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How to Hold a Koala, Dive the Great Barrier Reef, and See Sydney in One Week!

When I arrived at 6:50 in the morning at Sydney Airport I was exhausted. I had spent some of my first hours on the plane ride to LAX crying and then some at LAX and on the plane to Sydney as well. I was so afraid that I would get lost and no one would find me or even know I was missing. I had never traveled outside of America and I was about to spend four months in country I had never been in on the other side of the world. I had planned every detail out to make sure I could find my way to UTS without a phone (just in case something happened to it).

After stumbling through immigration and customs I bought a new sim card, an opal card, and tapped into the Wifi to tell everyone back home that I had made it to Australia. I had slept on plane, but all my body wanted me to do was sleep. So that’s what I did. I rented a hotel for one night, cried and called home, and then I slept. I slept from noon till 3am without any food and got ready for my shuttle to bring me back to the airport. At 4am the shuttle took me to the domestic airport and I had my first meal: a “toastie” with eggs, bacon, cheese, and BBQ SAUCE. I had said no to the sauce but they put it on anyway and behold, my first Aussie meal. I boarded my plane and an hour later arrived in Brisbane. I had an eight-hour layover and I was determined to make the most of it.

Now, for those you that may not know, the state of NSW does not let the public hold Koala Bears, but guess where you can hold them? That’s right. Queensland lets you hold the Koala Bears and the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is the best place to do it. After arriving I found out that an Uber or taxi would cost at least $80 bucks to get a ride there, so public transportation was my best shot. For many people from other places (especially Europe) public transportation is a walk in the park or very easy to use, but for me, having to take public transportation was like having to find my way out of a maze with no light. I had never taken public transportation on my own and believe it or not, I made to the park one piece. I was so proud of myself, but not as proud as I was when I got to hold Hamilton. It was nothing like I expected it to be and I won’t tell you why. The experience is invaluable and unbelievable. If you have the time and money go hold and Koala and experience it for yourself.

After seeing my very first Platypus and Tasmanian Devil and petting and feeding Kangaroos, I rushed back to the airport. I had a lot more time than I thought I would because Australian airports have much less strict security than America. I boarded my plane and arrived at Gilligan’s Hotel (hostel for party people) in Cairns.

The next morning I got up before the sun to go diving in the Great Barrier Reef. Three days and 10 of the best dives of my life later, we came back to shore and I partied with my newly made friends until I had to leave for the airport the next morning. Once back in Sydney I got a free shuttle ride to my hostel (take advantage of everything free, my friends) and met my new hostel roommates from Scotland. They invited me on a free tour of The Rocks and we spent the rest of their trip in exploring Sydney together. We saw the Opera house, Chinese Friendship Garden, Royal Botanical Gardens, and ate at many delicious restaurants. That was my first week in Australia and I challenge you to have an even better first week!

I have no regrets as of now for everything I’ve done and spent money on so far. My only advice to you would be to Make Lots of Friends. If you’re staying in housing, you will find mostly international students and they will be in the same boat as you. Excited, scared, intimidated, curious, sad, and maybe even lonely. The moment you make friends all of the negative feelings disappear, because now you can explore the city with someone and have someone to talk to. If I had not made friends, I don’t know if I would have made it this far. I’m not the best at making friends, so if you’re horrible at it, be ready for a challenge because friendship is what is going to make your trip unforgettable and tolerable (for the homesick).

Good luck out there! I hope you love Sydney as much as I do!

Danielle Moy-Jatko

Science - Biology

Florida Atlantic University, USA


So, how did your first week compare? Leave your stories in the comments below.

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