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Surviving Sydney: A Guide to IFSA-Butler Orientation

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Arriving in Sydney

They say nothing can prepare you for your flight to Sydney and trust me they’re right! Unfortunately I was one of the rare cases that was caught in the bad weather hitting the Northeast when I was making my way to Sydney. After 49 hours of lounging in airports, experiencing flight delays and searching for anyone that could possibly be a fellow IFSA student on my flights, I arrived. Honestly the entire situation could’ve been a lot more stressful, but my IFSA-Butler advisor Fiona was aware of all of our flight delays and reached out to let me know that she was already looking out for me before I had even arrived!

In anticipation of orientation at our home universities and moving in to our given housing units, IFSA-Butler arranged for us to stay in a hostel for a week to help us get to know Sydney and to learn more about the support network that we’d have with IFSA-Butler. Our hostel for orientation, The Sydney Harbour YHA – The Rocks, has by far been one of the coolest things that I’ve seen thus far in Sydney. In addition to the rooftop terrace that has some of the best views across the Sydney Harbour, our hostel was built above archaeological remnants of colonial Sydney and allowed for me to learn about part of Sydney’s past long before classes began. Making it to the hostel itself was a challenge as I figured out how to navigate a foreign culture, and going into the city for the first time on my own was a little stressful since my Facebook page still had all of the posts from my concerned friends at home warning me A) not to die and B) that everything in Australia could kill me. Luckily, my friend Priscilla had already been in Sydney for a few weeks and could show me some of the highlights of the city as well as explain to me the basics like what an OPAL Card is. More importantly though, she introduced me to my first new IFSA-Butler friend, Lauren, and took us to our first Aussie beach.

We made it back to the hostel in time for dinner, and due to my delayed flights, it was my first chance to meet the other IFSA-Butler students. It was also when I first met Fiona, Jess and Christi, our fearless advisors that are going to help us survive over the next few months. Then I met my suitemates and realized that I was in for a fun semester. Overall my first day in Sydney ended with me reuniting with some of my old Lafayette College buddies as well as making some new friends that I happened to have far more in common with than just the fact that we were all studying abroad in Sydney. However, the most unexpected and exciting moment from that night was standing on our hostel’s rooftop terrace and watching a stunning fireworks display go off across Sydney Harbour.

Getting Oriented

Our next morning was spent learning about our new universities, homes, etc. or, as I like to remember it, Survival in Sydney 101. This session with Fiona, Jess and Christi made me both aware of and eased concerns that I didn’t realize I had about studying abroad…. all at the same time. Once I breathed and listened to them describe setting up a phone schedule to talk to our families back home (as well as actually helping us physically set up our new phones), telling us the best places to grocery shop and, importantly, reassuring us that we’d already taken the biggest leap by actually making it here (and that we now had them to help us make it through the rest of our time here). When I called my grandmother that night, I felt little butterflies in my stomach, and, thanks to our orientation, I knew it wasn’t from nerves, but from the excitement of knowing that I had the entire IFSA-Butler family to help me survive in Sydney. (As a sidenote I should note that our orientation packet relayed a very underrated piece of information: how to call U.S. numbers from Sydney.)

We then had the arvo (Aussie slang for afternoon) off to explore and, since we arrived in the dog days of Australian summer, we all went to the beach together. Our beach day was cut a little short when it began to pour, but we learned our first big lesson: always be willing to be spontaneous! This led us to exploring more of the Manly area of Sydney and watching some incredible street performances from three young boys covering everything from Marvin Gaye to Amy Winehouse. Sydney is much more cultured than some people realize and you can find a little bit of everything on each street corner. Our Spectacular Sydney Harbour Dinner Cruise ended our first week of orientation and solidified that we would be creating some incredible memories together.

Move-in and USYD Orientation

On Sunday we moved into our new homes and got to learn a bit about our new neighborhoods before our second week of orientation began, which was put on by my host university. The University of Sydney (USYD) orientation was targeted more towards us learning about what our lives at USYD would be like. But it was just as much fun as our IFSA-Butler orientation due to the popular O-WeekO-Week gave us the chance to see the fun side of student life at USYD including day trips, student clubs and lots of freebies!

As all of our orientation festivities came to an end, Fiona, being the incredible human being that she is, did not forget about us and planned some incredible events that allowed all of us USYD kids to get to see our other IFSA-Butler friends attending other universities in Sydney. The first event we had was the IFSA Welcome Lunch which gave us a chance to taste just how great the food in Sydney can be. The next event allowed us to cross off something most people don’t get to do when they visit Sydney, a show at the famous Sydney Opera House. As a theater minor I think Blanc de Blanc may be one of my favorite shows ever now!

As I wrap up this post and look back at the past two weeks right before I attend my first lecture at USYD as an international student, I think the main thing that I’ve learned thus far is that this is a once in a lifetime experience, and although it may be tempting to stay within my comfort zone, I’ll only be able to truly make the most of this experience when I step outside of it! Thanks to the upcoming schedule that IFSA-Butler has lined up for us, I don’t think I’ll have any trouble with that.