20 January 2014

Seraphie's Study Abroad: First Week in Sydney, Australia

G’day Mates!

This is my first post from my study abroad in Australia! To start with how the weather feels thus far in the country Down Under: we usually enjoy a brilliant, blue sky with hot, humid days and wonderful warm, windy evenings. Sometimes I forget that I am in a different country (continent, hemisphere) because most things (buildings, cars, stores, people, etc.) are similar to the US. But it’s those little things—when you can’t find that brand of peanut butter, or when you must remember to look right before crossing the street— that make you double take and remind you: we are in Australia! 
A friendly safety reminder to folks new to Australia: "Look Right"
            Sydney is an awesome city. As our faculty leader, Dave, says, “Sydney has the weather of San Diego, the energy of New York, the architecture of Chicago, and the layout of San Francisco,” and, in my opinion, the funky pubs of Portland. Our group is living together in a dorm-like house on Arundel Street, across from the University of Sydney. We are ideally situated at Arundel, because not only are we across the street from classes, but we are a 10-minute walk from Glebe Point Road, a street with great pubs, restaurants, bookstores and more, and about a 30-minute walk to downtown Sydney.
            Our first day in the city, we took a bus tour and saw the iconic Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge, Circular Quay, other famous sections of the city, and ended the tour with a swim at the famous Bondi Beach.

Our group in front of Sydney Harbour, Sydney Opera House, and the Harbour Bridg
Enjoying the view at the entrance of the harbour
View of the harbour
            Starting our second and third days, the mornings consisted of classes about the geology, archeology, and climate of Australia. After class, the afternoons were our own. Most of us took this opportunity to explore and/or go grocery shopping, as Arundel kindly provides breakfast, but we are in charge of our other meals. In the evenings, many others and myself have been spending our time on the roof of our Arundel home. Not only does it have a fantastic view of the city, but also as the sun is setting in the east, we have an ideal view of the fruit bats flying up from the botanical gardens and snatching at bugs in the air. When the bats swarm up, they resemble something both awesome and creepy… like the flying monkeys from The Wizard of Oz
The view from Arundel House
          In the morning on Thursday, we had classes about the history and mythology of the Australian frontier. We learned about the cultural diversity of the aboriginal communities that lived in Australia long before European colonization. Pre-colonization, it was estimated that there were 500-700 distinct and diverse groups and that the major similarity between all the communities was a sense of respect and importance placed upon the land. Similar to the colonization of the U.S., Europeans brought diseases that the indigenous Australians had not previously been exposed to, which caused thousands of deaths and wiped out entire communities. I find it incredibly distressing and downright criminal how European colonization has destroyed so many different groups across the world and that current governments (U.S. included) continue to oppress those people.

          In class, we also learned about the first colonizers, the convicts and their caretakers, and how they learned to survive in Australia. In the afternoon, we took a field trip to the Hyde Park Barracks and the ANZAC Memorial and Pool of Reflection, also located in Hyde Park. The ANZAC Memorial was originally created as a WWI memorial for those who had died, but now honors all of those who have died serving their country in the many conflicts in which Australia has deployed its military. “Lest We Forget” was written on the memorial and is now a regular Australian phrase used to show remembrance of those who have served in the Australian forces. Upon entering the memorial, people are asked to be silent, in order to show respect for the fallen. I found this experience to be deeply melancholy and moving. 
Hyde Park Barracks

ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) Memorial

Sorry to end on that somber note, but I hope y’all will keep reading my further adventures in Australia!