Maya O’Kelly Checks In from Australia




/* Style Definitions */
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;

Greetings from Alice Springs! I arrived here on July 13. On July 17, I went on a ten-day backpacking trip through the Australian outback and bush with the school and some of its students. The days before the backpacking trip were spent with my host family, Linda, and her dad as we biked around different places throughout town. The backpacking trip was truly an incredible experience. It left me feeling a little more prepared for AWE. I went into the trip not knowing anybody else. My host is in year 10, but this camp consisted only of year 11 students. Throughout the ten days, everybody in the camp group got close as we bushwalked, abseiled through Hugh Gorge, cooked dinners by the campfires, had a reflective 48-hour solo, and backpacked through the outback. Some of my favorite parts of the trip included swimming through the gorges while looking up at the remarkable walls, being able to see the stars and planets in the night sky, learning how to find your way using the sun, and the beautiful sunsets behind the ranges that surrounded us. This week-and-a-half in the outback was truly an amazing experience. I’m so glad that I was able to go on the trip.

When I first learned that I would be going on exchange to Alice Springs I didn’t really know what to expect. I thought that it would mainly be a flat and desolate desert, since it really is in the middle of Australia. From this trip and simply going around Alice Springs, however, I have truly seen the beauty within the desert here with its gorges, spinifex, extensive ranges, and saddles.

One thing that really took me by surprise was what it’s like living in a small town like Alice Springs. Alice Springs really is in the middle of Australia. The closest big cities, Adelaide and Darwin, are both about a day’s drive away from Alice on the Stuart Highway, which connects the three destinations. The Stuart Highway itself is also very empty compared to the highways throughout the Bay Area. We actually bike across it every day on our way to and from school. Living in a small town also means that you’re close to everything, since it’s all within the town’s limits and therefore easily accessible by bike. It was a unique change being able to walk home for lunch or being able to bike a mere five minutes to a friend’s house, since at Athenian most people live at least a 15- 20 min drive away from each other.

The people here in Alice Springs and at St. Phillip’s College have been incredibly kind and welcoming. During my first couple days of classes, I was greeted by familiar faces from camp and they introduced me to all of their friends and other people within the school. The school is quite different from Athenian. We have uniforms with strict hat rules due to the hot afternoon sun, houses, and prayers at assemblies. The classes are quite enjoyable, although a bit different than Athenian’s. I’m currently taking English, Philosophy, Psychology, Visual Arts, and Chemistry.

The school also organizes lots of trips for the exchanges within Alice Springs. This is great way to get to know the other exchanges. They are from places like Colombia, Denmark, South Africa, Germany, France, Japan, and India. During my first week of classes, we went on a hot air balloon trip while the sun rose. It truly was a breathtaking experience as we also saw wild kangaroos hopping around below us in the desert. Last week, the school organized a trip to Kangaroo Dundee’s kangaroo sanctuary, which is about a half hour outside of Alice Springs. There we walked around the sanctuary while kangaroos hopped around us, and we got to hold some of the baby kangaroos or joeys. The sanctuary rescues kangaroos that were once kept as pets, the majority of the kangaroos end up there because their mothers were killed by cars while the babies survived inside their pouches. I spent the night at one of my friend’s houses here only to awake and realize that they had a baby kangaroo in their house. They’re currently helping to take care of it before they pass it onto somebody else who will rehabilitate it more and eventually release it back into the wild. There are about 50 million kangaroos in Australia, so they’re quite common. Lots of people in town help nurture them back to health.

I currently have about two-and-a-half weeks left out of my six weeks in Alice Springs. I’m sad to be over halfway through my exchange because I’ve enjoyed it so much. I’m looking forward to the next upcoming weeks here in Alice Springs!