If you’re going to move to a new country where you know nobody, Australia is a pretty fine place to go. The Perth area is so easy to navigate (although I seem to miss a lot of trains) and folks are very welcoming! Hands down my favorite things are the beaches (sandy beaches and turquoise clear water) and an awesome park down by the lake. I have taken some solo trips to the beach as well as with some great people I’ve meet in my apartment! Time really just slips away as I float on my back or read with my toes in the sand. The park, Yellagonga Regional Park, has an immense trail system and brings you through all types of landscapes! I’ll be walking through arid forest, then a lush green park, then big trees with greens tops only to find myself in the middle of an open field!
It’s not just the beautiful wild places I love here, it’s also (surprisingly) the city! Perth is a beautiful mix of old brick buildings and high rises. The city is also very clean which I appreciate! I really love all the markets – think Pikes Place! Going out dancing is very popular here so I have even given that a whirl.
In regards to academia there are a few things I’ve noticed. Because I love lists so much I’ve decided to just list everything out – haha!
1. Back home I feel like going to university is my whole life, where as here, uni (that’s what they call college) is merely a part of your life. I hope I’m making that distinction clear. Maybe it’s because I’m only here for 1 semester but I don’t feel like I have to eat, breathe, sleep, study. I think the best example of this is that most people only have class 2-4 times a week! Which blows my mind! Although because of this there are less clubs to get involved in 🙁
2. Profanity is used casually! Like in the classroom or in meetings!
3. My classes are awesome and the lectures are ALL recorded and posted online so you can go back and reference them, or if you miss a class it’s no big deal.
4. I’m really surprised because using your laptop in class is pretty rare at WWU, but most of the students use theirs during the lecture. Not even to take notes, sometimes people will have the lecture slides on their computer in front of them and take notes by hand!
5. Quick funny story from my Conservation Biology class… the professor was talking about animals and said “we’re lucky we live someplace like Australia and not North America. We can go out on a hike and not have to worry about any big animals attacking us.” Well as you can imagine that really cracked me up because we’re always saying how dangerous Australia is because of their many, many, venomous creatures – but I guess they’re counting their blessings that at a cougar won’t attack you on a hike!
6. I’m sure there’s more things about academia that I just can’t remember at the moment! 🙂 So that’s all I have to say about that for now
Last but not least, what kind of culture shock did I experience coming to OZ? Well actually when I first got here, I kept trying to compare it to other places I’ve been. I.e. “oh this looks like California,” “oh I could be in Hawaii!” But those were dangerous things to think because I am not in fact in either of those places, I’m in Australia! So I need to remember to look the opposite way when I cross the street, to say things like “choc-o-block” when something is full (example: “the trash is choc-o-block full), and to get used to people having very open discussions about drinking (seeing as the legal age is 18, drinking culture is very big here). Also abbreviating words is popular throughout all age demographics here, so you really gotta keep up.
When I first got here I kinda just assumed life would be wicked awesome down under. And of course life is wicked awesome (it’s all about perspective) down under… but I had about 12 days of just kicking back with no class. And for a busy-body-nerd like me, that was kinda hard. But I’m happy to report I now have tons of research to do for class projects, which I am happily procrastinating on by writing this!
Being on a direct exchange rather than a program means you have to put in a lot of work to explore the area on your own, meet some cool people and figure out life. A great study abroad experience does not get handed to you, you have to consciously put in work to live the life you wanted to abroad! Even if that means sometimes going to the beach by yourself.
All in all I give Australia 2 enthusiastic thumbs up – yeah – I love it here!