...was to study abroad in Sydney, Australia. Although it has been three years, it feels like yesterday that I was boarding the plane and headed halfway around the world.
Ever since I was young I have had a desire to go to Australia. My cousin happened to study abroad at the University of Sydney, and after doing research I realized that was the place for me. Normally not a city girl, Sydney is one of the two cities I would ever live in (the other being Christchurch, New Zealand). AustraLearn made the application process so smooth - I still remember where I was when I got the phone call that said I was accepted into the program. When I tell people I remember every single moment of my journey, I am one hundred percent serious.
I highly recommend to everyone studying abroad to take advantage of the orientation week. It's the first time you get to relax and take in this fantastic chapter of your life. I met two of my best friends this week!
I was lucky enough to find friends that were more into traveling than going out to bars (since we were legal in Australia). One of my best friends and I decided to buy a three month train ticket that allowed for unlimited trips between Brisbane and Melbourne. What a perfect choice we made!! While most people in our program traveled north to the islands for spring break, we went south and ventured to Kangaroo Island (one of my favorite places to ever exist in the world). Additional trips included Fraser Island, a surfing weekend, Melbourne, Adelaide, driving along the Great Ocean Road, Katoomba and hiking in the Blue Mountains, skydiving in North Wollongong, I could go on for hours (literally).
My classes were wonderful - the professors were incredible and wanted us to experience the country as best we could. I opted to take classes that were designed for study abroad students, meaning we got to go on field trips (think rugby match, swimming competitions, plays - Billy Elliot was FANTASTIC, and a tour of the Opera House). Sydney University is a gorgeous school, and I miss seeing jacaranda trees and magpies on my walks to class.
The Australian people are some of the nicest I have ever met. Always willing to help or talk, they're kind and generous; there is nothing negative to say about the country or its people.
One thing I recommend to everyone is to do their research. My friends at I would park ourselves at Gloria Jeans and try to find the coolest places to go and things to do while we could. Also...don't be afraid to ask questions!! Most people would love to help you out! After debating where to go one day with our train passes, my friend and I ended up going right down to Sydney Central and asking the gentleman at the counter what we should do for the day (we ended up going to a beach in Newcastle). Another time we took the bus to Circular Quay and walked back to the SUV - hitting every travel agency we spotted trying to find our spring break trip. Why do what everyone else is doing when you could go somewhere completely new?!
I never once got homesick. Sure, I talked to my family once a week. I didn't stay holed up in my room video-chatting or going onto social networking sites. GO OUT AND EXPLORE!! I took over 6,000 pictures in Australia alone. I have a box in my room that has every memento from my trip (including the wrapper from the first Tim Tam I've ever had! Excessive? Probably. But I can't seem to throw anything away that has some tie to Australia).
I highly recommend the YHA Hostels for traveling. They're so clean and you feel completely safe in them. The people there are always more than happy to help you out.
After my study at the University of Sydney ended, I took a two and a half week trip to New Zealand with three of the friends I met (two from orientation). I bungee jumped (twice), sailed in the Bay of Islands, took a vintage car drive around Christchurch, dolphin watched in Akaroa, and cruised in Milford Sound. My five month journey concluded all too fast.
It has been one of my top priorities since I've returned to share my experiences with others who are interested in studying abroad. My five-month adventure was absolutely flawless and I want nothing more than the same for others who are thinking about going (GO!).
So basically...if someone were to only read the final sentence of this review, I'd say this:
There will never be a day that I do not think about my trip. I tell everyone - "I could leave wherever, whenever, dressed however, and be at the airport in twenty minutes to go back. No question."