Hello from Down Under!
I have officially been at JCU for two days now, and things are off to a great start. The night I got here, I arrived around 5pm after 36 hours of traveling. My first stop was my dorm office to receive my welcome letter and some information. Upon arriving, the first thing that the lady asked me was, “How ya goin’?” This seems to be a typical greeting in Australia, and is interesting because in the states we say, “How ya doin’?” After telling her that I was relieved to have finally arrived, I ended up eating a little for dinner and then came up to my room and crashed on my bed for 12 hours. Let me tell you, it is a lottt easier to go twelve hours without getting up when you are laying on a bed rather than when you are sitting in an airplane.
My room is on the first floor (one floor above ground level) and is really nice. It has a lot of storage and a very large desk, which will be great for studying. My favorite thing about it is the balcony. I hope to buy a hammock to string across it. It is a bit plain right now on the inside, but I hope to fill the walls with some things over the next few weeks.At breakfast, I met two girls: Sara from Switzerland and Uli from Austria. They are both working on their master’s degrees and will be here for one and a half years. I made plans with Sara to go to the shopping center after lunch, much to my relief because I really wanted to buy some bed sheets, a pillow, and most of all a bath towel.
I spent my morning getting my JCU Student ID Card, figuring out my class schedule (it isn’t finalized yet as I have a “clash” between two of the classes that I want to take), and finally getting connected to Wi-Fi so that I could tell my parents and grandparents that I had arrived to JCU okay.
Then after lunch, Sara and I rode the bus to the Stockland shopping center. As we climbed onto the bus, the driver asked me, “How ya goin’?” And when we checked out at stores, the cashiers asked us, “How ya goin’?” While shopping, I quickly confirmed what other people told me about Australia- things cost a lot more here, sometime twice as much compared to the states. I did get most of the things on my list, though, which is great. The most expensive thing that I bought was just one fitted sheet for my bed, it cost $30 alone and was the cheapest one that I could find!
After returning to campus, my next mission for the day was to go find a wallaby or kangaroo. After walking around campus for about an hour, I saw a road sign warning that there are kangaroos for the next 500 meters. I figured that I was looking around in the right spot. Then, off into the distance by Rotary International House, another dorm on campus, I saw two wallabies! I tried walking closer, as quietly as I could, and got within a decent distance before they turned around and bounced off into the distance. It was adorable and I can’t wait to see them more along with kangaroos! Now I understand a bit more when people come to Oregon and get very excited when they see deer and elk. They are the equivalent to wallabies and kangaroos in AU; locals are used to them and tourists gawk at them.As I walked back towards my dorm for dinner, the sun was beginning to set on my first day in Australia. I am still pinching myself to make sure that this is real. I still can’t believe it.
This morning, I had breakfast with Sara and Uli again, plus Milan, the one other OSU student who is studying at JCU this term. We met previously in the states, and were excited to meet again this morning. For breakfast, I have been eating toast and fruit. I wish they made eggs and other hot things, but so far, they haven’t.Milan and I spent the entire time from breakfast to lunch walking around campus exploring. We found a lot of outdoor study areas and buildings that we will have classes in. We also checked out the gym and pool. Then, we stumbled upon a path that someone told me about yesterday morning that leads up to the top of a hill and has a view of the ocean. We hiked all the way to the top and could really feel the sun. Far off in the distance we could see the ocean. It was nice, but honestly, I thought that the ocean was going to be a lot closer. I am spoiled living so crazy close to it in Astoria.
Next, Milan and I walked to the other end of campus to take the photo that every JCU international student has to take in front of the big JCU sign. I truly love these photos a lot and looking at them is what makes me realize that I am seriously, 100 % without a doubt, actually here right now.Then, it was back to the dorm for lunch. This is when we met Isa from Ecuador and Anabel from Germany. I had already told Milan that I would take her to the shopping center, just like Sara took me the day before and when I invited Isa and Anabel, they were both relieved as well. So, off we all four went to the mall for the next few hours. We walked and shopped and walked… and walked some more. I bought a few more things that I did not find yesterday.
Then we caught the 4:30pm bus back to campus. With our student ID cards, we get to ride the bus for half the price. So, a round trip bus fare from campus to the shopping center is $2.80AUD.
So far, the food here at JCU has been so much better than dorm food at OSU. It seems much healthier and tastes a lot better. I am really enjoying not having to cook for myself at all like I did last year when I lived in my apartment in Corvallis.We all had a really great time chatting at dinner. At the end, Sara shared some delicious chocolates with us that she brought from Switzerland. She said that she needed help eating them because the date said they would expire next week. She worked in a chocolate shop in Switzerland that seriously looks like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and she could tell us what was inside each chocolate just by looking at its outside- no cheater map required for her. I think that she has some sort of chocolate x-ray vision super. power.Since we are all studying marine biology, we spent our evening at an on-campus showing of Netflix’s brand-new must-see documentary “Chasing Corals” that was just released 24 hours ago. If you want to know why I am studying marine biology in Australia, go watch this documentary. If you want to see amazing underwater cinematography, go watch this documentary. If you do not think that climate change is real, or if you think it is a natural cycle, go watch this documentary. If you have a Netflix account or know someone who does, go watch this documentary. Seriously. You need to watch it. I remember once when I was very young and told someone that I wanted to go scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef, their reply was that I would be lucky if it was still around by the time I made it here. And sadly, they were right. I am lucky that the reef is still here, because at the rate it is dying, it will be gone in a few years. It is up to humans to change that terrifying trend. After screening the documentary, there was a Q and A panel discussion with one of the scientists from Chasing Corals who is the world’s leading coral expert and two other local experts on climate change’s effect on corals. Classes have not even begun here yet at JCU and I am already learning from the world’s best marine scientists. It was pretty amazing.
However, it was also hard to hear about the desperate state and to see footage with my own eyes of coral rapidly dying in the reef that I have always dreamed about. It is even harder knowing that this is happening word-wide. After watching this movie, I must say, I am not “goin’” so good, and neither is the reef. We must step up immediately as humans who care about our planet. The oceans literally support life on Earth. I cannot say it plainly enough. If entire ecosystems are being wiped out in our oceans, it is only a matter of time before ecosystems are wiped out on land as well. Please, take the time to watch Chasing Corals and open your mind, eyes, and heart to this crisis that our lives literally depend on resolving. We all have an individual duty to fulfill. Ask yourself how you can change the way that the corals are goin’. Because if you don’t, they will be goin’, goin’, gone before we know it.