It was on Thursday when I had my first official talk at my new university – a lecture entitled ‘Welcome to Sydney’ (what a clever title…). When I looked outside my bedroom window, I realised that it was slightly cloudy, which was admittedly a rather disappointing sight to see when for the previous two days the sky had been perfectly clear. Nonetheless, I still ventured out and found out that it was still humid and warm. Plus the sun was still out so that was a bonus (cue me applying multiple layers of sun cream).
Up until this point, I had not actually stepped foot on campus, but I soon discovered that it was a beautiful place to learn in! A walk up the main entrance provided a stunning view of the original building on campus, known as the Quadrangle, but often considered to be the most ‘Hogwarts-esque’ building.
The Abercrombie Building, where the lecture was to be held, was pretty much on the opposite side of the university, the furthest away point from where I was. This gave me a great opportunity to walk across campus and take in the sights. There is a really strange juxtaposition in the buildings on campus. On one hand is the original buildings, designed to replicate both Oxford and Cambridge, yet there are also the more modern buildings like the New Law Building. I was able to appreciate how large the campus is as well!
When I arrived, I knew I was in the right place because there were lots of people standing outside the lecture theatre door all wondering if they were in the right place. As it turns out, we were all actually standing outside the wrong door!
What followed was a talk by the exchange students coordinator, Priya, who warned us that all Australians have a very sarcastic sense of humour. Ironically, she is the most sarcastic Aussie I’ve met so far! The talk essentially consisted of generic information that you’d expect at most welcome talks, but there was a quiz at the end where the prize was a chocolate koala (basically an Australian Freddo).
As it turns out, there was a fellow Brit sitting in front of me, who turned around and asked if the chocolates reminded me of Freddos. Anna (the Brit) and I pretty much bonded over our mutual distaste of the increasing price of Freddos, to which the Canadian sitting next to me was very perplexed by.
Following on from this was a campus scavenger hunt, put together with the aim of helping various international students to get to know each other whilst simultaneously exploring the campus. Despite the heat, this was a really fun event! We took part in several challenges, with the ever looming threat of eating vegemite if we failed (luckily we didn’t). We were also introduced to Tim Tams, which for all the British people reading this, are basically like Penguin biscuits just more chocolatey. My favourite places on campus so far are the graffiti tunnel and the courtyard of the Biology building. I don’t have any photos yet, but I should have some soon.
The scavenger hunt finished in the International Student Lounge where we played a game based on popping balloons. I’m afraid to say that I somehow managed to pop mine before I even had the chance to burst anyone else’s. After this, we grabbed some lunch from the kebab shop on campus. I had pide, which I’ve never had in the UK before, but it’s some really tasty type of stuffed bread.
All us international students spent time sitting out on the park benches socialising, but soon, one by one, they had to leave for various reasons. One of the guys, Jarod, who stayed wasn’t even an international student! He showed up thinking the scavenger hunt was for anyone. It’s okay though, because it means I now have a token Australian friend (something which the Study Abroad Office at UEA said I wouldn’t have)!
Since it was me, Anna and Jarod left, we decided to have a movie night. At Jarod’s university accommodation, there is a cinema room available for all students to use, so after shopping for snacks, we headed to his place to watch 21 Jump Street (a classic film, by the way). Jarod introduced us to more Aussie snacks, including Anzac biscuits, while we showed him British food.
Walking home afterwards made me realise how warm it actually was; it was late at night but I was still able to wear shorts and feel the heat on my legs. Even though we were in the city, it was still really cool to hear crickets everywhere.
The next day was a free day for us all, so after a bit of organisation in the morning (and a campus tour), we headed out to Bondi Beach, perhaps the most popular beach in Sydney. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t the best, but even when it’s cloudy in Australia, the temperature is still high, at least for a British guy!
The sand was surprisingly warm and made a squeaking sound as you walked on it. We just sat on the beach and talked for most of the late afternoon. Anna was even going to teach me how to surf, but the surf rentals had closed for the day. Given my lack of balance and coordination, this was probably a good thing.
If I had gone surfing, I would have probably fallen into the water and needed lifeguards assistance. This wouldn’t have a been a bad thing, as it was on that day that a camera crew were filming for ‘Bondi Beach Rescue’ so I could have ended up on Aussie TV! There was one guy in the water who needed help, so the lifeguards came rushing over, quickly followed by the camera crew in their buggy. We were in the background so maybe we made it onto TV!
After a quick trip for ice cream, we got the bus and train back home! I needed an early night as I was going on a weekend trip the next day, which you’ll read about in my next blog!