Sydney’s distance from mainland U.S.A. gives it automatic appeal and romanticism that attracts lots of study abroad students. Making the choice to simply study abroad immediately catapults a student into the unknown: Where will I study? What will taking a class in another culture be like? Will I make friends? And one of the immediate questions: will I be able to communicate with the locals?
Often students choose to study abroad in Sydney not only for the incredible appeal of this beautiful and welcoming destination, but because English is the national language. American students have all seen photos of the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, grew up watching the Crocodile Hunter, and have fallen in love with the accents of some of our favorite Aussie actors. But what may look quite similar to U.S. culture quickly proves to a study abroad student that the true appeal and romanticism comes in fact from its distinct differences.
True, the culture is similar enough to not cause immediate culture shock, but while studying abroad in Sydney you’ll quickly grow to love and admire the differences that you do encounter. As an American sitting down at a restaurant with your Aussie friends, you may wonder why the service is so bad, why your waiter is hard to find, and how come he hasn’t checked on you in 30 minutes. This is when a culture that’s so similar on the surface starts to look different. It’s true that in the U.S. your waiter would have come by three or four times in that half hour, but the main reason would be to hurry you through your meal and out the door.
As your Aussie friends relax, enjoy their meal, and continue telling stories, you'll start to realize the true romanticism that has come with your choice to study in Sydney. The “No Worries” phrase you so often hear is actually used in their everyday life, and your friends are in no hurry of moving on to their next task of the day. When you finally do leave that restaurant the onset of differences is overwhelming.
Every park is filled with locals. The pace of life seems slower, and somehow, even in this large city, the cleanliness of the streets and the air is inviting. It’s then that your friend asks you to put the leftovers in the esky in the boot. You quickly become confused but then start to laugh. “In America,” you tell your friend, “I would say, put the leftovers in the cooler in the trunk.” Learning another language wasn’t on your list for your study abroad program in Sydney, but as international students always discover; these moments will make you fall in love with your chosen destination.
When you get back home, the unknowns that worried you at the beginning of your program seem silly now. Sydney returns to being a far-away place, but in your suitcase (not to mention your heart and mind) you’ve bundled up a bit of the culture with your belongings. Your friends back home may wonder why you are walking a bit slower, why you smile more and breathe in the fresh air, or why you sit back and your meal just a bit longer, just simply smile and tell them, “No worries!”