Sunday, March 03, 2013

Kinga O. - Newcastle, Australia - Spring 2013

Hi everyone! My name is Kinga and I traveled to Australia to study at the University of Newcastle. I arrived ten days ago to start orientation with my program. I’ve only been here a few days, but I already feel at home. I meet students from all over the US, including those going to the University of Wollongong. Orientation for Globalinks was held in Cairns, a popular tourist destination for both Australians and those from other nations. We had the chance to see kangaroos, wallabies, dingos, reptiles, and koalas. We took a tour through the rainforest and listened to the Aboriginals talk about their traditions and history. Cairns is close to the Great Barrier Reef, so I got to see the amazing world under the surface of the water. Pictures and words are not enough to describe how cool and beautiful it is. Everyone wore a stinger suit while snorkeling and diving since we happened to visit during jellyfish season. The stings are apparently very painful, but the danger for that day happened to be the sun. Since the ozone layer is damaged over Australia, the sun is very harsh. It only takes eight minutes to burn during the afternoon when not wearing sunscreen. I would suggest packing some since the prices in Cairns for it were quite high. Australia has a very strong dollar and certain things (like alcohol, cigarettes, makeup, etc.) are very expensive. Australians get paid a higher minimum wage and the economy is in great shape due to the mining industry, so their prices are also higher than ours. The Australians  are extremely nice and friendly people who are ready to help and answer any questions one might have. They also seem to care more about the consumer than the companies in the United States. I was supposed to take a 5:30 am Quantas flight from Cairns to Brisbane and then on to Newcastle with my group, but our plane never took off due to mechanical problems. After two hours of waiting on the plane, we had to get off of the plane. Since it was a busy flight day, Quantas wasn’t able to reschedule the whole group to Brisbane and we missed our connecting flight. The company arranged hotel rooms for every individual, paid for our dinner, transported us to and from the hotel, and scheduled us on flights the next day. A bad experience turned into an enjoyable, warm extra night in Cairns.
    When we finally arrived in Newcastle there was very heavy rain, so we were grateful for the extra time in Cairns. I live off-campus with eleven other people in a house. Everyone in my house is American, but there are Norwegian and Australian students living next door. The beach is five minutes away and we live on a popular restaurant and cafe street. Newcastle is surrounded by amazing beaches and waters filled with surfers. I was lucky enough to catch the last day of Surfest, a big surfing competition which brings in some of the world’s best surfers. It was a very interesting thing to watch and a great way to spend the day. Newcastle also has a very big music and art scene. Live bands are always playing in bars and restaurants close by and there are plenty of museums to explore. Newcastle was voted one of the top places to visit in 2011 by Lonely Planet and the more time I spend here the more I see why. It used to be an industrial and coal town, but it is turning into a modern and cultural area. The university or uni is a few minutes away and orientation is slowly coming to a close. The school sponsored activities in the area and on campus. We even received a coupon for a free beer, wine, or soft drink from the school bar in our welcome backpack. We also got fairy floss(cotton candy) and I listened to an Australian tell a story about knock n run or dingdong ditch. The school can be reached using a bus or walking to the train station. University of Newcastle has over 30,000 students so my classes will have many more students in them when compared to Elmhurst. The campus is in a bush area and there are a lot of mosquitoes or mozzies there. I start school on Monday and I can’t wait to see what how my classes will be. Australia has been pretty fantastic and there is so much to see. Some of my new friends and I will be taking a train trip to Sydney before school starts for the Mardi Gra festival. We all want to see much as possible, because time really is going by super fast! The decision to study abroad will be a great experience no matter where you decide to go


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Kinga,
I'm glad you're having fun in Australia! How were you able to pick the classes you wanted? Do you have a couple tips for me? I'm going to Semester at Sea and they say the school part is difficult to adjust to. They also say that they recommend only taking 4 classes but at Elmhurst that is only equivalent to 3. Should I take 5 classes you think? Or would I get too overwhelmed? Thanks!

Emily CPP250

11:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Emily,
I was able to get into the classes that I wanted since all my classes have one big lecture and then we sign up for tutorials at a different time to go over the material with a smaller amount of students. The learning system here is also different then at Elmhurst, but after a few classes I adjusted to everything just fine. Before I transferred to Elmhurst, I was taking five classes a semester and that was what the typical student took. I didn't feel overwhelmed so if you feel that you can handle more than 4 classes I think you should go for it. Many of the American students I am in the program with are Pass/Fail, but Elmhurst transfers the grades from a semester abroad. Even when others aren't going to class, it is beneficial for you to go and to keep up with the readings assigned. In Australia my grades depend on about three assignments that rely on information from the lecture and the readings. Taking a class that would never be offered at Elmhurst also helps with learning more about the culture or cultures you will be experiencing. I am taking Aboriginal Studies and it's helping me understand Australia's history and their current social issues. Everything will work out and your time abroad will be great! See and do as much as possible, school is important but so is having fun. There will be so many opportunities to explore and visit different places, especially with Semester at Sea. Get ready to have an awesome time abroad.

7:54 PM  

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