Written by Sage Corps Summer 2018 fellow, Allyson Ko.
"I live in an apartment called Rex Apartments with three other girls - Avia, the best roommate ever, Jenny, and Kailee. They're awesome and I'm really glad I get to live with them! In our two-bed two-bath place, we have our own washer and dryer with cleaning each week and access to the gym and pool. The guys' suites on the twenty-fourth floor give them a rad view of the entire cityscape, while the girls on the first and second floors get a fascinating view of office meetings, power points, and excel sheets, and a special view of the pool. Sadly, our cohort isn't able to hang out all the time after work on weekdays because our keys only allow us onto our respective floors, but we still try to meet up whether it's going out for drinks, cooking together, or just hanging out in an apartment.
Rex Apartments is in the heart of the Sydney CBD, meaning it's only a few minutes away from Darling Harbour and walking distance from Circular Quay, the Opera House, Chinatown, and the train/bus/ferry ports! If we don't feel like cooking, we like to go to nearby stores. Right next door to us is Umai Sushi, which has a Happy Hour after 3PM (two sushi rolls for $5AUD), or Nando's which has very filling Chicken Paella (it's very delicious). Even though I stay at the apartment with my mates most evenings, I like to occasionally run along the Barangaroo Reserve. There's one section of the reserve where you have a view of an amazing sunset on your left and the Harbour Bridge on your right. As someone who strongly dislikes exercising, knowing that I get a sick view of the Sydney Opera House with a rainbow colored sky background motivates me to get out and run."
"While a majority of my cohort has commutes over 40 minutes, I'm really grateful that mine is a 7 minute walk. But even through this short walk, I take in the hustle and bustle of the city. In the mornings, it's always crowded with dressed up people walking and driving to work or grabbing a coffee to go. You get the smell of fresh meals like pastries and sandwiches calling for you. When I'm walking home, there's people waiting for the bus in a completely straight line, dining over fancy foods, or grabbing drinks with coworkers."
Working & Startup Life
"The startup that I work for is Douugh, a startup that aims to help people live debt free lives and produce better financial habits with their smart financial advisor algorithm, Sophie. Every morning I go up to the 8th floor of Tank Stream Labs, a co-working environment where startups and entrepreneurs can connect and grow their businesses, to meet the rest of our team (about eight other guys). Luke, another Sage Corps Fellow, and I get project tasks and feedback from Mark, our head. Luke works on the Marketing / Social Media side of Douugh while I work on the Graphic Design side. Together we have worked on marketing campaigns for our beta users and done competitor analysis research. On my own, I have worked on Douugh's debit card mail carrier design, organized their entire dropbox for assets to be easily found, and made more graphics / found photographs to go along with Luke's ads. I am currently building Douugh's app style guide, making more graphics for ads & the blog, and attempting animations creation for the app. I really appreciate Mark giving me the freedom to choose what areas of design I want to explore (whether it's advertisement designs, animations, website design, etc.), including any unfinished projects I want to tackle. Even though Douugh doesn't have an official head designer yet, I have learned a lot from Mark, who has done marketing and graphic design work in the past, and my other UI/UX- and engineering-experienced coworkers. They have taught me more about things like peer-to-peer lending, general banking terminology, user experience design, marketing, and programs used by the industries (like Invision).
Mark is pretty flexible with us working wherever in the building, so sometimes we work at the desks with the rest of the team or we roam to another Tank Stream Labs floor with more breakout rooms and open areas, or even the Starbucks on the first floor. It's helpful having the freedom because I find inspiration for new ideas and motivation for projects each time I get out of the "cubicle" environment, and it's also nice moving around after spending most days in the same position. Not only are different breakout spaces great, but Tank Stream Labs provides other amenities like a coffee machine, pool table, free events, food, and breakfast every Friday. It lightens up the workplace and encourages entrepreneurs to make new connections. Our team likes to eat together Friday mornings. Sometimes later on in the day, we go out for drinks at local bars. Although I'm not into drinking, it's been really cool seeing the different types of Sydney bars and getting to know all of my coworkers better. Next week the team is going to do laser tagging so I'm super excited for that."
"After a long day of work, I normally make my way home, cook at home or grab a quick dinner from a local restaurant, and work on personal projects, such as my stickers for my redBubble store, to destress and keep my creative juices flowing. While others like to experience the nightlife during the weekday, as a homebody I prefer to save my money for the weekends and to utilize my apartment to the fullest. But on Friday nights, there's a Chinatown Night Market where local businesses set up stands and sell street food and merchandise, so I make the exception to head over with my cohort friends. Sometimes we have networking events that we attend once a week. One of our city managers, Tashi, recently led a discussion on sharing economy startups with a panel of businesses (an example being Cookitoo, an online marketplace where commercial kitchens spaces closed during the day can be listed, searched, and booked for food pop-ups to cook in)."
"Weekends are the best because 1) I get to see more of my cohort friends and 2) we get to explore Australia together! We've encountered food like yum cha (Cantonese styled brunch) and xiao long baos (awesome soup dumplings) from Chinatown, takoyaki balls (Japanese octopus balls) sold at the Chinatown Night Market, fish and chips at Manly Beach, fresh seafood kebobs from the Sydney Seafood market, even fries & gravy at your local Macca's (McDonalds). I have yet to say that I have tried a true Australian meat pie or kangaroo (not kangaroo jerky), so I'll be looking out for those. I have consumed more sweets than I should, but it's been all worth it. Some of my favorites include City Extra's pavlova topped with strawberries and passionfruit, Emperor's Cream Puffs in Chinatown, Max Brenner's choconut brownie with vanilla ice cream, gelato and ice cream from various locations, fresh pastries from your local bakeries and coffee shops, and Tim Tams from your local grocery stores. It's also super cool seeing friends try new cuisines that I have grown up eating, such as Vietnamese pho (rice noodles, meat, and herbs in broth) and Korean BBQ.
Since our group is pretty big (19 students) we don't always travel together. But we got to hangout at the Royal Botanical Gardens, The Rocks area, the Opera House, Newtown where we toured Young Henry's Brewery, Manly Beach, and just recently Annandale where we bouldered and consumed pizza all together. In smaller groups, I have watched the sunrise at 6AM in Coogee and walked to Bondi Beach, visited the Chinese Garden of Friendship in Chinatown (built in 1988 to symbolize friendship of Sydney, the Australian capital, New South Wales, the Australian state Sydney's in, and Guangzhou, also known as Canton), Taronga Zoo (where you can bear witness to our team mascot, the wallaby, and your friendly neighborhood kangaroos and take some koala-ty shots there), Featherdale Wildlife Park (I got to pet a koala and feed kangaroos), and visited local markets in Paddington and Surry Hills. Even in Sydney CBD alone, there's so much to do here, whether it's checking out the Queen Victoria Building, local museums (Museum of Contemporary Art has free admission), or the various parks scattered around.
One of my favorite places to go was the Blue Mountains in Katoomba. We hiked to see literally breathtaking sights like the Three Sisters, Wentworth Falls, and Echo Point. You can even ride the Scenic Railway, the steepest passenger railway in the world (52 degree incline) where you get an even better view of the mountain range.
There's still so much more for me to explore here, but I'm excited for August to come because a group of us is flying to the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns, where I'll be snorkeling for the first time ever!"
What Surprised You Most?
"Living and working abroad in Sydney has been one of the coolest experiences I've ever had because of the new friends that I have met here and the environment I'm engaged in. Even though my program experience has had its ups and downs, it's great that Sage Corps provided me with a convenient workplace and apartment with a fun cohort. Although paying for this trip took a bit more money than I would have liked, I'm glad I took on this experience because it's challenged and educated me more than I ever thought it would."
"It's important to have an open mind when you travel, meaning holding to your values and insights while also having the ears and heart to hear others's. You can learn a lot not only from the locals and work professionals, but from your cohort fellows who all have unique experiences based off of different upbringings and cultural norms.
Be willing to try new things as well, because you only study abroad once (unless you got the funds for it). Who knows, you might find a delicacy that goes from disgusting-sounding to delicious, or a new hobby you never would have expected to love. Soak in all the experiences and friendships you make here, because it's all part of developing good relationships and future career opportunities.
Also doing research on modes of transportation, housing, work, monetary system, sights you want to see, etc. allows you to use your time wisely here!"
Want to see more from Ally and the Sydney Summer 2018 cohort? Check out their Instagram, @sc.sydney_!