A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
Ten weeks ago, I stepped into the airplane to the other side of the world. Time flies you’re having fun – almost halfway through the exchange adventure. Let me organize and recap what I have experienced and learned during these past two and a half months.
The University of Sydney guarantees Uni Housing to foreign students which I had applied for about three months before my journey began. After two months living in Queen Mary Building hosting around 800 students, would I recommend staying on campus? On the one hand, the rooms are not only fully furnished, the building very close to campus, equipped with clean kitchen and bathrooms and offers a free gym, social activities and sports classes. Most importantly, living here facilitates socializing with mainly international exchange students or Australian first-years looking to meet people and make friends. On the other hand, compared to staying in a shared flat, student accommodation is more expensive and has a less flexible contracts with fixed moving in and out dates. On top, while making a lot of international friends, uni housing will make it harder to mingle with real Aussies
Although I had already selected my courses beforehand, we were given the opportunity to try out in the first week and change our minds. This flexibility allowed me to not only switch to a higher French Level but also adjust my schedule in a way that lectures and seminars did not overlap. Tip: try to move your work groups to Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays – long weekends might come in handy for getting a side job and leaving for trips. Moreover, keep in mind that there are some courses specifically made for international students: Learning in Outdoor Education and Australian Sports and Culture, for instance, are great ways to dive into the local life while fully counting towards your Bachelor degree. In general, I experienced the study load as less intense compared to Psychology in Leiden. The amount of readings and assignments are approximately equal but spread over 13 instead of eight weeks. In addition, there is a study week before exams start.
Work hard – play hard, so: organize yourself well and make time to explore what down under has to offer. On Sundays, the student travel card allows you to go almost everywhere around New South Wales for less than two euros. The Royal National Park, Blue Mountains, Northern Beaches, Jervis Bay and Newcastle should not be missed. Moreover, there are several options for weekend-long surfcamps including lessons, food, accommodation and a lot of fun. If you decide to take a longer trip during the mid semester break in the end of September, Queensland (Whitsunday Islands up to Cairns), Fiji islands and Bali are popular options. I recommend to book with a travel agency (e.g. PeterPans) providing the best offers and to always ask for student discounts on trains, ferries etc.
Living in Australia, one pays for the country’s beauty. As you can imagine amount of activities in Sydney and traveling around don’t remain unnoticed on the bank account. Looking for a job? Print out a couple of copies of your CV and hand them out in person – you might be invited to a trial shift the next day. In case, you would like to work behind a bar or in any restaurant that serves alcohol beverages (most lucrative), a certificate called RSA (responsible supply of alcohol) is needed. This requires a six hour course and costs around 80 euros. For baby-sitting or teaching opportunities, apps such as JuggleStreet are an easy and free way to connect with families in your area.