#TBT – First Impressions of Sydney

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This #TBT post is thanks to Marie Madden, a student at Towson University and a former ISA Featured Blogger. Marie interned abroad with  ISA Internships in Sydney, Australia in Summer 2012.

I tend to define first impressions as those opinions I form on arrival or those that ultimately changed with a greater sense of familiarity.  Therefore, I am continuing to form impressions that will probably change once I have had more experiences here in Australia.

Upon first arriving in Sydney, I was mostly nervous to navigate this big and unfamiliar city on my own, especially commuting to and from my internship site.  Since I’m a suburban girl, I didn’t know how I would handle the fast-paced ways of a large city like Sydney, including public transportation. I envisioned the city to resemble New York City, though I was surprised to find that people are much more laid-back and willing to help a confused visiting intern like myself.

On nearly every bus I took for the first couple of days, I asked the bus driver to help me identify where my stop was. The drivers never denied me aid, which was not only helpful in my attempt to reach my destination, but also comforting to know that people would be patient with me when I was feeling especially lost.


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The help I receive in navigating transportation plays only a part of my impression-forming process, especially in terms of the types of people that live here in Australia. If I need help in a store or on the street, people provide explicit directions to help me find my way.

Likewise, I have had several interactions with people at my internship site, which has provided an enhanced sense of the city and its residents.

On my very first day at my ISA internship, one of the employees invited me out for dinner with her and some of her friends. She said that it would be nice for me to be able to hang out with some “real Australians.”

I was surprised at how friendly everyone at my internship was towards me. Even the other local interns introduced themselves and offered help when they thought that I needed it. Although I never expected anyone to be rude, I also was not expecting the warm welcome I received from everyone. It’s refreshing to work with people who are so understanding of my situation. 

They ask me how my culture shock was doing, if I’m jet lagged, and how I’m navigating the city. Essentially, they have addressed every fear that I had coming to Sydney. They even suggest restaurants, cities, and places in Australia to consider visiting.

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I also gather that most people in the city are humble. In the states, people tend to behave in a way that helps them stand out because that’s how we’ve been taught to succeed. We have to emphasize our strengths in order to move up in education, school, and social life.

Here in Australia, people emphasize a greater sense of teamwork and humbleness. There seems to be less emphasis here on the individual than in the United States.

I think people’s reactions towards the U.S. were the most surprising.

I’ve always felt that people from the U.S. are widely resented for various reasons. When I tell people how much I enjoy being in such a friendly city, they often times tell me how much they like the U.S. and Americans. They say that they were well-received when they visited the U.S. and that people were kind and welcoming. I was kind of surprised to hear that reaction because I hear more negative feedback on the U.S. from other cultures that positive feedback.

So far, I have been received well, which makes me even more excited to explore all kinds of people in this country without fear of rejection.

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