Living in Australia lacks the major adjustment that many other study abroad programs require. Without a language barrier, things seem to run smoothly. I can understand my professors, read my textbooks, and ask for directions. The transit system is easy to understand, and routes for trams, trains, and busses can easily be found online. Although minor differences are present, there is never a cause for concern.
While American university students generally live within fifteen minutes of their campus, many La Trobe University students commute up to two hours. Deciding on a meeting time for group assignments has been an obstacle, seeing that these students only come to campus a few days a week. The testing method also differs from American schools. Rather than grading homework assignments, quizzes, and discussion posts, Australian universities test with an essay (usually 1,000 to 2,000 words), a group project, and a final. It is a little nerve wracking knowing that your grade depends on three assignments. Also, while the exam period is a week at home, Australian students take them over the course of a month. This provides extra time to study, or travel depending on your priorities.
I have made friends in my classes, but most of my friends are other international students. Most of us live in the dorms and actually have a desire to do tourist activities, going to The Great Ocean Road and the Australia Zoo. Also, if you want to see all of Australia, you’re going to have to fly; the country is the same size as the United States. Making friends with other international students provides you with travel buddies!!!! They also come up with little adjustment tips. In Australia, people drive on the left side of the road and sit on the right side of the car. To remember which way to turn, one of the international students always remembers to hug the centre line.
The main differences that I experience daily are:
1. Australians, and everyone else in the world except America and a few Caribbean countries, use Celsius. While I can finally estimate the temperature in Celsius, I always forget to until I see confused stares.
2. At the grocery store, all of the carts are chained together. To remove one of the carts from the line, you must insert a one-dollar coin. You get the coin back when you return the cart; unless you relink the cart at the front-which I did last week.
3. Australians use 5, 10, 20, and 50 cent coins, along with 1 and 2 dollar coins; so my wallet weighs about forty pounds at all times.
4. Cards aren’t taken as often as they are in America. While I use my debit card for everything at home, many stores in Australia either don’t take card, require a minimum amount to use your card (i.e. 20 dollars), or charge an extra fee when paying with a card.
5. Ketchup is called tomato sauce, candies are called lollies, French fries are called chips, and chips are called potato chips.
Some great day trips from La Trobe are:
1. Brighton Beach
2. St. Kilda Beach
3. The Dandenong Ranges
4. Melbourne’s CBD (there are so many shops, malls, cafes, cool graffiti etc.)
And good weekend trips are:
1. Grampians National Park
2. Phillip Island
3. Wilson’s Promontory