – passport: check, sun cream: check. I for sure had the essentials.

In the lead up to leaving I researched areas in Sydney that I would want to live in, considering factors such as being close to the Uni and the general safety and reputation of the areas. I found there are plenty of great suburbs to live in in Sydney and I’m really happy with where I’ve ended up – in a shared house near the Uni with 7 other girls who are super nice ♥.

I’ll be posting again in the next few weeks as I settle into Sydney and uni begins!


My ten do’s and don’ts of studying abroad

By Jamie Chapman (The University of Sydney, Australia)

Now that my time over here in Sydney is coming to an end, I thought it would be a good idea to reflect on what I think the most important aspects of the study abroad experience are. I’ve made a little list of ten do’s and don’ts, based off of some of the experiences I’ve had during my time in Australia. If you’re in a position like I was, and still deliberating about whether studying abroad is a good idea/nervous about going, hopefully this’ll help!


Plan too much
It’s so easy with something like studying abroad to dive right into planning every meticulous detail – where you’re going to live, the places you’re going to visit, the things you’re going to do – before you know it, your entire trip is laid out before you on a few sheets of A4. The reality is, if too many plans are made, too many flights booked, you’ll find yourself set in a structure that doesn’t let you really take in the amazing places you’ve ended up in. There’s a certain merit to ‘doing it live’ – appreciate the experiences that are thrown at you; they may never happen again.

Leave everything to the last minute
This is something I learnt the hard way, early on into my trip – I didn’t book my flight out of the UK until around three weeks beforehand, and ended up paying around twice as much for the privilege as I could have done a month prior. Once you arrive, you’ll want to get your feet on the ground as soon as possible – fight through the jet lag, get a bank account and phone number, find somewhere to live that isn’t a hostel full of travellers. There really isn’t that much to do, and if you arrive with around two weeks before classes start, then you’ll have more than enough time to do everything, but don’t be like me and leave finding long-term accommodation until you’ve got only three days left to do so – without a doubt, the most stressful aspect of my time here. Luckily, everything worked out perfectly, but looking back, it could have gone oh, so wrong.

Forget you’re still studying
This is a big one! Wherever you go in the world, you’ll undoubtedly want to explore, meet new people, do some amazing things with your time here. Don’t forget though, it’s called study abroad for a reason – you’ll still have work to do. This isn’t a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination – as a Music student, I’ve had some of the most rewarding experiences at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, and I’ve met some of the most amazing people along the way. Embrace the new things that studying in a new country can bring to you, and you’ll appreciate your time abroad so much more.

Bring too much stuff
One of the biggest regrets of anyone who travels is that they bring way too much stuff with them. Think that you’re going to need that heavy winter coat? You’ll regret it when you’re lugging a 30kg suitcase through the middle of the city, jet-lagged and searching for the nearest coffee shop. Think about where you’re going, too – if you leave the UK in January and travel to Australia, like I did, you’ll leave the country in the middle of winter and arrive to 30-degrees of beautiful Australian summer heat, which won’t be so beautiful if you step off the plane wearing three layers, a beanie and scarf. That stuff won’t be seeing daylight for a long time! Also, you’ll undoubtedly buy a ton of stuff to take back home, be it clothes, gifts, or a pet koala (if only!). Top tip, buy a cheap duffel bag once you’re out here, fill it with stuff, and pay the extra bit of cash to check another piece of luggage for your flight home.

Be careless when it comes to accommodation
Without a doubt, this has been the most stressful aspect of my time here. You’re going to be travelling countless hours to a far-flung country that, odds are, you’ve never been to before. Throw into the mix not having a concrete living situation, and it’s bound to be stressful. You’ll want to get something sorted out as soon as possible – it’s going to be expensive, time consuming, and you’ll need to do a fair bit of research into the best things to look for. Speak to existing students at your host university, students that have returned from a previous semester/year abroad, and visit the university’s accommodation office once you arrive to see if they’ve got any tips for you. I got quite lucky in that I met up with some other exchange students from around the world once I arrived, who knew the best places to look for and we managed to find somewhere quickly that was perfect. Don’t jump into it, though – make sure you check out all your options if you’re going to look for private accommodation. This is where student housing options do really shine – yes, they’re a fair bit more expensive than you could pay otherwise, but it’ll be such a stress-free experience to arrive with a guaranteed place to stay.


It’s an obvious one, but it’s absolutely the number one thing to do with your time abroad – travel! In fact, I’m writing this blog post aboard a flight to Melbourne right now. Doing something like studying abroad will completely change your outlook on travel, and you’ll want to spend every waking minute of your free time on an adventure to someplace new. Travelling to somewhere like Australia is perfect, too, where domestic flights are as common (and nearly as cheap) as Megabuses, and where there are so many incredible places to visit right up the coast. You’ll realise how closeted most Brits seem to be about travel, too, something which I totally hold my hands up to – the fact that I’ve never visited Scotland, for example, when it’s (relatively) right at my doorstep, is crazy. The travel bug will find its way to you, whether you like it or not. This time next week, I’ll be back at the airport, waiting for a flight to Japan to start my three-week solo trip through the country. Now I just need to hope that my bank balance can handle it…

Meet new people
It’s no lie that one of the biggest things that scares people away from studying abroad is that, most likely, you won’t know anyone. Maybe you have family, or a friend overseas, but for the majority of us, we’ll arrive all on our own. Of course, this is pretty terrifying, but pretty much every other international student will be in exactly the same situation. Most universities have some sort of exchange student society, and will throw a ton of events throughout the semester – hundreds of students from all over the world that are just as keen as you are to meet new people and travel all over the place. Some of my closest friends after this semester are not only from Sydney, but as far away as South Korea, and as close to home as Oxford. I’ve met such an amazing, diverse crowd of friends, who have paved the way for some incredible adventures in the future.

Be proactive
This is important right from the start of the entire study abroad process – getting all the paperwork done, applying for a visa, booking flights, etc. Get on top of everything from the start, and all the things you have to do to set yourself up will seem like a piece of cake. Push yourself to just go and do something all the time. Go and explore the city, meet new people, see new things. At the end of the day, your time abroad can’t last forever, so the more time you spend being active and just doing something, the better your experience will be.

Embrace the unexpected
As with anything in life, things are never going to go entirely to plan. You’ll end up in situations that you never envisioned in the first place, and frankly, the only thing to do is to go with the flow. Some of the best moments I’ve had out here have been totally and utterly unexpected. I’ve slept in a tent in an Australian countryside hostel with the resident kangaroo asleep just outside; I’ve sailed a yacht under the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the middle of a torrential storm; I’ve been faced with a collapsed bridge over a 40ft-wide river in the middle of a hike, only to be ferried across by two fishermen and their dog that just happened to be passing by in their boat. The same thing applies academically, too – you’ll probably go abroad with a good idea of the exact classes you’ll want to take, but in reality you’ll have to change them. Maybe there’s a timetable clash, maybe they’ve filled up, or like in my case, maybe the class doesn’t exist at all. Be open-minded, and savour the experiences you’re offered academically. The classes I originally didn’t want have let me have some of my music performed at the huge Vivid Sydney Festival last month, and I’ve also been able to meet some of the most incredible Australian musicians that are around today.

Say yes
Without trying too hard to sound like a cheesy motivational speaker, this is probably the best way to summarise my advice when it comes to studying abroad. Be open to whatever the experience throws at you. If I hadn’t said yes at that one meeting, way back near the start of first year in Manchester, I can’t even imagine what it would have been like to miss out on this. Studying abroad has been without a doubt the single best experience of my time at university, and I’ll be so sad for it to be over. Saying ‘yes’ means that I’ve swam with turtles at the Great Barrier Reef. It means that I’ve been surfing at world-famous Bondi Beach. It means that I’ve met the most incredible people that I’m humbled to call my friends. It means that I’m going to be travelling to parts of the world that I could never have imagined a year ago, and soon, it’ll mean that I arrive back in beautiful, rainy Manchester with countless stories of the best six months of my life.

My 3rd blog post

By Moses Chun (The University of Sydney, Australia)

My semester break was amazing as I travelled to the Gold Coast and it was a fabulous and relaxing trip! As I touched down at the Gold Coast airport after a short, one hour flight, I instantly felt in holiday mood as everything there suggested nothing but a great holiday. The weather was perfect and since it is already late summer, the temperature was not too hot and the sky was clear.

The Gold Coast was amazing but it was time to go back to University. It has been two weeks since the semester break and it’s getting busy as my timetable is filled with assessments. Having just finished two midterm exams, there are still three essays and one tutorial presentation to come. Course assessments in Sydney are quite different from what we have in Manchester as there are more components to them. All of my four courses include at least four assessments, each spread throughout the semester so there will be at least one assessment per week in the second half of my semester.

As I read my earlier blog posts, I find the way I wrote about my time abroad isn’t the most interesting, a bit like James May driving a Ferrari. Therefore I think the best way to tell you about my experience abroad and especially, how amazing it was at the Gold Coast, is to post some pictures and I hope you won’t be too jealous 😛
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It is 6:30am on the 25th of April while I am writing this blog post, after attending the ANZAC Day dawn service at the Garden of Remembrance nearby. It was a special experience and good reason to wake up before dawn.  Hopefully I can update the blog soon. It is time to get back to work.