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G’day, mates! My name is Hayley Kretchmer, and I am on exchange at The University of Sydney for the semester. Hailing all the way from Chicago, Illinois, also known as “The Windy City,” I have certainly been soaking up the sun and enjoying this warm Sydney weather. When I am not abroad, I study at Ithaca College in Upstate New York, majoring in Communication Studies with a Sociology minor, and I’m currently in my third year of studies. As the Marketing and Events Management Intern for Global Student Recruitment and Mobility here at USYD, I will be blogging weekly about the fun things I’m up to and offering advice for current exchange students, as well as the ones hoping to join this institution’s community in the near future!

These past three weeks have already brought me so much joy and adventure, with a dash of jet lag and culture shock. Sydney is a vibrant city filled with passionate people and endless opportunities, so with that, I have been out and about making new friends and exploring new sites. I already had the chance to do the Sydney BridgeClimb, where I made my way up the arch of the Harbour Bridge and saw a panoramic view of the city from the very top. I also visited Jervis Bay, where I hiked through a national park, saw the Kiama Blowhole, visited Hyams Beach (where there's the whitest sand in the world), and went whale watching. I then attended O-Week, a 3-day series of events and entertainment on campus that gave students the opportunity to sign up for social clubs and societies, get to know the campus and faculty, experience the night life, and of course, scoop up lots of free food and accessories along the way. Just two weekends ago, I celebrated love and inclusion with 300,000 other community members at the annual Mardi Gras parade, and even got to eat breakfast with Koalas at the zoo last week. It’s these experiences that have allowed me to meet so many new people, learn more about where I’m living, and maximize the fun!

With moving to a new country comes an adjustment period, which can vary in length from person to person. As we all begin our classes for the semester and fall into a routine, it is important to find a nice balance between studying and social life, and know that the culture shock you may be feeling is completely normal. The more you immerse yourself in this unfamiliar area, seizing any and all opportunities, the faster the culture shock will disappear, and the more you will learn and grow as an individual throughout the semester. Take it from someone who has already studied abroad twice before! With an urge for learning, an open mind, and a belly full of Tim Tams, you’re undoubtedly setting yourself up for success.

As I begin to understand the metric system, get used to looking the other way when crossing the streets, use Celsius instead of Fahrenheit, and pretend like I understand the Aussie slang, I have been nicely adapting to the culture Down Under and look forward to the excitement and exploration that this semester will continue to bring. I’m so grateful to call Sydney my home for these next four months—it certainly hasn’t taken long for me to fall in love with this city, and I’m already re-considering my flight home in July!