University of Sydney
14 March 2019
Eshitha Vaz was awarded one of the Study Abroad tuition fee free places at the University of Sydney. In Eshitha’s own words ‘the course has shifted and tilted my perspectives as to what it means to be a student’. Read more here.
Eshitha Vaz, Population Health
It is hard to summarise the wealth of new experiences I gained whilst on the short-term study abroad program in Sydney within a frame of limited words; however, I will do my best by stating that simply, the course has shifted and tilted my perspectives as to what it means to be a student.
At the University of Sydney, I got the chance to study Aboriginal Culture and History: a far stretch from my UCL degree in Population Health. I decided to choose this route of study for exactly the reason that it was an area that I had never academically explored – I felt like my mind needed liberating from a tight corner of study and the prospect of exploring the rich culture of Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander peoples was exciting and fascinating to me. Our professor was of Aboriginal descent herself and learning about Aboriginal culture was enlightening to say the least: I feel I have become more culturally literate in the process and more aware of socio-political currents which have enhanced my career aspirations in turn.
The course was intensive: as it did not assume any prior knowledge of Aboriginal culture, the pace was fast with thorough content – yet it was manageable with spread-out assignments and therefore, it was intellectually stimulating without being stressful. To this extent, I must emphasise that one of the benefits of studying abroad is that the learning is very multidimensional; the opportunities to participate in extra-curricular activities diversified my experiences where the new knowledge I gained stemmed from many perspectives. For instance, I managed to get the chance to watch an Aboriginal theatre production ‘Bennelong’ by a completely Aboriginal cast and crew at the breath-taking Sydney Opera House: one of the highlights of my study abroad. Our class trips included exhibitions to Aboriginal art galleries where on our first day of arrival at the University, we were lucky enough to watch an Aboriginal ‘welcome’ dance.
Certainly, the personal highlights of the time I spent in Australia were the friends I made and the places I got to visit. As recommended by our programme, I participated in a three-day ‘Surf Camp’ at Seven-Mile Beach in New South Wales where I learned how to surf. It was here that I formed my best friends throughout the trip, some of whom were studying at different Universities and schools in Sydney. The landscape and natural beauty of Australia is undeniably powerful which is why I was so grateful that our timetable facilitated exploration. Two of my closest friends and I took a flight to Cairns, Queensland on a weekend and managed to go scuba diving and snorkelling at the Great Barrier Reef: one of the seven ‘Natural Wonders’ of the world and the world’s largest coral reef – an experience of a lifetime. The trip included exploring a tiny beach on the Reef that only existed for a mere three hours before being washed away by the high tide in the evening. Indeed, we managed to hold koalas in Queensland and take a scenic railway over a World-Heritage listed rainforest.
In Sydney itself, I managed to see multiple humpback whales on their migration to warmer waters as well as taking coastal hiking trips with my friends at the Royal National Park of New South Wales, going to the Iceberg Pool at Bondi beach and taking ferries to the picturesque beachside suburb of Manly. Given that our student accommodation was situated right in the centre of Sydney near its beautiful central harbour and in the middle of a bustling China Town, the transport networks were very easy to locate, the University was approximately a 15-20 minute walk away and there was an abundance of places to eat out with friends.
However, studying abroad is not without its challenges where for me, the fact that Wifi was not free in my accommodation meant that doing assignments there was sometimes difficult and I had to somewhat limit internet calls to family back home. However, I got over this hurdle by simply using the free Internet access at the University which was only a short walk away. Moreover, I underestimated my weekly budget on groceries before I got to Sydney and was surprised to find how much more expensive it is than the UK: I definitely recommend researching costs of daily living beforehand to avoid such shocks. Nevertheless, I cannot emphasise how much I recommend participating in a short-term study abroad – being my first experience of travelling abroad alone, it gave me an extra burst of confidence, widened my circle of friends, introduced me to new academic concepts and pushed me towards becoming a more global citizen.