My first week in the land down under has been the best kind of whirlwind. I’ve been to heaps of cities (already talking like an Aussie) throughout America and Europe, each for a couple of days at a time. I’ve had wonderful experiences in each but I’ve never felt at home in a city, including NYC, the way I do here in Sydney. Maybe it’s the easy overlap of big city – skyscrapers, Chinatown, public transit and all – with the laid back beachside vibe. Maybe it’s the ‘no worries mate’ attitude or maybe it’s the beautiful weather, cloudless skies and crystal clear water. Maybe it’s really just that my jaw drops every single time an Australian guy walks by…no shame. Whatever it is, I don’t want it to end and it’s only been four days.
The flight was not that bad. I repeat, the flight was really not that bad. I know you don’t believe me but I swear it wasn’t. I popped some ZzzQuil and slept about half the trip and read, listened to music and made friends with the guy next to me for the rest. The airplane food was surprisingly decent and the Qantas staff made us feel about as at home as one can feel on an airplane over the Pacific Ocean. BU picked us up from the airport and drove us straight to what would be our new home where Bennett and I met our new roommates, Jessica and Bernadette (B) who are basically the best possible roomies we could have asked for.
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were full of orientations – some informative, most just boring and less than necessary but we survived. I’ll be taking three classes while I’m down here – Australian Literature, The Pacific Rim – Economic and Political Orders and Australian Culture and Society with a module in (Un)Popular Cultures. While taking the Econ class, I’ll also be interning somewhere in Sydney…potentially with the UNHCR which would be pretty incredible. Jess, B and Bennett are also taking the Australian Literature class which means we get Mondays off together (hey there 3 day weekends!) and go on a big group trip to the Blue Mountains. We also got the chance to sign up for a Surf Camp, which I am beyond excited for. Little do they know that we’ll already be pros – we met some guy out Friday night that is giving us private surf lessons on Saturday.
The program took us to a bar called Freda’s for dinner and drinks Wednesday night which gave us a chance to meet a few other people in our program but we ended up all passing out by 8 pm, exhausted from traveling and jet lagged. Alistair, an Aussie friend who studied abroad at UNC my freshman year, recommended that we went to Bondi Beach to see the sunset over a couple of drinks at the Bucket List bar Thursday night. Bondi was beautiful and we ran to the water like we’d never seen it before, spinning around like little kids, letting the fact that we were watching the sunset on a beach in Australia wash over us again and again. Life is so good and we are so lucky. We finally got to experience the lovely Aussie price differences at the Bucket List – $30 for a bucket of 4 Coronas and $16 for one mixed drink.. Australia is without a doubt going to run me dry. We also made a couple of friends who recommended that we took our night to the Beach Road Hotel (“hotel” means “bar” here in Oz) where we made some more friends, celebrated some guys 28th birthday and met a playboy bunny who wanted us to be her friends when she moved to America. Solid first night out with the locals.
After a full Friday of orientations, BU took us on a booze cruise around Darling Harbour where we got to take selfies in front of the breathtaking Sydney Opera House, pass under the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge and make friends with our internship advisors and the bartender. The Opera House really was unbelievable, but I expected that to be my big ‘aha’ moment where I truly felt that I was in Sydney. Oddly enough, that moment came earlier when attempting to convert pounds to grams while ordering turkey and cheese in the grocery store. The normality of kidding around and laughing while food shopping in this foreign city made me realize that this truly is my new home.
After the cruise, My 70ish year old advisor, John, took us out for drinks at the Cargo Bar right on the Harbour where we spent the rest of our night dancing away. This was where we made the surf teacher friend, as well as a few others who are all eager to show us their version of Sydney.
Yesterday was our trip to Manly Beach. I briefly met Carrick at the Kiva bar in Hvar this past summer. Before I left, we became friends on Facebook. After seeing that I would be studying abroad in Sydney, he reached out to me and was so helpful prior to my arrival in Australia. Yesterday he generously took the four of us under his wing and out in Manly. Manly Beach is literally right off a post card. The water is clear, the waves are perfect and surfers are everywhere. We baked and burned in the sun (which happens to be much stronger than the sun at home due to Australia’s depleted ozone layer), hung out and played in the waves when the riptides weren’t too strong. Carrick picked us up and drove us around what the locals call “God’s Country” while giving us history lessons and dancing to Daft Punk’s latest album. He took us to our first drive-through bottle shop (yes, they have drive through liquor stores here) and we went back to his place to watch the sun set over chicken shop sandwiches and a few pear ciders. The view from his apartment is incredible. He later took us out with a couple of his friends to the Wharf Bar where after a day at the beach, we were severely underdressed, and we caught the last ferry home after what ended up being such a wonderful day and night.
All in all, I am so grateful for what Australia has given me so far. It’s already been such an incredible adventure and I’ve only barely scratched the surface of this one city.