Poppy Northing Arrives in Australia
I am currently studying at the New England Girls School (NEGS) in Armidale, NSW Australia. For the first three weeks of my time in Australia, I had the privilege of traveling around the country with my beloved family. We flew into Melbourne, then up to Darwin, across to Cairns, and then back down to meet up with my exchange and her family in Sydney. After spending two days together, I said goodbye to my family and off to my exchange adventure I went. Together, Jenna’s family and I drove four hours north to her house in Port Macquarie, NSW. One night at their house, we had a massive bonfire, and I got to experience an authentic Australian cuisine, sausage sizzle and dough boys (cooked dough with syrup or jam filling). After spending three days in Port, we made another four-hour journey west to Armidale, where I would be spending the next five weeks at school.
Only a few minutes after arriving at the school, I already had people jump to introduce themselves to me. It took two or three days to meet everyone in year-10. I had no trouble remembering the students’ names, just the teachers’. Because we address our teachers at Athenian by their first names, I had to re-adjust to my pre-Athenian ways of addressing teachers by Mr. and Mrs. I still don’t know most of my teachers’ names, to be quite honest, and have to ask Jenna (my exchange companion) their names every day.
NEGS is the most polar-opposite environment to Athenian I have ever found myself in. Although I have relinquished many of the familiar freedoms I have the privilege of having at home, I have quickly learned to appreciate the structure that NEGS offers. Having the same routine every single day minimizes some of the stresses I endure daily back home, such as not having enough time to eat breakfast or dinner and waking up too late for school. When I initially read through all of the boarding student rules, I was rather upset that I would only be let out of the boarding house for two hours every Friday. However, I quickly realized how much fun being in the dorms was and love boarding at NEGS.
The major asset that draws students from all over Australia to NEGS is the incredible equestrian program that the school offers. Nearly every student at NEGS rides horses, which are kept in individual paddocks covering two-thirds of the school. Life at NEGS is catered to those who ride; many students leave during school hours to have riding lessons and the hours of free time are coordinated to work with the students who ride. Personally, I couldn’t imagine waking up at 5:30 every morning to walk 15-20 minutes to feed my horse before breakfast, but for most students this is a daily routine that has been embedded into their school life.
Thus far, I’ve really enjoyed my first two weeks of exchange, and can’t wait for the next four to come.
Poppy Northing says Farewell to the New England Girls School (NEGS)
During the entirety of my six-week exchange in Australia, I didn’t see a single kangaroo. Not one. It wasn’t until the drive down from my exchange’s house to Sydney on the last day of my exchange that I saw a small group of them sitting peacefully on a golf course. I only got a glimpse of them for a split second–a quick infinitesimal blur in comparison to the duration of my exchange. This short anecdote is representative of my exchange experience as a whole. Immediately after I met my host family, preconceptions and expectations I had formed in the months preceding my exchange were proven wrong. My experience was completely different then I had ever imagined. I believe it to have been quite unique compared to some of my peers’. Similarly, one of the most well-known characteristics of Australia is its kangaroos. When I didn’t see them immediately after my plane landed I was in a little bit of shock. At the beginning, I found it a little difficult to converse and bond with my exchange, Jenna. Having seen all of the other exchange buddies at Athenian and seeing how close they were, I simply expected to become best friends with Jenna. Obviously, this isn’t how any relationship is formed. Yet I had that preconceived notion locked in my brain. In the end, Jenna and I have become exceptionally close friends, and saying goodbye to her family earlier today was extremely difficult.
Now, I’m in the middle of my 14-hour plane ride home. I’ve never felt so many conflicting emotions at once. A large part of me already misses all of the friends I’ve made and the school I attended in Australia. Yet, in the back of my mind, I’m really excited to reunite with my family and my American friends. It’s all so surreal. I can’t even believe that I’m already coming home. The six weeks flew by. I feel like I could have stayed at NEGS for so much longer.
Having been on exchange, I feel so much more prepared for life after high school. Having gone to a boarding school, many of my fears surrounding college and leaving home have been confronted. After the first week I was already used to being away from home and living in a dormitory-style accommodation with 55 other girls. I feel much more confident thinking about college now since that aspect of life is a lot less daunting and unknown.
Thank you so much to the Goodfellow family for hosting me. My journey has been unforgettable thanks to you J