Matthew Whitfield checks in from Australia

Before I left for Australia, I had planned to come through customs blasting an Australian song I had memorized in an attempt to embarrass my exchange, but to both my disappointment and satisfaction, my host family was waiting for me right as I stepped off the plane. I was greeted by the mom Lynda, dad Brett, the exchange coordinator, and, of course, my exchange Kurt. We headed to their house in Lynton, a suburb of Adelaide. Once we arrived I immediately noticed their amazing view of the city and of sunsets.  

After a day of settling in, my newfound family took me to a vibrant downtown area called Glenelg. We walked around and went down to a pier. Learning about the sea life only added to my fear of all the deadly things here. We got some ice cream and, for some reason, I thought it would be a good idea to get a lemon shake. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It was the most horrific thing I have ever tasted. We then headed home and got some rest in preparation for the following day. 

By this point, I’m jet-lagged, tired and haven’t gotten much make up sleep. Nevertheless, we got up early and headed Into the city to climb the roof of the Adelaide Oval. The oval is a field where the Adelaide Crows play footy [Australian rules football]. It only took 25 minutes to get into the city from their house. The city was very similar in its architecture to San Francisco. Upon arrival at the oval, we got dressed in a jumpsuit and harness and headed up to the roof. We got hooked in and began walking across the roof shells. It had amazing views of Adelaide–the green hills, the city, and the magnificent beaches. We then got out to a platform that hangs over part of the oval and leaned off the platform 60 feet above the ground. After that terrifying yet extremely thrilling experience, we headed off the roof and left the oval. The climb was well worth the time stamp that came with it.

The following day Kurt invited a few people over so I could get to know some kids before I started at Westminster, Kurt’s school. I was nervous and a little anxious at first, but soon got comfortable and we had a fun time. They even taught me how to do a front flip on a trampoline. This created my still unconquered goal for this whole trip, to do a backflip. That night, to my dismay, we had to attend a university meeting for all year 10’s. Naturally, I didn’t want to go as I didn’t think it pertained to me. Despite the boringness of the meeting, I did get to meet a lot of Kurt’s friends and I ended up hitting it off with almost all of them. I left that night eager for my first day of school. 

around school here is more relaxed than Athenian, although it is still a fairly academic school. The community seems very tight-knit. Everyone is not only focused on grades, but also on socializing.  

After a week of school, I was taken to the Cleland Wildlife Park. I was extremely excited and it exceeded my expectations in every way. I got to see all sorts of new animals including dingos, wallabies, porcupines, emus and, of course, kangaroos. When I entered the park, I was given a bag of food to feed the animals. Soon I found a wallaby, got really low, and it came up to me to eat the food right out of my hands. It was such a cool experience, but was promptly exceeded by feeding the kangaroos. At first, I was afraid to feed the kangaroos because I was convinced they were going to box me like in the movies. Eventually, I began to feed them. They would put their huge claws on my hand and eat right out of it. At one point I was feeding four kangaroos at once! This was an experience I’ll never forget. 

Last weekend I was at the airport catching a flight to Sydney. The next day we went to the harbor and I got my first view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. My first reaction was amazement at its magnificent structure and appearance, but then I was overcome by fear as I remembered I would be walking on top of it in one day. We then walked along the harbor until we reached the Sydney Opera House. It was AMAZING. It was a beautiful white that shimmered in the sun that was only met in magnificence by its extremely interesting architecture.  

We caught a ferry to Luna Island, a small amusement park across the bridge. It resembled an old-timey amusement park only with updated rides. We got the best slushees I’ve ever had and returned to Sydney to rest up for the challenging day to come.  

After getting up, we walked to the bridge and yet again got dressed in jumpsuits and harnesses. We began by climbing up four extremely steep ladders with grates to look through at the ground below. This was the scariest part. On the actual walk, there was three feet of steel on either side of the pathway, which made it feel like an extremely safe walk. Once we were on top of the bridge, we began our trek to the middle. As it was a stop-and-go tour, we got to take in all of Sydney. At the top we walked across a see-through catwalk to the other side. As we walked across, I could see all the way down to the cars and the water. which gave me a lot of vertigo making it all that much better. The next morning, we caught a plane back to Adelaide and school life returned to normal. 

I’m now in week four of my trip and I have one week left. Before coming on exchange, I had expected there to be good and bad parts, but so far I’ve experienced very few lows. I have had an amazing time here and made so many friends who I hope to keep for a long time to come. I am so thankful to have been able to go on this trip and hopefully I’ll be able to come back in the future.