By Kellie Dietrich
This article was originally published in Issue 14, Fiftieth Year of The Minstrel (April 28, 2016). Click here to view the entire issue.
Two months ago in February, summertime in Australia, the heat was scorching as three study- abroad students stepped off the plane to begin their semester of adventures.
As math majors, juniors Mary Orobono and Tina Tran had the options of studying abroad in either Ireland or Australia. They both chose Australia due to the gorgeous weather and to see what life is like down under. Junior sports and exercise science major Emily Williams chose to study abroad in Australia as well.
“Everything about the country intrigued me: the culture, the scenery, the accents and the food,” said Williams.
The three students are studying at the University of Notre Dame Australia (UNDA), located on the main street in Sydney.
“UNDA is similar to DeSales being a small, Catholic college with a strong Catholic tradition,” said Tran. “The school system is different, though—my classes only meet once a week for three hours, and the campus is small, made up of different buildings woven into the city.”
UNDA does not offer housing on campus and the education system may seem unusual to what Americans are used to.
Orobono was surprised by the grading system because students only need a 50 percent to pass a class.
“UNDA students did not know what general education classes were, so they were confused why a math major was in their history class,” said Orobono.
There are many other students at UNDA studying abroad from the U.S. as well as other countries such as Brazil, Japan, Denmark, England, France and Canada, allowing students to learn about more cultures and perspectives.
Although Tran imagined Australia to be very similar to America as a Western, English-speaking country, she found their culture to be unlike the U.S.
“Sydney reflects a very diverse population with many ethnic restaurants and shops lining the streets, and many festivals celebrating different cultures,” said Tran. As for restaurants, there are a variety of offerings including Malaysian, Korean and Vietnamese. Tran also noted the atmosphere is more relaxed than the U.S., reflected in their fun slang.
In Sydney, museums, parks and beaches are all within walking distance or a short bus ride away. Orobono and Tran often travel together to hike, shop and explore other areas of Australia. Orobono recalls visiting the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Botanical Gardens and the Sydney Opera House for an acrobatic show. Tran’s favorite part of the trip so far was sandboarding the dunes at Port Stephens. Meanwhile, Williams recently took a 10-day trip to New Zealand where she received a tour of the South Island.
“I went by myself and it was one of the best decisions [I made],” said Williams. “I made so many new friends and experienced so much. I definitely have to go back and explore the North Island of New Zealand.”
Before study abroad is over, Orobono, Tran and Williams all hope to visit, and possibly snorkel in, the Great Barrier Reef, which Tran adds may sadly disappear within the next 10 years.
With gorgeous views and events always going on in the city, it was easy for the students to adjust to life in Australia with only minor adjustments, such as looking right before crossing busy streets where pedestrians do not have the right of way.
Additionally, Orobono and Tran both mentioned how influential the U.S. is in Australia with the presidential election being a large topic of discussion.
“[People] always ask if I support Trump or Clinton,” said Orobono. “They are very interested about what is happening in America.”
While many are learning about America from Orobono, Tran and Williams, they are learning a lot from their study- abroad experience.
“Stepping out of your comfort zone and exploring the world is a great way to learn new things. You get to see different perspectives, and how other places in the world operate,” said Orobono.
The largest takeaway for Williams was independence, from paying rent to planning flights and making dinners.
“Being here definitely gave me insight to the future and dealing with the real world out on your own,” said Williams.
Overall, Australia has taught different life lessons to each student.
“This experience has exposed me to different cultures and taught me that there is always more to learn and discover. The world is a lot bigger than you think,” said Tran. “Also, I learned that it is good to slow down and enjoy life, and to do so doesn’t require much, like lying in the sun at the park for a nap.”