University of Sydney

Chapter 2: Removal

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

Written by Evan Rumpza, Foster undergraduate

Let’s recap how we got here. 4:30AM, wake up. Deposit 1,000 Baht into my pocket. Leave passport and any other form of ID, lest we get caught. 4:45AM, get tuk tuk. Argue in broken English about the drop off location. 5:00AM, avoid the guard walking around the barbed wire fence. Duck under said fence. 5:15AM, wake the sleeping homeless man. Bribe him 200 Baht to open pad locked gate. 5:30AM, climb.

49 stories later I sat atop Sathorn Unique, better known as Bangkok’s infamous Ghost Tower. The sun was just rising, but we had already been up for hours. Heartbeat still racing from the unassisted assent, we sat victorious. The little band of rebels I called friends and I had raced the sunrise and won.

What lay before us was an unobstructed three-hundred-and-sixty degree view of downtown Bangkok. To our left was the Lebua sky bar (where they shot the Hangover part II). We had been there just a few nights before. The view was similar, except here there were no fifteen dollar cocktails waiting for us at the top. Rather, we were currently being treated to a natural drunk. Thanks in no small part to every shade of orange and red reflecting through the fog and dust as the sun crested the skyline. Welcome to Thailand.

In all honesty, I was planning on writing this reflection about my experience in Australia. However, after two weeks in the Land of Smiles, I am convinced it should be on everyone’s “to travel” list. And isn’t learning all these things exactly what study abroad is about?

Anyway, I decided a while ago that Thailand was where I wanted to spend my single week of freedom from classes. I wanted to so badly that I decided to carve an additional week out from my studies. So now I faced the second plane ticket in a row with a destination that was truly foreign to me.

I flew from Sydney to Kuala Lampur, Malasyia then on to Phuket, Thailand. One night there and it was off to the Gulf of Thailand and a week on island time. A few buses and a ferry later we arrived in Koh Phangan. If you have heard of it before, it’s probably thanks to the Full Moon Party, and before you even ask, of course we went. The first night was spent in preparation for the next day. April 3rd was the full moon, and on Koh Phangan that meant only one thing, we would not be sleeping. Without going into too much detail I will just say the island lived up to its reputation.

Next up was Koh Tao. One of the top worldwide sites for SCUBA diving, how perfect for this newly certified diver. (I got my certification the weekend before in Sydney.) We spent the days snorkeling and SCUBA diving on the water and racing ATVs and scooters through the streets at night. We climbed to the top of Nang Yuan Island and jumped from a few boats. The nightlife consisted of beach bars and one incredible night at a four star resort playing in a pool with a view to die for.

Then, just like that, it was off to Bangkok. First stop, the sky bar at Lebua. Fantastic drinks with an even more fantastic view. (I think Amy and I made UW Student Life with a picture from Lebua.) A pants only policy almost excluded one from our group, however as it turns out the locals are aware of this. After a strange talk with a woman in a bush and a 150 baht exchange, he was right back with the rest of us – a fresh pair of rented trousers around his waist. The next day consisted of a few temples, some meditation with Buddhist monks, BB gun target practice, and consumption of the worlds largest grilled cricket. Little did I know, that would not be the last strange thing I would eat. Later, Khao San Road, the mere mention of its name sends a shiver down the spine of any experienced South Asia backpacker – or so I’ve heard. After yet another perilous tuk tuk ride, we found ourselves in the middle of a street party like nothing I’ve ever seen, definitely a place to hit while in Bangkok. It is also the location where I ate a scorpion – whole. Moving on, the next day consisted of world class (knockoff) shopping and catching a flick at the local cinema, nothing too eventful. We had an early morning coming up.

So there we were, the next morning, on top of the world. But what goes up must come down. We said goodbye to our little band of rebels and I boarded a train to Chiang Mai. The next two days were a whirlwind of tigers, elephants, and Songkran or Thai New Year. Also known as the worlds craziest water fight. People literally blocked traffic and dumped bucket loads of ice water onto passing motorists, tourists, bicyclists, really anything that moved. It was insanity. We also snuck away just long enough to visit an elephant sanctuary. Which was a huge highlight of the trip. I’m a fan of picnics; I’m a bigger fan of picnics with one-ton elephants.

To be honest, this reflection has absolutely nothing to do with Sydney, but rather the Study Abroad experience in general. This adventure would not have been possible without it. If you have been, you know what I mean. If you are going, seize every moment. Spend your money and effort making memories, because you rarely regret the things you did do, only the things you didn’t.

**Picture is of the Sathorn Unique at sunrise.

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Chapter One: Arrival

Monday, April 27th, 2015

Written by Evan Rumpza, Foster undergraduate

It was 75 degrees on the plane – the sky was grey. I left Seattle with one large dark green suitcase, a light green 48-liter backpack and a grey schoolbag. I had enough clothes for two weeks and no clue what lay ahead. Sydney, Australia was the destination on my boarding pass. It was on the other side of the world, and seventeen hours later so was I.

It was 95 degrees in the airport – the sky was clear. I still had on my long pants and layered jacket from take off, a poor decision if you have ever been to Australia in mid February. The thirty-minute ride by train combined with the five-minute walk to my hostel, bags in tow, left me sticky and gasping for air. Solid start, I only had five months to go.

Two weeks later I signed my first lease agreement. I had successfully navigated the complex and expensive Sydney housing market and landed a three bedroom flat in a little bohemian suburb known as Newtown just minutes from campus. The air conditioner might not work, but it is a good place. It took a little convincing but eventually each of the four beds was filled. A Welshman, a Canadian, an Italian, and myself – a completely dysfunctional group of exchange kids who had known each other for less than a month were now supposed to live and learn together.

One hurdle down – next was class. The funny thing about study abroad is that you often times put a good amount of effort into the “abroad” part but neglect the “study”. In the case of registering, this could not have held truer. See, registration for exchange kids at the University of Sydney amounts to this:

Step 1: Blindly enter classes you might like.

Step 2: Computer slots you into random classes at random times.

Step 3: If you are unhappy you must submit a hard copy change request.

No online registration. No add/drop link. No, instead if you are unhappy with the classes/dates/times that the computer randomly selects for you, expect to submit a paper in person and cross your fingers you do not need additional faculty approval. Above all else, hope to whatever higher power these credits still transfer and that you graduate on time. Not the most pleasant experience.

Second hurdle down, and after all of that, I really was quite fortunate. I even landed an internship with one of Australia’s leading investment research firms. But enough about the boring stuff, I am supposed to be selling Australia, and so far I am doing a pretty bad job.

Lets see, the weather is fantastic. The beaches are fantastic. The surfing is fantastic. There is every type of food imaginable. The nightlife compares favorably with some of the best locations in the world. The campus is beautiful. The people are very welcoming. I mean, you can trust me, look how big a critic I’ve been up to now.

Being serious for just one moment, moving to Sydney has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. I knew that the moment I first stepped out onto the Sydney Harbor Bridge and peered down at the billowing white sails of the world famous opera house. To anyone who has ever travelled, you know the feeling. To be so wrapped up in a moment. It is easy to find, but impossible to hold onto. I hope that this trip is full of moments like this. I will be sure to get back to you on that, unless the sharks, snakes, and spiders get me first.

**Below is an actual picture my roommate Jamie Chapman took on a day trip to Manly Beach.

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Returning to the States – Reverse Culture Shock

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

By: Jasmine Reliford, Foster Undergraudate

As finals came to an end in Australia, I decided to do all the things that I had not yet done but said I would; everything from visiting the Blue Mountains (see photo) to being at the Sydney Opera House at sunrise (see photo).  I spent my last hours with my friends who were from around the world and from around the United States. The perfect end to my trip was spending it with the people I grew so close to at an iconic location of Australia. So I hopped on the plane home that night and 14 hours later I landed at SFO.

I was nervous to see my friends and adjust back to American style living, which was ironic because just a few months before I was complaining about the Australian culture and how NOT American it is. Since Australia’s summer starts in December I had a full month and a half of relaxing before I had to head back to Seattle. It was not until school started and being exposed to the Seattle winter, that I realize that I was not in OZ anymore.

While my Aussie friends have a three month break in 100 degree weather, I am sitting in class bundled up in 30 degree weather. My weekends that were once filled with going to the beach, or traveling to New Zealand or the Great Barrier Reef or Melbourne were not consumed with studying in a heated apartment. I still keep in contact with all of my close friends from abroad and we all complain about being back and having to do American style schooling together. I think that is what has allowed me to get through this tough transition period. It is finding people who are just as shocked to be back as you are. While the adjustment is tough at times, and I feel that everything out of my mouth is “In Australia they do this…” or “When I was abroad…”, I would not change that experience for the world. Being abroad you learn so much about that country you study in, about American culture and world views about America, and most importantly you learn so much about yourself. Your comfort limits are pushed, and you learn who you really are when you are plopped in a country and forced to figure EVERYTHING out. The transition back is worth every moment, every picture, and every memory I had while I was abroad.

Spring Break in Australia!

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

By: Graham Brew, Foster Undergraduate

One benefit about spending August through December in the Southern Hemisphere is getting a second spring and a second summer. And with a second spring, comes a second spring break!  I rented a van with four of my European friends, threw four surf boards in the car, and took off on a giant ten day road trip up the coast of Australia.

Our first stop was a city about 1100KM north of Sydney called Surfers Paradise. The comparisons I’ve heard the most are a mini Miami or Vegas. We stayed at an 18 dollar a night hostel, which was questionable to say the least. I was woken up the first morning with police in the room kicking someone out. The longest resident of the hostel makes sand sculptures for a living. It was quite an experience.  The beaches were amazing though, being so far north of Sydney the weather was also much better.

Stop number two was the beautiful town of Byron Bay. A much different feel from Surfers, Byron is known for being a small, laid back, hipster town. We visited the different surrounding beaches every day and made a hike up the famous Byron Bay lighthouse. It’s the most easterly point of mainland Australia. In Byron we were able to use our surf boards every day. I’m not like the local Australians but I like to think I’m getting better. By the end of the trip, I was standing up on the board at least a few times every surf session. It definitely hurts your ego though when you see the local ten year old boys making it look so simple.

It was a great experience traveling in a group where I was the only American. My group consisted of two Brits, a Dane, and a Frenchman. The diversity made the trip much more entertaining, and in a way educational. My Danish friend made a video of everywhere we went, it’s a little corny but I suggest you check it out.

Its Pronounced “Zed” not “Zee”: NZ

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

By: Jasmine Reliford, Foster Undergraduate

While I am all for quarters over semesters, the one great thing is the mid-semester break. While some stayed in Sydney and others visited the Gold Coast, I decided to visit Australia’s neighbor, New Zealand. I headed to the capital city, Wellington, for fun, food, and freedom from exams, readings and homework. Throughout my 10 day trip I visited the Wellington Zoo; spent a day in the national museum, Te Papa (free access), where I learned about the aboriginal culture of NZ (the Maori); went to see an authentic kiwi comedy (which was confusing to understand the humor); walked along the Waterfront; road the SINGLE cable car in the city; experienced the BEST Indian food and Mexican food I have had since I have been abroad; and really embraced the kiwi culture by relaxing in the sun (when there was sun, Wellington is notorious for being cold).

Many people think that Aussies and Kiwis should be grouped together. But that is like saying Americans and Canadians are the same. While their accents are difficult for me to distinguish between, their cultures are night and day. While Aussies pronounce “Hay-ch” instead of “H”, Kiwis use “keen” and “reckon” 100 times a day. The aboriginal culture of NZ is extremely present as all of their buildings have both English and Maori instructions. Aussies embraces the extreme rivalry between their two nations (think about how Americans feel about Canadians) while Kiwis question the intensity of the Aussie spirit. Kiwis embrace the outdoors by walking barefoot everywhere, while Aussies in Sydney enjoy their professional attire. Though I stayed in a small city there was much to do and see and learn. One thing the cultures have in common is their love for Americans and the US as well as their kind and laid back nature. If you are thinking about Australia, definitely take a trip to NZ (Z as in Zed) because you won’t be disappointed!

 

Melbourne is a MUST!

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

Degraves Street

While Sydney is a beautiful city with loads of sights, shopping and shows, a trip to Melbourne is a MUST. Book a flight with Tiger Airways (super cheap round trip tickets) and stay at a YHA (super nice and affordable hostel that is walking distance away from downtown Melbourne). While Sydney is very professional and family oriented, Melbourne is a younger, more artsy city. The things to do are ENDLESS! I stayed for four days and found a different part of the city everyday. You can hop on the free tram or free bus and they will take you to all the major places around the city; Queen Victoria Market, Flinders Station, Federation Center, Degraves Street, as well as the Docklands, Bourke Street Mall and the DFO for shopping. If you want to visit the beach while down there, purchase an all day ticket and hop on the tram to St. Kilda, but make sure you do it during they day because the beach closes at night.

There are literally millions on places to eat, from the famous Pancake Parlor, to Bimbos for $5 pizzas, to Pie Face (which does not sell the types of pies that we are use to). Those it is expensive (as most things in Australia are, the minimum wage here is around $16/hr), it is worth trying all the different types of food the city has to offer.

The absolute must to see and do include:

1)   Exploring Fitzroy – vintage shops, artsy feel, and bars that have live Latin, funk and jazz bands. The Night Cat is the place to be on a Sunday is you like Latin music.

2)   On Degraves Street there is a Belgium Waffle stand that has THE BEST waffles you will ever eat in your whole life!

3)   For authentic Italian food head to Lygon Street. Everyone treats you like family it is the “Italian way” as my waiter said. A friend and I ate there and we got a drinks and appetizers for free.

Spring Break

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

By: Sam Freedman, Foster Undergraduate

I’ve been planning on writing a bit about my spring break trip for the last few weeks now. I just finally got a break from schoolwork so I figured I’d give it a go. I went to Brisbane, Fraser Island, Hervey Bay, Airlie Beach, and the Whitsunday Islands with my buddy Sophie. It looks us about 11 days and it was pretty spectacular.

The Plan

  • Fly north to Brisbane
  • Drive even further north to Fraser Island
  • Spend 3-4 days on the island
  • Catch an overnight bus to the Whitsunday Islands
  • 3 day sailing trip around the islands
  • Fly back to Sydney

Fraser Island
Let’s see… the flight was pretty uneventful. I met Sophie at the airport and we got on a 1 hour flight to Brisbane. We were planning on traveling Fraser Island with Sophie’s family friends, the Bowmans, because they go every year and guided tours were well over $500. We spent the night at the Bowman’s house and for some ungodly reason woke up at 4 am to drive up to Fraser. We slept for most of the 4 hour drive up towards the island. We got on a ferry around 9 am and finally made it onto the island around 9:30 am. There were no roads on the island so the only way to get around was to drive SUV’s on the beach. So that’s what we did. It was another 2 hour drive from where we got off the ferry up to the campsite. It took us another 2 hours to set up camp once we got there. The Bowmans were planning on staying there 10 days so they had a pretty extravagant camp set-up. We set up a sink, a water heater thing, a HUGE tent with a tarp, their own porta-potty tent, and a shower. Definitely roughing it… The whole campsite was actually on the beach so we were about 20 feet from the ocean. Behind the campsite was a pretty big hill that you could climb and see down the beach for miles. Altogether, not a bad little spot.

The island itself was really awesome. It’s a 100 mile long sand dune island. It’s completely surrounded by ocean, but somehow the island has all these freshwater lakes in the middle. I have no idea how that works, but somehow it does. All these lakes feed into streams that go into the ocean at various points around the island. The first day, we went to one of these streams and lounged around in the water. That night, we climbed up the hill and shot some pictures of the sunset. The next day, we went to another creek and lounged around again. In retrospect, it seems like there was a bit of a pattern developing there. On the third day, we went to one of the lakes and lounged around by the water more. Honestly, about 80% of my waking hours on the Fraser Island trip were me lounging around on the beach or in front of a lake/stream. It was very relaxing journey. We also did a fair bit of whale watching because you were almost guaranteed to see a few if you looked out at the water for more than 15 minutes.

The Whitsundays
So we got a flight off of Fraser and took an overnight bus to Airlie Beach, which is right next to the Whitsundays. The bus ride sucked. I can’t sleep sitting down. Just can’t do it. So when we got to Airlie, I was exhausted. I also had not showered on Fraser because we were camping so I felt especially disgusting. We checked into the hostel and both immediately showered and napped.

We woke up at 8 am the next morning to catch the sailboat at 9am. There was a crew of three: Mel the captain, David the first mate, and Michelle who was in training. There were about 12 other people on the boat. They were all older couples around 28-34ish. Mel was awesome. David was a bit crazy and had a terrifying laugh. Michelle was very nice. The sailing trip was spectacular. The first day, we went scuba diving and snorkeling around the Great Barrier Reef. On the second day, we got up early and spent 4 hours checking out Whitehaven Beach. Good God, that beach was beautiful. Apparently, it’s always ranked as one of the top 10 beaches in the world and I can see why. When we got back to the boat, we got lunch then went for a snorkel before dinner. On the third day, we snorkeled in the morning and spent the day lounging on the boat. Honestly, I spent about 75% of this trip lounging around in the sun too. It was a good vacation.

 

First Impressions of Sydney

Monday, November 7th, 2011

By: Sam Freedman, Foster Undergraduate

Let’s see, I’ve been in Australia for about a month and I still haven’t written my first blog post, so this one is going to be very long and comprehensive to make up for how much I’ve been “sluffing” it. I’m going to divide it into sections so I can make sure I get to everything I want to say. Overall, the experience so far has been amazing. I’ve met so many people, seen so many places, and had so many experiences that I wouldn’t have had back at home. That being said, let’s jump into it…

Arrival/Australian Fast Food/The Infamous Backpacker’s Hostel

I arrived in Sydney on July 13th in the midst of the wettest July that Sydney has had in 61 years. It was pouring rain for 2 weeks straight. Looking back, it was a really familiar transition coming from Seattle. My aunt and uncle picked me up from the airport and immediately took me to McDonald’s. It’s amazing how Maccahs (that’s what they call it here) tastes the same no matter where you go. For my first week and a half, I stayed in a hostel called Base Sydney. It wasn’t bad… It had a bar literally attached to the hostel (The Scary Canary) and I got a voucher for a couple free drinks upon check-in. Not a bad first impression. The only kind of bad thing about it was the distance from the university. It was about a 45 minute walk to get to University of Sydney (USyd), but it was nice being so close to downtown. I was only a 15 minute walk from the Central Business District (CBD) and a 30 minute walk from the Opera House. It’s a nice, central location. Another nice hostel that’s closer to USyd is Wake Up Sydney. My friend stayed there and really liked it.

Apartment Hunting


One thing people don’t realize about Sydney is you have to pay for EVERYTHING. Everything is expensive too. This website said Sydney is 68% more expensive Seattle. I guess that’s about right. A cheap meal here will run you $12. The exchange rate isn’t really helpful either. Back to the apartment search, the hostel charged $2 per 15 minutes of internet so I ended up using the free internet at the McDonald’s up the street. Using sweet, sweet Micky D’s as my base, I started my search for housing. I did most of my looking through gumtree.com.au… It’s Australia’s version of craigslist. Looking back, the experience wasn’t that bad, but it was really nerve racking at the time. I was in a foreign country with about 3 friends, a hostel booked for a week, and no place to live. I had to make moves. It took me about 4-5 days to find a good place. Rents in Sydney are expensive. I was looking on the cheap end of the spectrum and I’m still paying $190/week. For some perspective, a single room in university housing will run you about $390/week. I live in a terrace house with 8 people: two Austrian girls, a Spanish girl, a French guy, a Venezuelan girl, a Thai girl, and a French girl. It looks a bit like this. I decided to live around the uni (that’s what they call it here… weird I know) because I didn’t want to have to worry about the commute. The neighborhoods closest to the uni are Darlington, Newtown, Glebe, Chippendale, Camperdown, and Forest Lodge. They’re all pretty unique, but each is safe. The only place I was told to avoid is Redfern. The way one Aussie put it was, “If you live there for 5 months, you’re going to get mugged. Count on it.” Not for me…

The University of Sydney


The uni is pretty spiffy. It’s got all these really old sandstone buildings that are absolutely beautiful. They have a building called the Quadrangle that looks like it’s straight out of Hogwarts. I kid you not. Registration and picking classes was relatively painless. My schedule was generated for me based off the classes I picked, and by the grace of the gods, I only had class on Monday and Tuesday. 5 day weekend every single week. Yeaaaaah buddy. Lectures are pretty similar to Foster. Large lectures once a week with tutorial (quiz section) once a week. They use blackboard too and most of the professors post lecture slides online.

The Sights
Seeing the sights is fun. For me, that was the moment when I said to myself, “Holy s***, I’m in Australia. The Opera House is right in front of me. I am actually 7,700 miles away from home.” The Opera House was cool. The Botanical Gardens are REALLY cool. It’s like the arboretum but with 10x as many birds. It’s good fun. I also went up to the Blue Mountains last weekend. That was pretty impressive too. Lots of tourists, but still very cool. They’re these gigantic sandstone cliffs that overlook a big Eucalyptus forest. I have a couple pictures so I’ll try to figure out how to put those on here.
I’ve checked out a bunch of beaches as well. You can’t be an Australian without going to the beach on a regular basis. 80% of Aussies live within 80 miles of the ocean. I don’t know what sort of drugs the other 20% are on because the beaches are amazing. I’ve checked out Bronte Beach, Coogee Beach, Bondi Beach, and Watson’s Bay so far. Each one is absolutely amazing. Nothing like Washington beaches at all. I’ll try to throw some pictures of those on here too.
All right folks, that’s all I got for now. I’ll try to update this thing fairly regularly, but don’t hold your breath.

Sydney Exchange Revealed!

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

Adventures Down Under

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Anthony (2)After landing and getting settled in here in Sydney, I quickly started to realize how amazing this city really is. For the first few days, I didn’t even have a permanent place to live. I stayed a few nights in a hostel and then switched to couch-surfing with a friend while I looked for a permanent residence. Although this process was stressful, it actually turned out to be a blessing in the sense that it gave me a great opportunity to explore the area and learn a bit more about the layout of Sydney itself. Within a span of a few days, I had seen most of downtown Sydney and got a good idea of the different suburbs in the area and their locations. I was pretty much just walking around Sydney with the biggest smile on my face because I had FINALLY made it :)

Orientation Week was a great chance to meet new people and hear about events on campus. The school threw a few parties for the students within the first couple weeks. There are two bars on campus, and one of them hosts concerts and school parties. In fact, one of the bars had a secret show last night and the Foo Fighters came! The tickets sold out too fast for me to get one, but it shows that they can bring in some major acts. On the topic of concerts, a friend of mine got a few free tickets to MGMT a couple weeks ago, and it was pretty cool seeing them in Australia!

The best part so far has probably been meeting cool people from literally all over the world. There have been countless social events planned already within the group on international students. I’ve had the opportunity to visit four different beaches, and they are absolutely GORGEOUS. Laying out on the beach all day definitely doesn’t make you miss Seattle’s rain :)

Anthony (1)

Anthony