Sydney: Not Quite NYC (In A Good Way)

by Victoria Mita

If Sydney is "the New York of Australia," why go that distance to study in New York? Because it’s cleaner! Just kidding. (Kind of). All jokes aside, when people compare Sydney to New York, it’s more about emphasizing such an impressive and influential metropolitan area. These are extremely different cities, with varying cultural attributes, climate, degrees of environmental friendliness, and values.

A student at the Coastal Cliff Beach in Sydney
Does NYC have scenes like this nearby? (We didn’t think so … ) Photo by Victoria Mita

One thing that Sydney and New York have in common is that they are both buzzing. For any student or traveler interested in networking and entering international fields of business, art, music, design, media, food, fashion, technology, sports or even science, studying abroad in Sydney is a natural choice.

Another way that New York and Sydney are similar: Living expenses in both cities are quite expensive. This is all the more reason to go when you are a student. The free resources that are made available to you as a student, particularly a foreigner studying abroad in Sydney, are a serious perk to be aware of. When weighing the cost of any life experience, the most important detail to consider is the potential value which your experience has to offer.

The Value Of Studying In Sydney

One of the most valuable highlights to studying in Australia is being surrounded by the Australian people, but seeing as that is one bit that should be appreciated first-hand, we’ll start with the exquisite educational opportunities in Sydney. Study abroad in New South Wales, the state in which Sydney is located, and you’ll have your choice of six universities listed on the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, with two ranked in the top 100 worldwide.

Top universities in Australia include:

Additionally, the resources that are naturally available to you from this location are breathtaking, no matter what field you are studying in Sydney.

Studying Inside And Outside Of The Classroom

Whether it’s marine biology, geology, or anthropology you are studying, Sydney has it, and in great abundance. Take a ferry ride across Darling Harbour to Manly, where you can venture on to the famous Shelly Beach. Shelly is home to a protected marine reserve, so it makes an ideal place for snorkelers and scuba divers. The waters are shallow with clear visibility and the beach is protected by a reef to the west, which keeps the waters fairly calm. Shelly Beach also attracts surfers, for its popular surf breaks. There are multiple walking trails around Manly which range in difficulty from “gentle” to “hard” allowing visitors the chance to spot over 20 different protected, wildlife species, aboriginal landmarks, “mermaid pools,” coves, and clifftop vistas, as well as some subtropical rainforest spots.

For anthropologists or those interested in sociology, the abundance of cultural diversity in the international hub of Sydney is renowned. You’ll find Aboriginal didgeridoo players right in the central harbor, and a large part of Sydney’s population is made up of immigrants from China, New Zealand, and the U.K. As in New York City, many Sydney dwellers speak a second language other than English. It doesn’t take a long visit to understand what attracts so many people to living and studying abroad in Sydney.

The performing arts, entertainment, fashion, and media industries are all rocking in Sydney. Many people may not realize the iconic UNESCO world heritage site, the Sydney Opera House, actually holds five different halls, and serves as a venue for arts of multiple mediums — from ballet to symphony orchestra to theatre to The Wiggles to mainstream bands of world recognition — and, of course, opera. A majority of Australian television and radio networks are headquartered in Sydney, and Australia’s Next Top Model is one of the most viewed shows in the nation, making it easy to understand why numerous world fashion designers establish a presence in this city. There are gallery showings, festivals, and cultural events galore, which take place here throughout the entire year. Keep your eye out for scenes from the remake of Great Gatsby, which were filmed in Sydney, as it is a popular destination for movie production.

Sports are another massive aspect to the culture in Sydney. Any and everyone should witness the traditions and fierce intensity with which Australians embrace their athletics. Rugby has a large following in Sydney, but there is also cricket, soccer and Australian national football. If you do decide to “barrack” (root) for a team, there are a number of factors which Australians consider in picking their teams to follow. These include: the reputation of players and fans, the area being represented, team-playing attitude, and of course skill level. Aussies also appreciate the underdog, so make sure you speak with some locals and do a bit of research before picking. It’s all good fun, but Australians appreciate loyalty, so whether you go for the underdog, the front-runner, or somewhere in between, stick with your choice. The games are great fun to attend and family friendly, with kids running around the AFL oval at halftime.

Epic Sights to See

Returning to the natural beauties of Sydney: Bondi Beach is a famous one and the coastal cliff walk from Coogie to Bondi Beach is out of this world. It’s free, it’s stunning, and the pure ocean air along the whole walk will make your lungs want to sing. With a temperate climate, Sydney’s winters are mild and the summers nice and warm, but there are plenty of options for things to do, whether it’s a rare rainy day or a brilliantly sunny one. Sydney has an interesting mix of architectural influences, from Romanesque and Gothic-Revival influences to contemporary and modern, which makes for a continuously eclectic perspective as you stroll the city. You can visit heritage sites, like the epic Queen Victoria Building or the Australian Museum (the oldest museum in Australia, established in 1845).

If you’ve had your shade break and are ready to jump back into the sunlight, you should explore some of the parks and definitely the Sydney Botanical Gardens. Look up while walking through the gardens and you can spot some bats in the trees — just don’t clap and wake them, or they’ll go flying about and perhaps drop a little present on you as they go ... The ANZAC memorial nearby is a beautiful structure to visit also.

For a natural high — comparable to that of a koala munching on eucalyptus all day — go to the Blue Mountains. For the record, most of Sydney is made up of Triassic rock 200 million years old, so the natural landscapes are begging to be explored. The area’s name comes from the bluish-gray haze that is seen when looked at from a distance. There is a whole scientific explanation for this, but to keep it short and sweet we’ll chalk it up to the abundance of eucalyptus plants and the part they play in some crazy/cool, natural chemical reaction that occurs in the atmosphere. Bottom line: it’s all worth the trip to see in person.