First impressions are everything. Whether they end up being right or wrong, they help us size-up our surroundings. When I first arrived to Sydney, Australia, my mind spat out a plethora of thoughts and emotions. After processing that I had just completed the longest travel adventure of my life, I started to form my initial thoughts on this country. After all, I did choose to spend the next five months of my life in it! Here are three immediate impressions of Sydney that stuck.
Sydney, Australia is:
I had the luck of sitting next to a young woman from Brisbane on my flight into Sydney, and she was the first of many wonderful Australians I would soon meet. Kind and open, she did her best to talk me through some of the basics of living “down under.” From Tim Tams, delicious and calorie-filled chocolate treats, to Aussie lingo, I took tons of mental notes. She could tell I was both exhausted and anxious from my travels. The journey from Miami to Sydney is obviously not a quick one, but she tried to ease my worries. From then on, I encountered tour guides, businessmen, bartenders, and teachers, all of whom greeted me with smiles and genuine curiosity about my stay in this city. No one seemed to be bothered with tourists. In fact, locals loved to hear where my friends and I were from specifically within the United States! With each new interaction, I felt myself settle more into the city and begin to enjoy what I had in front of me. No matter what I was in the mood for on any particular day, Sydney had something for me to do. Walking the streets on Fridays near the harbor I’d find markets packed with vendors selling anything you could think of: tea, jewelry, boomerangs, baked goods, knick-knacks— you name it. If I was feeling bold, there was always the attraction of walking across the famous Sydney Harbor Bridge. In need of relaxation? The beautiful beaches that you see on Google Earth were only ferry rides away. And of course, early evenings were for watching the sun set near the Opera house while enjoying a night cap at a local bar or café.
Speaking of bars and cafés, the rumors are true, Sydney is a pricey place. So if you’re planning to visit in the future, start saving now! Being American, the conversion rates may have worked in my favor, however the prices of everything was much higher than I was used to! For example, a cup of black coffee back home would cost me around $2.55, whereas in Sydney it’ll usually come out to 3.25 AUD. It may not seem like a huge gap, but trust me it all adds up! Dining in restaurants, especially in the heart of the city, may be as expensive as 35 AUD for a pasta meal that I would normally pay $25 back in the States. Not to worry though, takeout options are usually a cheaper alternative that’ll cost around 15 AUD and definitely won’t disappoint! Another smart investment is an OPAL card, it’s the “golden ticket” that will give you access to the easy-to-navigate public transportation here! All you have to do is purchase a card, load a dollar amount of your choice, and you’re good to go! For 3.25 AUD you can travel to Circular Quay to hop on a ferry, take in the sights of the harbor, or walk around the city to window shop. Is it worth it? So far, worth every Australian dollar.
A Place to Remember!
There are moments in my life that I won’t ever forget. Bringing my first childhood pet home, graduating high school, visiting Europe, getting into college, etc. Turning around on a walking tour my first day here just to see the Sydney Opera House sitting across the water is one of those moments. Walking the streets of downtown was just incredible. I was able to observe people get off from work, dressed all professionally, and see how authentic citizens of Sydney live their lives. For every step I took, I took triple the amount of photos to capture what I was seeing. In fact, I still do this as I am constantly exploring new places. Four weeks in now, and I can say that I am happy with my decision to study abroad here. I am now balancing my time in the city with my classes at Macquarie University and I could not be more proud of the things I have done here in such a short amount of time! It makes me optimistic for my future here and for what is to come. Taking the leap to come here was not taken lightly. But once I landed on my feet here, both figuratively and literally, I realized that it was the right decision. What’s more, I can’t wait to see more of this city I’m learning to call home.
Kristen Colon is a Biology major at Franklin & Marshall College and studied abroad with IFSA-Butler at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia in fall 2017. She is a First Generation Scholar for IFSA-Butler’s First Generation College Scholarship program.