Cultural Experience | Sydney


Starting your Uni experience with a mix of amusement and tradition

Christian Buck, Johnson & Wales University

Most college students experience orientation their freshman year of university. For me, I’ve never attended a traditional university, nor have I lived on campus so I experienced “O-Week” my senior year, via study abroad. While I’m sure there are differences, I can’t imagine that American orientations are much different than my Australian one. Ok I’ll be honest, the number 1 difference is that in Australia the legal drinking age is 18 (21 in the U.S.) so alcohol is a legal part of orientation for the majority of students. Now that the giant gorilla has been removed from the room, let us move along to what orientation at International College of Management, Sydney (ICMS) is like.

Orientation is called O-Week down under and yes, it is a weeklong event. However, only the first two days are compulsory. Keep in mind that returning students don’t attend O-week unless there is a specific requirement so everything is done with new/international/on campus students.

My arrival day was Sunday and the school threw an “Aussie Party” that evening for us new students in the campus student hang out, BasSment, where the bar is. There were Aussie flags, stickers and fake tattoos for starters and of course, alcohol for purchase as we mingled with other new students. This was where I met my first non-American-group friends: Norwegians! Throughout the night various events were held such as a keg toss (yes I mean a metal beer keg), a didgeridoo contest (which by the way is only suppose to be blown by men as the lore is that if a woman blows it she will become pregnant), a dance which seemed to be like American square dancing in some way, and this contest where the MC told an Aussie story and the students were trying to pick out as many Aussie words as they could. This night was also my first experience seeing that Aussie Uni students keep going all night – well after I left there were still people hanging out and cruising down to Manly for additional nightlife.

Monday and Tuesday had compulsory sessions where we did the normal school things like pick up our schedules, attended a welcome speech, had our ID photo taken, learn the student websites for classes, campus tours, and meet the RAs and student board as well as some of the faculty.

In 2013 the U.S. released the popular film, The Great Gatsby based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s fictional book. Well, who knew, but my study abroad campus was actually a filming location! ICMS is portrayed in the film as Gatsby’s home in New York and we were given the wonderful pleasure of watching this movie under the stars Monday evening on campus where filming took place. This was also the first time I experienced the chill Australian evenings can contain, so when you come, bring your sweatshirt or a blanket, unlike me!

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Watching Gatsby on the lawn

Our final compulsory event was Tuesday evening where we attended our official welcoming ceremony with pomp the likes of graduation! Local students brought their families and we all sat together in Cardinal Cerretti Chapel, which I will add is not only beautiful, but also hosts other events such as weddings and one you may recognise is that of Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman. Ok, bragging aside, it was lovely and then we were all released to attend the school’s ‘Welcome Cocktail Party’.

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Sneaking in a quick pic before opening speech inside Cardinal Cerretti Chapel

While both those days were heaps of fun, Wednesday thru Friday were really geared to the activities. Moving into a campus setting can be uncertain but ICMS really helps you get settled with life through O-Week. Campus is located at the top of “the hill” with Manly beach and wharf being at the bottom. By your powers of deduction I’m sure you’ve been narrowing down the primary activities for most students: night life, and surfing! To be sure we non beach/non-surf/non-ocean types understand the basics, we had surf safety class that started in the classroom with the information side then moved to the beach for the practical side. Now I know what a rip tide is, why there are coloured flags in different places on the beach each day, and that there are only 6 deaths by shark a year, 5 are on the West coast of Australia. Additionally, that we don’t get the deadly box jellyfish around these parts and that if stung by the blue bottle ones we do have, it will only hurt for about 15 minutes.

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View from Milson’s Point

Thursday was probably my favourite experience as I earned myself (hopping around and sounding like a kangaroo) a ticket on an enclosed double-decker bus tour! This I consider my most touristy thing I’ve done in my life and it was quite fun. I sat behind the driver and those things are NOT easy to navigate – no power steering! Plus, Australian drivers ride very close to the line! We made two stops, one to Milson’s Point which is under Sydney Bridge and across the harbour from the famous Opera House, then a second stop at Australia’s most famous beach, Bondi! On the return trip I rode on the upper part of the bus and this is quite a different experience. Trees scrape the roof and startle you every time, you are close enough to touch the upright streetlights, you can see many more things at that height, and tree limbs also pop through the windows if they’re opened!

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Australia’s famous Bondi Beach

Other adventures that took place during O-Week included a couple of hours hike around the Coastal Headland, Asian markets style dinner with karaoke fun, a poker night, a scavenger hunt, and a campus day that included a dunk tank, sumo suits, simulation surf board water ride, and “colour run” where students had coloured powder to throw at each other – some students had pink or green hair a few days later even!

Overall my O-Week was razzled and dazzled and it’s assuredly something I won’t forget. If your program makes it optional I advise doing it. You’ll meet other students, learn helpful tips, and experience Uni life in a way that can’t be duplicated even if it is similar somewhere else. Remember, even if you’re in your hometown or globetrotting, there will be new insights and stepping out of your comfort zone is what grows you and helps you make decisions of what’s important to you. So no worries mate, she’ll be a’ight.

Christian Buck

Johnson & Wales University | 12 stories

Christian is a Sports, Entertainment, & Event Management alumna from Johnson & Wales University Charlotte campus. Texas born, Colorado raised, North Carolina educated, with an Australian study abroad. No regrets, just lessons learned. "Cause if you never leave home/never let go/you'll never make it to the great unknown/till you keep your eyes open" - NEEDTOBREATHE

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