Summer Down Under – Studying Abroad in Sydney, Australia

One of the greatest things I did this summer (among all others) was studying abroad in Sydney, Australia. I already forgot how the idea of studying abroad came to mind. As an international student studying in the U.S., in fact I am already “studying abroad”, but doubling up that experience some how made sense to me, and I decided to JUST DO IT (as Nike famously proposes). While Europe and Latin America remain the top two choices for studying abroad, I opted for an  less popular option- Australia. I can imagine why Australia doesn’t sound exciting to many. As an English speaking immigrant country, how could Australia possibly be different from the U.S.? I had just the same question before going to Sydney, and now I’m glad I had the opportunity to find out the answers.

Postcards from Sydney

Before diving into my adventure in the land down under, let’s take a look at how IU made possible my Australian experience in the first place. I went to Sydney through the Arcadia Summer Internship Program, which includes an internship and 6 academic credits. This program is open to Kelley School of Business, and the Liberal Arts and Management Program (LAMP). I am a proud member of LAMP: an honors-level interdisciplinary program that integrates liberal arts education (any major in the College of Arts and Sciences) with practical business skills (Microsoft Excel, accounting, etc.). After the initial process of application, I went through half a semester of orientation, anticipation, communication with my internship coordinator, and visa application (one extra step if you also happen to be Chinese), and secured an internship with Pureprofile, a leading Australian online market research panel. Finally, I was ready to go.

Sydney Harbor Sunset- a view from MrsMacquarie’s Chair

When the crew of 53 Americans, among which 25 were Hoosiers (IU), arrived in Sydney, we did not expect the city’s early winter to be, so, gorgeous.  It was late May (think about late November in Bloomington), and the average temperature in Sydney was in the low 70s. Soon enough, we toured Sydney’s most famous attractions: Sydney Harbor Bridge, the Opera House, Darling Harbor, the Royal Botanical Garden, Sydney Tower Eye… In the streets of Sydney, you can find all sorts of people: well-dressed businessmen negotiating on the phone, ready to eat the world; beautiful young women wearing flaming red lipstick, waiting to cross the road; bearded men in white tennis shoes, rushing by with a lunch box in hand; middle-aged women holding a small boutique of daisies, sitting with a homeless man outside a grocery store in the heart of the city. People in Sydney are well dressed.  As a friend I met on the trip describes, “ they dress up even when they go grocery shopping”.  I guess that has to do with the fact that we lived right by the CBD (Central Business District) area. But in general, Australians do have taste. Sydney offers a myriad of varieties. You know that half of the people walking by you aren’t even Australians, from their accents, and from their looks. Everybody was just as different as I was in this big vibrant city, and so I felt that I belonged. A city this big makes you wonder who you are, and who you want to be.


Moving to a smaller Australia city, life may be very different. During my stay in Sydney, I took an opportunity to visit a friend in Adelaide, South Australia. Adelaide is a lot smaller population wise, compared to Sydney. This fifth largest city in Australia has only 1.3 million people, compared to Sydney’s 4.3 million.  While Sydney’s streets are composed of ten thousand kinds of different people, Adelaide’s people look more like everyday folks. Downtown Adelaide reminds me of Indianapolis, with a group of business buildings and not a lot of people. From my four days in Adelaide I cannot generalize about a life in the city, but at least my life there was quite laid back, thanks to a day in Barossa Valley and a visit to the Granite Island. One thing that made me hesitate about permanently living in Adelaide is that its grocery stores are closed at 5pm on Sundays. In fact, a lot of businesses in Adelaide are closed at 5pm or on Sundays. Considering also that Adelaideans decided they did not like Starbucks or IMAX(they used the have both, but let them go because “people did not like them”, so said my Adelaidean friend). After all Adelaide is a lovely city, but just might not be one for me.


What did I do other than sight seeing and having fun? Good question. I was actually in Australia for an internship and 6 academic credits. My Internship with Pureprofile was exciting, for the company was then busy re-branding, and preparing to launch its IPO at the time I was there. Because of all the changes going on in the company, two other interns from my program and I got to sit in on meetings with the CEO, to discuss his idea behind funding the firm, plan of action for re-branding, and how he envisions the company in the future. The most important thing I learned from the internship is to take initiatives if you want to learn in an internship. I got to learn a lot about online marketing just by initiating conversations with my Pureprofile colleagues, and gained valuable insights that I would not have otherwise learned if I did not start the conversation. Academic wise, every Monday, we took class on the University of Sidney’s beautiful campus, and learned about Australia culture and history through immersion. As part of the class, we visited the Stats Library of New South Wales, went to a Sydney Swans Aussie rule football game, and went to the Sydney Jewish Museum.


And did I mention that I won the Study Abroad Photo Contest? IU holds a photo contest at the beginning of every fall semester for all students studied abroad during the previous year. Make sure to snap some good pictures when you go abroad, for a chance to win $50 worth of gift cards like I did!

My Award-Winning Photo

Most important thing I’ve learned:

There could be a world of differences between two seemingly similar places. You just have to be there to find out.

Least favorite thing about Australia:

Australians call chocolate “choc”. It’s fine for Aussies to call universities “uni”, we can all be a little lazy sometimes.  But, according to my dear friend Amber, “it doesn’t sound delicious anymore” if you call chocolate “choc”. Enough said.

Favorite thing about Australia:

Wallabies eating dry grass out of an ice cream cone.  Of course they then eat the ice cream cone. Picky eaters eat only the ice cream cone.

Favorite Australia food:

There is no Australian food, just like there is technically no “American Food”(I wonder if S’mores count…). My favorite thing to eat in Australia is actually from New Zealand. I might have eaten 200 of them during my six weeks in Australia(literally).

Most interesting experience:

Observing Americans be “foreign”. How many times do you see your American peers out of their “natural habitat”?

Evelyn Bai
Evelyn Bai

International Student Ambassador

I'm a Junior studying Psychology and Economics at IU, and pursuing a certificate with the Liberal Arts and Management Program(LAMP). Born and raised in Shenyang, China, I am a proud International Student Ambassador(ISA), who works to connect prospective international students to IU. I chose IU because of its strong social sciences programs, and because of the myriad of opportunities it offers to all its students. Besides working as an ISA, I serve on LAMP's student Advisory Board, The Virtu Project (an investment club that benefits a charity), and work as a peer Financial Educator with IU MoneySmarts (an organization that works to enhance students' financial wellness by offering personal finance education). In my free time, I enjoy reading, baking, traveling, exploring Bloomington, and throwing frisbee.

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