Kyle Van Hoesen arrives in South Australia

Hello from the land down under. I have been having a wonderful time here, and I am learning lots of new things. I will start out with my first impression of Adelaide – it’s cold. I know this is relative, but considering I just came from a wonderful summer paradise, it is cold to me. Even though I checked the weather, I still could not let go of the thought that Australia is always hot.  I was very wrong. I met my exchange, Phoenix, and his mom (or, as they say, mum), Janet. My first impression of them was that they are very nice and kind—and this has continued to be the case.

My first night in Australia I went to Phoenix’s hockey game–not ice hockey, but field hockey, which is completely different. I have started learning the game, and the coach was nice enough to let me practice with them. That night I slept 12 hours due to my lack of sleep on the flight over. Soon enough I was learning what life in Australia is like. Warning! Some words are different, which can cause some confusion at first. Phoenix’s dad rides a motor bike and we were talking about safety gear and I got a disturbing image implanted in my head. He said, “Some people ride in only a t-shirt and thongs.” Thongs are flip flops. This is probably the worst translation difference due to the disturbing images that pop into my head.

We have not been staying at home much  Instead, thanks to my wonderful host family, we have been going to do things! We went up Mount Lofty.  To us in California it’s a hill, but still a good hike and magnificent view. The landscape is very different, with all sorts of new vegetation, waterfalls, and very colorful birds. The ocean has vast beaches. It seems fairly calm to me, but apparently is extremely rough for this area. We went whale watching, which was not a three-hour boat tour like my previous whale watching experience in California, but looking on from the shore. The whales were right up close, which is astonishing to me. I later got to go through some of the hills on the back of Phoenix’s dad’s motorbike. Because I had never been on the back of a motorbike before, it was an exciting new experience. We also went to the city and walked around one day and ended up in the botanical gardens. Adelaide is a very beautiful city.

Last Sunday we went up into the hills to visit a native animal zoo. I  got to hug a koala. It is the softest thing I have ever touched! They are big and heavy, which surprised me because they are hard to spot in the trees. We also got to pet kangaroos. We watched a mama kangaroo let her baby kangaroo out of its pouch. They are a funky animal, but super cool to see.

Now on to school. Westminster is a huge change for me. ‘Big, formal, and uniformed’ were my first thoughts when I arrived. It is much harder telling people apart when they all wear the same clothes. But it is all fun and exciting being at this new school. The campus is amazing. It has a wonderful library, sports fields, classrooms, theater, and general vibe. The people are all nice and inquisitive about my perspective of Australia. Of course they want to know about Trump, marijuana, and guns too. The classes have been fun and interesting too. The Australian curriculum is very different, but I will hold my judgment until the end. So far it has been easy, but I am half a year ahead of them, so that needs to be considered.

I am playing soccer for the school, which has only hurt my dignity a few times considering I have never played soccer until I came here. But huge props to AJ (my fellow Athenian here at Westminster) for scoring a goal in a soccer game. I have learned that their driving laws are so much harsher than ours with more restrictions. But once they are 18 they can do anything, which mirrors their laid back culture. I am really looking forward to the rest of my exchange and discovering new things. As they say in Australia… Good A mate!