After 21 hours of travel time I finally arrived in Melbourne. The flight from LAX to Melbourne is the longest commercial flight in the world, but sleeping and lots of in flight movies helped it go by surprisingly quickly. A shuttle from the airport took me and other international students straight to our housing. I’m living in the Burwood Student Village – a cluster of 20 units each housing 10 students. I have my own room and share the bathrooms/kitchen with the other students. The Australians have been surprised to learn that most students in the US live on campus for part of their studies and usually share a room with another student. The majority of Australian students either live at home or share houses with friends. Only the international students have been on campus this past week, but slowly the first and second year Aussies are trickling into the residences. There will be eight Aussies in my unit.
The first couple of days on campus were devoted to settling in and adjusting to the 19 hour time difference. On Monday all of Deakin’s international students gathered early for a 3 day trip to the city of Lorne along the Great Ocean Road. The Great Ocean Road stretches 243 kilometers along the coast of the state of Victoria. The terrain varies from dense rainforest to limestone cliffs. The trip to Lorne from Melbourne was 150 km or 93 miles – though it took twice as long as many of us expected due to the hair-pin turns our buses had to navigate.
Lorne is such a small community that it felt as if the international students took over the town. Deakin pre-arranged everything for the students including accommodation, meals, and all sorts of activites. My group was housed in a hostel, though others were spread across the few hotels and beach cottages Lorne had to offer. Everyone was groggy from the early morning and dizzying bus ride so after settling into their temporary housing most people decided it take it easy by having coffee in one of the cafés or strolling along the beach.
Tuesday was my 21st birthday though it was unlike any birthday I’ve ever had. It started at 7 am with breakfast on the beach. Immediately following breakfast (or brekky as it’s called here) the 3 other groups headed off for either surfing, hiking, mountain biking, kayaking or yoga. My group was given “leisure time” so I watched 20 or so fellow students attempt to surf. I decided that being tossed around in the sea like a leaf was not my cup of tea so I decided to chicken out. My friends would have none of that so with a racing heart I got in my wet suit and paddled into the sea. Surfing was a blast! I was completely terrible and fell over countless times but I loved it nonetheless. Yoga followed surfing which was perfect since I was exhausted. I had just enough energy left for a short hike in the rainforest before a good ol Aussie barby (BBQ) of lamb and vegetables. That night my lovely new friends surprised me by having the restaurant DJ lead everyone in singing “Happy Birthday” and adorning me with a hat and boa.
It was another very early morning on Wednesday since we were embarking on another long trip further down the Great Ocean Road. The main attraction was the 12 Apostles, a stunning display of limestone stacks in the ocean. I’ve never seen water quite that color before. Along the way we stopped to see Koalas in their natural habitat and marvel at the acres of rainforest. It took 6 hours to return to Melbourne but all of us arrived back happy, yet exhausted and ready for more adventures in Australia.
All the best to everyone back home!