Bringing the learning home (Australian Learning & Teaching Council)

I’m not from here

Drive Across the USA!

From Boston MA to Golden CO, three days of straight driving to my future home where I have never been before with my girlfriend Kat.
We came across some pretty American things, when driving west they have these water towers which are in the shape of an upside down water droplet with the town name on them written in massive letters. Now these things hold probably enough water so that everyone in the town could flush there toilet once and it would be empty, so its not much of a reserve but every single town had one! They came in many different colors and fonts, but they were all the same shape and size.

We all know that Americans love their big pick ups! The parking spots are bigger here than at home but still some of the trucks don’t fit into them. This guy here is pulled right up to the front of the park but he still has a good chunk of his ride hanging out.

I spent Thanksgiving with Kat’s family which was a lovely time, we really don’t do that enough in Australia. Getting the family together really should happen more than just around Christmas. The day after Thanksgiving they have an event called Black Friday which is like the biggest most epic shopping day of the year. I spent like $400 that day which may not seem much to some people but to me that’s massive. Every shop has massive sales like 40% off the leading brands.

There lack of tax on there alcohol is AWESOME! look at this   first my favorite beer from back home is $10 a six pack. THATS HALF PRICE! So they import it  and sell it for half price and still make money.

This is something my Father would love about this country, he would probably find some other beer he would lie here though.  Can I also point out this 9 liter bottle of bubbly. I should of put up a normal size bottle there to give you prospective but you can get the general idea. It turns out they don’t have RSA here so i guess this is what it leads too.

A good thing to get once you get here is a state I.D they really don’t like my Australian licence and I don’t want to carry my passport around with me. So as soon as i get a permanent home I will get one.

This will conclude my first post, I’m going to enjoy a white Christmas soon and some more crazy american driving.

Advertisements

First Snow!!!

So I woke up this morning to find that it had snowed last night!!!

It has been so cold here in Storrs that it was bound to happen soon. What baffled me is that some people were still walking to class in jeans and a jumper! The wind here is so cold that it cuts through that sort of clothing and freezes your soul. Nah i’m exaggerating a little there. Everyone in my class this morning had a good laugh at me as I walked in with my big snow jacket and beanie, they just said its gonna get colder, and I believe them.

Seeing the snow is making me look forward to some snowboarding trips and Christmas with my mate and his family in Vermont.

I’m really excited about the snow and I can see how the winter would be unbearable without it here, it makes the bitter cold worth it.


“Ooooh you have an accent!…are you English?”

Apologies for the lack of post. I have been in the US (specifically UMass Amherst) for about 2months now and I have noticed a lot about America, laughed a lot at American things and ranted A LOT over American short-comings. I do try to stop my self if I notice that I’ve been ranting/complaining for the last five minutes straight, I tend to do this to my American friends and I wonder if they even understand why I’m annoyed. I think, just for therapeutic reasons, I will list the irritating things that I so much love to rant about:

  • Whenever an American finds out I’m Australian I get – American: “Put another shrimp on the barbie! *elbow jab*” me: “uhm you know we don’t call them shrimp in Australia, we call them prawns” OR American: “Oooh do you have a pet kangaroo!?!?” me: “No…do you have a pet squirrel?”
  • Peanuts…specifically peanut butter is in everything. EVERYTHING!
  • 4 out of 5 times I will get “Cool accent, I’ve always wanted to go to England” or something of that nature. I don’t know what that says about my accent but it’s making me paranoid, I always thought I my accent/speech was a tad on the bogan side but evidently not!
  • The work here is different, vastly different then how it is structured back home and it took a while to get used to. Although I have noticed that the grading is on the easy side and I don’t really mind that at all!
  • Bros/Barbies…oh lord they are annoying! but fun to bag out I suppose.

Okay I’m done. forgive. I’m sure there are a lot of things that my American friends would love to rant about me…I think number one on the list would be that every time I see a squirrel I can’t suppress the urge to yell SQUIRREL! and point. I think that  probably stopped being cute about 20 squirrels ago. I think this is what is great about exchange, being immersed in a culture that sometimes irritates you so much you just wish so bad for someone to offer you a cheeseybite scroll instead of PB&J but loving it so much all the same…

Hat’s off you to American, damn do you make my eye twitch sometimes but I will concede you sure are good for a laugh.

 

I couldn’t help but add my photo of a squirrel that sat long enough for me 🙂 *points* SQUIRREL!


the college life

It was an overwhelming experience my first hour at UNCW, it involved traffic jams, getting lost and not to mention cheering from hundreds of people. I was nervous, but the intensity and bustle of everyone got me excited and gave me the immediate feeling that I had made the right decision participating in this exchange program. This feeling still stays with me three months later, the college feels like a community. It feels a lot different from me coming from UOW where I lived at home with my parents. Here at UNCW everyone lives on campus, eats together on campus, plays high level sports on campus, parties at campus etc… So what I am trying to say is everything revolves around the campus. For me therefore it gives me the feeling of warmth and somewhere I can call a home, rather than just an academic place of study.

What comes with this setup of American universities where everyone lives on campus is an opportunity to meet hundreds of people that you would not have otherwise met. For me, this is one of the greatest benefits of my exchange program. Even half way into my semester I have met people that I will never forget and call friends for a long time to come. With these new found friends it makes the transition of living in a foreign country so much easier, and feeling lonely impossible.

One of the other highlights for me in this exchange program has been the sports and the school spirit that is associated with it. It was a massive culture shock for me to see the intensity that all students here have when following sports. However saying this, it is not only the students that are flying the flag for their school, but also the parents. If I had a dollar for every bumper sticker or shirt I saw saying “UNCW MUM” I would have enough money to cover my HEX debt when I graduate. Even local businesses have big signs up supporting the school before events saying “good luck this weekend UNCW”.

All in all, I have no hesitation in saying this is the best experience of my life to date, looking back now at the extraordinary long process to get here with what felt like hundreds of forms to fill out, and hours spent at the U.S consulate. It was worth every minute I spent working to get here. Knowing what the rewards are now that I’ve stepped off that plane, I would fill out one hundred more forms and spend another week camped out at the U.S consulate.

In conjunction, coming to University over here is the best thing that has happened for me not only academically but also personally, as I am learning much more about life and myself than I could of anticipated. So I’m being educated just as much outside the classroom, as I am in it. You learn so much and become more independent without even realising it, the experiences you go through make you grow up, whether you like it or not.


US of A

I’ve been in the States for about three months now, and I’ve learned:

  • to sharpen my “r”s, especially when introducing myself – I think “Clare” in an Australian accent sounds like “Clehhhhh…a”, so I am now “CleRR”, the American version of myself, who is about twenty pounds heavier because of the high fructose corn syrup in.. well, everything;
  • that the word “gig” is meaningless here;
  • that even by American standards, Vegas is regarded as a city full of trash-ed and trash-y people (think 24/7 deep-fried cheese sticks with ranch dipping sauce);
  • that America is a lot more classist that Australia, with a more clearly defined class structure, a much larger low/working class who are often severely or noticeably economically disadvantaged, and less movement between classes;
  • that college campuses turn into drunken orgies on the weekends, regardless of the drinking age, and that at 24, I seem to be the oldest undergrad on campus;
  • a different way to learn – as someone posted earlier, the classes here are five days a week and there’s a stack of small assignments throughout the semester; in my classes, participation is worth a fair amount, and often there’s an expectation of a weekly response (written, oral or online) to readings so you can’t get away with skipping readings like at home; the assignments are also less research-based and more critical, which is entirely different to the way I normally work; overall, I feel a bit like I’ve been sent back to high school, with the excitement over binge drinking, daily classes and these expectations of how to engage with coursework;
  • a lot about “the American dream” and “mythology – I’m taking three classes of American literature, two of which study the classics and the beginnings of an American identity, and another which is about contemporary African-American lit. I expected more blind patriotism, more active belief in the supriority of America as “land of the free, home of the brave” etc., but actually the idea of the American dream seems to be something existing only in the hopes of the citizens and maintained for the benefit of one another and as a facade for the rest of the world. It could just be that I’m here at a bad or unusual time (recession, support for the War here and abroad waning, Americans generally becoming more aware of the way they’re perceived) which has made everyone more disillusioned.

One of the most memorable things that has happened so far (I think it’s such a favourite because it seemed like it was a lived experience of a Bukowski novel, which is part of this “American mythology” that I had formulated before I came here): getting on a Greyhound to go into NYC and listening to the conversation of two women behind me. One of the women had just been released from prison, at which point they apparently provide a bus ticket to anywhere and forty dollars cash; this woman was going to meet up with her friends who had also been serving time. The women had only met at the bus station, so they didn’t really know each other, but they formed this kind of friendship based on a combination of mutual sympathy and bravado – they had both obviously lived somewhat rough lives. The ex-con got off the bus in Scranton, Pennsylvania (which is where they set the American version of “The Office”, to give some clue as to the type of town it is..), and I somehow got sucked into a conversation with a woman (different woman, same bus), and it went something like this:

Woman: So you mighta noticed I’m missin’ my bottom teeth.

Me: Oh, um, no, I hadn-

Woman: Well, y’see, I had these false ones, the real ones got knocked out years ago.

Me: Oh, right. Cool. (I remember saying that and then realizing it didn’t make sense).

Woman: But, I – I got soooo drunk last weekend. Oh man, I puked them up! But it’s okay ‘coz MedicAid (the US version of Medicare) will get me a new set. I was going to get them before I left, but.. nah, fuck it. I’m only going to visit my sister.

At least, that’s how I remember it. And that’s all that matters in the end.


Britain, Britain, Britain! or Wednesday Woes

At Lancaster University there is a free bus throughout Wednesday taking students into and back from town. This is when all the international students with half a brain go shopping because we get free transport. Why? Because the buses are run by Sainsbury’s (a supermarket in Lancaster) in the bid to get us to shop there.

Anyway, so this Wednesday, my two American flat mates and I went into town on the free bus for a shop. We had planned to spend about an hour shopping and get back again. Instead we were in town for five hours. There were many reasons for this;

a) we got lost in the arcade trying to find the one pound store and refused to give up on the principle of being povo exchange students who couldn’t afford another store
b) in the centre of the arcade there was a patriotic lobbyist group set up. Photo below but not great because I was trying to look like I wasn’t taking a picture.

I can tell you there is nothing more awkward than having a bunch of people seemingly enveloped in British flags coming up to you demandingly and saying “Help our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan! THEY ARE FIGHTING FOR YOU AND YOUR COUNTRY! SUPPORT THEM TODAY!” followed by “Would you like to donate and support our country?”

My American buddies and I were so shocked by the randomness of the situation (but… but… your troops arn’t fighting for us? and this is not my country… and we are povo exchange students who can barely afford to eat let alone donate money to lobby groups) that we stood there like idiots for what seemed like ages before my friend said “um no…” and I said “Not really,” and then we walked off as quickly as we could before we got lynched for being unpatriotic citizens or something. The result of this encounter meant that we were all too afraid to go through the centre of the arcade so we had to keep taking the long way round to get to the shops we were trying to get to.

c) Finally, we finished our shopping and went back to get the Sainsbury’s bus. We waited there for ages, and ages and ages… the line of students grew and grew and still no bus…

.

Again, we insisted upon waiting for the bus on the principle that it was free and we didn’t want to pay to get back to College. It became a kind of contest. Who would out wait everyone else? After an hour and fifteen minutes and still no bus, five of us remained. It was cold and we were tired so we gave up together, walked to the bus station, paid for a bus, and begged the driver to go via university even though it wasn’t on his route.

Ha. Ha. I love Sainsbury’s and their evil, evil sense of humour. Won’t it be really funny to watch all the freezing exchange students stand there waiting for a BUS THAT IS NEVER GOING TO COME. Ha Ha Sainsbury’s. Thanks for looking out for me while I’m in Britain! *cough* I just so appreciate it.

Ahem. Anyway, we climbed the four flights of stairs to our flat and decided to make hot chocolate because we were tired, grumpy and cold… only to find out that my flat mate had bought coffee by accident.

My flat mate has decided she is now sleeping through Wednesdays.

On a more positive note, I am seeing Hamlet tomorrow… and thank goodness I didn’t book my ticket for a Wednesday 😉


Shocking

This Photo is in Mexico on Roserito beach, we tried to sit down eat some food and drink a little, but that was interrupted every five seconds buy someone coming up to us and trying to sell us something.

We took it in our stride and just kept saying our “no thanks were fine” but these Mexicans were persistent! To try and get the deal they would send their children up to try and make us feel a little guilty.

One bloke finally tricked us by throwing these metal objects into our hands and telling us it was free. We were intrigued, so believed the man and tried it. The device ends up sending volts through your body to make all your muscles contract. It hurts big time. Yet it was kinda cool so we Ethan and I both did it again, this time for photo evidence for this blog.

After we were done the guy tried to hit us up for 4$ American. It was no longer free as he had first promised. However his slyness was matched by Ethans, Ethan gave him 50 cents Australian which the guy was very impressed with. He thought it was worth a lot of money because of its size and interesting shape.

my experience taught me that nothing in Mexico is free… just super cheap