Ishaani Gokli’s Final Weeks in Australia

These past few weeks have been jam-packed with excursions throughout Victoria and Alpine Camp, a weeklong AWE experience with snow.

I spent the weekend before Alpine Camp in Ballarat and Bacchus Marsh. I enjoyed walking down Ballarat’s main strip, Sturt Street. Ballarat has a lot of beautiful architecture. The stunning Victorian architecture is due to Ballarat being one of the most important cities of the Australian gold rush.

Ishaani 11Another highlight of that weekend was getting an opportunity to attend an AFL (Australian rules football) game! My host father, Dom, is a die-hard Richmond Tigers fan, so he was keen on me barracking for the Tigs.  He even let me borrow a signed jersey of his. All of my friends know that football to me is like air to anyone else. I just can’t get enough of it. By the end of my exchange I have become quite keen on watching the AFL, however American Football will always be my favorite sport.

Like my NFL team, the New Orleans Saints, the Tigers aren’t that good, but the fans are die-hard. The matchup was between the Richmond Tigers and Collingwood. Both teams were bad. The game went back and forth, which resulted in a lively crowd–and even some brawls on the field.  As the end of the game approached, the Dunnes and I were happy to cheer on our Tigs as they gained a lead over Collingwood and won the game!

Ishaani 12The day after the game I spent the night at my friend Grace’s birthday party. It was interesting to see how dressed up people get for parties compared to America. Dressing here, in general, is a lot stricter–even outside of school.  These norms made walking outside in sweatpants supposed “social suicide,” as you risk being looked at like a “bogan” (trashy, slob). This was very interesting to me, as back home I live in my leggings and sweats.  The experience allowed me to appreciate the lack of set dress norms in my life.

Grace’s party was great as it was so cool to see the many similarities and differences between parties in the U.S and Australia. You know you’re at an Australian party when there are meat pies and sausage rolls. Sadly, the music was very “Radio Top 10” and seemed to lack what people from the Bay Area would call “hype.” But it was great to spend time with people outside of school and a fun night.

Ishaani 14After a relaxing weekend in Ballarat and Grace’s party, my host Millie and I were off to Falls Creek for Alpine Camp. Alpine Camp was the most challenging experience of my life. Maybe after AWE I’ll feel differently, but for now Alpine is at the top of my list. The camp was five days of cross-country skiing with a 70-pound pack on your back. The freezing climate was tough to say the least. What made the experience even more difficult was the fact that I am, at best, adequate at skiing.

The whole trip was a challenge, but I couldn’t be happier that I did it. Going into junior year, the Athenian Wilderness Experience [AWE] is a prevalent theme that is constantly in the minds of my peers and I. With this trip completed, I couldn’t feel more prepared to take on the Sierras or Death Valley–especially since neither contains snow. J

Ishaani 13The trek had its positive moments such as: sleeping in a quinzhee (a Canadian Soft Snow Igloo) and having the warmest night of the trip; building a snow fortress as a kitchen (which included a fire pit!!!); and skiing without falling (which only happened once).

With the intense climate–8 degrees F was the highest temperature and there was lots of snow and rain–I was able to become a much stronger individual. I learned to live without feeling my hands and feet and without sleeping for three days. I also came to the realization that if I was in Game of Thrones I’d be unable to live like John Snow at The Wall (or even survive winter).

To any future exchange going to Ballarat Grammar, I’d recommend the camp. It was a fantastic experience that helped me learn a lot and grow as an individual. The camp allowed me to gain a close-knit family (my camp group) and the difficult situations made me both mentally and physically stronger. Even though the camp is demanding, Falls Creek is a stunning area and so while we struggled, we had a view!

Ishaani 15After my week in the snow, the Dunnes and I spent a relaxing long weekend at the beach in Angelsea and ventured to Melbourne on Monday. We spent the day exploring the National Art Gallery of Victoria and surveying Churro and Chai Tea bars in a hipster suburb called Fitzroy.  I fell in love with Fitzroy and the abundance of hole-in-the-wall cafes, urban record shops, and parking garages filled with graffiti. After a delightful afternoon of hopping from one free art gallery to the next and visiting MANY churro bars, I was incredibly sad to leave. I now consider Melbourne a second home.

It’s surreal that I am at the end of my exchange. I am so blessed to have been able to make such amazing friends and have such a fantastic experience. I know the connections I have made here at BGS are genuine and ones that can last a lifetime.

Exchange has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. I am so thankful to have been exposed to a different lifestyle and have a newfound appreciation for my Athenian Ishaani 16education and Bay Area lifestyle.

The goodbyes coming up will not be easy. It’s going to be weird not waking up in the same house as my host and best friend, Millie.; however, I know I’ll make my way back to Ballarat and Melbourne soon.

I’m so thankful for the chai, music, and memories that Australia has given me. I can’t wait to one day make more in this beautiful place. Till next time Aus, x.

To “Some Random Notes from Exchange” by Ishaani, visit her page in the Australia section