August 20th 2014
It’s almost my last day of exchange and before I debrief the whole trip, I’ll let you know that saying goodbye to the loved ones at home was one of the hardest things I have done. With some recent attachments back home, I hated thinking that I would be missing my entire summer to a winter in Australia in a town where the only thing known about it was that a paraplegic Olympian was born there. On top of it all, being without my sister Laney for 2 months, scared me. I was regretting why I had decided to embark on this in the first place.
Part of a letter I wrote to myself 6 months before exchange
It is 11:07 AM right now in History class on January 24th and when you read this you will be in Australia or on the plane to Australia. Be happy in Australia and be safe, but make lots of memories and have a new outlook with everything. You can literally recreate yourself entirely. It’s what any human fantasizes about, so make the best of it, because this opportunity won’t come around again.
Making myself a new home
It’s the fourth of many weeks in Australia and I have already come to the conclusion that I couldn’t have picked a friendlier country to spend seven weeks away from home. I arrived during my host schools’ winter break, meaning I had a week of getting to know Melbourne before I hit up the books. The city of Melbourne is a bit like San Francisco in the sense that the streets are filled with music fanatics and coffee shops filled with hipsters drinking chai tea. Although my city by the bay is forever my favorite place, Melbourne has a friendlier vibe. The people here are not only relaxed and down to earth, but they purposely focus on not stressing about the little things that will only hurt their well being in the long run. Being someone who stresses about the tiniest details, I was constantly wondering what was next on the agenda and what I had to bring along with me. Eventually, the excessive questions stopped and I began to catch onto the laid back attitude towards living. After quickly molding myself to this new lifestyle, I stopped waking up and remembering I was in a new place. Home was Australia. Because of my new family and friends, I was just now starting to understand hard it would be to say goodbye to Auzzie land.
I got to do Year 10 camp at Ivanhoe Grammar on August 1st. We kayaked through Gippsland Lake and hiked around the area. All the gear was compacted into little compartments within the kayak. We brought the bare minimal because of the little space in the kayak, but even so, our kayak got heavy with the food and water inside. The days were filled mostly with kayaking and one lunch break. Nights were freezing and we were often miserable, but we I got to bond with these random people making it worthwhile. It was tough to get used to kayaking for a continuous period of time, but it eventually became a routine. During mid-day on Tuesday, we passed through an area of the ocean/lake where hundreds of jelly fish were grouped together. The kayaking continued through that night until we arrived at our destination around 10 pm.
Being on the water after dusk was unreal. No mosquitoes were out and the water looked like a floor of glass. We got lucky with a pinky purple sunset, which was followed by a sky made up entirely of stars. We were far away from civilization so there was no light pollution to interrupt our view. The group would get often get silent and you could catch numerous of us gazing up at the sky while your partner did all the kayaking. I can’t explain in words, nor in pictures how spectacular it was to see what I saw, but my hope is that everyone gets to see nature for how it is without the lights, the people, and the tourism.
We ended the camp at “retreat,” which was time where you could reflect on what you had just done. After being divided into little groups, we discussed those important to us and tried to discuss all these really deep philosophical questions. At the end of the day, we all received letters from our parents. After not being in touch with my family for a couple of weeks, it was emotional to receive some love from them in letter form. The retreat ended with a period of solo. I was set up in the woods far from camp, but close enough to see some kids near my site. I wrote letters to people back at home and filled up most of a journal by the end of the next day. It was a mini-AWE experience and I was lucky to get a feel for my upcoming trip in March.
Exchange high and saying bye
Around week 5, I felt on top of the world and nothing could top what I was doing. As an exchange student, the whole school wants to talk to you and it’s quite a self-esteem boost to be honest J Every new kid I met, I was drilled with the same questions; What famous people have you seen? What ethnicity are you? Do you live in Orange County? Have you tried Vegemite? Do your best Aussie accent. What’s the drinking age again? I picked up some Aussie slang and soon enough I sounded like one of them.
After school consisted of milk bar runs and afternoon tea. Tea became a vital part of living in Melbourne. My host and her sister were perfect. We became best friends the first week over similar interests and I was surprised by how similar we were. I got a little too comfortable with them, and when Bertie wasn’t by my side, I missed her presence. I forgot she was my host most of the time because it began to feel like I had known her for years. That’s best part of exchange, the fast-paced transition you have to make into the culture forces a sort of closeness with your new friends. By being “forced” into a new lifestyle, you quickly make these really close friends and you grow to love the town, the buildings, and the school. From running through parks at night to kayaking through lakes, they made the exchange unforgettably perfect. It makes leaving Australia so hard. Fortunately I have planned a trip back where I’ll be able to live it up with these fools again. I refuse to think that I won’t be coming back considering Australia is now a new home. It makes the world seem a whole lot smaller when you hold an emotional connection with some of its countries.
A quick guide to some Melbourne Slang
- Razz: Flirt
- Oi: Hey (condescending tone)
- Bathers: Bathing suit
- Bikkie: Biscuit
- Jumper: Sweatshirt
- Thongs: Flip flips
- Goonsack: Flask
- Capsicum: Bell pepper
- Far out: wow awesome
- Keen: like
- Grouse: Nice
- Oath: Yes
- Macca’s: McDonalds
- Good on ya: Good job
Highlights of the trip in chronological order
- Visiting the Victoria markets: a hipster market that sold heaps of random food and little trinkets. Based in an old fashioned parking garage.
- Going to the tallest tower in Melbourne city: Eureka tower gives you the best view of Victoria.
- Going to Sorrento Beach: A luxurious beach town with a nice beach where the water is really blue.
- The national gallery of art
- A Dirty Three concert
- Having a wood fireplace at home
- Watching the Men’s Varsity soccer win the finals.
- Getting to miss the friends at home: I appreciated them 10x more than I usually do.
- Passion fruit soda
- Having amazing coffee each morning
- The French fries
- Going to Sydney for a weekend: Bertie and her dad and I flew to Sydney for a weekend. The bridge and Opera House are prettier than they are in photos.
- Camp: See camp entry for details.
- Solo: ^
- A frozen yogurt store called Frozen
- Fireworks in the park
- Getting an Australian flag signed by all your mates
- Reuniting with some family friends in the same time I lived in
- Going to Alice Springs and seeing a friend whom was a previous exchange at Athenian.
- Having a one on one with some wallabies
- Visiting the beautiful national park of Alice Springs
Random thoughts that were written down throughout the trip in a little journal
- Shouldn’t have gone through customs in Sydney because they said I didn’t need to and I missed my flight.
- The sky on the plane makes it look like I am right next to a star.
- When I get home, I want quickly (a bubble tea).
- I want Takis as well
- I miss Laney
- The weather reminds me of London
- Didn’t think I would miss Athenian’s campus
- My bed here is comfier than the one in Cali
- The Asian food here is unreal
- Australia knows what music is good
- I broke my phone and now the touch screen is dead. (I might as well just break this thing because it wouldn’t make a difference.)
- I kind of like cats now
- I’m on solo right now and it smells like nail polish remover. (The kid near my site is making a tree fort with bark.)
- People here look older than they are.
- It’s so cool how people get around on Ferry in Sydney.
- I didn’t know people hated Tony Abott.
- Fede (the sister) is funny.
- In Melbourne, no one is ever in a rush.
- I wish I lived near the dessert like Alice Springs.
- I miss Laney