Conversations on Studying Abroad

A Semester in Sydney - Expectations vs. Reality

Dec 23, 2019 10:45:00 AM / by Minh Ta

Expectations vs. Reality - what's the scoop on life in Sydney? Minh tells all after spending an entire semester studying and interning abroad. Read on to see how you can prepare for your time in this diverse city and make the most out of it! 

Hi everyone! As you might not know, my semester in Sydney with CAPA ended earlier this week and I have been back in Vietnam since. I’ll share my Sydney semester’s expectations vs. reality. Let’s hop in!

Peaceful Afternoon in SydneyPeaceful Afternoon in Sydney.

G’day Mate, Or Is It?

Prior to being in Sydney, Australia was that country in my head where everyone spoke in a thick Aussie accent that I doubt that I could understand. Yeah, I googled Aussie slang and accents and tried to listen to Aussies talking on YouTube to see if I could understand them or not. I am pretty well-equipped with slang like 'thongs' or 'brekkie' to try my best not to miss a beat. I bet you would do the same thing if you’re heading to an entirely new country for your next semester.

Cabramatta, the Home of the Sydneysider Vietnamese AustraliansCabramatta, the home of the Sydneysider Vietnamese Australians.

It turns out that Sydney is way more diverse than I thought it would be. In fact, I think it is even the most diverse city that I have ever been to, more than some major cities I've visited in the States. One of the reasons for this observation comes from the location of our accommodation. We stayed in the middle of Chinatown Sydney which is a few minutes away from downtown Sydney. Probably the first few people I usually see after I exit the accommodation are of Asian heritage. Downtown Sydney is a popular tourist area so there are a lot of people from different origins hanging out there too. Apart from these closer neighborhoods, if you have about an hour to travel, you can get to other cultural neighborhoods in Sydney too. I have a blog post on this topic so make sure to check that out here. In short, there are neighborhoods of the Vietnamese, Korean, Italian, Spanish, and Sri Lankan culture, just to name a few.

Not Meeting the Deadlines? You’re Fired!?

This reality varies from one to the other, but here is what I experienced. Expectation: work culture in Australia is very similar to that of the States. Reality: entirely different. In American workplaces, people are expected to finish deadlines as discussed with the expected high-quality work. Since work is deadline-driven, everyone seems stressed out and exhausted.

Sydney Opera HouseSydney Opera House.

While Americans are typically strict when it comes to the workplace, Aussies are pretty relaxed in this setting. In the company I interned in, everyone is not so strict about deadlines as long as the job is finished with decent quality. My boss often told me that I can take more time on the project if I need to. Personally, I did not, but it shows the relaxed work culture Aussies share. And yes, I think having more than 100 beaches contribute to this relaxed culture as well.

The Snake in the Toilet

Having fun with KangaroosHaving fun with Kangaroos.

You might have heard the story of a snake in the toilet more than once. Australia is often associated with dangerous and exotic animals that could harm you at any moment. Even though the exotic animal part is somewhat true, they are not everywhere and they are not that ‘wicked’. In fact, I have seen more cute animals like red pandas, koalas, and kangaroos more often than the deadlier snakes and spiders.

Unexpected Fun

Apart from where I have been proven wrong above, there are many other unforeseeable and enjoyable experiences I have had in Sydney. One of them is the awesome CAPA student group who shared the fun with me. If any of you are reading this, Sydney was a memorable experience by itself and it was far better with you guys’ company. Thanks for being a part of my college life.

Talking about unexpected fun, I have to mention CAPA’s awesome events. These include the Taronga Zoo sleepover, the Blue Mountain excursion, the Bridge view sightseeing, and other ice-breaker events. Thanks for making our trip away from home more memorable.

Alright, this marks the end of my journey in Sydney. I hope you guys have had as much fun as I did. I’ll see ya guys later!

See ya Straylia, I’ll be back soon!See ya Straylia! I’ll be back soon!

Thanks, Minh!

Minh Ta


Minh Ta is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2019, sharing his story in frequent posts on CAPA World. A Computer Science and Applied Math major at Augustana College, he is studying abroad in Sydney this semester.

See more of Minh's journey in Sydney.

New Call-to-action

Topics: Sydney, Australia, Predeparture & Study Abroad Preparations