I’ll spare you the cliché colloquial greeting used by ever-the abroad student, and just start off this post by channeling one of my childhood icons with an ole GOOOOOOOD MORNING, BOSTOOONNNN…ston, ston, ston…
It is I, CA Angeli, reporting live from the land of Aus, with my signature curly locks a little frizzier and sun-soaked Cuban skin a whole lot tanner to prove it. As I write this, I’m celebrating my one-month anniversary with my current continent of residence, and I frankly cannot believe it. Studying abroad has been a dream of mine since I was in high school, so the fact that it has manifested in Australia of all places feels just too good to be. Stay tuned for the first morning that I wake up in Sydney and it’s not surreal!
Until then, I’ll just keep living out my Lizzie McGuire Movie fantasy. I haven’t quite been mistaken for an international pop star or, to my greater disappointment, been gifted an absurdly large wheel of cheese, but I do find myself deeply relating to Lizzie’s awe, bewilderment, and (occasional) public embarrassment. After all, being in a whole new country is a challenging adjustment for even the best of Disney channel characters. Due to a shared language and cultural similarities, I’m sure that many of you are skeptical as to how much that principle might apply to living in Australia. I thought the same before getting here. My 28 days down under, however, have proven my formerly naive self wrong time and time again.
Here are 7 instances and counting that Australia’s tested my largely Outback Steakhouse-backed knowledge…and I failed.
1) That first time I opened my apartment’s powder room door.
Picture a toilet with a sink coming out of it. The water that comes out of the faucet is used next time you flush. Pretty eco-genius but not the easiest hygienic concept to get used to.
2) That time I tried to drive my own Uber.
I had been warned before my arrival that, like in the UK, driving is done on the opposite side of the road here. No one informed me that steering wheels are also on the opposite side from what I’m used to. What’s Aussie for awkward?
3) That time I ordered an iced coffee and got a milkshake.
For whatever reason, Australians have decided that iced coffee does not obviously entail coffee chilled with ice. They have instead deemed it code for coffee chilled with ice cream. I’m not saying this is the worst mistake I’ve ever made, but my doctor would sadly not be pleased with this new breakfast routine.
4) That time I tried to use public transportation, but no one knew where I was going.
Though incredibly convenient when understood, the train and bus system in city is vastly different from that of the MBTA and thus takes some getting used to. Possibly the hardest part is knowing how to pronounce station names. Let’s just say no one will be able to help you get to “Circular Quay,” but someone will happily give you directions to Circular Quay (pronounced “Key.”)
5) That (very bittersweet) time I saw a koala and couldn’t hold it.
So it seems that Google Images is a liar. To my continuous dismay, carrying koalas is not a casual pastime over here and not every zoo will let you do it. Due to (very important) conservation efforts, it is apparently pretty rare to get this photo.
6) That time I thought I was being generous to a cashier.
Though also called dollars, the different kinds of Australian currency are a bit different (and a lot prettier) than ours. For example, there are $1 and $2 coins. There is not, however, an equivalent to the US penny. Paying $30.55 for $30.54-worth of groceries and telling the clerk to “keep the change” will thus get you nothing but a laugh back.
7) That time a local was speaking English, yet I had no idea what he/she was saying.
I’ll be honest, this has happened to me on more than one occasion. Aussies have the tendency of speaking really fast, shortening their words, and using a lot of slang. Top all of that off with their often thick accents. Now try to guess what “arvo” or “Macca’s” might mean.
So if it isn’t obvious by now, studying abroad entails a daily pop quiz of some sort. I might still be getting the hang of it, but trust me when I tell you, the last thing I’m doing is complaining.
AUSSIE! AUSSIE! AUSSIE!