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A letter from an exchange student in Australia Essay

I’ve been in Australia for about 2 months now and I’m still speechless. It’s such a beautiful country! The land, the people, the climate, everything is amazing! I’ve gotten to experience the most remarkable/wonderful things, things I never could have imagined. As you know I went here as an exchange student and I’m living with a wonderful host family in Brisbane. They have been very welcoming and loving, the student exchange agency made such a good match. Brisbane is located in the east of Australia, in the state called Queensland. I’m attending the Brisbane State High School where I’m taking all the mandatory classes like English, math’s, science, social studies, art, health and physical education and so on.

I’ve gotten to continue my French education as well, but everyone in that class is way better than me! Luckily they are all so nice and very patient with me, and that goes for all the classes! I had a hard time understanding the Australian accent at first, but it gets easier and easier every day. My host family taught me some Aussie-slang to help me out a bit, like “hoo roo” which means goodbye, “ripper” means something like fantastic or great, “sheila” is a girl and “dunny” is a toilet.

A word that’s very confusing is “thongs”. It does not mean what you think it means! It’s another word for flip-flops, which can create quite an awkward situation. Fortunately I managed not to humiliate myself! Anyway, like I said are there mandatory classes just like there is in Sweden. Australia has a national curriculum to make sure that they have the same educational standards in schools all over the country, which resembles our “Skolverket”. You asked a lot about the schools over here in your last letter, so I’ve asked my new friends in my classes and found out some basic info. Like, something that’s similar to Swedish schools is that you’re in kindergarten or pre-school when you’re 3-5 years old.

In Australia you go to Primary School between the ages 6 to 11, unlike Sweden where we go to “Lågstadiet” and “Mellanstadiet” when we’re 6 to 12. One year doesn’t make that big of a difference, but Secondary School (High School) resembles both “Högstadiet” and “Gymnasiet” together. So from what I understand, you can’t choose a specific program like in Sweden, but you can choose some classes you want to take (other than the mandatory ones) in High School. When you graduate from Secondary School you can apply for a University, just like in Sweden. As you can tell there are a lot of similarities to Australian and Swedish schools, but I found out that there are many differences as well.

School uniforms for example, we don’t have any rules about dress code in Sweden, but over here it’s a part of life, at least for the students who attend High School. Almost every school has a special uniform that every student has to wear, even I have to wear one when I go to school. Even in gym class we wear matching shorts and shirts. I think those outfits are better because they’re unisex, and the rest of the day the girls wear skirts while the boys wear pants. I’m not very comfortable in skirts and dresses so I think that if you want to wear pants you should be able to! It’s kind of nice not having to choose an outfit every morning, you only have one thing to wear and everybody else wears it too. There’s not any pressure about having the latest fashion or not changing it up every day.

The only thing you have to worry about is bad hair-days! I have to admit that I wish we had to wear these in Sweden as well… Not only are they a gift from heaven for the morning-tired person, they make you feel a bit more fancy and formal too. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that comfortable being formal all the time and I’d probably get sick of wearing it every day, but I like the idea a lot at the moment. I never think it would work, introducing this to Sweden though. Everyone would lose their right to express themselves through their clothes. If we would have to wear school uniforms, I strongly vote for pants for the girls! Most students bring their own lunch to school. There is a cafeteria, but you have to pay for everything there. That is something I miss about Sweden, even though it’s not great food all of the time it’s still really convenient.

I’m having a hard time remembering to bring my lunch every day… That makes me really angry with myself because both of my host parents make really good food, especially sandwiches. I promise you, they’re amazing! Public schools here are free and run by the government of state or territory they’re in, just like in Sweden. Parents are asked pay a voluntary contribution fee and they can also contribute to camping trips and extracurricular activities, but it’s all voluntary. Something that also differs from Sweden is the fact that they have 4 semesters. The school year starts in early February and ends in December.

They have short holidays between every semester and their summer holiday is in December and January, during Christmas! I know it’s really strange, but that’s when the Australian summer is! I had no idea that the seasons were so off over here, but I think it’s really amazing how the world works. Apparently all countries south of the equator have their summer during our winter, and their winter during our summer! A few weeks ago I got to be a part of the Australians celebration of ANZAC Day. ANZAC stands for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.

This day is special to Australians because of what happened on this date 1915. The First World War had just started and Australia wanted to create a reputation for themselves to the rest of the world, since they’d only been a nation for 13 years. They joined forces with New Zealand and set out to take control over the Dardanelles (a narrow strait in northwestern Turkey) so that their allies could travel through. When ANZAC landed on Gallipoli in Turkey they were met by Turkish defending forces. A lot of Australian soldiers lost their lives and today the Australians take this day to remember not only them and their bravery, but every soldier who has died in any war or military operation Australia’s been a part of.

Each year the remembrance begins with memorial services in big cities all over the country, they’re known as the “Dawn Services”. Later in the day there are parades where ex-militaries march along. Aussies also celebrate this day off from work and school with drinking and games! They also have the Australia Day, their National Day. I’m not going to be here for that because it’s celebrated on January 26th, but I really wish I were! They celebrate everything that’s good about the country and being Australian, it sounds like a lot of fun! My host family tells me that you can see the Australian flag hanging from windows of cars and houses and that the whole neighborhood smells like barbeque.

There are usually fireworks and music as well! It’s more upbeat than the ANZAC Day. We don’t have anything like this in Sweden, which I think is a bit sad. What I mean is, we don’t really have a day where we remember something or celebrate just being Swedish. I feel like we don’t have that kind of love for our country that the Australians do. At least I know I don’t. I only enjoy our National Day because I don’t have to go to school. I honestly don’t even know why we celebrate it, and if I asked my friends I’m sure they would say the same thing. It would be nice to feel that unity and pride that the Australians have.

We’ve been in wars, I’m not sure how many or what kind, but we don’t take pride in them. We don’t have any war heroes we remember. During World War 1, Sweden was neutral. We didn’t officially pick a side; we did everything we could to not get attacked by anyone. We let Germany use our railways to transport iron-stone, which kept us from getting involved in the war (even though that made us a part of Germany’s success). I think we’re right not to take any pride in that… Something that also would be fun to experience here “Down Under” is Christmas. Since their summer is during December the climate is at its warmest during Christmas. My friends told me that even though it’s sunny and warm everyone still decorates with snowmen and Christmas lights! Most families have a Christmas tree too.

Here in Brisbane they apparently have a competition every year for who has the best Christmas lights. I would love to see all of the extremely decorated houses! We should do something like that at home, we should engage more! In some ways our counties spend Christmas alike, but some prospects are still very different. In Sweden, we open presents, eat delicious food and get a visit from Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. In Australia they only make the last preparations on Christmas Eve, because it’s all about Christmas Day. Children hope to find presents in stockings or under the tree when they wake up, families go to see their relatives and everyone (most people anyway) spend the evening with their loved ones.

Some families eat dinner that’s similar to Europe’s Christmas food, but most Australians barbeque or have a picnic on the beach or in the park. On the beach you can see surfing Santa Clauses too. It sounds really laid back and comfortable, so I would love to be able to experience it (even though it’s no real Christmas without snow!). It’s hard to think of Swedish traditions when you don’t usually acknowledge them, but most traditions come with the holidays. Almost all of our holidays have religious significance, like Easter and Christmas for example, but these holidays are not really about what they originally mark in history (if you’re Christian). Easter is more about dressing up as a witch and knocking on doors collecting candy, than remembering Jesus’s crucifixion. Christmas is all about Donald Duck and opening presents, we don’t celebrate Jesus being born.

This is the case in Australia too, except for the witches and Donald Duck. In Australia they celebrate Easter by organizing Easter egg hunts (mostly for the purpose of making the children happy), and you’ve probably heard of the ‘Easter Bunny’? Well, over here they’ve exchanged it for an ‘Easter Bibly’. A bibly is a small rodent, who’s an endangered species and they’re hoping this kind of advertisement is going to help save it.

Besides, rabbits are considered pests in Australia as they destroy crops and other things. As you can tell there are a lot of both similarities and differences between Sweden and Australia, but they are both great counties! Unfortunately I only have a month left of my studies, but I am thinking about living here for a year or so when I graduate. I have fallen in love with this land… Enough about me, how have you been? Is everything as usual back home? Hope to see you soon,

Love Emelie

Sources of information:
Aussie slang:
http://stricktlydating.hubpages.com/hub/Common-Aussie-Slang-Words 2013-04-14 http://www.koalanet.com.au/australian-slang.html 2013-04-14
About school:
http://www.workingin-australia.com/education/system/overview#.UWr117XIagc 2013-04-14 http://www.studyinaustralia.gov.au/en/Courses/Schools/Australian-School-System/Australian-school-system 2013-04-14 http://www.studiesinaustralia.com/types-of-education/secondary-education 2013-04-16 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_uniform#Australia 2013-04-16 http://brisbaneshs.eq.edu.au/sites/default/files/bshs/PolicyDocuments/PandC/CanteenMenu.pdf 2013-04-17 http://www.fairhillshs.vic.edu.au/app/webroot/uploaded_files/media/uniform_information_2013.pdf 2013-04-17 http://australianschool1.hubpages.com/hub/Australian-School-Uniform2013-04-16 http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20090821161522AAUv95m 2013-04-16 http://australia.gov.au/about-australia/australian-story/austn-weather-and-the-seasons2013-04-16 Traditions:

http://www.awm.gov.au/commemoration/anzac/anzac_tradition.asp 2013-04-21 http://www.realaustraliatravel.com/australian-traditions.html 2013-04-21 http://www.realaustraliatravel.com/Christmas-in-Australia.html 2013-04-21 http://www.realaustraliatravel.com/christmas-lights-brisbane.html 2013-04-22 http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/australia/christmas-day 2013-04-22

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