Saturday, October 30, 2010

Studying at Swinburne

Swinburne University Campus

This past week proved to be uneventful in terms of exploring but very eventful in terms of schoolwork. Next week is already the last week of classes for the semester. Needless to say there is a great deal of papers or projects due in the coming weeks. Final papers range anywhere from 2,000-3,500 words and are nothing extremely difficult or different from writing a paper at Drexel. Despite this, it seems to be much more difficult here to focus. I think everyone has been so used to travelling or exploring (when not in class) that sitting down to write a paper seems so uneventful and dull in comparison. What also is unusual is that for every class I am taking, there are 2 or 3 grades total for the entire semester. There is a midterm, final, and occasionally another small assignment. Work comes in waves; on a normal week to week basis, our responsibilities are to go to class. Then once midterms start you are hit with work all at once. It is very strange because I am not really stressed about my assignments, which is very different from when I am at Drexel. I think it really is reflective of the attitude of students here as well as the professors. My philosophy professor was describing the requirements for our final paper and what he was hoping to see in our papers. A student raised the question about the due date, making sure what was written in the syllabus was correct. The teacher replied with a response similar to, “Yes you can hand it in then if you’d like, but I just need it by the last week of classes.” This lax attitude with deadlines was something I have never really experienced, especially with something like a final paper.

I suppose that the difficulty in getting started with papers and assignments is that I am taking classes different from those I am used to taking. I am taking my first college philosophy class, which is definitely challenging since it really requires me to change my normal way of thinking, looking beyond the face value of concepts or ideas. Two of my other classes deal with Australian history. One of these classes looks at the political history or Australia. It is a topic of which I have no previous knowledge and although Australia’s political system is somewhat similar to the one we have in the states, there are some great differences. Even the names of the political parties can be confusing. My other Australia class covers the very beginnings of Australia, from its original inhabitants, the Aboriginals, to modern day society. We covered topics such as Aussie slang (which proved to be very helpful), lifestyle, the natural wonders of Australia, and Australia’s role within a global context.

I think that studying in Australia has given me the great opportunity to not only learn about the area within a classroom setting, but also explore the place which I am learning so much about. If the trade off for the experiences are papers, I can handle doing the work. But fortunately we still have about a month, which means more adventures to come!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Spring in Melbourne

Elephants at the Melbourne Zoo

This week the warm, spring weather continued in Melbourne. Taking advantage of the beautiful weather, we went to St. Kilda beach, just outside of Melbourne. We had visited the area shortly after we arrived in Melbourne, back in July, which would have been winter. Needless to say this visit was much different. The beach was full of people laying out, walking, eating or riding bikes. The city definitely came alive with the signs of spring. We had a great time just relaxing in the sun and playing games on the beach. Unfortunately the water was still too cold to go for a swim, but we were brave enough to dip our toes. As the sun went down we decided to explore the town of St. Kilda. We ventured to Luna Park, a small amusement park close to the beach. The rides were pretty similar to those in the states, like the “pirate ship.” The smells of amusement park food were too much, so some of us just had to give in to a warm, jam filled doughnut. After leaving the park we continued to explore, walking down some of the main streets of St. Kilda. The town was bustling with people out eating and drinking. So many restaurants had outside seating with tables along the sidewalk. The smells were making everyone hungry so we decided to stop somewhere ourselves. We found this really interesting and small restaurant called Lentil as Anything. It was strictly vegetarian and vegan, with a small but delicious menu. What made this place so different was the pricing…there was none. The restaurant truly operates on the generosity of others. The menu says to pay whatever you feel the meal was worth. The restaurant started out as a hang out for local artists and musicians. Sometimes, money was low, but the restaurant provided them with food, telling them to pay whatever they could at the time. When weeks were good, people would often pay more in order to compensate for previous weeks. I couldn’t believe it. I never heard of anything like that in the States, nor am I sure if something like that would work. The food was delicious too! It was a very eclectic place and somewhere slightly off the beaten path. It still had a real sense of community and tourists were not in sight!

Unfortunately Saturday’s weather was not as nice, but we had a trip planned to the Melbourne Zoo. It was a lot of fun, considering the last time I went to a zoo was about ten years ago. The best part was that a baby elephant had just been born in September, so we were able to see it. He was so precious, and seemed so small compared to his mother. As they were eating, the baby got in the mother’s way, but she just pushed him away with her trunk and he clumsily moved to the side. It was pretty funny to watch the dynamics between the baby and the mother. We also were able to see a silverback gorilla. He was so big, and slightly intimidating. The orangutans were also really cool, swinging from rope to rope and just hanging by their arms as if it were nothing. I really felt like a little kid again, being so fascinated by all the animals.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Flying By

Melbourne City

It is hard to believe that there are only three weeks left in my semester abroad. Time has seemed to fly by, so much so that it feels like I arrived in Australia yesterday. Along with the closing of the semester come finals and papers. At Swinburne, a semester is made up of twelve weeks of classes (not including the week of spring break). At the end of classes, there is a week study period before exams begin. The exam period lasts roughly two weeks, so you have ample time to study and the possibility of breaks between each exam. Luckily, I only have one exam, which isn’t until the end of November, so I will have plenty of time to study. I also have three papers to write which are due earlier in November.

While thinking about the preparation and work for papers and exams, I also think about leaving Australia, which has come to feel like home. I have had so many great experiences here and I can’t imagine leaving. Looking back at mid-July (before I left for Melbourne) I remember thinking that four months away would be so hard and I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. I already changed my plane ticket home to a later day once, so I guess it is fair to say that I have found plenty to do with myself here in Australia. I recently presented the idea with my parents about staying until the end of December, but that didn’t exactly fly with them. I think that if I had the money, I would definitely stay longer. Although I feel as though I have taken advantage of every opportunity and traveled a great deal, there still seems to be so much more to experience and see. As I am nearing the end of my stay here, I realize how much more I want to see and do before I leave. This experience has definitely instilled an even stronger desire to travel all over the world (for more than just a vacation). This experience has made the world seem so much smaller. I have even started thinking of where to work after I graduate from Drexel. Before, I only thought of places in the States, but now the possibilities of where I could work and live seem endless; the world is at my fingertips.

I not only think of leaving the beautiful country of Australia, but also the people I have met. I have gotten to know people from all over the world, each story and way of life uniquely different than the other (as well as mine). I have learned so much from other people and have formed some wonderful friendships. It is hard to think of us all going our separate ways. I am so glad that I have taken this opportunity to study abroad. Places I have been and people I have met have truly impacted my perceptions of life and culture. I am very glad I still have more time to experience everything Australia has to offer.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Surfers at Bondi Beach
Sydney Opera House

This past weekend we ventured to the most famous city in Australia- Sydney. A short flight from Melbourne, only about an hour, Sydney is one of those iconic cities that you must visit. Culturally, it is very different than Melbourne. Walking around the city, Sydney really reminded me of Philadelphia or New York, due to its similar layout and the outward appearance of some buildings. The people also seemed much more uptight than the citizens of Melbourne, but everyone was still very nice and helpful. Because it is such a popular city, Sydney seemed to have a great deal more tourists than Melbourne. It was difficult to find a resident of Sydney on the street to get directions. Sydney was also more expensive, not really appealing to a college student budget.

This was my first true experience of hostel life. We stayed in hostels on our New Zealand trip, but the in the hostel in Sydney twelve people, some strangers, shared a room as opposed to only six (all of whom I knew). Some roommates were messy and slamming doors and loud voices often interrupted sleep, but I also was able to meet some new and interesting people. Some people actually lived in the hostel, like an apartment. It was really strange to see people sitting in the common area all day watching T.V. I didn’t understand why they weren’t out exploring the city!

The first day we decided to see some of the famous sights of Sydney. First we went to the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Since the famous climb across the bridge would cost $200 we decided to walk up one of the pylons for $9 instead. At the top we had some great views of the city, the bridge, and the famous Sydney Opera House. It was really beautiful. Inside the pylon there was also a mini museum that displayed pictures with interesting facts about the bridge and its construction. From there we walked through “the Rocks”, which is the historic part of Sydney. There was a street market with a variety of food, crafts, and clothing. Samara and I were even able to find our first soft pretzel (one thing we both miss from the States).

From the Sydney Harbor Bridge, we walked around the harbor to the Sydney Opera House. It was so amazing to see it in person and proved to be much more impressive than pictures. We took a tour inside the Opera House and were able to sit in the opera theater as well as the drama theater and the Utzen room (dedicated to the architect of the Opera House). It was so interesting to learn about the building process and history of performances.

The next day we went to Bondi beach, which has become a destination for both locals and travelers. Little beach shops lined the streets as well as restaurants and cafes. We spent most of our time there walking around and taking in the sights. Unfortunately, it was too cold to test the waters. Later, we went back to Sydney and took a free walking tour of Sydney. Our guide was very enthusiastic and kept the tour fun and lighthearted. It was a great way to get to know our way around the city as well as the history of Sydney.

The three days in Sydney flew by quickly, but we were able to see a lot and experience the cosmopolitan vibe of the famous Australian city. I would like to go back before the end of my stay in Australia.