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.
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.
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.