My first week down under has been a whirlwind! After saying goodbye to everyone in the States I left for the airport with everything I would need for three months abroad – clothes, toiletries, electronics, reading material, and also 15 pounds of fly ash for research. Luckily, after nearly 24 hours of travel I arrived safely in Sydney with no quarantine issues. I attempted to stay awake for as long as possible to fight the jet lag. I met up with Greg, another student in the East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes (NSF EAPSI) program, at the hostel. Our rooms are old railway cars!
We then shopped for a cellphone and opened our Australian bank accounts. The money here is plastic making it highly durable as was demonstrated when the guy at the airport help desk had me attempt to rip it. I find using their coins quite confusing because smaller coins have a higher value which seems quite backwards to logic. Afterwards, Greg and I rode the train to the CBD (central business district) to catch the ferry to Manly Beach. I finally felt like I was in Sydney after riding through the breathtaking harbour. It was surreal to see the iconic structures (the bridge and opera house) in person after seeing pictures of them my entire life. The sunset lighting was just right so we took pictures galore.
Sydney is a very beautiful city – it certainly lives up to the hype. It sort of reminds me of a sunny San Francisco (similar demographics and geographic location with a famous bridge). The dramatic coastline surrounding the harbour is also impressive, but I will talk more about this later. After taking the ferry back to the city, we walked around The Rocks which was the first European settlement in Australia and now contains many eclectic pubs and restaurants. Then we headed back through Town Square (Sydney’s equivalent to Times Square), before hitting the sack early after a long few days of traveling. Sydney has a cool, laid-back vibe and its diversity truly makes it a cosmopolitan destination. The Australian people I have met so far are very open and kind. The quality of life is high but it comes at a price, literally. Food, entertainment, and accommodation are sometimes outrageously expensive! I would say that this is the only culture shock I have experienced thus far. Nevertheless, I certainly can see myself living here which makes me very excited for this adventure in Oz to begin!