University of Sydney Short-Term Programme
19 March 2019
Adelaide from Philosophy joined the University of Sydney on a tuition fee free basis through the 2018 Tuition Fee Free scheme.
Adelaide Di Maggio, Philosophy and Art History
At first, I felt like I was entering the castle of Hogwarts. Yet, the weather was much sunnier and warm, whereas the garden was filled with high palms. I was not there to learn any kind of witchcraft, however, having the opportunity to spend a few weeks studying in Australia already felt like a wonder for a European like me. In the end, Australians do also call their country ‘Oz’, and themselves ‘Ozzie’. Therefore, they do know they live in a magical, fantastic place.
Through UCL I had the opportunity to leave the Old Continent and travel over ten thousand miles south, for a Short-Term Study Abroad Programme at the University of Sydney, between July and August 2018. The programme gathered a handful of students from around the world, as I was joined, among all, by fellow UK students, as well as Americans, or Scandinavians. Since it was a short university programme, we had the chance to choose from a range of ‘intensive’ courses, which touched upon different topics, such as Computer Science, Biology, Education, Sociology or History and Culture. I focused on discovering Sociology, as it is a subject that I even considered studying, but I never really managed to learn about more academically. I was very satisfied with my choice, as an introduction to Sociology, as well as discussions on deviant societal groups, gave me a more complementary experience of studying in Australia and about Australia. In the end, this country was founded and sustained by groups that have been excluded from society, meaning English convicts, as well as Aboriginal tribes. My classes gave me a focus on how the Australian society grew to live with its past, but also what are the struggles that its citizens still face every day. My knowledge increased also by interacting with other Australians, students of the University of Sydney, that were attending classes with exchange students. This also allowed me to have an insight on the ‘Ozzie’ lifestyle, which is nonetheless very city and beach centred, but also how to they build their identity, considering their European and sometimes Aboriginal roots. Finally, Sociology at the University of Sydney will also certainly benefit the degree I do at UCL, thus Philosophy and Art History. Philosophy very often draws from social life and social behaviours, trying to establish what is wrong and what is right, whereas in History of Art, art movements and the way art evolved lies and reflects major social conditions and changes. That is why, I expect to come back for my third year with a broader knowledge and a different academic perspective, which hopefully will help to enhance the research I do in those areas.
Nonetheless, what would be an adventure in the land of ‘Oz’, without endless walks and discovering nature? The exchange programme gave me more than just academic education, but also education on how to be a respectful citizen of the world we live in. I realised Australians are the best teachers for that, as I was impressed to see how able they are to care about themselves and their environment. Australians have some of the most magnificent nature in the world, especially when it comes to beaches, and even I, as an Italian, need to admit it. Sydney is filled with long coastal paths, and every beach is extremely clean and well-organised, equipped with free showers, changing rooms and toilets. It is said that every Australian, whenever they go to the beach (and they go often), should collect at least three pieces of litter. I believe this to be something Europe, and especially some countries, should learn to care more about their natural resources. An ‘Ozzie’ will never be bored and will always have the chance to see new wonders and hidden spots in their own city. The feeling of being in unity with nature and the earth being a common good, is much stronger. In the end, it is what makes their life easier and more enjoyable. This the most valuable lesson I learned from my time abroad.
Taking advantage of Sydney’s natural sights is not only a great way for an exchange student to learn more about the city and the country, but also a very affordable way to visit. It is especially important in Sydney, which at times I found more expensive than London. The distances in Sydney are very big, and the lack of tube, as well as small amount of train stations, makes it hard to reach destinations in one go by bus. These were other challenges I needed to consider when moving to a strange continent, for limited time, therefore studying a short course abroad trained me in trying to get as much inside information as possible and making good use of it.