Student Stories

Charles Clausner

Charles Clausner


Exchange Student at UNSW

Sydney, Australia, Spring 2012


What were the most useful things you packed, and what do you recommend to leave behind?

I packed little clothes. In Europe (Australian) basically anywhere else in the world people wear a lot less clothes and do laundry less than us Americans. I also packed all of my supporting documents (passport, VISA, health insurance, UNSW class registration, all the necessary documents needed for travel and living in a foreign place). Don’t bring towels and sheets or pillows. Buy sunscreen there. You really only need one bathing suit. My recommendation: Travel insanely light and just buy the things you need there when you need them because you’ll find we don’t need everything we have in our rooms here.


How did you get from the airport to the university and about town? How much does it cost?

Luckily UNSW has an airport shuttle service for the exchange students at UNSW, so all you have to do is fill out that form. They will send it to you, and there will be people with UNSW signs in the airport looking for you. They were really good at making sure everyone got a ride back from the airport and had a nice welcoming ceremony/ events for the exchanges/study abroad students (I heard there were 1,000 of us 700 of which were Americans studying internationally last February).

I also went to the airport a couple of times to pick up visitors, family members and for personal travel. It costs $15 AUD to get from the CBD in Sydney to the airport which is about a 30 min train ride. The Sydney public transportation was really good too as I used the bus system (which isn’t too hard to figure out about 10 times to get to and from the airport), this was a longer journey as it took two buses and cost about $5 but the travel time was about 1.5hrs, so plan ahead for that.


What were the most reliable sources of information cultural events, news, travel, weather?

A lot of this information I got was from online:

  • Weather- Hottest month is February average 79 degrees Fahrenheit  
  • Cultural info- UNSW is good about giving the students a lot of information on cultural events but the handiest booklet I got while being in Sydney was from the Lord Mayor’s banquet. Also the website for UNSW International students was very helpful it has info about cultural events, festivals, life in Sydney, social life, basically everything you need!
  • News- I got a lot of my news from Twitter, watching 9 News, or the Sydney Morning Herald I love current events so I was always trying to keep up with both American and Australian news stories
  • Travel- I got settled in first to learn about trips and adventures. But there are a ton of resources at hostels and whatnot about trips I used the XBase backpacking sites and places for a lot of travel info


How did you exchange money, and where did you find an ATM?

When you arrive in Sydney airport there is a currency exchange booth there so do that to get yourself some cash and then just look up beforehand which of your US banks’ credit and debit cards are partners with any Aussie banks.


What dorm would you recommend to future students? Why?

I am totally biased because I had an amazing living situation. I lived at 103 Beach Street in Coogee. I believe the options (in my favorite order) are Coogee beach, Coogee house, Bondi beach, Randwick, and then other apartments that the student gets on their own. Why I rank Coogee so high? Quite simply, it’s the greatest place on Earth. It's on the beach, it's close to campus, has great food, young people, decent bar scene, lots of travelers (internationals), great community feel, great parks, and events often. It’s where every Australian wants to live.

Bondi is great too and its Bondi beach so that’s awesome but it takes two buses (about an Hour travel) to get to school and back so that’s a bummer. Randwick is close to school (that’s where the Kensington campus is at) but it’s a 15min walk to the beach which was too far for me.

Campus Life

What were orientation & field trip events like?

Orientation Week is pretty hectic there because you are still getting adjusted to the time change and the culture and they have a lot of events that go on that week, but it’s a lot of fun long lines for everything though and they give out free food a lot so that’s good (BBQs). I did not do any field trips with my classes but I know a couple classes do and they seemed like a ton of fun.

What were your favorite places to hang out?

We hung out a lot on campus at the library, at the Unibar (the bar on campus), at Coogee Beach, at parks in Coogee, Coogee Bay Hotel, Beach Palace Hotel, and then some more of the beach!

What were your favorite extracurricular activities?

I volunteered a lot, school was good, I went to rugby games, footy games, art museums in Sydney, the parks all over, I played rugby every Saturday, body surfed at the beach a lot, work for a PR firm downtown, and traveled, I tried to do it all but there is a lot to do in such an amazing city/ Country.


Name one interesting place you visited and tells us what you liked about it.

I wanted to see Australia so I went to Adelaide, Perth, Gold Coast, Brisbane, Melbourne, Blue mountains, and then to Auckland & Wellington in New Zealand. I’d have to say New Zealand was the most incredible most beautiful place on Earth ( I hiked volcanoes, backpacked in nature parks, rock climbed in Wellington, it’s an amazing place I highly recommend!

Communication & Computers

Was wi-fi available in the dorms and on campus?

On-campus, yes! Off-Campus, No. You have to go to a Dick Smith’s (kind of like a Best Buy) and get your own wi-fi router off campus. We spent 85/ month for three people to have wireless at our place and it worked great. I think we got a Vodaphone router.

What was the nature of your communications with the exchange program coordinator? In what way was it supportive?

Elena was our coordinator and she is great at helping you out. I didn’t work with her much but if you need anything, she is available. Also Nick Dowd is in the International office and willing to help.

What was the check-in process like at the international students office?

Easy, just email beforehand and go in and meet with Elena Sinitsyna, she’s great!

Share any tips on communication that you think is helpful to future exchange students.
Vodaphone prepaid 30/ month for an Australian phone—very important


What was your favorite course? What did you like about it?

I honestly enjoyed all of my courses but Managing Innovation & Organizational Change was my favorite. I loved the professor and his approach to the subject. Dr. Markus Hoellerer, great man great professor. Managing People, Career Planning and Management, and International HRM were all exceptional classes as well. I loved all my classes there.

What helped you stay focused in an academic environment where you are mostly self-driven?

Just always realizing that you’re in Australia on exchange for school. This helped keep me motivated and I had the best semester of my college career grades wise while abroad because you represent Cornell, yourself, the US. You represent a lot when you are the only American in a class of 200.

How did you organize your course materials for review by the ILR faculty committee?

You must keep all big assignments, projects, papers, midterms, notes, syllabi. Keep it all, keep it all organized and bring it back and then out to school to get all the classes approved.

What did you like the least about your exchange program experience, and suggest ways for improvement.

Honestly, I would not change a thing, except maybe (I don’t know if it’s possible) but to have a yearlong exchange to UNSW because I would have done that in a heartbeat.


Did you work while on exchange? if so where, what did you do, and what was it like to work in another culture?

I did a bit of pro-bono work for a PR firm in Sydney helping plan and advertise for two big events. I did not get paid though so it did not take away from my hours studying. Working in Australia is a bit similar to the US except they value leisure time more than we do, they have more vacation days, and a lot of their work structure happens at the pubs on Friday nights which is fun.

How did you hear about this job?  

I randomly struck up a conversation with the Head of the PR firm and she brought me in to help her out with some projects, lucky happenstance really.

How much did it pay, and did you have to pay taxes?

Did not get paid.


Were you a volunteer in the local community? If so, How did you hear about this opportunity, what did you volunteer for, and what did you learn from this experience? 

I volunteered a lot in Sydney. I tutored a seventh grade student once a week with UNSW and loved every second of it. It was a great opportunity because a seventh grade student gives you the unbiased view of things about life in Australia which was cool to see.

I also volunteered for two big events in Sydney the Clean up Australia Day and the Mothers Day Fun Run. I learned about these in the local newsletters and online.


Tell us about your networking experiences and how this has helped you.

I am fortunate now to have some great contacts in the mining industry, PR/ communication realm, with some tech firms there as well just based on getting out there and getting to know people. Australians love to chat with people with accents so that was a nice ice breaker before you start to talk business.

Health & Safety

What health and safety issues did you encounter, if any? How did you resolve it?

No health and safety issues. Not once in Sydney did I ever feel threatened for my safety. It is a great place to live.


Is there anything else you would like to share with prospective ILR exchange students and the ILR community, which we haven’t asked?

Honestly, Australia is an epic place filled with history, art, sports, performances, festivals, concerts, beaches, bars, but the most amazing thing about this place was the people who were so open and caring towards complete strangers from another land. Take advantage of your youth and go explore!

How did you choose this particular program for a student exchange program?

I have always wanted to go to Australia and I wanted to immerse myself in a culture without a language barrier (so as to make to make long lasting friendships and connections). The ILR Exchange allowed me to do that.

What was your overall academic experience like?

I’ll be honest, everyone I talked to before I left for Australia that had studied there said the academics were easier than Cornell’s, but I found my classes, professors, material, and projects all to be quite a challenge. The overall experience was great though, because like I mentioned before when you are in class there everyone knows you are American and you have to represent yourself and who you are and where you come from in the best way possible. This pushed me to work very hard towards my best academic semester of college!

What did you enjoy the most of your exchange program experience?

The friendships that were cultivated, the ability to live in a new place, the ability to travel and to live learn, and lay out on the beaches with Aussies!

- Charles Clausner, BSILR 2013