Tuesday, July 29, 2008

One more thing!

One more thing I forgot to mention is that two of my classes have multiple lecturers. This is probably the most weird thing for me. Just a different person turns up to lecture every couple of weeks. Okay, that is all.


Now that I am well into my second week of classes I thought it might be time for an update. I wanted to highlight some differences between the way that uni here works and the way it works in the states. First of all, the ages are different. People typically graduate year 12 at 17, and then either go to a trade school, into the work force, or to university. This means that most of my classmates are my age or younger. They also graduate typically in three years, although it varies some, and when they graduate they usually are done with school and can go right into working on what they got their degree in. There is no real 'liberal arts' education, it is pretty much studying what you are going to do, with the occasional elective.

My classes are also different, because the university is so big and because it is just different. With rare exceptions, classes usually have an hour or two of lecture or week, and then smaller meetings for various purposes, like tutorials (tutes) or practicals (pracs-australians abbreviate everything, honestly) where you are able to actually discuss what you learned about in lecture and go into it in more depth, and ask questions. My microeconomics class has something like 400 people in it, but the tutorial is only about 25, so you can see how these sessions would be helpful. Another thing that is different to me, but probably not to some other people, is that I have a class on the 8th floor. This is an absurd idea to me. I have never had to take the elevator to class before.

My classes themselves are moderately interesting. Australian Popular Culture is a lot more in-depth and a lot more intense than I was anticipating, but not in a bad way. Developmental Psychology is a lot lamer than I was anticipating lol. Environment, Sustainability, and Ecotourism is going to be really cool I think. That class is actually quite small, and at the end we will get to go to an actual ecotourist location and perform a full environmental audit on the place. Microeconomics is microeconomics.

I realize in retrospect that this post may not have been that interesting. Sorry for that lol.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I have posted a photo album of my pictures so far (and I kept it down to one album!) on facebook. Those of you who don't have facebook can view the album here:


Also, does anyone know why my 10 Things I Hate About You case doesn't have 10 Things I Hate About You in it? Instead it had Sweeney Todd, which is odd because I don't own Sweeney Todd and I don't think I know anyone who liked it enough to buy it. Also, I watched 10 Things right before I left. Is anyone missing their copy of Sweeney Todd?

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Thought

I just got back from my first lecture of Australian Popular Culture (a class populated almost entirely by American students). One of the introductory slides featured pictures of Crocodile Dundee, a lifeguard sitting on a surfboard, and a picture of Ayers Rock (actually called uluru, nowadays). During my orientation, similar pictures were put up on slides of the way that Australians were conceived abroad, basically as surfing Steve Irwins. And while it is true that that is sort of the joking Australian stereotype, when I got on the plane to come here I wasn't really expecting the people in this country to be like that. I just assumed they would be normal people, when I really got down to the practicality of it. And I think that's probably what most people believe, right? When you picture a stereotype of a person from another country, do you really believe that everyone there is like that, or just that they are people who maybe speak another language or have a different accent? Maybe all of this stuff about how countries are represented abroad doesn't matter as much as we think it does. I do not really believe that Kazakhstan is full of people like Borat (lol).

PS australian funfact: most of the lifeguards here are volunteers.
PPS i got growled at by a bird yesterday. it was scary.
PPPS there was a gecko in my room this morning. actually he is currently MIA so he might still be here somewhere.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

List of Information

Sorry for the lack of updates, but I haven’t felt like I had much to say. This is supposed to be a travel blog, but since I haven’t really been up to much besides waiting for classes to start, I haven’t really had many travel adventures to mention. But here I will assemble a list of some interesting information I have encountered in my days going around Brisbane, my Uni, and the occasional night out. There will likely be more information like this in the future, as it comes to me.

1. There are crumpets in my dining hall. No, seriously. Crumpets.
2. There is an abundance of tropical fruit here (for obvious reasons I guess). Kiwi, pineapple, and passionfruit are commonplace in my dining hall, and I’m pretty sure the filling in my pastry earlier was guava.
3. Australians cannot dance. Now I’m not judging, because neither can I, but it really is funny. Picture a room full of Americans dancing in the way they do when they are kidding around, except picture them all doing it, and being serious.
4. Australians listen to an awful lot of American music, apparently because theirs is too mellow to dance to.
5. One nickname for a redhead is an abbreviation of orangutan (because they are orange): Rang-er.
6. During the song “Eagle Rock” (or something like that) it is traditional for the men to drop their pants. I have no explanation for this.
7. All schools, even public schools, have a uniform in Australia. The uniforms are usually mind-bogglingly ugly. I don’t know who designs them, but you really cannot imagine how ugly they are. Much worse than American school uniforms.
8. They drive on the left side of the road here. This may seem like basic information, but I was certainly surprised.
9. A timtam (which is a chocolate cookie) is ten thousand times better when dipped in a hot beverage and used as a straw for a second (to melt the inside). The whole thing collapses into a blob of melty chocolately amazingness.
10. Junk food is really expensive here. Like a soda from a vending machine is about 3 dollars, and a bag of chips from a vending machine is like 1.50, and candy from a vending machine is even more than that. Apparently this is intended to fight obesity. Also the candy is different. I won’t go into all the different kinds of candy, but I tried something called a ‘musk log’ the other day. The clever among you may have noted that ‘musk’ is like perfume; this candy was like solid, sugary perfume. It was disgusting.
11. Because the city I live in has a giant river running through it, part of the public transportation system is ferries, called the CityCat (or citykitty, as I heard it referred to today). It is really cool.
12. Australian people think University in America is like the TV show “Greek,” at least according to some of the girls in my college. I am glad we are well-represented abroad.

That is all that is coming to mind right now. Uni starts tomorrow, so hopefully I will have more going on with my days and more to say. It has also occurred to me that I will be watching the Olympics from another country, which could potentially be an interesting cross-cultural experience. Finally, pictures in the next post, I promise.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Orientation and Women's College

So I have been busy orientating (well busy might be a little strong). But I have a little bit to report about my College (Women’s College), which is like my dorm, and about the University. Mostly the orientation stuff has been basic stuff you would expect from any orientation, although there was one memorable session about safety in Australia, ie which snakes/spiders/sealife to avoid and how. Other than that I have just been trying to explore campus and learn my way around and finalize my schedule (I’m almost there, thank goodness). Around my college I have met a few other girls, but most won’t move in until Sunday, so it’s pretty empty. My college has a weekly ‘formal dinner,’ where we have to dress up (no jeans, no ‘thongs’ (flipflops)) and put on academic robes (really??). This meal is compulsory (mandatory) and if for some reason I cannot attend, I have to write a letter of apology to the president of the college, Dr. Aitken, who, by the way, is Scottish and very sweet. My college also gets free membership to the gym, which is great. A fun fact about Queensland is that the sun is very strong here. Apparently the hole in the ozone layer, which I always thought of as kind of a hypothetical thing, is actually located above Queensland. When summer comes, if I am outside for any amount of time I am expected to wear spf 30+ no matter what. They have the highest rate of skin cancer in the world here. Two interesting pieces of Australian terminology: When I ask the girls who have already started classes what they have been up to that day, they don’t say they went to class, they say ‘I had Uni’ (as in University). Also I went to the “lolly shop” the other day and bought candy, but it is actually called ‘lollies.’ I didn’t buy lollipops, that is just apparently the word for candy. I think that is about it for now. I start Uni on Monday, but if anything interesting happens before then I will let you know.

PS this whole entry was very grammatically and logistically confusing, so props to anyone who understood everything I said.

Monday, July 14, 2008


Sorry for the complete lack of updates; I had to wait until Monday to get internet in my room, but now that I have it you get three for one because I have been writing blog entries in Word. I have been exploring the campus, which is gigantic and very pretty. There is a lake right in front of my building, with all paths and bridges around it, and birds EVERYWHERE. I need to take a minute to talk about the birds in Australia, because so far they are my favorite thing. They are huge, and there are a ton of different kinds, and because they live on my campus they aren’t exactly shy. There are these huge birds with long, curved beaks that just sit on the empty tables in cafes, and there are ones that look like turkeys (I have been calling them turkeybirds), and I saw a tree full of white birds that looked like parrots or something similar, I think I saw a pelican the other day, and then there are a ton of different kinds of water birds and ducks. They’re everywhere and they make me really happy. I will put up some pictures of them soon. Anyway, the other day I went out to Queen St Mall, which is a huge outdoor mall, like a party in the street, and I bought a cell phone. I am really proud of my cell phone. It is a cute little Samsung, that I went out into the city, on a bus, by myself, to buy with my own money, and I pay for it myself. It is 35 cents for me to send an international text message, so I probably won’t be sending too many, but I can receive them for free so if anyone wants to send one it would make me smile. Similarly I can receive calls for free, but I can’t imagine that anyone wants to call me in Australia, as it is a little expensive. Just in case, my phone number is: 0413 906 398. You also need to do 0011 and the country code, but I don’t know Australia’s country code. I also went out to the South Bank today to a little market (kind of like Eastern Market, for DC-ites) where they sold crafts and some local produce and all kinds of things. There’s also a man-made beach there, and a playhouse, and it looks like a fun place to visit. Brisbane itself is a great city. I love the river curving through everything, and according to my guidebook there is a lot to see. I found a walking-tour in my guidebook that I might go through next weekend (I start orientation today so there won’t be a ton of time). My exciting news for today is that as I was walking around campus aimlessly, someone asked me directions to Wordsmiths and I knew where it was and told them! I was pretty excited.

I will write about orientation soon, but I'll wait to give everyone time to catch up with these three posts.

Moving In

I arrived at my school last night and moved into my dorm, Women’s College. It is, not to be mean, a little on the ghetto side, but it is acceptable, and I have my own room, and they serve three meals a day. We had a very entertaining driver from the airport who told us a lot about the city (she was 72 and quite a character). She told us that we are 10 years into a drought in Brisbane, which according to the sign in my bathroom means we get 3 minutes to shower. THREE MINUTES. But anyway. My room is a little small, but cute (the outlet and my bed are on opposite sides of the room but I am comfortably sitting in my bed with my computer plugged in). Whoever lived here before me was really nice, they left me a $130 hairdryer/straightener set, a bunch of pushpins, and an umbrella. As far as the internet quota, I don’t get much at all but for 10 dollars a month I can get a lot more, so that will be fine. After we put our stuff in our rooms, me and three other Australearn girls went over to Target and bought things we needed (I didn’t realize that I need so much stuff), and it was very productive. Now I am all moved in, and it is very satisfying. One major inconvenience of our dorm is that it is FREEZING. Our rooms have little space heater thingies, but they turn themselves off after 30 minutes. Annoying when you are sleeping. My goals for today are to get myself a cell phone (dreading spending that money) and see if I can familiarize myself with the campus a little bit (it is huge). As a final comment, I know a lot of you were wondering about Australian toilets. So far as I can tell, they don’t spin either direction; the water just kind of pours straight down from the top of the bowl into the bottom. But people tell me when it does spin, it goes the same direction. So there is your report. The toilets also have two flushes, for a lot of water or half water, because of the drought. Actually a lot of things here are good for the environment. All the outlets have switches to be turned off, and I couldn’t find any detergent with phosphates (not that I wanted it, I was just curious).

My address is:

Kate Drake
Women’s College
College Road
St. Lucia Queensland 4067

Australearn Orientation: Reef and Rainforest

So when I first arrived in Australia I was flown to Cairns (pronounced, inexplicably, like “Cans”), which is a very serious tourist city way up north in Australia. Despite being winter, it was reasonably warm there, and we were put in up a nice hostel, six to a room, for the four days we were there. The orientation included three ‘sessions’ that sort of told us what we could expect in Australia, including a lesson in Aussie slang and a detailed description of culture shock and how to get over it. My favorite Aussie slang was the kind that is falling out of use, but it basically says things totally unrelated to what you are trying to say, but that rhymes with it. So to ‘captain cook’ means ‘to have a look.’ It is just absurd and I love it. It also means that as a “yank,” I might be also called a “seppo,” which is an abbreviation of septic tank which rhymes with yank. Get it?

Anyway, during the two full days of our orientation, we went to the rainforest (actually a tourist place called Rainforestation) and the Great Barrier Reef. At Rainforestation we learned about Aboriginal culture, and I got to throw a boomerang and play a didgeridoo (and I actually did it!) (the boomerang was less successful). We also took an Army Duck (truck/boat) around the rainforest and saw a lot of plants designed to kill you, and a few animals too. It was REALLY COOL and our tourguide was hilarious. We also got to have our picture taken holding a koala, and we got to hold a snake, and feed and pet the kangaroos and wallabies, which are like little kangaroos (I didn’t know that). We also saw lizards and a GIANT croc nicknamed ‘jack the ripper’ because he killed 12 of his wives (he now lives alone). We also saw a quoll (?) which was cute, and a wombat, which apparently can break your hand with the hard plate in its butt.

At the Great Barrier Reef we could go snorkeling for free and scuba diving for 70 dollars, and I did both and it was amazing. First of all the water was so clear you could see all the way down to the bottom without even getting out of the boat almost. And there were big fish swimming everywhere around the boat, and snorkeling I saw just as much as I did scuba diving. The corals were so cool and everything was moving and I saw a ton of fish and giant clams and a couple of sting rays. On my dive I saw a sea turtle and I got my picture taken with him he was AWESOME. I’m not sure I can really describe how amazing the reef was in here, so I’ll just stop there. On the ride home it was super choppy, and I got terribly seasick for the first time in my life. I’ve actually pretty much had a stomachache since I got here, between the planes and the boat and my dinner on the first night, which didn’t go down well at all. One last bit about my orientation is that I tried sushi for the first time (nothing with fish in it) and I really enjoyed it. So I hope to find a decent sushi place around my University.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Flight

hi all! I am in the airport right now waiting to get on my (last for a while, thank goodness) flight to my university. I came into Australia three days ago, after almost missing my flight out of San Francisco because American Airlines is incompetent (they didn't even apologize! and who doesn't serve a meal on a 6 hour flight at dinner time? Qantas gave me a meal on a 3 hour flight that only went to 12:30). But anyway, after a mad dash through the airport I wound up getting upgraded to business class, which was pretty sweet for a 14 hour flight. Actually it was unbelievable. My chair folded out to a bed and they gave me all kinds of things like pajamas (??) and playing cards, and they kept coming by to be nice to me and give me things. I rocked out to Mika the whole way, we could listen to the whole album on the plane's entertainment system and it is GREAT. I recommend it. I also watched the bucket list, which was depressing, and the wizard of oz. The downside of almost missing my flight was that my luggage didn't make the transfer, so it was delayed for about a day and a half, but it wasn't too big of a bother because australearn warned us to pack a change of clothes and toiletries in our carryon. Plus, Qantas (who continues to demonstrate ways to be an awesome airline) gave me $100 cash for emergency expenses, which I used to pay for my scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef ($70). I don't really have time to tell that story now, so my Australearn Orientation stories (the reef and the rainforest) will come in my next entry.