Plus ça Change, Plus C’est la Même Chose

In The Art of Travel Fall 2017, 8. Bubble, Sydney by Flurin1 Comment

I almost had to laugh out loud after reading this week’s topic because I just had this discussion with a British lady (let’s call her B.), I met this weekend. We were talking for a while and then she asked me what I thought about Sydney. So, I proceeded to tell her that I have loved the city so far and that I am a huge fan of the general vibe here, while also really enjoying the fact that I always have an option to go to the beach if I want to. Basically, I was singing the praises of a place I have lived in for about 8 weeks now. Once I had finished my verbal love letter to Sydney, B. was looking at me like I was a little crazy because she had radically different views of Sydney and wasn’t a huge fan of any of the things I had mentioned, with the notable exception being the cities close proximity to a multitude of beaches. At first, I didn’t make much of the experience I had with B., but as I had more time to contemplate her perspective, the experience did make me realize that I might have judged the positives of the city a little prematurely. I came to this conclusion in large part because B. had formed her opinion of the city over a timespan of a couple of years, whereas I had formed my opinion of the city in a fraction of that time. The whole interaction in combination with this week’s topic gave me a real reason to think about my whole experience in Australia.

Looking back on the last 8 weeks, I can definitely identify a few bubbles I am a part of. Some are more obvious, like the NYU bubble and others are a little less obvious, such as my yoga practice bubble. All the bubbles I can identify have the common feature that they have drawbacks and advantages. On the less impactful side of the spectrum, I believe my yoga practice bubble has the advantage that the few people I have met there, tend to have a positive outlook and are in general very friendly, which I think is true in general for people who seek out a yoga practice. The downside to this positive atmosphere is that it does give me a somewhat distorted mental picture of what Australians are like. On the side of high impact bubbles in my life, the NYU Sydney student bubble is probably the most impactful. First and foremost, the NYU bubble consumes a lot of my time. I mostly spend time with NYU students, I do most of my activities with NYU students, and as a result most of my friends are NYU students. These factors lead to the result that almost all of my interactions in Sydney are either with NYU classmates or influenced by their presence. The reality of the NYU bubble then causes my entire experience here to be colored by a lens, which most people who live in Australia can’t relate to.

In the end, I did come to the conclusion that when I remember Sydney, in years to come, I will really be remembering NYU Sydney. The combination, of the time spent with my fellow NYU peers and only coming in minimal contact with like-minded Australians through shared activities, does unfortunately mean that I will leave here with an extremely distorted view of the Australian experience. So, moving forward in my life, I need to be smart enough to remember this caveat when thinking and talking about my time in the land Down Under.


  1. Hi Flurin,

    I think you bring up some really interesting points. We are, after all, here to study (I’m insanely jealous that you get to study while surrounded by beaches, by the way), and this places us in an inevitable bubble from the start. It is not really one we can pop – we’ve got classes and projects and trips planned with students from America. It’s becoming clear that conversations with locals and even weekend trips don’t always rewards us with the connection to the community that we were hoping for when we arrived.

    In any case, we must all come to terms with the fact that a semester is just not enough time to truly understand a place.Just remember that liking something that a local Australian frowns upon does not make it any less worthy of your attention. What is new and wonderful to you may simply just be old and forgotten for them; your enthusiasm and positivity about an everyday place or food or activity may remind a local to wipe the fog off of their glasses. And perhaps there is another benefit to the distortion a short semester’s visit brings: regardless of whether or not they were seen through rose colored glasses, the positive, sunny memories you have made are yours forever, and they will be kept safe from the harshness of annoyances and boredom that come with local reality.

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