Julia van Warmerdam arrives in Australia

I’m here! I’ve been in Alice Springs for 2 weeks now. My first experience with the school and new people was a ten-day backpacking trip in the middle of the outback, or “the bush.” It was incredible and beautiful. We hiked, abseiled, and swam through freezing gorges. Being from California and growing up with beaches, I have never been very fond of the desert, but after being in the middle of it for ten days, I started to appreciate the beauty of red rock and huge spiders. Because I had not started school yet and had only arrived in Alice the day before I went on the trip, my group members were the first people I met other than my host family. They were some of the nicest people I have ever met and we all became close quite quickly. A great experience for me on exchange is just being new. I have gone to Athenian since 6th grade, so I haven’t been new for 5 years! It’s easy because you fascinate everyone at first no matter what just because you talk differently! The camp made me super excited to start school in a couple of days.

I am going to attend St. Philip’s College, which is in Alice Springs, Australia. Alice Springs is literally in the middle of the country and in the middle of nowhere. The town has 30,000 people, takes 10 minutes to get from one end to the other, and is surrounded by huge rock ranges with basically nothing outside of them. The closest city, Adelaide, is 1200 km away, which is a 12-hour drive. So when I say Alice Springs is in the middle of nowhere, I really mean it. Before coming here, this made me really nervous because I thought there would be nothing to do. I regret this thought now because it shows that I wasn’t expecting the people to impact me so much. Within just my first few encounters with people, I made incredible friends and have met the most wonderful people. Also, since there isn’t much to do, Alice makes things to do. What I mean by this is the first day I arrived, I was taken to The Camel Cup, which happens once a year and is one of the city’s largest events. The Camel Cup is exactly like horse races, but instead of people riding/racing horses, the people are riding/racing camels. It was pretty funny. I can definitely say that Alice is way different than Danville and I love it.

Another interesting part of Alice Springs is there are a lot of indigenous people who live in the town. The relationship between the two cultures is incredibly difficult. There is a lot of conflict, racism and segregation as the indigenous people have been treated horribly throughout history. The mom of my host is a nurse and works in a dialysis clinic. Dialysis is a medical procedure that helps people who suffer from kidney failure. Unfortunately, many of the patients she sees are indigenous as their poverty leads to bad health, and the way their bodies have evolved, their two kidneys do as much as one of our kidneys. I was lucky enough to visit the clinic, see how the machines work, and meet some of the indigenous people that were there getting medical treatment. They were beautiful and lovely people. I will hopefully be able to go back soon to meet more people and learn about the treatment which I am really excited about!

I love it here and am so glad it is my home for the next 5 weeks. (: