By Shannon McElroy
Hello hello! Greetings from First Day of Uni! I am sitting at a little café on campus with my friend Molly before we attend our ~first~ class of study abroad. I’m feeling quite blissful, as it is comfortably overcast (perfect for reading a laptop screen outside) and I’ve just ordered an iced coffee, which they make quite tastily here (and it’s funny because the Aussie baristas always ask you if you want ice or ice creamin your iced coffee, as if ice cream is just as viable an option as ice. They’re just so fun here, dammit). Upon first impression, the University of Wollongong campus is an absolute dream: a lot of architecturally impressive buildings utilizing modern but organic materials and decor, all of which are enhanced by lush vegetation and the perpetual soundtrack of those pesky birds–almost makes you feel like you’re in a ginormous ecolodge in the middle of the jungle. And it’s constantly buzzing with action. UOW holds a student population of 38,000, so there are just masses of people hanging around cafés, lounging leisurely on the grasses, having a pre-class drink at the UNIBAR (yes, folks, this is a bar-on-campus-type situation), or making the jaunt to their next class. This is very unlike CU–I would often go home in between classes at Boulder, even if it was just a half hour break. But here, I feel like I could spend the day. And I probably will at points during the week, since my home dormitory is a 15 minute bus ride from campus.
I’d like to express some general observations about Wollongong / Australia and its inhabitants that I’ve been able to pick up on in the short time that I’ve been here:
- Language–Okay so the official language of Australia may be English…but when Australians really get bantering with each other, they might as well be speaking Mandarin. They have a tendency to talk really fast, and they love to abbreviate words and put an ‘o’ on the end of everything. Seriously, watch this video, cus’ it’s not just a video. This is real life down here. I’ve had to ask people to repeat themselves that’s how over my head this Aussie-English is. Also for some reason my roommates call me “Shazzah” / “Shaz” cus’ apparently that’s also what they do here.
- Food–The food situation here is LIT. Our local Coles (grocery store) has the most amazing selection of produce, dairy, etc., and all of the restaurants we’ve dined at have been above-par. Even our dormitory café serves up a mean menu, and at not a bad price. But this is not the best part, folks. Let me tell you what I am over-the-moon, astronomically JAZZED about: 1) passion-fruit flavored EVERYTHING 2) honeycomb-flavored EVERYTHING. Guys, these are the two best flavors known to man. And they are everywhere in Australia. Passion-fruit yogurt, drinks, sauces on pastries, etc. Honeycomb-filled ice cream bar, honeycomb MCFLURRY. Yes you read that right. I ventured to “Mackas” (Aussie for “McDonalds”) one night and stumbled upon the realization that they were offering me a creamy, honeycomb-flavored ice cream drink. This was life-changing. And so was the fact that I can buy a fat tub of “passionfruit swirl” yoghurt from Coles. I think I might stay awhile.
- Attitude / Lifestyle–Like I said, it’s seriously difficult to resist the temptation of laying around on the beach all. day. long. And it’s not just because the beaches are gorgeous and most days are relatively sunny. It’s because life is just ~slower~ here. Everyone is uuuber laid back and goes with the flow. This is reflected in the fact that many people don’t wear shoes. Inside or out. Our presenter for orientation was barefoot onstage in the auditorium. I frequently enter the café thong-less (thongs = flip flops teehee). It’s freeing, really. It’s also a don’t-give-a-sh*t mindset in general. Like we just take carts (“trolleys”) to and from our dorms and the grocery store half a mile down the road. There are just shopping carts in people’s yards sometimes. No one cares. No needs to care. Because beach, sun. What more does one need?
So far, it’s been an incredibly valuable experience playing local resident rather than tourist. It’s something I enjoy immensely, to be immersed in a place further than a visit on vacation. And it’s something for which I have my parents to thank, who are fearlessly supporting me on this journey, even though they had no certain guarantee I would ever be going to actual class. So here’s to you, Ma and Pa! I’m off to school, off to school, to prove to you I’m not [always] a fool!