Show me a to-do-list for Sydney, Australia, and I guarantee that the words “Opera House, Blue Mountains, beach, koala, and kangaroo” will feature prominently. Thanks to IFSA Butler’s fantastic orientation program, I crossed all these items off my list within my first 3 days of being here. During our 3-day orientation, we took trips to the Featherdale zoo, a hike around the Blue Mountains, Manly Beach, had a walking tour of Sydney that included Hyde Park, and the Opera House, and went on the Spectacular Sydney Harbour Dinner Cruise. These activities were a great way to get over our jet lag, which ensured that we weren’t falling asleep on the 3rd day, during which we were briefed about academics, mental health, health insurance, visa requirements, and life at our individual schools. Keeping busy also helped me get over my curious case of homesickness that entails missing my life and loved ones in both Ghana and the USA.
The 4th day was bittersweet, because our group (IFSA Butler Australia 2013) separated to go to our respective schools, where we will be spending a semester, with most people (including yours truly) going to the Universities of Sydney, and New South Wales, and smaller groups going to the Universities of Adelaide and Wollongong, and Flinders University.
Moving into my dorm was uncharacteristically stress-free, as we moved in 4 days before the other students arrive. My dorm is one of the University’s colleges, and it looks like a castle and reminds me of Hogwarts (the fact that the basement is called “The Dungeon,” the weekly formal dinner tradition of wearing academic gowns, and the set-up of the dining hall clinched it). I am living with 2 American girls in an enormous triple room that is the usual abode for IFSA Butler’s students.
Apart from being guaranteed 3 meals a day (Sydney is an expensive city!), another advantage of living in a college is the fact that I am able to have frequent interactions with Aussies who are all funny, friendly, and fit. Additionally, even though the university has a huge campus, the college is not far from the shopping center (which houses everything from a cinema, a target and K-Mart, and an Apple Store), and the academic buildings.
Orientation Week (O-Week) begins on Monday, so we have a free weekend to do some more exploring of this beautiful city and this beautiful campus.