Author: Jessica Hanson
Location: Newcastle, Australia
Well it seems to be getting to that time in the semester where many of my fellow Valpo students are trying to decide where they want to study abroad or, if they’ve already chosen their program of choice, are getting anxious to see what all the hype is about! For any of you considering University of Newcastle (UoN) here in New South Wales, Australia, I figured I’d give you some tips and tricks to make your transition into the Aussie lifestyle as smooth as possible!
First, I thought it would be helpful to orient you to Australia as a continent and where we are in relation to, well, everything else! Fun fact- Australia is the world’s largest island as well as the world’s smallest continent. Australia is the about the same size geographically as the United States, yet has less than 10% of our population! The name ‘Australia’ comes from Latin Terra Australis meaning ‘land of the south.’ It is also lovingly referred to as the Land Down Under, or even, the Land of Oz (which, may or may not have anything to do with Dorothy, but that is for you to find out!) It consists of 6 states and 2 territories. Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria are the three states along the East Coast of Australia and contain about 3/4 of the population, which totals just over 24 million. Sydney (NSW), Melbourne (VIC), and Brisbane (QLD) are the three largest cities- if you like the city life, Sydney is about 3 hours south by train and you can get round-trip flights to Brisbane or Melbourne for a weekend get away for around $100-$150- I would definitely recommend taking the time to check these out if you get the chance. You will also notice while you’re over here that many cities have some pretty odd names thanks to the Aboriginal culture- Wollongong, Wagga Wagga, Katoomba, Toowoomba to name a few!
(Travel tip: while everyone is immediately going to recognise your American accent, you can save yourself some embarrassment by knowing the correct pronunciation of the city names. They don’t have a hard ‘r’ sound like we do in America, so you might want to practice these a few times before coming over: Melbourne–> mel-bin, likewise Brisbane–> briz-bin, Cairns–> cans (yes, like the soda!) I probably butcher the Aboriginal names as much as you would but they seem pretty phonetic to me, so good luck!)
As far as where you’ll be living, University of Newcastle is often shortened to UoN or referred to simply as Newy! Where you will be living and going to classes is the Callaghan campus, although there is also the city campus with the NeW Space (an architecturally abstract building that opened this fall- definitely check it out!) where many of the business and law classes take place. If the program is still the same, you will most likely be assigned a single studio apartment in one of the really nice new residence towers- you get your own kitchenette and bathroom, which means, unfortunately, you’re responsible for buying your own groceries, cooking your own food, and doing your own dishes. Thankfully, you get a weekly bathroom cleaning courtesy of the lovely cleaning ladies in the building. The campus is much bigger than our small Valpo home- say goodbye to rolling out of bed 10 minutes before class and making it on time! However, most professors are also pretty lax so making it to class a few minutes late won’t hurt. Make sure you take the time to do some exploring when you get here but it only took me a few days- once you find the Shortland building in the centre of campus, you’ll figure out the rest from there 🙂 Night life on campus is also a little different than what we’re used to in the states- most of the buildings/dining on campus close around 5 and any activities are going to be over in the city. Make friends in your building fast so you’ll have people that know the good places to go out if you’re looking for something fun to do!
The Aboriginal, or Indigenous, people and culture is also something you might want to do some research on before coming over. It is very complicated and a dark part of Australia’s rather-recent past. The Aboriginal Australians are thought to be the oldest tribes in the world and most of their population was wiped out due to violence or disease during the British colonisation of Australia during the late 18th century (you will find many parallels with British treatment of the Native Americans during our colonial history, although the issues have continued up through the 1970s and is still a very sensitive subject in the culture.) The good news is that Australia is in the progress of amending some of this dark past, such as working with some Aboriginal tribes to give them control and ownership of their original lands. One thing that I find very touching is that often when people stand up to talk in front of crowds, perhaps for class or giving presentations, they will pay respects to the Aboriginal peoples by saying something along the lines of: “I would like to acknowledge that this meeting is being held on the traditional lands of the [insert local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Island Nation]. I pay respect to Elders past, present and emerging.”
Finally, thanks to our lovely US standard system, it will take some time to get used to the metric system! I wrote down a key for reference before coming but you won’t reeeally need it, especially thanks to phones that have automatic conversion apps. However, I still am not used to seeing 100 on speed limit signs- 100 kilometers per hour that is, which is akin to our 65 mph limit. It is also important to remember that since Australia is in the southern hemisphere, the seasons are flip-flopped and they use Celsius as well. If you are planning to study here next semester, you will be leaving snowy cold Valpo and arriving in the lovely hot Australian summer (unfortunately, I get to do the opposite transition…) It will be around the 80s/90s, or around 25-30 degrees Celsius, so pack your summer gear, but be prepared for temperatures to drop to ‘chilly’ fall temperatures around 50F (10C) by the end of the semester. Also, they aren’t kidding when they tell you to be prepared with a LOT of sunscreen- especially coming in the summer since Australia is positioned right underneath the hole in the ozone layer- sun blisters are NOT something you want to deal with!
Alright, I think that’s enough of my rambling, but I am going to leave you with some Australian lingo that it will be helpful to be familiar with! Thanks for tuning in, and good luck if you’re off to Australia next semester!
Kebabs– an Australian staple, kebab shops are fun places to grab a bite!
Capsicums– their odd word for bell peppers
Avo– avocado! Australians love shortening their words, but they might like avocados here even more! They’re a tad expensive, but oh so delicious.
Vegemite– another Australian staple, but one that is extremely foreign to the American food palate- you definitely much try it (its a spread for putting on toast), but make sure an Aussie prepares it for you, otherwise you’ll likely end up spreading it on thick like nutella, which is a terrible idea.
Lemonade– sprite. The word sprite? Also sprite. Our idea of lemonade does not exist over here, but you can find some fizzy lemon-flavoured sodas that are pretty close. Also, if you love rootbeer like me, I’m sorry to say it will be very difficult to come by 🙁
Soft Drink– soda or pop or sodapop, however you call it! If you’re at a restaurant and want to know what ‘sodas’ they have, you should ask them for their soft drink menu instead.
Wooly’s– short for Woolworth’s, your go-to for all your grocery shopping needs.
Hungry Jack’s– the same thing as Burger King, just called differently. They also have Domino’s and Pizza Hut if you’re craving some American fast food.
Macca’s- a country wouldn’t be complete with out a McDonald’s right? Aussies lovingly shorten it simply to Macca’s, and I’m sure you’ll be at peace knowing you can get your late night chicken nugget or McFlurry cravings taken care of!
Op Shop– short for opportunity shop, these are the lovely Australian thrift stores- Vinnie’s (St. Vincent de Paul) and Salvos (Salvation Army) are the most common!
Thongs– yes, they will probably laugh at you if you forget and call them flip flops anyway.
Runners- tennis shoes
Swimmers– swimsuit….makes me feel like I’m in the 60s but I guess you just roll with it!
Footpath– side walk
Carpark– parking lot
Trolley– shopping cart
Mozzies– mosquitos (The word is definitely cuter than the thing itself)
Timetable– class schedule
Concession– student prices- always ask if there are concession prices for events/tickets!
Power point– NOT the Microsoft Word program, power points are little orange lights on the power switches letting you know if it is on or off
Boot and Bonnet– the trunk and hood of a car
Aluminium– notice the extra ‘i’, it might take a while to get used to saying this metal element the way it is actually written on the periodic table…
Bubbler– for all of my Indiana friends who make fun of us Wisconsinites who use bubbler, guess what- so do the Australians! This was definitely a win for team Wisconsin <3
Alright, that’s all I have for today, hopefully this helps alleviate some of the frustration before you get here, and best of luck figuring out Australia!
P.S. Make sure to finish all your favourite binge-worthy Netflix shows before you get here! Australian Netflix has a different selection, and unless you’re really skilled at figuring out VPNs (Netflix recognized my preliminary attempts and I gave up after that), you’ll have to live without a few American shows for a couple months!