I have finally arrived in the city I get to call home for the next (almost) six months! Sydney is absolutely gorgeous and I’m so thankful that I get to experience life here for a while.
My first two weeks in Sydney were extra busy, mostly because classes hadn’t started yet and I wanted to take advantage of every free moment I had. You may be wondering what I did, but the better question is what didn’t I do?!
Okay just kidding, there’s still a ton that I haven’t done, but those first 14 days were pretty jam-packed.
My first day in Sydney was way more stressful than I expected it to be, and it definitely threw me for a loop. Coming in, I had one suitcase with some clothes, a few pairs of shoes, and travel-sized toiletries. (Trust me when I say this is NOTHING compared to what everyone else brought.) I’m staying at an apartment complex called Urbanest and they didn’t provide us with anything besides basic furniture, so I had quite a bit of shopping to do. I wrote a quick list then headed to Broadway, a shopping center that’s just a quick 10-15 minute walk away. When I got to the store I picked up the essentials like a bedspread, pillows, a few dishes, and toothpaste. After a while, though, I realized that there were a lot of things I needed that I had overlooked, not to mention there was no way I’d be able to carry everything back to Urbanest in one trip, and I began to feel panicked and overwhelmed. Once I got back to my room I immediately started to cry. (Seriously, how embarrassing is that? A simple shopping trip literally had me in tears.) Trying to get settled into a new place can be difficult at first, okay?! The day really turned around, though, because that same night I met my squad. Us five have spent every single day together since that first night, so I thought I might as well introduce them to you all.
From left to right:
- Kat is studying psychology at UC-Santa Barbara and was also a transfer student, so we really connected over that. I always joke to her that she fits so many stereotypes of Californians, like the fact that she’s a vegetarian, dresses like a hipster, and loves to talk about politics, but I absolutely love that about her. She has a dry sense of humor and is super sassy, I swear everything out of her mouth makes me laugh. I would definitely describe her as the mellow one of our group, and she’s an absolute pro at getting around with public transportation– seriously, we wouldn’t get anywhere on time if it weren’t for her!
- Aleksandra goes to UCLA and is studying economics. She’s a go-getter/doer, and once she has her mind set on something there’s no stopping her; I’m pretty sure that the vast majority of what I’ve done in Sydney so far has been due to her suggestions. She’s also the health nut of the group, the gym is her second home and she especially loves to run. (Like she’ll casually talk about the fact that she ran 15 miles that day, it’s crazy.) We always tease her for suggesting that we can easily walk anywhere, even if its several miles away/on the opposite side of the city. Because she always seems to be leading us somewhere new, we nicknamed her Sacagawea. 😉
- Me! You know me.
- Jenn is the bougie city girl of the group, born and raised in New York City, and you will never catch her underdressed. (She seriously makes me look like a sack of potatoes.) She’s studying public health at Tulane but is planning to go to med school! She loves to go anywhere where there’s dancing and we always hype each other up when we’re out and about at night. She’s also a huge foodie and is always begging us to try different restaurants and cafés with her; she’s definitely the go-to for food-related recommendations.
- Hannah also goes to UCSB and is studying communication. She’s a wild child in the best way; I’m pretty sure she could be convinced to go out on any night of the week, and she always comes back with the most hilarious stories. At the same time, she’s always down to keep you company at the library or have a movie night. She’s the only one of the four who will eat beef with me (thank God I’m not the only one), and I always borrow from her closet when I need to spice up my wardrobe. She reminds me of my roommate back home in so many ways (MISS YOU SO MUCH, LAURA!), which I think is partly why I clicked with her so easily.
Long story short: even though the day started out terribly, it ended on such a high note. I’m excited to see what shenanigans we get into throughout our time here, and I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about them in future posts.
While us five girls live in Urbanest Cleveland Street, there’s another Urbanest (the Sydney Central location) nearby. We got to know quite a few people living there due to Aleksandra, whose sorority sister happens to be staying at that location for the semester. From USC to Northeastern to UMiami, we pretty much cover the whole board. We all have our own hobbies and interests, but that’s what makes our huge group all the more fun. (Or well-rounded I should say.) Our GroupMe is already 25 members strong, and we’re always planning group outings through it. We’re basically one big happy family!
A few more tidbits about my housing:
- I have a roommate named Christle and she’s from Singapore! We each have our own friend groups so we don’t hang out a whole lot, but we talk non-stop when we’re both in our room. She’s a sweetheart with no filter, and we love showing each other songs/artists that we like.
- Laundry here costs $4!!! PER!!! MACHINE!!! I was shook to say the least. I used to complain about having to pay $1.50 at my apartment in Madison, so I had major sticker shock.
- My apartment building is located conveniently close to campus, so it’ll only take me about 10-15 minutes to walk to class depending on where my first class is that day.
- If you set off the fire alarm it immediately calls emergency services, and you’ll get charged $1,800 to cover the cost. It’s already gone off a few times and I’m sure those people would say that it’s the most expensive meal they’ll ever have! (Crossing my fingers that it doesn’t happen to me.)
One day we went on a free walking tour of Sydney, where we got to learn about the city’s history and see the main attractions like the Queen Victoria Building, the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, The Rocks, the financial and business districts, and more. The Darling Harbour/Circular Quay area is so beautiful, I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of making the trek to spend time there. Our guide also happened to be a student at USyd, so she gave us tips on where to study on campus as well as where to get the best coffee.
I signed up for a weekend trip through the University that took a group of exchange students to see a few areas just north of Sydney. Hannah also came, along with a few of our friends from Sydney Central, so we all got to know each other real well over the two-day span of the trip. We got on the bus that first morning and headed to the Australian Reptile Park, where we got to feed kangaroos! There was even a baby roo in its mom’s pouch, it was so adorable. We saw a few other animals at the park, but the kangaroos were definitely the highlight. Next we drove to the Hunter Valley where we went wine tasting. One of the wineries we visited also made a big selection of jams and oils, and we got to taste those as well. I got my mom this amazing pomegranate balsamic (sorry to be a spoiler, mom) that is to die for, and it’s taken everything in me to not use some for myself. The next day we drove to Port Stephens and went on a dolphin/whale watching cruise. I wasn’t sure how much we’d actually see, but we ended up seeing both whales and dolphins, as well as a sea turtle! Finally, we went to Newcastle to go sandboarding at the largest sand dune system in Australia.
I’m really feeling the bullet points, so here’s a few other things I did during my first two weeks in Sydney:
- Uni orientation, which was really boring (as orientation usually is). But, it was my first time on campus and it looks straight out of Harry Potter! I’m so lucky that I get to go to school here. I also got all of my classes figured out, and thankfully they’ll all transfer over, whew!
- The girls and I went to Watson’s Bay one day to do the coastal walk, but we couldn’t seem to find the path. We got lunch, and on our way back home we saw the path on the opposite side of the road… we felt like such idiots.
- Taronga Zoo! I wasn’t too impressed with it to be honest, but I’m happy I went. We saw the cutest red pandas, and a Tasmanian devil that definitely knew how to put on a show as he strutted around and posed. I’m not super keen on supporting zoos, but they focus on rehabilitation and conservation– their wildlife hospital cares for around 1,500 native animals each year!
- Went to Observatory Hill Park to see the most amazing panoramic view of the Sydney Harbour.
- On our last day before classes started, a group of us took the ferry to Manly Beach. It was supposed to be a super nice day, but it ended up being cloudy and chilly. :/ I had the best poke EVER, though, and I’m definitely going back once summer rolls around.
I guess Sydney has had an exceptionally warm winter this year, which I’m especially thankful for! Temps have been in the 60s and 70s, and we haven’t had much rain at all. Not sure how I’ll be able to focus on my schoolwork when it really heats up, though.
To close I thought I’d include a few random things that took some getting used to:
- Staying to the left instead of the right. Aussies drive on the left side of the road, so they also walk on the left. I kept glaring at people for walking on the wrong side of the sidewalk until I realized that I was the one walking on the wrong side… whoops!
- Australian vocab/slang. For example, they call college “Uni,” McDonald’s is “Maccas,” and they say “heaps” instead of a lot. Australians describe their way of speaking as “lazy,” and they abbreviate EVERYTHING. I’ll link a video that I thought was super funny, and it’s also extremely accurate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDb_WsAt_Z0
- They don’t have fruit snacks!! (At least not that I can find.) Or frozen waffles, or Reese’s Puffs, or really any of our cereals for that matter– I never realized how excessive our cereal isles are in the U.S. They also don’t have cheese curds and nobody here seems to know what the heck they are.
- The metric system. I’m still getting used to people talking about distances in meters and temperatures in Celsius… I’m also still terrible at figuring out the conversion.
- Everything here closes so early, usually between 7-9. I’m used to having a slew of food choices when I’m craving something late-night, but only Maccas and KFC seem to stay open past 10.
- Aussies’ obsession with avocado toast and banana bread– you can literally find it anywhere. I once had someone say to me, “I heard you can’t find banana bread anywhere in the U.S…,” so I guess it’s something they really pride themselves on. I’m a huge fan of both, so nobody’s mad here!
- The price of quite literally everything. Living in Australia is not cheap, and I’m constantly shocked at the prices I see in stores and at restaurants. For example, the smallest pack of blueberries or raspberries will set you back about $8 and I once saw a bag of grapes selling for $13. It’s insane, but they also have a much higher minimum wage than we do in the States.
- Because the minimum wage is so high, tipping isn’t common or expected. When you go to a restaurant (or even when I got my hair done) there’s no line on the receipt to write in a tip. It’s sort of a trade-off, though, because it also means that Australian customer service isn’t always stellar. Since they don’t rely on (or expect) tips, there’s often no sense of urgency or incentive to pay special attention to how happy their customers are.
Sorry for the novel, I promise not every post will be this long in the future! I’m head over heels in love with Sydney and it’s already starting to feel like home.
Thanks for reading!