It’s officially my third day in Australia. After 24+ hours of travel, I arrived at the land down under. My flight wasn’t bad. I flew from Chicago at 6:01pm, arriving in Los Angeles, which was about four and a half hours. From there I had about an hour layover and boarded a plane to Sydney. That flight was the longest, at a little over 18 hours. A good portion of the flight was at night, which allowed for lots of napping time. I got lucky and the seat between the aisle passenger and I was empty, so I had a bit more room to spread out. When the sun finally did come up, the sunrise was gorgeous over the ocean. It was so weird to fly for hours and hours over nothing but ocean.
While we were landing in Sydney, I was able to see the harbor and the Sydney Opera house, which was kinda neat. I’d like to see them from a slightly more grounded standpoint, but It was beautiful from the air too. Once I landed in Sydney, I had to go through a small little security area (where they stole my cross stitching scissors… apparently they assume I’ll have violent tendencies with a child’s scissors), and waited a bit before boarding for an hour plane ride to Melbourne. That flight was only about an hour. Once I arrived I went through immigration, collected my suitcase, and met Natalie, another girl doing the Marine Bio program here. Together, we met Gary, our driver to Warrnambool, and rode another 3 hours to campus.
Once we arrived we met Marita, the international student coordinator here, and she let us drop our stuff off at the dorms we’ll be staying at during the weeks prior to classes starting. Right away we were off and running to our first shopping trip with Marita. The dorms here are nice but pretty basic. We each have our own room with a bed (but no bedding), desk, and little closet/bureau thing. The common living area has a tv, couches, and table. The kitchen consists of a fridge, cabinets, oven, microwave, and kitchen table, but has absolutely no utensils or other tools. Therefore the goal of our first shopping trip was to get the basic necessities to be able to sleep and feed ourselves. As far as stores go, they’re pretty similar here to the stores we have in the United States. We went to K-Mart and Coles (the grocery store). I’ve since discovered that I like Woolworth’s a smidge better, as its slightly cheaper and has a better selection. It was nice to have Marita there to drive us, because it would have been a difficult walk to carry it all back to campus. It’s only about a 20 minute walk to get to the shopping center, and you do have to option to take the bus, but for an initial trip it was convenient to have an Australian to lead us around. It’s strange to try to figure out pricing at the grocery store, because everything is weighed using the metric system, but I’ll get used to it.
On the 22nd we started some of our basic enrolment stuff. We went over basic college welcome stuff… expectations, technology usage, how to get books (and got some of the books we’d need for the upcoming field trips), and established our schedules. We also went into town with Marita to set up a bank account in order to avoid ATM fees when we need to exchange currency. She told us about their odd-looking water tower, which is super old but seems to be in working order.
For the pre-semester field trips we’ll have the opportunity to snorkel, but you have to pass a slightly rigorous test. Natalie, Alissa (another Marine Bio exchange student) and I met our teacher for that class, and she offered to drive us to the pool to practice that afternoon, which was great! We spent about an hour testing out our abilities at the various skills.
Today was our first day with no real schedule to follow (a weekend!). I went with Natalie, Elise, and Jenna (another international student) to a sustainable living festival in town.
We decided to walk, which ended up taking about an hour and a half. The festival itself was much smaller than I imagined, but interesting to see. There were about 10 little tents with vendors selling organic and/or sustainable products, talking about walking/biking trails, etc. One lady mentioned a penguin count that they do each month on an island near here, so we signed up for more information on that. It sounded like it would be pretty neat.
After the festival we talked about going to the beach, but when we checked out the bus route, it seemed to make more sense to save that for an adventure tomorrow. We still have to figure out the busing system. We’ve been using our free legs, which seem to work out well. They’re just a bit slower!
I learned very quickly too that they’re not lying when they say there’s a hole above Australia in the ozone layer. I opted not to wear sunscreen this morning before we left, but took advantage of the free “sunscreen bar.” Even so, I ended up slightly toasted on the shoulders. Lesson learned: If you come to Australia, wear sunscreen!
All in all it’s been a whirlwind of a good time so far. I haven’t really had much down time, but that’s a good thing at this point. The wildlife here is totally different from Wisconsin. It’s much more tropical and reminds me slightly of Costa Rica. The first night we were here I was surprised how loud the cockatoos were! They’re all over campus and make quite a racket around 5:00pm when they eat in the lawns. It’s kinda funny.
I’ve also been told koala bears have been known to make an appearance on campus as well as the rare, occasional kangaroo, but I have yet to see either. I’m hoping I will soon though!