Moving Down Under – From Decision to Destination

A bit about me and how I decided to study abroad in Sydney, Australia:

Good morning from Sydney! By way of introduction, my name is Edred Opie. I’m a Junior at Amherst majoring in Math and Economics, and an international student from Chippenham, England. You will often see me carrying my tennis racquets around campus as a member of Amherst’s men’s tennis team.

This Fall semester, I’m studying away at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney, Australia, in a program organized by IFSA. I moved into my new home on UNSW’s campus last week. In this post, I will summarize why I wanted to study away, why I chose to study away in Sydney, and my first impressions of Down Under.

Deciding whether to study away came easy for me. After traveling across the pond to study in the U.S. at Amherst, I had already experienced first-hand many of the amazing benefits of studying and living in another country, such as immersing myself in a new culture, becoming accustomed to different teaching styles, and visiting new places. Therefore, I knew after my first year at Amherst that I wanted to study away in my Junior Fall semester. While I was aware that this study away in Sydney would undoubtedly differ from my experience coming to Amherst, I felt that settling into life in the U.S. as a First-year would serve as valuable preparation for my move to Australia this Fall.

During my Sophomore year, I started to consider where I would like to study away. I began scrolling through the long list of exciting options on the Amherst GEO website, but I quickly realized that, with so many options, I should first think about what I would like to get out of my study away experience. I felt grateful that Amherst offers hundreds of amazing locations and programs around the world, but this incredible choice would have been difficult to narrow down had I not stepped back and created some study away goals before researching different options.

I concluded that I would like to study away in Sydney, Australia. One of the primary pull factors for Sydney came from my parents; they moved to the city for work 30 years ago and had a wonderful time living there for a year, making lifelong friendships and memories. Hearing their stories incentivized me to head Down Under. I became excited to see some of the touristy sights I had always dreamed of, such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, yet live like a local and settle into the city’s lifestyle as a university student.

In addition, from a logistical and academic perspective, UNSW seemed the most suitable Australian university I could choose. Dates-wise, UNSW uses a trimester calendar, and its Fall program dates started in early August and ended in December, aligning similarly with Amherst’s Fall semester dates and allowing me to work an internship and get experience for my future career in the summer. [In contrast, most Australian universities operate on a bi-semester system with their Fall semesters starting in July and ending in November.] Furthermore, UNSW’s class choice flexibility would enable me to take a couple of Math classes that would transfer as major credit at Amherst.

While this program wasn’t pre-approved at Amherst, I successfully petitioned it with the GEO Office. Using my above reasoning, I explained why UNSW seemed the perfect study away program which helped the faculty Committee on Global Education to allow me to go there. Amherst’s Global Education Office (GEO) staff helped me with this simple process!

Overall, studying abroad at UNSW Sydney felt like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that would fulfill my academic and personal goals. I felt grateful for the opportunity, and I couldn’t wait to start.


Arriving in Sydney:

Fast forward a few months, and I am now in Sydney! A long journey is unfortunately a must for anyone studying away in Australia! I flew from London, England to Sydney, with a layover at Bangkok Airport. Starting from my British hometown, the journey took over 30 hours overall. Jet lag was somewhat unavoidable, but my excitement to be in Sydney helped energize me throughout the days following my arrival so that the sleep deprivation was manageable.

I am now living on UNSW’s campus in the Eastern suburbs of Sydney. My apartment is surrounded by multistory brutalist concrete architecture which serves as a stark reminder that I am no longer at a small liberal arts college like Amherst but rather an enormous educational institution with over 65,000 students. Living without a dining hall, I must cook all my meals in the kitchen I share with my seven roommates, which promises to be a learning curve after having relied on Valentine Dining Hall to provide my food for the past two years.

As I continue to settle into life Down Under, and gradually become accustomed to the sizeable time change, I am excited to record my findings, thoughts, and experiences on this blog. I am particularly interested in comparing the cultures and university structures in the U.S. and Australia. However, for now, I must stop writing to attend my first lecture in Australia for my Marine Environment class!

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