Balancing work/school/travel

During the first few weeks of being abroad, everyone usually experiences the “culture shock”. It’s totally a natural feeling and it’s common for people to feel this when it’s there first time being away from home for a long period of time, like myself. When I got to Sydney, I really tried to familiarize myself with my daily and weekly activities so I could feel more comfortable in this new environment.

One of the things I was worried about and didn’t fully understand was the train system. We were given pre-paid cards that allowed us access to public transportation which was really nice so I didn’t have to worry about renewing money on my card. However, I knew that the quickest way to my workplace was by train so I made sure I knew my work was and knew which stop to get off at. Being on the train was where I experienced my first moment of “wow, I’m actually here”. I looked around and saw a vast variety of people. People in suits going to work, families, construction workers, the homeless, etc. I quickly realized that EVERYONE took the train. The fashion culture here also threw me off. I could tell that it was somewhat influenced by American fashion culture however, it had its own identity. Probably a mash-up between Asian and American fashion.

Another aspect of culture shock that I hadn’t prepared for was grocery shopping. My first trip to Coles, which is one of the largest grocery chains in Australia, was eye-opening and a little difficult. I didn’t know what to expect walking in because I figured it was going to differ from what was in American grocery stores. I was right and wrong. The departments and layout of the store were very similar to the US. The produce, meats, fish, prepared foods sections were all the same but with an Aussie twist. I’ve always loved walking through grocery stores and watching the behavior of shoppers. That was one thing that didn’t change. Some people knew exactly where they were going and some looked confused (me). The first few times I went shopping I would take almost an hour because I wouldn’t come with a list. The next few times I went, I would write down recipes that I wanted to make in the week or if I didn’t want to cook that week I’d just buy snacks and microwaveable meals.

Lastly, knowing how to manage your work/school/play balance is a really important takeaway I quickly found out. I chose to study abroad so that I could immerse myself in a new culture and travel. I realized that I only had 3 months here to make the most of my time so I tried to plan out my schedule far in advance. I made sure I told my professors and internship supervisor about travel plans that would conflict with any obligations. Also, I established a work schedule with my boss the first week so I could have time to plan travel and activities. If you do this, you’ll save yourself a lot of stress and avoid cramming for quizzes.