They say home is where the heart is. That special place full of memories, laughs and warmth. Somewhere where we can return and feel comfortable, a place where we belong. I always thought that there can only be one such place; until I moved to Sydney and found my second home. This time last year I was nervously sitting, awaiting my dentistry interview at the University of Sydney. I was so concentrated on getting past this obstacle, that the thought of living in Sydney did not really cross my mind. It was a Friday afternoon when I received my acceptance letter. Tears of joy rolling down my face I realised I was going to leave my family, my friends and my home here in Melbourne in pursuit of my interstate adventure.

Even though Mandelbaum House was founded by the Jewish community of Sydney, it welcomes students from all cultural and religious backgrounds. I am not religious myself, but I am proud of my Jewish heritage and it was important for me to find a place of residence near Sydney University where I would stay connected to my tradition.

As soon as I walked into Mandelbaum House I was greeted with a warm hug from Shana, our college CEO and within the first hour of my arrival, some residents were already showing me around and helping me settle in. They took me under their wing and showed me the college, the uni and the local neighbourhood Newtown. I was even shown where to get the best coffee (but it doesn’t quite compete with Melbourne!).

Mandelbaum House is a residential college at the University of Sydney, it is unique in that it is the smallest college on campus where everyone knows each other. When I had the flu, Shana made sure I had chicken soup to eat – it felt like I was home. And the chefs made a special brew of tea to get me back on track. We are lucky to have meals cooked fresh for us every day and every month we all gather together over a formal dinner where we get the opportunity to hear from our guest speaker over a delicious two-course meal. As a dentistry student the flexibility and convenience of having all our meals provided with even a take-away lunch option available.

One of the things I enjoy most about living at Mandelbaum House is the opportunity to meet students from all over the world. I now have friends from England, America, New Zealand, Germany, India, China and Japan, just to name a few. Living away from home is a liberating, but also a challenging experience at times, so I am truly grateful that I now get to call Mandelbaum House, my home.

By Sonia Vorontsov