City: Coogee Beach (Sydney)
School: University of South Wales
I chose Australia and specifically the University of New South Wales since I wanted an English speaking country with nice weather and a school that satisfied my department requirements. Australia definitely exceeded all my expectations.
At least for engineering, I had to plan my schedule a year in advance of studying abroad to make sure classes available in Australia would satisfy my graduation requirements. I ended up taking two graduate level engineering courses which were much easier than my undergraduate courses, as well as a statistics and Australian sports history course. My friends and I made our schedule to have classes only from Tuesday-Thursday, so that we could go on four-day weekend trips almost every week.
The campus was similar to what you would find in the US, with decently new buildings and kids hanging out on the grass on a sunny day. However, I felt there was not much mixing of study abroad and native students.
For my program, we were all situated in Coogee Beach, which is a beach suburb of Sydney. However, we had the choice of living in an apartment or in a house with all study abroad students. I chose the apartment living situation and if I could do it again, I would choose living in a house. The apartment had lots of students, one internet connection, one washer/dryer, and one kitchen. Not fun.
Here is a picture of my room with my bed on the left side.
However, we were ridiculously close to the beach. These were some views a block outside my apartment.
I am writing this and currently craving Australian food. Honestly, the best pizza I have ever had was at Arthur’s Pizza in Randwick. Something about the Australian variation of adding an egg in the middle of the pizza makes it so delicious.
Pizza aside, the most “Australian” dish is the meat pie, which is exactly what it sounds like, but you can add mashed peas, mashed potatoes, and gravy on top of the pie. Try the peas, even though they are neon green.
Other foods readily available include schnitzel (breaded and fried chicken), gyros (with a terrible pronunciation), and fast food. Fast food includes the obvious McDonald’s with their signature McOz (think Big/Tasty with beets), Burger King/Hungry Jack’s, and my favorite Australian chain, Oporto (Portuguese style chicken sandwiches with chili sauce). Also, kangaroo is surprisingly awesome…like very sweet beef.
A big difference is that portions are small compared to what I was used to in the US. I think the combo meal drinks and fries are the equivalent of a child’s size here. It definitely costs a lot more to be fat.
At Coogee Beach, there was pretty much one place for the study abroad kids to go—the Beach Palace Hotel. It was a bar/club overlooking the beach full of Australian guys wanting to hook up with the “easier” American girls.
In the city, there were many more dive bars. Just ask around and you will find one you like. Try the Strongbow (hard apple cider), but not Foster’s, since no real Australian actually drinks that stuff.
Not much culture shock for me.
No language barriers unless you do not speak English, although some things are shortened or pronounced differently. You will find out soon enough.
Everyone is very friendly but also vocal about their opinions. Australians love their sports and pretty much everyone is fit.
Anything/everything related to sports and the outdoors. Gyms are lacking when compared to the US (I went to the original gym Arnold trained at for his Mr. Universe title and I do not think it has been remodeled), but who cares when you have the beach! So learn surfing, scuba diving, or just work on your tan. Also try the racetrack or watch an Aussie Football match. Cricket is also very popular.
Basketball, however, is not.
Sydney: I would not really count going to Sydney as a trip but it still took a little while to get there. It is a really beautiful city especially during the night. Although now I realize the next picture has an adult bookstore in it…
Darling Harbor is also awesome to walk around and see the street performers. And of course, the Sydney Opera House.
There are also a lot of casinos around which are very fun if you are not 21 in the US since the age to gamble is just 18 in Australia.
Also fun to check out is Chinatown and the adjacent little shops.
Opera: No trip to Australia is complete without actually going into the Opera House, so be sure to bring something nice to wear. And do not skimp and buy the cheapest seats—you will not be able to see the subtitles and the experience will be pretty miserable (I learned the hard way).
Reef: One of the long weekend trips I took was to see the Great Barrier Reef, before it is totally destroyed by pollution and global warming. We took a little tour boat out and snorkeled. Watch out for jellyfish—if a part of your body suddenly feels strangely tingly, you probably got stung. Do not keep going like me until a buddy starts yelling, “Hey, does anyone else’s arm not work?”
Great Ocean Road: The Aussie equivalent of the Pacific Coast Highway, with the end goal of the Twelve Apostles. This was a much longer trip and we chose a random tour company. And this was where we got introduced to the wonderful world of hostels. They are great if you are on a budget but sometimes you are unlucky and get stuck with someone whose feet smell like dead animals.
Our sweet ride.
Along the way.
Our tour group pic with other study abroad kids from all over the world.
And what we went to see…the Twelve Apostles.
Nimbin: Let’s just say that marijuana buying/selling/using is very lenient in this little town. And that you should not eat more than half the cake, but you should sign up for the crazy tour bus.
New Zealand, Fiji: Other pretty close places to go for longer periods such as Spring Break.
Really nothing you cannot get back in the US. I ended up just getting boomerang souvenirs for everyone back home.
We contemplated renting a car but the study abroad people said the only time kids died in Australia was when they rented cars. So we stuck to our feet, buses, and cabs. Buses were very easy to use; just buy a pass at any convenience store.
Cold for the first two weeks I was there (US Fall semester), but beautiful the rest of my trip.