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.
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.
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
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…