Brisbane Beckons!

25 January 2019

Natalia Abell studies Anthropology and is at the University of Queensland for the year! Read on to discover her impressions of settling in from back in August.

Natalie blog 1

It’s Monday the 14th of August and I’m writing this in the Social Sciences Library of the University of Queensland, Australia. That’s right, I’m in a library in August, possibly for the first time in my life! To accommodate the seasons of the southern hemisphere, schools and unis down under only have two long semesters each year, rather than three. They start in February and July, which is why I find myself indoors in the middle of winter in August. Having said that, however, I’m wearing shorts right now! In sub-tropical Brisbane, winter means consistent blue skies and an average of 21 degrees (by contrast, summer is humid and unpredictable).

Arriving in Brisbane was a trek, to say the least. I left home on the 9th of July, and only arrived on the 11th, having stopped over in Singapore and Sydney on the way. Jet-lagged and confused, I set out from my temporary accommodation (a rather sketchy motel) to find the UQ campus. I crossed a bridge over the huge Brisbane river and caught sight of the largest bird I’d ever seen, hurriedly whipping out my camera to send a picture to my parents before it flew away. I needn't have been in such a rush, because the ibis is found everywhere, and considered a pest! That first day, I was a nervous (and sweaty) wreck, not even daring to cross the road in case I did it wrong. Every transaction I made involved an apology (“Sorry, I’m new here, I don’t understand the currency! What coin is this?”), although the kindness of Australian strangers soon put me at ease.

Fast forward a month, and I now find myself completely relaxed when walking around the city. The chores of July (such as setting up a bank account, receiving my student card, signing up for classes, and buying a new phone plan) are behind me, and it seems strange that not long ago, I was clutching a one way ticket to Australia, with absolutely no contacts in this part of the world, and no place to stay! Luckily, UQ’s exchange society (called QUEST) gave me a platform to meet other students before classes began, and launched a series of events including pub crawls, pizza nights, and even an Aussie animal meet-and-greet session. I was soon joined by a fellow UCL anthropology student on exchange, and together we began the search for a house. Although I’m very proud of how I found my way around Brisbane by myself for the first few days, I have to admit that the fun really started when Tori arrived! We found a house in the same suburb as UQ after house hunting for a few days, and now live with five other exchange students: from Germany, Canada, Mexico, and two from Norway. [Our first house party was last week!]

And now for a taster of what I’ve done so far (from clubs and societies to outings with friends): I’ve visited a koala sanctuary, gone wakeboarding, attended a Lord of the Rings quiz night (and lost miserably), hiked two mountains, learned to surf (my technique still needs a lot of work!), and tried vegemite! This is a truly enriching experience, and I could go on about the weekends for pages before even getting to the university portion of the story, but for now I’ll say this: getting involved in as much as possible is the best way to experience a different country. The more things I get involved with, the more stories I have to share with the people back home.

By Natalia Abell