My adventure takes me to Sydney, Australia, to study at University of Technology Sydney (UTS) thanks in large part to the Gilman Scholarship for funding me on this journey!
I have now been in Australia for over two weeks. For the moment, a family has been kind enough to let me stay with them in East Lindfield (rent free!), about 35 minutes away from the city, until I could move into my apartment in Sydney.
Besides driving on the left side of the road, the season being summer instead of winter, and using the metric system, one of the biggest differences from the U.S. that I have noticed is the animals.
Australia tends to have a reputation for having the most dangerous and monstrous animals on the planet. While they do have a unique array of animals, I am not battling huge plate-size spiders or jumping over snakes and crocodiles when I wake up in the morning; it’s fairly calm in the suburbs/city and antivenom is readily available if one gets bitten.
The animals are from a different world, with bizarre creatures such as the bandicoot, the echidna, the cassowary, the wombat, and the platypus (which was not believed to be a real animal by scientist for a long time when first discovered).
Here, you can find birds you’ve only seen in American zoos such as cockatoos and kookaburras. Wild rabbits roam free and are regarded as pests that destroy crops due to their invasive population. Gigantic monstrous spiders are considered friendly, while smaller spiders are the ones to stay away from.
One of my favorite moments so far has been feeding a kangaroo and petting a koala (which is not recommended out in the wild because they have diseases). Koalas are really secret cats, because of their picky eating, their antisocial behavior, and their 20 hour sleep schedule; seeing them awake is a rare sight and makes one forget about the problems in the world and/or worries about school.
In the backyard where I am staying at, I found a bush turkey eating bread left by the family and possums roaming the grass while screeching out for his friends. It is not that different than the U.S., with raccoons and stray cats visiting your background, but only with a different sort of animals.
There is also a lot of dense, open bush areas and greenery outside of Sydney, a welcome sight after years of enduring a heavy drought in California. Everywhere I walk in this vast country, I could stumble upon a large park or an open area with Australian magpies roaming the fields.
A few nights ago, it rained heavily with hail the size of a quarters and then two hours later, it was sunny again.
Even though I love seeing plants and trees growing everywhere, my sinuses have been going crazy from all the pollen. I love nature, but it’s a battle sometimes going outside.
I also have to be mindful about putting sunscreen on, because the ozone layer over here is very thin and more Australian citizens get some form of skin cancer than Americans do in their lifetime.
Their money just makes more sense than ours!
-It’s colorful, to tell it apart.
-It’s plastic rather than paper, which makes it more resilient and the clear part on the corner makes it one of the hardest bank notes to counterfeit in the world.
-Smaller denominations notes are smaller and bigger denominations notes are bigger, making it easier for blind people to tell the difference (and not get scammed). They also have recently modified the $5 note to include brail so blind people again could further tell the notes apart.
-Besides the Queen, other Australian figures appear on the bill. It is usually one man and one woman sharing the note (instead of just all men) and Aboriginals are included as well.
-Australia doesn’t have pennies and instead just rounds up or down to the nearest five cents. This saves a lot of time and reduces the necessity to carry excess change.
I have been to the UTS campus and have met friendly members of staff. Doing so has eased my nerves about starting school in another country. I will talk about this more in future blogs.
I start in a week, but until then, see ya.