In this interview, Samantha Grant, the [previous] Resident Director of CAPA Sydney shares how students can prepare for a fulfilling semester abroad, where the hidden gems and good food places are, and what you can look forward to at CAPA Sydney.
CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about your work with CAPA. How long have you lived in Sydney?
SAMANTHA GRANT: I started with CAPA as Sydney's Resident Director in November 2017, so I have only been with the organization a short while, but already love the people, the culture, and the reasons why the company exists. In my role as Resident Director I oversee internships and student services, as well as having the great pleasure of spending lots of time with the wonderful Sydney staff and our students.
I have lived in Sydney, on and off, for most of my life. I moved here from the country to go to boarding school when I was 14 and besides a few years away for university and the Aussie rite of passage jaunt to London, I'm always drawn back to the city and the people who live here.
CAPA Sydney team meeting with resident pooch Louie.
CW: Can you tell us more about your professional background and what led you to CAPA?
SG: I studied Communications at university and planned on becoming a journalist so I could travel the world and write about all the new places I would see and all the new people I would meet. Through a happy accident I fell into education and realized this, too, was an industry made for those who suffer from the best kind of longing: wanderlust, and decided it was the road I would travel.
I have worked in the outback of Australia, in a tiny village in the north of Scotland, and in the center of London, with a range of students - some of whom were the first in their families to finish school, others who came from far away to study and learn a new language.
What drew me to CAPA and the role of Resident Director was the students. Anyone who is curious and courageous enough to book a ticket to a foreign country and leave the comfortable behind is inspiring and someone we can all learn from. And, that is everyone at CAPA!
CW: Why is study abroad important?
SG: I suppose the name lends some insight into this: abroad. Living a life away from what you know is a broadening of your mind, your thinking, your attitudes, your friendships, your dreams for the future. It makes your world bigger and your life richer.
Travel alone is a great thing, but studying abroad is even more wonderful - those who experience it return to their countries with more than one place they can call home and more people they can call family.
Sydney Harbor on New Year's Eve.
CW: Where do CAPA students live? What is the area like and some of the most interesting places nearby?
SG: The CAPA students live together at a student residence called Urbanest, which houses not only CAPA students, but other international and domestic university students too, so it offers an opportunity to meet friends outside the program. Our students live mostly in shared flats within Urbanest and the facilities are fantastic! There is a gym, a lounge to chill out and watch TV and a bbq area for the nights students feel like cooking outside.
Urbanest is right in the center of Sydney's university precinct - three of the city's major universities are within 700 metres of the residence and suburbs like Newtown, Redfern and Surry Hills border it. These suburbs are vibrant, eclectic and diverse and are centered around appealing to the tertiary student. There are quirky markets on most corners, funky cafes with bearded baristas, public lectures, cobbled lanes to get lost in and restaurants run by the most colorful of characters. You can walk to the beat of your own drum here and if you're not quite sure of your beat, just wander along King Street in Newtown and you'll find one that sounds pretty good.
CW: Tell us about the food in Sydney. What are the specialties in the area? If you were going out with friends, which restaurant would you choose and why?
SG: Sydneysiders take their eating very seriously - the foodie scene in the city is huge and new restaurants pop up every week. The fresh food culture in Sydney is a testament to our outdoor lifestyle and focus on community. Most restaurants will pride themselves on sourcing produce locally and knowing the famers and faces behind the meat and vegetables.
It is tricky to pinpoint a specific specialty as many suburbs have their own flavor (for example: Chinatown just by the CAPA Center has incredible ramen), but I love dinner with a view so when I go out with friends we will usually book a table somewhere in Bondi or Manly overlooking the water and head somewhere we know serves seafood caught from the ocean that day and pasta which has been kneaded in the kitchen, not a factory (North Bondi Fish or Papi Chulo are good sand side places to start).
CW: Where's your favorite place to shop for food?
SG: I'm not great at food shopping; I tend to eat out a lot because if you find the right spots and nights to go, meals can be cheaper at restaurants than picking up groceries. For example: The Forresters has $10 steak night every Monday, El Camino has $2 tacos all day on Tuesdays, Johnny Wong's serves $1 dumplings on Wednesdays and The Beach Road Hotel in Bondi has a $12 deal on schnittys every Thursday.
Food courts always have end of the day deals too, so quite often I'll pick up sushi rolls for a dollar dinner.
CAPA Sydney team lunch.
CW: CAPA is well known for its My Global City activities that take students beyond classroom learning and into the city to explore. What can students look forward to in Sydney?
SG: So many things! Here are some of our most recent excursions:
- The Observatory
- Sydney Opera House
- War Memorial
- NSW State Library
- Art Gallery of NSW
- The Royal Mint
- Manly Quarantine Station
- Museum of Contemporary Art
CW: Where's your favorite hidden gem in Sydney and what is special about it?
SG: Dangar Island in the Hawkesbury river, just north of Sydney is magic. It is accessible only by boat and spending time there feels like visiting another time. Locals use wheelbarrows to cart their goods from the shop on the island to their beach shacks and the only form of public transport is walking.
There is one general store, a bowling club if you fancy an afternoon of barefoot bowls and a book exchange at the ferry wharf so you can pick up a novel when you dock. Close enough for a day trip, but well worth a night or two if you feel like shaking the city out of your hair.
CW: As Resident Director for CAPA's Sydney program, how can students best prepare for their semester abroad?
SG: Setting aside the importance of being on top of all the pre-departure information (which really is vital as knowing what is ahead in terms of schedule, housing and programming will make the transition a little more familiar and structured when the new world around you may feel strange), I think exploring before you arrive is key.
While students won't be able to explore with their feet on the ground, they can explore through books, online, through friends and family who have travelled to Australia and even through watching local film and television shows. Arriving with some context of customs, some understanding of the country and its people and the mood of the nation will go a long way to feeling at home. Knowledge is power and landing in Sydney knowing the difference between a mozzie and a cozzie (along with the rest of the Aussie lingo) is a wonderful gift you can give yourself.
Feeling inspired to study abroad? Click below to book a call with an admissions advisor and talk about your study abroad options!