I dreamed of a city that combined the beachy, active vibes of Los Angeles, and the upbeat, city life found in New York, and Sydney exceeded all of my expectations. I came to Sydney with the intention of checking out a city I may want to move to in the future, not necessarily as a place to completely change my perspective. If you only have one opportunity to go abroad, I would tell you not to go to Sydney. I think that your study abroad experience should make you crack, challenge you in ways you never imagined, and help to rebuild you as a stronger, more focused person. My freshman year abroad did that for me and it was extremely tough. Sydney did not challenge me at all, it felt weirdly like home, but it was an amazing semester nonetheless.
First tip, BRING A JACKET. Sydney does get somewhat cold, especially after experiencing the sweltering summer heat. I laugh when I see people sporting coats in 70-degree weather, but I laugh even harder at the people in my program that only brought shorts and tank tops. And if you are considering going to New Zealand at any point, which I 90% believe you will visit for Spring Break, bring layers. And while we are on the topic of clothing, Sydney is a relaxed city so your heels and fancy dresses will not be necessary.
Second tip, go to Paddy’s during your first week here. It is a weird, underground market that is dirt-cheap. Woolworth’s is only a block from the dorm, but you will feel like an idiot for spending $4 on an avocado when you can get them at Paddy’s for $1. About Life, another grocery store, is a trek, but it is worth it. The raw caramel slices are incredible and it is the only place I have found that sells black beans!
School is a little harder than you might expect. The Australian Experience course is fascinating and I suggest everyone take it. You are in Australia so you should learn about Australian culture. You may think that you can learn about the culture from the people, or just by living here, but there are things that we discuss in class, such as life as an Arab-Australian, the respect for lifeguards vs. surfers, and immigration policies that I promise you, you will never encounter in everyday life. If you are a global public health major you are probably only coming here for Epidemiology and Environmental Health. These are rewarding courses but the professors can alter your experience. I would recommend saving them for New York. There is a divide in the program between pre-med students and everyone else just because we are in completely separate courses, so get to know as many people as you can during orientation! Despite the program naturally splitting into two groups, everyone is pretty close. You may worry about not meeting Australians at first but by the end of the semester, I promise you won’t care that much. My group of friends here has become my family, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Try every flavor of Tim Tams, buy Lucas’ Pawpaw ointment instead of Chapstick, stock up on duty free alcohol, and go to the beach as much as possible, even if it means skipping your class readings. Sydney is one of the most naturally beautiful cities in the world and it deserves your full attention.