Sydney is arguably Australia’s most well-known city thanks to famous landmarks like the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, as well as its incredible beaches. But, despite its reputation, sometimes it takes an insider’s knowledge to know exactly where to go.

Shyann Kumar, a medical student at the University of Sydney, has been lucky enough to experience living in the city firsthand. In January last year, Shyann made the move to Sydney to pursue studies in medicine and has taken up residence right next to the city centre at Urbanest Darling Square.

She told us about her experience of living in Sydney and discovering everything the city has to offer.

Exploring your new home

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When asked about her top piece of advice for newcomers to Sydney, Shyann laughs and says, “Get a map, because it can be hard to get around at times.”

Once your map is in hand, Shyann advises touring the city as much as possible: “Embrace things that are out of your comfort zone. Go exploring when you first arrive so you can get to know your new home from the very beginning, and make the most of your new surroundings.”

When Shyann moved into managed student accommodation at Urbanest, she was given the job of Resident Assistant – someone to provide guidance and support for other students living in the accommodation – and in August last year, she took on a role as Events Coordinator.

Shyann is now in charge of organising various activities for students living in the accommodation – the majority of which are international students. These events can be anything from a yoga class or themed dinner night (pizza on the rooftop), to a trip to the Maritime Museum or Powerhouse Museum. The Star Wars exhibition is next on their agenda.

Occasionally, the seven Urbanest properties across Sydney will team up for a larger social gathering, like a paintball day. “It’s a good way to get the residents who live here together. I consult with all the international students about what they’d like to do and the places they want to go when I’m putting the event plan together.”

Eating and drinking in Sydney

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With coffee being such a staple in Sydney, obviously there are several fantastic spots to get it across the city. Shyann has a few favourites around Sydney’s inner suburbs. “Some of my favourite places to get coffee in Sydney are Edition Coffee Roasters in Haymarket, Handcraft Specialty Coffee in Newtown and Brickfields in Chippendale.”

She also says it’s worth poking your head into those hole-in-the-wall cafes that are often missed in the rush of your morning commute. “There’s an element of surprise in Sydney. You find nice things where you wouldn’t expect them.”

With an insane university workload, she doesn’t always find the time to relax on the weekend, but when she does, it’s dinner with friends that fill her evenings. Italian restaurant Fratelli Fresh is one go-to for Shyann, but she also recommends Newtown Thai as a cheap and delicious option: “Sydney has really great Thai food.”

Getting out and about

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Shyann says there’s no better way to start her day than walking from her home in Darling Harbour to her university campus or Broadway shopping centre.

“Despite being a crowded city, Sydney is quite open,” she says. “One of my favourite things to do is walk around, and it only takes me about 25 minutes to get into the city. It’s a really good area. I wanted to live somewhere a little bit away from the university so my whole life wasn’t in one place.”

To escape from the city, Shyann likes to take short trips out of Sydney to embrace its natural surroundings.

“I love going on the Urbanest trips to the Blue Mountains. As soon as you step off the train, a cool breeze hits you and you feel invigorated,” she says. “I’ve been a few times already in the summer and winter – both are beautiful times of the year to go.”

She’s also a fan of Sydney’s famous coastal walks. There are plenty of different paths to choose from, but some of the most popular include the Bondi to Coogee Walk, the Cahill walk (through the Royal Botanic Gardens and Milsons Point to Circular Quay and Sydney Harbour Bridge) and the Spit Bridge to Manly walk.

But Shyann says the best part of her Sydney experience has been the friends she’s made through university and Urbanest. “There’s no limit to my support group here,” she says. “And this is exactly what you want when you’re miles away from home.”