Touching down in Oz: first things first

By Georgi Fogarty (University of Queensland, Australia)

It’s obvious that when you move to the other side of the world, there are going to be some big changes. Jetlag, time differences, climatic, academic and cultural disparities had all been weighing heavily on my mind in the last few weeks approaching my 25-hour flight from Manchester to Brisbane.  But strangely, what took me by surprise the most upon landing was the amount of time it took for me to adjust to the fact I was in Australia and no longer in England.

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Brisbane city center from the Kurilpa bridge

The first reason for this may have been the weather. What I didn’t expect was quite how cold it could get at night; I had heard that Australian winter is similar to British summertime, and this is relatively true. The popular cliché of Australia is koalas, white sandy beaches and insanely hot weather and that’s all pretty accurate – for summertime. The beaches are picture-perfect, the Koalas cuddly (I recently paid a visit to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and spent the entire day weeping with joy), but the nights are still bitterly chilly. This should be unsurprising considering it’s the dead of winter, but nonetheless I have found myself wrapped in all my clothes most nights. This is still relatively ineffective as most of what I’d (stupidly) packed were shorts and bikinis. Luckily for me, the student house I moved into after spending a few days in a hostel was rife with blankets and duvets that had been left there by past international students. Thank you, kind strangers. To you, I owe the fact that my toes haven’t fallen off.

However, the daytime weather is fantastic and after defrosting my feet in the sun every morning I have been able to thoroughly explore my new city. Although there aren’t the stereotypical kangaroos hopping up and down the streets (shock horror), it did take me by surprise quite how much wildlife I’d come across. The University of Queensland campus is breath taking; huge ponds with water features, endless green spaces and trees between immaculately designed buildings, surrounded by the Brisbane river. This is all fantastic to behold, but only when you’re not dodging possums, bearded dragons and enormous spiders. As you can imagine this was quite a shock, as the most exotic wildlife you tend to come across on Oxford road are scruffy pigeons. The first piece of advice you’ll hear from most UQ students was ‘don’t approach the birds’, and I only understood why when I witnessed an Ibis soar into the canteen and steal a baguette out of a woman’s hand.

I’ve only been down under for nearly three weeks, and first impressions are still forming. I’m still exploring, getting lost and meeting new people: largely with the help of QUEST, which is the international society for students in Queensland – I cannot praise this enough as I’ve met the most wonderful people and been to some amazing places already through this society such as Mount Coot-tha, the Gold Coast and in a few weeks’ time, Byron Bay. Queensland has given me the most fabulous welcome and I can’t express my excitement to be spending the next 12 months here.

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