The great thing about studying abroad is there is always something to do, go see, or get involved with. Of course going to lectures and tutorials are important, but the weekends provide a great time to travel and see more of the country in which you are living in. Like most weeks, this past week was jam packed with activity.
At the residential college in which I reside, there is a constant swarm of activities. Throughout the semester the college hosts a few formal dinners. The food at these dinners is particularly nice and the entire college dresses up for the event. We had a formal welcome dinner this past week. The theme of the dinner was Australia. Therefore, one of the appetizers served before the main meal was kangaroo meat. Being a vegetarian, I did not give the meat a try, but I know plenty of people who did and thoroughly enjoyed it. Others described the meat as having a gamey taste and quite tough to eat. In addition to the authentic meal options, the college hired a local aborigines school to come and perform a selection of dance. The dances were different from anything I had seen in the past. I really enjoyed the full cultural experience.
So far classes seem to be going well. More work and readings are done outside of the classroom in Australia than in the United States. This may explain why I feel like I am never in class. The tutorial groups provide a unique setting to learn. Thus far most of my tutorials consist of discussing journal articles recently published. With a large portion of my grade determined from papers I am expected to write, I asked our tutorial reader about some helpful hints. Being unaware of how papers are typically written (style, format, citations) and turned in, I asked heaps of questions. When I asked her if she would be willing to look through my paper before I turned it in, I was given quite the look. Apparently our tutorial leaders grade our papers. Helping students before they turn in their papers is not expected, or even frowned upon in Australia, looked at as a way of cheating. This will take some getting used to, as I could write an entire paper and have everything I write be incorrect.
To make my schedule even more hectic, I have joined a social basketball team for the semester. The games are incredibly laid back. I don’t think anyone even knows the score until the end. There are even people on my team who have never played in a basketball game before. As a competitive person the laid back atmosphere can be a bit frustrating at times, however, I know the atmosphere is good for me and will make the experience more enjoyable in the long run. The social sports have a lot of rules to try and keep games fair. Hopefully I will be able to get used to these rules so I do not receive a foul every three seconds.
A group of exchanges decided to rent a car for the weekend to take a few day trips up north to Lancelin and Cervantes. On Friday we headed all the way up to Cervantes to see the pinnacles. The pinnacles are literally just a bunch of random sharp looking rock formations. They formed when the water level from the ocean recessed. After an hour of driving through the park and getting out every few stops to take pictures, there was not too much more to see. Definitely worth the trip, though. Although I did not drive on this trip, as a passenger in the car, riding in Australia takes a lot of getting used to. Australians drive on the opposite side of the road with the steering wheel on the right side. Every time we would take a turn I thought for sure we were going to get hit because of my “American” instincts. Luckily, Jasmine, the girl who was driving, is from Ireland so was not phased by any changes.
On Saturday we headed up to Lancelin, to go sand boarding. Traveling as an exchange student with other exchange students is always an adventure. Being so, when we saw a sign for mini golf on the side of a highway, of course we followed it. Ten minutes later and in the countryside of Australia we stumbled upon a homemade mini golf course. The place was so remote the lady working there questioned us on how we even found it. We played a round. Unfortunately my golf class skills from last semester have not stuck with me, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.
Proceeding onward to Lancelin, we finally rented our sand boards and headed out to the dunes. Sand boarding was easier than expected and quite similar to snowboarding. The only difference was if you tried to stop you would not make it all the way down the dune. Covered in sand in literally every possible place imaginable, we headed back to Perth to recover from our few busy days exploring Australia.