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Journals from James Cook University

2014-02-16 Pinch Me, I'm Dreaming

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Our first trip to the beach consisted of us helping a lifeguard dispose of a snake, killed by ingestion of a rat who had subsequently ingested rat poison.

Australia. My home for the next five months. It’s tough to wrap my mind around the fact that I am in this beautiful, diverse country: the country I’ve wanted to visit ever since middle school. Maile and I, the only two Linfield students studying abroad for Teaching Period 1 in Cairns, Australia, arrived on the 13th of February. We had been traveling since Tuesday, but given the time difference, we arrived on a Thursday. Our travel began in Portland; we hopped on a plane to Los Angeles, and then proceeded to board a much larger jet towards Sydney. As soon as we boarded the plane, accents filled our ears. It filled me with joy and excitement to hear the sounds of the country I would soon be arriving into. The 14-hour plane ride wasn’t as terrible as I had imagined, but it wasn’t a walk in the park. After landing in Sydney, we were greeted by customs agents. I had never traveled outside the United States before, so this was all new to me. It seemed that every official aimed to look at our passport. We made it through unscathed, and boarded our final flight to Cairns. In this city, we took our first step out into the airs of Australia. Let me tell you, the air hit us like a bus. The humidity here is overwhelming, but the heat and beauty of it all is more than worth it. Our bus took us and other international students to the Student Lodge, where we would be staying. We met individuals from Singapore, Australia, and the States. It was on the bus ride over that I realized the Australian stereotype is true: Australians are beyond kind, and laid back. The only citizens that haven’t been super welcoming are some of the bus drivers; however, I can understand where their frustration comes from, being that Cairns is a huge tourist spot. Maile and I are rooming together, with another individual who has yet to show up. We live in a “cluster”, or apartment. I am finding out how much money everything costs here and how unprepared I was for what my life would be like for the next four months. I had no sunscreen, bug spray (mosquitoes are EVERYWHERE- I can hardly count the bites on my body), utensils, etc. Luckily, there is a campus shopping mall directly across the street, which consists of a KFC, Dominoes (which we have taken to eating at multiple times), IGA, Chemist, and other shops. So far, I am in love with this city. I haven’t been extremely homesick, except for the first night. We ventured into the city, the bars, the beaches, and the markets. My diet for the past few days has consisted mostly of fresh fruit purchased at the markets in downtown Cairns. Allow me to outline key highlights and difficulties of my trip thus far: HIGHLIGHTS: - The people. I have met countless individuals from all over the world: Norway, Sweden, Papua New Guinea, Germany, America, you name it. Of course, the people I am most excited to greet and learn more about are Australians. You guessed it-I love the accents. I find the Australian kids talking in their accents to be one of the most adorable things I’ve witnessed. - The scenery. Hills covered in rainforest surround the town. Palm trees sway immediately outside my window. I’m in paradise. DIFFICULTIES: - The public transportation system. Almost every time Maile and I have attempted to go on an excursion, whether it be to town or to the beach, we have had problems with the buses. They are extremely difficult for a small town country girl like me to figure out. One of the hardest things is returning to the Lodge at nighttime, and not being able to recognize where our stop is. I had always imagined the bus driver would stop automatically at our destination, but we found out the hard way that this is not the case. - The mosquitoes. They bite, at all times of the day, everywhere. The bites are some of the worst I’ve ever had. Although I’ve not been here very long, I can tell I will gain a great deal of knowledge and develop my social skills here in Cairns. Until next time, Sara Schurter

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