From Swarthmore to Sydney

This semester, I am one of two Admissions bloggers studying abroad. In my case, I’ve ventured to the land down under: Australia! Coming to Swarthmore, I knew I wanted to study abroad but had no idea where. Eventually I decided I wanted to study abroad directly at another university rather than with a program designed mainly for American students. With lots of help from the Off-Campus Study office, I decided on the University of Sydney. And since the seasons are opposite in the Southern Hemisphere, I’ve had an extended time abroad as I’ve been here since early July.

Swarthmore isn't the only school with a purple tree!
Swarthmore isn’t the only school with a purple tree!

For me, the opportunity to study abroad was something crucial in my college application process. I wanted to go to a college that had strong study abroad support, and Swarthmore definitely fit the bill. The fact that all of my financial aid transferred with me abroad is truly the only reason I’m able to spend a semester in Sydney and speaks to the College’s commitment to providing students with equal opportunities no matter their socioeconomic backgrounds.

So now that you know how I got to Sydney, I thought it would be great to give you my Top 4 Study Abroad Experiences (so far), just like I did for my Philly Top 4 last spring.

1) Living at St. John’s College, a residential college at the University of Sydney

When I tell my friends that I’m studying at the University of Sydney but living at St. John’s College, they get confused. Isn’t university and college the same thing in America? Well yes… but here in Australia they are very different. Unlike students at Swarthmore and other liberal arts colleges, most Australian university students live far from campus and commute every day. And a small, small percentage of them live at residential colleges.

I wanted to live at a residential college to get the true Australian experience. Instead of living in an apartment with other international students, I’m living in a beautiful college with 250 Australian students. Just like Swarthmore, my college here provides three meals a day and a ton of social activities to bring together the St. John’s community. I’ve attended college sporting games, arts events, and the weekly formal dinner where students dress up in suit, tie, and academic gown and dine on a three-course meal (very Harry Potter!).

Waiting for the High Table to enter at one of our weekly formal dinners
Waiting for the High Table to enter at one of our weekly formal dinners

As you’d guess, living at a residential college is quite expensive but luckily Swarthmore has covered the bill since I’m expected to pay the same amount here as I would back home (well, plus the hefty cost of all the late-night Thai food I get here…). So because of Swarthmore’s awesome financial aid policies, I’m able to take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

2) Working at Flying Bark Productions

For one of my classes at the University, I am interning at Flying Bark Productions—an animation production company with its headquarters only 5 minutes from my college! As a Film and Media Studies major at Swarthmore, this internship has given me the opportunity to practically apply the skills I’ve learned in the classroom. I also got to intern at a great time for the company as they released their feature film Blinky Bill: The Movie this September. I’ll take about this more in another post, but this has been a highlight of my abroad experience.

Our offices are scattered with concept art for some of our upcoming films.
Our offices are decorated with concept art for some of our upcoming films.

3) Seeing an Opera at the Sydney Opera House

I’m a big theater geek back home (I’m literally flying back to NYC the weekend I get back to see two Broadway shows with friends from Swarthmore), so having the opportunity to see my first opera at the Sydney Opera House was a blast. They sell student rush tickets before every show, so my friend and I rushed down to the Opera House and got amazing orchestra seats for 1/4 of the price. While I didn’t really understand the opera (it was in Italian…) it was an amazing cultural experience that I’ll never forget.

The view of the magnificent Sydney Opera House on one of Sydney's many inexpensive ferries.
The view of the magnificent Sydney Opera House on one of Sydney’s many inexpensive ferries.

4) Taking classes with a focus on Australian culture

Finally, I *guess* I’ll talk about academics. While Swarthmore’s academic rigor is well-known, there are still challenging classes to be taken abroad! Though I don’t spend nearly as much time on classwork here as I do at Swarthmore, it has been great taking classes focused on Australian culture. I’m taking classes on Australia’s political party system, theater scene, and cinema—all of which complement my work back at Swarthmore and have given me a true international education.

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