Is the program really almost halfway over? While the days seem long and busy, the time has been going by way too fast. It has been taking a lot of energy to never lose a moment because there is just so much I want to accomplish before I say goodbye in such a short time.
My first takeaway from my experience so far is that planning is important but not always necessary. I would characterize myself as an organized person that likes to have a routine and a schedule, but I soon realized that the next 3 months in Sydney would not follow a set structure. Instead, I’ve found that every day is a totally new experience, which I am starting to embrace because it is making life so much more interesting. The weather is very unpredictable so waking up early is key to discovering whether going to the beach is possible. If not, is there a cafe or farmers market in a new part of town to try? On days that I have class and work, I focus on making sure I am making progress on my assignments so that my weekends can be completely free to explore.
Another important takeaway I have uncovered since arriving is that although Sydney has so much to offer, Australia is a country with even more to explore. My favorite days so far have actually been when I’ve left the city. For example, CAPA sponsored a trip to the Blue Mountains where we played with native Australian animals at Featherdale Wildlife Park and then hiked among the trails in the heat. My friends and I then planned another adventure that required a quick one hour flight north of Sydney to Byron Bay. Byron Bay is a town with hippy roots and surfing pride and was one of the coolest places I’ve ever been. Sure, there was monsoon weather while there, but that didn’t stop us from having so much fun and riding the waves on a surfboard!
Finally, I am starting to realize the importance of budgeting. I have only been here for half the program and have already spent so much. I think it’s important to realize this is a once in a lifetime experience where splurging is okay, but I may not need to buy a coffee every morning. Luckily, the American Dollar is stronger in value than the currency here, so it is like having everything at a 30% discount. I have begun to keep my spending solely on the weekend while cooking for myself during the week. I have a couple more trips I’m planning soon so I need to keep in mind the cost of it all!
Overall, there is certainly a learning curve when trying to assimilate to a different culture. There is a struggle to maintain a balance between the adventure side and the practical budgeter. I am becoming more adaptable every day and am continuing to make appropriate compromises. I hope to have no regrets by the time my plane takes off back to the states in April!