It took about four days for the jet lag to completely pass. However, UNSW’s international student orientation was only two days after my arrival in Sydney, so I had to get my act together quickly. If you’ve never experienced jet lag before, like me, just know that the feeling is very similar to the aftermath of pulling an all-nighter. The feeling of exhaustion will hit when you are not quite expecting it, but when it does, you’ll have just about enough energy to make it to the nearest couch or bed before crashing. Jet lag recovery time differs for everyone and is dependent on how many time zones are crossed before reaching the destination. While it can certainly be inconvenient, there were ways I eased my body clock’s adjustment into this new time zone.
Living with the Locals
After arriving at Kingsford Smith Airport, I set out on a mission to master jet lag and not let it master me. I settled into my Airbnb and dove right into exploring my new home. My decision to live off-campus and among the locals was strategic. Not only was it cost-effective, but it was conveniently located near everything. My shared-flat is only 25 minutes away from UNSW. There is a bus stop right outside the front door that takes me directly to uni. Just a 10-minute walk away from the flat is Newtown’s King Street. It’s very similar to Philly’s South Street, with great food, and a nightlife scene. The greatest perk about this Airbnb is the Aussie-American couple I get to live with—Tim, a stay-at-home Doggy-Dad and Stephen, a manager for the New South Wales Mental Health sector. Tim provided me with an Opal Card as soon as I walked through the door. This card makes transportation easy and is fairly inexpensive. Most bus and train rides cost no more than $3.73 during peak hours or can be as low as $0.00 depending on whether I’m completing a trip versus a journey.
My very first bus ride was to Marrickville Metro—a one-stop-shop for groceries, clothing, coffee, and any home good you could possibly need. Tim helped me get my phone set-up with the wireless service, Vodafone. Their monthly prepaid card provides me with unlimited domestic call and text, a generous 30 GB data package, and my very own official Aussie phone number to match.
Woolworth’s, or “Wooly’s” for short, is one of two main grocery stores in Sydney. As I attempted to pick up a few food items, that overwhelming feeling of jet lag officially hit. I was back home and asleep by 2 p.m. When I woke up, it was midnight.
Lesson Learned #2— Cheers to Jet lag
As an American and Drexel University student, I’m accustomed to feeling like I should always be doing something. Time should not be wasted with doing nothing or napping. The goal should be to get ahead. Jet lag, however, is very controlling and doesn’t care about “what should be done”. It forced me to slow down and called me into the present moment. When I was tired, I had to submit to my body’s need for sleep.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned during this first week is the beauty in stillness and the benefit of rest. By embracing reality (there’s no getting around jet lag, so accept it), drinking plenty of water, eating fruits and vegetables, and adopting a daily schedule straight away, I was able to overcome that jet lag feeling by the start of my first weekend in Oz.
Freshman Year…Part Two?
The remainder of my first week was spent preparing for life at uni. Everything was new. I didn’t know names of streets, let alone names of campus buildings or how to get to them. The campus itself is larger than life. The virtual tour does not capture the actual magnitude of UNSW—Kensington. I never thought I’d know what it would feel like to live through Freshman year of college a second time around, but here I am.
The campus sits on a hill and is divided between upper campus and lower campus, which I learned thanks to Arc’s campus tours. Arc is similar to Drexel’s Student Engagement and they were responsible for Orientation Week (“O-week”) activities. The main walkway—the mall, was filled with hundreds of organizations where membership is open to all who elect to join. I didn’t hesitate to become a member and join organizations like, Campus Bible Study and the UNSW Pole Society.
If you’re interested in something, I bet you there’s an Arc org for you. It was a great opportunity for me to meet people on my second day in this new country and prior to the international student orientation. Did I mention, everyone was giving away free stuff like FOOD, T-shirts, and stationary? I know! The excitement among college students over free giveaways is clearly universal. There were heaps of cool workshops offered throughout O-week too. I attended two, one about Aboriginal culture and another on smart renting in Sydney.
I also attended the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) welcome event. Here, I quickly made friends with a group of four women, one from Australia, another from Singapore, Malaysia, and Vietnam. All of whom were entering uni for the first time. We laughed and bonded over Tim Tams, brownies, and fruit kabobs.
I truly appreciated the diversity that we brought that day, being from different parts of the world, with various interests and different educational experiences. Overall, I loved how engaging UNSW was for every type of student. Whether you live on or off-campus, are a “fresher” or fifth year student, pursuing your bachelor’s degree or PhD, a permanent resident or here on a 3-month exchange program, this University that’s ranked #71 in the world is a platform for exploration. It’s also a pretty beautiful place to call home.
Let the Weekend Commence
As my first week in Australia came to an end, I felt ready for the term that lay ahead. Having conquered jet lag in under a week, it was only right I celebrate with a weekend-night out in the city. After all, school was starting, so I needed to cram as much excitement in before having to focus on a revolving door of assignments and exams. When my flat mates asked me to join them for a night at the Sydney Harbor and Opera House, I couldn’t even contain my excitement.
The only way to describe the feeling of seeing the Opera House and Sydney Harbor with my own eyes is maybe (stressing the maybe) similar to the way tourists feel when they see the Statue of Liberty or tour New York City for the first time. Breathtaking. Surreal. Absolute admiration, even.
I had the opportunity to witness Badu Gili, which means “water light” in the language of the Gadigal people. This Aboriginal art display is projected onto the Opera House sails all-year round, beginning at sunset, and every half hour until 9:30 pm. This seven-minute projection explores stories of the original custodians and their land of which this architectural structure was built on.
Then there’s the Opera House Underground Bar with live music, drinks, and food. The fun didn’t stop there. My flat mates ensured I had my first taste of the infamous Vegemite. Let’s just say…it’s not something you should eat on a fork by itself the way that I did. It’s typically spread on top of white bread with a layer of butter.
Sunday included rest, recharge, and church at UNSW’s UniChurch. This Christian church was filled with students from all over Australia who were very excited to learn and teach about Jesus Christ. Following the service was a dinner and fellowship, where I met friends who over the course of my next few weeks would be pivotal in exposing me to greater Aussie culture and memorable experiences.
If you’ve read this far, you’re amazing, and I have a special treat for you. I’ve said it before, but we’re on this dream journey together. Check out the video down below to catch a peek of OUR first week through my lens!