Sara Martin is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2016, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A biological sciences major, she is studying abroad in Sydney this semester through the custom program at the University of California, Davis.
In this week's post, Sara discusses what she already loves about Sydney and gives some advice to future study abroad students.
My first impression of Sydney was that it was some part of California that I had never seen before. My classmates would agree that the vegetation is very similar to the lush terrain found in most of California. With beautiful green grass, various beaches, large diversity of trees, flowers and other plants, I felt right at home… at least at first. Just as my program coordinators promised, the longer you spend in Sydney, the more you will come to find comfort in the similarities and love the differences from home.
Knowing to expect spring-time weather, it didn’t surprise me to see cloudy skies accompanied by a breeze and light showers upon exiting the Sydney airport. What did surprise me, however, is that by the time I got out of the taxi at Urbanest, the skies had already cleared up a bit. The weather so far has been just as unpredictable but I feel like that’s part of Sydney’s charm. Luckily, the temperature doesn’t vary too much during the day… it usually stays around the mid-60ºs to low-80ºs (or 15º-28º Celsius – I need to get used to that!).
I think the most shocking point of interest so far has been the creative style of the buildings. You can’t look in any direction without seeing some interesting design piece - it’s fantastic! My favorite structure so far has been the Central Park Mall (picture below, on the right) mainly because it is covered in plants, but also because the mirror panels at the top are made to angle sunlight towards the roof garden – and at night they move around to redirect lights from the roof to create a beautiful light-show.
It is about a 5-minute walk to the CAPA center from our accommodation at Urbanest and it wasn’t very difficult to find once we got there. The entry was to our immediate left when you enter the TAFE complex, facing a beautiful little courtyard. The entire building had a very prestigious feel to it, with high archways and the red-carpet foyer.
When we walked through the hallway, we were greeted by many of the staff members and a great little snack table. It was definitely a good sign for our first day of the quarter, and for me, it helped make this large structure feel much more comforting. After the first hour of orientation was over, we had a short snack break where the CAPA staff put out delightful treats called “Lamington Fingers” (bottom of the picture below). These heavenly pillows are a coconut-based cake covered in a soft chocolatey goodness and coconut shavings. They are very sweet but that didn’t stop the coconut lovers (myself included) from taking handfuls from the table.
A few tips for any prospective study abroad students: I recommend staying in the apartments. As a shy person, it can be very hard making friends, but simply going out to dinner and shopping with other students in Urbanest has helped create friendships. Not only has it been fun and comforting to enjoy familiar company but it is also amazing being able to walk to campus or any shops you would need. It has been very easy getting to know my classmates. Because everyone is going through the same adjustments, we tend to stick together when figuring things out for the first time.
One thing to consider if you do stay at the apartments is linens. While they do provide a towel and bedding, it does not compare to what you can bring from home. You can also save a good chunk of money if you don’t have to buy toiletries or linens on arrival because they are considerably more expensive than you would find at home.
I am undeniably motivated to work toward gaining new professional skills involved with the Oasis Crisis Centre and writing skills from my courses. However, I am most excited to see how much I will be able to develop for myself over the next few weeks. One of my biggest struggles has been breaking out of my shell and I think that removing all of my comforts from home (old friends/family) will help me shake those old habits.
Sara's journey continues every Thursday so stay tuned.