The Land Down Under

Up until about 2 years ago, I swore I would never go to Australia. All I could picture were massive-man eating snakes, spiders the size of frying pans, and the barren lands of the outback that where hotter than even the worst days of  Texas summer. It was quite a surprise then, when I made my list of goal for college and “study abroad in Sydney” was near the top. I’m not even entirely sure what changed. Unlike for most places I want to visit, I can’t pinpoint the exact thing that inspired me to travel to Sydney. While researching study abroad options my junior year, I had a “why not?” moment when I saw the University of Sydney listed on a website. The thing that is so special about Australia is that it is so very different, yet very much the same as America. They speak english (or at least a very weird variation of it), their cities and suburbs look surprisingly like American ones, and the culture in general is very western orientated. Yes, they have the Outback, about 1,000,000 animals that could kill you (aside from kangaroos and koalas of course), and their summers are blisteringly hot. I figure at least I can handle the heat, seeing as we get plenty of that in Texas. As the idea formed, I began researching Australia, more specifically Australia. What once was an idea is now a full-fledged life goal. My friends even tease me about how much I love Australia, despite the fact I have never actually been there. I may be a little carried away (I have an Australia shaped bumper sticker on my car), but there really is a lot to love about this country, and specifically Sydney.

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One of the things I’ve heard said many times is “You’ve never had real coffee until you’ve had Australian coffee.” I didn’t think much of it until I saw this quote on news.com, “Starbucks struggled to compete against the existing strong coffee culture in Australia, with consumers criticising the quality of the Starbucks product compared to independent cafes.”  If Australian coffee is so much better than Starbucks that Australians have nearly put Starbucks out of business in their country, I have to try it. Some of my favorite places to go read or do homework are local coffee shops, thanks to their relaxed and down to earth nature. Buzzfeed had an article recently that listed several local coffee shops in Sydney and other major Australian cities that serve high quality coffee. So now some of my first destinations when I reach Sydney  are Coffee Alchemy, Single Origin Roasters, The Purple Moose. With names like those, the coffee has to be spectacular.

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Another reason is the large amounts of natural areas in and around Sydney. The only major city I have ever lived in is Austin, which has multiple biking/jogging trails and public parks, so I am used to living in a “green city.” Sydney has many options for nature lovers, such as the Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney Harbour National Park, and Waterfron Park. There are also the countless beaches (something Australia is famous for) that are perfect on a scorching summer day. One thing that really caught my attention was the Bondi to Coogee walk, a hiking trail along Sydney’s coastline. What better way to spend a day than hiking with an ocean view?

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Most cities have a major festival that is unique to that city, and Sydney is no different. Vivid Sydney is by far the most stunning festival I have ever seen. For 18 days various buildings, including the iconic Sydney Opera House, are covered in eye-catching light displays. This city is already gorgeous at night, but during Vivid Sydney is literally breathtaking. I actually have several pictures of Vivid Sydney printed out and hung up in my dorm room because they are so brilliant.

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Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia

If I absolutely had to choose what first inspired me to visit Sydney would be the The University of Sydney. Being the wanderer that I am, whether or not study abroad was a no brainer for me. One of the guidelines I had when looking at universities was that they had to have a diverse study abroad program. Originally, I had London and London only on the mind. Slowly, other universities found themselves on the list, such as St. Andrews in Scotland, and University of Sydney in Australia. It is a prestigious school with a solid reputation, but not terribly difficult to get into for international students. The architecture is gorgeously gothic, which is my favorite style (part of the reason I love Virginia Tech so much). The international student housing is actually really neat, and the university does its best to help immerse the international students in Aussie culture. In a city like Sydney, there is plenty to see and experience.  In classic Aussie fashion, they also know how to have a little fun, as evidenced by their rendition of the Game of Thrones theme song to celebrate the final episode of the most recent season, played from the Wentworth Building. That’s pretty freaking awesome (take the hint Burruss).

Main Quad, University of Sydney Credit: Wikipedia

If it were up to me, I would be on the next plane to Sydney, but unfortunately that costs quite a bit. For now I’ll simply dream of the spectacular festivals of light, gothic universities, gorgeous coastal hikes, and delicious coffee. Oh, and Tim Tams, because once you’ve had one  your life will be changed. You may even be desperate enough for a taste to order them off of Amazon.com.au…(guilty).

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