In addition to academics and access to my major requirements, cultural immersion was one of my top priorities when I planned my semester abroad. I did extensive research and decided the best way to meet and become friends with Australian students was to live on campus, even though most Australian students live at home or in off-campus housing. In off-campus student accommodation easily accessible to international students, I probably would have been around very few local students. At College, I am one of two students studying abroad and one of three or four Americans out of about 280 students. I made friends with a lot of freshers during orientation and since then have found some people my age who I study or watch television with a few times a week.
College has also given me a mentor in my intended professional field (medicine), who I’ll meet with at some point this semester to talk about her work. I’ve also been invited to an event hosted by the Sybil Society, made up of College residents in fourth year and above (as a third year in second semester I am closer to fourth year than I am to the beginning of third year, so they’ve sort of adopted me).
The moments I have felt most a part of this community were the night a friend invited me over to eat McDonald’s in her room with her and an evening spent in pajamas eating popcorn and watching the season finale of Riverdale (I’m not a Game of Thrones person, but there was a big group watching that on the same weekend). A team from Women’s participated in the inter-Collegiate dance competition last Thursday. I watched the live stream with a friend in my room and enjoyed every second. Women’s won the competition, which places them well for Palladian Cup, the cultural intercollegiate competition that includes drama, debate, oration, music, and dance.
Last Friday night, I went to The Women’s College formal in Centennial Park. This was a ticketed black tie event and everyone here got extremely excited about it. It was way over-the-top and I had a wonderful time. It was a bit like the formals they have at the Mead or Beneski at Amherst, but with more enthusiasm and a lot more dancing.
I love the neighborhood I live in and I try to walk down King Street, which is full of small shops and restaurants, at least once a week. I think there’s only one café I have been to more than once because there are so many to choose from. My favorite is called Handcraft and they make espresso drinks so quickly it seems impossible. They also make a great hot chocolate. It’s the place I go when my beloved dining hall coffee machine is broken.
Sometimes I see this cat on my way from College to King Street:
I found a rhythm here and made friends much faster than I did at Amherst. I attribute this to the fact that I am older now (maybe I know myself a bit better) and living within a smaller community. I love my room because it has beautiful light during the day and heated floors for when it gets chilly overnight.
Here is my windowsill (I’ve repurposed glass soda bottles as vases):
I love the traditions they have here at Women’s. Every Monday, we wear academic gowns and sit at a formal dinner with a musical interlude and a speaker. Here I am in my gown:
The university libraries are very crowded during the day, so it’s nice to study in one of the non-residential buildings at College. The Sibyl Centre has wonderful natural light and is usually pretty empty:
Weirdest of all, I’ve developed a taste for Vegemite on toast, pictured here in the toast room (a room with a toaster for in between meals).
I’ve made two lovely friends in my physics class at the university. One of them is a British student on exchange from the University of York and the other is a part-time student who works in a pathology lab when she isn’t studying. As at Amherst, the first move I made in my physics class was to attach myself to the (very low in number) other women in the class. They have helped me immensely to understand grades and the way things work here in general. We had dinner together on the night of Easter and I’ve invited them both to have brunch with me at college next weekend.
I know I am going to miss Australia because I still have several weeks left here and I already feel nostalgic walking through the supermarket and drinking coffee on exploratory walks around neighborhoods. Even though it was maybe less adventurous to go to an English-speaking country, it has really allowed me to make local friends, to engage with them, and to see Sydney the way they do.