There was no way to describe how I felt when the plane landed back on American soil in Los Angeles on Sunday. Looking back it all seems like a blur. I woke up in my bedroom the next morning almost confused as to how I wasn’t back in my apartment in Adelaide, as if flying home was all a dream. That’s how the past few days have felt being back on Long Island, dreamlike. It’s as if nothing has changed but at the same everything has. When I first arrived in Australia I remember a similar feeling. When I said goodbye to my friends and family it felt so unreal, as if I would just be seeing them the next day. That’s how it felt when I left Australia, but it a way that’s comforting because I know I’ll see it again one day. Read More »
Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler
I have a hard time defining what it means to be “Australian” almost as much as I have defining what it means to be “American.” I could describe how I feel being American, but I’m sure that someone who lives even only an hour from me has a completely different definition. It’s hard to find those small, common threads across a culture as multicultural as Australia’s or America’s. If anything I think the fact that everyone within the country is so different is a defining factor of the culture.
Before I came to Australia, I definitely had a bit more of a stereotypical image of Australians, only really receiving information on the country from the media around me. I loved watching the Crocodile Hunter when I was little, H20 was a show I watched in middle school, and everything else about the country seemed so remote. Mermaids and crocodile hunting were definitely more of a fantasy of mine when it came to Australia, but the beaches, wildlife, and landscapes were not. I came for the wildlife, that was always my number one reason for coming here, and in that aspect I have not been dissappointed, but also I guess I didn’t realize just how many other aspects there are to Australia. Like we watched in class and in the tourist commercials for international travellers, the brilliant landscapes and relaxed atmosphere are what seemed to be sold the most about Australia, but after coming here, those aspects have kind of taken a back seat. If anything, I felt more resonation with the Quantas commercials even though Australia isn’t my home because I understand that it is home for so many. It’s bizarre to say that but when you’re travelling it’s easy to forget that your vacation spot for someone else is where they’ve lived their entire lives. Once you open your eyes to that I think you experience more of the authenticity of the country you’re in.
You can connect to the people more personally and you may even start to feel like a “local” yourself. Adelaide is not my “home” but I feel at home here even after only being here a few months. The touristy commercials and expectations have faded away. Sure, I’ve experienced plenty of those things from diving in the Great Barrier Reef or petting a kangaroo, but I’ve also been invited over for a homecooked meal with Australian friends, gone for long walks around the city, and experienced life that’s not a vacation in a place that’s often looked at from that perspective where I come from.
It’s made me think about home a lot, specifically how I maybe don’t appreciate my own city for all the little hidden quirks or surprises it has. We had a conversation in my Australian Classics class the other day about a novel we’d read that takes place in Adelaide. In many points throughout the novel, the author describes with fervent detail small places around Adelaide, down to the names of the streets they’re on. The tutor asked if the class felt that the extreme descriptiveness might hinder readers who aren’t from Adelaide. A few people nodded in agreement but I felt, being an outsider, a little differently. Hearing the city being spoken of with such familiarity and fondness, though I may not have understood all of the references, I understood the feeling the author was trying to portray. The feeling of home, and knowing your own like the back of your hand. I don’t know Adelaide like that, even now, but getting to know it has been such a journey, and I feel more closely connected to the city because of it.
Here’s some photos from a little expedition I took around the city to try and capture the place I’ve been lucky enough to call home for the past few months.
For five nights I slept in a small one room shed-like house on Kangaroo Island. Remote, and away from anyone else, myself and 4 other girls spent these days traveling around the island completing a field research project, cooking meals together, playing endless rounds of “would you rather” on car rides to field sites, and just getting to know each other. Three of the girls were Australians and the fourth is an international student from Norway. We went into this trip none of us knowing anyone very well, and came out with friendships to last.
It was my first time since coming to Australia that I’ve actually been able to hang out with Australians and get to know them on a personal level. I couldn’t be more thankful for the group of girls I was paired with. It was complete luck as I remember sitting in our Conservation and Restoration practical on the first day of classes that I ended up in this amazing group project. Everyone in the class seemed to know each other for years, all set in their majors for a while and the course being offered later on in the degree. I sat in the classroom, seemingly alone and then the professor announced that the big assignment of the semester would be a group field research project. Great. I looked around the room already seeing people whispering to their friends around them. I sat still, completely frozen until the girl next to me asked if I’d like to join their group. I don’t think I’d ever felt so relieved in my life, and then the excitement set in because we would be asking for the Kangaroo Island project. An island of kangaroos, sign me up! The three Australians, Charlotte, Esther, and Izzy, couldn’t be sweeter and then another exchange student from Norway, Miranda, asked to join our group and there we were, 5 girls ready to head on an adventure to Kangaroo Island.
During the second week of mid-semester break I packed up a duffel bag and hopped into a truck with the group early Sunday morning to catch the ferry to Kangaroo Island. Though I was still a bit shocked from the temperature drop coming back from Cairns, I was so excited to get to the island and to get to know the girls I would be spending the next 5 days with. Arriving at Izzy’s parents house, which she was nice enough to offer to us instead of camping, I was in awe. The property was immense with rolling green hills continuing all the way to the ocean. It felt so open and so secluded. I fell in love quickly. Then I went to the bathroom and was greeted by a lovely little Huntsman spider (what you’ve all been expecting since I’ve arrived in Australia).
After we got settled in our little home for the next 5 days, it was time again to focus on the actual task at hand. Our research project was a project that has been ongoing for years now, looking at the conservation efforts of the Drooping Sheoak on Kangaroo Island. The Drooping Sheoak is a tree that produces cones with seeds inside them. The Glossy Black Cockatoo eats only these cones and its population is struggling, Kangaroo Island being the only place they’re currently found in South Australia. Monitoring their food source and observing whether or not chewed up cones could be found under the trees we were marking, is a good indicator for where the cockatoos are feeding and what sites are doing well. We visited 8 sites over the span of 5 days, some being on private property, conservation sites, and re-vegetation sites, counting the cone production of 40 trees on each site (a very tedious process, trust me). The entire time, as many cones as we were counting, we had so much fun driving around the island, sharing stories, and returning each night to our little home.
With no wifi, cellphone service, or TV, we had plenty of time to get to know each other. This consisted especially of just having fun listening to each other’s accents, trying to imitate it in our own accents, much to our amusement. Charlotte, Esther, and Izzy definitely did not get tired saying “Hey! I’m walking here” anytime New York happened to come up, while I couldn’t quite get down “There’s a shark in the water!” One night while we began to play some card games, I asked (thinking it was a complete shot in the dark) if anyone had ever heard of the game Mao, a card game my friends and I love and play back home. To my surprise, Esther and Charlotte knew what I was talking about. Here I was all the way on the other side of the world about to play a game I must have played countless times Freshman year with my hall-mates. Such a small thing like a card game, in that moment, meant the world to me.
The next few days consisted of plenty of field work, but not without spotting some of the (adorable) wildlife on Kangaroo Island…
…Including my new favorite animal: the echidna. LOOK AT IT.
As its name suggests, Kangaroo Island is home to mainly kangaroos (shocker I know). What was shocking was how many kangaroos this actually implied. As we drove up and down the island, I counted 6 kangaroos that had ran in front of the car (way worse than any deer you’ll face in upstate New York or when you’re driving out to Montauk). They. Were. Everywhere. And it was absolutely amazing!!!
The different field sites we visited were also gorgeous in themselves, but coming back to our humble little abode after a long day of field work was always the best feeling. Master chef Izzy (no exaggeration) always prepared delicious dinners for us all and again nights were spent getting to know each other, discussing things as silly as what celebrity crushes we all would marry to social issues shaking all of our countries right now.
On one of our last nights, we had invited another group from our class, also doing research on the island, to come over during what would be the worst storm to hit South Australia in 50 years. Luckily the house ran on solar power so we were not hit with the huge power outage that South Australia experienced, but we did miss a day of field work. At some point during the night of the storm we had begun to swap ghost stories, some spooky enough to definitely raise the hair on the back of my neck. Of course, after the stories were shared I had to go to the bathroom, conveniently located in a separate shed next to the house. As I tiptoed to the restroom with the stormy wind and rain whipping around me, I shined my phone’s flashlight into the darkness in front of me. I kept telling myself that the scariest thing that could be in the bathroom was a spider and even that wouldn’t be so bad. When I began walking back toward the house, right as I reached the front door I heard a loud thud to my left. I couldn’t see anything, the porch light not reaching very far, but I could hear the thumping on the ground grow louder like footsteps coming toward me. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t ready to scream and fight some ax murderer when a little kangaroo hopped into the porch light. I learned it’s quite easy to get the spooks when you’re living on an island in the middle of nowhere in the middle of a storm, and believe me I was laughed at quite a bit when I walked back inside, but all in all I had such a great time with some great people. Learning more about Australia while making new friendships was definitely the highlight of Kangaroo Island.
I did not want to leave the island on the last day and return to Adelaide where the start of classes awaited me. Especially after I had met 4 amazing new friends, it made getting on the ferry back to Adelaide even tougher. Now classes have started once again along with final papers and exams. I only have so many days left in this beautiful place, but I’m trying to push that thought as far away from my mind right now.
First off I’d like to apologize for the blatant loss of Wednesday’s description in my last post. One of my photos cut out the paragraph, so don’t worry Wednesdays are just as fun here in Australia. They’re actually my day off from classes. I’ll usually stroll down to Rundle Mall or hide out in a cafe if the weather’s bad and catch up on some work.
It’s always fun though to break the routine I’ve fallen into and with mid-semester break coming up (a two week break in the middle of the semester which I very much believe F&M should adopt) I’m looking forward to all the new experiences other parts of Australia have to offer. I’ll be going to Cairns the first week of the break and snorkeling/diving in the Great Barrier Reef, and in the second week I’ll be heading to Kangaroo Island for a research project in my Conservation and Restoration course.
That isn’t to say of course that nothing exciting has been happening here in Adelaide. This past weekend I got to experience a lot of the rich cultural experiences Adelaide has to offer. The first of these experiences was known as the Royal Adelaide Show. The show was made up of markets, bazaars, art shows, musical performances, a giant agricultural show, food and wine tastings, carnival rides, and a stadium show with fireworks. I actually ended up visiting twice just to be sure I didn’t miss out on any of the attractions offered. First, I went with my IFSA-Butler class and our adviser escorted us around the grounds to all the must see events which of course included the dog show taking place. I don’t think I stopped squealing the entire time we were in that tent. Along with adorable dogs there were tents filled to the max with all types of different agricultural animals. We roamed around looking at the prize winning pigs, horses, cows, sheep, goats, cats, and even alpacas. Needless to say I was quite in my element.
Our group adviser, Sharna, also showed us through the food tent, packed full of different vendors all offering free samples from smoked Australian sausages to even Eucalyptus flavored ice cream (and other outback inspired flavors). The grounds of the fair itself were huge and the amount of people there was perplexing. I’m used to small fairs back home for my town that usually run up and down main street, but this was full of multiple pavilions used just for housing art displays, small business set ups, or food stands. Later on when myself and two of my friends came back at night we walked around the carnival area of the show, full of your standard Ferris wheels, haunted houses, roller coasters, and kiddie rides. The night was lit up with neon lights and the grounds were flooded with people.
Eventually we made our way over to the stadium where we found motor car racing, stunts, and other spectacles being performed before the fireworks show. I was so close to the experience that during the racing I got, much to my surprise, dirt flung all over me from the tracks. Needless, to say there should have been a “splash zone” warning if you were too close to the railing. My two friends who were with me, Tanner and Sydney, love going to car and truck rallys and felt right at home. I couldn’t help but laugh a bit as I shook the dirt out of my shoes, it was pretty cool after all. It was a taste of Adelaide and the community it supports. Everyone at the show was friendly and out to have a good time. There was definitely a lot of pride for the city and I could understand why after experiencing just some of what it has to offer, including a fascinating treat called “chips on a stick” which as weird as it sounds was actually absolutely delicious.
The next day, IFSA-Butler had even more in store for us with a wine tour through the famous Barossa Valley of South Australia. We were picked up at our apartment building and on a small bus with about 10 other people we headed to the Barossa Valley about an hour out from the city. Our bus driver commentated the drive with some local history on the way there and how the valley came to be the prominent wine spot it is today. We drove over hill after hill as the sun rose in the sky. The further we got into the valley the more I felt like I was being taken back through time. The houses became very spaced apart and almost all were made with sandstone or blue-stone as our tour guide explained there wasn’t enough lumber in Australia to build houses out of anything else when people first arrived. It was so picturesque. We passed miles of rolling, grassy hills where herds of sheep, cows, and horses were grazing. Eucalyptus trees twisted and turned over the road with bark of a light gray. It’s amazing to me that just a small difference like the kinds of trees present here make everything seem like a new world as I watched them pass by. Before we got to our first wine tour we also stopped at a famous dam in the Barossa Reservoir called the “Whispering Wall”.
There didn’t seem to be anything out of the ordinary about it when we pulled up, but our tour guide told half of our group to walk to one side of the dam and stand on the ledge while half of the group stayed on the ledge at the other side of the dam. As we stood far away on the other side our tour guide just said “hello” clearly but softly while we stood there. Next thing I new a voice sounded as if it was standing right next to me from someone all the way on the other side of the dam. You could just speak in a whisper and be understood perfectly on the other side. I was in shock. We continued having a conversation with the group on the other side. The dam was engineered so perfectly that the sound echoed across it to the opposite side without losing any of the vibration and volume. I giggled to myself as I thought about how much more entertaining this might have been on our way back from the wine tour, but it still blew my mind nonetheless. Now, it was finally time to head to our first stop (1 out of 5 wineries we’ d be stopping at). All but one of the wineries we visited had structured tastings and as someone who’s never had much if any experience in different kinds of wine, I was really surprised to see just how many there could be and how intricately each bottle was designed.
At one winery, Peter Lehmann, we were actually able to see the oldest shiraz grape vines still known in the world. The wine itself also wasn’t too bad. The whole day was full of cheese, crackers, wine and lots of fun. Obviously, the bus ride home was full of napping people.
It’s nice to know that even more excitement awaits me in Cairns and on Kangaroo Island but the rest of this week is strictly school work. Until mid-semester break!
*obligatory cliche study abroad photo*
There’s been a lot of new slang I’ve had to learn since coming to Australia. Usually, everything is shortened and that was the case with the word university. The word college is basically non-existent here and even saying university can be a bit of a stretch. No, the word Aussies prefer is short and sweet when it comes to their schooling: Uni. That’s only the beginning of the differences between small liberal arts colleges in the U.S. and giant universities across Australia. Being in classes for two weeks now, I’ve slowly adapted to the giant lecture style classes and more independent teaching method found here at the University of Adelaide, and hope I can provide some insight for future liberal arts students looking to study abroad.
First off, it has just been plain bizarre even being back in classes when I see my friends posting photos on Facebook hanging out on the beach, going to concerts, and enjoying their summer when I’m off to my 10:00 AM lecture in 50 degree weather. Getting back into the school work grind is a process in itself, but throw in an entirely new university and teaching system and it becomes a whole new journey. The biggest course I was ever in at F&M had about 35 people in it while the biggest lecture I have here in Adelaide has about 150 students. So besides the obvious size difference, what are the big differences in course work, teaching method, and overall university life in Australia versus that in the U.S.? Read More »
It’s been two weeks since I’ve arrived in Adelaide, Australia. I still have no idea how to interpret the weather in Celsius, I often have a hard time understanding accents, and I still get lost on my way from the grocery store back to my apartment. In the past two weeks I’ve also traveled to two different Australian cities, gone on a food tour of Adelaide, visited a wildlife preserve, fed wallabies, pet koalas, hiked across mountains, traveled to a gorgeous island, and started my first classes. It’s been a pretty hectic two weeks to say the least and to put future study abroad students at ease: adjustment happens whether you realize it or not. Read More »