Student Exchange Australia: An Unforgettable Experience

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After spending a great time with my exchange Lachlan’s family in Queensland, I had the chance to start school at Carey Grammar. Although I was a little anxious as I didn’t know what to expect, I was quite excited to finally meet the students and attend classes in a foreign country.

On the first morning of school, I was welcomed by the school’s exchange coordinator and introduced to four other exchange students from New York. We received our school and gym uniforms, which was very much like ours other than the colours, as well as a laptop and a schedule. We were now well equipped to start our first days at Carey Grammar.

One of the first things that I noticed upon arriving at the school was how big the school was. The “Kew” Campus, as the students called it, took up a whole city block and had numerous buildings to accommodate the 2,000 students. The Middle School Area, which holds students from grades 7, 8 and 9, was comprised mainly of a main hall and two outdoor areas with classrooms around the borders. At first, I was a little intimidated by its large size, but after a few days and a lot of help from Lachlan and the other year 9 students, I became more comfortable around the campus and found my way to all my classes.

What I also found interesting at Carey is that their curriculum is quite different than the one at LCC. My schedule and even those of my classmates in Melbourne had less time slots dedicated for core classes, which allowed students to participate in more electives and other classes, which I thought was interesting. I was given some unique courses such as an introduction to coding, an economics class and a unit on CSI and forensic science. I thought that these classes were all awesome and engaging. My personal favorite was the economics class because the teacher, Mr. Warmbrunn, would give very informative lectures and we started a neat project where we pretended to buy stocks to see how well they would do.

The core courses at Carey were like ours in that they taught English, Math, Science and History. The only major difference was the language course that everyone had to take. The students had the choice between French, Chinese, German and Indonesian. This course was taken as a second language and for most of the students, they had started in Grade 7. We also had, once a week, a class called C-Change, where we would discuss how to develop personal qualities that are important to our well-being and how well we interact with others. This class would finish with a chapel session. With all of these different features in the school, Carey was definitely a great place to attend.

As part of the exchange experience, Lachlan and I, together with the other exchanges and their partners, went to Healesville Sanctuary, which was home to many indigenous Australian animals, including koalas, kangaroos and even platypus. It was remarkable that we could get so close to the animals without them even moving. We even saw some of the world’s most dangerous snakes, which I was happy to see through the glass! My favorite animal was the dingo. The animal is only found in Australia and is half-dog, half-wolf. We caught them right before their morning walk and we took pictures right next to them. It is a beautiful animal and was unlike anything I had ever seen.

With all their great athletic facilities, I was really looking forward to playing a sport at the school. At Carey, everyone has to participate in a sport and since Lachlan plays field hockey, I would try out this sport. I didn’t know anything about the sport and figured it would be similar to ice hockey, a sport that I really enjoy playing, but it was completely different. Everything from the field and the number of players to the sticks and balls were different. The game actually bears a closer resemblance to soccer. Although it took some time to get used to, I had lots of fun playing the sport and was even able to play in 3 games, which was an amazing experience. I was also very surprised to learn that field hockey is one of the largest sports in the world and is played almost everywhere, especially in Europe, Asia and Australia.

Speaking of sports, I also had the opportunity to watch an Australian Rules Football game with Lachlan and his family at the MCG. The game was so entertaining and although I didn’t quite understand the rules, the atmosphere in the stands was incredible. Both teams had a passionate fan base that weren’t afraid to share their sometimes-colourful opinions. The game itself was very fast-paced and finished with a very high point total. This sport seems to combine the best of many different sports that are more common in North America, like rugby, handball and soccer. It was loads of fun!

Spending five weeks in Australia was an incredible experience for me that I will never forget. Although it was difficult to leave my family, I was able to visit Australia and discover its incredible natural life and culture. I also had the chance to take part in some unique classes and meet some really nice people at Carey which was lots of fun, even if it is my summer break. I also believe the exchange has helped me become more mature and responsible as a person. Finally, and most of all, I met a really great friend in my exchange Lachlan and I hope that we will stay in touch and see each other soon. – Andrew Fata ’19 Exchange Student at Carey Baptist Grammar School

Student Exchange: Exploring Melbourne and Northern Queensland

IMG_0928After spending more than 20 hours in flight aboard three different planes, I arrived in Melbourne in the morning of July 8 where my exchange, Lachlan, and his family were waiting for me. Although I was very tired from the long trip, I was looking forward to seeing Lachlan again and to finally meet his family. They were all very welcoming and I felt comfortable with them right away.

It is now winter in Australia and Carey Baptist Grammar School is currently on their holiday. We took advantage of time off school to explore the city of Melbourne. We took the train downtown to the Flinders Street Station and explored the Central Business District of the city. We spent some time walking around the Yarra River and visiting places like Federation Square. The city has a lot of very interesting modern art sculptures with a heavy Aboriginal influence, which I thought was very impressive and neat. We also went to the Eureka Tower, which is the tallest building in Australia. From the 88th floor, we could see the entire city, including the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the Art Centre and St Paul’s Cathedral. It was really spectacular! I also got the chance to visit Monash University, where Lachlan’s dad works in physiology. He is doing research on diabetes and obesity and how the brain is linked with these two things, which was really interesting. He had a lot of animals in his basement that he was testing on like rats, mice and rabbits. We also visited a 3D print lab on the campus which was amazing as they were printing with all sorts of different materials, including stainless steel.

I went with my exchange family to Port Douglas in Northern Queensland, where it was much warmer than in Melbourne. Even though we spent a lot of time swimming and going to the beach because it was so warm and nice outside, we also explored different places in the area. We first visited Mossman Gorge, which we got to after driving past what seemed like endless sugar cane fields. The rocks in the gorge were massive and the trees and plants in the area were really colourful and nice to look at. We also went to the Daintree River which was near the gorge and took a crocodile tour. This area is known for having a large crocodile population and we saw quite a few of them. I was amazed at how calm they stayed even though our boat was very near to where they were resting. We also saw some unique birds and a few tree snakes whilst on the river.

On another day, we went up to Cape Tribulation, which is a massive beach on the coast of the Northern Queensland that James Cook found when he first discovered Australia in 1770. On the way to the beach, we stopped at the Daintree Discovery Centre, where we learned about the oldest rainforest in the world and how the ecosystem worked in that part of Australia. It was very interesting to learn about this unique place because I never would have expected that there would be a rain forest in Australia but it was quite remarkable. They were also showing many old animals that lived in Australia that are now extinct, including dinosaurs and procoptodons, which are sort of like giant kangaroos. When we arrived at the Cape, I was shocked at how untouched the place was and how they’ve kept the water and the beach so beautiful.

However, the highlight of the trip for me was when we went snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef. I didn’t really know what to expect since I had never snorkeled before but it was an amazing experience. We went to three different places on the reef and we were able to see many different fish, sharks, oysters and corals living together. Some of the fish were so brightly colored and fluorescent it was as if they were artificial. We also saw massive grouper fish and even a couple reef sharks. The coral was also impressive and we could see how important it is in providing shelter and food to the other organisms in the sea. Although I wasn’t able to take a physical memory of what I saw, this was something that I will definitely not forget. It was an awesome first week that I really enjoyed. I discovered a lot about hidden parts of Australia that I didn’t previously know about and I’m happy I had the chance to visit these special places.

School will restart soon and I will be able to participate in classes and meet new people, which I am looking forward to. Even though I am going to school in the summer, I’m sure that it will be a very unique experience and I can’t wait to start! – Andrew Fata ’19 Exchange Student at Carey Baptist Grammar School

Student Exchange: A Change of Pace in Australia

Nikolas_Gardilcic5I have been in Australia for two weeks now, and I am thoroughly enjoying my stay. At first, it is a bit tough to get used to being in a foreign country on the opposite side of the world, after spending around 24 hours on airplanes. A few days in, however, thanks to my welcoming Australian family and my fairly rapid adjustment to the 12-hour time difference, I began to feel comfortable in my new home. Now, I can’t believe I’m getting close to being halfway through my time here.

In Australia, winter is just arriving, yet so far it has been warmer than in Canada, despite it being spring over there. Our house is about a one-minute walk away from the beach, so we can go there anytime, which I thought was really cool since going to a warm and sunny beach is something you rarely get a chance to do when you live in Canada.

I am enjoying school. It is a very relaxing change of pace to be going to school and learning things but not having as much stress with loads of homework and studying. Without having so many things I need to get done when I’m at home, I can be more organized, not to mention I can get more sleep and not have trouble waking up early. I have had the chance to do many fun activities and have gotten to see some very cool things throughout my first two weeks here in Australia. I am looking forward to the next three weeks of my stay. – Nikolas Gardilcic ’19

Student Exchange: The School Experience Down Under

William_Hamilton1I am writing this blog from the plane, over the Pacific Ocean. Leaving everyone I met in Adelaide was a very difficult and sad thing to do, but I can’t wait to see everyone back home. Even though my last four weeks at Westminster were less active than Westventure, they were no less fun.

The weekend I returned from the trip, I went to my first Aussie Rules Football game, and I absolutely loved it. To be fair, I knew I would, because any sport that involves running, kicking and tackling would interest me. The Adelaide Crows won the game and, four games into the season, they are Premiership favourites. I have decided that I will try to follow the AFL from Montreal.

I then had to come back to reality and actually go to school. However, Westminster School is nothing short of great. In some ways, it’s very similar to LCC. For example, they have a house system, they have a core class, but also some elective courses to choose from. On the other hand, some things are extremely different. Between each class, you walk outside – even in winter! Also, they have seven classes in a day but they only last 40 minutes. Finally, lunch is completely different. You can either bring your own lunch or buy food from the canteen. However, there is no cafeteria; you can eat anywhere in the school. Every day, I would eat outside on the field.

The following weekend, my host family took me down to their beach house in a small town called Middleton. As I was hoping, Thijs taught me how to surf. Although I wasn’t exactly a pro, I did manage to stand up a few times. Also, we went for bike rides around the town and visited a wildlife park called Urimbirra, where I fed kangaroos and saw all kinds of Australian animals such as koalas, emus, cassowaries and echidnas.

After another good week of school, on Friday, April 7, we left school a few hours early to catch a flight to Melbourne. It is honestly one of the coolest cities I’ve ever been to. The whole downtown area is built around the Yarra River and I had a really good time. We went up the Eureka Tower and did “The Edge.” You walk into a glass box and the box moves three metres out of the building. It was a pretty scary experience but also one to remember. We also went to a family friend’s Porsche 911 race and I got to sit in the racecar and rev the engine. We then flew back to Adelaide on Sunday in time to go to school on Monday morning.

My third week at school was my final week, because Westminster had a break starting on the Thursday. Immediately after school, we went on a five-day trip to a small town called Marion Bay in Innes National Park at the tip of Yorke Peninsula. Throughout the national park there are countless undeveloped beaches. Every day, we went to a new beach. We went swimming, bodysurfing, body boarding, surfing, hiking, sand boarding and exploring. We even discovered a rock pool at one of the beaches and went swimming in it. Altogether, it was an amazing trip. I can’t remember ever having seen such beautiful uninhabited beaches.

Back in Adelaide, we spent my last few days touring the city and seeing the places I hadn’t gotten the chance to see. Also, for a final goodbye, Thijs and I went to the beach with about 10 other people. It was a great time but also pretty sad.

Looking back now while I’m en route home, I can say that Australia was the time of my life. I met so many amazing people who I will never forget. I also want to take this chance to thank everyone at Westminster for being so welcoming and going out of their way to make my time in Adelaide as good as it could be. More importantly, I’d like to thank the Jaarsma family for being the best host family I could have asked for. You guys took me to do everything I could have hoped to do, and more. I can’t wait to see everyone at home but I promise that I will do everything I can to come back to Adelaide to visit. – William Hamilton ’19, Exchange Student at Westminster School

Student Exchange: Saying Goodbye to Australia

Ella_Waxman13Coming into my last week, I feel a bunch of different emotions. I’m excited to get home, see my friends and family, and sleep in my own bed; but I am also sad to leave the place I’ve been fortunate enough to call home for the past five weeks.

On Friday, I had my last youth group at Sarah’s church and said goodbye to a lot of friends. Although the chances of seeing everybody again are very slim, I’ll always remember the great friendships I made here. I was told by a number of people that I’m welcome back any time and, next month, a group of my friends and I are going to try to video chat and play a game of cards together.

The weather on Saturday was great, and even though my exchange had a birthday party to go to, I got to go into the city and walk around with her mom. We went to the New South Wales Art Gallery, where I got to see and learn more about Aboriginal art. After almost two hours at the Gallery, we went across the street to the Botanical Gardens. There, I saw a flying fox hanging from a tree, unique plant species and eels in the pond! For dinner, Sarah and I met up with a group of her camp friends and we went to Darling Harbour. We ate right next to the water and then walked around afterwards.

Sadly, the weather was bad again on Sunday and we weren’t able to go to the beach like we had originally planned. I was able to finish up my Australian shopping by going to one real and multiple fake UGG stores. Sarah and I took the train into the city and went shopping right next to the Sydney Tower. I also got Tim Tams and other Australian treats to bring back.

This trip has really been a once in a lifetime experience. Even if I come back to Sydney, it will not be the same. Because of this Round Square exchange, I have had the opportunity to fly across the world and make memories and friendships that will last forever. I’m sad to leave all of my friends here, but I know that we’ll keep in touch and that I’ll remember this trip for the rest of my life. – Ella Waxman ’19, Student Exchange at Methodist Ladies’ College