Sydney has it all,” says Gareth Lewis, Sales and Marketing Director at Kaplan International Colleges Australia in Sydney, and judging by the sheer variety of things on offer in the city, he may very well be right.
A global multicultural city, Sydney certainly is a heady mix of the best of most other popular language travel destinations. Describing the Sydney experience, Anne Menard, Marketing Manager at the English Language Company in Sydney, says, “Sydney offers a perfect combination of a vibrant cosmopolitan city and a beautiful beach holiday destination. Students can enjoy a fantastic quality of life with great facilities and attractions all the while making the most of the outdoors and nature.”
Andy Tolhurst, Marketing Manager NSW at Embassy CES Sydney, says that international students are drawn to Sydney for a number of reasons. “[Sydney is] such a large and famous cosmopolitan city that has something for everyone, and everything for someone: more than 80 beaches, world-class dining for every cuisine you can imagine, great shopping and nightlife, and close access to beautiful nature.”
Sydney’s oceanside position has bestowed it with a whole treasure trove of beautiful beaches, most of which are within a 30-minute drive of the city centre. It is not surprising then that beaches feature highly in students’ recreational activities. “In summer students like to spend their free time on Darling Harbour, in the city centre or at any number of beaches,” relates Menard. “BBQs and picnics are popular at Bondi, Bronte and Coogee [beaches].”
For those who want to have a Sydney beach on their doorstep there are language schools, such as one of Kaplan’s Sydney branches, that are ideally located close to the coast. “[As well as our centrally located college near Hyde Park], we also have a college in Manly, situated in the idyllic surroundings of Sydney’s favourite beach resort, just five minutes away from the beach, and a short bus ride away from the other 18 beaches, coves and inlets throughout the Northern beaches district of Sydney,” says Lewis. “[You can easily] swim, sail, and enjoy Ocean Beach, Shelly Beach, Little Manly and Fairlight. The beautiful beaches, views and the National Park will make you feel like you have escaped the city even though you can hop on the ferry and the city centre is only 30 minutes away.”
Tolhurst says one of his personal highlights of the city is snorkelling in the crystal clear waters of Gordon’s Bay early in the morning at the weekend. “[It’s] hard to believe you’re only 20 minutes from the city centre by bus you really feel like you’re on a holiday,” he exclaims.
Menard is keen to point out that although Sydney is one of Australia’s largest cities, nature is close at hand. “I have lived in London, Liverpool, Paris and Cologne in the past but I am always amazed at how much Sydneysiders love the outdoors and at the great facilities offered here,” she says. “Even though Sydney is a bustling cosmopolitan metropolis, it also remains an amazing destination for nature lovers with numerous beaches, parks and the outstanding natural harbour to enjoy.”
After a day’s sightseeing or shopping, the party atmosphere of the city kicks in. Fiona Davidson, Strategy and Brand Manager at MEGT Education Group, which owns Ability Education in Sydney, reports that favourite student haunts include Darling Harbour and its restaurants, bars and weekly fireworks displays, the trendy bars, restaurants and theatres of Inner West and the arty scene of Surry Hills and its many wine bars.
Reflecting the eclecticism of the city itself, the timetable of activities and excursions organised by language schools in Sydney are varied and aim to show students not only the well-known side of the city but also the lesser-known attractions. “We run canoeing trips in summer in secret places around the harbour usually only visited by locals and the students really love it. They can’t believe there is such beautiful bushland so close to the city,” relates Davidson. “Another great place we like to take students is Nelson Park, a secret harbour beach with an ocean pool set in a beautiful park [with] the view of the harbour bridge and the city skyline in the background.” To enable international students to mix with Australians, Ability also arranges for students to go on bush-regeneration projects with other Australians “to experience everyday people and the Australian natural environment”, says Davidson.
There is indeed a lot to discover in Sydney. According to Lewis, Sydney is the largest, oldest and one of the most culturally diverse cities in Australia. It boasts seven of Australia’s top 10 most popular international visitor attractions, including Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. Lewis also highlights the city’s diversity. “Sydney is an interesting and diverse city that offers everything from afternoons in peaceful green parks, barbecues by the beach, magnificent cafés, cinemas, museums and galleries, plus an amazing nightlife.”
The Sydney population is made up of people from a wide variety of different countries, which, according to Menard, is something students often do not realise until they arrive. “Every neighbourhood has its own unique character and students usually really enjoy discovering new areas,” she says.
The mix of nationalities of Sydneysiders is also reflected in the wide choice of food available. “The variety of culinary experiences available in Sydney is outstanding,” comments Lewis, “From lively street cafés to fine dining restaurants that compete with the world’s best, the city of Sydney offers a feast of culinary delights, both authentically Australian and from around the globe. Some of the most popular include Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Korean and Italian.”
As well as the food, the Sydney population has also shaped some of its annual festivals, according to Menard. “There are cultural festivals from all over the world, such as the Ferragosto Italian Festival in Five Dock, the Brazilian and Malaysian festivals in Darling Harbour or the International Film festivals held throughout the year,” she reports.
However, Menard mentions that the “number one event” in Sydney is the New Year’s Eve fireworks. “Most students see the Sydney fireworks on TV every year in their country and when they come here and see them [firsthand] it is like fulfilling a dream.”
Davidson recommends the Sydney Festival in January, a month of free music, art, theatre and performance around the city centre. “[It] has many free events during the beautiful summer evenings, and we always encourage the students to go to the giant street party for this festival where they shut down the streets of the city for music and dancing.” Other annual events open to students include the Tropfest short film festival, held at the Domain park; the Vivid light festival showcasing amazing light and laser artwork projected on to the iconic buildings in the city centre; and Sculpture by the Sea, an annual collection of sculptures by Australian artists placed along the famous Bondi to Tamarama coastal walk. With the wide variety of things to do, it is hard to tire of Sydney, and for many it is the simple things that make it so special. “As silly as it may sound,” says Menard, “my favourite thing to do in Sydney [is] probably barbecues [or] barbies as Australians call them [as they are] simple, social and close to nature.”
“Sydney has a good public transportation system, however, the living costs are higher than students expect. The city is sophisticated, with beaches and nature close by. Students may enjoy shopping at the markets (Rocks, Paddington etc), BBQ’s at the beach and day trips to Three Sisters and the Hunter Valley. They are many places that I like; Glebe, Manly, and the contrasting view of the Opera House and Harbour bridge. But my favourite place in Sydney is the path from Bondi to Coogee beach.”
Naomi Uchida, Ryugaku Journal, Japan
“Students like the many world class tourist attractions such as the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. The city itself is multicultural (there are so many Thai living and studying in Sydney) and so our students can adapt to the culture easily. I like dining out at Darling Harbour, plus cruising along the harbour offers a stunning view of Sydney CBD and the North Sydney skyline.”
Nanthapol (Bon) Hansakwong, The Dean Inter Education Consulting, Thailand
“Sydney has this amazing mix of urban and beach style culture which makes it a place where you always feel comfortable. Other points to mention are the Sydneysiders’ kindness and their welcoming attitude. You will always have nice and caring people around when you are in Sydney. The climate, the safety and the outdoor lifestyle are key points that are often taken into account for choosing Sydney as a destination. People are often surprised to find such a high quality of life in a city with over four million inhabitants. Moreover, most students don’t expect to find so many green spaces in and around the city nor to find dozen of amazing beaches at their doorstep.”
Géraldine Pfulg, ESL, Switzerland