I arrived in Sydney, Australia on January 8th to start my two-month internship downtown just a couple days later. The company I worked for was called Happily Organised, which is a business organising consultancy founded by and comprised of only one person, who became my mentor through the first two months abroad.
Although the office was officially in the Central Business District, over half of the days were spent traveling to client locations either to meet them for the first time and hear about their technological or workflow problems or to revisit clients paying for ongoing projects. For one recurring client we visited weekly, the work consisted of sifting, reorganising, and simplifying the client’s Customer Relationship Management system, which is a web-based application integrating contacts, calendars, and email. For each other client, though, there were an infinite number of ways to resolve business organising concerns. The challenging, and perhaps most engaging, part of the job was effectively communicating technology-based solutions to people who generally were not all that tech-savvy.
The client-facing position was not only an invaluable work experience for future endeavors, but also exposed me to a large sample of Australian ways of life, lingo, and perspectives through the clients with whom I worked. Another aspect of the internship opportunity—which I wouldn’t have preferred any other way—was working in such a small organisation/start-up. Immersion in every client account gave me exposure to and experience with many skills that are proving their worth already during my first month back in the US. While the expectations and level of responsibility were quite high, it served as the perfect first step to understanding the work-life perspective in Sydney prior to starting the semester at University of Sydney.
My advice to anyone planning to study in Sydney (or anywhere abroad, for that matter) is to explore everything about the neighborhoods in which you’re living and working. There are so many hidden gems to be found: shops and cafes on back alleys, small events known only to locals, and anything of the beaten path. The mid-semester break trip I made to the Great Barrier Reef was a solo vacation, which turned out to be a huge turning point in my perspective during my time abroad. Traveling solo encourages (and almost necessitates) your mingling with locals and fellow travelers, finding friends, and taking part in spontaneous adventures. During that mid-semester break, I even became friends with a potential business connection for work in Sydney after my senior year of undergraduate studies.
Do not pass up the opportunity to get involved with the campus life and organisations. Not only does it provide a good environment in which to meet Australian students, but it also can lead to your discovery of lesser known places to see and things to do. If you remain as mentally and socially open as possible, the study abroad internship experience in Sydney will be the time of your life.