Thursday, July 22, 2010
Perth and Settling In
As part of our orientation, we participated in “an amazing race” around Perth, the capital of Western Australia. Perth is about 30 minutes north of Fremantle by train. Our group went to the train station yesterday and all got a “smartpass” which makes utilizing the nearby train super quick, easy, and painless. Hopefully I’ll be able to take advantage of it and make many a trip up to Perth while I’m here. Anyways, we were given a set of clues, tasks, and missions to complete all dealing with main sites, attractions, and areas around Perth. We were lucky to be blessed with more stellar Australian weather; so far I’ve been incredibly lucky because even though it is winter here, every day has been a consistent and beautiful 60-65 degrees with no signs of clouds, rain, or yuckiness. It was a blast getting to know other people from different residence halls (my residence hall, The P and O hotel, houses mainly students from a school in Minnesota called St. Johns-St. Bens, while the other two residence halls consist mainly of people from University of Portland and Notre Dame). Seeing and experiencing Perth for the first time was also quite cool, I look forward to getting to know the area better and spending more time there. Our guide was a hilarious Australian student named Nina who not only gave us an inside look at Perth, Uni, studies, bars, life, and Aussie culture, sayings, and mannerisms, but also gave us many helpful hints in our navigations around Perth and treated us all to some serious post-race hydration in the form of pitchers of beer. One of the many insights into Australian life she told us is that minimum wage here hovers around 15-16 bucks per hour and that most places often exceed that (imagine raking in 20 bucks an hour for flipping stinkin burgers!!!). Unfortunately, this makes it no biggie for a local Australian to justify spending such outrageous amounts of cash on everyday items and groceries and the like, whereas us poor American’s struggle to keep up! After exploring Freo and checking out food, groceries, and local trinkets, everyone here has noticed that everything here is almost twice as expensive as it is in the states! Alcohol is even worse and reaches an unthinkable price level; I’ve begun assuming that they infuse beer with some kind of liquid gold to inflate its price to absurd levels (try 55+ dollars for a 24 pack of Corona, yikes). The bars are no better, with many of my fellow travelers dropping over 40 dollars per night (at 10 dollars a drink that’s not entirely uncommon). Thankfully, I have managed to steer clear of wallet depleting drinking habits thus far.
Since my first post, we have had several more community dinners and everyone is starting to gel and get to know each other which is great. I can already tell that the P and O is going to have a stellar atmosphere and group bond. Tomorrow is the last day of orientation and after a weekend of fun and frolic classes start!!! The education system and schooling style are completely different in Australia. From everything I’ve heard thus far from orientation meetings and chatting with local Aussies, this is what I’ve gathered: 1) very limited homework (yay!!!) 2) grades consist of three or four massively important essays and tests with limited assessments in between (meaning pop quizzes are rare but finals week stress exponentially increases) 3) Classes have unique meeting times (only once a week for super marathon sessions) 4) The grading scale completely differs from anything I’ve ever heard. They start with zero percent, and throughout the semester you gradually accumulate points. Finishing the semester with a percentage between 65 to 80 percent is considered very impressive. These percentages translate to several different grading categories: high distinction (super rare grade for nerdy smarty pants), distinction, credit, pass, and fail. Clearly they must have adopted this system after reading Harry Potter and the grading scale for O.W.L.S. (exceeds expectations, acceptable, troll, etc…).
Anyhoo, before I sign off here are some of the Australian slang terms I’ve picked up so far, much more to come once I start classes with a roomful of silly, chinwaggin’ Aussies:
Ankle Biter- Toddler/Small child
Timetable- schedule (schedule is pronounced sh-h-h-edule)
“My shout”- “I’ll buy this round of drinks”
To “root” on a team means you’re having sex with them, if they are your favorite team you either “go” for them or “barrack” them