Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Kaylyn W. - Sydney, Australia - Spring 2011

G’day from Sydney Australia!

I have been in Australia for just about a month now and so far it has been absolutely wonderful. I have gotten to do so many different things that I never thought I would be able to do, or even try doing. My flight was a little hectic because I had an allergic reaction on the plane to one of the meals, but other than that my first flying experience was not too shabby. I took Alice’s advice and did pack light. Although I hate everything I own because I have worn it twice or three times, it will save me room to take things home and it is fun to go shopping around here. My advice is to pack at least 3-4 dresses that are light, but business casual/formal if staying near a city in Australia because people tend to dress up a lot.

I had orientation with AustraLearn specifically with people attending the same Uni as me. We spent 5 days in Cairns learning about Australian culture and how to adapt here. I went around pronouncing Cairns wrong and realized that in Australia words are pronounced different than what they are spelled like, but not to be embarrassed because someone is always there to correct it. Of course we got to meet some koalas, kangaroos, wombats, and alligators. My favorite thing we did was go to the Great Barrier Reef where I was able to scuba dive and FIND NEMO! It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life, well besides looking like a blue man in my protective sting suit. I also got to swim in the Daintree River and through some waterfalls on my free day adventure.

I’m attending classes at The University of New South Wales, which is a large campus with about 60,000 people total. I’m living on campus in one of the residential halls and I couldn’t have made a better choice. There were 45 people in my AustraLearn group and only 3 of us chose and were accepted into living on campus. Living in a ‘college’ is like being in a club. Orientation week was kind of a form of hazing for the ‘fresher’s’, first years/fresh meat. Every day we were getting woken up at the crack of dawn by vuvuzelas and had to do a bunch of crazy stuff that helped us bond. Each week on Sunday night we have a ‘coffee night’ (although there is no coffee, it’s byo-c?) and discuss weekly events ranging from social, sporting, and cultural activities. There is always something to do here and a change to meet new people. It’s almost like Greek life surprisingly. The residence colleges all eat in the ‘dino’ and so far we have had 4 formal dinners. The formal dinners are like being in a real life Harry Potter movie because each college sits by themselves and most people wear academic robes. Even on the walls are tapestries and pictures of the founders of each college. There are three residence colleges within The Kensington Colleges, and we are very competitive against one another.

Things I have done with my residence college:

1. Sydney Harbor night cruise
2. Blind date night
3. Senior Fresher date night (senior guys/fresher girls)
4. Women of Troy play
5. Breakfast BBQs
6. Outside cinema night

Classes are much different here because a lot of them only have a midterm and final. It’s also very hard to get in contact with a professor to get additional help with a subject if you do not understand it. I’m taking a multinational finance class here and it’s a really hard subject for me that I am having much difficulty with. The first two weeks of class I had myself worried and almost to tears that I was completely going to fail this class and it would ruin my GPA I have worked so hard for. I had to get myself to the point to realize that studying abroad is supposed to be a challenge and that if I try my hardest and maybe end up not succeeding that it won’t be the end of the world. Studying here is much more time consuming and I am spending about 6-10 hours on each subject per week. I know that many people think that study abroad is a vacation, but in reality it is mostly studying. Another thing I wasn’t prepared for was to pay to print and for wireless internet access. To print it is $.21 a page or $.40 for double sided. For internet access it’s about $10.00 a week. I have learned to not use the internet unless I really need to and I’ve been more productive not being able to spend hours upon hours on Facebook.

Keeping in touch with family and friends has been really easy between my global gossip cell phone, Skype, and G-mail phone calls. I would suggest to really take advantage of the G-mail phone because it’s free to call anywhere in the USA from Australia through a G-mail account. I would also highly recommend buying a cell phone while studying abroad. The third week I was here I got really really sick with a bacterial intestine infection, most likely from eating bad food or drinking bad water, and having a phone let me get ahold of people really fast when I needed to.

One thing I have learned is that the cost of living in Australia is very expensive, so be prepared to spend some cash. When I first got here I passed up some opportunities to do things because I didn’t want to spend the money, but I had to put in to perspective that money will always be around and the chance to get to experience these new things may not be.

Some of the things I have been able to do since getting to Sydney are:

1. Go to the Mardi Gra Parade
2. Went to the World’s LARGEST Imax theatre
3. Saw a show at the Opera House
4. Walked in the Royal Botanical Gardens
5. Went to the National Historic Museum
6. Experienced my first wine tour
7. Ate at pancakes on the rocks- a must do in Sydney
8. Traveled to 3 beaches
9. Watched a professional surf competition
10. Learned how to play rugby
11. Watch a professional rugby game

There are many many more things I am planning to do and I can’t believe I have gotten to do so many wonderful things within such a short time period.

Additional tips/lingo for traveling in Australia:

1. Jumpers are sweatshirts, sunnies are sunglasses
2. Sizes are larger, don’t think people are calling you fat
3. Cars will run you over so be cautious even in cross-walks
4. Take a day and travel by bus to learn the routes
5. Bring a laptop- computers are actually hard to come by and usually you can only have access for an hour at a time.
6. Bring extra ‘stick’ deodorant because they use aerosol and roll on here
7. Don’t be embarrassed or discouraged if you can’t afford to do something others can- - a lot of people spend thousands of dollars on spring break. Instead find a friend and see if you can spend spring break at their home with them.
8. Tiger airlines have really cheap flights throughout Australia
9. If you go out you will have to pay a cover charge, buy your own drinks, and enjoy hours of techno or indie rock music. Be prepared.
10. Actually get to know Australians! Don’t clan yourself into a group of Americans the entire time you study abroad. I witness it all the time and Australians actually find it really annoying.

Let me know if you have any questions about anything!



Blogger murphyl said...


Very useful tips and great updates on what you have been doing in Sydney. I will be going to Melbourne but I feel most of your tips are universal for Australia. Hope you continue to enjoy your time there.

~Latasha Murphy

3:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm studying in New Zealand next semester through Australearn..How helpful were they in helping you get settled in to your Uni after the orientation? They seem like a great program to work with but I want to get an opinion from an Elmhurst student who has dealt with them..What have you found has been the best thing about them, and also the worst? Your tips on living are very interesting and helpful..I love what you said about how money will always be around but new experiences won't. So true!
Good luck with the rest of your semester! Live it up!

-Ariel Parks

1:31 PM  
Anonymous Kaylyn said...

AustraLearn was AWESOME to go through. They help you so much before you leave and when arriving into Australia. I had so many questions and I would just send an e-mail to my coordinator at AustraLearn and get a fast answer. I liked that they were there each step of the way for me before I left. They even create a specific facebook page about a month before departure so you can get to know the other students that are going to the Uni with you.

Unfortunately, when arriving at your Uni it's just you. They give you that week during their orientation to give you presentations that are Uni specific so you are able to adapt to your surroundings. The orientation was in Cairns for me, which was really fun, but it didn't really apply to adjusting to Uni life here. I had an enjoyable experience being in Cairns, but I felt that it would have been more beneficial for me to actually have attended orientation week at my Uni.

Try and apply for on-campus living. They made it sound super hard to get into at AustraLearn, but it's really not because residential colleges like to have you stay there with them. Also, with AustraLearn I had many hidden costs and fees that I was unaware of, so make sure you are aware of what you are going to have to pay.

8:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Although Australian culture probably has a few more things in common with American culture than I will have going to Austria (or at least, somewhat of a common language), what kinds of culture shock have you experienced and how have you dealt with it?

Kim Schaefer

9:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Australia sounds amazing and I am extremely jealous! I am studying abroad in Barcelona next semester and very excited but some of the activities you are doing in Australia will definitely not be available. I love snorkeling and I bet the Great Barrier Reef was amazingggg!! I play rugby for the college and I can only imagine how big of a sport it is over there! I hope you continue to have a wonderful experience and gain a global perspective of the world!

Cary K

11:49 AM  
Anonymous Kaylyn said...


The culture is about the same, but there are still a lot of differences here and there. I wouldn't say I had so much of a 'culture shock', but the hardest adaptation that I have had to have is the 'she'll be right' outlook on life that Australia has.

Problems here are handled much differently, meaning that for every issue there is a solution and everything will work out in the end. I feel like in American culture, if there is a problem life itself is over, or that is the attitude most people have.

I have had to change that mindset within myself and realized that Australians work to live and do not live to work. Work is second to a lot of social/family/hobby like events, including school work. When I first got at my Uni I was stressed out because my classes are very hard, but having a laid back approach definitely does help with the anxiety.

Surprisingly, at times I have found myself feeling stupid because I have to ask for extra explanation on what phrases or words mean, that are pretty much elementary vocabulary for people here, but people are very friendly about it.

Interesting enough, one thing I wish I brought with me here is buffalo sauce. Who would have thought such a thing would not exist in Australia?

I hope you are excited to be studying abroad. I'm sure you will enjoy it!

8:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info :) especially about the hidden fees through AustraLearn..I'll definitely keep a look out for those.

You said you were taking a finance class..I'm thinking about taking a finance class in New Zealand as well since I only have major classes left to take..Given your experience, what tips do you have about choosing classes, especially considering the differences in the Australian/New Zealand education system?

Thank you,
Ariel P.

1:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Kaylyn,

Thanks for all of your great advice. I will be studying in Australia in June, so all of this was helpful. I was wondering if you had any suggestions on places or things I should definitely do/see while I am there? I will be in Melbourne, Canberra, Cairns and Syndey.


7:48 AM  
Blogger alexandra_gavrilovic said...

I just have a general question for you in terms of culture shock? Did you experience it at all? I will be going away for a whole year and I would like to know if it was difficult to deal with the change and being homesick. Thanks!

Alex Gavrilovic

1:11 PM  

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