So, following on from my last post about unexpected learnings in Australia (and because I know you all loved reading it/I enjoyed writing it) here’s another little list of things that I learnt on my year abroad that I hadn’t considered initially.
6 – Now I know I kinda put 6 at the end of the last post, but this follows on. Aussie students drink wine. Wine. Who does that? Here was me expecting (as mentioned before) the mountains of Fosters cans that you see at the end of Leeds/Parklife/Creamfields, but no – they’re all drinking box wine out of a ‘goon sack’ because it’s $13 for 5L of Fruity Lexia. Everyone knows Fruity Lexia makes you sexi-er. (Or just everyone else look sexier). Personally, I can’t do it – I go as red in the face if I drink it as the (red) wine in the bag itself, so steer clear, but they love it so much there’s a game called Goon of Fortune, using a spinning washing line and a sack of goon. I’m sure you can guess.
7 – Surfing is unlike any other board sport I’ve ever done.
Now I don’t claim to have the best balance, having barely done any to be honest, but before trying surfing I’d messed about on skateboards and snowboards, and got decent on a wakeboard. While I’m no scratch on anyone, really, I did kinda expect to be able to turn the surfboard (wide beginner’s floaty island, to be honest) by (flexing?) heels and toes. Turns out, that won’t do much except upset the board and get you wet. Oops.
While it is still about the lower body, it’s more about weight distribution over the back and a little with the curve of the wave. Yeah, sorry, it’s a bit of a wishy-washy (ha, wash) explanation. As you can tell, it was an achievement for me to get up and steer it a little bit. I’ll take my small victories 🙂
8 – It’s easy to forget there’s a world out there.
Being at uni, sometimes you get snowed under with work/socialising (for me it’s now work, thanks dissertation) and you kind of forget there’s a real world that you actually live in that involves politics and humanity and the environment and the mess that is economics. Well, with Australia, it’s also easy to forget that there are other countries. Now partly that’s ‘cos it’s massive. I mean huge, like, bigger than Europe. As a result, the weather doesn’t even show other countries, and what little news you do get of other countries is normally from Asia-Pacific, or the US if it’s about the election. Point being, I barely heard a thing about anything from Africa over my time there unless I looked for it. Guess maybe I noticed that more as I changed as a person, but I thought it was worth mentioning. Guess it could swallow Europe, and seemingly all its problems, and I wouldn’t really have been any the wiser. Yeah, a little political on this one (there’s a whole lot more in my head). Sue me
9 – Public transport (especially trains) are MASSIVELY overpriced here
Now this, I kind of knew already, but still. Put it this way. To get from Sheffield station to my little station on an off-peak 16-25 railcard return costs £26.45. That’s about 90 minutes with a change, total train time about 70. Yes, I could go advance etc. and make it cheaper, but hear me out. That’s about a 55 mile trip by car (I haven’t measured on the train, but it’s over the Peaks).
By contrast, on a Sunday using my standard Opal card (think Oyster, but international students don’t get concession ones) I could go from Wollongong to Sydney (taking approx 100 mins no stops) then all around Sydney as much as I wanted on buses, more trains, or even on the Ferry across to Manly for the beach and fish and chips (in fact even up to Newcastle or the Blue Mountains) and then go home that evening, all for $2.50. Yeah, 2 dollars 50 cents, just don’t get off at the airport. Don’t tell me our public transport is fairly priced. Going home for Christmas? Just about, but probably by car (though it’ll be a shared trip).
10 – White bread, butter and sprinkles are (apparently) a winning combo as a party food.
Now, while I don’t want to be a party pooper, if you give me buttered white bread with sprinkles on at a birthday party over here, I’d think. “They forgot to buy a cake.” In Australia though, ‘Fairy Bread’ is a massive hit among kids (and uni students reliving their childhood days). While I guess you could layer it and kind of build a cake, I’m sceptical as to whether it should really count. Like, even I can make a nice cake – I did for my Mum’s 50th (just don’t ask for biscuits). Point being, not sure I’d count this as ‘food,’ more ‘sugar overload.’
On second thoughts, though, I guess the existence of fairy bread is why you only get one slice of bread with your snag sandwich. What even? No hot dog rolls or anything, the standard there is a slice of this bread with a sausage inside, folded along the sausage line (so it’s shaped kind of like a Samosa). Least it’s not covered in Vegemite, I guess. While you can get kangaroo sausages (the best kind of sausage), personally, I’ll take a kangaroo burger if it’s going and skip the bread and sauce. Maybe it’s just me, but the Aussie love for the Coles sliced white loaf didn’t rub off.
I feel bad now – I ended on a negative, and yet I had the best year ever. So, Australia also taught me how to get out of my comfort zone and be open to trying new things, meeting new people and most importantly, to be myself. There, that’s better.