Final Blog

Headshot of Lily Nannini.
Lily Nannini
May 14, 2024

My biggest piece of advice in terms of getting into the country itself is to MAKE. SURE. YOUR. VISA. MATCHES. YOUR. PASSPORT. EXACTLY. Was it the smartest decision to fill out my Australian visa application with the random burst of energy I got at 10 p.m. after driving 16 hours back to school after Thanksgiving break? Probably not. Did it all work out in the end anyway? Yes, but I could’ve saved myself a lot of unnecessary stress if I just did it right the first time.

When I got to Logan airport, my dad stayed with the truck while my mom went with me to get checked in. We were having trouble getting me checked in and, long story short, they had to confirm my identity because my middle name was written in my passport and not my visa. The woman told me I might need to reapply for my visa and sent us over to the help counter. The guy at the counter was super nice and thankfully got through to get me checked in but yikes. Everything was fine once I got to Australia, but creating my bank account took longer than it would have if my visa had the correct information. Anyway, it was fine but just make sure everything on your passport matches your visa exactly. Also, bring a black ink pen to fill out the incoming passenger card they give you on the plane. 

In my pre-departure blog, I wrote these questions that I’m going to answer 4.5 months later:

How was the transition to being at a big school? Did you like studying at a school that size?

UNSW has over 66,000 students, a crazy number compared to the barely 2,000 that make up W&L. The transition itself was completely fine. I had no trouble finding my classes, but adjusting to academics in Australia was interesting. Each class held a 2 hour lecture and 2 hour tutorial per week. The school runs on a trimester system, so term one only lasted 10 weeks (included “flex week” which is known as a study/catchup week but really used as an opportunity for abroad students to travel). It was weird being at a “real” school, because I’m so stuck in the study abroad mentality but most people here are actually in school. It was fun to be anonymous among so many people. There were a lot more options for food and coffee on campus than back at home as well, but there’s no such thing as “meal plans” here. The grading is also significantly different. For instance, my 2000 level contemporary literature course had two major essays, worth 60% and 40% of the entire grade. I’m so used to “busy work” and getting a cushion grade for completing homework back at W&L that it was a lot of pressure to do well on two assignments. Overall, I’m really glad I got to experience going to college at a big school because I’ve always wanted to know what it was like. 

Did you pack the right things? How was the weather? What do you wish you had packed and what do you wish you would’ve left at home?

I definitely wish I packed more athleisure. I went into this thinking I would actually wear cute tops and outfits but who am I kidding? I choose comfort and practicality over looks any day, why did I think that would change in Australia? During the semester I basically lived at the gym. If I wasn’t doing yoga, pilates, ABT or spin I would be doing homework while drinking a mocha at the gym cafe. I also wish I packed sweatpants. The weather in the beginning when it was fully summer was wicked hot, but now that it's fall it has cooled down for sure. I remember holding a pair of sweatpants and thinking “nah I don’t need these.” Wrong. Also the amount of dresses I packed was a little excessive. It’s so windy here that they just blow up anyway so there’s no point. I am glad that I didn’t waste room in my suitcase packing a “nice” pair of shoes. Despite reading that I needed them, I did not need them. The fanciest shoes I have here are my Vejas, otherwise I lived in my birks or rainbows. 

Did you get a job?

I actually did try to get a job in the beginning (surprise surprise none of my applications prompted a follow up). However, it wasn’t as easy as they made it out to be. I got a bank account with the intent that my income would be deposited into it, but I kinda wish I didn’t because there was no need for it (especially because we never got the reimbursement from IES Abroad anyway). 

Are you glad you went with the 1000/2000 level courses, or do you wish you had taken that 3000 level German course?

I ended up switching into the 3000 level course and I’m so glad that I did. I was encouraged to not take any classes above 1000/2000 level, but ironically my 1000 level was the actual bane of my existence. I really enjoyed ARTS2040 and ARTS3295, and wish I took another 2000 level course instead of ARTS1030. 

How much money did you spend?

~$10,000 (not including the $3,000 flight + visa fee + IES Abroad program cost)

What surprised you the most?

I really loved traveling solo. Kangaroo was really good (from the IES Abroad field trip to Royal National Park, it tasted like teriyaki steak tips YUM). I can’t believe I went skydiving. I can’t believe I rented a car and drove it. I can’t believe I lived with cockroaches. They don’t say shrimp on the barbie…they actually call them prawns. I had so much fun snorkeling and surfing. 

What was the biggest difference in how people live there?

Australia in general seems like a very active country. People are always up for sunrise and doing activities outside (love it). The Sydney run club is huge. I never traveled with my passport within Australia. The barefoot culture and being able to wear a bikini on the bus without a second glance is awesome. They say the word “keen” a lot.  Driving on the left side of the road and knowing which way to look first was weird to get used to.

What was the best thing you ate?

Pizza in Tassie. Açaí­ bowl from Byron Bay General Store. Açaí from Morning Glory Coogee. Nachos from Tree House in Byron Bay. Muffin from Talulah’s in Newcastle. Affogato from Salti on Daydream Island. Anzac biscuit from Daydream Island. Fried buffalo chicken sandwich and vanilla soft serve from cruise ship.

I love the study abroad mentality—you live knowing you only have 4 months to explore this new place so you wanna make the most of it. Australia is the place to try new things + say yes to doing everything. I learned how to surf, rented a car and drove over the harbour bridge, went skydiving, snorkeled off of a sailboat, went on solo trips, and fell in love with yoga and pilates. I genuinely enjoy traveling and being in Australia has made me realize I’m serious about continuing this passion. I don’t want travel to only be for a vacation once a year if I can make the time, I want it to be a priority because I’ve learned the most about the world and myself through interactions with others and figuring things out through experience. 

Now that it’s over, the second that plane touches down in Boston, I have to hit play on my real life. I’m so excited to be home and countless times throughout the semester all I wanted was to be home, but now that the day is finally here I’m scared. I’ve lived this entirely separate life for the past 4.5 months and now I just have to go back to all of my obligations I left behind. Torn between ready to leave and wanting to stay.


A blank page holds endless possibilities…

  • “started my australia study abroad journey with a heart attack” (saturday, december 30, 2023)
  • “she told me she boils her tap water. i just sent it straight from the faucet + it tastes fine” (monday, 1 january 2024)
  • “facetimed mom + dad. dais was so so cute i miss her, bruins won 5-2 v the avs. pasta got a hatty!! + coyle was the assist:)” (friday, 19 january 2024)
  • “antoine asked me for a song to add to his playlist from ppl he meets on his travels. i told him ho hey by the lumineers” (saturday, 27 january, 2024)
  • “canopy ride had lots of turns but i didn’t throw up or pass out so i call that a win!” (wednesday, 28 february 2024)
  • “cockroach infestation” (thursday, 29 february, 2024)
  • “all i want right now is to be home” (sunday, 11 february 2024)
  • “took all the kitchen trash out bc no one else was gonna do it” (wednesday, 26 february, 2024)
  • “today was the sh-ttiest sh-t show of a sh-t day. woke up @ who tf even knows when” (sunday, 3 march 2024)
  • “this pen sucks grrrr!!!!” (thursday, 19 march 2024)
  • “easter well spent” (sunday, 31 march, 2024)
  • “one year ago today i was celebrating anna’s 21st bday at thell in vienna” (wednesday, 24 april 2024)
  • “i literally chucked my towel + birks onto the concrete land + gracefully made it” (friday, 3 may 2024)
  • “06:35 wakeup for yoga. did not go to yoga” (wednesday, 8 may 2024)

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Headshot of Lily Nannini.

Lily Nannini

Hi! I'm Lily and I'm from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. I currently attend Washington and Lee University in Virginia. I'm always down for spontaneous adventures, catching sunrise/sunset, and taking pictures of food:) When I graduate college I want to renovate a van and travel the country, visiting every U.S. National Park as I go. Hopefully I'll have a golden retriever with me too. I love meeting new people and gaining new experiences, so I am extremely excited for this term in Vienna!

Home University:
Washington and Lee University
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