After 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