Hello from Down Under!! – Monica Milowski
My name is Monica, and I have been studying at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia for the past 5 months. I am half way through an exchange from UBC. This has been the experience of a lifetime and so far I don’t regret my decision to come down and explore a whole new part of the world. I have met so many people from different countries, and learned a lot about the different approaches to life, not only in Australia, but also around the world.
As an exchange student here, there’s always a lot to do – from “getting to know you” events, to trips to local Sydney attractions, to road trips across Australia or New Zealand. One of the things that I found a bit difficult was getting to know actual Australians. However, through becoming a part of the university volleyball team, I have been able to make an abundance of friendships with people who live here. I don’t know if this is the way it is for all university experiences in Australia, but there are a lot of students who live at home and go to uni with all their school friends, and therefore already have a group of people to hang out with all the time. It takes a bit of effort to break into those groups as an outsider. I was lucky because I had made friends while I was still in Canada with people who were living in Sydney and therefore had an “in” to get to know more locals. My one piece of advice for getting to know people – be outgoing and put yourself out there to talk to people you might not know, or walk up to someone you don’t know and strike up a conversation and see where that takes you. O-Week is a great opportunity for that because there are a lot of new people who are just getting into the university system and who doesn’t want a new friend??
Australia has so much to offer in terms of culture and the lifestyle. I love the approach to life here, it’s very laid back and a “take things as they come” approach. That really resonates with me. The good thing with having a large group of exchange students to hang out with is that we are all here for the same reason – to explore a new place. So, there’s an endless supply of people who want to find an adventure somewhere, either locally or across Australia. If you want to fly to Melbourne for a weekend and explore – it’s no problem finding someone to go with you. It’s pretty easy to find cheap flights throughout Australia, and there are hostels everywhere to stay in, and if you want to do a road trip, you can can rent a car or van – which I did from Cairns to Brisbane in Queensland during mid-semester break – and with the right people it’s a lot of fun!
One downfall that I have found is that Sydney is quite expensive. The cost of living is very high, so be aware of that before you come down here – and the Australian dollar is very high at the moment, so that makes things a little difficult. However, I honestly think that it’s worth the money, and if you are struggling while down here, then getting a job will often pay very well.
All in all, living in Sydney so far has been so much fun, I have learned so much and don’t regret any of it. Time has flown by so quickly, and I am excited that I still have another 5 months here to see the sights and continue exploring this fabulous country.