Getting off the plane in the Launceston airport on June 14 marked the start of a new adventure. I was greeted there by my host, Alice Holmes, and her family. Arriving at their home–and my home for eight weeks–I almost immediately fell asleep from the jet lag. On Saturday (my first real day of experiencing Tasmania) Alice took me to see a few of the sights of Launceston. We walked through Seaport and went on a scenic walk to see the Gorge. Later that weekend, we went to Tasmania Zoo where I saw a wallaby, an emu, a kookaburra, a quoll, a dingo, a wombat (my new favorite animal) and, of course, a Tasmanian Devil. Before I came to Tasmania, I was filled with numerous tales about the fierce Tasmanian devil and the weather (which is about the equivalent of San Francisco in the summer). From what I have seen in many of the zoos that I have visited thus far, my preconceptions have not matched the stories. The Tasmanian devils have flaunted the strength of their jaws while eating the remains of an animal, but instead of attacking their keeper, they fell asleep upon her feet and in her arms.
My first day on campus of Scotch Oakburn College I had no idea of where to go, what to do or how to act. The sight of hundreds of students in stiff collared shirts and blazers threw me, having been used to the sight of Athenian students casually wearing jeans tucked into UGGs. But it wasn’t only me confused by the unfamiliar apparel; I stood out like a sore thumb. My first stop in this jungle of navy blue and maroon blazers was Mr. Jenkinson’s office. He introduced me to the schedule, provided me with a school planner, handed me a Round Square pin, and set me loose to see what Scotch Oakburn has to offer. For the next two weeks, I was instructed to follow the same schedule as Alice so that I could have time to become more accustomed to the school. Continuing through my first day was somewhat a challenge. The schedule consists of three double periods which are about the same length as long periods at Athenian (90 minutes) with recess, assembly and lunch in between. In my first class, Advanced English, as I entered the room I was serenaded by fifteen students with Katy Perry’s “California Girls.” The day progressed, laden with comments on my accent and questions about America. The following class was Sport Science. One physics class later, the day was over. I met many new people on my first day but I unfortunately forgot most of their names. When we arrived home, I was overwhelmed with exhaustion.
The rest of the week went a little more smoothly. I was shocked by what seemed to be an infinite number of new names and faces that I thought I would never remember. But slowly I began to recognize my way around the school and was soon capable of wandering off from where my new friends ate lunch and returning without having to ask for directions. On Wednesday, I was finally able to get a Scotch Oakburn uniform and this camouflage allowed me to merge into the sea of students. Although I was grateful not to stand out as much or have to pick an outfit every morning, I soon tired of the starched shirt and tie. I was amazed by the list of classes a student can take as an elective such as three different courses of cooking, art, furniture design, business enterprise, sewing and physical pursuits.
The following weekend, we went to Bicheno which is located on the east coast of Tasmania. The coast is renowned for the white sandy beaches and clear blue waters. Google ‘Wine Glass Bay’, which is a ways down the road from where we stayed in Bichen, to get a view. One of my greatest regrets of coming on exchange in the winter is not being able to enjoy the warmth of the summer sun at the beach. Regardless of the frigid temperature of the ocean (about 40 degrees or lower), the water was so tempting that Alice and I went for a swim in the icy waves. The following day, we went to the East Coast Natureworld. There, the kangaroos were free to roam the zoo and the visitors could walk through the bird and wallaby enclosures. At Natureworld, the devils were too old to be held, but I was able to pet a Tasmanian devil while the keeper held it.
Returning to school for my second week, it was a similar layout of classes as the week before. I followed Alice through all her classes, joined her in tutor group (similar to advisory), ate lunch, etc. On Tuesday, I joined the soccer team for the first time. We stopped by the school store and got a soccer uniform and shoes the day before. Having never played soccer outside of middle school PE, I didn’t know what to expect from training or this team. One of my new friends, Charlotte, is joining the soccer team for the first time in her life as well, so we stand by each other and make fools of ourselves while trying to kick the ball. There are two practices a week (Tuesday and Wednesday) and by Thursday every muscle in me ached. On Friday, Mr. Jenkinson asked Alice and me to speak at an assembly. We agreed and spoke to the entire ninth grade about Round Square and the differences between Athenian and Scotch Oakburn.
The following weekend, Alice and I went shopping in Launceston. I enjoyed seeing the differences between shops in Tasmania and the shops in California. On Sunday, we went to an AFL (Australian Football League) game between Hawthorn and Brisbane. Of course, being a foreigner, I had no idea how a football game in Australia is conducted. Alice had shown me short clips of other games before we went to watch, but I was still lost. After an hour or so, I began to understand the rules of the game better which made the experience much more enjoyable. Hawthorn won by a landslide and is still on the top of the ladder while Brisbane is around fourteenth out of eighteen.
My third week at Scotch Oakburn College was very similar to my previous two weeks of school. On Tuesday I came with my friends Kate and Georgia to their cooking class called “Festive Foods.” With the Fourth of July coming up, their class was assigned to make festive American cuisine, pumpkin pie. For homework, the class was asked to research the history of Independence Day. Because none of the students had done this assignment, the teacher asked me to lecture the class on American history. It surprised me how easily I could recall the information that was chiseled into my brain since the age of five. The class continued with the production of pumpkin pies and cakes frosted with red, white and blue. In celebration of the Fourth of July, my host family made a special dinner of hot dogs, potato salad, corn on the cob, and apple pie. After dinner, we layered on jackets and went outside to play with sparklers while the sky flashed with lightning that looked almost like fireworks.
On Friday, I met with Mr. Jenkinson in the morning and I finally received my own personalized schedule. I now have five classes: Maths, French, Psychology, English, and World History. Four out of five of my classes are with eleventh and twelfth grade students. The only class I have with the tenth graders, who I had been taking all of my classes with prior to Friday, is World History. The first class I had was English where I knew absolutely nobody, but everybody was welcoming and I enjoyed their company. It seemed that they all knew Pierson and they amused me with some stories from his stay in Tasmania. The bell soon rang and school was let out for a two week winter holiday, but first I had to walk across campus in the pouring rain. Once again I asked myself what too many people have asked me already. “Why did you come in the winter?