Year abroad in Aus: G’day from Down Under

So it’s already been four months to the day since I lugged my bags to Heathrow and waved goodbye to the surprisingly warm English summer. I then proceeded to spend a grand total of seventeen numbing hours airborne, with a quick layover in the ridiculously shiny airport in Doha. There’s even a gigantic teddy bear in the middle of one of the lounges. I have no clue what that’s about! And then, all of a sudden, I was here. In Perth, finally! And it was a lot colder than its Scottish namesake, for once.

So, a few tips and warnings about what to expect when you go on a year abroad in Australia.

(1) Don’t forget it will be winter when you get there

I, like many others, made the mistake of thinking “it’s Australia- it’s always hot”. Sure, it’s hot now (in November), but this is the equivalent of May weather in England- which would be warm (or you’d hope so at least). However, when you arrive as a naive twenty-year old in a country 9,000 miles away, don’t forget to pack a coat. I was certainly relieved that I hadn’t heeded my usually wise father’s words of advice: “of course you won’t need a coat, it’s Australia!” It was freezing when we arrived, and I spent the first night miserable, wearing all my clothes and yearning for 35 degree London. Granted, it had been a rare heatwave, but even so.

Jacaranda in full bloom (Spring in Australia)

(2) Remember you’re 9,000 miles away

When I contemplated the idea of going to the other side of the world, it didn’t really dawn on me that it would be that different from Durham. Obviously I realised I was going to another country, another continent in fact, but I thought that I would just fall easily into fresher life and not miss home. I think the difference was that I knew I could go home in Durham- even if I never wanted to. But here, unless I wanted to spent $2,000 and sit through another twenty hour flight, I wouldn’t be able to see my family for at least five months. The comfort of knowing you can go home if you want to is certainly something I took for granted. Despite the fact that I didn’t actually want to go back to my life as I’d left it- here was far too exciting- I still wanted to be able to.

(3) Be prepared for things being expensive

My friend spent $50 on a drink the other day. That’s pretty outrageous even for here, but Perth certainly does match London prices. You’d be lucky to get a pint for under $10 (I miss £1.50 pints in Durham), and cocktails start around $18. Cars, on the other hand, seem to be ridiculously cheap (I’m treating myself to one next semester). Insurance is also at least half the price of England. Win.

Sunset shot!

(4) There really aren’t that many things out there to kill you

So far, all I’ve seen here is a scary looking monitor lizard (which closely resembled a snake), that ran away when I approached it. I’ve also seen a spider half the size of my little toenail. That’s literally it- and I saw those in the outback. My friends have seen a black widow (which can kill you), a snake and a tarantula, but they caused no harm. You’re pretty safe in cities, and even when you do venture into the outback, the creatures are more scared of you than you them. What a relief.

the iconic Crawley boathouse located on the Swan River

(5) It’s not as hot as you expect

Well, maybe I’m just acclimatising to the heat. And maybe I haven’t experienced extreme weather since it’s only spring...But the heat isn’t as overwhelming as you’d expect. I’m awful with the heat and I’m writing this in a room with no air con in a jumper. I might get back to you in January (the height of summer) though. It’s meant to hit 45 here...

(6) Be prepared to have the time of your life and never want to return home

So far, in four months I’ve: been on a spontaneous trip to Bali, driven 4,000km on a road trip (that’s not even half of Western Australia), gone sky diving, swam with a whale, gone cliff jumping, gone on a road trip to Australia’s most famous wine region (and done a wine tour with free tasters), spent more than 50% of my time at the goes on. I’m actually just embarking upon a three month adventure to SE Asia and the East Coast. Life really is good down under, especially since my year is pass/fail!

Turquoise Bay in Exmouth

In sum, once you start to acclimatise to the different culture (distinct lack of history, buildings that were built before the last century, and greenery), Australia really grows on an exponential rate. I now love the accent, the vast expanses of literally nothing, the endless road trips, and the “large towns” that you can drive through in under a minute. It’s still seven and a half months until I leave, but I’m already dreading that day. Maybe I’ll move here after I graduate? Who knows.