(Written 9 March, 2 weeks into class and 3 weeks since arrival)
There’s a dreadful moment in every student’s life when they realize that break is over, and class is soon to become a defining factor in their schedule for the next several months. It’s a fear that intensifies with age and progress throughout the years in school: while first graders might not mind so much, middle schoolers are disheartened, and high schoolers generally appalled. But, despite negative connotations, the structure of school has benefits to organization and preparation for life in the future, as well as other unexpected perks, or so I’ve been told. This moment of realization happened shortly after my triumph at the Twelve Apostles, on the way back from a wonderful orientation weekend, and knowing that the next day, I’d have to settle into a new structure in which school once again dominates all aspects. Further, I wasn’t certain if staying in touch with everyone was as certain as I’d assured myself, and that perhaps the ‘friendships’ I formed were only temporary.
My first class started at 4:00 on Monday afternoon, leaving me plenty of time to sulk and complain before heading to campus. The campus is actually very pretty, despite the fact that good chunks of it, and the area surrounding UniLodge, are always under construction (not too different from upstate NY in that regard, especially Albany). It’s not too difficult to find your way around, with every building and class clearly labeled, so I ended up making it to my first lecture about 15 minutes early. I walked in the door to a big theatre style room, which would soon become dotted with about 40 students. Scanning the room you could see no one was dressed sloppily, which was somewhat (much) different from New Paltz, and a wide range of students from different backgrounds and ages. The professor soon entered, set up her presentation, and began. And by began, I mean, began. There was, of course, and introduction to the course, but within half an hour we were on to class material and learning. Another strange concept, being used to at least a week if not more of basic orientation.
That was over at 5, and I was quickly on my way to my next class: a tutorial. Each unit, in general, consists of both a lecture and a tutorial, with the lectures being used mainly to cover content as a big group, and the tutorial to apply it in a more personalized manner. So this class, serving as one of the tutorials for the previous lecture, was only half the size of the previous, with the professor more personal and giving us time to introduce both ourselves and the concepts of the class. Within the hour, we were done, and I was on my way back to the lodge. Two classes down, six to go. Tuesday’s and Thursday’s being my free days, my next day of class of Wednesday, at 9:00 in the morning, and naturally, it was the class I already knew I didn’t really want to take but had to because of a lack of alternatives. After the dreary lecture, a long but somewhat well split up day letting me go home whenever I didn’t have class for an hour or two, and ending altogether at 4:00. Friday would follow a similar schedule, with minor differences but still a 9-4 day.
Overall, classes seem easier than at New Paltz, but there’s a lot less that goes into the grade itself. Whereas at NP, the grades are split between several different factors, here there are only three or four, which means you have to focus heavily on those parts (usually a final exam, essay, presentation, and something else). In general, I find the lectures are more informative but more boring, and the tutorials more entertaining but somehow less useful personally. Taking mostly history classes, the style is very easy to get used to across the board, and the way the classes are designed means that you only need to focus on one section at a time, which works well. My favorite class is probably either The World Before 1700, a history class spanning most of earlier history, and Impossible Worlds, my one elective in creative writing and something I really want to get in to more. Least favorite is definitely Irish History: I didn’t really want to take the class, and I’m not at all Irish or connected to the Irish (that said, I’m learning a lot and some parts are somewhat interesting).
Although a certain amount of effort has to be put toward school, I still find plenty of opportunities to do things, and with my schedule now well divided it’s easier to prioritize and plan what do when. Instead of just wandering the streets of Melbourne aimlessly (which don’t get me wrong, is definitely something to do), I now actually have to plan where to go and when, giving the overall experience more structure. Last Saturday I went with a few friends through the school to a wildlife sanctuary, and loved seeing all the cute Australian animals (as well as some scarier ones!) Another ‘welcome to Australia’ moment, seeing all the local wildlife is something I certainly enjoyed, and the koalas are even cuter in person! I’m still able to go into the city on non-class days if I like, or even after class, and one thing I especially enjoy is heading down to the river as a nice respite from a long day of classes. Tomorrow, I’m planning on going to the horse races for the day, and after that, who knows?
Unfortunately, as I had anticipated, some of the bonds I made over orientation trip were indeed temporary. While there are many I’d like to keep in touch with and hang out with, due to both a result of smaller more exclusive groups being formed as well as different schedules and plans for the semester (and also a good part due to me not being overly outgoing), the vast number of new acquaintances turned out to be just that. That said, everyone I met is still a friendly face, and as it turns out, I began to fall into my own smaller group of friends as well. Each of them I’ve gotten to know more and more, and we actively try to spend time with each other and do things. It really is strange: one month ago I hadn’t met most of these people, and suddenly we’ve become close friends. But, that’s part of the weird transformation you go through when you study abroad. And honestly, if I come home having made just one or two friendships that’s close and meaningful and lasts post-Australia, I’m happy.