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

Student Exchange: Outdoor Education in the Australian Countryside

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After by far the longest trip of my life, my exchange, Thijs, and I landed In Adelaide Airport on Friday, March 10, and were immediately greeted by his family and two of his friends who had left school early to come pick us up. Despite our jetlag, Thijs and I didn’t have much time to relax, as we had to pack for a two-week outdoor education trip called Westventure. We were leaving in less than two days! When we arrived at Westminster School early Sunday morning ready to get on the bus, I was so nervous. I was about to spend the next two weeks in the Australian countryside with Thijs and 30 strangers.

When we arrived, we were immediately thrown into sailing and kayaking sessions. After a few days, which included three sailing lessons, three kayaking lessons, an overnight hike and three 5km runs, we were already exhausted. However, the constant physical activities and team-building challenges didn’t give us time to be tired. On the fourth day, we embarked on our unassisted sail to a small town called Milang. In Milang, we spent some of the money we brought to Westventure in the downtown area. We wandered around the town, eating real food and throwing a Frisbee around in a park. We finally had some time to relax. The next day, we woke up bright and early to pack up and kayak back to camp. It was a rough awakening back to reality, because the following morning, we had to run 17km in a group of eight. We had to stay together the whole time and cross the finish line as a group. It turned out to be more of a teamwork exercise than a physical one. Our next challenge was paddling to a small strip of Aboriginal land called the Coorong. We arrived, and set up our campsite. We were right on the Coorong Channel, but if you walked 1.5km away from the water, you would reach the Southern Ocean. While we were there, we went on a guided environmental walk. Our guides were Aboriginal elders, and they knew everything about the Coorong. I learned a lot about which plants you should and shouldn’t eat in South Australia. We also went over to the ocean beach, played beach games and just let loose and had fun. We then sailed back to the campsite and woke up early for the individual 17km run. This was the last challenge on Westventure, and the following day we went back to Adelaide.

The day we got back, it was day 1 of Sports Day, their equivalent of Shourawe. Apparently, I had been signed up for 800m and 1500m races, because no one else wanted to do them. My 1500m was that day, and my 800m was the following day. I was a bit sore, but still did pretty well. Luckily, so did the rest of my house, because we won Sports Day.

All in all, Westventure was one of the greatest experiences of my life, and I will never forget it. I made countless memories, learned many new things, developed great friendships, and even discovered a lot about myself. I look forward to the rest of my stay, including meeting everyone who wasn’t in my camp, going to school, and all the memories yet to be made. – William Hamilton ’19, Exchange Student at Westminster School

Student Exchange: Beach Hopping And Waterparks

Ella_Waxman3After three weeks of almost nonstop rain, the weather finally got better. We were able to go outside a lot this week, which allowed me to see so many more things. On Friday, we had FRESH, the church youth group, and we went to Darling Harbour to get gelato. While we were there, we went into a mini water park that’s set up in a green space at the Harbour. It was a lot of fun and, after the religious part of the group, we went to get gelato.

This past weekend, I didn’t get to sleep in, but that allowed us to do more during the day. On Saturday, we took a ferry to Manly Beach and got a great view of the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House. Once at Manly Beach, we walked around the water and then to another beach nearby. The water was so clear that I could see little fish swimming around just a foot away from me. Because of the heat, we decided to get something to drink so I got a whole coconut from a cafe nearby and Sarah got an iced chocolate drink. We drank them while sitting on a mini rock cliff looking over the ocean. The view was amazing. We then went to a small market and had burgers before heading back towards the ferry.

The weather was even better the next day. Sarah and I spent most of the day at Wet ‘n’ Wild, a water park, and had a great time. When we got into the park, we were given bracelets that allowed us to do something called Tap ‘n’ Play, where we got to reserve our spots on a ride with a long line, while we did something else. After we spent the day tanning, going on water rides and swimming, we went to Featherdale Wildlife Park to see some marsupials. The park was filled with different types of animals, like koalas, dingos, wombats, Tasmanian devils, quokkas, and I got to pet and feed wallabies and kangaroos. The wallabies and kangaroos were very friendly and super soft. I got to see some animals that I’ve never heard of before, and it was a great experience.

On Monday, we had school, and since the forecast for Tuesday looked very good we planned to go to Bondi Beach. Although it was overcast, we still went down to the coast and had a great time. Sarah and I did the Coogee to Bondi beach walk along the coast and got to see some amazing views and really nice beaches. Since it was a weekday, we had the beaches to ourselves and even though it wasn’t super hot, I went in the water. Along the coast walk, we stopped to have a snack on a few cliffs looking over the ocean. We recorded our day, took lots of pictures and then got a giant thing of chips. Sarah brought bread with her to the beach and made me something called a chip butty, which is a piece of white bread with butter and fries. I did not like it, but apparently it’s an Australian delicacy. I tried eating some more chips, but as a North American I was missing ketchup. I asked Sarah where I could get some ketchup, which is actually called tomato sauce here and it’s sweeter. It turns out that in Australia there are no free ketchup packets anywhere. I had to pay a dollar for three mini packages of tomato sauce and I was shocked. Besides the super sweet dollar ketchup, I had an amazing time. We ended the day by getting some gelato from Gelatomessina, which was amazing, and then headed back to Sarah’s house.

Australia is an amazing place and I highly recommend it to anyone. Just bring your own ketchup. I only have a week and a half left here, and I already know that I’m going to miss the country and all of the friends I have made. I have seen and done so much and can’t wait to experience new things in the next week. – Ella Waxman ’19, Student Exchange at Methodist Ladies’ College

Student Exchange: A Canadian’s Survival Guide to Life in Australia

As my time in Adelaide, Australia comes to an end, I reflect back on everything this trip has taught me. It taught me to be independent, how to step further out of my comfort zone than I could ever imagine and, most importantly, it taught me how to be a better version of myself. I learnt about new people, cultures and traditions. Over these past six weeks, I became immersed in Australian culture, although Bronwyn’s (my exchange) parents are American.

Let’s make a few things clear. First of all, you will NOT see kangaroos and koalas roaming the streets (unfortunately). Secondly, not all Aussies surf. Some do, but unless they tell you about it, don’t assume! The word “thongs” will most likely be used often and it doesn’t mean what you think it means… It means flip-flops! (Kind of confusing, I know.) There is, apparently, a HUGE difference between chips and hot chips (I’m still not quite sure what the difference is but I know it’s there.) Australians do not spend every minute of every day idolizing Steve Irwin, the crocodile hunter, and lastly, not once did I hear anyone say anything about putting shrimps on the barbie!

During my time here, I experienced a lot of different things. I had the opportunity to visit Sydney and see famous sites like the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. I had heard so much about both those places and it was amazing to see them in person. School in Adelaide is very different from LCC. Not only is it completely foreign territory but everything’s outside! You catch some sun just walking from one class to another. I was lucky enough to participate in Westminster’s swimming carnival. They have houses like we do at LCC and students in each house swam different races and did relays. It was nice and interesting to see a somewhat familiar activity where houses were competing against each other all the way across the world.

It took awhile for me to adjust to all the changes but that’s okay. As hard as it was to adjust to things like the 15-hour time change and making new friends, going on an international exchange has been a worthwhile experience and has changed me for the better. I was able to form bonds that will hopefully last a lifetime and I hope I’ll be able to visit my Aussie friends soon! – Sophie Levy ’19, Student Exchange at Westminster School