So in 4 months I might be able to hug a koala bear. On the other hand, I could also be bitten by a deadly spider and die.

Back when I was in elementary school, I had big dreams.

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Today, I still have big dreams.

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Ok, well.

There’s more to it than that.

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I’m not helping my case.

Alright, fine. I’ve wanted to go on a long-term study abroad program for a while. When I went to Germany and Japan I felt as though it wasn’t long enough. It was like I had only started to get comfortable, know the culture, and make friends when I suddenly had to return to the USA.

On the classic exchange student graph

I had only really ever reached here:

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I never had culture shock, just culture surprises. I wasn’t around long enough to get homesick. And this might sound strange, but… I feel like I missed out on those. I want to learn how to adapt. I want to take the challenge of being in a new place and a new culture. I want to go through the shock, the depression, and the uncomfortable adjustment.

And, I want to beat it. And have a smashing good time.

But that’s just me.

I’m cheating a little. Australia’s an English-speaking country, which already makes the adjustment 10 times easier. I couldn’t help it, though– as I researched programs through Northeastern, Australia seemed to be one of the only nations actually offering biology courses to international students.

So, last October, I declared to my parents that I was going to apply to the University of Sydney. (I was actually hoping to go that fall, but I postponed it when my German host sister decided to visit America.) I went to my study abroad office. I called my academic advisor. I checked the USydney website. And I submitted my application.

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And I waited.

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Finally, a couple weeks ago, I opened up my e-mail at work…

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I was accepted! University of Sydney accepted me for their “winter” semester (our summer time) running from July to November! Whoa geez. I guess I’m going to Australia!


I still have things to do before it can actually happen, though. I have to find my own housing in a city on the other side of the world. I need to apply for my absurdly priced $600 visa. I have to book that $1,000 one-way ticket to Sydney. Did I mention that Sydney’s one of the most expensive cities in the world?

But, yeah. I thought I’d just let you know.

Coming soon in Vy’s life: Platypi, potoroos, and poisonous things!

39 thoughts on “So in 4 months I might be able to hug a koala bear. On the other hand, I could also be bitten by a deadly spider and die.

  1. If I could do 5 months of a developing country of which I didn’t speak more than a few words of its language, then I think Australia will be no problem for you my friend.

  2. Hi Vy,

    I’m really really happy that you are able to go to Australia πŸ˜€
    I actually lived in Melbourne for 10 months, which is far away from Sydney and also they are rivals xD But I visited Sydney and I loved it (maybe even more than Melbourne, but I could never tell that to my Melbourne friends :p) So I’m kinda jealous that you are going to uni there. I also wanted to do that, but my university doesn’t offer exchanges outside of Europe and it’s way too expensive to just apply by myself and go there. But I’ll follow your blog and it’ll be like I’m there too πŸ™‚ I’m really curious about the culture shocks you’ll experience and whether Australian life is very different from American life. So I can’t wait till you get there (and I’m sure you can’t wait either ^^)

    I still remember all the excitement before I went to Aus and I had absolutely no idea of what to expect. I do think life in Sydney will be a lot different from life in the suburbs of Melbourne (where I lived) but I can still tell you a few things. First of all I was already quite good at English before I went there so I thought the language would be easy just like you, but be warned, they say things like: capsicum, How are you going?, I’m buggered, I’m pumped, no worries mate,… Aussie lingo they call it πŸ™‚ So be prepared to get used to that ^^
    Secondly don’t worry too much about the leathal animals (spiders, sharks, octopus, snakes etc.) they are there and you might see them, but hardly anyone gets bitten (but be careful just in case ^^). I also hope you’ll be able to see some kangaroos, the real wild ones you might not find in the city, but you could always visit some places further away, but the ones that punch people live in the outback so far away :p
    Oh also in Melbourne they have heaps of Asian food so I guess in Sydney as well (since I remember you missed that in Germany), the Aussie food itself is not that brilliant (vegimite :s) but worth trying (it’s an experience, trust me :p) and definitaly try Pavlova, timtams and lamingtons !!! πŸ˜€

    I can’t really come up with any more advice right now, but I’m sure I’ll think of some other things the next few months and I’ll let you know. But I can only tell you that you will get a culture shock and all the hard emotions and stuff that you want to discover and it’s not as easy as it seems to beat all that, but in the end it’s all worth it. Going to Australia is the hardest, bravest thing I’ve ever done, but I’m proud of it and I can’t wait to start my next exchange πŸ™‚

    So good luck with getting the visa (that’s really a lot of trouble, they are strict about who they let in their country, but you’ll get the visa because you’re a student, just be warned that it takes some time)

    from your fellow Aussie :p

    ps: Will you be there this July? I’m actually going back to Australia for a month in July and I will be visiting Sydney as well, so if you see some crazy chick waving at you in the streets, it might actually be me ^^

    • Wow, thank you for the advice! I’ll definitely keep this in mind. I’m suuuuuper excited for the Asian food– I love Asian food (obviously) and I feel like this 12% Asian nation will probably have some pretty delicious stuff. Pavlova, timtams and lamingtons you say? I will definitely try to get some! (Though I might stray away from vegemite– my friend tried it once and ended up puking.)
      I’ve also heard kids who’ve been to AUS and the UK say that, even though they’re American, it takes them a week or two before they start understanding what people are saying! Strong accents/native lingo, like you said. πŸ˜› It’s awesome that you found your exchange worthwhile! I’m not staying nearly as long as you are– but I hope that, when I come back, I can be as proud as my experience as you are. πŸ™‚
      I will be there this July! The exact date I’m not sure of yet. But my semester starts at the end of July, so I’ll probably try to get to Sydney a week or two beforehand. Haha if you spot me, feel free to say hi!

      • O_O Puking? Wow, that’s extreme. I don’t really think it’s an everyday taste, but just, wow. Don’t think that’s an ordinary reaction. If you don’t like vegemite, though, what about Cheesybite? It’s like a tame vegemite, and it’s awesome. Not entirely sure how American tastes differs so much from ours, but it’s a possible experience, if you see any…

        • I’ll definitely try both once I settle into Sydney! I can’t let any new food go untried, right?
          Sorry for all the questions, but… do you know any Australia-exclusive foods that I should definitely try while I’m there? (I’m down for anything!)

          • It’s tough to think what would be exclusive food here… maybe you could buy some kangaroo mince to cook? Australians are also known for eating mince pie, but I don’t know if people in other countries do. Hell, I was surprised that outside countries don’t have Tim Tams. Those are delicious!

            Yeah, tough to think of.

          • Yeah, actually, you’re right about trying different food. When I visited America, I was going all over trying different places. I went to places like Wendy’s, Sonic, Applebee’s, Denny’s, and my favourite place was called Rockin’ Rogers, which serves proper 50s-style shakes. Only place I missed was Burgerville (I was too full to eat).

            • I always forget that those commonplace restaurant chains are a novelty for visitors in America. My host family in Germany liked to tell me that they went to the Olive Garden twice when they were in America for a week. I didn’t really get it until I realized I had been taking all those places for granted!
              What big restaurant chains are there in Australia?

          • omg, Vy! I just remembered some more Australian foods you can try while you’re here! It’s Anzac Day today, and Anzac biscuits and Lamingtons are usual fare on this day.

            They’re both desserts.

            PS In case you didn’t know, ANZAC stands for Australia New Zealand Army Corp. It’s a WWI holiday, I believe.

            • I Google Image searched both of those desserts and they look DELICIOUS! I’m drooling. And I’m adding those to my list of things to try.
              Thank you! Just another reason for me to be excited this July! πŸ˜€

  3. Hi Vy!
    I’m a silent reader from Italy.
    One of my friends went to Sydney two months ago and he’s loving it there! He loves the city, he’s meeting a ton of friendly people and he feels like at home (and it has been more difficult for him than it’ll be for you, ’cause his English was and still is quite poor).
    It wasn’t too much trouble for him getting the visa (and he’s not a student), you just have to do some research and prepare in advance.
    Oh, I so envy you… I’ve never been outside Europe 😦

    • Hi! Wow, a reader from Italy! Thank you for taking the time to read my blog– I’m always amazed at how people from so far away visit my site! ^.^
      It’s reassuring to hear that your friend is having a good time! In some countries it’s hard to meet people due to the culture/language barrier, but I’m hoping Australia will be a good experience. So your comment makes me feel better! πŸ™‚
      I’m sure you’ll travel outside of Europe in the future. It might take some saving up, or applying for scholarships (if you’re still in school) but if there’s a will, there’s a way. I think I’ve just been particularly lucky!

  4. Haha. Did you make that chart yourself? Do you really want to see someone get kicked in the face (or experience it yourself)? Do you really feel that you never really adapted to the other cultures? Are kangaroos cute? (goes off to check) They look so distinguished! (I did not actually have a good idea of what they look like.) Are you scared of spiders? Will you take pictures of EVERYTHING!? And post them online? PLEASE! All these great questions. Forget about them. AND HAVE A GREAT TIME IN AUSTRALIA!! (But, seriously that chart is so great.)

    From Straw Hat Luffy

    The clock is ticking away.
    Why is time so cruel.
    Why can’t it stay.
    It must have no school.
    Counting down, laughing at us.
    Soon it will suss.
    For why is time so mean.
    We only have until 2015.
    But what of Death and her memory
    And just what is The Right to Be.

    643 days left. Good luck.

    • Haha, I didn’t actually make that chart– but I have seen it at every single study abroad orientation I have ever been to ever. And I’ve been to a bunch.
      Distinguished, huh? To be honest: Whenever I think kangaroos, I think boxing. Like, boxers in a rink punching each other. Why? Maybe because I grew up around my cousins who played a lot of Tekken. True story!
      I will take photos! In fact, I’m hoping to keep on blogging! Subject to availability of free time and internet. But, of course, I want to still keep this site going.
      I appreciate your poem. Believe it or not, I HAVE been working on it… a bit. Just a tad.

  5. Don’t give up on vegemite. You should try it at least once, it’s really good on buttered toast! People traumatised by tasting vegemite are usually tricked by an Aussie into thinking it’s chocolate spread. I’ve done this before. It was hilarious.
    Also, spiders aren’t really that big of an issue. Just check your shoes before you put them on. Spiders like shoes. Snakes are a mystery to me. I’ve lived in Australia my whole life, the only snakes I saw were in the zoo. I hope you have a good time when you get here (^\/^)

    • That’s… actually extremely hilarious. If I manage to bring some vegemite back to the States, I’ll HAVE to try that on someone. I’ll definitely try vegemite once I’m there!
      Good to hear about the spiders! It seems like an American stereotype of Australia is that there are poisonous things everywhere. As long as there are no snakes casually roaming the streets, I think I’ll be fine! I’m pretty excited πŸ™‚
      I’m assuming you’re from Australia, right? If you don’t mind me asking, what are the must-see places in AUS?

      • I’m glad you’re giving vegemite a go, even if you don’t like it, using it to prank people is still fun! Well, I don’t know much about Sydney to be honest (I live in Melbourne) but I went on holiday once when I was a kid. I remember some pretty normal stuff: luna park, taronga zoo, speedboat rides in the harbour and the aquarium. But there was this bus tour my mum took me on too. I remember that it had:
        An animal petting farm (that was fun, I got to feed kangaroos)
        Famous sight-seeing spots (not so fun, I got bored)
        A terrifying train that ran down an almost vertical mountain (trees whacked me in the face).
        A giant airlift made completely of glass that went over a massive forest thing. When I looked down, I saw clouds (I’m afraid of heights, so…)
        And that’s all of my Sydney experiences πŸ™‚
        But that was only three days’ worth. There’s heaps more awesome stuff you can check out when you get here πŸ™‚

        • An animal petting farm? Where you get to feed kangaroos? That sounds like the greatest thing ever. Now I’m REALLY excited.

          How far is Melbourne from Sydney? I’d like to see other parts of Australia while I’m there (how often will I get to go to Australia, after all?) so I’d love to hear a Melbournite’s two cents!

  6. I went to Australia once. I actually saw a koala in the wild (but did not attempt to hug it) and I saw a lot of wild kangaroos and did not attempt to hug them either. In return, none of them kicked me in the face. So it worked out well in that respect.

    By the way, everyone thinks kangaroos have tiny little arms. That’s only because their arms are small compared to their legs. Actually they have really strong, muscular arms, much bigger than any human. So in the event of a dispute with a kangaroo, a punch in the face would be pretty conclusive too.

    There’s a hair salon near here called “Roo Poo”. I think it’s pretty funny.

  7. Awesome! You’re coming down under! (for the record, koalas aren’t bears. They’re just called koalas.)

    I’d probably be more excited if I still lived down in Sydney; I moved up to the Sunshine Coast back in August last year. It’s up above the Gold Coast (where all the big theme parks are), Brisbane and (if you’ve heard of it) The Big Pineapple.

    We love big things in Australia, apparently; The Big Banana, The Big Pineapple, The Big Avocado, The Big Shrimp, and I think there was a Big Knight and a Big Sheep… The main two I know of are the Banana and the Pineapple. Both have the main structure of the fruit, where they sell regular size versions of the real thing, and have minor attractions. At the Banana, it’s taboggan rides. At the pineapple, there’s… a mini-museum inside the Big Pineapple, and a train thing that takes you around the pineapple fields… which I haven’t ridden. I think both have markets too.

    Don’t know why I just rambled about that. More important places to see are places like Taronga Zoo… though up here we have Steve Irwin’s zoo: Australia Zoo. I haven’t seen it yet because it’s expensive, and we haven’t settled in well enough to blow our money on it. Same with Aussie World, I assume. Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo was also pretty cool… but that won’t be near you, so I don’t know why I mentioned it.

    Maybe my country is just a passionate point with me. Huh. Well, I have seen almost every state in some capacity. I’ll quit it now (although, maybe you’re enjoying me ramble? Meh).

    • Haha, I know koalas aren’t bears! I remember learning that in elementary school. I don’t know if this is a States-only thing, but we often refer to koalas as “koala bears” due to their bear-like appearance– to quote Wikipedia, koalas are “popularly known as the “koala bear” because of its bear-like appearance.”

      Ok, so all of those “Big” things sound awesome. What are, would you say, some must-see things in Australia? Though I’m going to be in Sydney, I’m hoping to visit other parts of Australia before or after my classes. Nothing wrong with being passionate about your country– as one who knows nothing about Australia, I enjoyed your ramble quite a lot!

      • I assume you’re planning to stay inside the state, right? As far as all the Big Things, I would think the closest is the Banana, but it’s still quite a drive up the coast. Of course, even when I moved up to the Sunshine Coast, we still made it there on the same day — and we live right near the Pineapple!

        Other than that… well, of course, there are things in the city of Sydney. Centrepoint Tower, Taronga Zoo (which you can reach by Ferry), Darling Harbour, Sydney Opera House, Sydney Aquarium, even the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb, if you wanted to pay the money and don’t mind heights. As a nerd, I also enjoy the Australian Museum. But that’s just me. πŸ™‚

        Outside of Sydney… The Blue Mountains are lovely. Definitely a shorter drive than the Banana, but still a bit of one from Sydney. When I was living in Castle Hill (a Sydney suburb), I enjoyed Cumberland State Forest, but that’s far from being an famous Australian attraction. Just local, I guess. I don’t know, I’m just thinking about stuff I’ve done now, not really sure what to mention…

        Oh, of course, there’s the beach! Bondi’s the most famous, but parking is really tough to get. I’ve also been to Collaroy, which is less crowded and has pools as well. Just be careful for jellyfish (bluebottles) if you’re there in the summer.

        Yep, that’s all I got for now…

        • Unless you want to go to Sydney Olympic Park to go swimming. Been there too. I think it might be near where they do the Sydney Royal Easter Show every year… It’s a shame you won’t be there in April, or I’d recommend it.

        • All that sounds awesome! Oh man, I’m so excited. I mean, while I’m going to be in NSW for most of my stay, I definitely want to venture out-of-state at least once. I hear there’s cool stuff all over Australia! Of course, I won’t have a car, so that’ll make travel a little more difficult. How’s the long-distance public transportation in AU?

          Thanks for the advice! Those are all places I want to visit for sure. The Bridge Climb especially sounds totally boss, even if it’s pricy. I mean, as an American, how often will I be in Australia?

          • True that.

            As for public transportation down here, there’s two railways I’ve heard of. The only one I’ve ever used is CityRail, which takes you all around city, as far out as Punchbowl and as far south as Goulburn.

            The other I’ve heard of is CountryRail, which takes you all over the country, to places like Canberra and other major cities.

            • Ooh, good to know! I want to see other cities if I can while I’m there, so it’s nice to hear that there’s a solid transportation network. Thanks! πŸ˜€

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