Having lived in Sydney for a decade now, CAPA International Education's Resident Director of Sydney Programs Debbie Shively knows her adopted city well. Below she gives advice to students preparing for a semester abroad, shares her best hidden gem in Sydney and tells us about her favorite MyEducation activity CAPA students participate when studying abroad in Australia.
CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about your work with CAPA International Education.
DEBBIE SHIVELY: I am the Resident Director of CAPA Sydney. In this position I oversee the center’s operations, Student Affairs, and Internships. The majority of my work on the students' specific program will be done behind the scenes before they arrive in country.
The CAPA Sydney center is located in North Sydney. It is just across the harbor from the Sydney Opera House and up the road from the Governor General’s residence and the Prime Minister’s Sydney Residence.
CW: How long have you lived in Sydney? If you’re not from there originally, what brought you there? Which area do you call home?
DS: I have lived in Sydney for over 10 years. I initially came to Sydney in February 2003 to earn a Masters Degree in International Studies at the University of Sydney. I fell in love with the city and haven’t lived in the US since. I consider both Sydney and California, where I grew up, ‘home’.
CW: Why is study abroad important?
DS: Study abroad is so important because it provides students with opportunities and exposure to new cultures and different ways of life. Study abroad programs allow you to integrate into your host culture and take advantage of local offerings.
Students who take advantage of the opportunity to stay in a homestay generally have a wider exposure and a greater cultural insight to the Australian lifestyle.
My personal experience having studied abroad in Austria and Costa Rica provided me with the confidence and adventure to seek a Masters Degree outside the US.
Photo: Thai food in Sydney by Ruth Ellison
CW: Tell us about the food in Sydney. What are the specialties in your area? If you were going out with friends, which restaurant would you choose and why?
DS: Australia has some of the most diverse and amazing food. We have everything from Asian, Middle Eastern, African and Latin American. Having grown up in California, Mexican food was our staple, whereas you’ll find in Sydney that Thai is the go-to food with take-away shops and restaurants on nearly every corner. Sydney’s Thai food is amazingly fresh and offers the perfect combination of flavor and spice.
CW: Where’s your favorite place to shop in Sydney?
DS: One of the best places to shop in Sydney is Newtown. With its college feel and vibrant shops, it’s a cultural opportunity for everyone. Newtown is not known for its chain storefronts so each shop has its own vibe. Newtown hosts a number of festivals and markets throughout the year which draw huge crowds. The food in Newtown is outstanding and some of the most affordable in the city.
CW: When you think about Sydney in relation to your senses, what comes to mind?
DS: The sound of different languages being spoken as you make your way through the city; the sight of the Harbour and beaches; the smell of food - Greek, Thai, Middle Eastern, Japanese, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, seafood; a taste that is savory and salty with a sweet aftertaste.
CW: As Resident Director for CAPA International Education’s Sydney program, how can students best prepare for their semester abroad?
DS: The best way students can prepare for their study abroad experience in Sydney is to familiarize themselves with their host city - research our history, geographic terrain, and various offerings the city holds. I encourage students to come with an open mind and a ‘can do’ attitude. Remember that they are studying abroad to broaden their horizons and to take themselves out of their comfort zones. Take a deep breath; it will all be new.
CW: Where’s your favorite hidden gem in Sydney and what is special about it?
DS: My favorite hidden gem in Sydney is Wylies Baths, one of the most amazing ocean tidal pools. Located not far from Coogee Beach, this tidal pool has a remarkable view out to the ocean. Take a dip or a snorkel in the water and experience the sea life. This gem is not known to most tourists and is somewhat off the beaten path.
Photo: Wylies Baths by ManWithAToyCamera
CW: CAPA is well known for its MyEducation activities that take students beyond classroom learning and into the city to explore. What is one of your favorite MyEducation events in Sydney?
DS: One of my favourite MyEducation activities is the Aboriginal Walking Tracks. These self guided walking tracks are custom developed by the Nura Gili Centre and provide an opportunity to visit significant sites to Aboriginal people around the Sydney region.
CW: Best way to spend a Saturday in Sydney soaking up some culture?
DS: The best way to spend a Saturday in Sydney is at one of the many outdoor markets. This will allow you to see how Sydneysiders live and enjoy their weekend. Following a market, I would suggest a coastal or harbour walk and, weather pending, a dip in the ocean.