Kelsey Miles is at Scotch Oakburn School in Tasmania

Kelsey MIlesAfter arriving to a tiny airport in Launceston at 11 am, I met my exchange partner.  Sarah and her dad were holding handmade signs to welcome me, which was a wonderful sight to see after 22 hours of travel. As we got into their car, I was immediately surprised because, in my opinion, her dad got in on the wrong side! I hadn’t realized Australians drive on the opposite side of the road than the US and it was the topic of many silly arguments about the differences between our countries. As we were riding home, Sarah joked that I was going to have to stay awake until dinner and she definitely kept me busy to make sure I did! After stopping at her house to bring in my luggage, Sarah and I went to the Gorge, which is a touristy nature park in Tasmania. We saw peacocks and a wallaby, which surprised me because I’d never seen them before. While we were waiting for her dad to pick us up, we went to King’s Park to try out all the workout equipment and had a blast on the little play structure. It was amazing how after only two hours with her, I already felt like we were sisters.

The next day I went to my first day of school and it wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. I expected to feel out of place, but Sarah’s friends were so excited to meet me that someone was always talking to me, ensuring I never felt alone. After hearing Sarah talking about her school when I arrived, I also expected it to be very strict, but all the students and most of the teachers were laid back. We had all elective classes that day, and at every class, everyone was talking and laughing while working. It was a great contrast to my school day, where we are condemned for having “too much fun” in class. My favorite thing about that day was hearing their accents, while they made fun of mine. Everyone kept asking me to try and copy them, but apparently I sounded too British. For the rest of the week, I was overwhelmed with too many faces and names of people who all wanted to meet me, but I easily became a part of the school.

Everyone kept asking me why I wanted to come to Tasmania because the mainland is so much better, however, on the weekend, I was pleasantly surprised by their small town. We went shopping with Sarah and her friends on Friday night, and spontaneously decided to have dinner together that night. This is something I’ve dreamed of being able to do, but at home my friends are either too busy or live too far away.

On my first weekend, I also enjoyed visiting the Launceston zoo. I saw koalas, tiny penguins, emus, kangaroos, and, of course, Tasmanian devils. When I first saw the Tassie devils, I was surprised by how cute they looked. They were not much like the cartoons I’d seen, because they were only vicious when we saw them feeding. On the drive home, I was surprised to learn that instead of accidently killing squirrels on the road, in Tasmania they end up running over wombats.

The next week of school was my first time in forever to enjoy school. I had absolutely no stress, and I spent most of my time talking with Sarah and her friends. Wednesday was a big deal because they had free dress, which Sarah called judgment day. When I asked her about it, she said that it’s the day when everyone judges you for what you’re wearing, which is something I’m all too familiar with.  When choosing my outfit, I found myself still in the trap of worrying about what to wear. I discovered I was surprisingly fond of the uniform because I stopped stressing about whether I was going to look weird or get too cold in my outfit.

On my second weekend in Tassie, I started feeling like a part of Sarah’s family. It began with a surprise birthday dinner for me at a local restaurant which Sarah had planned. I absolutely loved spending more time with my new friends as we talked and drew silly pictures on the paper napkins. For the next few days, I spent a lot of time talking with Sarah’s family about things, such as American food, TV shows we watched as kids, and Australian rules in football.

Starting my second week, I really feel like I belong. I can already see the lifelong friendships that have been created and I’m really going to miss them when I leave. My exchange is flying by so fast that I wish I was staying for longer than seven weeks! I’m very excited for the weeks to come and can’t wait for the memories that I’m going to make.