A friend of mine and I went on our first trip out of our college town this weekend. We went to Milwaukee and we fell in love with it the second we got off of the bus! We went to some cool shops before meeting our couch surfing hostess Felicia, who took us back to her place – giving us a little tour along the way. After putting our bags down and relaxing for a while we decided to go ice skating, it was fabulous – just like rollerblading but a little bit harder. Both my friend and I forgot to bring our cameras so we didn’t get any pictures 😦 After that we just went home and had some sleep before waking up on Saturday and doing even more fun stuff.
We figured out the county transit system quickly as we made our way to Mayfair shopping mall in Milwaukee. Most of the locals think it’s an ‘okay’ store, not much happening in it and not many shops, but when Claire and I walked in, we were amazed. It was two storeys, shops from wall to wall. We saw American Eagle, Gap, A&F and all those awesome places. We went into a shop called Pacsun and managed to buy 4 things each for only a total of $21.00, we couldn’t believe it. They had a half price sale on and when you went to the counter they took another 50% off… unbelievable. It was also a really cool shop, had many Aussie surf brands like Roxy, Billabong, Quicksilver etc. It was great. After having a pretty productive shopping trip we decided to go home again.
Saturday night we went to an NBA basketball game. It was amazing, so many people and an awesome amount of community spirit. One of the basketballers on the Milwaukee Bucks team (the one we were cheering for) was Australian. Andrew Bogut. He was 7ft tall… he was a great player – apparently one of the best in the league. When they announced all of the players they mentioned that he was from Australia and everyone cheered. Throughout the game we tried yelling Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi, but I doubt he would have heard it in the slightest.
On Sunday (today) we did a little more shopping, I learned some songs on the piano and we caught the bus back home. I’m currently sitting in my room listening to people yell and scream out of their windows (hundreds of people) every time the Green Bay Packers get a touchdown… I kind of got into the spirit by buying a T-Shirt that says “feelin’ so fly, like a cheese head” on it… a cheesehead being a Packers supporter or someone from Wisconsin.. it’s great. So once the superbowl is over, everyone will go back to normal and the craziness will die down… eventually.
I’ve noticed many weird things about Americans and their slightly skewed perception of Australia. The first thing (as said in a post below) is the fact that the kangaroo is the first thing that comes up in conversation. When I first got here it was about the time of the floods in QLD and EVERYONE asked me if I was from there, which is nice and considerate. I’m not though, so I didn’t have much of a story to give them. Many people try and do the Australian accent, every person fails. One of my friends has taken it upon himself to incorporate any sayings or little phrases that I have into his own vocabulary, he’s pretty good at it. He likes to say pulling the piss and footy a lot haha.
Anyway, until the next update.
I’ve found that to most Americans, Australia is seen as a great holiday destination with strange animals and friendly people. This is a very good reputation to have but unfortunately, it is these topics which make up the bulk of the conversations I happen to have with Americans.
The kangaroo usually comes up first in conversation which I don’t really mind. In fact I enjoy talking about what is unique about Australia; although I am starting to suspect that Americans are not really interested in my version of Australia. They are more interested in simplified caricatures and national symbols, that offer them a more comfortable albeit conventionalised version of Australia. I suppose this is something that I’ve found difficult to understand, because I am aware that I don’t exactly represent the quintessential Australian, but I offer some diversity that could potentially educate Americans about Australia, and relieve some of the simplistic views they might have of us. I think that a country is more than just the image it projects, but sometimes the image is all people care to consider. It is not bothering me so much right now, but it is starting to dawn on me. I do miss my family, but I love being here. I don’t miss my life back home as much, because I definitely think I am having way more fun where I am.
So on tuesday I have been in the States for 3 weeks and 2 days. I have finally settled in and bought a lap top, mobile or cell as they call it here and all household items. It was a looong flight to get there as i had to go to from sydney to LA which was like a 13 hour flight and then from LA to miami was another 5 hours. When i got to Miami is was about 9pm so i decided to book a hotel. I ended up staying at a hotel in South beach which is like the Bondi of sydney. I was absolutely exhausted when i got there and all I wanted to do was sleep. My hotel however happened to be on the main strip where all the night life happens so I put my bags in the room and ventured out. I was gobsmacked at all the lights, tobacco shops, tattoo shops, pizza places and night clubs on this road. I walked along with caution as i didnt feel safe at all as it was my first night in the US. I ended up meeting some guys from Chicago and went clubbing with them. I ended up back at the room at 3am. With three hours sleep I woke up and got ready for orientation. Drained as I was a got up ate breaky at the hotel and then ordered a cab to UM. At orientation I met some of the other Aussie blokes and they said there was like 25 people from Australia on exchange here. I was the only one from UOW. Towards the end of orientation I left and wen to my room and crashed, having not slept in nearly 48 hours.
When I lay down on the bed I was SHOCKED! The mattress was literally made out of some sort of plastic and was sooo uncomfortable. At this point i was sleep deprived, angry lonely and really missed home as this was the first time I would be away from my family for so long. I lay there freezing and trying to sleep thinking how am I going to make it through the next three months. It was not a good feeling, I had never felt like this before, I just wanted to go home. To everyone that thinks exchange will be really exciting and a great experience, think again. Post my departure I only thought about how good the experience would be and never even imagined how challenging it would be. Lying there I kept saying to myself its only you here, you have to be strong, I believed in myself, knowing that if i accomplish this i can do anything. This was a really good experience even though it was challenging, it gave me will power and strength.
Been a while since the last blog, I think I was ranting about my Brazilian VISA experience, which worked out thank goodness. I did go to Brazil for winter break and had a wonderful time with my best friend and her family, that is definitely something I will not forget any time soon. Back at UMass Amherst now and I have four-ish months left of my experience here and I’m starting to miss home, everything about home, my friends and family and the feeling that I really belong. As soon as I got back to UMass and class started again it was evident that this semester was going to be different from the last. I had close friends leave to continue their adventures and other friends let me down when I needed them. I had tried so hard to make this the best experience I could that I wanted America to be my home. But it’s not my home, it’s not the place where people love and care for me and help me through tough times, Australia is and I had forgotten that. Thankfully my sister is arriving for a visit later this week and I’m going to have two crazy busy weekends ahead of me, one in Boston and one in New York City. Then later in March my parents are arriving to visit me and have a little American experience of their own.
I don’t want to seem like I regret going on exchange, I don’t at all but I do have to admit I was a little bit too cocky about how I would cope over here. Bad shit happens everywhere, no matter who you are or where you are and exchange isn’t going to be all fun times and happiness, especially not for 9 months straight. So my best advice for pending and current exchange students is don’t forget where you are from, don’t get caught up in a swirl of new things and forget about home because eventually you have to go back home and it should feel good.
.. like to eat savoury foods with sweet sauces.
And they have a tendency to put the name of other countries before a certain food to make it seem authentic and less American for e.g “Italian Sausage” and “Brazilian Mojito” (a drink my Brazilian friend told me he has not heard of lol)
Even though I have only been home for a month, it seems like a lifetime since I left the University of Connecticut on a very, very cold day. Summing up a week is hard enough, so 5 months is all but impossible! Instead, I will write about some of the things that I learnt that stuck with me.
Firstly, there were the little things that were different to Australia that I simply did not think of, but made a lot of difference. Driving on the opposite side, not a problem, but crossing roads defiantly did! The first night my 2 friends and I arrived in LA, we decided to walk down to Dennys (best restaurant ever). After standing at the traffic lights, having a chat, for AGES, we were soon embarrassed to discover that in LA the ‘walk’ signal doesn’t make a noise, so we had missed about 3 goes, because we weren’t paying attention! It may seem insignificant, but I can still clearly remember it, 6 months on! Being a western country, I had naively assumed that everything would be the same as in Australia. Boy, was I wrong. And don’t even get me started on tipping! 5 months later, and I’m still not 100% sure of the proper way to do it.
Next up, adapting. While for the first couple of days I felt like a fish out of water, by the end of my stay, I was an unofficial American. I adapted really quickly to all the little things that would make my life easier. With limited funds and no one but yourself looking out for you, you have to! I also started saying ‘bunch’ instead of ‘heaps’ and ‘chug’ instead of ‘skull’, just to make my life easier when the Americans had no idea what I was saying.
I cannot write about my stay in America without mentioning School Spirit. At UConn, there is a slogan written all over the place ‘Student today, Husky forever’, and that is how I feel. Long after leaving there, I will still be a Husky, and I have all the merchandise to go with it! On any given day, half the students would be wearing UConn clothing, on game day, this would go up to 99%. The basketballers were famous around College, people would literally go up to them and ask for photos. The Co-Op sold UConn branded EVERYTHING, from Christmas decorations to dog collars to baby clothes. UConn wasn’t just our school, it was our life.
By the end of my trip, I was feeling homesick, and I was ready to go home. After 1 week back in Australia but, I was already missing everything about the place that had been my home for the last 5 months, and the best 5 months of my life. Exchange was the best thing I have ever done, and the experience will stay with me for life.
An American basketball game – cheerleaders and all!
It’s actually snowing in this picture, but you can’t tell.
America = Insanity.
I’ve been here for a little more than 2 weeks now, and it’s starting to feel a little bit normal. Seeing millions of squirrels is normal. Seeing skinny girls with massive amounts of food is normal. Repeating myself one thousand times is normal and even being in the freezing cold temperatures is normal. I love that I finally got here and I can say I live in America, but I still feel like I’m missing out on a lot from home. I’ll no longer take the way the uni runs for granted, they optional lecture, it’s availability on the internet and then a two hour tutorial seems much easier than the three 1 hour mandatory lessons per week.
On the other hand, I am not missing the non-community feel of Perth and the lack of school-spirit that they have so much of here. I love being part of the community here, it’s great. I have been to a basketball game, watched the ‘bring-it-on’ style cheerleaders, mastered my American accent and taught many people about the wonders of Australia.
There is an international student dinner coming up where we will have a chance to inform all of the people around us about our home countries, I’m looking forward to it, because a lot of people are intrigued when it comes to Australia – especially the animals. I’ve even been asked if we have cows… my response – ‘No, we don’t have milk in our country’ with a heavy coat of sarcasm.
There’s an another Australian here, Claire… she’s just as amazed by the American way as I am. It’s good to have another person here who understands what I’m missing when I am having Australia withdrawals. It’s also good to go and hang out with another Australian after only interacting with American’s. In fact, we’ve both decided to go to California and watch the Ellen Degeneres show – that would be amazing.
Anyway, I’m so happy to be here, no matter how much I miss my family and I can’t wait to get out and explore America 😀