Arrival & Orientation in Australia
Descending into Sydney to start my Work & Travel Australia program, I could see the entire city, including the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. As for the 22-hour plane ride, I can't believe I'm saying this but, it actually wasn't that bad. The trick is to get up and move around as much as possible. Also, eating and sleeping when the airline staff dictates is a good idea, as it will help overcome jetlag.
I arrived around 10am and caught the shuttle bus to the hostel. The hostel is really nice. It's right off the main thoroughfare in central Sydney. The first thing I did was walk up George Street to check out the CBD (Central Business District) in action. I couldn't stop marveling at the fact that it was January and I was walking around in shorts, a t-shirt, and sandals!
Back at the hostel, I immediately made some friends, including my French-Canadian roommate Nathalie, who was also in the program. We ended up going out to dinner with a group of people organized by a Canadian guy who had connected with us through an online forum prior to our arrival. He had been in Australia since December and so was a sort of veteran. It was nice to meet somebody who knew more about the city than I did and could show me around!
The orientation was held the next morning and was very helpful. It had been a little overwhelming not to know about jobs until arriving in Australia, but the staff gave great suggestions for fine-tuning our CVs and tips for finding jobs. Our orientation group went out for lunch afterwards and walked around Darling Harbour. Then I went to the bank to open up and activate my new account. Even though this is normally such a mundane activity, it was infused with a newness that made it kind of exciting.
Armed with my new bank card, I explored the city a bit more, including walking around the bustling Circular Quay, which surrounds the stunning Sydney Harbour. I have a feeling I'm going to like this place.
Job & Housing Search
The first week was a whirlwind! Some highlights included walking over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, playing tambourine with an Irish band at a bar in the Rocks (an historic neighborhood), attending a New Orleans Jazz festival in The Domain (the Central Park of Sydney), the coastal walk from Bondi Beach to Coogee, and the Museum of Sydney. I basically wanted to soak up as much of the city as I could before starting work.
I've been meeting people from all over the world (mostly Canadians and British, a few Americans and other assorted Europeans). It's amazing how many people are here doing a work and travel program. I started looking for jobs yesterday and there were a couple of promising responses. I handed out my CV to about ten different establishments, mostly cafes and bistros. Most said they would be hiring in a couple of weeks, after most students go back to university.
Landing a Job and Finding Accommodation
I found a room in a house in the Surry Hills area of Sydney through the the program. The landlady is super sweet and she really seems like she takes care of the place. The room is a little small but I'll make do. In total, six people will be living in the house: one Spanish guy, an Irish lass, three American girls, and an Asian nursing student. What a mix! I will really enjoy getting to know my new roommates, having my own room, having a kitchen, and not having to climb up a ladder to go to bed. Surry Hills is also a pretty hip neighborhood with a pub on almost every corner.
In job-related news, I got a call from a catering company I applied to and I'm going for my first shift this weekend! It's basically like a temp agency; you tell them the hours you can work each week and they call you with available shifts in venues all over the city. You can work as little or as much as you want. It actually pays pretty well, about AUS $20/hour. I have some catering experience but nothing too extensive. I did have to take the RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol) course, a 6 ½ hour course that everyone who serves alcohol in the hospitality industry has to go through.
In addition to my catering job, which I will mainly do on the weekends, I will be a nanny during the week for a family in Northbridge, a suburb north of the Harbour Bridge. I landed the job after visiting the office where I had my orientation and meeting with a woman from an au pair agency. I start after the weekend and I could not be more excited to get to know an Australian family.
Now that I've actually settled in a bit, I'm starting to feel more like a Sydneysider. I'm going to rugby matches, walking in the park near my house, seeing friends regularly for trivia and movies, working two fairly steady part-time jobs, and just generally loving life abroad. I am more sure every day that this was the best decision of my life.