Emilie Van Lierde, a graduate management student from Grenoble EM, shares with us her experience at the University of Sydney.
For my last semester of studies, I wanted to live an experience I would remember for my whole life. I had never traveled much before and this was the opportunity to go somewhere far, far away from home. That’s why I applied for an exchange semester at the prestigious Sydney University Business School. Now that I’ve been in Sydney for three months, it’s time for me to give you the hottest tips if you’re planning on coming to this wonderful place (needless to say that you should!).
First, let’s talk about what happens before leaving France. The partnership between Grenoble Ecole de Management and the University of Sydney (better known as ‘Sydney uni’) makes it super easy for students. Once you’re accepted, Sydney uni’s lovely advisor Kate Boyle will provide you with all the information you need to get your VISA, plan your trip, subscribe to the Australian health cover (compulsory), apply for an accommodation on campus, choose your classes at the Business School and so on. To plan your trip my advice would be to take your plane tickets as soon as you can; usually the return trip costs between $1000 and $1200 with Qantas or Cathay Pacific, which probably offer the best value for money at the moment (in case you want to compare flights you can use Skyscanner). Once you’ve landed in Kingsford Smith airport, it’s really convenient to go to the city (only 15mn by train) and from then on, things start getting serious.
The first thing that you should be prepared for is that Sydney is expensive. You’ve probably heard that before, but you don’t really realize it until you’re there. And even with a beneficial conversion rate between Euro and AUD (1e=1.25AUD at the moment), when you have to pay a rent of $200 PER WEEK (cheap for Sydney), and that a scooner of beer (0.4L) cost between $4 and $10 you need to find a job or to come with some serious savings. Food is quite expensive as well in Coles or Woolworth (the two major supermarkets), but you can find cheap veggies and fruits in the well-known Paddy’s market. The good news is that casual jobs are quite easy to find (up to 20 hours a week with a student visa), and the pay is good. For instance I work in a telecom company and earn $15/h after taxes. To find a job or an accomodation, the easiest way is to browse the website ‘gumtree’ on which you can find absolutely anything: a job, an accomodation, a vacuum cleaner, a partner… Anything. It takes some time, though, because a lot of ads are just not worth giving a call; but you should find a place to live in within 15 days. It’s almost impossible to find a single room in a shared house in walking distance from Sydney uni under $200pw; so if you’re on a budget you will probably have to share your room. Because rents are so expensive, roomsharing (at least housesharing) is very common. Otherwise you can try and apply for an accomodation on-campus as soon as you’re accepted at Sydney uni but they’re not that cheap, and sometimes a bit dodgy. In general, living in Sydney involves getting used to Australian cockroaches: pretty much harmless, but permanent uninvited guests of Sydney houses.
Now that you’re settled and ready to face Australian wild life (joke), let me explain you how AWESOME Australia is. First, Sydney uni has the most beautiful campus. It’s huge, it looks like Hogwarts (yes I know that because I’ve already been there. Haven’t you?) and it has everything you need (cafeteria, coffeeshops, bars, shops, gym and even classrooms and libraries). Even if you won’t spend a lot of time there, it’s always good to study in such a beautiful place. Education here is rather different of what we’re used to in France, but if you already studied in an anglo-saxon country no worries it’s pretty much the same. Here you have very few in-class hours but you have to prepare lectures and tutorials before coming to class. And don’t underestimate the time of preparation; you usually need to read one chapter of a textbook or/and one or two articles and a case to be ready to discuss it in class. Careful when you have a job and you’re a full time student as well, it starts to be a bit tricky.
Once you managed your schedule, you can start enjoying your time in Australia. Don’t forget that here everything is the other way around; North is hotter, July is winter, December is summer, and New Year’s Eve in your swimmers ! The weather in Sydney is generally very nice, apart from a few unpredictable showers of rain from time to time. Today is 9 May and we’re having a wonderful blue sky with 20-23 degrees, and at night it started getting cooler a few weeks ago only. Even in winter temperature rarely falls under 10 degrees so don’t expect to see any snow in Sydney. However summer can be very hot (up to 35 degrees in January). All in all, you will have the best conditions to discover the different areas of the city, from hip Newton to lovely Glebe (tasty and cheap Thai food in both suburbs). Hang out in Surry Hills and have a coffee and meat pie at Bourke Street bakery, and if you’re still hungry after that, have a slice of banana bread (you can find that anywhere). Do the walk on the coast from Bondi to Cogee and in Manly, go to Taronga zoo (by ferry), to the Opera house, to the aquarium, to the Museum of Contemporary Art, the national gallery of New South Wales, the Australian Museum and the White Rabbit gallery (my favorite, contemporary Chinese art). Have a walk in the magnificent Botanic Gardens and use the free BBQ in the parks to throw as many ‘barbies’ as you can (kangaroo meat on barbecue is a must-have).
Now time to get out of the city! The best way to travel in Australia is to take the plane (cheap tickets with Tiger Airways or Jetstar) or rent a campervan (which is quite expensive, but you can find good deals with Jucy or Wicked campers). Drive from Byron Bay to Cairns and stop on the way to discover the rainforest and Fraser island, sail on the Whitsundays, dive in the Great Barrier Reef; discover the Northern territories and their beautiful National parks, including Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kings Canyon; drive the Great Ocean Road from Melbourne to Adelaide. If you have 3 weeks, fly to stunning New Zealand. It’s also quite convenient to fly to South East Asia (Fidji, Bali, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, etc.). So take time to travel, meet Australia’s wild life (for the record, don’t be afraid of sharks/spiders/snakes. You will barely see any, and they’re usually not very interested into meeting you) and have fun !