After being dropped off at the small Armidale airport, I was picked up by Miss Barnier in her right-hand Holden sedan and taken to my home for the next month, The Armidale School (TAS). I was given some time to settle in, during which I acquired a new uniform, greeted my house mother, and unpacked in my new dorm room.
That afternoon was a blur of shaking hands and forgetting names as I met many of the boys, including my three roommates, Charlie, Ashton, and Ellis. The first thing that struck me was the difference in the way they and all the others talked. Although I could understand words through the Australian accent, the slang made comprehending conversations a little difficult. At first, I found myself feeling lost and confused when more than two people were talking; however, after the first week, understanding conversations became secondhand. I even started using some of the slang myself. Australians tend to shorten their words; afternoon becomes arvo, breakfast becomes brekkie, etc.
Another major difference from home was how rural everything and everyone felt. Initially, I couldn’t determine what this strange difference was, but as soon as I figured it out it became crystal clear. Nearly all students here live somewhere near Armidale. When viewed on Google maps, Armidale looks like a tiny spec of civilization nested in a bunch of open, empty space. Most of the other boarders live and work on farms. Some were able to give me useful insights into country life, which has shed a new light on the opinions of some back home.
The whole school life dynamic here at TAS also differs drastically from that of Athenian. While I was accustomed to calling teachers by their last name from middle school, I was not accustomed to the uniform. It’s a pain to put on, doesn’t fit very well, and the shoes seem intent on murdering my feet. I’ve gained a new appreciation for the freedom of dress that most take for granted at Athenian. Boarding life is also new for me, but I’ve become accustomed to the daily routine and it’s nice to have everything you need within walking distance. Over the past two weeks I’ve become pretty good friends with nearly everyone in the dorm. Getting to mess around with them after school has made the boarding experience even better.
While classes are plentiful (most people have at least ten) the content in them is less so. The homework far easier than that back home, and the students seem to respect their teachers far less. This makes classes quite funny, but not very informative, which contrasts sharply with the athletic culture. Unlike Athenian, sports play a paramount role in TAS culture. Most weekends incorporate some game (most often Rugby) that most of the boys participate in. At first this felt quite outlandish, given that Athenian doesn’t even have a football team, but I soon became accustomed to this aspect of the school and have come to appreciate rugby more as a sport. I was also able to practice with the sport shooting team and experience another activity that Athenian doesn’t offer.
Despite these differences, I’ve still been having a great time here at TAS. Life here is more laid back, and its been a great experience trying new things. So far the best experiences I’ve had have been my interactions with the other people here. They’ve transformed what would normally be a standard, uptight boarding school into something so much more. I’ve made some great friends and am really looking forward to the coming weeks that I will get to spend here with them.