Establishing the Study Abroad Squad

Sep 1, 2017 1:30:00 PM / by Irene Kanthan


Hanna is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2017, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A Marketing, Finance, and International Business major at the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities, Carlson School of Management, she is studying abroad in Sydney this semester.

In this week's post, Hanna shares about settling in, making friends, and planning Sydney adventures with her study abroad squad.


After finally rolling my suitcase out of the airport, exhausted, and in need of shower and food, I decided that first things first, I need to get some cash at the local currency exchange and buy an Australian SIM card to connect with my group.

CAPAStudyAbroad_Sydney_Fall2017_From Hanna Okhrimchuk - Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge.jpg

To begin right away, some share the following advice:

  • Don’t exchange money at the airport! The rates are worse than the exchange centers in the city.
  • As for the phone, I am using Vodafone, one of the international companies strongly represented in Australia. When I was buying the card, people at the store were very nice and welcoming. They helped me figure out the best plan for an international student. Moreover, they gave me a student discount using my US university ID.

I know that for most travelers one of the biggest questions is transportation…how to get to your hotel, hostel, or a new apartment—especially since airports are usually far from the city. My best advice would be to take a shuttle. Almost all airports have shuttle services that are very easy to use. They are also cheaper and more convenient compared to other options such as taxi or public transportation. However, if you are trying to get around the city, buses are very easy to use in Sydney. Just don’t forget to get an Opal card!

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Now, after almost a week of residing at The Urbanest student accommodation, I am ready and more than eager to share my opinion and experience. The Urbanest is a great brand new apartment building located in a convenient area of Sydney. Being close to parks, local restaurants, and shops, this is a great place for youth to stay. Besides that, The Urbanest is about 4 blocks away from the CAPA center and other UTC campus areas.

The schedule for the first week was filled with fun orientation events, such as a boat tour around the Sydney Opera House area and a scavenger hunt. These activities were a great opportunity for us to find out more about the area we are newly living in and the city in general. One of the adventures we went on during our first week was a street food festival, where one can try all kinds of different international foods. There was one place, called Playfair Cafe, that my friends really enjoyed. Although, the place is known for its burgers, the menu still offers a great variety of delicious lunches and dinners, including vegetarian options (among which there is a beautiful and famous vegetarian burger). In case you are in Sydney and are in need of some comfort food, here's the address for the spot: Shop 21 The Rocks Centre (Playfair Street), The Rocks, NSW, 2000.

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Since I had been accepted into the program I was nervous about my roommates and getting to know people. However, I was surprised at how easy and fast we became “the squad.” The first morning my roommate and I went to grab some coffee. Interestingly, this was her first time drinking cappuccino, and she loved it! We equipped our apartment with a coffee grinder, French press, and milk frother to make our cappuccinos. Now we are enjoying our morning dose of caffeine together like a family. The apartment is full of great people! 

I also remember how we all went to work out together on our second day here (The Urbanest has an amazing gym equipped with all the necessary machines). Later on the same day, one of the roommates decided to make a welcome dinner for our squad. It was so delicious! Since then, we decided to rotate the cooking responsibilities and chef title and organize what we call “family dinners.” I am especially grateful for these dinners as they allow all of us to become closer to each other and give great support and understanding, creating a warm cozy feeling while being away from home. We help each other open up, share our stories, and grow as individuals.

CAPAStudyAbroad_Sydney_Fall2017_From Hanna Okhrimchuk - Squad.jpg

To summarize my thoughts for these past few days, although it feels like we’ve been running nonstop since the first day, we're still positive and excited. Sydney is full of interesting places to go to eat, drink, or just hang out with your friends. I should admit that at first it seemed so easy to get confused and lost in Sydney. However, as travelers say, there is no better way to explore.

Oh, I almost forgot! The squad decided to create a bucket list. We are jotting all our ideas and desires down, then we’ll cut it and put in a jar. Every weekend we will pull out some of those small notes with our crazy ideas and accomplish those as a group of friends. Some of those on the list include having a picnic at the park, having a family breakfast on the rooftop, or going to a beach. I will keep you updated on our crazy adventures and accomplishments.

Thanks Hanna!

Hanna's journey continues every Friday so stay tuned.

Learn More about the CAPA Sydney Program

Topics: Sydney, Australia, Accommodation Abroad, Food in Sydney