Orientation Week

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July 26th, 2014

Adelaide, Australia

This past week has been orientation week for all international and exchange students.  I’ve learned so much about other cultures. I’ve made friends with different international students that come from around the globe, including people from Singapore, China, Chile, Japan, Korea, Norway, Germany, India, and of course Australia. Here are a few pictures of some of my international peers.

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International Friends

In talking with study abroad and exchange students, I have been exposed to a variety of cultural habits. It has been somewhat shocking to realize how dissimilar many customs and everyday actions are depending on where you live.

  • In Chile, people give each other a kiss when meeting for the first time. This is similar to how the French greet eat other.
  • The temperature is measured in Celcius in most other places around the world.
  • In Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and many other countries that were former British colonies, people drive on the left side of the road.
  • The U.S. spells many words differently, such as “center” versus the Australian “centre”. We have many other spelling variations as well, such as “license” versus “licence”, and “organize” versus “organise”.
  • The U.S. is one of the few countries that use Imperial units instead of the metric system.
  • Drinking is an integral part of the college lifestyle in Australia. Since the drinking age is 18, booze is a part of many social events at the university. Back home, most of the alcohol is reserved for frat parties, private parties, and college events that are open to the community.

When I first came to Australia, I believed it would be a lot easier for me to adapt and less cultural roadblocks to overcome since I came from a developed, English-speaking country. However, I have found that is not the case, since the U.S. does many things differently than the rest of the world. Trying to convert weather reports from Celcius to Fahrenheit has been frustrating, while most of the other students are already used to Celcius. Analyzing weight and volume has also been a challenge, since the U.S. uses many imperial units such as pounds, miles, feet, and gallons. When I try to describe the height of our mountains or the weight of a gallon of milk, it doesn’t make sense to others unless I convert everything to the metric system. Shopping has also been difficult, since unit prices are per kilogram or per one hundred grams. I am always unsure of what my prices will be for fruits and vegetables because I cannot estimate the weight of the food I’ve chosen. All of these differences between the U.S. units and Australian units have been the biggest challenge for me, especially since many international students are already used to the metric system.

After realizing how different the U.S. is from the rest of the world, it made me wonder why we are so different. My initial belief is that it stems from our isolation from much of the world, since we have only two neighboring countries and ocean separates us from Europe and Asia. We also were free from British rule earlier than many other countries, and had time to develop our own customs and traditions. However, these are just my preliminary thoughts, and I am curious to see how my beliefs change throughout this exchange program.

From down under,

Michelle

Arrival – Initial Thoughts and Observations

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July 20th, 2014

Adelaide, Australia

Welcome Sign at Airport

Although I have only just arrived, there is quite a lot I have learned.

On the way to Sydney, I happened to be sitting by an Australian named Thomas. He was around my age and was attending the University of Wollongong. We chatted for a while on the plane and I learned some differences between Australia and the United States. After landing, I also talked with the driver who picked me up from the airport who explained some of the differences between the two countries. Here are some first of my first lessons and observations:

  • Australians don’t really put Vegemite on everything. They use it similarly to how we use jam, such as spreading butter on toast, followed by a thin layer of Vegemite.
  • Don’t say croikey. Australians don’t really say that and they may get annoyed if you use it a lot.
  • Compared to the United States, there are very few disclaimers. I told Thomas about the story of the woman who successfully sued McDonalds because she spilled hot coffee on her lap and he was extremely surprised. He told me that if a case like that even made it to High Court in Australia, they would basically tell the woman to stop being stupid.
  • I am extremely bad at discerning the difference between Australian accents and British accents. They sound one and the same to me.
  • Australians drive on the left side of the road while we drive on the right. Also, in the U.S. we can turn right at red lights if there are no cars coming. However, in Australia you cannot go at a red light at all, unless there is a sign that specifically tells you that you can. According to Thomas, these signs are very rare.
  • There is very little snow in Australia. The idea of snow falling in a major city is absurd to them.
  • The drink sizes are much smaller. I would compare the regular size to a generic foam coffee cup in the U.S. Their large size is around our small or medium size. I described the shape of large cups to Thomas, with the smaller bottom to fit in cupholders and the much larger upper half. He was baffled by the idea that people actually order a drink that large.
  • Australians often call trash “rubbish”, or occasionally “garbage”. I am curious if I will get weird looks when I call something trash.

These are all things I learned just from the plane ride and drive to my apartment. I know there will be many more learning experiences to come. Expect a post later this week as I adjust to living in Adelaide.

Sincerely,

Michelle

Pre-Departure

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July 10th, 2014

Arvada, CO, USA

It is crazy to believe that in one week, I will be on my way to Australia. I am extremely excited for this opportunity, and curious to see what changes I will see in my life from the experience.

One major thing I am interested to see is how different the day to day interactions will be. Are people more laid back in Australia? Do they laugh as easily and as often as Americans? Are Australians more polite? I hope I don’t stick out too much, and if I do I’ll just retreat to the great outdoors. After all, I’ll be Australia!

The geography of this country is one reason I am so psyched to go there. A visit to the Great Barrier Reef is on my bucket list, and I plan to go to a lot of national parks. When I’m stuck in the city, I’ll also be exploring and training parkour. Maybe I’ll find people as crazy as  me who want to join in!

Now although I admit I do some hair-raising things, especially when I’m training parkour or rock climbing, I am not known for trying weird new foods. It’s not that I am against new food, but I just don’t search for it. However, in Australia I want to encounter lots of new local dishes that I actually enjoy, though I’m sure there will be a few that I just can’t stomach.

Finally, on a more serious note, I am excited for all the new people I will meet. I’ve never traveled outside of the United States before, so I have not been exposed to many world views that are not American. Thus, I look forward to getting involved with the international student community in Australia and learning about the world through their eyes. I want to challenge my beliefs and learn to see and appreciate those around me not as Australians, Americans, or another nationality, but as fellow humans.

Until next time,

Michelle