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Sydney, Australia

Kavya Kavanakudy

UMBC In Australia: Macquarie University

Major/ Minor: Computer Science, Psychology

Jump to: Feb. 1, Feb. 18, March, April, May, June, July


1 February 2019

My first real introduction to Australia (besides Finding Nemo of course) was my Zoology class sophomore year of high school. It felt like every unit, we were learning about some obscure animal that was indigenous to Australia. The phrase, “Is that from Australia?” popped up a lot whenever we learned about an animal that was…unique to say the least. The answer was almost always, yes.

But the animals aren’t the only reason why I chose to study abroad here. I started to look into the culture, environment, and people of Australia and was intrigued; I just had to see this continent in person. Now 4 years and a lot of paper work later, I’m about to achieve my dream.

G’day everyone! My name is Kavya and this semester, I will be studying at Macquarie University located in Sydney, Australia.  My program provider is the Education Abroad Network (TEAN). I’m a Computer Science and Psychology major and while abroad I will be taking general education classes and electives for my majors.

This past semester was hectic getting everything together for this massive endeavor. Sometimes I would find myself questioning if it would all be worth it. The rest of the time I was freaking out that this was actually happening. Even while writing this first entry, I’m pinching myself to remember it’s really happening.

This trip is going to have a lot of firsts like travelling alone internationally and living in an apartment. It seems daunting, but one of the best parts about studying abroad is the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone. I’m excited to meet new people, try new things, and be in warm weather. I’m so grateful for this opportunity and can’t wait to share it with all of you.

I’ll be posting every couple of weeks so stay on the lookout. Feel free to email me about any questions you have about the study abroad process, TEAN, Australia, and anything else you can think of.

Catch you soon,

Kavya


18 February 2019

An Introduction to the world Down Under

After traveling for what felt like forever, I finally landed in Cairns, Australia for TEAN’s cultural immersion orientation. My exhaustion

View of Cairns from hotel room

and restlessness were immediately cured after getting a glimpse of the stunning city of Cairns. The greenery and ocean vibes were quite calming. Little did I know, that these next couple of days were going to be far from calm.

The purpose of this orientation is to help TEAN students assimilate with Australian culture and meet other students that will be studying abroad around the country.

The day we arrived in Cairns mostly consisted of housekeeping and meeting other TEAN students. I haven’t had a normal day since.

 

 

 

 

 

On the first activity day, a group of us went skydiving. I got to fly around and see the sun rising over the city, which was quite the sight.

 

Afterwards we had a session where we talked about cultural immersion and what to expect when interacting with the locals.  We learned a lot about the history of various Australian policies on issues like climate change, guns laws and foreign trade. We were told ahead of time that these were some of the topics that the locals would want to talk about and understand the American perspective on them.

That afternoon, I went canyoning which is basically descending down a gorge in… creative ways. This includes cliff jumping, swimming, water sliding and floating down the river. To say the least, I had a very long first 24 hours in Aus.

This is the area where we went canyoning.

The second activity day, I celebrated my birthday by snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef. Seeing the reef has been a dream of mine for a long time now and is one of the reasons as to why I wanted to come to Australia. The colors of the coral were vibrant even from the top of the ocean. It was definitely one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had.

 

Pictures taken by staff from @reefexperience

 

Arranged marriages were common among the Aboriginal people and this is where many proposals would occur to join the two families

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last activity day, we hiked through the Daintree Rainforest and visited a wildlife reserve to see the various indigenous wildlife of Australia. Our guide for through the rainforest is a descendent from the Rainforest tribe of the Aboriginal people of Australia. We were introduced to many customs and traditions of the Aboriginal people like their wedding ceremonies and face painting. Afterwards at the wildlife reserve, I got to see crocodiles, hold a koala and pet kangaroos and wallabies.

Fun Fact: Queensland is the only state in the Australia where it’s legal to hold a koala. Koalas can only work 30 minutes a day, so they have to rotate throughout the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My time in Cairns were definitely some of the best days of my life. Whenever I wasn’t putting my life in danger, I went and explored the city with my new friends and fell in love with it and the country even more.  I learned a lot about Australian philosophy and culture just by walking around the city and meeting people.  TEAN’s orientation program was very helpful in getting situated with the country and culture. Although it was time to say goodbye to Cairns, this was only the beginning of what’s ahead for the rest of the semester in Sydney.

Catch you soon,

Kavya

 


18 March 2019

The Adjustment Period

My friends back home will tell you that I’m the epitome of paranoid (thanks mom). I like
to have everything planned as early as possible. I always leave earlier than I have to because I
have awful judgment of time. If nothing goes as planned, I can usually wing it, but I’ll be
freaking out internally. It’s a great life, really. Back home, being proactive was never a
hindrance to say the least; I tend to surround myself with people that have similar thought
processes. But now, I’m in an environment that’s so relaxed and it’s definitely an adjustment.

This past month has been filled with a variety of experiences. There have been more
instances of things going wrong this past month than my entire life. I got on the wrong bus on
my way back from the grocery store didn’t even realize until half an hour into the bus ride by
which point, I was on the complete other side of town. I’ve gone to the wrong classes because I
kept forgetting when my classes started. On my way to visit family, my train was two hours
delayed and then an hour into the trip, we were stopped again and had to get on buses instead;
a three-hour trip took eight hours. With each instance, I’ve started freaking out a little less, and
it’s only been a month!

However, there are other aspects to the adjustment period besides getting lost all the
time. I’ve found myself getting hit with homesickness in waves. Overtime it’s gotten better, but
it’s still there. Making friends is a lot harder than I remembered. I’m naturally an introvert;
socializing mentally drains me. Having to go out and meet people is not my ideal situation, but I
promised myself to step out of my comfort zone while here. It’s not a change that can happen
overnight, but I’ll get there eventually.

The reason I say all this isn’t to discourage anyone, but just to show that it’s not always
going to be sunshine and rainbows. I didn’t want to believe that I would miss any part of home
while here; I wanted to be in the honeymoon period as long as I could. But just like how I didn’t
stay in the honeymoon period for long, I won’t stay in the adjustment period for long either.

Okay out with the informative sentimental stuff, what did I actually do this past month.
That’s why you’re here right?

Most of my days during the week are usually filled with classes, school work and other
day to day activities. But there’s always something going on somewhere. Some of the things
I’ve done are a walking tour of Sydney, visit family, attend the Mardi Gras parade, visit the
Grounds of Alexandria and of course, go to the beach.

The Royal Botanic Gardens is a must see in Sydney. It’s 30 hectares of greenery in the city. Many major events are held here

 

Can you really say you’ve visited Sydney without seeing the Sydney Opera House?

Mardi Gras is one of the major parades in Sydney with around 200 floats this year

The Grounds of Alexandria is a famous café spot and partners with Disney.

Bondi Beach is one of the most iconic beaches of Sydney.

It’s been quite the month, but it’s getting easier. There’s so much to learn and do here and I’m
excited to see what happens next.
Catch you soon,
Kavya

 


22 April 2019

A Day in a Life

As I write this, I am traveling around the South Island of New Zealand. That’s right New Zealand.

I am currently on break right now, which marks the halfway point in the semester; I’m already halfway done! Sometimes it feels like I just got here yesterday and have not had a chance to do anything, but other days, like today, I realize I have done a lot, especially more than I ever would have done if I were back home.

This past month I’ve mostly been busy with school, because I am studying abroad, and my grades here do transfer back and impact my GPA. However, my schedule here is a lot less stressful than back home, which is probably because I’m taking a significantly lighter workload.

Typically, I have one or two classes a day which consist of lectures, tutorials, and practicals. Many of my lectures are livestreamed online meaning I watch them from the comfort of my room. Tutorials and practicals are similar to the labs and discussions we have back home and are in person.

Overall, it feels like I’m in a physical classroom significantly less than I would be back home. Having livestreamed and recorded lectures is standard at Macquarie and can be seen in many other universities around the area too. Unlike in the US, most people in Australia go to their local universities and rarely live on campus; my accommodation here is mostly for international students.

So, what do I do with all this free time? Whenever I’m not doing schoolwork, I typically go to the Macquarie Centre and catch a movie, go into the city with friends, or visit my family here in Australia. On campus, I have joined some clubs like the Macquarie Circus Training group. I’ve been learning how to do a variety of aerial arts, but I mostly go as a way to stay fit and have fun.

That’s all I have today guys. Here are some pictures from my New Zealand road trip with TEAN so far.

Catch you soon,

Kavya

 


20 May 2019

The Little Things

Last time I was at the halfway point of the semester, but right now I’m only a couple weeks away from the end of the semester. Most of my weeks have been filled with writing papers and working on various projects. These past couple of weeks I’ve felt like I haven’t been utilizing my time properly.

Studying abroad really is a once in a lifetime experience and five months seems like a long time when you’re preparing for the trip, but it really isn’t. The hardest part about studying abroad, once you get over homesickness (and sometimes you don’t which is totally fine!) is time management. There are some weeks where all I want to do is travel and explore the city and surrounding areas even more, and then there are some weeks where I’m playing catch-up or trying to get ahead on my work. I’ve gotten better at it overtime, but the pressure of final assignments is really starting to hit, as it probably was recently back home.

Sometimes I just need to take a moment and remember why I came here. I came for new experiences and to meet new people; I came to make memories. Sometimes it’s easy to forget this goal, especially with on weeks when I feel like I have so much to do and so little time.

But some of the best experiences I’ve had while here are the moments I’ve spent with friends, even if we weren’t doing anything “significant” or adventurous. Walks along the coast, movie nights with lots of junk food, learning a new position on the aerial hoop, brekky after circus training, all of these little moments, although they may seem insignificant at the time, are some of the best experiences I’ve had. Not everything has to be a grand adventure or getting work done.

I can’t believe I only have a couple of weeks left in the semester. Although everyone back home may be happy to be done, it will definitely be bittersweet for me.

Here are some pictures of the adventures, big and small, this past month.

 

Views from the Coogee to Bondi coastal walk

 

 

I’ve been training with the Macquarie University Circus Training group, with a focus on the aerial hoop.

This is the outside of the St. Mary’s Cathedral

The inside of one the 3 halls in the Sydney Opera House

Catch you soon,

Kavya

 


17 June 2019

 

The Beginning of the End

Papers have been written, performances have been performed and exams have been taken. It’s the end of the semester alright. I don’t think it’s hit me that I’m really leaving. Some of my friends have already moved out of the Village (the housing for international students at Macquarie), but even then, when we said goodbye it didn’t feel like a real goodbye. It might be that I’ve been so busy with studying and rehearsals that my mind and body haven’t had time to process everything that’s going and that’s happened in that past year.

          

These pictures are from the annual Vivid festival at Sydney where parts of the city are decorated by light artists.

    

 

I may have landed in Australia four months ago, but my study abroad journey started way before that. After weeks, maybe even months of looking into different study abroad programs, I finally found the Education Abroad Network (TEAN) and that was when my dream started becoming a reality. Throughout the entire process of filling out papers and getting my classes together, TEAN was very supportive and open to helping me. Even while abroad, the support didn’t stop. The occasional check ins and activities were great additions to my study abroad experience.

Studying abroad is a lengthy process and sometimes stressful process, but I can officially say it’s definitely worth it. I’ve had the chance to branch out and do things I probably never would have done back home. From traveling alone, to joining the circus, Sydney and Macquarie Uni given some of the most memorable moments of my life.

        

Here are stills from my circus performance during the end of the semester showcase

The idea of coming home boggles my mind, but I definitely miss warm weather, (winter has started here) and parts of my life back home. I’ll have one more post when I get back to the states, but in the meantime, here are a few photos from the last couple of weeks.

Catch you soon,

Kavya

As it gets colder, it gets harder to get out to the beach, but it’s always nice to listen to the waves even if it’s chilly

 

 

 


22 July 2019

The Adjustment Period: Part 2

Although I’m not exactly home yet, but it’s been a month since I’ve finished my classes. My family and I have been traveling around the country as our vacation this summer, kike we would be doing any other summer, so my life seems like it’s gone back to normal even though I’m not home yet. But the idea of normalcy has changed a lot for me since being abroad.

Coming home is nerve wracking for me. Home isn’t the same as I left it and I’m not the same person that left home. While in Australia, sometimes it feels like my life is on hold. I try not to worry about all the little things that would normally worry me back home. The thought of coming home and having to get back right into it as if nothing happened this past semester scares me.

In grade school and college, you tend to surround yourself with people that have gone through similar experiences with you and thus you and your peers have similar mindsets with how the world works and whatnot. Well, while abroad this semester, I went through several experiences and my peers back home also went through different experiences and now we have different mindsets. I call this the Adjustment Period Part 2 because well I have to adjust my mindset again and keep in mind that I’m not abroad anymore and have to find a way to adapt what I learned abroad to my everyday life at home seamlessly; I feel this pressure to get back to doing what I was doing before, but part of me knows that I can’t just go back.

They say that studying abroad is a great to find yourself and figure out what you want to do in life. But what I learned is that I don’t. I don’t want to be on this journey to find myself or figure out what to do with my life; I just want to live it. Since grade school I’ve been conditioned to think about my future and make decisions based on how it’ll help me in the future. Will I still think in this way? Yeah, of course it’s kind of ingrained in me. But now I have the choice to try to unlearn this mindset and really start winging it and seeing where life takes me. Australia is a country where the day to day pace is much slower and people are truly just taking it one day at a time, which is much different to the general mindset back home especially in college where everything is about your future. I’m definitely going to have moments where I freak out about future and if what I’m doing now will be worth it, but I just have to keep reminding myself, whatever happens, happens and that it’ll be okay eventually.

 

 

Australia will always have a special place in my heart and I’m so glad that I got multiple opportunities to travel around the country and even outside it. I can’t wait to be back one day and see how much it has changed while I was away.

I also want to thank you for sticking with me through my blog entries and I hope you’ve enjoyed them. Here are some pictures from my last couple of weeks here. If you have any questions or thoughts about Australia or study abroad feel free to reach out through email.

Thanks again and I’ll catch you soon,

Kavya