Hey! I’m Jess and I’d decided to spend a year in Australia in order to improve my English and to spend some time on the other side of the world (as travelling is one of my many passions)! Back in Switzerland, I looked at all the offers for different exchange programmes and decided I was going to do the Sydney programme with INTO (partner organisation of CEA in Switzerland). It seemed like the best option, having school fees and all that comes with it included and first of all getting very supportive assistance from Campus Education Australia, in Sydney.
I hadn’t realised what I was doing for a very long time, saying goodbye to my friends and family back home wasn’t really hard at all! I was just so excited, couldn’t wait to start my adventure in Australia! Once I was on the plane, nervousness started to kick in and all those questions were twirling around in my head (“What am I doing, going to a country I’ve never been to before, staying with people I didn’t know and first of all, not knowing anyone at all!”) But I felt at home very soon after I’d arrived! My hostfamily was just lovely! They showed me around in Manly, the city, we had barbecues at Clontarf, etc.
Then, my first day of school…oh my! I didn't like school so much in the beginning! No one had told me anything about what was going on…Ok, I did ask people and they helped me, etc. but there were just so many things I wasn’t used to (“roll call?” what was that? We don’t have that in Germany). I a bit really disappointed, having seen how exchange students were treated at my school at home, being welcomed by the principal, being showed around,etc. There I was, at Forest High, trying to find my way around there… But you get used to everything and it’s not for the rest of your life, so accept it and make the best out of it!
I joined a soccer team (the Seaforth U18s Ladies) so I had training twice a week and a game on Sundays when the season had started. Our coach was only 24 and the other girls were my age or older and went to different schools… Our trainings were always a lot of fun and I always looked forward to them! We really became a team and when the season was over (we came third) everyone was sad! I’m still in contact with them and do things with some of them! Other than soccer, I went to the gym (kickboxing classes, yoga and pilates were some of the classes I enjoyed most). And I also tried a lot of other things as well, like Capoeira, swimming, touch football, Beach Volleyball course, etc. I really used the time here to try stuff I didn’t have the possibility or I just was too busy with other things at home to do it. My friends took my to some Rugby league games of the Sydney Rooster’s, turning me into a real fan… I went to the Cirque du Soleil, the Maroon 5 concert, and the JET concert…
With CEA we got together about once or twice a term, to catch up, look at photos and tell each other stories! We went Ten Pin Bowling, having pizza, going to Pancakes on the Rocks, etc. I could always rely on the support of CEA! My area rep would check on me regularly, asking me how I was going, etc. and if there was any trouble, it was sure that I could meet her within the same week!
My first travelling in Australia was with the Safari I did in April, with 48 other exchange students from all over the world (staying in different parts of Australia)…It was a nice change to my life in Sydney and I got to see parts of Australia that are completely different to Sydney! We were staying in tents (with a few exceptions; backpacker accommodation in Sydney, the first night, then a “dugout” in Coober Pedy and a night under stars in the outback) It was usually a pretty busy schedule (too many things to visit ;-) ), with early starts and a lot of action… We climbed Uluru (Ayers Rock), visited some of Australia’s most beautiful beaches, going to the Great Barrier Reef (snorkelling and optional diving, plus yummi lunch buffet), going surfing in Surfer’s Paradise and of course a lot of souvenir shopping!
Making friends (for life) and exchanging experiences with them was really good. You know, hearing from other students what they had to deal with suddenly didn’t make my school seem too bad…! When it was time to say goodbye at Sydney airport, everyone was crying, hugging each other…We got so close in those 24 days! I’ll meet some of them again and I talk to others (that live further away from my place) on msn or email!
Other travelling that I did was with my first hostfamily…My hostmum, my hostsister and me went to Canberra for two days and then drove to “Blackheath” in the Blue Mountains where we met up with my hostdad. They knew people that have a house there so we rented it off them, staying there for one week. It was such a great time, we did a lot of bushwalking along the cliffs (amazing views!!!), etc.
Then, I changed hostfamily in July…(not because I was unhappy, but it’s a good experience to stay with two different hostfamilies, getting to know more people and different Australian lifestyles)…I still meet my last hostfamily sometimes (they invite me for dinner) and they took me to a “chilli festival” because they know I love HOT food and chillies!
It started pretty well with my first hostfamily, I was happy to be with them…I was a bit unlucky when I played Rugby Union for the schoolteam and broke my ankle in three places…(it was my first game!!! And also the first tackle of the game!!) Anyway, so the ambulance came, they knocked me out with Morphein and when I woke up, I was at the hospital, with my left foot in a plaster… I was glad that CEA was contacted immediately and Jennifer took care of telling my hostfamily and my parents in Germany about the events. I had some horrible days in the hospital (but lovely visits from my two hostfamily’s, friends, etc. and a lot of phone calls)…After that I had to walk on crutches for some time and the cast was taken off after 6 weeks…then I had to start with Physiotherapy! It is a long rehab and I was really disappointed and deeply frustrated when I was told that I won’t be doing any sport for the next couple of months…I had planned to take up tennis, etc. It just taught that I should have done that earlier as anything (like that) can happen and then you won’t be able to do it anymore! So don’t leave everything to the last term! One thing I was able to do after a couple of weeks was scuba diving! I did my Open Water Course at the Dive Centre in Manly…The people were great and so relaxed, we had a lot of fun together! Then I was thrilled by it, continuing with Boat Dives and the Advanced Open Water course! Going deep diving, wreck diving and night diving were some of the highlight and,of course, seeing Port Jackson and wobbegong sharks, is not an everyday thing in Germany! It is so addictive and I will miss it soooo much back home!
I went to Queensland with a friend (I know from INTO in Germany), her hostmum and her sister-in-law! We drove up (with one overnight stay in Coffs Harbour) to Broadbeach (south of Surfer’s Paradise at the Gold Coast) where we stayed at a nice apartment near the beach! We went for a swim everyday, doing lots of sunbaking and catching waves. We also went to Dreamworld and Movieworld (two theme parks) and jetskiing and parasailing! It was great and I didn’t want it to end :( !!!
Now, looking at all my photos, I can hardly believe what I’ve done in just one year! I’ve been to so many places, met so many people and also made friends for life! Okay, yeah, of course I’m looking forward to catching up with my friends at home, but I know that I’ll miss so many people and things I got to know here in Australia! And I will always look back with a smile on my face! If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me – just ask INTO or CEA for the address. See ya - Jess