Matthew Benczkowski was an official CEA CAPA blogger for fall 2016, sharing his story in weekly posts on our blog. A molecular biology major at the University of Pittsburgh, he studied abroad in Sydney.
In this week's post, Matthew talks about eating and cooking on a budget, and free activities around Sydney.
“The best things about Sydney are free: the sunshine’s free, and the harbour’s free, and the beach is free.” – Russell Crowe
When I’m not studying or doing homework, I constantly want to explore Sydney. I want to jam as much as I can do in the little time I have here and make it as cheap as possible. But Sydney is expensive, so even those traveling here really have to have a budget. There is plenty to do for free and learning to live on a budget can be easily adapted.
Because I live in an apartment, cooking meals daily is a necessity. Going out to eat for one person usually ranges between $15 and $40, but if you try spending that on every meal, you'll drain your bank account dry! Cooking here is quite simple. One thing I noticed since I have been here is that healthy foods are much cheaper than snack foods. There are three grocery stores nearby that are all very cheap, which are Woolworth’s, Aldi, and Cole’s. Each one has a different variety of products and prices. I usually spend about $20 each time I take a trip to the stores. Typically, you can get chicken, cereal, milk, eggs, bread, juice, produce and pasta for under $20! If you are feeling lazy, like I often do, Aldi has three frozen pizzas for only $6, and Cole’s has six made to order chicken wings for $2.50.
Photo: I promise I eat healthier than the receipt shows!
For other household essentials such as toilet paper, paper towels, laundry detergent, etc., there is a store nearby called The Reject Shop, where every product is heavily discounted. For example, 24 rolls of toilet paper for only $6, or four bars of soap for $2. Getting around living in the fifth most expensive place is definitely possible, you just have to look around. Small, inexpensive trips to the store prove to be better, especially because the mall is a 3-minute walk from my apartment. You are not buying mass quantities, and you will be more apt to use what you already have and not let it spoil!
I am not discouraging eating out, but because the minimum wage here is so high ($18.29 AU) everything costs more. Even a meal at McDonald’s can cost as much as $15 per person! One of my favorite places to eat here is Nando’s, which is known for spicy and grilled chicken. If you get a couple of friends to go with you, you can get a whole chicken and a large side for under $25.
As I have mentioned in other blog posts, the coffee culture is huge here, but the coffees themselves are quite small. I never really drank coffee much before coming here, but now I drink it almost every day. My favorite little café is right across from the school building and is called Space Monkey Café. For the size you get, it is the best price I have found. You can get an extra large coffee (about equivalent to an American large) for $4.50. Other cafes I have gone to only have one size (six ounces) for $4.
As mentioned, the best things in Sydney are free: the harbor, beaches, and the sun, and it is hard not to want to go explore. There are commercialized beaches like Bondi, but there is a whole coast filled with hidden and secluded beaches as well. Lay down your towel, put on your sunscreen, and enjoy! If beach-going isn’t for you, there are also many trails to hike, whether from Coogee to Bondi, or from Bundeena through the Royal National Park to Wattamolla. The views anywhere you go are breathtaking. If hiking isn’t for you, there are still plenty of other things to do. You can go whale watching from Magic Point or Manly beach, go shopping in the Queen Victoria Building, explore the Powerhouse Museum (or any other museum located within a mile of CEA CAPA), take a stroll through the Opera House Botanical Gardens, or watch the sunset from Darling Harbour.
This view from the Coastal Walk in Royal National Park is priceless. Nothing compares to something being free, but making a lasting impression on you. In fact, those are the best memories to have.
Photo: My suitemates and I enjoying the free treasures in life: the ocean, the sun, the sand, and cliff jumping!
So as I mentioned in my last post, getting lost and following your senses can lead you to some amazing places. Nature is free, so enjoy it. Make the most of your time abroad and you’ll have no worries!
Until next time,
Matthew's journey continues every Tuesday so stay tuned.