1. Enjoy the views, because they are absolutely stunning. As I woke up on the flight from Los Angeles to Brisbane, the pristine blue water gave way to a beautiful landscape of brown and green hues with hills and mountains surrounding the city of Brisbane. However, looking out the window flying over Sydney was the moment that made me realize I was indeed in Australia. Seeing the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge was just a taste of what is yet to come from this amazing city.
2. When in doubt, do as the locals do. Even though I studied abroad in Scotland last fall, I had to readjust to people driving on the left side of the road. The same goes for walking on the sidewalk. Rather than looking left, right, left, you have to look right first. While readjusting to oppositeness, I just followed the local Australians. Much like Americans, Aussies walk across the street even when the light for walkers flashes as red. Just think the opposite of your instinct and you will be fine. In no time at all, I found the guts to cross even when the streetlights told me a different. Just pay attention. Put away your phones and headphones. Observe and you will learn.
3. Vegemite is delicious, and you should try it. During my first morning in Sydney, I woke up to eat breakfast alongside my fellow Americans; a few of us girls decided to try Vegemite. A girl next to me opened a small container of this spread that looks like Nutella and used a knife to spread it across a slice of bread. We each grabbed a corner and took a bite. I seemed to be the only one at our table who enjoyed this Australian delicacy. Vegemite is salty, but I have only tried it once and have yet to pinpoint the taste. I will leave it as a surprise. A few people have recommended spreading butter on a slice of bread with just a thin layer of Vegemite on top.
4. Hug a koala. While I was in Scotland, I just so happened to pick up a humorous travel book on Australia; within pages, the writer mentioned how cute things in the sand will literally attack. The takeaway: just do not touch anything. However, a few critters challenge this notion. We visited a place in Cairns where we got to hold koala bears. I did not want to let go of the little guy; however, even these cute critters are known to carry diseases. It all boils down to respecting everything around you.
5. You will be surprised. When I think of kangaroos, I think of the big red ones; however, in Cairns I saw smaller grey kangaroos at Rainforeststation. Although small, they are still larger than wallabies. Never mess with a kangaroo as these creatures are powerful and meant to be respected. Yet these grey kangaroos are small and used to human contact since they live in a zoo. Visitors can feed, pet, and take pictures with these little guys. I am an animal lover and ride horses back home, so getting this up close with some furry mammals really helped me feel at home. The experience helped me respect these fascinating creatures (large and small) all the more.
6. Sydney is a busy city yet still has a laid-back vibe. Unlike other cities I have seen, with its location on Sydney Harbour, green spaces, and the people who call this place home, Sydney has a laid-back vibe. People rush and walk fast in the expected hustle and bustle, yet this place just has something other cities I have visited do not offer. Home for me is Rochester, Minnesota, a city of a little over 100,000 people, which is a small town compared to Sydney. Even though I am working here and am staying busy, I feel more laid back here than I did back home. Sydney has a certain vibe you will only understand if you experience it for yourself.
7. People work hard with passion. Before arriving to Australia, I had heard the stereotypes saying how lazy Australians are; however, I never believed it. The people I work with at my internship are truly passionate about their careers; they work hard with a more laid-back mentality. Australians like to joke around and have a bit of fun. My co-workers help one another and communicate very well, yet they value independence, which I crave.
8. Dare to challenge yourself. Unlike most of my fellow interns, I am staying in Australia for at least another year to pursue my master’s degree in finance at an Australian university. Studying abroad gave me the travel bug, and I have certainly found that living in another country where you do not know anyone presents a personal challenge and an opportunity to grow as a human being. This requires stepping outside of your comfort zone. I find that I get bolder as I age, and I continue finding ways to put myself outside my comfort zone. Australia provided the perfect opportunity to challenge myself by diving alongside the Great Barrier Reef, something on my bucket list. It was an opportunity to overcome a few childhood fears of deep water and drowning. Seeing the reef and swimming so close to beautiful sea turtles proved to be one of the greatest days of my life. Challenge yourself and overcome your fears.
9. Learn the lingo. Much like Americans and the British, Australians have their own slang. On my first Wednesday of my internship, my boss told me that Wednesdays are called hump days since it is the middle of the week. Breakfast is called brekkie. The bathroom is the toilet. Australians tend to shorten their words. Good day becomes g’day.
10. Order coffee the Aussie way. If you want a good Australian coffee that you will not find in America, order a flat white, which is a shot of espresso along with mostly steamed milk and a bit of foam on top. Unlike a latte, the baristas have a special technique they use to create a decoration in the foam. Australia has a huge coffee culture. Avoid Starbucks.
The World Awaits…Discover it.