It has been over a month since I arrived in Australia and I have already fallen in love with this place. I love the people, the culture, and weather. I’m finally starting to grow accustomed to people driving on the wrong side of the road. Since classes have started, it has been mostly work and no play. Unlike my previous classes back home, my classes here are primarily based on group projects. Being in four groups and two partnerships is definitely something I have to get used to. Having to deal with scheduling and responsibilities of the workloads for an assignment is half the battle within my groups. Another difference has been the grading scale. Grades are based on pass, credit, distinction and higher distinction. Although this grading system doesn’t make much sense to me, I’m focusing on the work and making the deadlines.
Even though University work has started to pick up, I still was able to make it out to the Opera House and watch the YouTube Orchestra. The Sydney Opera House is quite a sight on the outside, and the inside is just as impressive. The YouTube Orchestra was actually developed by finding performers on YouTube and bringing them together to develop amazing music. Throughout the performance there were highlight videos of some of the performers. The videos talked about where they come from and gave a little background of how they became a part of the orchestra. After the performance, some of the performers did a small show just outside the opera house on the street. It was awesome to see the passion they showed while playing their instruments.
Another exciting adventure was taking a trip to the zoo here in Sydney. The only way to get there was by ferry. The ferry ride gave me a chance to see how amazing the Sydney skyline looks from the water. Once we arrived at the zoo, I finally was able to meet a kangaroo! It was very cool, really big too. I was quite surprised at their size. They seemed to have a sad look on their faces. Then again they could have just been sad because they were stuck in a zoo rather than in the wild. Also, I was able to get a little lesson on koalas and what they eat and why they are always in the trees. Next, I got to see a Tasmanian devil, which are quite powerful looking animals. My favorite animal was the wallaby. Wallabies are like small kangaroos. Seeing a baby in the mother’s pouch was the best part of the trip for me!
Well, that’s all for now. I’m heading into Easter Break where I will spend the holidays with a genuine Australian family.
Oh wow, I can’t believe it! I’ve been in Australia for two weeks now. Goodness! Where do I even begin?!? It seems like ages ago that I boarded the plane in San Antonio. I was anxious and nervous, but mainly excited. When I first arrived in Sydney, I was picked up by a van from UNSW that took me straight to my dorm. Now I think it’s important to stop here, and take a moment to explain some local slang that I have adopted while living here. First of all, a dormitory or residency on campus is known as a college, and the entire college is known as a “Uni” or university. I live in Baxter college, the biggest dorm, and smack dab in the middle of the Uni campus. Baxter has about 200 residents and each resident has his or her own room. Although Australians speak English that is pretty much the extent that our cultures parallel on. The Australian culture is quite “laid-back” compared to the States. Time is usually an afterthought and the cost of items are quite pricey. Yet, if an Aussie wants it, they don’t have a problem dropping quite a bit of cash on anything. They are very welcoming and friendly people. I arrived a day late to college orientation and they welcomed me with open arms. They don’t use the freshman, sophomore, junior and senior distinctions here. Instead students are classified by year 1, year 2, or year 3. This to me just seems simpler. Aussies like to shorten as many words as possible, they call ambulances, “ambos” and flip flops “thongs.” Instead of saying many, a lot, or tons, they prefer to say “heaps” which is used everyday situations, from the year 1 students, or “freshers,” to the public speakers. It’s even used as a description for some of the products on their shelves.
The moment they discovered I was from Texas they had many questions and were also curious as to why my accent didn’t have a southern twang. After answering their questions, I showed them my Texas twang and instantly I was given the nickname Texas! Luckily, I am not the only American in the college. There are four other Americans here from across the states. Although I spend most of my time with Aussies, it’s still nice to be able to talk to the other Americans and relate in the sense that they are just stunned as me that Australia doesn’t sell something like dryer sheets!
During “O’week” we were taken around campus, shown the city, and given advice on things to do, not to do, and everything in-between. The activities they coordinated for us not only allowed everyone to meet one another but to also develop relationships and to pride in being residents of Baxter college. They took us on a fifteen minute walk to the nearby “Coogee Beach.” The scenery was beautiful.
After O’week and all the activity-filled days were over, many of the “freshers” didn’t know what do to with all of their free time. I spent my time prepping for the week of lectures and tutorials to come. I also heeded the advice given about things they told us to prepare for. I spent the weekend also going to the shops and picking up more things needed to make it on the other side of the world. Finally, I am excited for classes this week and look forward to the projects that are within my course outlines. The diversity of this university is really going to help me develop my experience within global cultures.
I’m about to embark on a lifelong dream that I’ve had since I was 7 years old: to travel to the other side of the world by myself, not knowing a soul, and go to school -- all being paid for by my lovely, amazing parents!! Yep, I’m living the dream people. Oh, I seem to have forgotten to mention that I am going to Sydney, Australia at UNSW or University of New South Wales, but I’m getting a little ahead of myself.
This all started about a year ago when I overheard a friend of mine talking about studying abroad. Since my major is International Business, I must have at least one semester abroad to graduate. I saw it as an opportunity to study abroad with a friend. He told me that there was a program available for LETU students in Australia. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! I have been blessed to live in many places in the short 20 years I have been alive, but Australia had always been a dream. After looking into the program I discovered it wasn’t for me. I am a business major. What could I do going overseas and taking liberal arts courses? After sending a few e-mails and one or two meetings with the international representative at LETU, I realized what I wanted and what LETU was offering were two different things. I came back the following semester with hopes of reconnecting and seeing what other options I had to make things happen. I had gotten the idea of going 2010 spring semester and I was going to make that happen. So between practices and all the beginning semester chaos I attempted to set up another meeting hoping she would be able to help, to no avail. Then we had an academic chapel one day where Danae Luckert, my former RA and good friend, was telling us about the opportunity that Dr. Wharton, the Dean of the School of Business, had helped her with. After chapel ended, I approached him asking if we could set up an appointment to talk. I wish I could say that first meeting with Dr. Wharton answered every question, but really he had more questions for me than I him. Once he understood what I wanted, he told me that he would research, ask around, and let me know. Two weeks later, we had a meeting. Dr. Wharton came up with the perfect plan of applying to any school I wanted to in Australia, but he also would have to check and make sure LeTourneau would accept the credits of the courses I took. It was perfect. I could go to a school, take the courses that would benefit me, and still be able to come back to LeTourneau in the fall.
After researching online, I picked UNSW. Just applying to the school was nerve-wracking. Everything had to be done electronically or by fax. I needed references, essays and transcripts. I had to type, then print, then fax, then copy. It was crazy! The day I sent in the e-mail with my application attached, I was so nervous. It took them just over an hour to respond to my e-mail and tell me that I was accepted. From there it was apply for this, order that, make sure to sign up for that, pay this and reserve that. The amazing thing about UNSW and their study abroad program is that it's designed to allow students whose school doesn’t have a contract with them attend their university for a semester, sign up for classes and not have to set up a four year degree plan. With the program, they provide you with check-lists of things you should get done before arriving and things you may want to set up there before you arrive. Most of the time it’s just been a waiting game -- a very long waiting game. With the time difference, I’d receive e-mail responses at 8 p.m. or wait three days because I sent it on their Friday after work hours and they didn’t even open it until Monday, or our Sunday.
The most recent and final obstacle I had to overcome was living arrangements. After applying for both on- and off-campus housing, I was told to set up an appointment for a Skype interview for housing. Yes, I had to calculate the time difference. When I was told my interview was scheduled for 1 p.m. on a Friday, turns out that’s 8 p.m. on a Thursday here. The interview was 10 minutes long, and in it I was told that unlike the US, living on campus is a privilege and honor and not required. He informed me that he had three rooms available on campus and 70 applicants interviewing for a room. After the interview all I could think of was the walking I had in my future because I was going to be living off campus, or the bus fare I was going to need to budget for. Three days later I received an e-mail at about midnight and couldn’t believe what I was looking at: I had been offered a room! I started screaming in excitement, even went to my parents room and woke them up. Though I didn’t receive the most enthusiastic response, they were just as relieved as I was to know I finally had a place to stay. There was also a meal plan that went with on-campus housing, so the uncertainty of how I was going to eat also subsided.
So now I wait, I am eight days away from flying out, and the biggest thing on my mind is: what on earth do I bring? I’m so excited, nervous, and a little overwhelmed with the experience, and I know it hasn’t even begun.