Martyn opens up about his study abroad and cultural experience in Sydney in this conversation with Laurence Braude, Program Coordinator at CAPA Sydney. He also reflects on what it's like to adapt to living on the other side of the world, the insights and differences between the East Coast and Sydney, and how Sydney exemplifies friendliness and openness.
For this week’s blog post I had a conversation with Laurence Braude who is a Program Coordinator here at CAPA Sydney. I’ve transcribed most of our conversation (for everyone’s sake, I tried to remove all of the “likes” that I say), and it’s definitely a bit of a read so strap in! We touch on a few topics from adjusting to a new culture to the difference between the U.S and Sydney. I hope you enjoy reading this conversation as much as I did actually having it. Without further delay, let's jump in!
Laurence Braude: Hi Martyn, how are you?
Martyn Megaloudis: I’m doing well. How are you?
LB: I’m good. So, why did you choose to study abroad?
MM: With all the international classes I had to take, I figured why not take them in an international setting. And since I've never traveled before, because of time and money, I figured if I could take a loan out and study in Sydney, why not.
LB: Fantastic, yeah. What’s been your favorite thing here so far?
MM: I think, like I said, I've never traveled so just being able to experience a new culture.
The atmosphere at Manly Beach is definitely better than East Coast weather.
LB: How has your opinion changed since before you got here?
MM: I actually didn’t look at anything before I came here. I looked at skateboarding videos to see what the city looked like, and I looked at comedy videos to get a sense of the culture, but other than that I had no baseline of what it’s like. So how do you feel most people—student-wise—adjust?
LB: How people adjust—I think it depends, like you’ve said, on experience and travel. We’ve found that people who have traveled a lot more or have studied abroad before find themselves in a bit more familiar position and are a bit more familiar with what they're like when they travel on their own, whether there’s a language barrier, which there isn’t. But they tend to navigate themselves quite easily whereas students who haven’t done much traveling have to ask more questions and use more resources like the internet.
We also find that students from more Western schools or down South as opposed to schools on the East Coast or West Coast, they have different experiences concerning whether there’s conservative environments vs. progressive environments.
MM: Do you think it’s because Sydney is more like the East Coast? Have you ever been stateside?
LB: Yeah, I lived in Boston for four years.
MM: Nice. Were you born in Australia and then moved to Boston?
LB: Yeah, I only went there for my undergraduate degree. I think we find that because Sydney is such a progressive city—there’s a very strong LGBTQ community, it’s by the beach, and there’s a lot of wellness awareness—it’s quite a healthy town. So you tend to find those from the West and East coast to be a little more in tuned with what’s going on in Sydney so it’s a little easier.
MM: Yeah, I spent a lot of my childhood in and around New York City, so like the transition hasn’t been that bad for me because I’m used to that huge city feel. But I’ve been to Boston a few times and was just wondering how you feel Sydney compares to Boston other than Boston’s weather, which is just... (I'm trailing off here but we all know the only thing that can be said about Boston weather).
LB: Besides the weather—I would say Sydney has more of an international presence. I would say it’s almost harder to find an Australian in Sydney as opposed to someone’s who's here on a work visa, or studying, or traveling tourists. It tends to be populated with people from all over.
I remember in Boston you would just hear American accents everywhere which is somewhat normal there. But here you could walk down the street and not know what accent that is—that’ll be from elsewhere where it’s a bit all over the shop. I think it's a bit of a melting pot.
MM: I personally feel like Sydney has a distinct feel in terms of people. I feel like people are way friendlier than what I’m used to with the people back home. I can’t tell if it’s just because I’m studying abroad so I feel it’s that way or if it’s just because Pittsburgh is an unfriendly place to live. But since you lived in Boston which has like a colder reputation in a sense.
LB: For sure it’s not a friendly town.
MM: Would you say that Sydney is more approachable—especially in a study abroad capacity?
Sydney's diverse culture also brings a variety of delicious food options.
LB: I definitely think so. A lot of businesses and communities center on accommodating outsiders. It’s that kind of place where there's so much traffic coming from outside the city, so people are open to giving directions and maybe the servers at restaurants aren't great but people tend to be pretty friendly.
But sometimes as an American you may think an Australian is being rude when that’s just how Australians communicate. We have a monotone and pretty straightforward way of speaking which some Americans aren’t used to.
MM: I feel like Americans—I want to say Americans are less friendly but more outgoing in a sense—we just like being loud from experience living back home and here.
LB: Yeah, I would almost say that Americans are just much better at small talk than an Aussie. I found that I could talk to people on trains in the States. Here you don’t really talk to people on the train or around town. But then again I was kind of the outsider so I was more open to it. Has it been easy for you to come from a place like New York to Sydney? Has it been an easy transition?
MM: It kind of freaked me out a little bit at how not culture shocked I was. Not trying to sound like I was "Oooh, I wasn’t" or whatever, because there was a feeling of disjointedness. But I feel like because I don’t travel at all, I was expecting it to be a totally different experience in every regard. I was expecting I wasn’t going to know how the money worked or how to get on a train, but when you think about it those are really just common human things—it’s not that hard to figure out. But I was expecting this full-on all enveloping, everything's new. Really, there are little differences and modulations and those are the things that you get caught on.
LB: I get that. I think as well as you move into deeper adulthood, you find less things that will shock you such as traveling overseas and people’s behavior in general. I think you’ll find that people’s nationalities are not drastically different and there are definite tendencies, but living in another city isn't as horrific as it might sound. But I think that’s part of why you’re doing this as well you’ll get that experience—of not quite a numbing effect but you’ll have more confidence of exploring different scenes and environments—and that’s where you’ll feel more comfortable as you’ll find like “Oh, I can go to Sydney and not feel overwhelmed.”
And I bet you if I go to Florence I might get a little overwhelmed because of the language, but I can handle myself.
MM: I think language is definitely a big thing. It was big for me when I chose Sydney too. I am terrible at language. Even that phrase you guys say—“What’s On?”—every time that’s said to me it takes me a few seconds to register what? Every time my internship supervisor says that to me, I’m like...my computer, phone... I got nothing. The language here has been interesting. The vernacular and the slang are just really interesting to hear.
All of this talk about finally having appliances and this is how I choose to live.
LB: And as far as Urbanest living—is it kind of what you wanted or expected?
MM: Yeah, um, I’ve been on campus in Pittsburgh for the past two years so I haven’t had a kitchen, so it’s funny I had to leave the country to get basic appliances where I live like my own shower.
LB: It’s pretty good, right?
MM: Oh yeah. I’m on the up here. I’m a little worried when I go back I’m going to need to be grubbing for meals.
LB: Yeah, that’s interesting.
MM: I do like living with the guys and other people. I feel like if I was in a homestay I wouldn’t do as well adjusting—
LB: It’s a bit tougher.
MM: It’s also just nice to hear people alive in your room. There was a week where I was only the person in the apartment for one or two days and there was a point where I just had to open a window to hear other people being alive. It gets a little numbing especially when you’re alone alone in a different country.
LB: I understand that. Have you been able to meet Australians with your friends or on your own?
MM: I’ve bumped into one or two Australians—like I have one or two people’s numbers or Snapchat, but there’s no hard connections yet other than someone like my internship supervisor.
LB: Right, right. What do you think CAPA could do to enhance your experience—if you had to come up with an idea of something helpful or interesting to see?
MM: I feel like you guys do a really good job that’s the thing, even if it’s not like the sponsored events—it’s the Monday Memos and the second email...I forgot what they're called?
LB: The newsletter.
MM: Yeah, the newsletter. OK, so feeling bored to me while studying abroad is a really weird feeling because I feel like I should go out and do something, but at the same you’re just like “I’m bored and I can’t think of anything I want to do.” Those newsletters and memos—I feel like CAPA does a really good job of helping even if you guys are not involved or directly involved.
Exploring Collins Beach.
LB: Yeah, so have you gone and explored some of those locations, food options, and sports?
MM: Yeah, the food options, the gardens I go to a lot just because they're nice to see. I went to a beach off of Bondi—with penguins?
LB: Collins Beach?
MM: Yeah. You guys provide a good amount of opportunities to explore the city.
LB: That’s good, yeah, because even if one or two people are getting use out of that then we’re doing something to help you guys out with ideas.
MM: Yes. Well, thank you so much for speaking to me.
LB: Yeah, of course, no problem!
Thanks Martyn and Laurence!
Martyn Megaloudis is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2018, sharing his story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A Marketing major at the University of Pittsburgh, he is studying abroad in Sydney this semester.
Martyn's journey continues every Wednesday so stay tuned.