Jennifer Leigh leaves Australia

The time I spent at Bunbury Cathedral (BCGS) in Western Australia went by incredibly fast. One minute I was unpacking in the dorm room that would be my home for the next five weeks, and the next I was saying bye to all the great people I had met and being picked up from the school, bags in hand. I had an amazing experience that I don’t think I will ever forget.

Although most people think that going to Australia would be easy because the cultures are so similar, I found a very different culture in almost all aspects of life.  Even the language, English, is different. I sometimes had to ask people to repeat themselves because the slang is so different.

Although it’s a Round Square school, BCGS is very different from Athenian. Many of the students did not do homework and the teachers never checked for completion. This lack of work, of course, is welcomed by the students and creates a more laid-back environment that seems to run through the whole country. Many students would pull out their computers in class and watch the NBA finals while the teacher was giving a lesson, which was great for me because I was able to stay updated on the scores of all the games and root for the Warriors from Australia. The experience has deepened my appreciation for Athenian’s teaching methods, the learning environment, and the fact that the teachers at Athenian care about their students. At Athenian, there is an unspoken respect for the teachers that I never really saw in Australia.

Probably the hardest part of the exchange was my exchange family and their living situation.  My exchange was not very social, and I had to introduce myself to the other kids in the class and actively find a group of people who would include me in conversations. Luckily, everyone was very nice and after about a week, it seemed like I had worked my way into a very close group. My closest friend turned out to be the other exchange student, a 10th grader from Canada. We often remarked that Bunbury is a very small town, which made it hard to break into the long-established tight-knit groups. I was also able to become friends with the girls in my dorm unit. I loved boarding at the school because it helped me meet people and make great relationships with the girls in my dorm.

I boarded during the week and on the weekends my exchange and I would take a two-hour bus ride to her farm 15 minutes outside of Pemberton. The family was very nice. We went on several sightseeing trips around Western Australia, including an Australian Rules Football game in Perth, four wheeling on sand dunes, and a tree walk in Denmark on the South Western tip of Australia. The weekends on the farm were difficult, however, as there is nothing in Pemberton, so I just read, listened to music, and watched TV. One weekend it was raining, which caused the roof in my bedroom to leak at five different places, increasing my gratitude for my home and life in the Bay Area. My favorite weekend was when I stayed in boarding instead of going home with my exchange. I got to hang out with my friends, go shopping in town, and go boating with the other exchange’s family.

Now that I have been back home for a couple of weeks, I can really reflect on how my time in Australia has given me a deeper cultural understanding of Australia, an understanding of the different kind of life that my exchange family lives, and a chance to see a remote part of the world I probably would not otherwise visit. Through it, I have a greater appreciation for the style and rigor of the educational experience at Athenian, and a renewed love of the Bay Area and all it has to offer.