Peony Ho is on exchange at New England Girls School in Australia
After 17 hours of travel, I arrived Armidale Airport (a city located midway between Sydney and Brisbane) on April 20. I was picked up by one of the Round Square Coordinators and the Housemother, and then they drove me to the school. NEGS is pretty close to the airport. It only took 5 minutes to reach the school. Once I stepped into the boarding house, the students were so nice and welcoming; they all came to me and introduced themselves. I realized that I am not good at memorizing new names and recognizing new faces. It took me more than a week to exactly know the people around me! The first week was really challenging for me–adapting the new environment and people, and also adjusting the jet lag. Imagine NSW is 17 hours ahead of California, isn’t it crazy?
NEGS is quite different from Athenian. NEGS is a day and boarding girls’ Christian school, and it is situated on a gorgeous 50-hectare campus. It has a mix of old and new heritage listed buildings. The whole school has about 300 students. In Athenian, majority of the students are day students; on the contrary, that’s the minority here. There are 3 boarding houses and each house consists about 50-60 students. As a traditional school, a uniform is a necessity. At first I felt really awkward to have it on, but now I am already used to it. The students in general need 3 uniforms for summer and winter: an everyday-wear uniform, a “walking out” uniform, and a sports uniform. Also, our hair has to be tied up with a hairband that matches our hair color and a navy blue ribbon. Furthermore, teachers are called by a title along with their last name, which makes the atmosphere more formal.
Surprisingly, there aren’t many international students here. Most of the students are from different parts of Australia. Besides me, there are two exchange students from India this term. Divya, on the left hand side, is from the Daly College, and Tiya, on the right hand side, is from the Vivek High School.The classes I am taking now are English, Math, Biology, Geography, PE, Music, Visual Arts, IT, and Christian Studies. Due to the large number of classes, sometimes we do have 6 classes a day. To be honest, that is super tiring. The length of each class is about the same as Athenian, but they don’t have a five-minute break in the middle of long periods!
This is my daily routine:
- 7am Wake up
- 7:45-8:15am Breakfast
- 8:30am Advisory (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only)
- 8:45am Classes begin
- 11-11:15am Morning tea
- 12:05-12:50pm Chapel (Thursdays only)
- 1-1:50pm Lunch
- 3:20pm School day finishes
- 5:45-6:30pm Dinner
- 6:30-8:20pm Study hours
- 9:45pm Lights out
NEGS is famous for its equestrian and they have a professional team. Qualified students will be able to compete in the North West Equestrian Expo, it is best known as Coona. The equestrian center at NEGS covers a large area and has well-facilitated arenas and stables. An equi-skills class is available for interested students. Initially I wanted to join the class so much, but unfortunately, it was full. What a pity!
April 25 is the ANZAC Day–a holiday to commemorate the landing of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) on the Gallipoli Peninsula during World War I in 1915. That day, a lot of schools in Armidale, including us, put on the school uniform in participating the marching. We all paraded along Faulkner Street towards Central Park, where the main commemoration service was held. It was interesting to get to learn about this event as I have never heard of it before.
One weekend I stayed at Hilary’s house. She is my exchange partner and so she will be going to Athenian this coming August!
On Saturday afternoon, she had a netball game at Lynches Road Netball Courts, and so I went with her. She told me that netball is the most popular women’s sport in Australia. It was exciting to cheerlead at the side and was great to see other schools competing in another courts. On the next day,
Hilary and her family brought me to the Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, one of the famous tourist attractions in Armidale. We spent the afternoon there having an enjoyable picnic in the lovely weather. I am glad to spend the time with them because they are such a wonderful family!
In my first few days, I realized the Australians love to spread something on toasts for breakfast and that is the Vegemite. It is a popular spread in Australia made from leftover’s brewers’ yeast extract. Whenever I made new friends here, their very first question would be, “Have you tried any Australian food yet like Vegemite?” So I gave a try one morning. Well… I don’t really like it. It tastes salty, bitter, and malty… just weird to me. Aside from food, Australia is famous for its kangaroos and koalas too. We rarely see them in Armidale, but luckily I saw a bunch of kangaroos on top of a hill one random day. I am still hoping to see koalas!
It’s hard to believe that I’m already halfway through my exchange. I am pleased the fantastic memories I have already made. I am looking forward for another four weeks at NEGS and a week in Sydney afterwards. I hope the best is yet to come!