Alina Cao

Being here in Australia seems like a dream come true! My exchange, Hayley Wapper is one of the nicest and funniest girls I’ve ever met. At her house, we make traditional (original) Australian food together. I have enjoyed every single meal and the snacks that I’ve had here in Alice Springs. In fact, a drink called milo–made of chocolate powders mixed with milk–is now in my daily routine. The weather here is surprisingly similar to California. It is freezing cold during the morning and night, but brutally hot during lunch time and the afternoon. It is also worth mentioning that Alice Springs is more than just a desert! You’d be surprised that there are actually green grasses and tall trees all around the town. Not surprisingly, there are a lot of kangaroos, reptiles, and sands. Hayley is also a very sporty girl. I was lucky to watch her play footy and netball, which are both very popular sports for girls in Australia.

Before my first day of school, many concerns went through my head all night. What kind of people would I meet? Would Hayley’s friends like me? Would I like them? How would people treat me? What are the classes like? And so on. The next day at school, I was surrounded with many warm welcomes from students and teachers. People greeted me like I was their friend for ages. I immediately became friends with the other exchanges from France and Hayley’s friends, and I received countless offers of help from the students and teachers throughout the day. Besides the knowledge from classes, I also learned a lot about Australian culture. For example, a very Australian way of greeting people is “Good day, mate!” And I find it very funny that Australians call McDonald “Maccas.Everything was perfect except the uniform. I was not shocked at this very different school system considering that most schools in China have uniforms, but I still felt unfamiliar with uniforms after having been at Athenian for two years. Another major difference between Athenian and St. Philips is that no phone use is allowed during class or outside of the classroom. I was shocked by this rule, because my phone is one of the most important items that I needed for survival. In fact, now I have to wear a watch to check for time, instead of using my phone. Hopefully I’ll get more used to this in the future. Finally, the classes offered in St. Philips are also very different.  Compared to Athenian, there are not many choices for courses.My first week at St. Philips was everything that I did not expect, and I believe that that is the beauty of being on exchange. I look forward to my future weeks here in Alice Springs and to discovering new challenges.


Alina Cao bids farewell to Alice Springs

Unlike my first exchange blog, this one is a little hard to start because there is not much time left before I leave Australia. One month, 31 days, 744 hours, or 44640 minutes might seem long, but flies by so fast while on exchange. Looking back at my full experience on exchange, I have met a lot of lovely people, made close friends, learnt much more about Australian culture, and, most importantly, had lots of fun and truly enjoyed Alice Springs.

There are a lot of things that I have learned from this trip. The most significant one is that there is a new challenge every day. By overcoming these challenges, you will find yourself becoming a better person. It was these challenges that made my experience in Australia colorful and full of excitement, because you will never know what is going to be the next challenge in your life. After reflecting on my time here, I realized that new challenges help to push a person’s limit, and creates an environment where a person is encouraged to improve him or herself on a daily basis. This is the number one reason why I highly encourage my fellow Athenians to apply for exchange–you’ll find yourself growing up as a more complete person within just a few months.

Friendship is the most precious thing that you can gain from exchange. My best times in Alice Springs are all the times that I’ve spent with my friends, both at school and outside of school. I celebrated three of my friends’ birthdays, spent time chatting during recess, explored this amazing town with my exchange, enjoyed all the trips to amazing places in the Northern Territory, went to footy and netball games, and had fun singing and playing music with friends in music class.

There were so many incredible things that I was lucky enough to experience during my exchange. The most memorable was a three-day road trip to Uluru at the end of my time in Australia. I could not use words to describe the beauty of nature that I discovered in Uluru. Although there was lots of climbing and walking in dirt, it was all worthwhile after standing on top of the mountain and seeing the gorgeous views.  During the trip, I also learnt much more about how the aboriginal people live their lives in the mountains. Their culture is incredible. They are experts at utilizing all the natural resources out there in the mountains and rocks. In fact, the aboriginal people in Australia is one the earliest human civilizations on earth. Their stories warned me to not take nature for granted, and to protect our mother earth and all the ancient cultures that are endangered. The last night of my road trip, we slept in our swags near the camp fire lying under the sky. Until you see it with your own eyes, you will never know the beauty of the sky at night in the wild. The stars on that dark night were like diamonds. They were all positioned at random spots, without a single pattern, but together they were nature’s piece of artwork. The dark night and shinning stars created the best contrast of color. That night was also my first time seeing shooting stars, and you would not believe me if I told you that I saw three shooting stars. The shooting stars flew by so fast, just like how time was gone before I even noticed during my exchange trip. Even so, I still made three wishes within those few seconds. They were the best seconds of my life, yet it felt so long, because thousands of thoughts went through my mind within the blink of an eye. I will never forget that night, the camp fire, and those shooting stars.Now, I am on the airplane writing this exchange blog. A few minutes ago, I finished reading the flag that all my friends signed before I left and a letter from my exchange. I have no words to describe my feelings right now. I knew that this exchange trip was going to end, but not this soon. Reading all the words and sentences on my Australian flag, moments and images went through my mind – they were faces of all my friends at St Philips’ and all the memorable moments that we share. I will forever remember this exchange trip. Even though my time here already has come to an end, the friendships that I’ve gained during this month will long last in my heart. With a last thank you to every single person that I’ve met in Australia, this exchange blog has come to its end.