When people think of Sydney, they usually think about the things you see on postcards: surf, the Opera House and a bustling city surrounding the Harbour Bridge. But what is it actually like to study abroad in Sydney?
To find out, we spoke to University of Sydney (USYD) exchange students, Julia Warden and Sofia Manilla. Julia studies business analytics and film at the University of Notre Dame in the United States, while Sofia is from the United Kingdom and is completing her degree in architecture and interdisciplinary studies at University College London.
Read on to hear what they had to say about their time at USYD, including the insights and advice they have for those considering studying abroad.
Julia chose USYD for its global reputation for delivering high-quality teaching. She was drawn also to the cosmopolitan charm of Sydney and the diverse and bustling lifestyle that comes with a large city.
“It also has a high percentage of international students, so I felt I would be able to meet many new, interesting people to relate to as a foreigner,” she shares.
Like Julia, Sofia was enchanted by the idea of living in a big city. Additionally, She wanted to be by the sea and was excited to learn more about the region’s art and culture.
“I am a city girl, but love the beach. I had also heard about Sydney’s Aboriginal rock art and it being located on Gadigal land,” Sofia says. Her interest in learning about Indigenous Australian culture was a big reason she chose to study here.
Here’s what surprised them, what they enjoyed and what they wished they knew before arriving for their study abroad experience in Sydney.
Pictured: Sofia at the University of Sydney campus
For a big city, Sydney is surprisingly liveable
Julia was drawn to the perks of living in a busy city like Sydney, and she was excited by the opportunity to learn from and meet diverse people while embracing new opportunities.
However, while the city has one of the largest populations in Australia, Julia was surprised to find it maintains a relaxed atmosphere and feels easy to navigate.
“Sydney is relatively quiet and spacious in comparison to other major world cities. The public transportation is great! It’s safe, reliable, and relatively inexpensive. Ubers are also easily accessible,” she adds.
Pictured: Julia in front of the Sydney Opera House
Sydney gets cold!
While this city gets plenty of sun and enjoys warm, balmy summers, the weather does vary at different times of the year.
The coldest month here is July, where temperatures usually range between eight and 17 degrees Celsius.
For Sofia, this was cooler than she had expected. “I arrived in winter and definitely underestimated the cold. Definitely pack a coat and an extra pair of jeans,” she advises.
The food is amazing
Of course, one of the best ways to explore a new culture is with food!
“Try many new types of food!” Julia says. “Thai food fans are in good company in Sydney. I think I tried every Thai place in Newtown by the end of the first month.”
Newtown’s King Street, near where Julia lived, is often referred to as ‘Eat Street’ by locals. This is due to the area’s many fantastic restaurants, like Thai Pothong, famous for its delicious dishes, and Gigi’s Pizzeria, known for its hand-stretched dough.
The people are diverse and inclusive
Both Julia and Sofia found the diversity of Sydney a highlight in their time. Sofia has found that making the effort to speak to new people has allowed her to meet some great new friends.
“There is a lot of diversity within the city, and the locals have been welcoming,” she explains. “Sydney has a happy-go-lucky, laid-back spirit embodied by many of the people I have met.”
Sydney is truly a multicultural city, with people from all over the world calling it home. In fact, almost a third of people here were born in a different country! Plus, there are over 208,000 international students in New South Wales, most of whom live right here in Sydney.
“A highlight of my semester was learning from the lives of others around my age who grew up with diverse values and experiences. I was exposed to lots of new ways of thinking and was challenged in understanding how one’s upbringing shapes their worldview,” shares Julia.
The city is also enriched by a lively and inclusive LGBTQIA+ community. The city is brimming with events and spaces celebrating LGBTQIA+ diversity, like the iconic Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. This inclusivity is also reflected in the city’s educational environment, with USYD’s Pride Network creating a supportive environment for LGBTQIA+ students and allies while also actively advocating for understanding and change.
This blend of cultures and inclusiveness makes Sydney a place where everyone can find a community and feel a sense of belonging.
Campus culture is thriving
Getting involved with your university’s campus culture is one of the best ways to expand your network.
This was one of the reasons Julia picked Sydney and USYD for her study abroad experience.
“The University of Sydney was attractive in that it was a large, internationally-recognised university with many opportunities in terms of clubs, events and classes.
For example, the University of Sydney has a thriving social scene and hundreds of student clubs to choose from. This means there are endless opportunities to join a team or learn a new skill, all while making some awesome friends!
Sofia has embraced the endless opportunities on campus, stepping into the role of a social media ambassador for USYD’s study abroad program.
For a glimpse into her and the other ambassadors’ exciting experiences and adventures in Sydney, visit the Sydney Abroad Instagram page.
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It’s a big city with a beach vibe
Sydney is considered one of the world’s most naturally beautiful cities, making it a top choice for those looking for an unbeatable study abroad adventure.
The city’s location makes it easy to travel to the beach and take in the stunning natural surroundings, like the cliffside views from Bondi to Coogee.
“I love nature, and as such, Australia was a no-brainer for me,” says Sofia.
Coming from London, a much larger city, she has noticed that the pace of life here is more relaxed. “The city is more beach and nature, compared to the city vibes and bustle that I’ve experienced before.”