German IT Student goes Sydney Startup and UTS

pascal.brokmeier

tl;dr: IT mate talks about his first experiences in Syndey, how to find a job and accomodation and look at Sydney from a non tourist perspective. Helpful tips with a personal note to it.

First steps and finding accomodation

I arrived in Sydney after almost no preparation due to stressful lectures, exams and projects at work. I had a visa, I was enrolled in the University and had health insurance cover. I had yet to find an accomodation, didn’t get in touch with anyone yet or did any other preparations. I’ve been to the states before, doing an exchange during 11th grade and this one included much more preparation. After a interesting flight with Air India, I arrived in Sydney and as almost everyone else I got a SIM card right away. These days, if you got no access to the net, you’re lost. I received a SIM, took the shuttle to the city and started finding places to live. Sending hundreds of messages on

  • flatmates.com.au
  • flatmatefinders.com.au
  • gumtree.com.au
  • several facebook groups

I tried to find an a shared flat that allows for a single person, not having to share a room but having enough space to have a visitor for about a month too. Finding a place in Sydney under $300 is almost impossible so I rented a room for $350 in the beginning with the intention to switch to something cheaper asap.

The benefit of being an IT professional

On the first day, I walked into the ATP Innovations center and talked to two people sitting on the couch looking like they were discussing their product. After a short intro and some forth and back it was obvious I was a good fit for their company. It’s called Propeller and they created a data platform for drone data in the cloud. Now, two weeks later, I already worked with them for one week and I’m looking forward to some exciting times coming up.

The good news for any IT graduate with a decent skillset: You can either work as a barkeep and earn some $20/hour or you go ahead and employ your skills in a field that is very popular and earn twice that while also collecting valuable practical experiences. Try:

  • ATP Innovation Center → lots of startups
  • Get an ABN and work as a contractor → saves on taxes and other costs
  • Big corporations in downtown → don’t shy away from just dropping in or calling first to see who to talk to and offer them what you got. Worst case they aren’t looking for anyone right now, best case you get a great freelancing job.

University preparation weeks

I think these are greatly overrated. Maybe the other faculties had a better introduction but as a FEIT (Faculty of Engineering and IT) student, all you get is a few powerpoint slides. Not even a warm handshake. The summerfest is alright although wildly too strictly controlled. There’s a guy in the smoking area telling you that you aren’t allowed there if you aren’t a smoker! Anyways the preparation weeks are basically useless, they might as well have sent me an email with the information I needed to know, everything could have been handled remotely. Sure a bit of socialising is a nice to have but you can also do that with people you have class with. And it feels like the whole “join all our cool clubs” thing is just a way for clubs to make money off new students. They all want you to join them and pay a membership fee.

What you do get however is tasks to complete. Professors already started putting lectures and other materials online which you have to prepare for the upcoming classes. I suspect they really expect you to always prepare every lecture which, unlike Germany where it’s usually asked for but no one actually does it, should help keep up the constant learning throughout the semester instead of only working 24h 4 days straight to pass an exam. I also don’t have a single exam this semester. I got 3 IT classes all of them being based on project work. This, the UTS definately got right! Exams are a relict from former times, but these days what IT professional ever has to solve a problem without the access to the internet and numerous ressources and only has 60 minutes to finish the task?

Cool places to see and where to buy food

Here I really have to catch up. I haven’t seen the harbor bridge yet, nor the Opera House or the botanic gardens. I’ve been to an Aldi though (German be German) and it sure helps to find a structure you know when everything else is new. Food is quiet expensive here (however that perspective changes if you get paid well) and Aldi manages to push the prices down a bit. Otherwise there is so much Thai and Asian places to try out you can try something new 3 times a day. So make sure you enjoy the local restaurant culture!

One last tip: Don’t panic in the beginning! Life will help you sort things out even if the first month will be expensive, it will pay off with plenty of experiences in the long run.

pascal.brokmeier

Written by

Software Developer, Tech enthusiast, student, board sports and food lover

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