And how are things in Sydney?

Early February I set off from Schiphol, unexpected weather conditions made my trip longer and got me a day in Dublin and Abu Dhabi too, sponsored by the airline. Four days later I arrived in Sydney, jet-lagged, tired, but with enthusiasm I spend the first days outfitting my new room and exploring the neighbourhood. Because the Sydney-feeling wasn’t there yet I decided to conduct the mandatory visit to the Harbour Bridge and Opera House… Now I felt like a Sydneysider.

The first month in Australia was about settling in; to the weather, people and life-style. Although I live close to the University of Sydney, my 15 minute walk leads me along four other university campuses. University started in March with the Orientation Week, which mainly meant trying to enrol in courses you cannot enrol in, getting enrolled in courses you didn’t enrol in, visiting advisers and a whole lot of other bureaucracy. Two weeks later I was finally enrolled in all courses.

There is a big difference of between Architecture education and research of the TU/e and USyd, where in Sydney they try to explore your philosophical side and built ‘weird’ shapes and forms, Eindhoven tends to keep it buildable, more rational. Here, architecture is an art in the first and a utilitarian profession in the second place.

I am enrolled in a more philosophical course which has led me to interview one of Australia’s most influential (now retired and grumpy) architect. My 3D design, rendering and printing course is mainly about ‘who builds the strangest object, and gets it the highest grade’. Australian sustainable design is, as I learned in the sustainable course, about 25 years behind the Netherlands, mainly because their climate (and air-conditionars) never made it necessary the insulate houses. What I did most was implement European techniques, which seemed to interest the tutors and other students.

Although Australia isn’t a very old country yet, they do care about their heritage buildings, in this subject the lecturer showed us many examples of Australian and overseas’ buildings that were restored or extended in -mostly- a traditional and sensitive way, something again different from the Dutch culture of preserving buildings through development, creating contrasts and sometimes provocation.

In the time I’ve been here Sydney showed me another side of my field of study than Eindhoven did. Whether this side is good or bad is unimportant, the importance lies in the experience and a broader knowledge of your own field of study. I recommend everyone to do a semester abroad, in your own best interest and experience. Although I love my time here, I’m also looking forward starting my graduation project in Eindhoven.

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