by Karl Vikat (University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia).
Now that the first few weeks have past, it is time for a little update from the place of ‘endless summer’.
It started off in the last remaining weeks of the South Queensland Summer in a scorching heat paired with 80% humidity. Coming from a cool Swiss winter with snowy mountains all around, it definitely took some time to get adjusted.
The jetlag did its part to add to the drowsiness of the first days. The heat was bearable until the air-con in the hostel gave up on the third night (fortunately to be fixed within a few nights). The prevailing holiday feel and backpackers in transit made for a relaxing entry into the new environment.
The first impressions, of large roads, a feeling of spaciousness, a very approachable friendly Australian character, and warmth as well as lush vegetation all around created a positive atmosphere for the stressful sorting out of basics. I gave myself time to get acclimatized and to get to know Brisbane and its beautiful parks, cityscape and beach.
I was lucky enough to spend my first few weeks in hip West End, a former industrial docks area, where people from across the world have settled down, bringing with them a variety of cuisines and merchandise, making for a Global Village in the heart of Brisbane, Australia. The coffee shops, veggie stores and ‘Happy Herb Shop’ invigorated the area with a fresh, alternative vibe – not to mention the world’s best Falafel.
Finding a home that could provide a more settled environment than a backpackers’ was my main worry, once I started feeling that I had ‘arrived’, so I started looking around the middle of the week before Orientation, hoping to find a shared house with a couple of other exchange students. However, the situation played out as such, that it became a question of securing any accommodation at all, since places filled up very quickly as new students were flooding the city in thousands.
I finally found a place and moved in a house with other international students – from Nepal, Russia, Malaysia, South Africa – right at the beginning of O-week. The proprietor was managing about 100 places and all were rented out by the end of the day. With a fairly cheap, yet spacious room, 10 minutes from university, by bike or bus, I was able to save money desperately needed for travelling.
Considering the weather, and the Australians’ great hunger for meat, it is no wonder that parks are equipped with public barbeques, and I got to get a look at Uni on the day that we exchange students came together for a barbeque in a park close by.
The ferry ride to campus, across the Brisbane river offers fantastic vistas, of a riverside lined with rainforest tress, with the occasional Jet-ski speeding by.
As I came to find out later, these waters house the particularly aggressive bull sharks, who tend to jump out of water for a reason yet to be determined during the warmer summer months. A dive into its warm waters is therefore not recommended and the Brisbane beach is thus also clearly separated by the river. The University itself fills out an entire bend on the Brisbane river, has its own gardens, beach-volley courts, tracking and football field and a swimming pool surrounded by palm trees. A welcome change to the loud and busy Oxford street canal, noise here is largely limited to the horrendous screeching of cockatoos or the singing of tropical birds.
The sandstone-coloured Great Court with a large green courtyard is at the heart of the university, and come Market Day, where all societies put up stalls to advertise their activities it was bursting full with students. I joined QUEST, an organization particularly catering to the curiosity and travelling desires of international students and the Unidive society, so that I could start earning my diving license to have a look at the whole world hidden under the coastal waters of Queensland. To round off O-week, QUEST called in wildlife-workers who brought their frogs, snakes and baby crocodiles for a petting zoo the Australian way.
So stay tuned, as in the upcoming week I’ll tell you about my first weekend trips, to Surfers’ and Stradbrooke Island and the first weeks at uni!