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Thursday, June 20th, 2019

OzTREKK Ambassadors: Taking dogs to Australia

When people heard that I was planning to take my dogs with me to medical school in Australia many thought I was crazy. But the truth is, even before I applied to school in Australia, I had already looked up to make sure I could take my dogs. They are a part of my family and going without them was never an option.

Are you considering taking your dogs to Australia?

Thinking about taking a dog (or cat) over is a daunting process, but I want to reassure you it is possible! The biggest thing to know is the timeline of events and to understand the costs.

First up, timeline

Take a look at the Government of Australia Department of Agriculture website http://www.agriculture.gov.au/cats-dogs for all of your timeline specific questions. I will go through a little bit of the important information for you. When you click on the link, you will input the species (dog/cat) country of export (Canada) and date of export. I put in January 6, 2020 seeing as many programs in Australia start the end of January. It will then generate a schedule of events, like the one drawn up for me (as your example).

You can click on each one of the links (e.g., “Visit your vet”) and it will tell you exactly what you need to do during that visit. Pretty straight forward, hey? Yes, in essence it is very straight forward. In reality, things can get complicated.

First of all, take note of the dates in the timetable. If you’re planning to take your dog over in the beginning of January, your first vet visit needs to be in the next 10 days. I didn’t know about this calculator until much later than June of last year so don’t panic. The first visit is just to check microchip number and confirm rabies vaccination. Most dogs should be up to date on their rabies vaccination regardless.

The important thing to not miss this summer is the second vet visit (in this calculator it says July 10) and that is for a blood test for rabies. The blood needs to be drawn a minimum of 180 days before the dog can set foot in Australia and they are very strict about these dates. Also, the blood test is $400 (I for one was surprised by the cost for a blood test, but it is what it is). I had this blood test done for both dogs before I even knew I was accepted to school (that didn’t come until the end of August). So sometimes it’s a bit of a gamble if you want to bring your dogs in January. Of course, they can come later if you want to wait to get confirmation of acceptance first.

Taking my dogs with me was worth it!

Second thing I learned the hard way—get the test for Ehrlichia canis early! This is a test for a tick disease that is quite common in tropical areas, but dogs can get it in lots of different climates. This test is performed (as per their schedule) a week before the dog is going to travel. One of my dogs came back positive for it, I got the news on Christmas Eve and the vet said he might never be able to go to Australia. It was one of the worst days I can remember. We were able to treat it with antibiotics (30 days) and when we retested him he came back negative. However, it is difficult to treat because the test they require looks for the antibody count rather than the active bacteria, meaning my dog didn’t have any symptoms but had the leftover antibodies because he had the bacteria years before I ever rescued him from Mexico. There is no guarantee that treating a dog that tests positive will lower their antibody count enough to test “negative.” If you go online to web forums you will find that this surprise a week before travel is not all that uncommon. There are tons of stories just like mine where the owners are floored, travel plans have to be altered, and emotions run high.

Now, just because your dog has tested negative to Ehrlichia canis early (say this summer) you still have to repeat the test a week before travel; however it should hopefully avoid the panic and heartache that I experienced. You will have your dog on tick medication from this summer up until the travel so it should avoid any surprises.

Second up, cost

Taking a dog to Australia is not cheap, and there’s no way around it. But it’s doable and completely worth it! Here is the cost breakdown (very rough):

Rabies test: $400
Flea/tick meds: $70
Each vet visit: ~$70 (x5 total vet visits)
Other tests required (Ehrlichia, lepto, etc.): ~$300
Microchip: ~$100 (I forget the exact cost)
Application permit fee: $1200
Flight (they have to fly directly into Melbourne): ~$1100
10 days of quarantine: ~$400
Airline-approved dog crate: ~$80
Total: ~$3900

Keep in mind this breakdown is very rough and varies by vet, flights, if you already have a microchip, etc., but it’s good to have a rough idea.

I would do the process again in a heartbeat

We used a wonderful company called Worldwide Animal Travel to help with this whole process. They helped organize all of the paperwork, double checked that we had the correct lab results, vet signatures, took the forms to get the government approval, etc. They’ve done this a million times and really know what they are doing. Think of them like OzTREKK for pets! They even have an office at the Vancouver airport where the dogs got to be out of their crate relaxing before the flight. They took them for a walk, fed them dinner, sent us picture updates and then put them on the plane. The peace of mind knowing we weren’t alone in this process was well worth the money. I believe the cost difference working with them compared to doing it on our own was about $2000 (for both dogs).

Our journey with the dogs was far from straightforward and got so much more complicated when we were in Australia and the dogs were back in Canada (delayed because of Brek’s positive Ehrlichia canis result). We had to reset the dogs’ travel dates three times. With each change of date we had to redo different tests because they are only valid for a set number of days before travel. Thank goodness I had Worldwide Animal Travel to fall back on because otherwise I would have been even more overwhelmed in the first few months of medical school trying to organize vet visits while I’m halfway around the world. This is in no way sponsored by them (although I would have happily agreed to that lol). They did a phenomenal job helping us out at such a stressful time and I am so thankful we had their support.

I could go on and on about every detail regarding taking dogs to Australia. It was a very long and somewhat tedious process. I know ours was especially complicated (you can read a bit more on my instagram page @noborders.md), but it was completely worth it! The dogs did wonderful and they survived the 10-day quarantine. They were of course very excited to see us but they didn’t have any signs of distress or maltreatment. You aren’t allowed to visit them during quarantine, but you can call them daily and ask for updates (which I did).

I know this process seems scary and a bit overwhelming, especially on top of moving your entire life around the world. But take it day by day, one vet appointment at a time, and just use the website as a checklist. If you’re able to afford some help, I recommend talking with Worldwide Animal Travel; I believe they have offices across Canada.

Having your dog(s) over here when you’re in school is incredible! It makes this place feel so much more like home and it’s such a great balance to the grind of school. I would do the process again in a heartbeat. I hope this brief introduction helps clarify some of aspects of bringing dogs over. If you have any questions at all please don’t hesitate to reach out!

Cameron
First-year Griffith Medical School student
Follow Cameron on Instagram! @noborders.md

Friday, May 31st, 2019

OzTREKK Ambassadors: Why I chose to study at the University of Sydney

Since being an OzTREKK ambassador, I’ve been asked why I chose to move to Sydney for my post-grad endless times. My answers have been pretty generic:

I fell in love with Sydney when I was here during my exchange in my undergrad.

I want to move to a different country to get an international experience.

It is hard to get into a Canadian university so it is just easier to apply to Australia.

Although these are all true, I haven’t been completely honest with myself or with others. The truth is that I’m pretty embarrassed with what has happened and I’ve avoided talking about it. But recently it has hit me that I am actually quite proud of myself for taking such a big risk and pushing myself outside my comfort zone, so I thought I’d share my story of why I picked Sydney.

Embrace yourself for the most cliché reason ever: I chose to do my post-grad in Sydney to be with a guy (barf).

I met him two years ago when I was on exchange. I knew at the time that it would never work because he’s from Sydney and I’m from Vancouver, but ever since I left Sydney, we had a hard time ending our relationship. We did long distance for another year and a half. I decided I wanted to move somewhere outside Vancouver for my post-grad anyways, and universities in Canada are generally tough to get into—so Sydney would be a good option, especially since I got so sick of doing long distance not knowing if it will ever end.

To my surprise, I got into chiropractic at CMCC in Canada and was stuck between choosing chiro in Canada or occupational therapy at the University of Sydney. Every person in my family tried to push me toward doing chiro since it was closer to home, it would be domestic fees, and you would get the “doctor” title. Something about chiro didn’t appeal to me the same way as it used to and I wasn’t sure if it was because I really wanted to move to Sydney to be with this person or because chiro just isn’t something I want to do anymore. This caused a lot of anxiety and pressure for me because I was very afraid of making the wrong decision and nothing scares me more than disappointing my mother—Asian stereotype, but very true.

After countless sleepless nights stressing about what to pick, I finally decided that I wanted to take my offer at USyd for OT. It was very hard to confront my parents because they all felt I was basing this life decision on a guy that I had only met briefly on exchange. Four months before my big move to Australia, we broke up. To be honest, this broke my mom’s heart more than it broke mine. She was shattered that not only did I have to move to a foreign country all alone and far away from any family, but I also had to be constantly reminded of the bitter memories of this person that I was initially very excited to finally get to be with.

My mom tried everything to talk me out of it. She even got my older sister and younger sister involved to “talk some sense” into me. Despite the unfortunate turnout with my relationship and my family’s concerns for me, I pushed through and carried on with my decision. Maybe I was just stubborn, but I was determined to prove that I made the right decision.

Fast forward to the present, I am extremely grateful for everything that has happened. Yes, the relationship is what pushed me in the direction to do my post grad in Sydney but it was not something that I did for someone else. At the time, I doubted myself, but I know now that this decision was what’s best for myself and not what others told me was best. I took a risk to just drop everything and move countries. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone to move to a city that brings back a lot of bitter memories. I forced myself to have to try twice as hard to branch out and make new friends and not to be stuck in the past.

I am honestly surrounded by some of the best people now and I love everything that I am studying. Super cheesy, but I don’t think I can be in a better place. My situation isn’t exactly something that everybody would relate to, but I guess the purpose of this blog is to demonstrate how scary it was for me to move here with the burden of letting down my family and the emotional barriers I had with my ex-boyfriend. But I put all this down and did this for me, just like you can do it for you. Thanks for reading my long, sappy blog. 🙂

Want to follow Kim’s journey? Follow her on Instagram!

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Would you like to learn more about studying occupational therapy at the University of Sydney? Contact us at info@oztrekk.com for more information about how you can study in Australia!

Friday, May 17th, 2019

Must-visit places when you study in Sydney, Australia

Hey, OzTREKKers! Meet OzTREKK Ambassador, Kim Li—she’s currently studying occupational therapy at the University of Sydney.

Figure Eight Pools

If you’re thinking of attending university in Australia, specifically the Sydney area, you may want to tuck this blog away somewhere for future reference! Here, Kim has prepared a thorough list for everyone interested in enjoying the sights, the sounds, the smells, and all the feels of beautiful Australia!

Royal National Park (Figure 8 Pools)

Blue Mountains

Blue Mountains

Bondi to Coogee Walk

  • 6 km coastal walk along Sydney’s eastern suburbs
  • 1-hour walk without stopping (will want to stop to enjoy the beaches and take pictures)
  • You can start either at Bondi or at Coogee beach

Palm Beach

  • Approximately 1-hour drive / 2 hours by public transportation

Bondi to Coogee Walk

Barrenjoey Lighthouse walk

  • 1 hour; easy walk

La Perouse

Must-go-to beaches (and you’ll hit most of these beaches if you do the Bondi to Coogee walk, as mentioned above)

  • Bondi Beach
  • Manly Beach
  • Coogee Beach
  • Freshwater Beach
  • Tamarama Beach
  • Bronte Beach
  • Milk Beach

Bondi Iceberg Pools

Taronga Zoo

  • Zoo overlooking the Sydney Harbour

Sydney Fish Market

  • Second largest seafood market

Nightlife (I haven’t been to that many)

  • Old Mate’s Place (CBD) – rooftop bar
  • Archie Rose (Rosebery)
  • The Little Guy (Glebe)
  • O-Bar (CBD) – expensive but great views
  • Bar Luca – Blame Canada burger is pretty bomb
  • The Two Wolves

Other tourist places to visit

  • Darling harbour
  • Circular Quay / The Rocks – good spot for pictures with the Opera house
  • Royal Botanic Gardens
  • Queen Victoria Building
  • Chinese Garden of Friendship

Check out a National Rugby League game!

Things to do

  • Horse Races
  • NRL or AFL game
  • Discover as you go!

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Kimberly Li | University of Sydney Master of Occupational Therapy

I chose OT because I am passionate about helping individuals gain function in day to day tasks and promoting participation in meaningful activities. In my final year of my undergrad, UBC was ranked 4th for sports-related subjects and USyd was ranked 1st  in the QS World University Rankings.

Want to follow Kim’s journey? Follow her on Instagram!

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Are you interested in studying at the University of Sydney? Contact us at info@oztrekk.com for more information about how you can study in Australia!

Wednesday, May 1st, 2019

OzTREKK Ambassadors: Life doesn’t stop when you’re in medical school

Griffith Medical School student Cameron Bowers would like to share some valuable advice for everyone considering studying medicine in Australia!

Griffith Medical School

Life doesn’t slow down when you’re in medical school!

We are so focused on the future.
I just need to finish my undergrad, then I’ll…
I just need to study for the MCAT, then I’ll…
When I finish with med school applications, then I’ll…
After I get prepared for medical school to start I’ll…
Once I get settled into med school I’ll…

But the truth is that life doesn’t ever really settle down, especially in this career that is so future-focused. It’s always about the next degree, the next exam, the next placement, the next specialty.

I was naïve in thinking that life would somehow magically settle down once I was finally in medical school, a goal I’d been working towards for years. That my days would just be classes, study groups and late nights of self-studying. Don’t get me wrong, all of those things happen, but life doesn’t stop just because you’re in medical school.

All of the normal stressors are there, just take away energy and time to deal with them.

When you go abroad for school you add new issues to deal with. They say Canadians actually have the hardest time with culture shock because it feels so similar to Canada here that it’s easy to forget it’s a different country—until something very different happens. Take holidays for example. Fun fact in Australia, all the supermarkets are closed on certain holidays (e.g., closed Good Friday but open Easter Sunday and Monday). It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but if you forget that all grocery stores in the country are closed on a certain day it can be rather difficult to get the last ingredients you need for dinner, potentially leading you to buying mozzarella cheese from a pizza restaurant.

When you’re far away for school your friends and family’s lives don’t stop either. Things happen and you suddenly have to learn how to deal with it while being 16 hours in the future. Phone calls and texts require an eight-hour delay sometimes for a reply. The best time to call home is in the morning, but those moments are limited because classes start at 8:30 a.m. most days. By the time you’re out of class at 4 p.m. it’s too late to call North America.

medical students

Try to take time for some adventure!

The truth is it’s hard to manage it all while attempting to stay on top of school. A lot of times I put school first and my to-do list grows week to week, but the pace of medical school doesn’t allow for anything other than full focus. I laughed the other day remembering what is was like to procrastinate when I was in my undergrad. There’s no option to procrastinate in medical school. You stop for a minute and everyone has already ran past you.

I wish I could offer some concrete advice for how to manage it all, but the truth is I am still trying to figure all this out. Some days I feel like I’m on top of the world: exercising, studying effectively, marking off my to-do list, eating healthy, making time for my relationship, making time for myself. But other days attending seven hours of lecture with only a 30-minute break in the middle is all I can accomplish and I try to tell myself that it’s okay.

It’s okay to not have all the answers right now. It’s okay to not pre-read for lectures for the sake of sleep the night before. It’s okay to have breakdowns and let it all out. It’s okay to wake up the next morning and be excited that you’re in medical school and one day you will become a doctor.

So for now, all I can say is wherever you are in your life and your career journey, try to be present and enjoy it. Life doesn’t happen in the future, and learning to be present, while never easy, is so important because none of us has a guarantee of what the future will bring.

Cameron
Griffith Medical School student

Follow Cameron on Instagram! @noborders.md

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Would you like more details about Australian medical schools? Contact OzTREKK’s Medicine Admissions Officer Amanda Rollich at amanda@oztrekk.com to learn more about your options!

Tuesday, March 19th, 2019

OzTREKK Ambassadors: Predeparture tips for future students!

Meet Kim, our OzTREKK ambassador who has just embarked on her journey as a University of Sydney Master of Occupational Therapy student!

University of Sydney occupational therapy student

Just enjoying the view in Hong Kong!

Here, Kim shares some awesome “getting ready to go” predeparture tips, so file these away for later. 🙂

Double check your flight details in advance—specifically, baggage allowance, to avoid being slapped with a $700 + bill at the airport.

Double check your baggage allowances for all of your flights, especially if you have a layover and the tickets were bought separately. Yes, this sounds like common sense, but I did not pay attention to it as my flights were changed several times. As a result, I had a bigger allowance on my first flight compared to my second flight with Qantas (only allows 30 kg max) and was almost stuck with paying over $700 for an extra 15 kg from Hong Kong to Sydney. To put this into perspective, this costs about the same price or more than a round-trip from Hong Kong to Sydney.

University of Sydney occupational therapy

Getting settled in

What to watch out for if you are under the age of 25 trying to rent a car.

Car rental is extremely helpful if you are just arriving and will be getting around a lot for house inspections or just settling into a place and need to buy and move a lot of things. However, many of my friends managed to get through the entire move-in process relying on public transportation.

If you plan to rent a car in Australia, make sure you are comfortable with driving on the left side of the road before you do it! If you are under the age of 25, make sure you correctly enter your personal details and that the quoted price was for under age of 25 drivers. I had an incident at the airport where they told me I didn’t include my age. I double-checked my itinerary and I did input my age, but I must’ve missed it in one of the options and therefore, it didn’t account for my age. Anyhow, the original quoted price of $260 for 10 days became nearly $600 for 10 days. That was a massive difference!

Finding accommodation is stressful, but trust the process and be patient.

University of Sydney Master of Occupational Therapy

With my new roommates!

Don’t stress too much early on because there’s only so much you can do while being overseas. However, when you are getting close to your departure date (about a month), it would be a good idea to start looking and having discussions with people to get a better idea of what to expect and what you are looking for. If possible, a week or two before your arrival, try to line up some inspections so that you will be able to start looking at places shortly after you arrive.

Finding accommodation is definitely stressful but my advice would be to be patient and trust the process. As stressful as it may be, don’t rush into anything because I nearly rushed into signing a lease for a house that had some issues with pest control. I nearly ignored/missed it because I was feeling such a rush to settle into a home. It took a long time to finally find something and an even longer time to settle in. Eventually, my roommates and I are all settled in and I honestly don’t think we could’ve found a place more suitable for our needs!

OzTREKK’s Facebook page was a game changer for me.

Make good use of the OzTREKK Facebook page! Prior to my departure, I posted in the OzTREKK Facebook page and through that, I got people to message me about their interest in living together. This is where I found my roommate who introduced me to her other friends and now I live with three other Canadians that I love so much. This is all thanks to a quick post on the Facebook page. Through that page I also met other people going to Australia from Vancouver (my home), other people from Canada going into my program, and just Canadian students in general who are on the same boat with making a big move to Australia! Make good use of the page and meet lots of people prior to moving because it will provide you such a good support network for when you first get to Australia!

Follow me on Instagram! @kberli

Learn more about the University of Sydney occupational therapy program

Program: Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT)
Location: Lidcombe, (suburb of Sydney), New South Wales
Semester intake: March
Duration: 2 years
Application deadline:October 30, 2019. Offers are made throughout the year based on academic merit and subject to availability in the program. Candidates are encouraged to apply as early as possible as this program can fill quickly.

Apply to Sydney Occupational Therapy School!

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Do you have any questions for Kim? Need more predeparture tips? Wondering about studying occupational therapy at the University of Sydney? Contact OzTREKK’s Australian Occupational Therapy Schools Admissions Officer at rehabsci@oztrekk.com!

Tuesday, March 12th, 2019

OzTREKK Ambassadors: Moving to Brisbane

“Housing” the big move

I think I can speak not only for myself, but the vast majority of others when I say that your home should be your own personal oasis. A place where you can come home from a long day of studying/working and be able to sit back and relax. With that being said, as a student your home should also be close to bus stops, places to eat and entertainment.

The first thing you should do (while in Canada) is try to find an Airbnb or a place that would be cheap for the first couple weeks when you arrive.  I was lucky and had a friends’ parents put me up for three weeks before I could actually get my lease to my condo.

Once you are in Brisbane, you can actually see the houses/condos in person and get a better feel for what is around them as well.  This is the best way to find a good place to live.  Accommodation in Brisbane can be a bit of a tricky situation. Considering the town itself is built around a river that flows throughout the city, you need to take that into account when you are looking for a place. So, with that being said I have made a list of the top seven suburbs to live in Brisbane with a little description of each and what you will expect to pay per week.

1. St. Lucia

This would be a good option if you want to live right beside/on the University of Queensland campus. Its major plus is that it is close to campus, grocery stores and a gym. Other than that, there is not really any entertainment/nightlife. If you aren’t looking to live by a very loud and busy place and be walkable to classes, this is your area. Accommodation here can go anywhere between $180 –$250 for shared accommodation.

2. Toowong / Taringa

I’m going to be a little biased with this one because this is the area where I live.  It’s really close to campus and Toowong village. Buses come every five minutes in the morning, and takes only seven minutes to get to campus. Toowong village has a grocery store, gym, Kmart (it’s big here still) and a post office. There are also a couple little food shops around the village. There isn’t much for entertainment: no movie theatre, sports venues or bars really (minus the Royal Exchange). Shared accommodation can be around $260 – $300 per week.

3. Bowen Hills

If you don’t want all the fast-paced aspect of downtown and tall buildings, Bowen Hills would be your option. This area has a lot of modern apartments that can start at $250 per week. The only downside is that it is quite far away from campus and doesn’t have a great entertainment aspect.

4. South Brisbane

South Brisbane is right in the heart of South Bank: a busy riverfront stretch with cultural and science exhibits at the Queensland Museum, as well as art galleries and a giant Ferris wheel. Other major entertainment venues are the cineplex, brewpubs and uptown tapas bars. This would be a great place if you want to experience Brisbane culture and are a true foodie. You can find shared accommodation from around $250 per week, or a one-bedroom apartment from around $350 per week.

5. West End

West End is a good place to look if you are looking for cool cafés, weekend markets, and a big artsy vibe. Shared accommodation can be around $300 per week, or if you want to go up to around $500 for a really nice place if you have a bigger rent budget.

6. Highgate Hill

If you are on the lower end of the budget scale, Highgate hill is a good option. It’s close to transportation and tons of shops but does not offer very much for entertainment. If you just want a place to live to live this is a good place to look. Shared accommodation can start at $140 per week.

8. Woolloongabba

This is one of the main hubs for transportation to and from UQ. Woolloongabba is also home to the Brisbane Cricket Ground, also known as the Gabba, a vast sports stadium that hosts professional Aussie Rules football and cricket matches (a lot of fun to go!). There are a ton of great restaurants and vintage fashion shops. You can find shared accommodation from around $180 per week, or a one-bedroom apartment from around $300 per week.

Figuring out your housing arrangements

With all of these areas, the prices are just a guideline.  If you search hard enough, you can find some really good places at really good prices. It all depends on where you want to live and what you want to be around you. Do you want to live right in the thick of downtown with all the bars? Maybe a happy medium with food marketplaces and an art vibe? Once you have the area mapped out, you can start to look to getting all of your utilities and all that sorted.  Below, I’ve provided five tips to remember when figuring out your final housing arrangements.

  • Rent in your contract is due weekly rather than monthly. This seems like it’s a cheaper option when you look at the price initially but you have to remember that there are 52 weeks in a year and that you will be paying an “extra” four weeks of rent this way. Just something to think about when you are planning your budget.
  • If you get an apartment or condo, it doesn’t come furnished at all. My roommate and I were lucky enough that the two girls who lived there before us sold us everything in the apartment when we moved in. I mean everything: beds, desks, chairs, tables, washer, dryer, dishwasher, etc. When you look at the ad, be sure to check if it is furnished or comes with beds because it would be a nightmare to get all that settled.
  • Use Facebook marketplace or Gumtree (the Australian Kijiji) to find couches, TVs, and other appliances. If you are looking for a TV or a couch, Facebook marketplace usually has people giving them away for free as long as you come pick them up.
  • The price for rent is almost always without utilities. Sometimes back in Canada you have your utilities paid by the owner and included in the price. Here, it almost always doesn’t include utilities so you will need to set that up yourself as well as internet.
  • Don’t cheap out on the internet. Home truly is where the WiFi connects automatically. Get unlimited Wifi for your place, because after studying you’ll want to relax and binge watch Netflix. Trust me.

Before I end this blog I’m going to list a couple websites you can use to find your accommodation! As always, may the odds be ever in your favour.  😉

Anthony out.
@ac_mpt

First-year UQ physiotherapy student

Links

Monday, March 4th, 2019

OzTREKK Ambassadors: Getting around Sydney

So I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for a good transit system. I know that seems really random, but hear me out!

Macquarie University Medical School

Follow me on Instagram!

I think you can learn a lot about a city, it’s infrastructure, and it’s people just by observing the transit system. As someone from a small city in Ontario (with kind of a laughable transit system) my only exposure to large city transit has been Toronto. I know I can hear the groans, but honestly I don’t think Toronto transit is that bad… for the most part things are on time and you can usually get to where you need to go easily.

But boy oh boy, was I in for a treat when I moved to Sydney. The transit here is—so far—impeccable. I’ll go into the details in a bit, but first I want to address that I understand this is pretty Sydney-specific, so USyd and Macquarie University, you’re welcome. For all of you reading who know you won’t be living in Sydney, scroll down to the last section for my general tips, tricks, and some links!

Types of Transit in Sydney

Throughout Sydney you have your standard busses, and of course it’s a large city so there are also inner-city trains (think subways but better), and Sydney is built around a harbour, which means ferry boats (McDreamy is swooning—I just know it)!

To board any of the transit you can use an Opal card. For anyone in the GTA it’s the same as a Presto Card. You can load the Opal cared with a specific amount of money or connect to a credit card. To board you simply tap on, and tap off—even the busses! Opal also has an app for iOS and Android which you can use to monitor your balance, plan routes, and see live updates of bus timings.

Ferry Boats

While you probably won’t use ferries for your day-to-day commute, they are a must for the days you have free to do some gallivanting and be a real tourist. My first view of the Sydney Opera House was when I took the ferry from Milsons Point to Circular Quay and I definitely recommend it.  If you’ve been on a ferry before I don’t know that these boats will be any different. I have to admit my ferry experience is limited. Weather permitting, try to be near the front of the line so you can stand at the front of the boat for the best views.

A cheap tourist trick is to take the “slow ferry” (the lines are labelled, don’t worry), for the entire route. You’ll see all the different docking points and get all the great views of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. All from the water which is just gorgeous! Remember to wear sunscreen during that trip for sure!

Busses

Busses are much more likely to be your main mode of transit day in and day out. I know that sounds like a drag, but the busses here are actually really clean. In fact, all of the transit is. The bus stops are frequent enough you never have to walk too far. The bus routes overlap in a good way with more direct routes passing some but not all the stops, and while the busses may not be on time there is a transit app which is very accurate. Also, the busses are air conditioned, which makes them little oases on your trip about town.

Sydney is covered in bus-only lanes, which means that some routes (at least the one I’m lucky enough to live on) gets to dodge a lot of the Sydney traffic, meaning my commute to and from school doesn’t really change depending on the time of day.

I did realize there is a caveat to such nice and clean busses. They *technically* don’t allow food and drink on board. That’s not to say I haven’t been let on a really busy bus with a coffee, but that’s also not to say I haven’t been not allowed on because I’ve had a coffee in my hand. So if you want to bring anything other than water and it’s open in your hands, just be aware you’re playing with fire.

Macquarie University Medical School

Visiting the Sydney Opera House

Trains

The trains here were my first exposure to Sydney transit and they are beautiful. To me they are used like a subway but appear more like a GO train (again, references for my GTA peeps. Sorry!), but better!

I remember first standing on the platform and not being aware of how close the train was, because it was so quiet! Can you imagine a GO train or a subway sneaking up on you? That quietness continues inside, and riding in the trains is really quite pleasant. The quiet engine means it’s quiet inside. Generally, the people are polite and quiet too, and it’s really clear which stop you’re at and which you are approaching.

The trains are mainly above ground, but do go through the occasional tunnel so don’t entirely rely on your app for accurate location readings. Just make sure you keep track of the stops and you’ll be fine!

The coolest thing about the Sydney trains is that you never have to sit backwards! In the middle of each carriage, the backs of the chairs are on hinges that let them flip so you can always face the direction of travel. I received some really funny looks when I purposefully sat backwards to avoid sitting beside a stranger, and I could have avoided the interaction and still faced forwards. It’s the little things in life really.

What Sydney Does Well

So to summarize all that gushing, here’s what I love about the Sydney transit:

  1. Opal! – The Card and the app. It’s easy to pay, it’s easy to navigate, it’s a plus.
  2. Air conditioning – making your commute cooler with each trip.
  3. Cleanliness – It’s honestly so nice to sit on a bus that doesn’t smell*

*I have been on one bus that was a bit musty… but it was also full of high school students who appeared to have just left gym class… so I’ll let you be the judge of that.

My General Tips and Tricks

  1. USE IT. Try it out when you first arrive; it will help your adjustment so much. I know it can be really intimidating to understand any new city let alone how to get around, but the only way you’ll master it is by trying. So when you first arrive, make a point of using the transit to find your school, a shopping mall, popular tourist destination, or anything really. Make sure to give yourself lots of extra time these first few trips to make them a little less stressful, missing a bus your second day in your new home is a lot less stressful than missing the bus or getting lost on your first day of classes.
  2. ASK. Seriously, don’t be afraid to ask. I’ve had a few bus drivers save me from heading in the wrong direction. That can be a bit nerve-wracking for some people (me being one of them), but you can always ask any locals in your class Facebook pages, other OzTREKKers who were there before you, or any roommates/hosts you have. Find out how to pay, where you can buy a pass if you need one, and they can share any tips they have.
  3. BE PREPARED. For your first few adventures bring some change (just in case), have a fully charged phone (just in case), and write down the route and stops (just in case!). It makes it a lot less stressful and means you’ll be ready if the pass doesn’t work, you get lost, or your phone dies.

Exploring a new city can be really scary, so give yourself some time to get used to it. Honestly, feeling like I mastered the transit was the first moment I really felt like I could live here. It was a sense of freedom, independence, and belonging all rolled into one that I didn’t expect and I’m so happy I found it pretty quickly.

I know that was a lot about transit, but I hope you could get something from it!

See you in the next one! Bye!

Emma
@emmab_md

First-year Macquarie University Medical School student

Links*

*I quickly looked up these links. Be sure you do your own research if you’re moving to any of these cities, including Sydney! The information may have changed.

Tuesday, February 26th, 2019

OzTREKK Ambassadors: My first impressions of Griffith Medical School

OzTREKK Ambassador Cameron Bowers has just begun her journey at Griffith Medical School, and she’s here to share her very first impressions!

Griffith medical school

First day at Griffith Medical School!

My first day

I’d been dreaming of the first day of medical school for years. I didn’t quite know what to expect, but I was so excited. I felt like a little kid on their very first day of school!

Truth be told the whole day felt surreal. It was a lot of different presentations by faculty welcoming and congratulating us on getting into medical school. They told us that our careers would be full of ups and downs, and stressed the reality that we would be in charge of people’s lives in a matter of years. I soaked it all up and with each “congratulations,” it started to feel more and more real.

The day ended with all of us standing and reciting our “Medical Students’ Affirmation.” It’s the equivalent of vows for medical school—promising to uphold respect for the profession we are entering, pledging to pursue our study of medicine with integrity and honesty, etc. I must admit that hearing ~160 students reciting these affirmations about our future was very powerful. It was the moment that made all of this feel real for the first time. I could feel the emotions mixing up inside, a combination of sheer joy, giddy excitement, fear of the unknown, and being overcome by the power of all of these voices together. We were all about to start something that would fundamentally change every single person in the room and yet no one could possibly know in which ways we would all evolve.

Some things I wish I had known

The first few weeks have been incredible, challenging, exhausting, exciting, and inspiring. It’s really fun to learn about a topic that I am so passionate about. It feels very different compared to undergrad (or grad school) because everything we are learning is applicable to a future patient. I think that might be why sometimes it feels more exhausting, because everyone is so keen to take in all of the information for fear we won’t know everything. But I am trusting in the curriculum to eventually get us to become competent physicians in four years (which at the moment still sounds surreal).

With all of that said, there are a few things that I wish I had known in the first few weeks:

Griffith University medical school

Enjoying the view — view of Griffith University campus from PBL rooms

1. Griffith undergraduate bridging program
Griffith has a two-year “bridge” program for Australian high school students to go directly from high school into a two-year medical science undergrad program. After those two years, the entire medical science cohort (~60 people) enters the medical school. This has a few implications:

  1. The age of the “med sci” students is young; I believe about 25% of my class is <20 years old.
  2. They have been in a program together for the last two years so they all already have friends and friend groups. This was a bit confusing to a lot of us Canadians on the first day as everyone appeared to already be in friend groups.

2. Anatomy labs
The anatomy labs (cadaver labs) are “self directed,” which means it’s a bit of a free-for-all. There are a number of second-year students you can ask for explanations or to clarify where something is, and they are fantastic! Seriously hard to imagine I will get to that level in just a year.

But other than that there is no structure. They give you a few pages as a lab worksheet to fill out the night before that outlines the main topics for the lab, but the actually learning is up to you. It’s definitely not like undergrad anatomy labs. You have to make sure you bring questions to ask, and be outgoing enough to ask those questions in a loud environment with lots of other people trying to learn using the same cadavers. It is an adjustment, but I’ve had three labs so far and it’s completely doable, just a bit of a surprise in week 1.

3. Griffith is amazing
I wish I had really understood how incredible Griffith University is and how they focus on creating well-rounded people, who are also fantastic doctors. I didn’t realized how unique Griffith Medical School is compared to other schools with regard to their focus on communication and the other “softer” part of being a great doctor (more on that to come in future blog posts!).

Overall I couldn’t be happier with my decision, and I am slowly settling into a schedule trying to work on finding balance between school, exercise, social life, and my relationship with my incredible husband.

If you ever have any questions about Griffith medicine, please feel free to reach out.

Until next time!

Cameron
@noborders.md

Thursday, February 21st, 2019

OzTREKK Ambassadors: Being mentally prepared for your move to Australia

Welcome to the very first OzTREKK Ambassador blog!

At OzTREKK, we are proud to assist you throughout your entire journey—from your very first questions to predeparture to greeting you in Australia for our on-campus In-Australia Meet-ups.

Because we’ve been doing this since 2002, we know there can be bumps along the way. The key to traversing the bumps and hairpin turns is to have a positive attitude and to know you have a support system (and when to seek help if you need it!). In fact, all our Australian universities have international student support services available to help you with any issue, especially when you may feel overwhelmed and homesick.

University of Melbourne MD student

Follow Josh on Instagram!

Meet OzTREKK student ambassador Josh Walt, a Melbourne MD student who has agreed to document his Australian journey—including some of the stuff other people may forget about—like how to adjust to life in Australia and how to make sure you have a support system in place.

Take it away, Josh!

The Overwhelming Beginning and The Importance of Coping Mechanisms for Mental Health

I would be lying to you if I said that moving across the world didn’t come with its challenges.

After landing, it took over two weeks to find a place in a location somewhat close to campus and another week to settle in comfortably. Maybe my roommate and I were some of the unlucky few, but on move-in day we were shocked to see the apartment that was “professionally cleaned” still had Oreos under the mattress, dark brown stains on them, gum between the couch cushions and multiple miscellaneous sticky and greasy substances all over the cutlery, plates and other furniture. Setting up our WiFi took two weeks longer than the company had guaranteed. It’s a good thing phone plans here provide you with 40GB of data a month!

Although, after going to the Victoria night market, the Royal Botanical Gardens, the storage units on Brighton Beach etc., it is safe to say it was all worth it!

First Day of Orientation

To add to the stress of moving across the world, the first thing that was said in orientation was that the MD program at The University of Melbourne was one of the hardest and most demanding courses offered. The school’s academic mentors, counselling and psychological services then followed this speech by stating more than 50% of the students who see them seek support for mental health issues. A larger portion of these students have never experienced mental health problems before. Leading to why I am reaching out to all you prospective students today…

The Most Successful Students

My point is not to scare anyone off, only to share that it was a difficult move. I want to emphasize the importance of coping mechanisms for mental health. Especially as an international student, you have the pressure of school and the added stress of moving across the world without a social network.

These counsellors went on to say the most successful students are the ones who make time for their music, sports, social life, travel etc., because it is so important for your mental health as a student in a challenging professional program. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to manage stress that will help you succeed and attain your dream degree—the reason you headed to Australia in the first place!

I know it’s a long time away, but I know once I finish and get that medical degree all the stress and hard work will be worth it!

Excited for the next chapter!

Josh
@mddownunder

Tuesday, February 12th, 2019

Introducing OzTREKK’s ambassadors!

If you’re considering studying outside of Canada, you know you have a lot to think about: Which university and program should you choose? Where should you live? Where are the best places to eat? What do you do in your spare time? Can you take your degree home to practice? The questions are innumerable!

Meet the OzTREKK Student Ambassadors!

Well, we’re here to help. In order to give you a real, first-person perspective, we decided to feature OzTREKK Student Ambassadors. No one knows what it’s like to live and study in Australia better than our students, so we have asked five  OzTREKK students to document their day-to-day life in Australia, their universities and programs, and much more.

What do OzTREKK Ambassadors do?

  • Explore Australia, their university, and their program
  • Tell an authentic story: not only what studying in Australia is like, but also living, social adventures, and travels
  • Raise awareness: you have study options

What is their mission?

  • To share their story in their own unique voice
  • To show the real side of studying abroad (the good, the bad, the ugly)
  • An opportunity for them to document their year

Meet the OzTREKK Ambassadors

Emma Blackwood | Macquarie University Doctor of Medicine

My master degree in public health gave me the opportunity to volunteer abroad in Namibia facilitating health workshops with children. This experience sparked a passion for global health! The unique global focus of the Macquarie MD is what made me choose the program.

Cameron Bowers | Griffith University Doctor of Medicine

Deciding to apply to medical school in Australia felt right for me. I’ve always loved travel and I am deeply passionate about global healthcare. The lessons I learned going to university outside of my home country were far more diverse than I could have ever hoped. I know the same will be true for my education and life in Australia. Griffith University’s Doctor of Medicine program values align with mine and I am confident that they will both support and shape me into the best doctor I can become.

Anthony Caiazzo | University of Queensland Master of Physiotherapy Studies

I chose the UQ physiotherapy program because I love being physically active and also helping other people.  Physiotherapy itself combines those two things and it makes my work fulfilling when you see a patient progress to being able to go about living their lives with full mobility and pain free!  I chose this university because I think the professors and program itself aligns with how I want to model my practice after.

Kimberly Li | University of Sydney Master of Occupational Therapy

I chose OT because I am passionate about helping individuals gain function in day to day tasks and promoting participation in meaningful activities. In my final year of my undergrad, UBC was ranked 4th for sports-related subjects and USyd was ranked 1st  in the QS World University Rankings.

Josh Walt | University of Melbourne Doctor of Medicine

I chose my program because the medical program at the University of Melbourne is a world renowned institution keeping my options as an international student open, whether it be remaining in Australia, or returning to North America to complete my residency.

Coming up…

Now that we’ve introduced our ambassadors, stay tuned on the OzTREKK Blog for their stories, and on Instagram and Facebook! Visit the OzTREKK Ambassadors page to follow them on their journey!

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Please let us know if you have any questions! Contact us at ambassadors@oztrekk.com or call 1-866-698-7355.