So I am currently about half way through my stay in Australia, ten weeks in. Its Spring Break here, even though it is fall back home :). It was definitely hard to get used to the concept of an Ausi winter being as cold as a Connecticut spring. People were dressed in winter jackets while the study abroad students were in shorts. And the best part is that the weather only got warmer from there. The summer is starting and it has been perfect beach weather! The peak of the summer will reach over 100 degrees Fahrenheit consistently. They however relate to degrees Celsius. When first landing in Australia, the pilot announced that it was eighteen degrees outside. Needless to say I was thoroughly confused.
I planned my flights so that my initial layover in Sydney would last a few days before I flew to Perth. This saved travel time and money. Sydney was absolutely amazing! The four days I spent there were jam-packed, yet I would have loved to stay longer and see more things. I travelled with Katherine, the other SHU student studying in Perth this semester. The two of us stayed in a hostel while exploring Sydney. It was an awesome experience; nothing like the movie! Hostels are a common housing for travellers and backpackers. The few days in Sydney were not only filled with site seeing, but also culture shock. The time difference had us wanting to fall asleep by 5pm. Driving on the other side of the road and the accent were the most obvious, but those are things you can prepare for. It is the little things that catch you off guard and remind you that you are in another country. After touring the opera house, walking across the bridge, and visiting many other attractions I can definitely say Sydney is a must among your travels!
When we finally got to campus, we got to meet the other students we would be living with. In Port lodge, there are two from SHU, one international student, and twenty eight Notre Dame US students. A little off balance, but we all meshed well. The first week was orientation which allowed for a lot of bonding time during the nights. The night life here is way more formal than America! Dresses are normal, heals are common, thongs (sandals) are not allowed, and guys need to wear collared shirts. There music is very American, for the most part. In some clubs, American songs are put to a techno beat.
Classes began in the end of July and, like any other American, I was not ready for an early start! But to my surprise it did not feel like school. Classes are formatted completely different here. Each class meets two times, but often all in one day. There is a two hour lecture that can have around 100 students depending on the class. Then there is a one hour tutorial. This is a discussion based class, often 20 students on average. Most of my classes had tut directly after class so it was basically three hour block classes all week. Most students are taking five classes but I only needed four here. I have one day off, and only one class every other day. Also, there was no homework for my classes. Just reading to be prepared for discussion, and only one of my classes had a test. My grade is determined by papers and a final. As you can see, when classes began there was no pressure. Luckily I did stay on top of my reading because the papers sneak up fast! The weeks also fly by. Since I did not feel like I was in school, I did not realize that the semester was disappearing! Weekends became filled with plans and trips.
There are three dorms on the campus of Notre Dame in Freo. I am in Port Lodge. There are 31 students, 2 residential supervisors, and we all have singles. The other dorms are Cleo’s and P&O. They have singles, doubles, triples, and even some quads. Each house has a similar food plan. Here in Port Lodge we are given two dinners a week. Actually, a group of four students that live here are given money to make dinner for everyone. Every week two different groups cook for everyone. They have to prepare an entree (appetiser), main (entree), and a desert. The group must create the menu, shop, and prepare all under budget and be on time for the scheduled dinner. Each dinner must be able to feed 35 people just in case guests are invited. The dinners are fun, a way to bond with people in the house, and a time that everyone is together. We have not had any major disasters, yet, while having some extravagant meals. We have had chicken parmesan, kangaroo steaks, sloppy joes, tacos, a pasta bar, burgers, breakfast, and many other things. Always filling and enjoyable :).
There is a competition held between the three dorms called Inter-hall shield. So far we have competed in basketball, cricket, a relay race, and a trivia night. Port Lodge has won every week! Port Lodge won over all last semester so we have a shield in our common room. As defending champs we have shown up this semester!
There was a 12k race that a group of us participated in. It started in the city and ended at the beach. It was a lot of fun! We also went, as a house, to Caversham Wildlife Park. There we got up close and personal with kangaroos, koalas, and wombats. The kangaroos were so friendly and calm; could be my new favourite animal :). Around town in Freo there is a shop that sells Didgeridoos. They also will teach you to play for free!! It was kind of hard at first but definitely an awesome experience. One trip that is required through the mandatory history class we have to take is a week camping trip in the Kimberly. We got to spend the week with the Aborigines and learn about their culture. I cannot elaborate on this topic because I do not want to ruin it for any prospective travellers, but the least I can say is that it was an amazing and life changing experience.
I am a massive NY Jets fan, and I am beginning to go through withdrawals and it is barely week four of the season. There are some games that are aired live here so it is common for people to be up at 1am or 4am on a Monday to watch their team. But if that is not enough, there is always footie! The Australian Rules Football League, AFL, is my replacement for the NFL. The grand final was this past weekend and it was an awesome game but it ended in a tie! There was no over time, they just play another game next weekend. I could never imagine if the Super Bowl ended regular time in a tie that we would wait another week to play another whole game to decide the winner. I am excited because I am not emotionally attached, but it is an interesting house since each of my RSs are following a different team. It was a calm week because neither could gloat, that will all change this weekend, unless there is another tie.
I went SCUBA diving yesterday!! It was my first dive in Australia and I plan to go a few more times. It was so beautiful! There were starfish that were wider than my two hands next to each other! Sea slugs of all different colours! We were down for an hour and we travelled along the ‘Grain Jetty.’ It was basically a bunch of large pylons that had growth surrounding every inch. There were so many colours, so much to look at, I could have stayed down for another whole hour. The temp was mid 60s so it was not that bad for me; the Ausi’s I dove with were a little cold though. It was defiantly a great way to end my spring vacation!
So I will defiantly be back sooner than later :). I have my last few papers due this week so I will let you know how that goes! Peace out!!!