Catherine Crevecoeur is an official CAPA blogger for summer 2016, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. An environmental science major at University of Pittsburgh, she is studying abroad in Sydney this term.
In this week's post, Catherine starts to get used to Sydney and shares her top 3 tips for settling in to a new city.
Tonight, I have officially been in Sydney, Australia for almost a week and I have not even started to get used to this city. Thus far, Sydney reminds me of an unfocused photograph. From far away, things in Sydney seem rather similar to the United States. But when the picture focuses, you can clearly see all of the differences. For instance, the stores in the many shopping centers look like stores at my home mall but I don’t recognize any of the brands. People here talk to each other, but the words and phrases sound completely unlike American English.
I have only ventured to a few of the large neighborhoods so far, but I have already found some useful tips for getting used and exploring this new city.
1. BE CURIOUS. The air was crisp at 9:30 am when I first left after my internship interview. Fledged with Google Maps and little knowledge of the bus routes here, I finally tried to venture around downtown Sydney. While I generally enjoy taking long walks in my home city of Pittsburgh, I loved walking around Sydney even more because everything seemed so much more peaceful. In general, Australians are much quieter than Americans. So, I wandered (headphones in) a couple blocks west of my internship building. Soon, I could faintly smell the scent of the sea indicating the proximity of the wharf. Only a few feet later, I could see the azure waters lined with various boats. There was a wooden bridge with flags advertising events in the city and I could see the most beautiful view of the Darling Harbor. If I had not just let myself wander around Sydney, I might not have found this little niche merely blocks away from my daily workplace.
2. LEARN HOW TO SAVE MONEY - AND FAST! Everything in Australia is expensive. Let me repeat. Everything in Australia is expensive. When I was exchanging my American dollars for Australian dollars, the teller told me I would only need 50 dollar bills.
Coffee and croissant? $7.50. (approx USD $5.40)
Plain white T-shirt? $20. (approx USD $14.42)
Simple burger and fries? (Er, chips?) $23. (approx USD $16.60)
Now, the exchange rate between the US dollar and the Australian dollar is nice because it is 0.75 : 1.00. Yet, it is still very frustrating to spend over $30 on food alone in a given day. To save money, learn how to utilize happy hour food specials. Several restaurants advertise lunch specials as well. I have started to keep a log on my phone of all of the specials that I see.
3. YOU 100% NEED A GOOD SENSE OF HUMOR. You will feel incredibly dumb. You will make embarrassing mistakes and Australians will look at you funny. A few friends and I have completely misused public transportation in failed attempts to see the city and explore the beach. Navigation currently proves to be my largest fault here in Sydney, even while walking. Since Australians use the left side of the driving road, pedestrians even walk on the left side of the street. Their escalators are on the left side as well and they stand on the left side of the escalators. Even simple American phrases such as “jelly” or “to-go” will earn you a confused stare here. Instead, Australians call them “jam” and “takeaway”. There are so many things here that you can only learn by going through them yourself.
And on that note, trying to get used to Sydney is a trying process. But since only a week has passed, I definitely need to show some patience with myself and this city. I am so excited to learn more about this country and will definitely be having some laughs along the way.
Catherine's journey continues every Thursday so stay tuned.