Bringing the learning home (Australian Learning & Teaching Council)



For a bit of Nostalgia –Katoomba to Mittagong Hike on Youtube

For a bit of Nostalgia –Katoomba to Mittagong Hike on Youtube

U of A!

Playing king of beers with the famous red cups!

Cacti everywhere!

Cactus in Tucson! They're everywhere!


Home again

I leave within the month to return to Australia. I have this acceptance that I have to leave. I want to go home, but I wouldn’t mind if I stayed here for another 6 months.
It’s strange for me to explain how I feel. It’s not like homesickness where I would cry and feel sorry for being in such a stupid town in stupid old Germany full of stupid people with stupid ancient buildings.
Now I just feel like, I know what it’s like to live in Bavaria. (I say Bavaria because it is the richest state in Germany) and I think I’d be happier in Australia.
Although, “happier” might mean angrier too. Here I’ve been completely devoid of notions of politics and stupid politicians. Recently I’ve been catching up on Australia and my god, is there a lot of things I’ll have to get involved in when I get home. Not the least getting a big sticker that says, “Failure O’Farrell”
But I also like the way I’ve seen how different things are here and how they should maybe be implemented back home. I have this feeling that from seeing how other people do things I can make my country better.
I don’t know, it is this strange sort of patriotism. I think that Australia is one of the best countries in the world, and I’ve seen some examples on how to make it better.
I’m afraid of that “I’m not from here anymore” response to returning. I don’t want it to be like that. I want to be able to just go back to the familiar.
Don’t get me wrong. Things aren’t strange and unfamiliar here, not anymore. It’s just that I feel I’d be happier with the stuff I’ve been familiar with for 20 years than what I’ve been familiar with for 6 months. I know,, it’s not really a fair time to compare, I also want to come back here later in life, but right now I feel like I could be accomplishing more back in Australia.
Who knows…

P.S. I also really miss sandwiches/salads/small lunches. Here a hot, cooked lunch is really common. Took me a while to notice that, but the “Mensa” or cafeteria has mostly only warm dishes, and everyone seems to think it is normal… I also miss our type of bread. I can live with bread here, but it’s mostly a choice of sourdough or really crappy “America bread” which is stale, preservative ridden, horrible tasting bread that looks like what you can get in Australia. I also am a bit of a food snob, so I can’t wait to walk into Woolies and have such selection of brands I know and fruit and veg from the next state not South America (not that it’s a problem, I just like buying Aussie grown) and I won’t miss the ability to know where all my food comes from (here nothing is labelled unless it’s something from Aldi that they sell in Aus). Probably only 3 foodstuffs I will miss from here are Kaiserbrotchen, Spatzle and Chocolate. Beer and it’s quality and diversity and cheapness is also a problematic farewell.

My big fat Greek Easter

In Greece Easter holidays fall over two weeks in the end of April, which allows ample time to go traveling. I chose to spend 10 of those days on the island of Crete, south of the Greek mainland. Crete is one of the largest islands of Greece and as I was travelling with two Greek friends who grew up in Crete I was really excited to experience another side of the Greek culture. I spent the time camping with a group of 5-18 friends (depending on who joined us each night) which proved to be a lot of fun as you can imagine.

Caves on Matala beach

Crete is a beautiful island and we were really lucky that the country side was in full bloom at this time of year with camomile, daisy and other varieties of purple flowers forming a carpet across the landscape, interspersed off course by olive trees. I spent the time exploring ruins such as Knossos, relaxing on the beach and eating too much local food in tavernas.

Prevali Monastery

The Cretan Easter celebrations differed slightly from the mainland, there was the traditional midnight mass on Saturday night followed by the lighting of a bonfire outside the church, except that fireworks were also part of the celebrations. Fireworks are legal in Greece so every second person was throwing and letting off fireworks left, right and centre, which gave the celebrations a slightly strange edge. No one I spoke to could answer as to why it was traditional in Crete to throw fireworks as part of the Easter celebration, but I am glad that fireworks are not legal in Australia after that night. Easter Sunday was spent eating a traditional lunch of roasted lamb along with salads, potatoes and breads with my friend and his family where far too much food was consumed. We slept every night on a different beach and even spent two nights sleeping in caves which was an amazing experience. I really enjoyed my Easter in Greece which was really different to the one I would have had back in Australia (not a single chocolate easter egg in sight) and celebrating it with friends and their families was really special as well.


Greetings from Sweden!

Hej hej! Greetings from Sweden!

Well this post was written in February, but for some reason I could not post a blog until last week.. So this post is kind of overdue but still, since it’s my first attempt to write here, i’ll just post it up 😀  Things have changed and so as some of my feelings, and I’ll write more about it pretty soon. Spring is (finally) here but the winter photos are still memorable. So enjoy!


First of all, I must say that this website makes me homesick by only spotting the words “Australia” and “kangaroos”. Lol I know this is silly, and Australia is in fact not my home country. However as a student who has studied in Perth for two and half years, I must admit that I miss Perth and my friends there a lot more than I expected myself to be. And of course I miss Malaysia where I was born and grown, but believe it or not, there have been so many things happening since I came to Uppsala a month ago, until I don’t even have much time to get homesick as seriously as I did when I first came to Perth!

Ok let’s go back to the beginning. It’s been a month to stay in a freezing cold country where normal temperature is ranged from 0 to -16 (just in the city!). Being the only student in my campus to exchange to Uppsala for this semester, I took a 16 hours flight alone and I know there’s no one that I can rely on in the far far country up north. I am not a very adventurous person – and my mom was actually so worried about me 😦 – but I know I will be fine. It was a very complicated feeling, mixed with excitement, curiosity, and anxiety.

I stayed in the hostel nearby the city for two days before checking into the housing. There is no housing area specially offered for students, but exchange students are guaranteed with accommodation when they applied studies. I didn’t know accommodation was such a big issue here until I heard some experiences from some friends. Perhaps more houses have to be built in order to cope with the rapid increasing number of students in recent years.

Talking about my feeling and impression to this city, no doubt, I felt like a stranger. In fact I felt the same when I went to Perth, because my English was not very well that time, and living in an English-speaking country was just different from where I came from. However, the strangeness that I had in Uppsala is much more intense. Even though English is very common in Sweden and most of the locals can speak very good English, it’s still very strange because you can’t understand a word from the signboard to the menu. Walking in the middle of the street, I just felt like a total outsider, having lost in the city where everyone speaks the language I couldn’t understand… But the people are quite nice and friendly. I met some Singaporean students, and they said if you stand in the roadside long enough with your maps, someone will probably come and ask if you need help.

Days have become better when I get to know more international students.  I went for some activities prepared for the international students in the first week (just like the O-Week in Murdoch). I tried snow-sledging, tasted some traditional Swedish food, and I even attended a Chinese New Year celebration organized by the Chinese Students Associations here. And I’ve also been to Helsinki last weekend! It’s been a wonderful experience taking on a cruise that moves on the frozen sea.

And I think I shall write about my study (which is supposed to be the first priority? Hmm :p) next time, or I’ll never finish this post. I am actually (ahem) still in the honeymoon period, but so far I’ve done two presentations, coming up with a literature review and group project. Soon it will be time to be serious, but not now. lol

Well I’m really missing the green green grass, blue blue sea and the big big sun in Perth and Malaysia. I kinda feel myself becoming colour blind by looking at the pure whiteness all the time.. But before I can see the colourful nature again when in spring and summer (finally) come to town, I will (and I am) enjoy the feeling of not feeling my fingers and toes all the time, as I know this would possibly be the longest period in my life to stay in Northern Europe for study purpose. So, jackets on, time to explore more!  Hej Då!

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A little compilation of Uppsala, Sweden from January to March~


When the earth moves…

“Is everyone alright? Pls get in contact asap!” That was the first moment I knew something was wrong. A message from one of my close friends in Tokyo at 15:23 on Friday 11th March. I was on a train bound for Osaka to meet up with two friends to see the fabulous Mr Jack Johnson in concert; a tour appropriately called ‘By The Sea’. Unbeknownst to us Japan’s most powerful earthquake measuring 9.0 magnitude had struck the north-east coast, which subsequently triggering a massive 10 metre tsunami that caused catastrophic damage. While we sat eating an early dinner before the show my New Zealand friend received a call from her family asking if she was ok. While she was on the phone I received a message from my family in Australia concerned for my safety asking me to reply if I could. Slowly over the next five minutes we collected a vague outline that an earthquake had struck Japan and had cause significant impact and there was a tsunami warning for all the east coast. Australian and New Zealand news broadcasters knew more about what was happening than we did. That was what concerned us the most; fear of the unknown. Every piece of subsequent information we collected was worse than the one before. I was living in Shibuya and went to Uni in Tokyo, which meant all my friends lived mainly in area surrounding Tokyo. I was highly concerned for their safety but only had limited phone service and could only email them, anxiously waiting for replies. We felt so helpless as there was nothing we could do. As we boarded the train to go to the concert we questioned if we were doing the right thing; I was going to enjoy a Jack Johnson concert while Tokyo, my home, was in chaos. I felt so guilty for being there, travelling during my Spring Break rather than being where I ‘should’ have been.

Jack JohnsonThe concert was absolutely amazing. Jack Johnson and his band are unbelievably talented and draw you into their music. I couldn’t fully enjoy every moment though as my phone was constantly vibrating as I received replies confirming my friends were at least alive and asking if I was alright. Once the concert had ended my friends and I were anxious to find out the full story as to what had happened. We returned to the business hotel we had booked for the night and turned on the television. For four hours we sat in front of the screen, mesmerised by the footage that we saw. Words could not describe what I was feeling; especially when I saw people stranded in the dark at the station that was only 50 metres from my house. The sheer power of nature fascinated me and the destruction that was left in its wake was immense. I felt so removed from the situation even though geographically it was occurring so close. My friends were stranded at train stations, on campus and even at Disneyland, separated from their families and not knowing what they would go home to the following day. It was also challenging because I could not understand all the content of the news bulletins as they were broadcast in Japanese; however, I could clearly understood the numbers of missing and dead that was being reported.

Two days later I arrived back in Tokyo after travelling eight hours on a night bus. Having no idea what to expect I was a little nervous. When I walked into my room my bookshelf was dishevelled but overall Tokyo seemed to be regrouping. Aftershocks continued to occur at regular intervals, differing in intensity and length. Rolling scheduled power outages affected businesses and shops and disrupted train lines, which made travel very difficult. All club activities, and graduation and orientation ceremonies were cancelled at University. Grocery stores were also affected not receiving new stock and dealing with an influx of people buying abnormal amounts of food in case of another emergency. The signs on shelving in the picture have limited customers’ purchases, for example there is a maximum of one instant noodle packet and one bread item per customer. The only grocery items that were in ample supply were alcohol and ice cream! It was good to know that Starbuck was also on hand for all your coffee needs 🙂

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During the week following the earthquake friends on exchange from American Universities were being recalled to America due to the ongoing health concerns and the risk of radiation. Despite sending an email to UOW I waited everyday anxiously checking my email and wondering if I would be the next person to be requested home. I kept receiving emails from friends and family telling me to come home but I wanted to stay. I had created a life in Japan that I was not ready to leave. However, the morning of February 18th I received the email I had been dreading; UOW was withdrawing us from the exchange program and requesting our return to Australia. That same morning I also received an email from the Australian Embassy directing that all non-essential Australian nationals were to return home. 36 hours after receiving these emails I was booked on a flight and 15 hours later I arrived at Sydney airport. It felt so surreal that I was home. I had changed so much but everything else was so familiar yet so foreign at the same time. Less than 24 hours after landing in Australia I was back at Uni organising my late enrolment, beginning classes in Week 4.

I know that I can’t be over there but I don’t know how to be here yet. I know that over time I will adjust to my new reality in Australia and I thank all my family and friends for their support. My time abroad was a life changing experience that I will always keep close to my heart. 本当にありがとうございました。

A vindication of the rights of sloth

One day during my stay in Winchester with my friend Gilly, we indulged in the oft-maligned practice of the lazy day, and we definitely felt guilty. I don’t mean like, relaxing in the sun or whatever when you’re in Thailand; I mean wilfully shunning the sights and sounds of the barely explored outside world in order to watch The Breakfast Club and From Dusk Till Dawn on a projector screen in the dark while gormandising pizza, popcorn, wedges, chicken strips, sandwiches, Twixes, and hearty servings of chips, cheese and gravy.

I know, I know: I should’ve been out ogling the London Eye or frolicking in the verdant fields saying things like ‘Oh golly, would you look at that, top drawer!’ But we just didn’t feel like it, okay? No more, this ridiculous sense of guilt. In moderation, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of hedonism. It’s like at Splendour – I enjoyed myself ten times as much once I stopped worrying about going to see every single band just to get my money’s worth. Some of my best memories of that weekend are chilling out in the coconut hut or on the hill next to the pavilion where the John Steel Singers were playing. That kind of thing leaves you well-rested for the things you really want to see, and makes your activity more exciting by contrast. That’s one lesson learned for this trip. I want to see plenty of tourist attractions and monuments, but I’m not dragging myself to them out of a sense of duty, or out of a need to manufacture memories in front of them, that’s for sure.

We tried to make up for our indolence the next day by going to the New Forest and Durdle Door, but a car accident prevented that, so we went shopping instead. I got me an English coat!

We were more successful the next day when we went to this amazing open-air museum where they preserve houses and buildings from the twelfth century onwards.

On the way there we giggled over silly English town names, imagining how they could be made more hilarious by common English town name additions like ‘Little’, ‘Great’, and ‘-ton’ = (Little) Didling(ton) and (Great) Cocking (upon Sea).

'Cocking' about

So very, very mature.

They also had a duckpond which was frozen over, and a merry time was had by all when I chased the ducks onto the surface in order to watch them skid as they landed. Perhaps less fun was had by the ducks, I don’t know.

The lazy day has slothfully reared its lugubrious head a couple of times since then, and when it casts those doleful, docile eyes upon you, all you can do is bask in its gaze and try to enjoy indulging in some good old fashioned European ennui.



Travels- Italy

Hi this is Luke Cassar posting once again studying in Switzerland.

Sooo I have been travelling a bit lately and i thought id share my trip to Italy for four days, which was quiet interesting. Ok firstly we had only planned to go to Milan and Venice, (being at Venice during Carnivale). However this did not work out as planned as hostelbookers muddled our accommodation in Venice, thus we had no where to stay for the night. Furthermore being in Venice during carnivale it was impossible to find anywhere else to stay. So we were stuffed. But our initial decision was to catch the train back to the centre of venice and stay in the city centre all night. However whilst looking at the train timetable (around midnight) we noticed a night train to Rome, so we thought what the heck lets do it. Best decision made sooo far, went to Vatican City and the Colosseum and many other magnificent places.

Ok now to Milan, we went to the famous Duoma Cathederal, catching the metro there from Milan train station. The metro escalators lead right to the front of the Cathedral, where straight away you are approached by these people we later found out were from Senegal. They approached us with these string bracelets saying it was a tradition to wear it before going in, and that it would offend people if you didnt wear it, they also said it was free. Looking around me i could see everyone was doing. So i said fine. Unfortunately as soon as they put it on me, they asked for euro’s. All of sudden i had 5 senegal men surronding me. mmm Akward. Furthermore i didnt have any change, only notes. But after complementing the senegal football side they agreed to give me change for a ten. Thank god. After the event it was quite amusing. Our second day in Milan we spent a good hour resting infront of the Duoma watching people get screwed over by these people. Quiet funny when its not happening to you 🙂 Although i was surprised that this was happening in Milan, and people are selling useless stuff everywhere and are quiet pushy.

Ok so now back to Venice, which was so awesome, people dressed everywhere in funky costumes and confetti everywhere. Masks being sold at every shop so i had to buy one! Ill let the photos describe venice though.

A few little observations..

I’m not really sure how one goes about blogging to be quite honest, but i’ll give it a shot and include a few little cultural observations of the last three weeks!  I’m a macquarie student studying in Graz, Austria this semester, however I spent 1 week in Berlin, and then travelled down to Graz.

A few little things which I find amusing and wonderful!  Having got on the plane in 42 degree weather in Sydney, and got off the plane in -5 degree weather in Berlin, I sort of went into shock.  I realised how much weather affects your lifestyle, even from the smallest things like the fact that in Sydney, when you get water out the tap, you put ice in it to make it cold, but inevitably, the water goes warm and isn’t as pleasant to drink.  In Europe, when you get water from the tap it’s cold but it actually get colder the longer you leave it!  Not that this really affects your whole lifestyle, but it’s just an observation.  But it got me thinking, as a result of the weather at home, it’s more of a natural state to be outside; at home having meals or just relaxing or reading outside in the backyard, at school everytime you leave a classroom, the corridor is outside.  However, here in Austria (in Winter) everything except moving yourself between one centrally heated location (like uni or home) to the next must be conducted inside. 

My next observation, is kinda small and silly and probably mostly reflective of the public transport in Sydney in contrast to that in Europe.  When you miss a train at home by 1 minute, you’re annoyed because it’s going to mean waiting another 15 minutes at least.  Here, you don’t even bother running for the train because there is just going to be another one in 3 minutes anyway!!  But again, that could have something to do with the weather as well because waiting 15 minutes in -5 degree weather is much worse than waiting in 25 degree weather.

So there’s my 2 cents for the moment!!

Reading week – whistler

So my reading break begun with my friend and Jasper and i walking to the steet just of campus and sticking our thumbs up. Success only took 10 minutes when a lovely lady picked us up and took us to the highway. Then another 1o minutes an middleaged couple picked us up and took us to the ferry terminal! they had lived in Sidney their whole lives and told us more about the area. Unfortunately you can not hitch a ferry so we had to buy a ticket. We did try and get a ride for the other side but  were told “No hitching on MY terminal!!!”

The ferry is massive! it has study area, kids room , massage room, arcade games room! wow. It took to more hitch’s to get us all the way to whistler but in the end it took about 9 hour which is the same as taking the 4 or 5 public transports. We couch surfed on Saturday night with a guy called Scott and his girlfriend Emily. They were great! she showed me beautiful pictures of all of the amazing hikes that you can do around whistler in the summer, and Jasper taught Scott about some computer programing thing i think…

In the morning we woke to “…i came home to strangers on the couch!!” then a slammed door. Scott had forgotten to tell his room mate about us surfing, so he was angry. I have never had this happen before, but Scott was really nice and apologised, but it did mean i was accomondation-less. I just crashed in my friends hotel room on Sunday night.

Oh well! we went snowboarding after that and Jasper taught me how to do it properly and i finally get it! i can turn and stop and all sorts of things!! i was so excited! but i now go faster and stack harder… so much fun. Whistler is a cute town with an awesome village walk.

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I love the sign “fire lane” ??? there is snow everywhere. Also the lovely sun beds 🙂 they did have the lovely view of the half frozen river.

next is Banff!


My friends came over thismorning to get me for breakfast. They were wearing jeans and 2 jumpers, beanie’s, scarfs ect and i was wearing my summer dress. They thought i was ridiculous and stated how cold it was outside (today temp is min -1 max 3, current condition 4…?). when i woke up the sun was shining and my room was warm, which hadnt happened in 2 weeks. I was taking advantage of it while it lasted. it was cold outside, which i wasnt supprised. So my point it that I am loving exchange and all of the people on exchange (and locals) and everyhing about my exchange – but the weather.

You know the days where you wake up and it is cold and raining and you just want to snuggle up and drink hot chocolate and watch movies all day? that is what type of day it is everyday. It is always cold, always. Rain is everyother day, but when it isnt raining it is still coudy and grey. and on the rare chance that the sun does decide to bless us with its precence it is even colder because the clouds arnt acting as insulation to keep it slightly warmer.

I miss the sun, the beach, wearing thongs all the time (i still wear thongs, but not everyday). I miss sun baking, never needing a jumper, jacket and beanie. I even miss sunscreen. There is a massive poster up in the dining hall about “sufing in Tofino” – aparently tofino is the place to go surfing and there is going to be a day trip or weekend trip there sometime. It seems so ridiculous to me – all the of the beaches i have seen so far have rocks with brown sand/dirt and logs all over them. Furthermore, they have to wear a dry suit or a wet suit to go surfing, even in summer. I can not wait untill the exchange expo where i get to represent UOW. Oh man i hope UOW is ready for the influx after my advertising. So my only complaint is that i am sick of being cold.


It’s been four months now.

I’ve seen so much of this place. Made a lot of friends, a lot of memories, seen and done things I would never ever have imagined.

This is much like the story of every exchange student, I would imagine, but to me, it feels special.

As I find myself nearing the end of my stay here in Umeå, Sweden, I feel like a little reflection is in order:

Actually, I’ve spent more time on my various trips around Europe than here in Umeå. Just got back from a trip further north at 1am today. I’m writing this blog now rather than later since I’m leaving again for another trip around Europe in a couple of days. Tiredness is no longer a problem, just a fact of life.

So far I have visited a whole lot of Sweden, plus bits of other countries like Poland, Finland (twice), Norway (thrice), Russia, Italy, Switzerland, France and Monaco, with plans to see Spain and Germany as well as Italy and France again before I leave – in a month.

I’ve been roaming around with friends I made here, friends from just about every country in the world (in fact I’m convinced Sweden has more Germans than Swedes). I have a bunch of Swedish friends as well, of course, but they are not so interested in such touristy activities…

One thing that you notice when travelling with non-native English speakers is that many will call just about anywhere “home”. Instead of “let’s go back to the hotel where we are staying for one night”, it’s “let’s go home”. Of course I don’t feel at home in that hotel, it’s just the place we sleep. In this case I usually try to correct people (which some really appreciate, more than others).

There is one case, though, when I don’t feel that this is a mistake; When people say we are going “home” as we return to Umeå, then I am inclined to agree with them. I do feel like I’m coming home. This feels like home.

The snow; the cold; the sun that we never see, and the beautiful skies by which we know it is still there; this tiny little room; my curtains that I found in a dumpster – held open by a coathanger; riding my bike across the frozen lake; cooking my own food in my own shared kitchen; my housemates, about whom I know nothing, not even their names (as is the Swedish way); the times when I find myself thinking “$5 Australian, what’s that in crowns?”; the big dirty factory next door, whose smoky beacon guides me safely home from any place in town at any hour of night…

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All of it. It’s home.

Murdoch students on the move

Murdoch students, Kyran, Danielle, Sylvie, Amy, Simone, Conor, Luke, Zachary, Ross, Riku, Morgan, Oscar, Julia, pictured here with Carole Rakotonirina, from Murdoch International – preparing to depart shortly for Ireland, the UK, the USA, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Japan, Austria and Greece.

International havoc

Gross croc shop in Kuala Lumpur.  Stayed here 2 nights with my mate Daz from Campus East.  Broke up the 22 hour Air Asia flight to London.

This is me in London.  No shit!

Technically this is Vatican City, but I didn’t have a guide book for there.  Visited Genoa, Rome, Arezzo, Florence, Pisa.  Ate real pizza (do not get napoli pizza).  Gelato is god’s milk.

Beautiful is an understatement.

Communist-era meal in a Polish ‘milk bar’ in Warsaw.  That purple stuff is beetroot soup, can’t recommend it.

Dutch cheese shop.

Me: “how do you keep out the mice?”

Dutch cheese shop owner: “we have a high standard of hygiene and cleanliness here.”

Humour didn’t translate.

Our first bike trip to another town!  Nijmegen is about 20km away and it took us a few good hours.  On the ride home we decided to get a six pack each.  It took longer, but seemed quicker.  The Dutch have hard buttock muscles.  Our second (and only other so far) bike trip was to Utrecht, some 60km away.  Took us six hours (minus beer).  Decided to get the train home.

In our study week we visited Germany.  This is in Munich, where crazy guys surf in a canal on water straight from the Austrian alps.  The wave never ends.  Did not give it a try.

The ‘beer challenge’ in Munich.  Yes, drinking beer is part of the culture Mum.  Beer is considered food here, and is legally drank on streets, trains, banks.  Think this is my fourth liter.  Pretty sure the twizzle sticks weren’t put in by the bar staff.

Eating my first escargot in Brussels, Belgium.  Loved Brussels and Bruges.  Can see myself coming back!  Also visited Antwerp and Ghent.

Helping old man Heineken out in Amsterdam.  Did not know a beer museum could be so fascinating!  Maybe it was the space cakes…

To be continued.  Anyone interested in more photos or stories from any of the travels (this is but a taste) just let me know and I’ll be more than happy to add them.

Preparing for Predeparture

It finally arrived

My passport arrived yesterday. Now all I’m waiting on is the German acceptance package so I can apply for a VISA. And accommodation. And then I have to do so much else, like booking flights. So one could say that this photo sums it up. A huge mess.

It also shows that I’ve got a lot of crap on my desk. I have a lot of stuff in general which I just won’t be able to pack. Like my 20+ band shirts or my 10+ pairs of shoes. I’ll definitely have to take Dog. Dog is my toy dog that my aunt gave me when I was a baby. He’s named after Dog in Footrot Flats.

I’m not sure what else to write about. Except that I’m doing this post to avoid a little bit of study before I go to work.

Like my friend Renee said, exchange is an awesome procrastination tool.


Last night I stumbled onto something I hadn’t come across in Korea before. Private Karoke rooms where you order food and alcohol over the phone thats brought to your room. Cheap good service as well. Cost my party of 4  80 dollars for 4 hours of karoke, 2 main courses followed by 6 side dishes, and bottles and bottles of soju(vodka) and beer. This leads to my post. Going out in Korea for anyone young or old means drinking soju. Its very rare to see a table without the shotglasses and empty bottles or the cheering of “chan” or “geombae” or “one shot”.

(A common sight  each one of these bottles is about 7 standard drinks)

But when you hang out with young people they like to drink somaek. Somaek is when you get a middie of beer (maekju) and pour in a shot of soju and mix it with a chopstick to make sure the soju doesnt stay at the top. Then you play drinking games where you have to have your somaek in a full or half shot. Drinking in korea starts off by a “one shot”, then repeated full or half shots of soju after. After the first or second bottle of soju has been consumed someone will decide that somaek is a good idea and a jug of beer is ordered.

Drinking in korea leads to two options. One you have to get home at midnight/2 am as you have class/work the next. Usually you will stay at the one bar and maybe go to a karoke afterwards before stumbling home. Many businessmen are passed out on the streets because of this. The second option is going to one bar for dinner and drinks. Followed by another bar for snacks and drinks. Followed by karoke or another bar for drinks and snacks. Then a club. Somaek is something I wont be drinking when I return home. That is if my liver survives this deadly cocktail.

Being too drunk in Korea is not a problem. You friends will politely forget about what happened. As it could be them next.

Soju! Chann!!! Im off to get a hangover.

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.

are you missing Oz?

Thought I would pass this on for nostalgia’s sake

(From a country pub noticeboard in South Australia)

LOG ON: Adding wood to make the barbie hotter
LOG OFF: Not adding any more wood to the barbie
MONITOR: Keeping an eye on the barbie
DOWNLOAD: Getting the firewood off the Ute
HARD DRIVE: Making the trip back home without any cold tinnies
KEYBOARD: Where you hang the Ute keys
WINDOW: What you shut when the weather’s cold
SCREEN: What you shut in the mozzie season
BYTE: What mozzies do
MEGABYTE: What Townsville mozzies do
CHIP: A bar snack
MICROCHIP: What’s left in the bag after you’ve eaten the chips
MODEM: What you did to the lawns
LAPTOP: Where the cat sleeps
SOFTWARE: Plastic knives and forks you get at Red Rooster
HARDWARE: Stainless steel knives and forks – from K-Mart
MOUSE: The small rodent that eats the grain in the shed
MAINFRAME: What holds the shed up
WEB: What spiders make
WEBSITE: Usually in the shed or the verandah
SEARCH ENGINE: What you do when the Ute won’t go
CURSOR: What you say when the Ute won’t go
YAHOO: What you say when the Ute does go
UPGRADE: A steep hill
SERVER: The bloke at the pub who brings out the counter lunch
USER: The neighbour who keeps borrowing things
NETWORK: What you do when you need to repair the fishing net
INTERNET: Where you want the fish to go
NETSCAPE: What the fish do when they discover the hole in the net
ONLINE: Where you hang the washing
OFFLINE: Where the washing ends up when the peg aren’t strong enough

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.

So how are you feeling?

Now you’ve all made the big leap and left your little pond…

How are you feeling now? Are you still in the honey moon stage or are things starting to look a little more challenging?

Dorm life in Krakow

I’ve never lived in a dorm before. Imagine my horror when I turn up to find the sheets and towels provided are torn and stained, the bed may as well be made of rocks and – more importantly – there is not access to a fridge or a clothes dryer on the premises.

The above is our makeshift fridge and Hills Hoist. I have no idea what we’re going to do when winter rolls around and it’s -15 degrees on a good day, but for now this works.

Multi Rooms!


Im studying in Korea and one of the best things to do with a small group of freinds is visit a multi room. Its a room where you use a Giant TV to an play computer games, nintendo wii games, watch movies, or sing some karoke all in the one place!

But the one thing that takes you by surprise in Korea is how beautiful they make some of these places.  Internet cafes desks look like works of art. This hallway for example is just at a multiroom. A bit snazzy to do some karoke or play nintendo.

Talking the talk

On Tuesday I flew from Sydney back to Perth on a Qantas jet. The chief steward announced the menu selection over the intercom – butter chicken or salmon in a white sauce with vegetables – but by the time it arrived on the trolley we were offered the choice of ‘chook or fish’ by the very down-to-earth steward and not surprisingly, the Filipino family next to me had little idea what he was talking about. The same guy had previously asked his colleague if he could find any extra ‘blankies’ because one of the passengers was cold, and I was just waiting for him to ask if we wanted a bickie with our cuppas. It struck me that this comfortable informal ‘kidspeak’ is really typical of Aussie vernacular- it is not patronising, in the sense of treating (other) people as children but it is certainly an acknowledged Australian characteristic to reduce everyday discourse to the ‘informal’. It happens in different ways elsewhere of course, and I respond differently too. In the UK I have felt mildly affronted at being called ‘love’ in a supermarket, but equally, here in Australia, I generally take a back step when an American student calls me ‘professor’: who me? Murdoch is very much a ‘first names only’ campus. The way language is used is fundamental to culture, and the way we respond tell us something about our own. Why do I find the Oztalk, the bickies and blankies, so offputting – it is after all ‘my’ culture. Maybe there’s a bit of cultural cringe happening here, but it also reminds me that ‘culture’ is far more than just a set of ‘national’ attributes.

What do you think?