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My Up Side Down World

Maria Pia Clode Silva Henriques de Araujo

Studying at Nova School of Business and Economics, Lisbon

From: Madeira, Portugal


It has been one month since I arrived in Sydney and so much has happened, some things better than others but I will have time to tell you about all my adventures. I have to keep you engaged. But first a little bit about me and how I ended up on the other side of the world.

My name is Maria Pia and I am a tiny (1.48 meters), 19 years old, Portuguese girl. I lived in a tiny island in the middle of the Atlantic ocean called Madeira all my life. I had any teenage girls dream life. I loved my friends, was on the student union and at the gymnastics and ballet team. I couldn't ask for anything else. There wasn't a day that I would not jump of bed at 7 a.m. with a huge smile in my face to go to school. But eventually the time came to move out of my parents house to go to university in the main land.

As you know or probably imagine moving out might be exciting at first but can easily turn into a night mare. Precisely what happened to me. So when the time came to enrol for exchange I wanted to go as far away as I could from Lisbon. Don't take me wrong, it is a incredible city to live in and I could give you 100 good reasons to visit or do your exchange there. I just happened to get off with the wrong foot.

Six months after applying I got accepted to UTS. I could not believe I was actually going to the other side of the world! I had mixed feelings about basically everything and seriously considered quitting.

In case you are thinking of coming but are having second thoughts, don't!! I know the feeling. The nights without sleeping thinking about all the possible things that can go wrong. Not making any friends, don't like the city, the classes, the housing, the food, the shops, the water and even the smell. I was also worried with all those things. I reached to the point that I was having nightmares about my plane falling. And trust me, I am not afraid for planes, I lived in an island where the only way out is flying. I am used to take planes as often as you take the train in case you study away from home. But my sister told me, "life is no fun without the butterflies in you tummy". I embraced this advice and went for it. I was ready to set out for this adventure.

I threw a big goodbye party and left home with my heart full of joy and expectations knowing that, if for some reason I did not like Sydney, I had all my friends and family to back me up. A piece of advice: once you realize that you can go for six months, a year or two away and that things will be practically the same when you come back, going will be a lot easier.

Anyway, I am writing to tell you about my extraordinary experience while in Australia, not before. The first days were not the best. 11 hour jet lag is hard to manage. It was raining all the time. I thought I was coming for summer and now it was colder then at home? I was confused. But as soon as the jet lag wore off the weather became better and I was able to enjoy the city.

The first weeks were of being 100% a tourist. Go to Bondi and to Manly beach, see The Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains, pet a wild kangaroo and of course spending time at the harbour and the Opera House was a dream come true. For so long I had seen pictures of this magical city on TV series, but never did I think I would come to live here. Every landscape took my breath away, I couldn't stop smiling and thinking of how lucky I was to have the opportunity to be here.

When orientation week started things just continued getting better. The amount of activities that were prepared to receive students was impressing. Even the information sessions were very entertaining and a great way to start talking to other students not to mention the parties organised, free food a beach trips. You will see that when you know absolutely no one in a country, you will make friends with anybody. The girl that was siting next to me on one of these sessions is now one of my best friend as is actually joining me in a trip to New Zealand on StuVac (study vacation).

When classes did start I was quite worried about the work load. It turned out not to be that heavy, at least compared to my home university. I continued travelling on weekends, meeting new friends and try all kinds of different activities including an AFL game between the Sydney Swans and the Bulldogs (AFL is Australian rules football). I got to go to Palm Beach, Kiama, and even Melbourne and Newcastle.

Besides teachers are very helpful and easy to approach with any kinds of questions or problems. And trust me, I had a couple of issues. With all the excitement and experiences I was going through I went back to being a "Dory". I forgot my stuff everywhere, including my passport. You can imagine the stress. Gladly it is sorted out. No, I did not find it under my bed. I actually had to make a new one which included a lot of walking in the rain and visits to the police and the Immigration Department.

Things are now a bit more calm since it is time to hand in assignments but I still love it. I have been able to join different clubs and societies such as Cheerleading, Quidditch (yes, the Harry Potter one) and the Food Society. I am ready to go with some friends on an Easter road trip to the Royal National Park and to Jervis Bay and all my assignments are in time with quite good feed back.

If all this was not enough to convince you that coming to UTS is the once in a life time opportunity that you have to take advantage off, and then you just have to try it yourself. I can assure you that it will be more than worth the blank nights, the tummy aches and that scary moment of leaving everything you know and coming to discover the other side of the world.


What tips would you give to Maria Pia to make her experience even better!?

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