Hi! My name is Jillian Punwar, and I’m a rising senior at USC studying public relations. This past semester, I studied abroad in Sydney, Australia and had the most amazing experience I could have ever imagined. As an extremely indecisive person, the process of picking a place to study amongst the amazing options was daunting. I ended up choosing Sydney to experience a new culture and visit another side of the world I had never been to - and I could not have been happier with my choice.
Upon arriving in Sydney, my roommates and I decided to take a class together called “Sustainable Tourism in Australia.” The class entailed a two week online class along with a field trip to a eco-tourism resort surrounded by the Great Barrier Reef called Lady Elliot Island. After arriving on the island, we learned that the island was INSANELY small, and our class of about 50 people were the only people besides the staff who were living there for the weekend. We had class once a day, and learned about a range of subjects revolving around sustainable tourism, such as the effect the carbon footprint of aviation has on the environment and ways to possibly combat that. Besides the interesting topics that were presented to us, we had the best few days on the little island. There was no cell service on the island and our days were spent swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving and meeting new people. On one occasion, we got up at 4:30 A.M and headed over to the location on the island best known for the exotic marine life which inhibits it. We were able to snorkel as the sun was rising, and see animals such as sharks, sting rays and huge turtles. It was truly the most amazing experience. We became friends with people in our class who were from all over the world - some from schools in the U.S, others Australian students or foreign exchange students. We met and became close with people we would have never met otherwise. After our time on Lady Elliot Island ended, we kept in touch with our close knit group and saw them frequently throughout our 5 amazing months in Sydney.
Before coming abroad, I had no idea what this experience would be like and had no desire to go to a small island in the middle of the ocean with people I didn’t know. However, having this opportunity set the tone of my whole experience in Australia. This class opened me up to new people, and allowed us to make friends without technology and social media playing any part of it. I was able to try things I have never tried before and make lifelong friends, and this trip influenced me to be open to trying new things abroad.
If you are thinking of going to Sydney, I would definitely recommend getting out of your comfort zone and taking this class. Or if you don’t have the opportunity to take this class, take every opportunity possible to go out and meet new people in your classes, living in your community and any locals you meet. We met so many amazing people through experiencing this class and just going up to Australians and talking to them.
This “field trip” was a great kickoff to an amazing semester abroad. Shortly after returning from the island, my three roommates and I set off on a trip around Asia - traveling to Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore. Upon returning from that life-changing trip, we took advantage of every second we had in Australia. It soon became known to me that Sydney was one of my favorite places in the world. Every weekend we adventured around the city, tried amazing food, met new people and went to different beaches. Since we were not leaving every weekend, I truly felt like a local in Sydney which was amazing. I became friends with people from all over the world, and with those new friends we traveled to new places in Australia including the magical Byron Bay (you need to go here), and even took a weekend trip to New Zealand. If I were talking to a prospective abroad student, I would recommend Sydney, Australia with all my heart and soul. The ability to live in one place for months and get to know the amazing city of Sydney is an experience like no other and something so unique. I would not trade my abroad experience for the world, and I am so happy with my decision!
is a senior at USC pursuing her degree in Public Relations. Jillian studied abroad in Sydney in the Spring semester of 2018. She posses a strong interest in snorkeling, experimenting with local cuisines and enjoys exploring new cultures. Hence, she fit right into the ‘Aussie lifestyle’.