Zarmeena Khan says Good-bye to Australia

These past six weeks have taught me so much about different lifestyles and in ways I couldn’t have imagined before going on exchange. As I started settling into school, I noticed major differences in the way Athenian and Westminster operate. One of the biggest ones was behavior in class. In most classes here, people aren’t listening to the teacher or are talking over them. I realized that Athenian has an environment where there is mutual respect in the classroom. It has also taught me to appreciate how much Athenian values education and helps students to reach their full potential. Through these experiences, I have come to appreciate that even though Athenian is regarded as a “hippie school,” it provides an amazing environment in all ways for its students.

Zarmeena 14At Westminster, they have a “tutor” session, which is just like advisory, but it happens for fifteen minutes every day. I was surprised by this because at Athenian we only have advisory once a week, while students here have an opportunity to meet up every day. During this time, I also got to sit in on the all-school assemblies that they have every Wednesday. Learning how to get to my locker between classes was also something I had to adjust to. At Athenian, everyone just has their backpack with them and takes it to every class.

A refreshing change for me was how most people here come together at one common place during lunchtime. At Athenian, everyone spreads out across campus. At Westminster, most people have their lunch on the “oval.” You can always find groups playing footy or just talking and enjoying each other’s company.

Westminster also has their version of AWE called Westventure. Groups go for two weeks on an outdoor excursion in which they hike, kayak and run. Even though it’s for a shorter duration than AWE and it’s focused more on outdoor activities, it reinforces an appreciation for the planet and maintaining a relationship with nature just like AWE does.

Zarmeena 12Rebekah’s birthday was during the time I was here, so her parents took us to Melbourne for the weekend. Melbourne was named the world’s most livable city and I quickly learned why. As soon as we started exploring, I instantly fell in love with the city and how nice it was. The people were friendly and there was good energy in the air. There were so many things to see. They had tons of alleyways, which boasted eye-catching street art and were filled with restaurants and shops. You could always find performers on the street, whether it be singing or painting. Melbourne also has an enormous open-air market called The Queen Victoria Market that dates back to 1878. While we were there, I got the opportunity to see two Australian-rules football games. After 4 weeks, I finally understood how the Zarmeena 13game works. It was so fun to be a part of the crowd cheering the team on and to see what football culture is. Melbourne offers multiple birds’ eye views of the city. You can go on the Melbourne Star, which is a huge, brightly lit up Ferris wheel, or go to the absolute top of a building which has a glass elevator that pushes you out to 1000 feet above the street. These provide you with a breathtaking view of the city and are especially stunning at night. I also was treated to holding a koala and even got to pet a kangaroo!

While I am excited to return to California and meet my friends again, a huge part of me is already missing all the close friends I’ve made here and the school. I stayed in Westminster’s Girls Boarding, which was a whole different experience in itself.  I have had such a good time. I found a new family instantly and always have someone to talk to. My time here has flown by and I feel like I could stay at Westminster for a lot longer.

Zarmeena 11Going on exchange was once of the best decisions I’ve made and I’m so grateful that I was given this opportunity. For anyone thinking about going on exchange, I highly encourage you to go. Before I went on exchange, I had prior expectations and they turned out to be completely wrong as soon as I started attending school here. I would just like to thank the Forrest family for hosting me and to Westminster Girls’ Boarding for being so welcoming and for providing me with a second home. I loved my time here and wouldn’t trade it for the world.