Survivng the First Week at the University of Sydney

The University of Sydney is a small world on a huge campus. It won’t take you long to discover just how tight-knit the USyd network is, with half the campus having either debated or dated each other in high school, and frequently both, campaigned together in student elections, or hit the slopes together with Sub Ski. But while you’re navigating the Great Wall of Hipsters in line for Campos Coffee, or sprinting between lectures from one side of this suburb-sized campus to the other, Sydney Uni can be a pretty overwhelming place. Help us bring you up to speed with this beginner’s guide to surviving USyd.


My first O-Week experience was an artillery fire of free stuff that went straight to the back of my wardrobe, and obnoxious fliers for clubs and societies catering to people with hobbies I didn’t even know existed. But O-Week is a rite of passage and an exciting introduction to uni life. I think I managed to sign-up to 23 clubs and societies in total at my first ever O-Week, including the Vietnamese Students Association (no, you don’t have to be a Vietnamese student to join) and the Captain Planet Society (their T-Shirts were cool). I only made it to the meetings of about one and a half of these clubs in the end, but it was a thrill to be engaged in such a whirlwind of activity. If for no other reason, make sure you check out O-Week to get yourself pumped up for being a uni student.

University of Sydney Union

USU is the student union, and the body responsible for most of the cool stuff that happens on campus. They run O-Week, fund the clubs and societies, publish magazines and journals, put on arts and culture festivals, and heaps more. If you have a particular skill that you plan to put to use at uni - whether it be writing, stand up comedy, music or event planning, or even a penchant for student politics - USU is guaranteed to offer a way to do so. Check out the opportunities and events going down at If you engage in no other union event in your first semester of uni, you must attend USU’s Beach Ball at Manning Bar. The band night is known to feature a relatively solid line up of artists given the low ticket cost, and makes for a memorable first taste of campus life.

USU membership is voluntary, and comes at a cost. The USU sells membership in the form of an Access card which gives discounts on and off campus. Annual membership is $99 for first-time buyers, and $90 for renewals. You can also buy life-of-degree membership for a 25% discount. This cost of buying an Access card is different from the compulsory Student Services and Amenities Fee which goes directly to Universities rather than to student organisations.


Timetabling is the bane of any Sydney University student’s existence. We may have state of the art research facilities and a progressive cash-free system on campus, but the uni just can’t seem to get it’s head around the idea of online timetabling. Unlike pretty much every other uni in Australia, USyd doesn’t allow you to freely select the individual lectures and tutorials that suit your schedule best. Instead, the online system allows you to block out time slots where you don't want to be at uni, then cross your fingers and hope for the best. If you still find yourself enrolled in lectures that you physically can't attend, you can have your timetable altered in person, which requires waiting in a queue that, rumour has it, is the only other human structure apart from the Great Wall of China that can be seen from outer space. This goes down during O-Week and the first week of lectures, and my only advice is to get in there as early as possible when the queue is only as long as it takes to down a cup of coffee and browse Facebook on your phone, and all the good lectures haven’t already been filled up. Find where to go to have your timetable altered by a staff member here.

Hanging Out On Campus

If you’re anything like me, study was very low on your list of reasons for enroling at USyd. In fact, my ideal degree is actually offered exclusively at UTS - but how could I pass up the opportunity to spend my days reading by swan-filled lakes, or drifting through sandstone quadrangles that facilitate the fantasy that my confirmation of enrolment letter was actually an owl-delivered memo informing me of my status as a witch?

Whether you’re a Harry Potter fan or not, I can guarantee that the USyd campus will quickly become one of your favourite aspects of being a uni student. In your first few weeks of uni it is all too easy to scurry straight home after lectures in pursuit of more familiar faces, even if it’s just those of Blake Lively and Leighton Meester. But with the abundance of facilities to be enjoyed on campus, simply hanging around after lectures is the best way to make friends and ensure that you set yourself up to capitalise on that glorious student ritual of skipping classes to lounge in sun and good company.

There are a few nifty ways to track down this good company for delinquent lounging. First and foremost, it is very important that you develop a passion for coffee, because most of the socialising in this place takes place over a dark cup - especially now that Campos brewers have moved into the foyer of the law building. Once you’ve contracted a raging caffeine addiction, don’t be afraid to ask the person you just met in your lecture to join you for a cup after class - it’s no stab in the dark that they’re feeling just as lost as you, and will jump at the chance to suss the place out with a friend. Then there’s always the tried and tested method of joining a club or society, which will inevitably be pretty daunting on your first ever meeting but is guaranteed to put you into contact with a bunch of other students just as eager to make some new friends as you are. It can be hard to work up the guts to do either of these things - but trust me, if you force yourself to suck it up and take the social plunge it will very quickly pay off.

Getting Around

Sydney University has its own post code - that’s how big the campus is. As soon as you see the words “Bosch Lecture Theatre” blazoned across your timetable, it’s time to work on your power walking skills and perhaps invest in a wheely bag. Just kidding. No seriously: don’t ever show up to uni with a wheely bag. While skateboards are the most popular choice for rolling around this mammoth campus, the odd roller blader has been sited, though this makes navigating the substantial number of stair cases across the campus somewhat difficult, and is usually the first step to social suicide. Most lecturers will allow 5 or 10 minutes for students to get to class before they start, but be sure to check out a map in your first week to prepare yourself for those quick dashes across campus when you get hit with two lectures that couldn’t be further apart.

Food and Drink

There are plenty of options for a feed wherever you’re positioned on campus, but some are certainly better than others. Here’s my pick of the best eats at USyd:


Taste Baguette: If you can put up with the long lines and dense crowds of hipsters in the law building foyer, you’ll be rewarded with a much coveted cup of Campos Coffee, a tasty macaroon, and a spot in the sun on the law lawns.

Azzuri Cafe: Tucked away beneath the staircase to the Sci-Tech Library, Azzuri cafe brews some of the smoothest coffee around, with great service and much shorter lines that most cafes on campus.


Taste Baguette: It’s a campus cliche, but that’s cos you just can’t beat their gourmet baguettes. Vietnamese French fusion, lunch from Taste will set you back about $9 - great value for taste compared to some of the hugely inflated prices on campus.

Manning Bar. The Chicken Caesar Burger. That is all.

Parma Cafe: This is the place to go with a big group, with gourmet pizzas you can share and box up for your afternoon lecture if you don’t finish in one sitting. It’s also a winner if you’re gluten free, serving up gluten free pizza, pasta and pastries to keep you happy and wheat-free.

Ralph’s Cafe: Maybe a little exy, but great salads and rolls, and conveniently located right by the gym.