2011 Spring Australia Erin Shetron External Programs

First Days in Oz

I have been in Australia just over one week now, and I am both still amazed at my surroundings and completely confused by them. First of all, everything you’ve heard about Australia is true. It is absolutely beautiful- a true paradise. It is lush and humid and has the most beautiful wildlife- especially the birds… the spiders not so much. The people here are very friendly and often have smiles on their faces (an opposite of North Philly), but sometimes the sarcasm is a little out of control. It is hard to tell who is your average Aussie and your average jerk. Thankfully, I have met some really great Australian friends to help me differentiate.

After becoming thoroughly confused trying to figure out the bus schedule at the platform on campus, some American friends and I walked over to the security desk nearby to ask how to get the the local shopping center. Their first response was, “The bus? It’s that big yellow and white thing that picks people up, drops them off, and drives away.” And then, “Why are you asking us, anyway? You do know we’re security, don’t you?” We laughed it off, missed our bus, and eventually got ourselves to Garden City, a shopping mecca in suburban Brisbane. That night at dinner we found out that security on campus has a bad reputation for being jerks to Americans. That’s another thing- when Aussies find out we’re American, their reactions range from wanting pictures with us to wanting nothing to do with us. However, I have found that the majority I’ve met are intrigued by my accent, very understanding of my complete ignorance to Aussie slang, and try to help me out however they can.

Now, on to the adventures in Oz! My first few days in Oz, or Australia if you haven’t caught on, were spent at Sydney Academy of Sport at an IFSA-Butler orientation. Our first outing was to the Taronga Zoo in Sydney. My new Brisbane-bound mates and I soon realized that it was sometimes hard to tell the difference between what animal had permanent residency in the sprawling, open zoo and what was just a passerby, stopping to eat tourist’s lunch scraps or take refuge in the zoo’s towering trees. We also got to see some of Australia’s most famous animals: kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, koalas, birds of paradise, and cockatoos, just to name a few. Before catching the Sky Safari Cable Car down to the ferry wharf, I got the best show of the day. Right next to me, just over the fence, was a large pool of water by a family of elephants standing in the shade. The baby elephant must have seen my friends and I watching the somewhat dull display, and came charging into the pool of water, trumpeting and swirling around. Its black eyes were sparkling and its mouth was open in what looked to us like a smile. It kept splashing and swimming in circles, loudly giving us the most excitement of the day until it ran back out of the water and right over to what I assume was it’s mother, who he head-butted playfully.

After the zoo we boarded the Cable Car down to the ferry and then the ferry over to the Sydney Opera House. The Opera House was surprising in ways I didn’t expect. First of all, it is not nearly as big as pictures make it out to be. Next to the skyscrapers in the city, it actually looks quite small. Pictures also make its arches looks sleek and white, when in reality the arches are beautifully covered with gold, zigzag designs that make it even more architecturally unique. After marveling at the opera house walls, we walked around downtown Sydney, bought our first Australian drinks, and toasted to being in Oz.

I will write more about my adventures during the rest of orientation and the first days in Brisbane soon, but for now I’m off to lunch with some Aussie mates!

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