It hasn’t been long since I’ve arrived in Launceston, but I’ve already fallen into the rhythm of things as living with the O’Loughlins has come naturally to me. Knowing my Exchange, Caoilainn, beforehand has really helped me get rid of any feelings of homesickness. I started my experience off by losing my luggage in Launceston’s tiny airport, which I fortunately got back on the same day. I never realized how small the town was until my host family actually knew and greeted some strangers at the airport. I spent a week in Shanghai before going on exchange, so it was such a stark contrast traveling from humid 100+ degree weather to Tasmania’s cold winter time. Thin tights and thermal undershirts hidden under my uniform have become second skin. The weekend before school began, I got the chance to go a nearby beach, grab coffee with Caoilainn’s friends in the morning, and get my uniform. With this, I wasn’t anxious or nervous about starting school.
- The school doesn’t take action in gathering the Exchanges. There are ten or more Exchanges here and I haven’t seen or spoken to most of them. For example, I headed straight to Agriculture class and made cheese on my first day, so the Exchange program is very student led.
- As Scotch Oakburn is co-ed, almost every table is scattered with both girls and boys. It’s unusual for there to just be an all-girl friendship group or vice versa.
- School rules: We have to bring our own lunch and we’re not allowed to bring backpacks to class. We have to wear blazers to an assembly and going into town. My scalp hurts from tying my hair up every day.
- Since the school is Pre-K to Year 12, students here have known each other for years.
- Buildings in Launceston get up to less than 3 floors.
- Recess and lunch is spent on drama and gossip.
- Everyone here is a year older than people back home. Caoilainn is in Year 11; according to my age, I’m technically still in Year 10 here. Year 10 and 11 are extremely different as they follow different regimens, but I’m taking classes from both grades.
- A plus about having an older Exchange partner is that we can go into town or to someone’s house after school as everyone here has their own car.
- Everything is a little later here. School starts around 8:45 to 9:00 am. Lunch is at 1:15 pm. School ends at 3:30 pm for everyone.
- I’ve noticed that most of the students here are more independent.
Although I would love to draw more on the similarities and differences between Athenian and Scotch Oakburn College, I also feel compelled to mention how things unraveled mentally and more personally. I’ve definitely relied on some advice given from friends and family that has helped me get through my first week:
- Given that I’m just beginning my second week, I’ve learned to work at my own pace. “Don’t expect to find instant connection and continue meeting new people and take things in, but never disengage.”
- I have wondered why it was so hard connecting to others here as we have no middle ground. There is less diversity than Athenian, so was it my race? Was it because I was too quiet? I admit I have thought that those questions were to blame. However, it all comes down to personality. In my short experience being here so far, being more outgoing and easygoing really helps.
- I know that I can’t expect others to initiate conversation, but it is still hard to join in a conversation where they’re talk about people I don’t know.
As Launceston is such a small town, everyone lives less than ten minutes away from each other. So while it is at times difficult to connect with others at school, meeting new people and going on spontaneous coffee breaks after school is an insane amount of fun. For the next few weeks, we have planned to go to an Australian football (AFL) game, an overnight trip to the east coast, and an excursion to an art museum in Hobart–-all of which I’m super excited for and looking forward to.
Kaitlyn Chin’s Last Weeks in Tasmania
I really don’t know where to start. These final weeks in Launceston have been a blur. I’ve had my highs and my lows during Exchange. The saying “it will get better with time” applied to my experience at school. I admit I didn’t feel the most comfortable with the friends of my exchange partner Caoilainn, as they were two years older than me and talked about people I didn’t know. During the last few weeks, however, I branched out and found my own friends. Not only did I get to know more people, I have come to realize that talking and initiating conversation has gotten much easier for me.
Unfortunately, during the final few days of Exchange, I ended up getting the worst fever. I stayed home from school on Monday and I ended up having to leave early school on my last day. However, I was always surrounded by the most caring host parents and friends.
- Being featured in Launceston’s local newspaper, The Examiner
- Reading and playing with the most precious three-year-olds who were apart of Scotch Oakburn’s early learning program – This was through my Working with Children class. My classmates had to drag me out of the early learning classroom.
- Going to the east coast – My host family took me on an overnight trip to Freycinet National Park. If you simply search ‘Tasmania’ on Google, pictures of the beautiful coast automatically pop up. We hiked up to the gorgeous Wineglass Bay outlook and hit Bicheno Beach.
- Going to the famous MONA art museum in Hobart as an art class excursion – This museum is known to be extremely controversial, as they took on the theme of “Death and Sex.”
- Fun fact: Launceston is in the North of Tasmania and Hobart is in the South. Driving from Launceston to Hobart took two hours, which really shows how small this state is.
- Tasmania is made up of lots of farmland. I first went to a dairy farm with my agriculture class and saw many baby calves. My second trip was with Caoilainn’s rowing team. They hold an annual fundraiser selling sheep poo as fertilizer, so I had the pleasure of shoveling and packing sheep feces for the day.
- Getting the biggest burgers and waffle fries from food trucks at night in the pouring rain
- Dying at Caoilainn’s crossfit sessions
- Local raspberry farm
- Passion fruit
- Going to an official AFL [Australian Football League] game – They only play in Tasmania three times each year.
- Making spontaneous trips after school: grabbing coffee and cake at nearby cafe, walking to a local park, taking the bus to go shop downtown
- Winning Scotch Oakburn’s annual Singing Carnival and War Cry with the Fox House
- I have my host family’s contact forever saved on my phone as “Australian Dad” and “Australian Mom”
Before coming on Exchange, some people asked me, “Why did you pick Australia?” The answer to that is still unknown. Australia and America are known to have similar interests. Furthermore, I was nervous about going to a place where there was less diversity. There were moments where I wanted to go home so bad I cried. I was told that some people might think I was a new Chinese boarder who didn’t speak English. With this in mind, I even felt embarrassed talking to some Chinese students in Mandarin because I didn’t want to be stereotyped. These were the moments where I had to step back and think about what I was doing. At the end, I thought “Who cares? I’m on a once in a lifetime experience and I’m doing my best.” I’ve had my difficulties and I’ve grown through them.
To those thinking about going on Exchange– it won’t be easy for some, but it’s truly an amazing experience. I’m so thankful for the lifelong friendships I have made and for having the opportunity to come.