University of Sydney

How are you going? – Australia’s: How are you doing?

Thursday, October 7th, 2010
Sailing with Locals

Sailing with Locals

It has been busy in Australia over the past weeks. My internship is nearly over and studies will be finished by the end of this month, except finals which usually take place during the middle of November. It is weird to have a few weeks to study for final exams while at UW we have a weekend to do so. I have just returned from my outstanding spring break. It was amazing as I really got to know more of what Australia is all about. Friendly people, good beer, great food and fascinating nature; I visited several places during my 10 days.

First of all I went to Melbourne for some days to see this phenomenal city which all Australians love. It is a very sophisticated town with a unique food culture from all over the world. This place will blow your mind if you are into performing arts, architecture, art and design of any kind, sports, and everything beyond. In addition, I visited the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, located in the southern state near Melbourne.

Melbourne City -- View from Wall Memorial

Melbourne City -- View from Wall Memorial

Next, I went on to Cairns and this beautiful place called Port Douglas, just north 1 hour from touristy Cairns. I stayed in the YHA (Youth Hostel Australia) during my entire trip and I really have to say that it was great. My friends who recommended it to me didn’t lie! You really get your monies worth as they have great facilities and services. In the city we had a BBQ rooftop garden and in the other place there was a pool and spa and much more. Nevertheless, the most valuable was the advice staff gave me on what trips to book and with which operators.

Up in Queensland, I visited the oldest jungle on earth as well as the Great Barrier Reef. I was really stunned as I have travelled to over 25 countries already but have never seen something like this before.  Two hours north of Port Douglas is Cape Tribulation, which is the only spot in the world where two World Heritage Sites meet each other. These are the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef which consists of over 3000 individual reefs stretching along the coast for 2000km.

Helicopter View -- 12 Apostles, Great Ocean Road

Helicopter View -- 12 Apostles, Great Ocean Road

Australia has so much to offer and I need to return someday to see it all, or become a backpacker who works and travels throughout all of Australia. My next trip is coming up in November when I will visit New Zealand but you don’t need to go far to experience amazing Australia. You can find some of the world’s most beautiful beaches just a few hours north of Sydney and enjoy life. Life is good and I will see you all back at UW in January.

Barron Falls -- Kuranda Scenic Railway

Barron Falls -- Kuranda Scenic Railway

4 Mile Beach -- Port Douglas

4 Mile Beach -- Port Douglas

Hi Mates from Sydney, Australia

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010
Bondi to Coogee WalkGreetings, from your crazy German who currently studies at the University of Sydney in Sydney, Australia. For all who don’t know me personally; I am Jerry Zarski a senior at UW studying International Business and Marketing. I am half Polish and half German and lived most of my life in Europe. Then I decided to come to the United States and study at a great Business School just like the one at UW. So after a couple years at a local College, I made it to Foster and I love it there. And although I have travelled to over 25 countries so far and am considered to be an international student who studies abroad full-time in the US, I yet was looking for another adventure. The reason that I applied for this great Exchange Program at Foster is because Karen Ucol a former exchange student who went to the University of Sydney couldn’t stop telling me how amazing Australia is. Royal National ParkAnd guess what – she was right! I have been in Sydney for nearly a month now, and I am amazed by the diversity you can find here. This city never rests and there is always something to do.

When I first arrived, I did what most people do: stay in a hostel and then try to figure out where to live. I asked for a lot of advice concerning neighborhoods from former exchange students. This helped me a lot to find the best place that would fit to my needs. I now live in Pyrmont right next to the famous Darling Harbour in a fantastic apartment with Germans, French, and Brazilians. I just need to walk out the door and around the corner, and I am at the Pyrmont Bridge which is the pedestrian bridge across Darling Harbour. From that bridge you have amazing views of the city. Another bonus is that the office of AD IQ Global, where I am doing my internship at, is also just down the street. So every Monday I spend about 2 minutes to get to work. Fantastic!

The University of Sydney has a semester-system which comes to great advantage if you are used to a quarter-system. It simply means you have much more time to do the things you want to outside. And there are plenty of things to do. My friends and I actually created a huge list of things that we wanted to do and see while we are here and now each weekend we plan and organize trips where exchTaronga Zooange students from all over the world can join us.  There are amazing deals to be made such as the Discovery Pass which you can get for just 50 Australian Dollars. It gives you one-time access for the Sydney Aquarium, Sydney Wildlife, Sydney Tower and the Oceanworld Manly. The great thing about this is that the tickets don’t expire for about 2 months so you can decide when. Unfortunately the next adventure is already waiting and therefore I won’t be able to continue to write much more as this would take up an entire book to be filled with experiences that I have made. Sydney is as diverse as Australia is and has so much to offer that it is hard to realize at times. The beaches are amazing as well, but that is another story to tell. So today I am off to the Royal National Park, in fact the first national park in the world; I am excited!

Newcastle & Surprise Birthday Party

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Three nights ago, my friends threw me a surprise 22nd birthday party. After one of my housemates and I went up to Newcastle for a weekend getaway from the Sydney, we returned on the evening of the 25th of April. I was really tired since we camped out and it was extremely cold and rainy, and since it was another spontaneous road-trip decision, we were under-prepared. Therefore, not much sleep. So, I just wanted to go to bed since my actual birthday was tomorrow anyway, and I could plan a night out then. However, my Uni friend Luke insisted that I come over for homemade pizza at his apartment situated in the Sydney University Village. I told him I was too tired, but my housemate and Luke (separately) were insisting that I go. Deciding that a nice dinner was too good to give up, and also feeling a bit guilty if Luke went through the preparations, I said okay.

Strangely, my housemates were all gathered in the living room. I asked where they were going, and each of the 3 different couples said they were going out to 3 different restaurants for dinner. Since I was so tired, I thought nothing of it. I hopped in the shower quickly to get ready, and by the time I was done, they had all left the house. No big deal.

Surprise Birthday Party

Surprise Birthday Party

Upon arriving at Luke’s apartment complex, we walk past his apartment and he points and says “That’s where I live, but we won’t be going there. We have to go to the main lounge area where they have the ovens.” I thought that was a bit strange, but it IS true that none of the apartments have ovens because of safety. But they do have stovetops. When I walk in, all of my housemates who had left had sparklers ready and some of my other friends were there too! So exciting! Apparently, my housemate had to plan via SMS with Luke while we were gone over the weekend, but it all came together in the end.

A simple evening with some snacks, music, and drinks, of course. Other random U-Villagers showed up right before midnight and the whole group sang Happy Birthday at midnight. What a fun night. Unfortunately, we were having a blast that we didn’t leave the complex until 2 AM, when a lot of bars/clubs have lockout periods, and you cannot get in. But, by this point, I was exhausted. Regardless, spending time with my international housemates and Sydney friends was just as special as spending it with my best friends back in Seattle.

Rewind to three days before the party (sorry for the reverse chronological order), and one of my housemates from Germany and I decided to road-trip the short distance to a city called Newcastle. I must say, and it might offend some Australians, that it should be called Old-castle, or Dead-castle. Everything closed at 3PM on Saturday for no apparent reason, maybe just closing early all the time? Yes, there are a ton of beaches within 5 kms of the city centre, but the roads/alleys/beaches even were all empty. It was like one of those country films where tumbleweed blows across the frame. The one department store that I went into (equivalent of a Nordstrom) had no customer service reps in sight, and it was so empty, quiet, and honestly – DEPRESSING. Maybe we just went on a bad day. The city center itself has a lot of empty, run-down buildings. But the beaches along the way from Sydney to Newcastle were AMAZING. My favorite would be the Norah Lighthouse, where the beach was warm from the sun, and the lighthouse guided the boats along the coast as they headed towards Newcastle. There were tons of amazing shells, and I could sit for hours

Camping out in the bed of a truck

Camping out in the bed of a truck

collecting funky ones for art projects. My housemate borrowed a truck from work, and the tent fit in the bed of the truck, so it wouldn’t be too cold or wet in the morning! Perfect dimensions. The coast never gets old – even beach after beach, I am not tired of soaking in the warm sun, the bluest water, the smell of salt water, and the crashing of waves. We started noticing that flip-flops and shoes were randomly left on every beach that we visited – so, we might start a photo collection of “Lost Treasures Found on Beaches.” It was cool to go hunting to see if we could find shoes, or a necklace, or other random possessions.

But, I can say that if you are short on traveling time, you wouldn’t be disappointed if you skipped Newcastle.  Sorry Newcastle, maybe next time.


Lost Treasure 1 - Abandoned Flipflops

Lost Treasure 1 - Abandoned Flipflops

Collecting Sand at Norah Lighthouse

Collecting Sand at Norah Lighthouse

Lost Treasure 2 - Abandoned Shoes

Lost Treasure 2 - Abandoned Shoes

2300 km. 3 friends. Sydney. Melbourne. And in between.

Monday, April 12th, 2010

What do a lot of international backpackers do here in Australia, from what I seen in the ‘backpacker’ district on Victoria Street? They either rent huge camper vans or cars, or they buy their own. Then they road trip! It can be north, along the beautiful Australian coast, passing the peaceful and quaint Byron Bay, zooming through Bisbane (aka “Brisvegas”), seeing places such as the Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast, and Surfer’s Paradise. Or South along the bluest coast. Or west through the Australian outback, where miles and miles of desert stretch endlessly. So what better way to spend my Easter break (yes, Australians get a week off following Easter Sunday)? ROAD TRIPPING IT MYSELF. But let me bring to light how the whole idea came along.

It is the second week of classes. My Junior German (German 101, essentially) class was having an informal get-together at the Broadway Café/Lounge one evening, where, by the way, students can get a really nice burger with fries/wedges/or vegetables for $5! Great deal! My Australian friend in the class, Amelia, was the only other first-year to go to the event. So, we sat down at the table with less than eight people and all three of the German tutors (tutors being the equivalent of a T.A. back at UW). Then, over 2 jugs of freshly made Sangria, we all started discussing travelling plans for the break. I told Amelia and Maggie (one of my German tutors) that I wanted to visit my Grandma in Melbourne. Then, Maggie mentioned she was going to book her busses to go to Melbourne during that same week! Magically, Amelia said “Well, my parents have a huge SUV that we can borrow. Let me call them. Melbourne would be fun!” She calls, and two minutes later, it was decided that all three of us would do a Sydney-Melbourne road trip. I love spontaneity in this sense. Just having met Amelia and Maggie two weeks ago, we would soon find out that our chemistry made for such a great trio! And that’s how the Easter adventure starts. Over the next week, we planned our 8-day drive from Sydney to Melbourne, hugging the south coast.

The trio tries to jump on the beach at sunset

The trio tries to jump on the beach at sunset

On the Thursday before Easter, we headed off, SUV fully packed. Maggie brought her friend (Alex) from Germany who was on an internship with AUDI here in Sydney. She was doing marketing for them, with a combination in event planning. Her job seemed really interesting and fun. Anyway, Alex joined us three down along the drive to Nowra, where Amelia’s close family friend owns a farm. She had a guest room for Maggie and Alex, and we each had a bed. What a luxury! Then, in the morning, we woke up to the sounds of the birds and the sunshine. It was so peaceful and quiet compared to the construction normally outside my window in Sydney. After grabbing a fresh breakfast with home-grown bananas, yogurt, muesli (aka granola), we were on our way to Bermagui, another rural town which is where Amelia’s grandparents own a farm.

Since we would arrive on the farm in the evening, we thought it would be a good idea to buy a bottle of wine for the dinner that was going to be prepared for us. However, it was Good Friday, and ALL stores are closed on Good Friday. Along the drive, we saw that a hotel/bar had their front doors open with a sign that said “Bottle Shop” on top of the roof. So, we slammed the brakes and went inside. At the bar, we asked if we could buy a bottle of white wine. Apparently, liquor is not allowed to be traded for take-away on two days in Australia: Christmas Day, and…. naturally, Good Friday. Amelia did not know that, and we were all skeptical. But, he seemed really serious. So, with sad faces, we turned around and headed out the door when, we heard “But….” Turning around, he then whispered “Put your money on the table, it’ll be eight dollars, and meet me around the back. Hurry, and don’t let ANYBODY see you.” It was as if we were smuggling something illegal out the back of this little shabby hotel bar, and when he handled the bottle (in a brown bag, even) to Amelia, he said “Quick, RUN to your car and HIDE it.” We were probably the only 4 people in New South Wales that were able to buy wine on Good Friday! Very exciting.

Waking up an hour too early on Easter Sunday with Amelia's family

Waking up an hour too early on Easter Sunday with Amelia's family

So, for Easter weekend, we spent a peaceful weekend out in the Australian country. Very green, much like Seattle. Also, the primary source of water for the whole house is RAINWATER! Surprisingly, it tastes better than “normal” tap water and it is really refreshing. Glenda’s horses were actually being kept there, and we got to play with the sheep as well. Amelia’s mother, brother, and father were down at the farm for Easter weekend as well, and it was nice meeting her parents. Amelia’s grandfather makes his own gin and keeps it in the basement, so we all had G and T’s over home-cooked meals. On Easter Sunday, Alex had to wake up early to catch a bus back to Sydney since she had to work on Tuesday. So, we all got up at 5 AM since we were going to leave at 6 AM to head to the bus station. Half-awake, we turn on the television as hot cross buns (traditional food during the Easter weekend) are being re-heated in the oven. We notice the TV news channel said 4:30 AM. WHAT? All four of us forgot to turn our clocks back for Daylight Savings, and I am just used to my USA mobile doing it automatically! Oh well, we got up super early on Easter Sunday, where piles of chocolate eggs and bunnies were in nice little piles for each of us to take. Amelia’s family was so hospitable and kind-hearted.

After dropping Alex off at the bus, we continued to head south along the coast. Maggie was slightly upset that she had not spotted a wild kangaroo, but (more…)

G’day from Sydney, Australia

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

G’day mates! Well, it has been over almost two months since I arrived here in Sydney on the 7th of February 2010, and what an amazing adventure I continue to experience. But first things first, an informal introduction about myself before delving into the juicy details that involve the “abroad” aspect of my “study abroad”/exchange. My name is Ray Phua, and I am a senior at the Foster School of Business concentrating in Finance. A year ago, I applied through the Global Business Center to do a semester exchange abroad. And kazaam! – A year later, I am sitting at University of Sydney’s own Fisher Library writing this blog post.

Because USyd is on a semester schedule, classes began here on March 1, 2010. Fortunately for me, winter quarter at UW does not end until mid-March, meaning I had from mid-December until mid-February when USyd Orientation started to do WHATEVER I WANTED. What a great feeling. So, for five weeks starting on December 29, 2009, I had the opportunity to travel all over Europe. I hit the major cities, such as London, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Cologne, Gerolstein (where you can see Gerolstein Mineral Water in US grocery stores), Rome, Venice, and Paris – to name a few. But those are for another post.

Ray with Aussies and International Friends at Chinese New Years Parade

Ray with Aussies and International Friends at Chinese New Years Parade

Let’s talk Sydney. There is an explosion of culture here. Within the first month of being here, there were many huge parades, such as the Chinese New Year Lunar Festival Parade, and the Mardi Gras Parade. Thousands of people lined the streets, cheering on floats, costumes, and much more. High energy, period. I live near the main city, “downtown” if you will, but here, it’s called Sydney CBD (or Central Business District). It is very common for local Australians to commute to class from the main city or even from suburbs over an hour away, especially since USyd can only accommodate a small percentage of its student body on-campus. These are through the Sydney University Village, and “Colleges” which are a combination of dorms/the Greek system in the USA. However, admission is competitive for these options, and I have lived off-campus in Seattle for a while. So naturally, I found an apartment off-campus. APARTMENT HUNTING for many, including myself, was stressful. Some found it easy. Nevertheless, during orientation, we had a show of hands of students who had not found housing yet, with school to start in two weeks. Over 50% were “homeless” and still in temporary accommodation. It took me about a week, but I absolutely love my accommodation. Let’s just say that I have not seen a cockroach or spider in my house or room yet, which is rare here from what I’ve heard. Cockroaches are everywhere. Like squirrels in trashbins at UW. Don’t expect to have a single-room, studio apartment unless you are here for 6-months, since a lot of agencies require a minimum of 6 months lease. The better option is to share a room or have your room in a shared flat with several bedrooms.

Other perks about Sydney so far: the beaches! I live a 5-minute walk away from the bus that takes me directly to Bondi Beach, Bronte Beach, and Coogee Beach.

Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach

AMAZING place to study. Who can complain about being on a beach in February? The warm-sun, the smell of saltwater, and the cooling breeze. Just be sure to wear plenty of 30+ SPF sunscreen, since there is a hole in the Ozone here, meaning you can get an intense sunburn REALLY FAST. Also, the accent and the colloquial terms are entertaining. Quick lesson from what I’ve heard: tucker (pronounced “tuckah”) = food, heaps = lots, cheers = thank you, stoked = very pleased, and goon = BOXED WINE, equivalent to Franzia, heh.  Australians basically avoid too many syllables, so they like to shorten words and names. The public transportation here, different from the opinions of Australians who I met while traveling in Europe, is actually well organized. I can get anywhere via bus, ferry, or underground train. Exchange students also get a “travel concession”, meaning we get roughly 50% off all travel fares which is awesome. Another great getaway that is in the city? The Royal Botannical Gardens — a

Ray & the Sydney Opera House

Ray & the Sydney Opera House

huge area full of trees, animals, flowers, and BATS. HUNDREDS, if not THOUSANDS, of BATS. It is fun to go there during the day when all of the bats are upside down sleeping or making heaps of strange noises. Then, around 6 pm in the evening, you can see hundreds of them flying across the city to another park. I asked some locals why this is, and part of it has to do with the different fruits/food at different locations. Or maybe Batman lives at the other park?

The nightlife here is always bustling. Unlike Seattle, bars do not close at 2 AM. New South Wales law dictates that for some bars, if not all bars, there are “lock-out periods”, during which no one is allowed entry into a bar between the hours of 2 AM and 5 AM. You can leave, but you cannot get back in. Nevertheless, the action on a typical weekend will last until 4 AM or later. Fun times.

All in all, Sydney is an amazing city with plenty of activities to do. It is the ideal place for anyone to break out of their shell, to meet plenty of local Aussies and international students, and to do crazy adventures. In fact, next week is a week-long Easter holiday. Starting tomorrow night, a local Aussie I met in my German class (aka Amelia), and German tutor/instructor, and I will be driving from Sydney to Melbourne along the Southeastern coast! I am so excited!

So, next post, I hope to share with you all the amazing sights from Sydney to Melbourne, as well as talk more about Syndey Uni in specific, since it is quite different from Foster. Until then…


Sydney Harbour

Sydney Harbour

Mid-Semester Break Adventures

Saturday, October 10th, 2009

After the ninth week of the semester, we had a week long “mid-semester break.”  (They don’t call it “spring break”).   I went on an amazing traveling trip with international friends.   Our destinations:  Gold Coast (particularly Surfer’s Paradise), Brisbane, Airlie Beach, Whitsundays, and the Great Barrier Reef.

SurfersParadise2Surfer’s Paradise, Gold Coast
We spent four days here and experienced the beaches, parks, shops, and a rainforest.  Coincidentally, going on in Surfer’s Paradise was “UniGames.”  UniGames is a week of athletic events with participating teams from universities all over Australia.  They don’t have collegiate sports in Australia, where unlike America, they don’t have teams from universities that play against each other season to season, sport to sport.

Of course, I had to go surfing at “Surfer’s Paradise.”  I bought a 2-hour lesson amongst a group of other students, and then surfed for the remainder of the day.   The first half of the day was SurfersParadise1brutal – the waves did not have mercy on the beginners.  I got into the swing of things after several hours and was able to stand up….every so often!  Note: 1) Since a child, I’ve ALWAYS wanted to go surfing; 2) I did not know how to swim prior to coming to Australia.  I knew that I wanted to surf during mid-semester break, so I took swimming lessons at a nearby pool; and 3) after this experience, I decided that I would sacrifice eating for 5 weeks in order to invest in a surfboard that I could take home to Seattle. :)

We spent one day/night here.  Walked everywhere in the city:  Street Beach, Chinatown, Botanical Garden, across the River, through Queen St, etc.   Brisbane is the 3rd most populated city in Australia.  Although it was very modern and chic, the city was under major development and construction.   I found that Brisbane is much more laid-back and personable than Sydney.

Whitsundays3Airlie Beach/Whitsundays/Great Barrier Reef
From Brisbane, my friends and I took a 20 hour train ride to Prosperine.  We arrived to Prosperine a little after 4am.  The bus dropped us off at a McDonald’s in Airlie Beach because there was nothing else open.  Exhausted from the train ride, we took turns napping and purchasing orange juice at McDonald’s.

Later in the afternoon, we departed the Airlie Beach Marina on the Habibi sailboat.  For 2 days and 3 nights, we sailed past Whitsundays and through the southern part of the Great Barrier Reef.   We made stops at Whitehaven Beach and along the coastlines of small islands to snorkel and look at corals.   Hands down, my favorite beach among all the other beaches I have been to (in Cali, Oregon, Hawaii, Philippines, Australia) was Whitehaven Whitsundays4Beach – it is beautiful, secluded, and seems untouched by humans.    The Habibi had 26 people on board (including the 3 staff).  There was a mix of students, backpackers, and abroad workers on break.

After our sailing trip, we spent 2 more nights in Airlie Beach.  We rested on the beach and jet skied, weaving through sail boats and kayakers.

Silly Season

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

post-4-rubics-cube.jpgFor all the on-campus residential colleges, the first week was called “Silly Season”.  Each day of the week there were an assortment of social activities for the “fresh fresh” (incoming students) to get to know the other students, and for the other students to catch up with everyone else.  Here are a few of the activities.

Highlander Bar and Rubics Cube
There is a bar in St Andrews!  Semester started the next day, everyone hadn’t seen each other since last semester.  Fresh fresh didn’t know anyone.  It was a good opportunity to meet a lot of the residents.  We started the Rubics Cube party with all of the colors of the rubics cube.  During the party, you trade clothes with people you meet.  The objective is that by the end of the night, you are dressed in one color.

EGM – Extravagant Meeting.
It started at 7:30pm and lasted until 7:30am the next day.  The freshmen sat on one side of the Junior Common Room, and the 2nd/Seniors sat together on the other side.  The student leaders ran over school news/minutes/general news and upcoming events.  Fresh fresh got nicknamed by the 2nd/Seniors.  Freshmen got hazed (a little) some.

Walkabout Auctionpost-4.jpg
A group of 3 freshmen were auctioned off by 2nd/Seniors.  Walkabout – a group of 3 freshmen (minimum of 1 male) are dressed in ridiculous costumes, males usually get their hair shaved as if a 5 year old did it, girls get vegemite and honey in their hair.   Anyway, the group gets dropped off by their auctioned party hours and hours away from Sydney in the middle of no where.  The group gets left by the 2nd/Seniors, so they’re responsible getting home on their own – hitchhiking, or “Amazing Race” style traveling.  Group has no phone or money; although, the group has to carry objects (taken from their room) back.

Settling into the University of Sydney

Monday, August 10th, 2009

USyd hosted a 2 day orientation for incoming abroad students.  There were people coming from all over the world; in particular, there were heaps of Europeans and Americans.  I had the opportunity to meet a lot of other international students and share our excitement about our next 5-6 months in Australia.

The school also provided us with information about places and activities in Australia.  Some examples include:  New Zealand, surf camps, scuba diving, bungee jumping, outback camping, petting zoo,  sports, Melbourne, more beaches-trails-nature,  etc!

So much to see, so much to do, so much excitement.

post-3-capes.jpgI moved into St Andrews College (my student housing) on Sunday July 26, the day before school.  All of the new residents, about 11 of us, were invited to lunch with the SAC’s Principal, staff, and school leaders.   Total, there are about 280 residents at SAC – nearly 120 freshmen.

St Andrews College looks like Hogwarts in Harry Potter.  Dinners (Monday to Thursday) are business formal and we are obligated to wear academic gowns (like Harry Potter capes).  I’ve been meeting a lot of locals – especially in comparison to the other international study abroad students who are staying in apts/houses/Sydney University Village/UniLodge, they usually have a hard time meeting local students.   Everyone is really nice and hospitable.

First Few Days in Australia

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

post-2-sydney.jpgI arrived in Sydney, Australia on Friday, July 17, 2009. Quintin Rares, a GBCC 2009 participant (University of Sydney team), picked me and my friend Meredith at the airport to take us to Hunter Valley. Quintin also brought Franz, a full-degree study abroad student from Germany, and a resident at St Andrews. Hunter Valley is located 2-3 hours away from Sydney, it is a beautiful wine valley with acres and acres of wineries, cute restaurants, and hospitable resorts.

Meredith and I spent a couple nights in the C.B.D. or city (synonymous for downtown). My cousin, Chris, lives in an apartment complex in the heart of the city and has a breathtaking view of the Darling Harbour and city skyline. At night, he took us on a walking tour of the city. Everything seemed larger than life and very surreal. At 11:00pm, the streets were bustling with business(wo)men, teens, nightgoers, tourists, etc; the streets were lit up with nightlife lights, sky-scraper buildings, and small-locally owned shops, restaurants, cafes, and

Meredith and I moved to another hostel, Billabong Gardens, in Newtown to be closer to campus. Billabong was very accessible – a minute walk to the bus lines and a 5-10 minute walk to the University of Sydney campus. King Street, which runs through the heart of Newtown, is very similar to UW’s “Ave” – just 100 times better and bigger. There are three Thai restaurants every other block!

Judith, who Meredith exchanged messages with on Facebook prior, was also a resident of Billabong. She is from University of North Carolina. Throughout the course of 1-2 weeks, Judith and Meredith looked at several places to live all over Sydney.

Meredith and I shared a room with 4 other residents – some students, some backpackers. A few of them were from Germany (there are a lot of Germans in Sydney!) – at this point, I met more Germans than I did with locals. We spent several nights cooking dinner together, singing along to songs Martin and Rene (German roommates) were playing on the guitar, and checking out Sydney attractions.

Getting Ready for Sydney, Australia!

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

My name is Karen Ucol, I am a junior majoring in Management and Information Systems. I am currently studying abroad at the University of Sydney in Sydney, Australia.

Top 10 reasons why I love Sydney, Australia:

1. Diversity
Weather – their winter is gorgeous, sunny, and full of blue skies;
Public transit is convenient and easy;
University of Sydney has a number of international students – they cater to our academic, social, and personal wants/needs;
The language – English with (lazy) twang + hot accents;
Beaches — SURFING!;
Wildlife/other natural settings — koalas/kangaroos, the Great Barrier Reef, Blue Mountains;
Sports (they have 3 rugby leagues – I can’t tell the difference between them yet); and finally,
The people are AWESOME.

Before I Left for Australia:

post-1.jpgThe University of Sydney International Office created a Facebook group for all study abroad/exchange students coming into USyd Semester 2. I exchanged messages with Americans and Europeans. Coincidentally, I found another student from the University of Washington (Meredith Dugoni) studying abroad at USyd.

I kept in touch with the University of Sydney team, including Quintin and Nhi, from the Global Business Case Competition and asked them lots of questions about accommodations, tourist sites, classes, etc. They recommended that I apply to Sydney University Village (apartment complex with many USyd international students) and either St Andrews College (where Quintin resides) and Womens College (where Nhi resides).

The application process for St Andrews College was somewhat demanding – applicants were to complete a personal statement, submit a resume, and be interviewed on the phone. Quintin did me a wonderful favor and recommended me to the staff. I also applied to the International House (an on-campus residence) and Sydney University Village.

Because on-campus accommodation for international students is very competitive (very few spots, very high demand), a majority of international students either: 1) find an apartment or room in a house before arriving or 2) live in a hostel, meet people they want to live with and look at places they could live in, and then move.