Dutch Exchange Student, Femke Hoogkamer, Reflects on her time at Sancta
Degree: Bachelor of Plant Sciences, Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen, Netherlands
Arrived in Australia: July 2019
Departed Australia: December 2019
Road to Sancta
I had always wanted to study in Australia because of my interest in coral reefs, my desire to learn more about the effects of Australia’s differing climates and regular bushfires on plants, and to improve my English.
After learning about the exchange program that my home university has with three Australian universities, I jumped at the opportunity to study for a semester at The University of Sydney. I really liked what I had researched about USyd, and they offered units which aligned with my interests, including Australian Wildlife Biology, Marine Biology, Terrestrial Plant Ecology and Learning in Outdoor Education.
When I was doing research about student accommodation in Sydney, Sancta really stood out as a nice, friendly community with a diverse mix of domestic and international students. I was drawn to this since I would be far away from home in the Netherlands and I wanted to meet Australians. I was also particularly interested in the idea of residential colleges. They do not exist in the Netherlands, so I wanted to experience what it was like. It was perfect because everything was included, I did not have to cook for myself, and I had access to a gym membership.
Differences between life in the Netherlands and Australia
Life in Australia is a lot more relaxed! Everyone is always in a rush in the Netherlands. The climate is also quite different – Sydney is warmer, and it rains far less. Another big difference was living super close to the University. At home, I have to travel about 1.5 hours by public transport to get to my university. In Sydney, the University was in within walking distance. In the Netherlands, I would often use my bike to get around whereas, in Australia, I found I was more dependent on public transport or using a car to travel.
Best things about Sydney
Sydney has so many great things! The University of Sydney is beautiful. I loved exploring Newtown, walking around the city, going to the Botanical Gardens, and visiting one of the many local beaches. I even went to a concert at Olympic Park and went to see a show in the Opera House – I would recommend doing both.
Best things about Sancta
The best thing about Sancta is the great friends I made! There was always someone to talk to or to hang out with. I still regularly talk to most of the friends I made. I also enjoyed using the library study space and having access to spaces where I could relax.
Standout memories of Sancta
As mentioned before, the friends I made at Sancta – I have so many great memories with them! I also loved the Sancta Formal that happened in October.
Advice for future international students
The time will fly by, so try to experience as much as possible! Get involved at Sancta and go on trips around Sydney and Australia. For a local daytrip, I can recommend visiting the Royal National Park, the Blue Mountains, or doing the Bondi to Manly walk (it’s 80km in total but divided into a few sections). Further afield, I can also recommend visiting Perth, Batemans Bay, Alice Springs and Uluru, Australia Zoo and Brisbane. I really enjoyed doing a road trip to Melbourne via Wagga Wagga, Phillip Island and Canberra.
Moving forward from Sancta
I am currently finishing my Bachelor of Plant Sciences. When I have completed my undergraduate degree, I will start a Master of Plant Biotechnology at my current university. I am also hoping to be able to visit Australia again soon!
Homesickness, culture shock and anxiety are common experiences for many international students. How did you manage this aspect of your experience?
I personally did not really experience any of these. Of course, I was a bit scared before I left the Netherlands as I did not know if I was going to make any friends, or what life was going to be like in general. However, the community at Sancta was so friendly and welcoming that all of my worries went away quickly. I also knew that there are a lot of people that can help at Sancta including my friends, the Resident Assistants (RA) or staff members.
If you could sum up Sancta in a few words, what would you say?
Sancta is a very friendly and welcoming community, with a focus on academics.
Message for the Sancta community
I want to thank my friends for making my time at Sancta so great! You are all such kind and inspiring people. I made so many great memories and I hope to see you all again soon!