Um... It's December. What?

Um… It’s December. What?

They warned us at the beginning of the program how fast the semester would go, well… they were right. I can’t believe that it’s already December and I’ll be on a plane home soon. It’s been an interesting experience, not only being in Australia, but having weekly prompts to reflect back on what happened (through this class). I didn’t realize, but it really made me sit down and think about certain things that I probably wouldn’t have fully grasped, or had to articulate had it not been for the posts.

Since the language is the same, I don’t feel a sense of accomplishment from being able to navigate the culture as much as I would have had it been a different language than English; having said that, without realizing, I’ve made a home here. I am a ‘regular” at the coffee shop down the street, so much so that when I walk in they make my order and I can pay before I get to the counter – essentially skipping the line (something I had never done in New York or even at home in Austin). I made friends not just in the program, but actually from Sydney. I figured out what to avoid and where to go, I became comfortable with the new city and country I had never been to before.

Although at times I missed those back home, my only time of what I would classify as actual homesickness occurred around Thanksgiving. I loved being in Sydney, and traveling to different parts of Australia; every new place had unique things to offer. I think the hardest thing being here though, was getting sick. The doctors misdiagnosed my symptoms (trying to tell me I had meningitis when I in-fact just had a migraine). But once everything was figured out, I had a funny (and ridiculous story) that everyone could laugh at.

I have half a million pictures from all the amazing different places I travelled to, both in Sydney and across the country. After finals week, my final adventure will be to Tasmania, with my older sister. I’m also going to finally get around to doing the Harbor Bridge climb. It’s hard to say what will stick in my mind years from now (besides from the obvious kangaroo selfies), because most often it’s the things we don’t expect, or weren’t considered with as much weight as others. I look forward to going back to the US, and seeing my family, but I am torn, because, I honestly feel like I could do and see so much more in Australia still.

It was interesting to have different city experience, one where there is no unlimited pass (but travel everywhere just costs 2.50 on Sundays), and where the train doesn’t have a stop every three blocks. Seeing Christmas stuff come up in November (but it being 90 degrees) and all of the outdoor events they had were all a uniquely different experience from New York. When living in a city often I don’t do touristy things, because the mentality is it’ll always be there to go see whenever (or the other reasoning might be its full of tourists and you just don’t want to put yourself through that). But it’s good to consider, at least every once in a while, exploring the city as if it won’t be there forever (a point I was acutely aware of throughout the semester in Sydney since I did in-fact have an end date for it). And I know I made that point before in some other post, but it’s a good thing to keep in mind. Good luck with finals everyone – hope y’all had as much fun this semester as I have.

Surviving Australia

Surviving Australia

Travel tip 1: Bored on an airplane? Pick a victim, one that won’t sleep during the flight and mimic everything they do. Watch the same movie, order the same food. Do the ridiculous things they do when they start testing you because they’re suspicious you’re copying them. They will not confront you (probably not at least)… but it’s a great way to remain entertained. Ok, I’m only kidding, bring a book or watch the inflight movie or something instead. On a more serious note, I can’t believe the semester has gone by so fast, but I have honestly loved being here in Australia.

I would definitely recommend it for anyone thinking about studying some place outside of New York. Why? For starters the language is English, so that is one less adjustment you would have to get used to upon you’re arrival (and everyone is really nice here, and ok not everyone, but overall it’s a friendlier atmosphere than New York for sure). Another reason to come (which was honestly probably the biggest reason I came) is when else will you get to come to Australia? It’s a great way to spend an extended period time in a truly amazing country while not having to take a “gap year” and be able to continue your studies. By studying here you not only get the tourist version, but you get cultural context through your classes and the program.

One thing you should know before coming here is that the weather is a little unpredictable. This is obviously not a reason to not come, but it should be taken into consideration when you’re packing (depending on what seasons you’re coming). It never hurts to have a good rain jacket, or some warmer clothes. Also bring a towel, that’s something I didn’t pack that I wound up buying here, and to that end, if you can, try and leave room in your suitcase because I can almost guarantee you’ll leave with more than you came with.

Something I wish I would have done better was planning. While in Australia (if you have the time and budget for it), there are some truly breath-taking places to travel to (the city of Sydney offers a lot in and of itself as well). Especially going into “tourist season” flights and trips get more expensive, so the better organized you are about planning the less you would have to spend. (Blue Mountains and Royal National Park are both nice day trips that are relatively cheap).

Although there is no choice of where to live here, the accommodations are nice. Everyone gets their own room (and bathroom/shower). You live in six-person suites, in an area very near central (which is a main train station). It is also about a 30-40 minute walk to where classes are held (not a bad walk when the weather is nice).

Something to look into while in Sydney (if you’re into food, and let’s be honest… who isn’t?) is the crazy milkshake places they have scattered around. Foodcraft expresso in Erskineville has these things called “tella-ball shakes” – look it up. Some other notable places are XS Expresso and The Missing Piece. Honestly, Australian buzzfeed is always full of great things that are in and around Sydney. Another thing that should be done around Sydney is the walks. Our program took us on the Coogee to Bondi walk during orientation week and it was gorgeous (once again, buzzfeed has a list of recommended walks that are definitely worth checking out). Buy Tim-Tams from the store too… they’re REALLY good, try the different flavors.

Like any abroad situation, you definitely get a lot more out of it if you have local friends. I found mine through the internship I was doing, but the program does a great job of providing you with the resources to find them other ways (although you do have to go put effort in to do this yourself obviously). You are able to join clubs at local universities (and the gym, but the accommodations we are staying in are getting renovated and will soon have a gym, probably in time for the next semester). There’s so much more I could say (that won’t fit in a 600 word blog post), but if anyone has questions or wants to hear more about a particular aspect of my experience I would be more than happy to do so. Anyone heading to Australia I hope you enjoy it as much as I have!

90 Degrees and November

90 Degrees and November

I am sorry for the somewhat depressing “transformation” description that is about to ensue. I wracked my brain for pivotal moments during my time here, and don’t get me wrong, there have been a lot. Culturally, Australia is different than I expected. All I heard before I came here (courtesy  of my friends) was the endless list of creatures with the ability to kill a human several times over. But guess what, I have news for you guys, the majority of the Australian population lives in cities. Cities that are way cleaner than New York. But no that’s not what my post is about. The thing I learned over the past few months (but this week in particular) is that I get home sick. What??? Crazy right??

This seems like an understandable and common thing, but the reason I was surprised was the fact that it was coming from me. From the beginning there were people in the program who “wanted to go home” after not having been away that long, but I was excited and constantly occupied. During regular semester in New York I don’t see my family (because they live in Texas), we skype though. Here we Skype too, but the difference is I go home for Thanksgiving. That doesn’t make sense to do that this year. I don’t get home sick in New York. And I wasn’t home sick here, until it was Thursday and Thanksgiving. I missed it being fall, but I never complain about warm weather, the absence of this holiday was weirdly affecting though.

I woke up Thursday morning and got ready for my internship. As I walked through the 90 degree heat (at only 7 am) it really hit me that its NOVEMBER. ITS NOVEMBER AND ITS 90 degrees. Furthermore, as far as the country is concerned this is just another Thursday. Everyone is pretty aware that thanksgiving is not a thing at all anywhere else in the world (DUH), but it was weird to me that they weren’t even aware of what day it was ( When I went into work one co-worker commented that I looked particularly sad to be there that day, to which I explained why, she was immediately sympathetic, but explaining the significance of the day, which to me is mostly just being with my family, was strange). I think I had just been moving so far forward, constantly occupying myself (looking forward to my next trip), that it didn’t really sink in until that morning, it just felt unnatural, the heat with the month.

People in the program are getting together and making food and essentially we are having our own Thanksgiving. So I guess a less “gloomy” lesson to pull out of this besides homesickness can hit you at the most unexpected times (in my case it was simply unexpected that it happened at all, I mean there’s less than a month left, I made it this far without any twinge of sadness). When you are traveling it is nice to embrace the culture and their traditions (ex. Melbourne cup day that I wrote about in an earlier post), but it is also nice to have a community of people, who like you, are away from their family, traditions, whatever you want to call it, during a time everyone is used to being with them.

Travelling is nice, but so is going home. I’ll be home for Christmas, with plenty of stories to tell from Australia (a lot of them unexpected yet all the more entertaining), but for now I continue to settle back into the unique experience of a Christmas tree lighting while its 90 degrees outside since Thanksgiving has come and gone and I am now able to look forward to my trip to the Great Barrier Reef next week!

Not Walking like a “Sydneysider”

Not Walking like a “Sydneysider”

Although due to technology getting lost is a thing of the past, being on time is an art I have yet to conquer. For our classes (and I’m sure many other global sites have a similar policy) if you are not present in the first five minutes you are marked absent. Once the attendance is submitted the professor can’t change it, and you have to go speak to someone else to see what you can do (because its 2% off your grade every time you’re “absent” which doesn’t seem like much but can add up if you do so habitually). Because of this (and the fact they don’t jaywalk here so it takes longer than google maps says it does to get to Science House) I give a 15 minute buffer when leaving for class. This effort has made me successfully not be “absent”. But, this is when class starts at its normal time.

A few weeks ago we had our second field trip for my Environmental Journalism class. The field trip involved arriving at Circular Quay (where all the ferries leave from) 30 minutes before actual class time (it is also 10 minutes farther than the building we have class in). This shouldn’t have been an issue, we were forewarned repeatedly. The morning of I was feeling particularly lazy and decided I would just take the train to the meeting point (it would be faster). I waltzed over to the train station, only to discover a lack of funds on my OPAL card. As I luck would have it, today was the day my credit card decided to give me grief and I was currently cashless, the result of this being I now had to walk 40 minutes away with 25 minutes to do so.

Now I’ve said this again and again but one of the most frustrating things while walking anywhere here is the fact that everyone waits for the light even if there are no cars in sight (and when you don’t you might be unlucky enough to be seen by a cop and then ticketed). I understand that this is a normal phenomenon pretty much everywhere but New York, but what can I say, that’s how I got used to walking. Another extremely annoying phenomenon (which needs to be understood to fully comprehend my struggle of that morning) is that nationally people in Australia do walk on the left, but for some reason in Sydney that doesn’t happen. What does happen? EVERYONE WALKS EVERYWHERE, down the middle, on both sides, there are hordes of people walking toward you and you don’t know which way to avoid them because there is no “normal” or “proper” way followed here.

Ok now that you heard my rant, back to my dilemma. It was hot, I had jeans on and flip-flops and a heavy backpack with an abnormally large laptop, so it wasn’t ideal conditions to run (having said that I don’t really run even if the conditions are “perfect”, nope, not my thing). I had to make up for the time somehow though, because in this case, if I was late I would miss the whole field trip (because we were getting on a ferry).

As I was walking and saw the sign turn to green for pedestrians I would run (battling the chaos of people headed to work), in order to make it across the street (because a lot of the time from the distance I was if I walked I would have to watch it go from green to flashing, eventually turning back to red right as I reached the intersection). I kept checking the time and the little blue dot on the map that showed me just how screwed I was.  As I approached the dock I could see the whole class collectively waiting. Breathless I grabbed my ferry pass and within 30 seconds of my arrival, we had to board the ferry, perfect timing.  There are so many lessons I could take from this incident, but the principle one is that people certainly waste a lot of precious time waiting for the little man on the light post to turn green.

"Australian Superbowl"

“Australian Superbowl”

It’s not a football game, but as one drunken co-worker explained to me last week, “imagine if the Super Bowl was on a Tuesday, would anyone get anything done?” Although there are some holes in his logic and comparison, his overall point was valid. It is known around Australia as “the race that stops a nation” (please note I in no way came up with this term).

November 3rd 2015: Melbourne Cup Day. A day where in Melbourne it’s a public holiday and everywhere else in the country (Sydney being no exception to this) when you have to work (as I did) you get a half day anyway because they know its futile to try and get anyone to be productive when the main race comes on at three. Some offices (like the one I’m interning at) have additional “prizes” (champagne) for titles like “the best tie” and “best fancy hat (that they had a name for and I forgot)”. They also serve lunch and free booze (of all different varieties) to commemorate this event.

This interesting (and very popular) holiday is full of women dressing as if they are on the way to the race track (with the little fancy hats and everything {I’m sure the hats have a name I just don’t know what that is}). A holiday where the public squares are turned into large scale betting arenas and the races are displayed on a giant TV screen they have set up (no I’m not kidding). A day I just stumbled upon rather than anticipated, but even if I hadn’t known five minutes after I walked into the office, I would have figured it out soon enough from any number of signs walking down the street.

There are some holidays that go by in the world and although we are aware of them we don’t celebrate it (for example Thanksgiving for other countries). And there are other little gems (like the Melbourne cup) that are hard to miss and yet somehow I have (that is unless you’re really into horse racing in which case you’re probably like “Duh, how did you not know about the Melbourne cup??”)

The abroad program was nice enough to try and draw us in by picking our names from a hat and assign them to a horse at random (the person/people with the winning horse would get a prize). I thought it was a cute way to make us aware of the event and get us involved. They also viewed the race at Science House (where our classes are held). With my internship being that day I had a more “typical” experience with the holiday – I was thrown in the deep end.

Around lunch time the office became eerily empty, and at 2:50 I was scooped from my desk and brought to the gathering. Here everyone had their seats taken and their glasses full as the final race was starting soon. Earlier in the day there had been some in-office betting, and those people (the ones with money on the line) were (for obvious reasons) more tense and on the edge of their seat as the bell rang and the gates opened. For most of the race one horse stayed in the lead, and for the last 400 m the winner broke out from the pack.

Prince of Penzance clenched the win, making the jockey (Michelle Payne) the first female jockey to win the world cup, a historic moment in the race’s history. I tried to figure out the odds the horses had to win and which ones were the favorites (before the race) but as I am not well-versed in the subject of horse racing or betting my attempts fell flat. Either way I was truly lucky to be a part of this “authentic Australian experience”.

Bryson's Australia

Bryson’s Australia

The book “In a Sunburned Country” is a charming combination of present observations and historical information (presented in the most entertaining way) and for those who have never been to Australia he makes comparisons with familiar scenes from the US (he does this when he reflects on his childhood). Bill Bryson (the author) talks about his travels through the country (and references to past travels). This was an important reminder, that only being here a semester means I won’t be able to see everything.

Bryson discusses not only his physical environment but his interactions with the locals and how they see themselves and how this reflected in daily life and media. This gives a better, more complete picture of the environments he is traveling through. I think his insight in this regard provides important context that explains some encounters and interactions I’ve had. I have also been fortunate enough for the program staff to be aware we are coming into a new culture and therefore getting an introduction (this doesn’t happen obviously when you come into the country as a tourist and go about exploring on your own, you realize certain things through “showing” without being prepared by “telling”).

I really enjoyed the book and I think a big part of the reason I did (besides his writing style) was I got to “explore” a variety of different places in Australia I will unfortunately not be lucky enough to visit in person this time around (but hey it took him several trips to Sydney before he finally actually saw the city). Bryson’s visits for Australia came about a number of different ways (during the process of writing his books, for certain articles etc.).

It was interesting to hear about his experiences as a large part of Australia is still unknown to me. But I think more interesting than the unknown, is the common experiences we shared. For example Bryson describes the flies, “Flies are of course always irksome, but the Australian variety distinguishes itself with its particular persistence. If an Australian fly wants to be up your nose or in your ear there is no discouraging him. Flick at him as you will and each time he will jump out of range and come straight back. It is simply not possible to deter him” (140). As it gets warm (it’s still been in the 70s and raining…so spring basically) I dread the fly situation getting worse (even in the middle of the city they are terrible). I am also going to Uluru (or Ayer’s Rock as it was called until recently) and I hear the fly situation there is astronomically worse.

An unmistakable feature of Australia is the names you find everywhere. Don’t believe me? Sydney is a normal enough name, but pick up a name and you’ll find a few odd ones scattered around the continent. Bryson does a great job of talking about this tendency when he explains how the capital was named. He lets the reader know that there was a competition and went on to list the candidates, “King O’ Malley, the American-born politician who was the driving force behind federation, wanted to call the new capital Shakespeare. Other suggested names were Myola, Wheatwoolgold, Emu, Eucalypta, Sydmeladperbrisho (the first syllables of the state capitals), Opossum, Gladstone, Thirstyville, Kookaburra, Cromwell, and the ringingly inane Victoria Defendera Defender. In the end, “Canberra” won more or less by default” (86). Wouldn’t it be funny if one of the other names would up “winning”?

This book was great to read having already been in and experienced Australia culturally and just on a day-to-day basis. I also think that it would be a great book to read prior to getting here (just to kind of prepare yourself, because the differences between the US and Australia appear and affect you in unexpected ways), reading it on the plane would even be a good option (in short I recommend the book even if you aren’t coming to Australia, but the experiences you get here are incredible).

City Escape

City Escape

Everyone has their own version of a perfect “great good place”, walking by a bar the other day a friend who goes to NYU Shanghai commented “that looks like the perfect study bar”, because the drinking age is lower in other countries, the culture around bars is different, and the comment struck me as odd (the same way it struck her as odd that I didn’t have a “study bar”).

I am one of the hundreds of thousands of college students that suffer from “I can’t get any work done in my room syndrome”. Because of this when I first get to a place I look around a lot for places I can be productive (because the reality is I still have classes to take while I’m abroad as do we all). During this process I discover other places, places that wouldn’t be meant for studying (at least not for me) but rather just relaxing or hanging out. One place to do this in Australia (which will seem quite obvious) is the beach. There is a major beach culture here. There are some people in the program who can get work done on the beach, but for me it’s a place to just relax.

There are endless options in terms of “which beach to go to” there are more “touristy” “crowded” “well-known” beaches (all three attributes seem to coincide with each other most of the time), and then there are the calmer beaches, the ones harder to get to but worth the travel. The water is absolutely gorgeous regardless of where you end up (a fact that never ceases to amaze me and one that I will miss very much when I leave). Some beaches are a 30 minute bus ride from housing, and others require more time and effort to get to (a train and ferry and at least an hour, probably more most of the time). Along the shore there always seems to be a couple surfers, this is inevitable especially with the weather getting better and it really starting to feel like “summer”. In an effort to seem less vague I want to narrow down the beaches to my “great good place”. It isn’t really a specific beach, but rather a string of beaches connected by a path and bordered with cafes, outdoor gym/ playgrounds and crazy rock formations. I’m talking about the walk from Coogee to Bondi.

The walk is about 5k, doable, with the incentive of a nice swim at the end if the weather is good enough (although Bondi is always crowded so it may not be the best places to stop off and do this at depending on what kind of “beach atmosphere” you like). The beaches along the way are peppered with groups of people, couples and even lone people engaging in a variety of activities – doing their own thing. We were taken here during orientation week and I cannot count how many times I’ve been back since. The waves are calming and there’s always a quiet corner devoid of people if you look enough for it. It’s still in the city (technically), and yet it provides an escape from it. You can go there with friends or solo, to swim or sleep, to exercise or relax. It’s a great good place because it’s what you need it to be, especially with the weather getting better. Normally my “place” is indoors, because the weather in New York sucks sometimes (for long periods of time), but here it’s nice to have that change of pace even if I can only have it for a few months.

Sausage Sizzles

Sausage Sizzles

“Spirit of Place”, I think it’s something Australia has in abundance. There are so many times I’ve learned things that made me question “Is Australia a real country?” – I mean that in the most loving way. Obviously I don’t really question that, but the quirks of the country make me laugh and have brought me endless entertainment. Australia: the country where in 1967 the Prime Minster of the country went for a swim and just never came back (supposedly drowned by a riptide).

I’m not here to talk about food (although if you ever come here kangaroo is on a short list of foods that you need to try and if you ever find yourself near the “Australian Hotel” in the Rocks you should try their “coat of arms” pizza which is half kangaroo and half emu). I’m not here to talk about clothes or architecture (although Sydney could benefit from widening their streets so standing on the sidewalk isn’t an adrenaline rush in and of itself and not to mention there are some pretty cool looking buildings, hence the picture at the beginning: sorry if that was misleading I didn’t have a picture of a hotdog).

One thing the Australians do in style: elections – more specifically their “sausage sizzles”. No I’m not kidding, on Election Day there is one important thing on everyone’s mind (and for most people it isn’t the ballot with the Prime Minister).

Sausage sizzles are a time-honored tradition in Australia. Here voting is compulsory; on Election Day people go to their voting area (schools and other locations where the booths are set up) and vote for the best sausage sizzle, oh and the prime minister. Do you think I’m kidding? the website includes a map, the “history” and other important information.

So how does this have anything to do with style? Simply put Aussies go all out for elections in a way we have never thought of before. It is a part of their culture that’s just… well entertaining and unique (but hey, correct me if I’m wrong and some other country does something like this, I would honestly love to know).

Have I got to experience/ witness this in person? Unfortunately not, a prime minister is elected once every three years (ish). Why the (ish)? Because there can be a vote earlier than that, and a party may call for a vote especially if some significant event that makes them look good occurs – the election just has to happen at least every 3 years. In fact, the whole political atmosphere here is worth a discussion in and of itself, the party is elected not the Prime Minister (just to clarify, because I’ve been saying Prime Minster this whole time but that’s not really how it works) and they can decide to change Prime Minsters when they want (this happened over a month or so ago when Tony Abbott was kicked out of office and replaced by Michael Turnbull – like overnight).

So how do I know about this? The lovely people who conduct “global orientations” felt that it was necessary information to impart on us (and I have to say I agree, and am glad we were informed about this tradition).

Now that you have this key piece of a complex puzzle that goes toward understanding culture, what do you do with this information? One: share it, our global orientations leaders felt that they had to and I felt the same way. Two: join it? No we can’t vote if we are not Australian citizens, but if you happen to be around during an election I think it’d be a great thing to witness. Three: visit the website (I linked it above) just so you know this is real. I was going to talk about the work culture in Australia (but maybe another time), priorities, right?

A different type of tourism

A different type of tourism

How and where we travel is dependent on a lot of things and can change over time. The technologies that allow us to travel faster, farther and more efficiently also affect the environment. Because of this correlation (not just relating to technology associated with travel) our role as tourists also changes. Ecotourism can’t necessarily be considered a “new” concept (in Australia ecotourism began in 1991), but its role and popularity have definitely been developing over the years. 2002 was the international year of ecotourism. Recently a study from “Trends in Ecology and Evolution” questioned whether ecotourism does more harm than good.

The article goes explains that ecotourism sometimes involves animal encounters. Over time the animals get used to human presence and other noises, making them less aware. Their desensitization can make them more vulnerable to predators, and the bigger issue, poachers.  Although there isn’t a lot of evidence to back this up, it is brought up just as “food for thought”. What does this have to do with Australia? Well a big part of their draw for tourists is the unique wildlife and landscapes found here. This is also applicable to New Zealand, and many other areas, but I will just focus on those two. The article I linked above talks about the potential danger of ecotourism, but that is specific to animal encounters. Overall, the effort for the visit to not only be beneficial to the tourist but the environment they are visiting as well is a good one.

A week ago the NYU Sydney program had their “Spring Break”. During this time I visited New Zealand. Most of the things I saw revolved around nature. In fact, the better more established tour groups even had rankings with not only customer feedback, but how environmentally friendly they were. These different classifications emphasized the value of ecotourism the country has. As the environment changes and species become extinct, opportunities become rarer and therefore more valued. One of the stops I did was to Franz Josef glacier. Back in 2008 (after a short hike) people were able to just walk right onto the glacier and get their photos and explore. Fast-forward to 2015 and the glacier has shrunk significantly, this no poses a safety issue when climbing the glacier. Because of this change visitors can only get on the glacier via supervised, guided explorations.

GlacierChangeAustralia poses a bit of a paradox. A lot of their revenue comes from tourists wanting to see the Great Barrier Reef and other natural wonders. On the flip-side of the coin, they are also one of the largest miners of coal. Coal mining involves digging huge holes that, when they are finished mining in the area, are just left. There is a lot of tension between green-activists and coal companies. This was surprising to me because, before I arrived here I always saw Australia as a very nature-loving, safe-haven of protection for all things environment. When someone said Australia I never thought of huge mining pits threatening the reef.

To reiterate: ecotourism is not new. But the amount people participate in it and the value of it is growing. This is due to a number of factors including raised awareness, as well as the effects certain things have on the planet. Although the study above talks about potential harms it does not condemn ecotourism as a practice, but rather suggests that as we learn more it also needs to change and adapt (just like other forms of travel adapt and change over time especially with technology). Ecotourism is a major industry all over Australia, and the way they go about conserving and educating is an interesting process to watch.

A Different Australia

A Different Australia

“Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence” is the recounting of a true story where three young girls find walk back home after being taken from their families. They are brought from northern Australia to Western Australia (near Perth), where they then runaway back home. This is not an attempted summary, but rather background information that is necessary to understanding what this book has to do with travel. The specific type of travel outlined in this book is not so much voluntary is and is nowhere near the conditions we are experiencing today at our prospective study away sites. What this book does however, is put into perspective the long history between the aboriginals and the settlers of Australia. It also outlines native traditions, inclusive of native terms (with a glossary in the back so readers can understand what is being said). It gives an authentic feel to the book and their use of native words never changes even when they are brought to the school (they were able to retain their culture even as they were taken from their parents).

History is often told with one side controlling the narrative. It is important to hear accounts from both sides. This book offers the lesser told side. It is able to do this through an interesting mix of both reflection and facts (presented in the form of historical documents). The book also does a great job in describing the native flora and fauna of Western Australia as well as native traditions and ways of survival. This was put in the book because it was important to understand the conditions the girls faced as well as the methods they used to get back home, but having been a long time after the publication of the book (and even longer time after the actual events occurred) it is also an insight into how the landscape of Australia looked back then and how it has changed. “As they came and settled the people did not abandon their nomadic lifestyles entirely but adapted to one that was semi-nomadic” (Pilkington, 35)

All of this leads to an overarching theme – the history of Australia. The story reflects not only what the children dealt with but how relations between aboriginals and settlers changed over time. “The Nyungar people, and indeed the entire aboriginal population grew to realise what the arrival of the European settlers meant for them: it was the destruction of their traditional society and dispossession of their lands” (Pilkington, 13).   This is important in understanding political issues today because (like in the US) the settlers caused devastation and hard-ship continuing even into today.  What is being done and the modern problems aboriginal communities face better understood in context, the book helps provide this.

Although in the end the children did make it back home (an incredible feat) there were many more children who were removed from their homes under the pretense of ‘helping them’ there are several instances of this through Australian history “stolen generation” “lost generation”. The girls (and many like them) were removed because “The common belief at the time was that part-aboriginal children were more intelligent than their darker relations and should be isolated and trained to be domestic servants” (Pilkington, 40). With this said I think one of the main points or take-away from the book is to inform the readers of a success story, but keep in mind even when they did return home it was still an ongoing issue and the treatment of the aboriginal people did not get better (and could still be improved upon today). And with that another piece of Australian history is better understood and brought forward to help put into focus today’s attitudes, reactions and issues.

Wake up. Participate in life. Sleep. Repeat

Wake up. Participate in life. Sleep. Repeat

Monday: I wake up too early because I forgot to close my blinds the night before. The light starts to leak in around 5:30 and by 6 it’s always too bright to sleep anymore. It isn’t as simple as just closing the blinds and going back to sleep. So I find myself up, at 6 am, with nothing to do. Internet is limited at our housing accommodations so I reluctantly stream Netflix until I have to get ready for class. Google Maps says its takes 30 minutes from where we stay to where our classes are held ( Urbanest to Science House), but with the way people walk here and waiting at lights it’s more like 40-50 minutes. I grab a coffee on the walk up. It’s adding up, but if you factor in the currency conversion it’s still cheaper than New York (depending on what you get).  I get to Science House and take the stairs. I always regret it. Its only four flights, but with a heavy backpack and a coffee in hand it’s just not necessary. I sit through class. We get a 15 minute break sometime in the middle. I take this opportunity to go to the kitchen and get more coffee. When class is over I go to lunch. I don’t stay “on campus” I go back to Urbanest. From then on there’s nothing “routine” about my day. It depends if I’m feeling particularly lazy (I then do nothing) or if I feel like exploring (I then aimlessly walk around the city). There are some in-between options as well but they vary too much to truly explain them.

Tuesday: I wake up too early. Again. I forgot to close my blinds. Again. I don’t have classes today, but I have an internship. I have to be in the office by 8:30 and I actually have to look decent (unlike during class). Some days it’s really exciting (for me at least) and I get to go to court (Oh, by the way my internship is at a law office… that little tid-bit should help clarify things). Other days I’m just going through piles of documents reading, labeling, scanning them. Staring at the tiny corner of my computer screen that dictates life – time – waiting for lunch and after lunch waiting for 5 o clock to come (but hey that’s the reality of the profession it’s not all excitement but legitimate extensive work before a matter even comes close to trial). By the time I get back from work I don’t want to do anything. I eat and veg out; I was productive enough during the day.

Wednesday: I wake up too early. Again. When am I going to learn?? (Spoiler alert: Probably never). Today is my longest day, and knowing this makes the struggle of fully getting up (and not just being awake) even harder. I leave for class early because I walk, always. The train is too expensive and only really worth it when it rains.  The walk is nice, especially earlier when the sidewalks aren’t congested with slow moving masses. I grab coffee on the way up, trying not to go to the same place. Everywhere has good coffee and it doesn’t make sense to me to settle on one if there are so many good options. I struggle to pull the swipe key that gets me in the building out of my backpack. I take the stairs again, I don’t know why. I get to the third floor (which in the US would really be considered the fourth floor) and somehow I’m early. People trickle in and class starts. Between classes I have 5 minutes. It’s around this time I regret not having any food (it wasn’t really a decision not to bring any, and more of me forgetting I should). 3 more hours. I’m done with classes for the day. I go back to Urbanest. My backpack is too big and heavy and needs to be dropped off before I do anything. Also, food, making Urbanest stop numero uno after class.

Thursday: I’m surprised I get out of bed. I still haven’t closed my blinds but not even the light can force me into full consciousness. I have my internship all day (see above detail, it’s a little too repetitive to repeat). After my internship on Thursdays though, I don’t get to go home. I get to walk to Science house and lounge on a bean-bag until it’s time for class to start. This is the latest class I have but it is also the shortest (less than half the time of my other classes). There are only nine of us in the class. It gets dark really early, so when we get out it feels like its 9-10 pm, when in reality its only 7:15. I walk back to Urbanest, unlock my room, face-plant on my bed and don’t move for a solid 30 minutes.

Sprinkle some readings for classes, assignments, skype, city exploration, discovering Australian TV shows, grocery shopping and aimless internet browsing – voilà, my “academic” week in a nutshell (or rather a condensed blog post).

*academic is in quotes because I only detailed the days of the week where I had class and/or an internship

How long has that been there?

How long has that been there?

Headphones in, sunglasses on, avoid everyone on the street and ignore everything as I walk as fast as the crowds allow me toward my destination. This is the way I normally approach getting places. I don’t want your flyers I don’t want to know about the changes to the bus route, I don’t want to sign up for the organization you’re representing I don’t want to know how Jesus can save me. Even when I have the time to take my time I find myself walking fast and ignoring everything as it passes by.

Occasionally I try to take a walk, notice things, and put away my headphones. It always feels uncomfortable at first. I can hear bits of conversation as I walk by, the noises from the cars, the wind blowing past as the buses get extraordinarily close to the sidewalks. It’s the same path I take every day, but it’s foreign to me at a slower pace, without me music pushing me along. I can hear my boots click as I walk, and my rain jacket swish every time I move.

Paying attention more in the evenings the dynamic of the crowds and overall atmosphere changes from what it is during the day. The people on the street are normally more interesting, and with the work rush over everything is slower (although the general pace here is slower than it is in New York anyway). When describing the walk it’s hard to do so without making comparisons to New York, but after this paragraph I will try describing it for what it is and not what it’s not. The city here is quieter than New York. The horns aren’t on a timer needing to blare every five seconds, there isn’t the constant piercing of sirens, and it smells a lot better here. There isn’t trash piled up on the sidewalks nor a trash can on every corner, yet despite the lack of trash cans, it’s cleaner here.

George Street, the main street running down Sydney near me, the one that goes all the way from the dorms to the harbor, is always full of people. During the morning and through the day it is filled with suits. When it rains people take shelter under the awnings and only have to really be exposed when crossing the street. Since not that many people jay-walk here I find crowds huddled under the corner store waiting for the light to turn green so they can run across to the next shelter. People are polite with their umbrellas and make the best effort not to whack me in the face as I stroll past with only a rain jacket.

Daylight savings hasn’t happened yet (it occurs in a week), so it gets dark here relatively early. On my way back from the latest class I have it is already dark. People are in line for the bus (who waits in line for the bus??) and smokers linger as close as they can to the building without actually getting inside (after all even though its “spring” here the weather hasn’t exactly been great). When I am heading back to my dorm I try taking different streets, seeing interesting shops instead of the route I know will get me there the fastest. On one of my strolls I discovered a gelato place that uses liquid nitrogen to make the gelato right when you order it. They have a set menu that they rotate out, and I found it by complete accident. Other times, I head specifically to the botanical garden and walk around noticing the ever changing scenery as different flowers blossom and shrink, even the type of people you see there changes as the day goes on (runners, readers, nappers, tourists, employees). In any case I will continue strolling through Sydney as the weather gets better. It’s easier to slow down when the pace of the city is slower in the first place.

Quay: It's pronounced "key"

Quay: It’s pronounced “key”

Australian, it’s not an official language, but it could be. British English and American English have a distinction between them and the Aussies have made English their own (although it is more aligned with the British version than the American version). We obviously speak the same language but there are interesting phrases and words that just make me stop and question what I heard. Not only that but depending on which part of the country a person is from it is harder or easier to understand what they are saying.

Everything is shortened here. Swimsuits are referred to as “swimmers”, sneakers are “runners”, sunglasses are “sunnies”; even their grocery store “Woolworth” is too long of a name and is just called “woolies”. Some words they shorten aren’t really a shortcut at all, but they are still commonly accepted terms (that I’ve never heard before in my life). They have phrases like “taking the piss” (which is their version of “messing with someone”… not sure I know how to put it in better words than that). The following is an example of how you would use that phrase: “Timmy got attacked by a shark last week, he’s ok though he just punched it and it swam away”, “that can’t be true you’re just taking the piss aren’t  you” (disclaimer: that was not an actual conversation I overheard but I wouldn’t be surprised if it had been). Another phrase used is  “how are you going” (which means how are you doing or how’s it going, but the first time I heard it it threw me off more than I expected it to). It’s weird to feel out of place or confused by a language that you know and grew up speaking.

The accents in the city are evident, but not as heavy as I expected. For this reason it (for the most part) does not get in the way of me understanding the conversation. Apparently the farther away from cities you go and the further into the outback you are the accents become thicker and harder to understand (this is the case even for other Australians). As exciting as an Australian accent is to an American, Australians feel the same way about American accents (at least some of them do). On the first day of my internship a woman I was being introduced to (once she heard I was from the US) excitedly asked me if I “spoke American”, confused I replied “Do I speak American? … What?” at which point she grew more excited (if you haven’t guessed by now she was just talking about my “accent”). It’s never a negative reaction, but it is interesting to get any reaction because I don’t consider myself to have an ‘accent’.

It’s not only the words themselves that are different, but the context they are used in too. The other night I was watching “family feud” (the Australian version of it of course), and I had a hard time guessing what the answers to the questions would be. They were completely different than how an “American” survey would have turned out. I even learned a few new words because of the show – “lollies” (which apparently are essential for a road trip and is also a word not recognized by Microsoft word) are not lollipops as I assumed they were. They are in fact gummy candies like Swedish Fish or gummy worms. In light of this discovery I’ve come up with a new tactic to learn the “Australian way of speaking”, in addition to talking to locals and being aware of the differences, watching Australian TV shows also seems like an effective way to integrate and make myself aware of the differences and similarities in the language (even though it is still English).

....I think it's this way....

….I think it’s this way….

I don’t think getting physically lost in a city is hard to achieve. I think one of the first and most important things to do when entering a new city is to get lost in your surroundings, and just be in that moment; get lost from work and errands and just be completely present in where you are. Kevin Lynch tells us that we are not only participants in a city but objects as well.  We shape the city as much as it shapes us, and how we interact with the city is a big part of that.

In any place we live in we establish routines and routes, these normally form shortly after we arrive in a new place. But how these routes come about can have an interesting story or reason that we don’t often stop to think about. Freshmen year in New York, every time I would leave my dorm I always went right. I didn’t realize I was doing it, but I don’t think I went past 4th Ave for the majority of my first semester. It wasn’t until someone who used to live in the city came to visit and took me to places after 4th Ave that I realized I had been ignoring a big part of the city. Since then I have tried to be more aware of all the parts of the city I know and make an effort to occasionally explore different areas.

Normally when I got to a new city I will take the train/ metro/ subway (whatever you want to call it) to a random stop and just walk around, until I get tired and come upon another stop at which point I figure out how to get back to where I’m staying. In Sydney, because the weather has been decent, and the train is kind of expensive (they don’t have an unlimited pass and the price depends on when you go as well as how far you go, New York has spoiled me I guess), I’ve been walking. This has limited the distance I have gone from around where our dorms are, but I feel like I’ve paid a lot more attention to the little things because of it, the shops, the people, the way the traffic lights work and the way people drive (I could go on and on).

You can’t be lost if you’re not trying to get somewhere and you can’t orient yourself without making a few mistakes first.  One day after class, I just started walking. I wasn’t going anywhere in particular, it was just a nice day and I was done with my classes. I kept walking and after about ten minutes I hit the harbor, and show the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. Before my stroll I hadn’t realized that these two icons of Sydney were literally ten minutes from all of my classes. It still seemed like a different city, place, I’m not sure what to call it. I made realizations like this all week; for example I had taken a long way to a grocery store the first few trips before realizing I could cut my time in half if I just walked down another way

When we go on trips I am starting to recognize the buildings and known when we are close to getting back. When I am walking back from class I know which streets have a strenuous uphill (and therefore I know to avoid them). Seemingly overnight I have solidified where I walk but when I think about it, it was more trial and error than natural ability to navigate (I’m the kind of person who when they have to pick a direction on a whim 9.5 out of 10 times I will pick the wrong way and I will do this with confidence thinking I finally got it right). I think overtime people become jaded about the unique aspects of where they’re living, and I really hope that that won’t happen here and I continue to be excited and surprised by what I find.

Where are all the Kangaroos?

Where are all the Kangaroos?

Hey y’all. Well I can’t believe it but for the next four months I will be studying at NYU’s site in Sydney. After the 3 hours flight from Austin and subsequent layover and 14 hour flight from LAX I was excited to settle into what would be my new home. I grew up in Austin, which was a very friendly environment and when I went started college in New York there was immediately a pretty big change in general attitude and friendliness (from the city and not necessarily the people within the University). It’s nice to be studying in a place a bit like home, in that the general atmosphere is friendly. The program itself, since less people study abroad during fall semester, is only about forty-five people.

Jet-lag. I keep hearing it takes a day for every hour of time difference in order to adjust, and if that’s the case I’m almost fully acclimated. This hasn’t stopped me from waking up abnormally early, although this has its benefits. I’m 14 hours ahead of New York and 15 from my family. I’ve traveled before, but never this far away from home or been away for so long. I’m excited to experience a whole different city/country/continent not only visiting, but really living in it. So for this semester I am taking on the role of the traveler, tourist and resident, the balance of the three should be interesting.

One thing I’ve noticed relatively fast, just from my coffee addiction, is that the coffee culture here is different than I had expected. I can’t seem to be able to order an “Iced coffee” and get the same results as I would in the US. In fact, depending on which coffee shop I go into the results will vary even within the same chain. I’ve gotten coffee with blended Ice, and coffee with Ice cream in it, but coffee with ice in it doesn’t seem to be a known concept. This has been a particularly interesting learning curve in the short time I’ve had here so far. I’ll keep trying as the weather warms up, but I’m not particularly hopeful for the results it will yield.

I am studying international relations, business and law through Gallatin and am fortunate enough to have an internship with a law office while I am in Sydney. I am looking forward to comparing the work environment in the United States to that of Australia and taking what I learn back with me. Why Sydney? When else would I be able to visit Australia and still work toward future goals? Since the seasons are reversed I have arrived at their “winter” (which is equivalent to New York fall weather) and it will only get better from here.  Experience and knowledge are better utilized if one can reflect upon it and use it and apply it in future situations. For this reason, I am particularly excited about this course because it will make me think about what I am seeing and experiencing in different ways (even though traveling itself does that according to the readings). It isn’t just being in a different city, but embracing it that gives the true “abroad” experience everyone is chasing when they take on such a journey (or at least that’s what I believe).

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