So I figured I’d summarise a few things I learned on my year abroad that I hadn’t initially considered that I’d get out of it. Each country will be different, but here’s 5 from that little place down under.
- Not all coffee is created equal.
So I had no idea how much of a coffee culture there is in Australia. Personally, I drink coffee black; I’m a bit of a purist, and can’t drink milk, so yeah it’s the way to go. Having said that, O2 priority did teach me that at a coffee shop, I order a large Americano, and I’m fully aware of the PSL Starbucks craze, and did understand a little as to how different blends and beans could produce different flavours.
However, nothing could quite prepare me for the myriad of different niche, indie coffee shops in different laneways across Melbourne especially (Centre Place/Degraves St., I’m looking to you), but really, across Australia. Starbucks pretty much isn’t a thing over there – many Aussies I met argued it wasn’t coffee at all, just dirty water. Either way, the fact that they formulated the Flat White (like a cappuccino/latte except with a thinner foam) and the fact that despite the fact I can’t even drink milk I now know the difference between the two (which is minute, really) kind of says it all.
2. First years don’t all live on campus. Also, not all on campus are freshers.
When I knew I’d be staying in Halls for at least Session 1, it hadn’t really occurred to me that I’d be meeting people of all ages. I’d assumed it’d be freshers and international students, and then mentors. In Australia, though, given the massive distances between places, campus is for all years (but also first years, mentors and internationals).
Also, campus isn’t so much of a ritual over there. While many do move out of home, there are a large number of students that will live at home and go to uni a couple of days a week, or just watch the classes (which are recorded) online, to save time and money. Seems to make more sense, actually. Maybe doing that this year, given my lack of hours, would’ve been a shout. Might not have such a mountain to build to repay SFE.
3. Keeping a journal is a great habit
If you’d asked me about writing a diary or a journal before my year abroad, I’d have just passed it off as a waste of time. Now though, I see it as invaluable. It isn’t just a way to keep track of all the sick adventures you’ve had, names of new friends (I suck at names) or an outlet for your thoughts. It’s much more.
My journal is a source of accountability for me. That’s heaps important, especially now – it reminds me of what I have to do and makes me notice when I’m slacking. It’s also really therapeutic, and so good for thinking and general articulation. You don’t even have to write a lot, unless you want to. Nowadays, when everything’s online, it’s also really nice to have something solid with some physical presence (that you can personalise to your heart’s content).
4. Distances aren’t as big as they seem.
This may sound out of place; I went to a huge country that took over a day to get to and seemingly endless hours to get around. Having said that, I met people from all over the world whilst I was there, from (almost) every continent. Pretty sure I could stay on a different couch in each, should I need to.
But what really makes it small is technology. Once you work out the time difference, a Skype call removes (almost) all barriers, and just in front of you is your Mum’s face, holding a cat you haven’t seen for months. I guess part of me being able to say the world is small is how my attitudes have changed, and my knowledge of globalisation and time-space convergence (Uni taught me well), but the fact that you can actually physically get home to see your family from the OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD at the drop of a hat and a fair few Aussie dollars, does show just how distance as an obstacle barely seems to be worth considering nowadays.
Put it this way. Before my year, I’d never really been on a proper roadtrip. In my last month abroad, I put 5,000kms onto the clock of a car my age, and still had over a week to chill in the Gong before heading back.
5. You don’t have to eat meat at every meal
Again, given just how much meat (snags, chicken parma, sausage rolls, chiko rolls, meat pies, and most delicously: kangaroo) Aussies consume, I wouldn’t have expected myself to have reduced how much meat I eat, after having lived there for a year.
However, not only did I learn of the environmental implications of eating meat while I was there (one cow produces more methane than the average car), I also began to understand more of the health impacts associated with meat consumption. I gave up eating meat in the week for a while, and didn’t eat red meat for over 3 months as part of an environmental awareness challenge that I kind of extended.
Admittedly, the saying does go ‘throw another shrimp on the barbie,’ but in reality, nobody says shrimp (or throws them onto their BBQ ). So, whilst most Aussies do consume a lot of meat, on average, I learned the value of a diet slightly lower in water, grain and energy consumption, and slightly higher in avocado, caffeine and peanut butter (sorry Vegemite: you’re alright, but not making the cut).
So yeah, a little different, but to anyone going abroad, and for those who aren’t, there really are new things to learn at every turn. Oh, by the way, that’s the average Aussie family shop for a week. Meaty.
Almost forgot the most important: 6. No Australian drinks Fosters.