Memilih Sydney: “Kamu harus mulai di suatu tempat”


Ketika siswi Indonesia Jessica Herliani Tanoesoedibjo pertama kali diperhadapkan dengan pilihan untuk belajar di Sydney, dia tidak tahu apakah keputusan tersebut adalah benar. Simak pengalamannya belajar di Sydney, dan bagaimana dia jatuh cinta akan kota tersebut!

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

We’ve all probably heard that one before. And as cliche as it may sound, the phrase still rings true.

When I first set foot in Sydney, I was a shy girl with the biggest, yet vaguest ambitions. I knew nothing of what I wanted. I took science in my high school years but then when I got to uni, I didn’t know what to major in, so I took my dad’s advice and went with finance. I was at University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) at the time, just because that was where I was first accepted. It was as though everything was already decided for me. I didn’t even choose Sydney—the fact that my sisters were already there was the reason why I moved here in the first place.

Little did I know, 10 kgs later (yes, I gained that much since I first came here, so fact #1: dieting is not an option here in Sydney because the food is just amazing), that that one step determined a completely different course for me. I was changed.

Trust me, it’s not that new beginnings were completely new to me, no. Before I moved to Sydney, I’ve studied at seven different schools altogether. But there’s just something different about this city (Sydney FTW!).

Sydney changed me.

Within the span of three years, I transferred my credits from UTS and am currently in my penultimate semester at University of New South Wales (UNSW). I’ve joined the Indonesian Students’ Association at uni and have been involved in establishing a charity department called Hand in Hand and am also running it. I’ve become a volunteer at Sydney Children’s Hospital for a while now, working with a number of retired local women. And lastly, yet the most time consuming of all, I am currently the youth leader of a local church—and have been preaching, leading worship, and basically doing everything I never would have thought of doing three years ago.

But thinking back, I realised that it wasn’t just the fact that I moved here that helped me grow. After my first year in Sydney, I wasn’t that much different than before. But the last two years, the last year especially, I’ve been stretched in so many ways that I never deemed possible. And that was what I guess catalysed the change.

So let me break down a few things for you (ha, punny. Catalyse. Enzyme. Break down…if you are a science student you’ll know what I mean…) in regards to what I think can be considered as “tips” for moving to Sydney, Australia:

1. Be a tourist.

I know it may sound like it defeats the purpose of wanting to fit in, but it actually doesn’t! I think to finally stop being “on the outside looking in”, you need to first know what happens inside. Every time you’re away for family vacations, don’t you just want to explore everything? Being a tourist makes you get up every morning, excited for your journey for the day! Know that you won’t be living in the city forever. You’re probably going to go back to Indonesia for good in a couple of years, so while you’re here, get to know the culture—be a tourist!

2. Break free from your culture.

By this I mean…one thing I do realise is that Indos tend to be… Indos. Enter a classroom and you’ll see what I mean. I’m not talking about us being passive in our learning and trying to keep on the down low in classes. What I think is something we need to reconsider is our exclusivity. Indos tend to stick with Indos. First thing we do when we enter a classroom—spot the Indos. Then we go make friends with them. No! I’m challenging you to make local friends. If all the friends you’re going to make are Indos, might as well stay in Indo for uni. Personally, I think the most interesting things aren’t things, but people. Especially those you aren’t familiar with. Build bridges with people you otherwise won’t get a chance to meet, and learn from them.

3. Keep learning.

About yourself and about other people.

4. …especially, to be independent!

Don’t always rely on people. Learn to pay your own bills, take public transport, and don’t be afraid to go to cafes alone! I know it seems weird at first, having to eat by yourself. If you go alone in Indo people are going to stare at you, I know. But not Sydney! Which leads me to my next point…

5. Go on food expeditions.

Sydney actually has the best food (in my biased opinion—refer to fact #1). I personally love brunch (which actually means breakfast at any time of the day, in my opinion) and Sydney has the best brunch spots…with really great coffee too! If you’re more of the type who cannot not eat rice (double negative there, meaning you just have to eat rice! Otherwise you’ll still be hungry)…the Asian food here is also amazing. The thing is, most of the restaurants here are pretty much authentic, cause the chefs are immigrants from their respective countries! Plus, the produce here in Australia is amazing. Great ingredients make great meals.

6. Love what you do and where you are.

The first year I was here I was just mopey and so melodramatic about leaving my family and friends behind and being alone and lonely and being homesick and was just such a drag (the intention of the writer was to drag this sentence too. Pun intended. I am punny). But then as I began to learn to love what I did and where I was, I became much happier. I learned that life goes on and that you can always make more room in your heart for new friends and new memories.

7. Challenge yourself to something new, all the time.

Go for surfing lessons (I’m doing so myself in a few weeks’ time). Watch a show at the Opera House. Try running a marathon (but remember to train for it first). Make local friends. Find a job. Donate blood. Explore the State Library. Jog in parks. Volunteer at a nursing home. Do something you otherwise won’t get a chance to do when you go back to Indo for good in a few years’ time. Whilst you’re here, make it worthwhile.

Again, as cliche as it may sound to say, “You won’t know until you experience it for yourself,” it nonetheless is true.

If you had asked me three years ago, why Sydney? I would never be able to answer you genuinely. Cause really, I, too, didn’t know. But now if you ask me, what I can say is that if back then I waited until I figured things out, I never would have. I never would have met the people and experienced the things that make me as who I am today.

If you’re currently facing doubts and indecision as to deciding which country, and city specifically, to move to for your tertiary studies, and which university to attend… I’m here to tell you that you’re not alone in this. As overwhelming as it gets, these uncertainties are what make life interesting and they leave you wondering as to whether you have made the right decision. But that’s for a later date to worry about.

But a word (words, actually) of advice from someone who’s been there (and is still figuring things out herself)…make the most out of anything. Be grateful for everything. Savour each moment. Cherish everyone.

Truth be told, I have fallen in love with this city and everything it has offerred me in the past years. And if you’re thinking of moving here, don’t even think twice. Don’t be afraid. You have to start somewhere. So why don’t you start now?


Photo provided by author.


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