Hello from down under!
I have had the incredible opportunity to study abroad in Sydney, Australia at the University of Sydney for six weeks this summer and because today marks three weeks of me being here (I seriously can’t believe that) I decided what better way to update my family and friends about my experience so far than my blog! So I will start of by saying my time here has been absolutely incredible and I’m not sure that my words will do it justice but I’m going to try! I wanted to outline some highlights of my first three weeks.
Darling Harbor Fireworks:
The first night I arrived in Sydney they were having a firework show at Darling Harbor, which they have every Saturday night, so some of the people in my program and I went down to the harbor to watch.Here are a few pictures:
We were all completely jet lagged (and most of us complete strangers) so it was a fight to stay awake, but despite that the fireworks were absolutely beautiful. Speaking of being jet lagged, that went on for a little over a week. It was hard for us all to adjust to Sydney time because it’s about 15 hours ahead for most of us. So it was a lot of waking up at 5:00 am and being exhausted by 8:00 pm but eventually we all adjusted. I’m already dreading having to adjust back to American time when I get back to the states, but for now it’s thankfully no longer an issue!
A cute little place that we visited our first week,!that I loved, is Watson’s Bay. It was just a train and ferry ride away and it’s so beautiful. You can even see the gorgeous Sydney skyline from the island.
When you arrive at Watson’s Bay you walk up to the national park where you can do a few short hikes that have amazing views of the ocean.
Afterwards we ate fish and chips outside and enjoyed the beautiful day. Winter officially began here on June 1st, but when we first arrived it was still pretty warm out so I’m so thankful we got such nice weather our first week!
Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach Coastal Walk:
Bondi Beach is a famous beach in Sydney and there’s a walk you can do starting at Bondi that goes across the coast to Coogee beach that only takes a few hours! My friend Rachel and I spent some time at Bondi then headed off to do the walk and there were some truly incredible views!
This was definitely another favorite of mine because I got to take tons of awesome pictures and do some exploring outside of the more touristy areas. If you’re ever in the Sydney area I would definitely say this is a must do activity! There’s also tons of great places to eat along Bondi and one in particular that is really great is called Moo Gourmet Burgers.
I was desperate for anything resembling American food so the burgers were just perfect! I’ve been to Bondi three times since I’ve been here and it’s been so fun every time! Here are a few more pictures from another day at Bondi when my roommates and I went right at sunset!
Okay I had to talk about this incredible experience. So for those of you who haven’t heard of Hillsong, they are a mega church that has plants all over the world and they release lots of really really great worship music. Well the Church actually began here and Australia and Claire, Mallory (two of my awesome roomates) and I had the opportunity to attend a church service that the Hillsong United Band was at in The Hills, which is a few hours from Sydney. This had to be one of my favorite things because we got to get out of the city and visit more of the suburbs and it was wonderful getting to worship in this beautiful place. I feel so so lucky to be here and I loved getting to sing praise to Jesus for that! The worshipping during the service was like a huge concert, it was truly amazing and so much fun! Afterwards we ate lunch at the church and headed back to Sydney. We did have a little trouble getting there because it was during our first week and we were still struggling to figure out the transit system, but somehow we got there and got home. Every time I think “okay this is the time we get lost” or “okay this is the time we miss the train and are stranded in some unfamiliar town in some random train station”things always end up working out, and we always get where we need to be. If you know me, and know how directionally challenged I am, then you know this is nothing short of a miracle.
Okay welcome to the best day of my life. I am not exaggerating when I say this was one of my favorite things I have ever done.
You get to the zoo by ferry and once you’re there you can see the entire Sydney skyline from the Giraffe exhibit, which is so incredible. We saw all kinds of adorable animals like giraffes, elephants, baby penguins, kangaroos, wallabys, zebras, otters, seals, and so much more.
This day was pure joy and despite getting chased by an angry emu (that thing was out for blood) it was still my favorite day.
So I know I said I was talking about the highlights of my trip, but this is a weekend I just couldn’t leave out. Almost everyone in my program signed up to do a weekend long camp where you live on the beach and learn to surf. You travel to a place about two hours south of Sydney to a little town called Gerroa. We were so excited to learn to surf but when we saw the weather forecast for that weekend we were all a little nervous, but we figured it couldn’t rain the whole time right? Wrong, so wrong. From the minute we arrived at surf camp it was raining, and I don’t mean a little sprinkle I mean pouring down, sideways, freezing cold rain. Unfortunately this rain never stopped, it only got worse. So our “surf camp” ended up being only two hours of surfing and the rest of the time trying to figure out how to not get hypothermia from our hostel with no heater, and attempting to smile through the pain and convince ourselves we were having fun. And how were our living conditions for the weekend you ask? Lets just say the no heater in our rooms wasn’t the worst of it. But despite the rain the few hours we spent learning to surf were actually tons of fun, and I even got up on the surf board a few times before one of the worst storms in history hit the coast of Australia causing us to put our boards up for the rest of the weekend. Now surf camp is a running joke among our friends, and we all agree that if we survived surf camp we can survive anything else Australia throws our way.
The Blue Mountains:
Okay back to the highlights- The Blue Mountains National Park. One of the coolest things about Sydney is that you can get the city life, the beach, and the mountains all in one place. So one morning this past week Claire, Mallory, and I decided to visit the Blue Mountains and go hiking. We took a train to Katoomba and then a bus to the mountains and spent the day hiking. The views were incredible and the hike was so much fun.
True to our luck it started raining, but this time it definitely didn’t hinder the experience. The mountains were incredible beautifully and we chose the hike that went to the Leura Cascades which are gorgeous waterfalls buried within the mountains. Midway through our hike we decided to go back to the town to grab lunch and we stumbled upon the cutest cafe you’ve ever seen in your life. It looked like it was straight out of a movie in the most adorable little mountain town.
After lunch, getting lost a few times, and getting rained on we finally made it to the cascades and wow… it was so worth the hike.
It was hard to narrow it down but here are a few of my favorite adventures I’ve had in Australia. Choosing to study abroad here has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in college, and I’m so grateful to my amazing parents and Texas A&M for the opportunity. I’ve learned a lot about myself and about being independent these past few weeks (I guess living on the other side of the world will do that to you) and I couldn’t be more grateful for the experience. I know I don’t deserve all the wonderful things God blessed me with not only on this trip, but through my life. I only hope I can turn around and glorify Him through all of gifts He has entrusted me with. Day after day I continue to learn that no matter where I am, my life is sweeter when I’m sharing it with Jesus. My study abroad experience is now officially half way over (what!) and I already know that when I leave Australia, I will be leaving a piece of my heart here as well because I have totally fallen in love with this place. Still, as much as I love it here I miss my friends and family so much. I’m anxious to share with you all in person about my trip when I get back to America! Until then super grateful for the friendships God has provided for me here and all the wonderful people I’ve gotten to meet already. (like these girls!!!) On Wednesday I officially start class! I know, how ridiculous is it that I’m studying abroad and haven’t even had class yet (sorry Dad). It happened to work out that the two classes I’m taking at the University of Sydney are both taught during weeks 4-6 so I really have been living the dream these past few weeks. I’m really looking forward to my International Human Resources and Visual Communication classes to start next week and to keep sharing with you all about Australia.
Cheers for now!