Colin Gilbert is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2017, sharing his story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A marketing and supply chain management major at the University of Pittsburgh, he is studying abroad in Sydney this semester.
In this week's post, Colin shares his adventures of exploring Sydney for the first time.
The sweet, sweet feeling of our jet touching the runway at Sydney Kingsford Smith is one I won’t soon forget. While the crew was pleasant, food meh, and movies abundant, it’s still pretty hard to truly enjoy a 16-hour flight. Customs and immigration couldn’t have been easier to get through—simply scan your passport and look into a camera—and soon we were in a cab to our accommodation at Urbanest.
The CAPA staff were incredibly welcoming as we arrived. After accessing our room and grabbing a quick shower, we were treated to a delicious lunch. My favorite part? The Sydney cupcakes! (And yes, they tasted as good as they looked!)
Then, we took a quick walking tour of the neighborhood to orient ourselves and discover locations of restaurants, pharmacies, and other hot spots. I felt so overwhelmed, but recalled the same feeling from my first few days at school in Pittsburgh and assured myself it would all be familiar soon. The tour concluded at Broadway Shopping Centre where we were left to do a bit of shopping and find the way home on our own.
One of my personal goals for this experience is to plan less and be more open to going with the flow of things. Diving in head-first, my suitemates and I decided to visit Darling Harbour our first night together. We pulled out Google Maps with Opal Cards in hand and set off to the nearest bus stop…arriving just as soon as our bus pulled away. Going with the flow, we walked to the Harbour instead. We were treated to gorgeous weather and incredible views that we totally would’ve missed if we had hopped a bus. The area bustled with activity. We were reminded of our metropolitan location by the masses of locals and tourists enjoying the shops and restaurants; of our American culture by bumping into those locals as we forged our wrong path on the right side of the strip. If there’s anything I learned within the first day, it’s to always bear left.
We enjoyed a delicious dinner, some ordering the kangaroo burger, and chatted with our newly-acquainted friends at the open-air restaurant as the night wound down. Since we walked to the Harbour, we decided to take the transit back home, pulling out Google Maps and our Opal Cards once again. Arriving just in time, we hopped on the bus and were on our way to Urbanest. Until the driver didn’t stop. I watched as our current location drifted further and further away from our destination. We eventually got off at the next stop and, once again, going with the flow, decided to walk home.
The situation in my mind was less than ideal: ten jet-lagged Americans lost on their first night in Australia’s largest city. I gave up on Google Maps’ walking directions and left the navigation to someone else. On the route, we looked up at the sky and saw the beacon we needed: the Ugliest Tower in Sydney. Recalling the nickname for a rather unattractive building from our walking tour earlier in the day, UTS, formally standing for University of Technology Sydney, illuminated the sky and guided us close to our accommodation. Once again, going with the flow had worked out in my favor.
Sydney’s laid-back attitude seems to encourage a go-with-the-flow mindset; I’ve already noticed it while getting served at a restaurant, checking out at the grocery store, and moving into Urbanest. With a positive attitude and a willingness to do spontaneous things, you just might get treated to experiences no one could ever plan for! I’d say I’m off to a pretty good start of accomplishing this goal after enduring the Darling Harbour Saga within the first 12 hours abroad. I can only hope there are more to come.
Colin's journey continues every Wednesday so stay tuned!