Saturday, March 10, 2012

Shelby K. - Australia - Spring 2012

It has been roughly a month since I stepped foot on Australian soil and I am trying to embrace every moment.  It has been fun thus far.  My journey started out with a trip up to Cairns for a four day orientation.  As part of orientation, I was able to white water raft the Barron River (scary stuff) and snorkel over the Great Barrier Reef.  Floating at the ocean’s surface, just meters above a stingray, was a once in a lifetime experience.  My favorite part of the orientation was petting and feeding kangaroos, and holding a koala.  I am a sucker for soft, furry, cuddly things.
I moved into my residence in Wollongong about three weeks ago.  My home away from home is a nice sized dorm room that I share with one other American student.  Even though I have to share space, I am not complaining.  I’ve got the luxury of a huge desk, about double the size of the one’s at Elmhurst in which I personally always feel cramped, and a sink in my room which is perfect for my obsessive hand washing tendencies.
Wollongong is a medium sized city so there is a fair amount of things to do and keep busy with.  I have spent several afternoons browsing the mall nearby, looking for the best deals on Ethernet cords and t-shirts because I seemed to have packed a little too lightly.  I have also enjoyed relaxing on the beach with a good book in hand, if the one by Snooki counts as good.  I have even gone out dancing with friends in downtown Wollongong.  Wednesday night, or Uni night, is the night to go.  I always have a blast dancing my heart out.  Riding the party bus, decked out in neon lights, hardwood paneling, and roaring music, to get downtown on Wednesday nights is a cultural experience in itself.  There is just so much to see and do.
I have been attending classes for two weeks now.  The first day of classes and lectures was a bit intimidating but they get better.  One of the quirky parts of the lectures was that each lecture began by informing the class how and where to exit the building in case of a fire.  I think it is mandatory that the professors put that information in their first lecture.  Each lecture is two hours, which depending on the lecturer flies by faster than one might think.  My sociology professor just has a way of keeping the class so engaging, interacting and asking us questions, that before I know it class is over.  My philosophy lecture on the other hand tends to drag on a little.  This past week was the first week of tutorials, which are basically a class in which you debrief from the lecture, talk it over and sort out any confusing parts.  These are very helpful and somewhat comforting being that they have smaller class sizes and share more similarities with classes I have taken at Elmhurst.
Everyone is very friendly here in Australia.  I have already made some very good friends through my program orientation.  I hope to make even more friends as I begin to settle in and get into the swing of class.


Blogger Linda K. said...

Hi Shelby,

Your experiences in Australia right now seems very exciting! Although I am not going to Australia, I hope that I can have similar experiences as you. How many classes are you taking while studying abroad? How much free time do you get while you are there? Are most of your free time spent on a set schedule of events or something that you can do on your own with your friends? Sorry for the number of questions... just curious :)
-Linda K

9:19 PM  
Anonymous Shelby K. said...

Hi Linda,
No worries, questions are good. :) I am taking four classes, most of which will count as gen eds. I would say the amount of free time I get here is similar to that of which I got back at Elmhurst. I have a couple days during the week where I only have one class for 50 minutes in the morning and then have the rest of the day to do whatever. I actually spend most of my free time hanging out with the friends I have made here doing spontaneous things, whether it be going to the mall, the beach, or going to a festival at uni. My dorm and my program have scheduled some bigger weekend events, like beach games, a trip to a basketball game, and a hike. These are usually a lot of fun and have the added bonus of free transportation, but even so they are optional to attend. If you have any more questions feel free to ask away.

5:10 AM  
Anonymous Alyssa M. said...

Hi Shelby!

I was wondering if you could tell me how you dealt with any culture shock you might have had. Hope you're having fun!

1:34 PM  
Anonymous Ryszard D. said...

How is the adjustment to the same language but a different accent and certain words having varying meanings going so far?

2:50 PM  
Blogger Linda K. said...

Hi Shelby,

What were something culture shock items that you had to deal with when you first arrived in Australia?

4:00 PM  
Anonymous Shelby K. said...

Hi all!
Culture shock. I feel like I experienced it a little bit, but I don't think I had a big dip. I definitely got annoyed with odd little things, like adjusting to the use of coed bathrooms or having to put BBQ sauce on everything because the ketchup (actually called tomato sauce) tasted different. The biggest culture shock probably came when adjusting to lecture sizes and the grades are given. It is still hard to accept sometimes that a 70% on an assignment is considered a pretty good grade. They definitely grade on a strict bell curve. They way I dealt with these things was just to try and embrace the differences and remind myself that I was in a new country, things were supposed to be different. Sometimes it helped just to talk with a friend or distract myself by playing board games. Often times, just walking to uni was a surprisingly easy way to get rid of my negative energy and annoyance. It is amazing how being out in the sun has a way of making situations brighter.
Adjusting to the accent wasn't too bad. In the beginning I would sometimes have to ask people to repeat themselves but you pick up on the accent really quick. I haven't run into any situations where words with different meanings has negatively affected the conversation. Usually, unknowingly using words with different meanings leads to a very interesting, sometimes funny, side conversation.

10:37 PM  
Blogger Christine Schram said...

What was your class registration like? Did you find it difficult? Was it similar to that of Elmhursts?

Sorry for so many questions, but they are important. Your experience sounds fantastic by the way!

4:31 PM  

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