A year ago I embarked on the journey of a lifetime to Sydney, Australia. A place I had never been, with people I had never met, at an unbelievably large university. I didn’t exactly know what to expect from the city, my new roommates, or my new school. This was the epitome of being out of my comfort zone. As I settled in with my new friends in such an exciting city it began to hit me – how was I going to be able to explore this amazing country and be a full-time student athlete?
Whoa- Schedule Overload!
I realized soon enough that time management was going to be a large part of my semester if I wanted to explore, do my schoolwork, and stay fit. I heard that the schoolwork would be easier than Hamilton, and it was, but needed some dedication to complete assignments. I am also on the varsity women’s lacrosse team at Hamilton, so I knew I would also need some time in my schedule to train. Organization has always helped me in the past, so I bought a planner and sat down with my friends to organize trips around the country and city for the semester. I knew I wanted to really know the ins and outs of Sydney overall, so making time for that was very important to me. I was able to prioritize my travel at the beginning of the semester after learning that there would only be a midterm and a final for three of four classes while the last had periodic assignments that were all due at the end of the semester.
From Small to Huge, an Academic Transition
The transition from Hamilton College to the University of Sydney was definitely a big one. I am used to a small liberal arts school where my professors know who I am, there are daily homework and participation is required. In Sydney I got the complete opposite and found myself in lecture halls with 300 other students. At first, I slacked off and did not go to class because there was so much exploring to do, but it began to creep up on me as the midterms approached. I unfortunately had to make up some groundwork for my papers due in midterms. I was then able to shift my schedule around, so I went to class when it was held and explored at other times of day. Luckily, I overcame the internal obstacle of low motivation when I realized there was a more time efficient way to tackle it. The support I had from the IFSA staff was key in that they gave great advice on how important it was to plan and take advantage of everything around us. The best piece of advice I received from my program director was to prioritize things based on what needed to be done balanced out by all of the things I wanted to do. I just had to remember that there actually had to be studying in order for the semester to count as ‘study abroad.’
Being a Student Athlete Abroad
There are a lot of stigmas about how impossible it is to be a student athlete abroad, but I found it very doable once I got into a time friendly routine. I was sure to incorporate some form of cardio and weightlifting three times a week as soon as I woke up in the morning to be most productive and get it out of the way. It was important to remain flexible and incorporate other workouts in like pilates and yoga classes as well as runs by the water on the harbor or hikes instead of the treadmill in the gym. I motivated myself by working hard during the week and giving myself weekends off to make any travel or big adventure days even easier. While it was a bummer I did not play lacrosse abroad since it is fairly uncommon, staying in shape made coming back to school and into season that much easier. I had to think of these workouts as not optional since if I were on campus they would be expected. Once I got into my routine I was good to go and still had lots of free time by being flexible and open minded.
Wanting to explore every aspect of Sydney looks at first to be a daunting task. I discovered that if I truly wanted to see all of the nooks and crannies Sydney had to offer, I had to break it all up. Weekends were obviously big adventure times, but my friends and I created a schedule of all the neighborhoods and beaches we wanted to hit before we left. My teammate had been abroad in Sydney a year prior and sent me a long list of cool neighborhoods and sights around Sydney that she had found exploring. My friends and I also did a lot of research online about cool restaurants and coffee shops we could stop by as well as incorporating things like workouts into our adventures. Our goal was to hit one destination every week which we successfully did, and then still had time left over to relax! Schedules and lists are a great way to be not only organized but to manage time as well. I cannot stress the importance of time management as it allows you to see what you want to see abroad, get what you need done, and of course traveling and spending time with all of the great friends you make along the way!
Being abroad in Sydney taught me so many things, but the most important would be time management. It is easy to be lazy or fall into lazy patterns- but study abroad is not the time! My roommates and I were lucky enough to recognize these patterns early on and kick them into gear for more adventures! Now especially that I am a senior involved in multiple extracurriculars, classes, and writing a thesis, these time management skills have truly come in handy and made an impact in my life. Keeping tabs on time allows you to not only enjoy your abroad experience fully but to also keep you grounded and allow time to reflect on how lucky you are to be doing such great things.
Gabby O’Brien is a Sociology Major at Hamilton College and studied abroad with IFSA at University of Sydney in Sydney, Australia in the Fall of 2017.