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Click here to see the photos from the entire Semester in Australia
Hello from my kitchen table in Monroeville, New Jersey, United States of America! Let me just dive in to a few lists...
There are many reasons I am happy to be here:
But there are also reasons I’m confused about being here:
Now there’s always going to be thousands of reasons to be here, and there’s always going to be thousands of reasons to be somewhere else. And every time you live in a new place, it will just split your heart up that much more. But I think I’ve learned that the heart regenerates itself—it hurts to leave pieces of your heart all scattered around; but when you do, the places where your heart was split slowly grow again, and they grow bigger than before. So my heart might be all over—New Jersey, Chicago, Sydney, a bit in NZ—but even though it confuses the head, I know I’m a bigger person for it—and more capable to love even more. Okay, you can stop making fun of me now. I know it’s cheesy, but if you have lived multiple places before, I think you also know it’s true.
My time in New Zealand was INCREDIBLE. Here’s a brief overview. We went with our program to see everyone else off at the airport Saturday afternoon and then picked up our rental, bright blue Toyota Camry from the airport. The five of us climbed in and so started our 14-day driving tour of NZ. We started in the North Island and drove all the way down to and through the South Island.
40. You know you’re somewhere cool when there’s falling rock signs.
And these signs were EVERYWHERE, so yes, it would be safe to assume everywhere was beyond cool. Most of our trip was driving and gawking at the scenery outside the window. Every drive was scenic. You never wanted to sleep in the car because you might miss the rugged coastlines, the beaches that were indescribably blue and turquoise and green, the rolling green hills and meadows, the snowcapped mountains, the Southern Alps, the sheer cliff faces, and more. It was all there. Often the view out of the left side of the car was just accented by the very opposing view on the right. Cliffs and waters, lakes and mountains, and every other combination. NZ was never on my list of top 10 places to go, but now that I’ve seen it, I think it should be on everyone’s.
41. New Zealand is the first place to see a new day.
Because of its proximity to the International Date Line, we see the sun before anyone else in the world in NZ. And coolest was that day we had to be up and driving at 4 a.m. to make our way south to something calling the Tongariro Crossing—a 7-9 hour hike (that we did in 6 hours 30 minutes) through a mountain pass that is listed as one of the top 10 treks in the world. Naturally, as we were driving, we got to watch the sunrise. So we were part of the first few people to see Thursday, November 25.
42. Road trip Thanksgiving on a budget with Lauren and roommate Kelly Dando = pretzels, Diet Coke, and chocolate.
Newsflash: Thanksgiving is an American holiday. But being American, we all splurged on Thanksgiving Day and bought Domino’s pizza. It was a great day, only to be supplemented by the fact that my roommate and I decided to really spoil ourselves by buying super expensive, hard-to-find pretzels as well as some chocolate and Diet Coke. It was heaps of awesome.
43. Always clarify what you mean when you ask “Can we stay with you?”
Through some contacts of my dad’s, we stayed 10 of the 14 nights with church people and other families in NZ. It was one of the greatest parts of the trip. In one town, the whole church youth group took us out to see Glowworms, drove us around downtown Wellington, and bought us all NZ candy to try—and they obviously were beyond happy to do it. The family of God is incredible.
44. NZ has more sheep than people.
True story. Four million people live in NZ—for reference, 4 million people also live in Sydney alone. We even got to stay on a sheep/cattle/deer farm in the middle of nowhere, South Island, New Zealand and the 10-year-old daughter there let us feed her baby lambs. For most of the time that we drove, we would see more sheep on the drive than people. But that’s actually a fact we read about, not just one we made up.
There is much more to describe about what we did, but it could get boring for people who weren’t there, or maybe I’m just copping out because we did SO MUCH. But thanks so much to everyone for sticking with me over the last few months, I have LOVED being able to share this experience with you guys in some way.
Another fun list. Things we’ve done wrong...on the left side: (We drove on the left side of the road and the steering wheel column is on the right.)
Dude, so – here's this post, and hopefully I'll be able to get one more out to you guys before I leave for New Zealand on November 14. I'm not sure what Internet looks like after that...but I will be home on December 5 (not staying in this hemisphere indefinitely, like some people worried), so cheers to 25 days until en zed (as Aussies pronounce NZ) and 39 days until the great land of AMERICA. Also this post looks much longer than it is. The bottom section is totally optional.
Time out--who am I kidding? The whole thing is optional.
33. When I brush my teeth, I move my head more than my toothbrush.
I guess some of this week's lessons are going to be more what I recently learned about myself than Australia. Sorry about that. Australia has fallen into the routine - it is now routine that I live here. I wake up in Australia, go to class in Australia, go to the gym in Australia, come home to dinner in Australia, watch some TV in Australia, and go to sleep in Australia. And sometimes I forget it's not normal to be in Australia.
34. Question: Why has no gym and/or engineer developed a technology that harnesses all the energy produced in gyms? I'm a genius.
So I joined a gym a few blocks away for $30 for the month to try not to come back with extra weight (planes are strict about weight and if they find out I have ten more pounds on me than when I came, they might freak out so...). But I also took physics last semester. And my dad put in solar panels this month. And Australians’ energy bills are through the roof. So I was thinking about all the wasted work and energy in gyms. HOW HAS NO ONE THOUGHT OF THIS?
35. If there's not enough energy and community on a knight bus, it's not hard to create.
Ha, so I just now realized I typed that as if it was the "night" bus that existed in Harry Potter. That was actually, honestly on accident, although I do think of those every time I ride a night bus. Night buses are the ones on the weekends that run at the hours no one should need them - I think like midnight until 3 or 4 a.m. I was complaining to my roommate about how quiet ours was - I figure people on night buses are coming back from parties, so why aren't they more fun? Naturally, I proceeded to turn around and create some fun with whoever would join in. Since my roommate wouldn't, I turned around and asked if anyone would like to play a game with me - the specific game is the one the main characters play in the movie 500 Days of Summer when they're sitting in the park...yelling certain words. It's horrifyingly embarrassing and funny and juvenile and immature... I played with random night bus people and it was hilarious.
36. Baptism by immersion is a beautiful, moving picture of crucifying the old self.
At Hillsong on Sunday, I saw baptism as I had never seen it before. There were so many people being baptized that they just ran the baptisms on a side stage, not miked (how DO you spell that word?) but put up on the big screen and just continuing, one after another as we all sang the song "God is Able." Being from a tradition of infant baptism, this was even more out of the normal for me. However, it was incredibly moving to sing the song "God is Able" and watch as person after person, of all different ages, was dipped into the water and brought back up again - the amazing symbol of the death of their old selves and their birth in Christ. The joy on each face afterward, the hug they received from the pastor baptizing them - it was a truly moving experience.
37. There seems to constantly be a need in the "progressive" academic world to always disagree with what's going on NOW.
Okay this is another pet peeve. If margarine is the low-fat healthy idea right now, then you better bet "progressive people" are going to say that actually, butter is more healthy. If culture is becoming more efficient and work-focused, the "progressive people" are going to say we need to slow down and focus on family and relaxation. If culture is focused on family and relaxation, "progressive people" say we are unmotivated and lazy. If Christians try to be tolerant and accepting, "progressive people" say they are watering down the truth. If they preach the truth and stick to it with no exceptions, "progressive people" say they are unloving and intolerant. I know I'm simplifying it ridiculously and probably over exaggerating but. It's lose-lose. (Also, that's an Australian thing I just did - end a sentence in but for no good reason.)
38. You're not old when you go to bed at 9:30 and get called a grandma. You're old when you go to bed at 9:30, get called a grandma, and don't care. So I am old. And I rather love it.
39. Australia doesn't like my face.
I'm not kidding. First, I am writing this email with two stitches in my face, underneath my right eyeball. Second, I could say I got hit by a car last week, but I guess it's more accurate to say I hit a car. I have been debating what version of this story I'm going to tell. Here's the short - I got tanked by a surfboard at Manly beach yesterday for the stitches and a very unaware driver clocked me on my bike opening his car door last week. The slightly longer version of the surfboard story is below if you're interested - and the funny thing is that it happened at almost exactly the moment my sister Shelly was telling a friend of hers that I hadn't had a chance to surf yet. Ha. Still haven't.
Surf Story [told in dramatic fashion]:
…We got our wetsuits and boards and about thirty seconds into being in the water, life got interesting.
Three of us girls had just gotten tossed back a bit by a wave so I chose to dive under the next one - as did my roommate Kelly - letting our boards float back since they were attached to our ankles. I came up out of the wave and BAM got clocked by what turned out to be Kelly's surfboard. My right eye immediately teared up and I was like man that hurt and just turned away for a minute to shake it off, thinking it was probably going to bruise. Turned around, yelled to Kelly, "Dude your board just tanked my face!" and got a horrified look and slight scream as a response, followed by, "You're bleeding!! Guys help, she's bleeding!!" …So I get it, I need stitches. Anyway, I told the nurse she'd have to wait to stitch me until my other roommate, Jamie, came to hold my hand (literally) because there was no way on God's green earth someone was going to sew my face and put needles in it while I'm alone. Long story still long, I called Jamie, she walked in to see me sitting in the waiting room holding a bloody tissue to my STILL BLEEDING face and bawling my eyes out. No joke. Then we go to the room they call "the surgery" and the doctor proceeds to stitch me up while I cry and hyperventilate and bounce my legs all around and squeeze the bones out of Jamie's hand…. And that's basically the story. Still went out and sat on the beach after it was all said and done (with a shirt over my face).
#11. Australia is not good for relationships.
And this is why I say that: out of the seven people in our American students group (heretofore referred to as "ASC") that had significant others prior to coming to Australia, five are down for the count; there are only two dating couples left. However, Australia has so far created one relationship (my roommate met an Australian, next thing you know...). So I guess to be fair: Australia: 5 Relationships: 1.
#12. Ping-pong as you have never seen it before.
Each ASC student is required to fulfill 35 hours of service while we are here; my placement is at a youth service after-school program for 8-18 year-olds. Basically, we hang out and play uno, pool, wii, and ping-pong. To date, I have lost over 30 games of ping-pong to Jon Borr and won two.
#13. It rains money here.
Close your eyes and picture this: (wait, open them again so you can read) my roommate Kelly and I are walking down Paramatta Road (basically a small highway) on our way to McDonald's to get some internet. It's pretty dark, it's chilly and we're kind of cranky. My foot kicks a bit of something. Upon treading about three more steps my mind tells me it thinks that looked like money. I stop. I turn around. Ah sweet, looks like a fiver! I pick it up. I unfold it. Wait, No. It's a FIFTY DOLLAR BILL! At this point Kelly and I freak out appropriately. Three steps later...MAD DIVE FOR CASH BLOWING ON SIDEWALK - IT'S ANOTHER FIFTY AND A FIVE! So, after realizing we each just made $50 (I made $55), we started looking around - either for the camera that was going to tell us we were on TV, or the cloud that was dropping money. Awesome.
#14. The worst two and a half hours one can spend in AU is in Visual Communication and the Designer.
We're allowed to listen to iPods in class because there are no lectures. Fun facts about Australian school: each class is once a week for between 2-4 hours; each class has about 1 paper, 1 project and 1 presentation. That's it. That's ALL that makes our grade. Dude.
#15. Australian biking is a sport, an art and a science.
Aside from the fact that I discovered last summer that I love biking, I was feverishly hunting for one to use here as I also discovered a softening of the waistline resulting in a tightening of the pants - on myself. Bother. Our host mom makes food that's just too good – irresistible, in fact. Anyway, I just managed to acquire a bike this past weekend and biked to school for the first time. Biking = smart idea. Fifteen minutes on the bike beats 25 on a bus and the time it takes to wait for the bus, and the time it takes to allow for two buses in case one doesn't show up. Biking the bus route = stupid idea. Here, biking is a sport because Sydney is CRAZY hilly. Like, I will have massive quads. It's an art because dodging the crazy, little, quick cars takes much finesse. It's a science because it's almost impossible to figure out traffic patterns when it's all backward and on the wrong side of the road. Thankfully, my host dad helped me figure out a much more bike-friendly route.
"...an identity that straddles the border and defines the person as being neither fully here or fully there." (Because I feel like this - between Chicago, New Jersey, and Australia) -William Cavanaugh (from one of our required readings)
Also, this may not even be a funny quote. What IS funny is that we found SLUGS - FIVE OF THEM - on our kitchen floor upon coming home late one night.
Roommate Kelly: "Take a picture of these slugs!"
Roommate Jamie: "Quick! Before they get away!"
Lauren: "Quick?? Jamie, they are SLUGS."
#16. Danger and worrying are relative.
In preparation for our trip to Cairns (tropical north Queensland by the Great Barrier Reef) during our “spring break,” our family made mention that we should look out for sharks, blue bottle jellyfish, and crocodiles, but if we minded the signs, we’d be just fine. That was shortly followed by a thought that maybe we should just not get in the water. No big deal. Sharks. Jellies. Crocs. Bring it on.
#17. You cannot deny the existence of God in Australia on the Great Barrier Reef.
We arrived at Cairns airport late Saturday night. Sunday we spent arranging our Reef and Rainforest tours and relaxing by the community pool (myth buster: just because Cairns is on the Reef does NOT mean it has a beach). On Monday, after a full day on the Reef in two locations – hours of snorkeling (saw a sea turtle!) and even one scuba dive – we found ourselves speeding back toward land in between beautiful mountains.
#18. Spiders crawl in cameras.
Wednesday and Thursday we spent relaxing on the postcard-like beaches north of Cairns – Trinity Beach and Palm Cove (there is just so much right in that name). After lightly toasting myself and frolicking in the water, I decided to walk straight up the beach to a rocky coastline. Upon arriving, I decided to take some pictures. Upon taking some pictures, I decided to try to be in one. Upon deciding to be in one, I set my camera on self-timer on a rock. Upon returning to the rock to retrieve my camera (my new, five billion dollar SLR camera, mind you), I found it [at least the flash/top of it] to be ABSOLUTELY COVERED IN MINI SPIDERS. I wish I could have taken a picture of them to prove to you that there were literally probably about 800 mini spiders on it – crawling in and out of every hole and crevice conceivable. I don’t know how they moved so fast. Also, when one would blow upon them, they became immovable and stuck to the camera. There were so many that I could not see the black on my camera. Talk about a frenzied panic. The long and short is that I spent the next two and a half hours blowing, flicking, smashing, screaming, yelling, chasing, shaking, etc. By the next morning, I was only getting about 5 an hour. So far…it’s still working.
#19. Food prices convince you there is minimal shame in consuming a fellow diner’s leftovers. Scavengers.
It was Thursday night. Our $16 per night hostel included a free dinner voucher each night at a local pub. Free hostel meals there were either rice and chili or spaghetti bolognaise. After five days of that for dinner and pb&j every day for lunch, we were dying for some MEAT.
#20. Sometimes it takes eight samples to find the best gelato.
Especially when you know you have to spend $6 on it and you have no money. There was no way we were going to drop that kind of cash on a sub-par gelato. Besides, the number of samples we had probably added up to a whole small one anyway. [In case you were curious, I had dark chocolate and raspberry gelato. The best combination known to laurenkind.]
#21. Never let other people apply your sunscreen.
Ahh yes. I asked roommate Jamie to screen my back. Australian sun is supposedly seven times hotter than American (questionable). Dear Jamie rather neglected the side of my back – that nice area right to the sides of my shoulder blades. Ouch ouch ouch.
#22. The Cairns tablelands would easily convince me to live in the Australian boondocks.
Our “Rainforest tour” actually was a tour of the tablelands in the mountains surrounding Cairns, but it was amazing anyway – we slide down a rock slide, swam to and walked behind the Herbal Essences waterfall (the one they did the commercial at), and waded in a lake created by a volcano. Awesome.
#23. I always want to fall asleep looking at shooting stars and wake up to the sun on my face.
This was my favorite part of the trip. Our flight left Saturday evening, so we decided to rent bicycles for the day, starting Friday morning (we even convinced the rental place to give us the bikes for 30 hours for the price of 24). We biked about 8 or 10 miles through beautiful mountain/hill/farming scenery to Crystal Cascades, an area of swimming holes that we ate our pb&js at. After eating, we hiked further up the swimming holes to an area that posted “no swimming” signs. However, we saw people jumping off a 40ish foot cliff into the water below. So what did we do? We did it. Scariest thing I’ve ever done. We then set off for the next leg of our absolutely breathtaking bike trip back up to Palm Cove (about 15 miles). After arriving, we wandered the resort beachfront, split the cheapest burger dinner we could find (still $14 after convincing the staff to give us the lunch price), split a dessert and headed to the beach around 9 p.m. to set up camp, because what did we do? Yeah, we SLEPT ON THE BEACH. Other than it being absolutely freezing cold (even though Cairns was routinely 90 during the day), getting hit by sprinklers, being alarmed by garbage men, hiding from a wedding party, it was a fairly uneventful night; and after a sunrise I basically slept through, I awoke to the feeling of the sun beating on my face, the rustling of palm trees and the rush of the waves a few feet in front of me. Paradise.
#24. The outback shows yet another aspect of God’s character and creation.
Sorry, are you still with me? Because we got home late Saturday night and then left Monday morning for the Outback (and got home just yesterday). In direct opposition to Cairns, the Outback was surprisingly chilly, dry, flat and RED. Also breathtaking in such a harsh way. The fact that I saw absolute beauty in such a different environment reminded me of God’s character – multifaceted and often unexpected.
#25. Traveling gives me energy.
Last thought – the incredible amounts of traveling and adventure I’ve done the last two weeks have given me such a happier and more energetic disposition. Also encouraging me is the fact that in only 56 days I leave Australia to start my adventure in New Zealand. Hopefully that keeps me trucking through my last few weeks in Sydney – weeks stuck in class, often missing the people I care about most.
FROM THE OUTBACK:
I’m here -- really truly here in Australia! By way of introduction, my name is Lauren Haney, and I’m a senior Business Communication major with a Communication Arts minor, a former resident assistant, and a soccer player missing her last JV season. I’m graduating in December 2010, right after my travel abroad program in Australia.
Lessons learned the first week…
Lesson #1 14 hours in a plane is not near as terrible as you might think.
Honestly, I slept for so much of it and watched movies for the rest and generally was so confused by my lack of sleep the night before and the fact that I somehow skipped Tuesday July 20, 2010, forever that my body could not also get worked up over a long time in a plane.
Lesson #2 I will no longer be addicted to Diet Coke.
For two reasons (and this is a terrible thing, because I miss it very much): One, if you get it at a Maccers (McDonald’s) or anyplace that has it on tap, it’s SO SYRUPY! Now, perhaps someone accidentally gave me regular Coke because they couldn’t understand my thick American accent, but my first DC here was sweet beyond all reason. Gross. The second reason is that a can of Diet Coke here is $2. The minimum wage is $16, so the prices of everything are -- how do I say this -- exorbitant ($2.20 for a candy bar out of a machine, a bottle of regular sized Herbal Essences is $5).
Lesson #3 First look RIGHT before you cross the street.
Cars drive on the left side of the road. The steering wheel is on the right of the car. Death is imminent for Americans. I now believe you will never understand how deep seated your “look-left-first” instinct is until you don’t and your nose brushes a Jeep’s passenger window as it whizzes by. Also, I take public transportation everywhere, so I am constantly crossing the street. I am the chicken crossing the road, so please pray I continue to make it to the other side.
Lesson #4 “School of the Arts” means “School of the Arts.”
Okay. Melinda from Trinity is my roommate and an art major, and I love her to death. But I now go to Wesley Institute in Drummoyne, New South Wales. The school offers only arts courses. Have you ever seen a movie about a school of the arts? How about that Hilary Duff one – Raise Your Voice? Regardless, think of all your artsy sterotypes and apply. All men wear skinny jeans. The women who don’t wear skinny jeans wear leggings…as pants. The one small student center is full of music and singing and occasionally dramatic outbursts, and the dancers walk around barefooted in pink tights and oversized sweatshirts. Alright, it sounds fun and new and different and Australian and intercultural but wait.
Now insert into this fun, slightly crazed, artsy society a girl who wears no make-up, doesn’t do her hair, and wore the same oversized pair of gray Adidas soccer sweatpants with a hoodie and flip flops all winter and thinks the term “extra-curricular” means sports. CLASH. So needless to say, I’m having some difficulty relating to my… “peers?” and some difficulty wanting or trying to. Not that I don’t like art students – I do. I have arts and drama friends. But a school of only art students is very different.
Lesson #5 We are filled to be emptied but emptied to be filled again.
I’m going to get serious for a minute. The first week was pretty terrible (other than some awesome sight-seeing we did). For maybe the first time in my life, I was homesick. I was tired, jet-lagged, living with a family I didn’t know, and hungry all the time (No idea why). It was also cold and wet and rainy and there was no heat in the house that smells like my great aunt and her mothballs should live there. I just wanted to be back in the middle of summer in New Jersey with my best friend and living in my beautiful, warm, comfortable house where my mom makes the best food ever and I work for my Dad. It was pathetic.
And then I went to church on Sunday. I chose to make Hillsong Church in the city my home church to do something entirely different from what I’m used to. Church was the best thing that could ever have happened to me. It was incredible to be in the house of God, where no matter how different everything else in my life suddenly was – time, season, day, temperature, family, school, peers, classes – I found the same thing at church. People that love God, praises to the God I worship, strong preaching from the same Bible I read. I was almost in tears during that Sunday night service. Then the pastor said something about how we are filled to be emptied, and I realized something that is even deeper for me – the whole past week I had felt so empty. I was aching to be back on my own terms, and it felt like I was literally emptied. But God emptied me so he could fill me again. He took away everything I loved so he could fill me even more with his love. We are filled to be emptied but emptied to be filled again.
There’s so much more to say, but there are plenty of weeks to say it. No worries, as they would say here. It’s cool :)
#6 If it ends in “er,” pronounce it “a.” Corollary: if it ends in “a,” pronounce it “r.”
That’s the basics of the Australian accent. Also, “Australia” is pronounced “Aus-tray-ya.” Not sure why I’m telling you that that – in a skit at all-campus spiritual camp this weekend in which I was Bindi Irwin (the daughter of the late croc hunter Steve Irwin) I had to use an Australian accent. I was not exactly great. Everyone asked me if I was trying to do a Norwegian accent. I have no idea what a Norwegian accent is.
#7 Buses can choose not to show up. Public transportation sucks.
And total reliance on public transportation makes going anywhere a big ordeal. But it is kinda fun. It’s also how I get my time away from all the people I’m always with – and listen to music. I have never used my iPod so much. I love love love that thing. Thursday I attempted to take the bus into the city, but got off early because I found the Cowtown of Sydney. Yesssss. (Non-Jerseyers – Cowtown is like a better Swap-O-Rama or cheap flea market).
#8 Saltanas looks like raisins, but they are not raisins.
Our host family keeps their cereal in Tupperware, so I can’t see what it’s called. The first few weeks, I ate this GREAT cereal every morning that had what looked like raisins and some other yummy, dried fruits in it with bran flakes. It tasted so good. (This may be a TMI moment.) However, I did NOT feel very good the first few weeks either. Our lovely host brother-in-law heard me mistakenly call the cereal raisin bran and corrected me – “Saltana bran,” he said. “That’s dad’s cereal. High in fiber – and saltanas have the same effect on you as fiber.” What. WHAT?!? Want to know what I found out today? One of those “fun size” personal cereal boxes of sultana bran has 11% fiber in it. For reference, corn flakes has 3% and Special K has 0.9%. I was eating the equivalent of 3 mini boxes a morning. 33% fiber.
#9 AFL (Australian Football League) is soccer + football + rugby + hockey + quidditch + baseball + basketball + volleyball.
We went to a game last weekend, and it was awesome. It may have been awesome simply because it was the first time I was surrounded by excited athletic, manly men in not skinny jeans and tight v-neck shirts, or it could have been the coolness of learning this crazy sport. Or both. But they score by kicking the ball into tall posts (soccer), they run and pass the ball to an end zone (football), they tackle each other and wear no pads (rugby), they have stoppage time when it gets in a certain goal area (hockey), there are three goal sections (quidditch), they have to bounce/dribble the ball every 22 steps they run with it (basketball), and the way they pass is by bumping the ball (volleyball) or punting it (soccer again). Confused? It’s cool.
#10 It doesn’t matter where you are if you first don’t have who you’re with.
I used to think I wanted to travel the whole world and if no one wanted to come, I’d go by myself. Maybe I’d still do that but I have a different view on the opportunity cost (okay, econ people, please let me use that here). Australia is awesome. I’m surrounded by some of the coolest sights and some really interesting people. I love everything I am seeing. But it’s almost a half-experience. I can’t shake the fact that every place I see or go, I so badly want to share it with each one of you. And I don’t say that as a blanket, “Oh-let’s-make-this-blog-sound-personal-to-everyone-on-this-list.” I have thought of each of my friends and family at all different moments and places. This trip would be doubly more worth the time and money if I could share the experience with the most important people in my life. Experience is great – it’s awesome and eye-opening and inspiring. But shared experience would be even more. I don’t care how cheesy that sounds.
Great quotes from the trip so far:
“What’s a Ben & Jerry?” —my 14-year-old host sister asked when we were talking about Ben & Jerry’s ice cream
“You guys only carve pumpkins? And you throw the insides out? You can’t buy them at a grocery store?” —we eat pumpkin a lot here as a vegetable (I think it’s pretty gross) and they (our host family) were shocked that we Americans only buy them at Halloween and throw out the insides – the “best” part, ha
“Careful, you might get egged.” —my roommate Jamie was the subject of a drive-by egging while waiting at the bus stop – I felt bad for her and didn’t want to laugh, but who gets egged at a bus stop?!?
Australian ‘Uni’ lacks American ‘versity’
(Class assignment on the difference between American and Australian higher education)
I am taking three Australian college (“uni” is the local term) classes and have a total of nine assignments due for this semester. That is it. I take each class for three to four hours once a week and turn in one project about every three weeks, each between twenty and thirty percent of my final grade. Most of my time in class is spent working on whatever project is next due. My professors (who we students address by their first names) tell us that they do not want us to have to spend too much time out of class on our projects.
At home, I may have three projects in one class, but I also have each class multiple times a week with reflections and readings due each class period. I receive my marks the following class and may have to do three projects, two papers and one or two presentations per class. And these assignments are to be done at home, that’s why it’s called homework, say the professors whose first names I will never use.
These are just a few surface level differences I have already seen in Australian and American higher education.
On a deeper level, Australian students seem to lack the desire to jostle with peers to figure out who is taking the heaviest course load – something American students pride themselves on with an air of self-denying, noble, academic burden. They lack the “student vs. student” mentality – the American definition of success as surpassing peers and rising to the top. The Australian university system I have experienced seems to be interested only in another’s talent rather than focused on academic arm-wrestling and intellectual battling.
Maybe the Australian university system then is a small picture of the larger ideal of Australian thought. As we have studied in our Australian history and culture classes, the Australian way is not to rise to the top or clamor over others, but to keep each other on one common level, pulling down those who try to rise up, if necessary. It is not even about moving out of the house as soon as possible to move across the country and become immediately independent of family as one starts the vigorous, clamoring climb in the work world.
But so what? Then what is it about? And what impact does it or should it have on me? Maybe it should call me away from my American instinct to be the best – to work to surpass those around me and guarantee myself a place in the workforce and call it success. Or maybe it should encourage me to resist the cultural pressure to level off because my peers will not be keeping tabs on me. Or maybe it should just be a reminder to me that God calls me to do my best, whatever culture I am in, and to give glory to God. Regardless of a competitive or non-competitive university system, my actions should be the same: doing the best I can with what God has given me for his glory. I Corinthians 10:31
All of us American students took a bus trip to Canberra, the nation’s capital this past weekend. Other than losing my iPod, it was a great weekend. What a difference from Washington, D.C.! We happened to be there on election day (Saturday the 21st), but there was NO ONE in the city. But it was a great time to bond with fellow Americans on the trip. I had some deep conversations -- a discussion about contentment and complacency, some discussions over the intended message of some art pieces in the National Art Gallery, and a great discussion with the whole group on the meaning of the song, “American Idiot” by Green Day. I would like to argue I learned more in those impromptu discussions than any formal class I’ve had here -- interactive learning, I’m a fan :) Does that make me a nerd?