I guess you could say adjusting from a school of 4,000 students, where a walk to class is no more than 10 minutes, to a school with 37,000 students, where I must catch the public bus for a 10-minute drive to campus from my dorm, has been a bit different.
Nonetheless, it has been an adventurous experience thus far.
My favorite part has been submersing myself in the Australian culture and picking up the little things they say or do.
Studying abroad was something I had always wanted to do, but the thought of being away never really hit me until I was saying goodbye to my mom in the airport and about to board my flight.
I had no idea what to expect for any aspect of this journey.
Let me tell you, although things seemed very similar, in actuality, they are all very different.
To start, the people here are always nice and welcoming.
There isn’t a day where someone doesn’t pass me walking on the street, see me in public or on the public transportation, where my presence is not acknowledged.
I love that about the people, because they make me feel so comfortable here.
Next, there are many slang terms.
I learn at least two new ones a day. There isn’t a language barrier, but there are different terms used here. I’ll include a list.
1. “Keen” means you’re down to do something. “I’m keen to go to the beach this weekend.”
2. “Heaps” means a lot. “I got heaps of homework to do this weekend.”
3. “Chewy” is a piece of gum.
4. “Lift” is the elevator.
5. “Transpo” is the public transportation.
6. “Trolley” is a shopping cart in the store.
7. Stores are called “shops.”
8. “Chemist” is the pharmacy.
9. “Boot” is the trunk of the car.
10. “Tomato sauce” is ketchup.
While this is a small list, it shows how even little things differentiate Australia from home.
Some other things that I have noticed are very cultural.
There is no tipping here.
You don’t tip employees at a restaurant, cab drivers, tattoo artists, or anyone.
This is because their wages are so high, that tipping is never even thought of.
I have heard that the usual pay rate is $30 AUD, even though the minimum wage is about $17 AUD.
Also, since their steering wheel is on the opposite side of the car and they drive on the left side of the road, you should follow that when you walk too.
You need to walk on the left or else you will stick out like a sore thumb or get bodied by whomever you’re walking past.
Their degrees are in Celsius, time is in military and the date is written dd/mm/yy.
If you need the bathroom, you ask for the toilet.
Fries are chips, so if you order chips and guac, expect some French fries and a weird look from whoever takes your order (I did this once).
Cars will not yield for pedestrians, ever. You need to make sure you’re in a crosswalk and wait for the light to tell you it is safe to walk.
In Australian restaurants, you aren’t usually waited on.
You will order food at the bar and they will either bring it out to you after or give you a buzzer.
Rotaries are everywhere, at least every few feet on main roads, and there are very few traffic lights.
They also love and mock the American accent, and since they grew up listening to American music and watching American movies, they are usually good at it.
In the three short weeks that feel like a lifetime that I have been here, this is what I have been able to pick up on, and I can’t wait to continue to observe each day and pick up on everything I can.
Everything seems so simple here.
I live in a first-year dorm, but most of them are my age anyways because gap years are huge here, so almost everyone takes a year off and travels before they come to Uni.
My floor has six Americans and 14 Australians, so it leaves a lot of room for all of us to learn about each other.
The beach is right next to my dorm, so trips there are endless.
At the beach though, you must be careful.
The waves here are not like home.
The undertow (riptide) is very strong and you can easily be taken out.
To get to campus, I must walk to the bus stop, catch the bus I need (55A) and take the 10-minute ride.
Classes run differently here than at Keene State.
Your class will have a lecture that meets once a week with 100+ students for an hour or two, then you have a practical or tutorial breakdown of the subject with about 20 other students once a week for two or three hours.
I think the academics have been the biggest adjustment so far.
They are so much more in depth and formulated differently.
While it is all stressful and confusing, I think that is the beauty of studying abroad.
I’m learning every day, in class, out experiencing, with my floormates and even just about myself.
I am so fortunate and grateful to have this experience, and it is something I would strongly advise anyone to dive into. I never knew it was possible to be this happy.
Although missing home is hard and being away is as well, I know I will never regret this experience and it will be something I reflect on for the rest of my life.
With plans to go up the Gold Coast to visit Bond University, to explore and to see Byron Bay, followed by a trip to Cairns to snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef, and then my mom coming shortly thereafter, I know this semester is going to fly by. I plan to enjoy every moment and take nothing for granted. As for everyone at Keene State, I’ll see you soon mates.
Deven Freihofer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org