Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Amanda W. - Australia - Spring 2012

Cheers EC students!  My adventure to Australia began Valentines Days as I flew to LAX to meet up with other AustraLearn kids to take the 14-hour flight over to the land down under.  It’s been three weeks since that flight but I still feel like I’m flying high!  To start things off let me just praise the AustraLearn program.  The Bridging Cultures orientation in Cairns (pronounced Cans) was amazing.  During the five-day stay I got to meet people not just going to my University, but also people going to Macquarie University in Sydney as well.  The program leaders made us feel right at home with the Australians and we got to do so many activities like take a dive on the Great Barrier Reef, hold a koala bear, hang out with kangaroos, walk through the rainforest, and experience an Australian BBQ (and yes I did try some kangaroo, which is quite delicious!).
I knew Australia would be different than the US, but mostly when you picture differences people only think about the physical things, like the landscape.  But what I was reminded of is that as we explore the world with not only sight, but with the other four senses as well.  The plants feel different, even the birds sound different; I still find myself waking up early because I haven’t gotten used to the sound yet.  Even remembering to first look right before I cross the street (yes Australians do drive on the left side of the road) or stay to the left while walking on the sidewalk still seems a bit unnatural.  But it’s all good fun, especially to the Australians.  The stereotype that Australians are laid back is just the tip of the iceberg.  Australians are literally the nicest people I have ever met. If they are teasing you, that means they like you.  The people here treat others with equal respect no matter your social class or job everyone is equal. 
I take a free bus to uni or into town from my dorm everyday and each time someone strikes up a conversation with me.  Even walking past someone there is rarely those awkward ‘I’m going to pretend that I’m not looking at you so I don’t have to say hi’ encounters, people just smile and say ‘hey ya goin?’  The town of Wollongong is beautiful.  My housing is a five-minute walk to the beach and bus ride to the local mall.  One of the first days I was in Wollongong I just rode around on the bus to see what it has to offer, and I feel like I have barely scratched the surface yet!  The city is a cheep hour and a half train ride to Sydney.  I went in for the Mardi Gras parade, which was just insane!
To talk academics, I am taking 3 classes this semester.  I am taking an Australian studies course, Film and Literature course (next week we are watching Twilight…), and a Biology course called Biodiversity of Marine and Freshwater Organisms.  The way classes are here is that you have lectures and tutorials.  Lectures are once a week for 2 hours (or twice for 1 hour) and tutorials are once a week for an hour.  The tutorial is the size of a normal class at Elmhurst where you get to discuss the readings and ask questions on assignments, and lectures are usually in big theater halls (that put Illinois hall to shame).  The grading system is based usually on 1 to 3 assignments, 1 to 2 exams, and participation in tutorial.
Australia has heaps to offer and I can’t wait to explore it.  I’m already picking up the slang and a bit of the accent as well.  If you have any questions please feel free to ask and I’ll try to respond quickly…if I’m not at the beach.  Cheers!
p.s.  Don’t ask where the bathroom is, you’ll get weird looks, ask for the toilet!


Blogger Christine Schram said...

I'm in the Australearn program and am going to Bond University in the fall... your post makes me super excited to get to Australia!!! What kind of foods do they have there? Will I be able to find any American products (such as Tide or All, I have a soap allergy... or something equivalent)? What was the reef like?

3:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Amanda!! That's so great to hear you are enjoying yourself. Caralyn told me you have seen and touched so many different animals which is just so amazing! This fits so well with your major, it's like perfect! I myself am going to study abroad this summer in the islands off of Spain and can't wait! I hope that I have just as much fun as you even though I am only going for five weeks. So did you have a choice of getting to Australia early to meet people or was that part of the program? Was it hard to understand the people there at first? I bet when you come back you will have some of the accent down haha. I'm glad to hear you are having fun and although I am not going to Australia I am super pumped from your post! Keep me updated!

4:42 PM  
Anonymous Amanda Wright said...

To Christine - The food here for the most part is the same. There are a lot of ethnic places to eat since Asia is just above Australia. The products here are sometimes different like ketchup is called tomato sauce and to me does, it does not taste the same (I've substituted it with BBQ sauce which is really good here). I've never been in a position where I couldn't find something I would like. As for finding American products it's usually hit or miss. If you can't find the product I'm sure you won't have a problem finding something similar. The reef was absolutely stunning! The colors were unreal! I'm studying biology and to finally see something that I have learned so much about in real life and know how it functions was rewarding for me. Plus I got to see clown fish (aka NEMO!!) in an anemone colony and a sea turtle!!!

-To Amanda!!
Meeting people before school started was apart of the program I went through. Understanding the accent was fine, except when people talk really fast, because Australians tend to shorten words for example Brisbane is pronounced Brisbin or Canberra is Canbra. What takes getting used to are the slang terms. Like larrikin is someone having a good time, swimmers = bathing suit, heaps = a lot, lollies = candy, maccas = McDonalds. If you ask them what something means they will laugh at you but it's all good fun to them. I'm glad you're getting to go this summer! It is truly an amazing experience even if for 5 weeks!

-Amanda Wright
keep the questions coming!! :)

10:57 PM  
Anonymous Alyssa M. said...

Hi Amanda!

I'm going to Sydney for the fall 2012 semester (Macquarie Uni) and have a couple questions on choosing classes. Was it hard to get the classes you chose for the registration form and how many hours are the classes per week? Hope you're having fun!!

1:22 PM  
Anonymous Ryszard D. said...

My brother, when he went to NZ took a Marine Biology course. Do you also have to take samples and run them in your marine course? Also, when you were picking your classes, was it difficult to find classes to the schedule you wanted? Or did they assign times for your classes that you had to take?

11:28 PM  
Anonymous Amanda Wright said...

Okay so lets talk academics! Right now I am taking 3 subjects. I have 2-hour lectures for each subject and a 1-hour tutorial. Tutorial is compulsory (mandatory) but lectures are not. Lectures are usually recorded and posted so you can listen to them later but I suggest you co to the actual lecture. Mac Uni kids were also at our Cairns orientation so I know a few people there and for the first two weeks they did not attend a lecture! Don’t do that!!! Tutorials are like a normal class size at Elmhurst and discuss lecture material. As for registration, it wasn’t hard at all to get the subjects that I wanted because classes are much bigger here than Elmhurst most are not limited to a certain amount of students. However lectures are usually offered at 1 time so you don’t have options of when you want to take it. But since Americans take a wide range of courses you can easily find classes that don’t conflict. Talking about my biology course, we have done a practical of sampling invertebrates from the different types of water habitats like ponds and streams around campus. We took sediment samples then brought them back to the lab to identify the creatures. In two weeks we are traveling to a rocky shore to sample the invertebrate diversity there which I’m pretty keen for!

8:43 PM  
Anonymous Chris said...


I am just wondering if you ever experienced culture shock upon returning. If so, how did you overcome it?

2:34 PM  
Anonymous Amanda Wright said...

I'm still over in Australia so I don't know about reverse culture shock yet for me personally. I have heard though, that it is more common to experience since you've been used to always doing something exciting and then you are back into a normal boring schedule. I did undergo a little culture shock in the beginning of the term when I was dropped off at my dorm. I have my own room and share a bathroom with 3 other people and when I arrived no one was here. Just being alone through that transition was a little rough, but I called up some people I knew and hung out that night. Hope that helps!

10:54 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home