Returning Home

Walking into Mandelbaum House for its latest reunion on Thursday night brought back so many memories for me. I remember arriving as a 19-year-old from California who had never been to Australia, getting out of the taxi from the airport nervously and wondering what awaited me.
Fifteen years later, I am living in Sydney and about to become an Australian citizen. I doubt I would have ended up settling in Australia if I hadn’t had such a wonderful community experience during my semester abroad at the University of Sydney.
It was fantastic that the same sense of community was on display from the current students and more recent alumni at the reunion.
The trivia game was a great mixer. My team had so much diversity, including current student Ruby, alumni organiser Audrey from New Caledonia who had been at Mandelbaum at the same time as me and another alum, David, who was originally from Argentina but had also settled in Australia.

Returning to Mandelbaum reminded me of how close-knit a group it had been in my time, whether we were playing pool or ping-pong, watching a movie, listening to a guest lecture, eating at a formal dinner or hosting a party. Looking at the bulletin board near the dining area, it is clear that little has changed 15 years later.
I know most Mandelbaum alumni live outside Sydney. I am Facebook friends with many who were there with me in 2001 and they live all around Australia, North America, and Asia. But I do hope as many as possible from my year and all of the other ones can return for a planned 21st reunion next year and share in the memories.

By Jamie Freed, Mandelbaum House resident 2001

On The Temple Trail

Semester 2 at Mandelbaum House started in style with a seamless blend of intellectual conversation, music and banter at our welcome dinner.

Having been here for only over a week, I’m fascinated by how quickly Mandelbaum transitioned from being simply a dorm to my home in Sydney.

Current residents, Kartik and Yash set the mood with their powerful yet soothing cover of Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud. Dinner table conversation included – but was definitely not limited to – grandmas who knit, heavy metal and how Donald Trump is menacing modern American democracy (I’m looking at your table, American exchange students).

Then it was Back to the Future time for resident Benjamin Leadbetter, who visited his big brother here aged 10 (or was it 14?) and now joined us in welcoming Michael Leadbetter back as the night’s guest speaker. Michael graduated with First Class Honours in Archaeology in 2014 and is now working towards a Masters. He has won multiple accolades, such as the 2015 National Archaeology Conference award for best Masters Research and best overall Postgraduate Research, and made his international academic debut earlier this year with a presentation at Oxford University’s Project Southeast Asia Conference.

Michael told us about his fascination with Angkor, ‘the biggest city of the ancient world’, which flourished from the 8th century CE before being abandoned in the early 14th century. The Greater Angkor Project analyses the spatial, climatic and social transitions the region faced during and after that time. We learned that 50 years of drought and a massive mega-monsoon contributed to the simultaneous collapses of Angkor and other cities in the region while smaller communities managed to survive. Highlighting the link between climate studies and archaeology, Michael explained that volcanoes affect not only the local but also the global community through sulphur dioxide releases, possible tsunamis and global dimming.

The contemporary parallels were impossible to miss: more and more people are living in ever larger cities, thereby endangering the resources we are going to need in the future, irrespective of technological advantages. Archaeological evidence spanning thousands of years of humans living with climate change reveals the types of behaviours that lead to sustainability and those that lead to failure in the face of climate disaster. To survive the era of climate change that we’re now entering, we need to consider the past.

Informative, thought-provoking and entertaining, the evening was an inspiring way to kick off the rest of the academic year.

By Kari  Luthria, Mandelbaum resident



Mandelbaum is more than just a house … It’s my home

What’s the difference between a ‘house’ and a ‘home’? A house is a building or structure that someone resides in, whereas a home is a place where a person not only lives but also feels a true sense of belonging. For many university students, this sense of belonging is increasingly difficulty to find.

My initial motives for moving to Mandelbaum House this year were necessity and convenience. I was living in a share house in Randwick and thoroughly enjoying the independence it gave me. But with full-time uni, volunteering and part-time work on my plate, I was finding it tricky to balance household responsibilities with all my other commitments. Moving into Mandelbaum enabled me to live closer to university and took away the mundane stresses of household chores. Not having to worry about the food shopping, preparation, cooking and cleaning has given me more time to invest in my real interests.


What I didn’t anticipate was the fantastic community aspect. As residents we don’t just sit back and receive the benefits of the college; instead we’re collectively empowered to make our college our own. Groups of us get together each week to actively shape the culture of the college in different domains – food, culture and academic activities, to name just a few. A regular feature of Mandelbaum life is hosting themed dinners. We’re given a budget and take turns deciding on the dress-up theme and the decorations, while the college chefs create on-theme menus. Highlights for me this year have been the St Patrick’s Day, Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day), and Game of Thrones dinners.

We’re also grateful to have events organised by the college staff, who invite incredible speakers and put on fantastic formal dinners. Most recently we were privileged to hear from Eddie Jaku, an inspirational Holocaust survivor who left a lasting impression on the way we appreciate everyday life. We also drew inspiration and knowledge from other speakers this semester, including Professor Tyrone M Carlin (Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Registrar at the University of Sydney) and Nastasia Campanella , a journalist and newsreader for the ABC who is blind. In exchange for the valuable insights these speakers bring to us, we try to return the favour in our own unique ways. Some students perform musical pieces; others read poems or share a few words in honour of our guests’ presence at these events.

Most importantly, Mandelbaum is a place where, no matter how far away I travel or how long I’m gone, I can walk through the front door and be greeted with happy smiles and friendly, familiar faces. We’re one big family – and this is where I feel home.

By Gina Abramowitz, Mandelbaum Resident