Balancing Being a Tourist and Being a Student

As my final weeks in Australia are approaching, so are finals. I’ve been in the library more than I have all semester and have used my free time to explore Sydney as much as possible. It has been a balancing game. On Friday after my lab, my friend and I hopped on a train for an hour and a ferry to head over to Royal National Park to visit the famous Wedding Cake Rock.

Wedding Cake Rock

Wedding Cake Rock, also known as White Rock, is a limestone rock formation located in the Royal National Park near Bundeena, New South Wales, Australia, accessible via the Royal National Park Coast Track. Before we went, we heard from Australian locals that it is dangerous and that the entire rock formation could collapse anytime within a decade. It is part of the normal process of rocks being worn over time by the elements and a result of the rock geology. A 23 year old university student also fell to death when the rock crumbled. Due to this, a fence has been placed to block entrance with a sign that reads “Do not risk your life for a photograph.”

Vivid Sydney: Festival of Lights 

Vivid Sydney is an annual outdoor lighting festival with immersive light installations and projections in Sydney. I am lucky enough to live in a pretty tourist-y area of Sydney called Darling Harbor. Darling Harbor has its own Vivid Sydney attraction as do most popular locations all throughout Sydney. Darling Harbor had various cruises departing that went around Sydney to see all the Vivid Sydney attractions that were available. We went on a cruise and spent the next couple of weeks visiting all the Vivid Sydney attractions throughout the city for the month of June. After the Orlando shooting, Town Hall was lit up pink in solidarity with the victims. All the attractions were artistic and scenic in their own way and Royal Botanic Gardens, located right next to the famous Sydney Opera House overlooking the Sydney Harbor Bridge, was undoubtedly my favorite.

Chinese Friendship Garden & Grounds of Alexandria

My friend and I needed a study break and decided to visit the Chinese Friendship Garden that was located right by my apartment and have lunch at the Grounds of Alexandria – the prettiest cafe ever. I loved that I just visited this garden and felt like I took a quick mini trip to a Chinese temple. Afterwards we hopped on a train to get to the Grounds of Alexandria.

Little did we know the Grounds of Alexandria was not just a cafe, but it was a mini farmers market with various food options. Few things in life make me as happy as farmer markets. There were fresh Belgian donuts being made right in front of us and flower shops with an amazing assortment. This was supposed to be a quick trip and we ended up spending more than half a day here.


I’ve always been a very independent girl who loves to branch out, explore new things and get out of my comfort zone. I knew studying abroad for a semester was for me as a freshman when I learned about the different options. I am also very family oriented and I knew somewhere along my trip I would have a case of homesickness.

Weirdly enough for me, it wasn’t in the beginning of the trip like most of my peers. It kicked in on the holidays. When Mother’s Day and Father’s Day rolled around, I found myself watching snap-chats of everyone spending time with their family and it started to hit. I keep in touch with my family as much as possible through FaceTime and phone calls. There is a 17 hour difference between Sydney and Los Angeles that I did not think would be too much of an issue. As school became more demanding and I started exploring more, I found it getting harder to communicate with everyone back home.

My mom never checks the time in Sydney (even though I showed her how to use world clock) and I always get phone calls while I am asleep at 4 a.m. Other times, I’d get home from my day and try to contact my family, only to realize it is around 3 am back home. And since I love my sleep, I try to avoid disturbing others’ sleep.

It is nothing too unbearable though as I know it is temporary. I know we will be reunited and I believe this time apart just makes me appreciate the times together so much more. I gave myself half a day of being down and snapped back into the reality. ‘

I am in a beautiful city on a beautiful continent and these experiences are worth every amount of homesickness I endure.

Ruta Gebreyesus is earning a bachelor’s degree in Foods and Nutrition at San Diego State University. She is blogging from Sydney, Australia during spring semester 2016.

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