Exchange is a scary thing. You travel to an unknown place where you don’t know anyone and have to figure out everything on your own. For me, attending the Sydney Trip, made the whole experience a little less scary.
The trip was part of ANU Orientation Week for Inbound exchange students. It is organized by external organization and is optional. There are also many other orientation week activities organized for inbound exchange students apart from this Sydney trip!

I arrived in Canberra, with a friend of mine from the same university, on the 30th of January, a month before classes would start, and two weeks before we would go on this trip. After exploring Canberra and then settling into my accommodation, I was excited to finally meet other exchange students. We left on Tuesday morning around 9:30 on the 6th of February with a Greyhound bus (it costs AUD$33 for a student bus ticket from Canberra to Sydney – it’s just a 3 hour bus ride!). When we arrived at our hostel, the Wake Up! Sydney, we immediately met fellow exchange students and bonded over being far from home. As per usual, you start with the introduction: ‘Hello, my name is Vera, I am from Utrecht, the Netherlands and I am majoring in Anthropology and Development Studies’.

We started our evening by meeting Deb and Adam (and Jerry the (inflatable) Roo) who took us around for the few days. We learned some Aussie slang, which I have started to incorporate into my vocabulary, ate a (thick) spread of Vegemite on a dry cracker (every Australian will tell you that this is the INCORRECT way of eating it) for a competition where you would win a trip to the Blue Mountains (sadly, I didn’t win), and meeting amazing new people.

The next day, we left at around 9AM on a walking tour around Sydney. There had been a dust storm, so the sky was painted orange. The sky and Sydney’s concrete jungle landscape made me feel so small in a gloomy city. Throughout the day the sky cleared up and became more pleasant, and I finally realised that I was in a city that I heard so much about but never had experienced in real life. Our guide took us into China Town, we visited an amazing indoor market, Darling Harbour, then slowly made our way down to ‘The Rocks’ where the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, which is much smaller than I thought, are located, and to the Botanical Garden. Finally, I was able to experience the ins and outs of the most popular city in Australia. Later in the afternoon, we hopped onto a bus and headed over to Bondi Beach. We spent about two hours there, swimming ‘between the flags’, jumping into the largest waves, trying to spot cute lifeguards from Bondi Beach rescue (we didn’t succeed) and watching surfers do their thing! Afterwards, we headed back to our hostel and had a great meal with my new friends.

Thursday was our final day, and I definitely didn’t want to head back to Canberra yet. We left Sydney around 7AM and headed over to Jervis Bay. We arrived at the empty Hyams Beach and it was ABSOLUTELY beautiful. The sand was so white, the sun so bright and the water so blue, it seemed surreal. We took Jerry out for a swim and relaxed on the warm sand. It was all good vibes. We didn’t spend much time at the beach as we had to head over to Jervis Bay to hop onto a dolphin cruise. We had a delicious lunch on the boat, explored the bay (which is, also, ABSOLUTELY beautiful) and tried to spot dolphins. After about half an hour of searching and contemplating if we saw any dolphins, which were actually waves, a large group of about 30 dolphins started to swim along with the boat. It was pleasing to see them so happy, just enjoying life. It was a great ending to a perfect trip. Afterwards, we headed back to Canberra in contentment and did some karaoke in the bus to celebrate that.

Overall the Sydney trip was such a great experience. Despite it being quite pricey, I have made some amazing friends that I am going to explore and travel with in April. And despite it being a short trip, I have marked off some sights from my bucket list and overall had an amazing time. I definitely recommend going when you arrive here for your semester or year abroad!