As university comes to an end and everyone starts to leave students residence to go back home for the summer, I now know how it feels to be that international student who lives on campus throughout summer. Nonetheless, spring is here and temperatures are hitting as high as 35 degrees along with the swarm of flies that constantly follow you wherever you go, and after six months here I have finally seen my first spider: a huntsman, extremely big and venomous looking, but completely harmless. You’re bound to find them everywhere, from the kitchen to one casually crawling along the dashboard as you’re driving (Yes, I nearly crashed my car). However, I thought it would be a good opportunity to reflect on the past couple of months and how different the culture, educational ways and life are compared to back home.
Fortunately it only took me a couple of days to realise that no one really speaks like they do in Crocodile Dundee, nor do they say “G’day”, clearly the perception we have of Australians back home is wrong. Then again the majority of them on hearing my accent automatically think I have an unhealthy obsession with tea (I hate tea) and assume I must go to a Hogwarts-esque university (which isn’t too far from the truth – Main arts is pretty much the welsh version of Hogwarts).
They do however have an unhealthy obsession with shortening nearly every word in the Oxford dictionary and so at times I actually had to question if whatever came out of their mouth was even English. It was only last week that I realised “Arvo” wasn’t actually short for Avocado- thankfully my Australian housemate was on sight to save me before I nearly turned up at a party with an avocado – it is actually just short for ‘afternoon’. Nearly every Australian is lazy with their speech; you’d expect university lecturers to speak properly, but that is not the case. In reality, the education system over here is far more relaxed to what it is at home – in order to gain an extension on your assignment there is no need to fill out a form nor even have a valid reason, they’re far more relaxed which fits in well with the stereotypical ideology of how ‘chilled’ Aussies are. However, it does become a little draining; I attended a class for a whole semester with the lecturer wasting a good hour producing a class register as he kept losing his old one. Nor are they really punctual, being an hour or two late is pretty normal, even in professional settings.
However, the country and the people are one of a kind. I never realised how big Australia really was. I remember asking my housemate if she wanted to do a little roadtrip for a weekend up the east coast, from Melbourne to Cairns and then dug a hole deeper for myself by saying we could ‘pop into Darwin for a couple of hours’ if we had time. She hysterically laughed at me and then actually showed me the distance, it wasn’t just impossible to drive up east coast and back within a weekend – in reality it would probably take a couple of weeks.
However, you’re never short of a beach or hidden waterfall. There are plenty of coastal walks, hikes and beaches just a short drive from wherever you’re staying. Nearly every beach is an intensely beautiful natural amphitheatre complete with miles of long unspoilt stretches of sand. If you’re not a beach person, there are plenty of hikes to do, bushwalking endless trails that lead through fire scarred forests and beneath or up to the summits of stirring rocky outcrops.
Both the country and the people are beautiful; at times it’s so hard to keep your eyes on the road because you’re likely to come across some phenomenal, breath-taking views. And yes, occasionally you will have to emergency break to let a wild koala or Kangaroo pass. I really can’t stress how beautiful Australia is and how photos really don’t do it justice. For example, the Dandenongs ranges- only an hour away from Melbourne – feel a world away from the city. It is the tallest peak and the landscape is a patchwork of exotic and native flora with a lush understory of tree ferns and hidden waterfalls or even a little day trip to Mornington peninsula to try the natural hot-springs, that are ever so relaxing and actually quite cheap, only $25 for a day pass that gives you access to all of the natural hot-springs with complimentary snacks (of course, the food was a winner).
I still have a good 9 months here before I return to England, but I am already dreading my departure and having to say goodbye to some of the most beautiful souls I have met here. They may not speak properly and at times are too relaxed for their own good, but I’ve started to love them and the country dearly.