So, I have officially been in Australia for a week now and things are going great!
I am fairly settled into my new dorm room and have bought all of the necessities that I did not bring with me from the states. I am learning how to use the buses and am beginning to explore some areas around Townsville. And, I have a fantastic group of international friends from Ecuador, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Norway whom I really enjoy hanging out with.
This week is known on campus as O-week, an Australian abbreviation, of course, for Orientation week. Since Monday, my days have been filled with classes and presentations full of a lot of important and helpful information for both international and local students. Even though Australians speak English, getting used to the Australian phrases and accents has also been part of this week. I like to ask locals what they think of when hear certain American English phrases, as well. For example: “How ya doin’?” in contrast to the local “How ya goin’?” One local replied to me that when I say “How ya doin’?” they think that I am someone from way out in the outback who basically is a country-bumpkin. However, when I asked someone else a couple of days later, they told me that when they hear it, they think it is very formal and makes them think of Britain where someone would more properly say, “How are you doing?”
So, back to this past week. I started off by taking a few more photos with the JCU sign, because you can never have too many photos of you celebrating the fact that you are living your dream, right? I don’t think so either.
Our first day of orientation was just for us international students. There are about 200 new internationals starting this term, which is a lot less than the 700 that arrived in January. After a few hours of filling our brains to the brim with information, we all were about to experience our first Aussie-style barbeque!
Now, if you followed along with my Mexico blogs, then you may know how tired I got of all the hotdogs that my host mother fed me. (You know, because surely all Americans love hotdogs.) I truly had not had a single hotdog since leaving Mexico almost a year ago. Until Monday, that is. But, to make the hotdogs Australian, we had to eat them on slices of white bread, because this is apparently what Aussies do. It was quite funny really. I asked a few locals why they don’t have true hotdog buns, and I hardly got more than shoulder shrugs from anyone about the matter. Growing up in America, we only ate our hotdogs or burgers on sliced bread when we accidently ran out of buns, never because we preferred to. To top our white bread wrapped hotdogs, we had a selection of grilled onions, barbeque sauce, and tomato sauce (ketchup). I chose barbeque sauce and onions. We also got to try Tim-Tams, a very sweet and super Australian biscuit (cookie) and I won this giant mint-chocolate Kit-Kat bar during one of the sessions. I haven’t ever seen a Kit-Kat like it in the states before.
After completing the first step of Australian initiation, we had time to hangout and meet new people. There were also a few club booths for activities on campus to check out. I signed up as a member of the Student Association and bought tickets to attend some fun O-Week trips that the association has planned for the second half of O-Week.
Our second day of orientation had less time sitting and more time exploring, which I much preferred. Those of us who signed up got to go on a couple hour bus-tour through Townsville. Our first stop was the US 5th Air Force Memorial. It marks the place where, during the Battle of the Coral Sea, both American and Australian gunners defended Townsville from Japanese bombers. It was quite special to see both the Australian and American flags flying high together.
Next, we got go watch the beginning of the sunset from the top of Castle Rock, which over looks all of Townville. After getting to see Castle Rock from the bottom a few days ago while I was visiting the Strand, I was very excited to get to view the Strand from above Castle Rock. Viewing Townsville from below sure looked like another postcard perfect view to me, and I am sure that if you visited the same place, you would agree. In the distance you can see Magnetic Island, which I am stoked to be visiting at the end of this week.
Once everyone was gathered back onto the buses, we raced the sunset and got to watch the end of it from the shores of the Ross River close to campus. It was another very pretty view.
The next morning, I wrapped up the orientation sessions by learning how to engage with material, even when it is challenging by drawing this self-portrait without taking my pen off the paper or looking at what I was doing. I also got to see the weekly fruit market that comes to campus. I am looking forward to being able to buy fruit here on campus when I want each week. After orientation was complete, a few of us went to check out another shopping center. We found a Target. I am not sure if I was surprised, or not surprised in the least, that walking around Target made me feel exactly like I was walking around Target in the USA. We also saw this stunning sunset on the bus ride back to campus. It was so hard to get a photo of, and I can’t express enough how much this photo does not even compare to the actual site that it was.
After we got back, I was still feeling really restless from all of the sitting I had done this week. So, I decided to go check out the gym and start my free trial week to see if I like it enough to sign up for the semester. As a warm up, I hiked the hill above campus again and admired the views. In the distance I could see the smoke from the control burns being conducted in the bush to create fire breaks around campus.
By the time I ran back down the mountain, I felt like I had done more of a full leg workout instead of just a warm up. So, once I hit the gym I focused on arms. It sure feels good to be lifting again after taking a few weeks off since leaving OSU.
Over all, the first half of O-Week has been fun, but I know that the fun isreally just beginning. I still have my first night out in Townsville, a visit to the Billabong Sanctuary, and trip to Magnetic Island to look forward to!