How’s things now in Manchester?

By Karl Vikat (University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia)

It is time for the concluding entry of this blog, as reading week has arrived and it is time to assess how a reverse culture shock might have manifested itself, as well as how re-integrating into Manchester has evolved.

As winter is approaching, with every leaf that hits the ground I realise more and more that missing out on winter in Australia has had quite an impact on me. Probably, of all adjustments to Manchester, weather and the tempo changes have been the most pronounced.

In Australia, most of the activities occurred outdoors; in fact, the distinction outside/inside did not really dominate thinking that much. After all, I still managed to go camping and swim in the ocean in the middle of the winter in Noosa. Now this summer I found myself starting to plan a camping trip a couple of weeks into December in the Lake District. It was only after a bleak realisation that it does actually get quite cold that I put the idea to rest along with habits of hanging out on the grass, or barbecues in the park. In that sense, if there is a reverse culture shock, then climate and weather are at the core of it.

I noticed that I pay more attention to the sky and nature now than I did earlier, and really enjoy the blue skies over Manchester when the clouds clear out. I have found the cold, harsh winds and cloudy days to inherently create an atmosphere where reality is viewed as more bleak and rough, whereas the reflections of the sun in the Brisbane River and colourful birdlife made for a more idealistic, optimistic environment. It definitely constitutes a change in lifestyle. I doubt that anyone would expect the Aquatics Centre to have a permanent outdoors pool here.

Also, in terms of wildlife, the diversity of subtropical Brisbane and the antennaed, shelled, auburn cohabitants have given way to squirrels hoarding their goods, ravens, and the default city-creatures, doves.

These disparities manifest themselves in conversations with friends in Australia who tell of a kaleidoscopic spring dominated by purple-blue Jacaranda trees blooming, 40 degrees outside and sunshine in full effect.

The speed of life has similarly undergone a subtle change. Obviously, I am in my final year and have quite a few extracurricular obligations, yet I have noticed the Manchester environment, the city-space, contribute to a perception of it being further accelerated. The way I see it, the wide roads, large space, infinite blue sky, the distance of the campus from the hustle and bustle of the city, and the large green areas in the city and on the UQ campus all help approach life from a calmer viewpoint. However, the noisy, crowded Oxford Road corridor at the heart of the University in Manchester creates a restless urban background-scenery, a relentless space of busyness. Seated among the trees of Whitworth Park, one still can hear the buses spit out smoke with every take-off. At lunchtime at UQ, unsurprisingly, most people gathered at an amphitheatre shaped park to the sound of the water fountain and songbirds.

In terms of interactions with people, I feel that rather than undergoing a cultural shock, drops have been added to the culturally fluid state that makes up my identity, with roots and branches in a wide variety of spaces and connecting to a variety of persons. That also means that, whereas I definitely feel a changed person, the transition to Manchester has been seamless. Arguably, I even appreciate the opportunities that Manchester offers more now. In particular, I am referring to enhanced dedication to the basketball team, starting a society – Struggle for Recognition: Indigenous Peoples’ Rights, and working with refugees.
Thus, with only one year to stay in Manchester, I would not speak of a reverse culture shock, but of a cultural spark; especially in terms of me seeking out new experiences and trips in the Northwest as a consequence of the perceived freedom of movement in Australia, as well as in terms of transposing the energy, invigoration and motivation of Australia to a demanding year in Manchester.
I carry a part of Brisbane, Australia in me, like I do parts of Manchester, UK, wherever I go. All in all, life in Australia has further galvanised a spirit of exploration expressed in freely, capriciously firing cultural sparks that I have since built upon in Manchester.

Bye bye Brissy

By Karl Vikat (University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia).

As my time in Brisbane drew to its close, the speed of life kept gaining momentum. The last couple of months were particularly intense, filled with exams and essays, fitting in travelling, discovering the hitherto uncharted parts of Brisbane and spending a maximum amount of time with people I cherish and whom I knew I had to leave in the near future. I appreciated every single second. Bizarre realisations of living the moment, yet knowing its fugacity and its inescapable turn to memory emerged during more quiet moments.

No clichés here; studying in Brisbane was, hands-down, an incredible, thought-provoking, life-changing experience. The beautiful moments lived with great people provide ample material for further meditations.

From road tripping to doofs, to more conventional bus trips to some of the world’s most ancient rainforests; from Dingos on Fraser Island snooping around your sunset snack, to cassowary stories in the Daintree and wild kangaroos well over 2 metres peacefully nibbling on grass and greeting you on your way to the beach. The wide range of episodes and colourful people provide awesome memories.

beachside-mugsA short pre-exam trip to Byron Bay, that turned out to be quite a sleepy town during the week, introduced me fully to the intricacies of geocaching – a kind of real life GPS Easter egg hunt. Part of the ubiquitous marvels of nature that abound in that corner of Australia, was one of Australia’s top dive sites that lies just a couple hundred metres off the coast of Byron, at Julian Rocks. We were only too keen to get out there, and rightly so, as we were greeted by colonies of Wobbiegongs, a few loggerhead turtles and a kaleidoscope of fish.

I had two standard exams and one take-home exam that proved to be a great alternative to a more conventional exam configuration. It basically worked the same way an essay does. I received the questions on Monday, the deadline was on Thursday, as all the while exams were happening simultaneously.

Once exam time was behind me, I left Brisbane for camping at Noosa Heads. We managed to catch some sunshine, a few waves, and, once we set foot in the city, some great Malaysian food. It turned out that the nights get pretty cool come June-July, so we decided that our next stops after Fraser should be a few hundred miles further up north.

Camping out in the Heads

Red River on Fraser

Indian Heads on Fraser

We returned to Brisbane for a day, to re-pack and catch a flight to Cairns. On the day of the flight though, a couple of hours before, I took it upon myself to move out. I had no use for my room in Brisbane any longer, since I would leave Australia, coming straight off the east coast trip. So I brought all my stuff over to my girlfriend’s place after she had helped me clean the place and packed my stuff, with the always generous landlord’s wife driving. So, in a well-organised hurry, about 2 hours later we were on the plane on our way up north, towards the Reef and Cape Tribulation.

Considering the way politics has been going the last 30 something years, allowing for destruction of up to 40% of the reef, the priority the government gives to the expansion of pre-existing coal ports as opposed to reef protection, and the pressures exerted by climate change, I had conflicting thoughts of our visit to the Reef. It was bizarre to marvel at the splendour of its rich marine life and its diverse manifestations and colourful expressions, and know at the same time that this very spot might be dead bleach in a couple of years to come. The ecosystems obviously were very much alive and showing off their vitality with vigour, yet, we also heard from the crew that some places they had headed for in previous years would need some time and support for regeneration. Ostensibly though, boats and unexperienced divers kicking coral do not quite compare to the larger aforementioned threat.

Returning to the city, Cairns seemed a lot more like the countryside than Brisbane with its large roads, even larger cars and surrounded by mountains of untouched rainforest. This seemed to be the frontier, the stop before heading out on the dirt roads to Cape York. No passing through without a four-wheel drive, if you want to head up the track north of Port Douglas and Cape Tribulation.

Back from Cairns and Daintree, I spent one more night in Brisbane and headed for the airport the next day, spontaneously closing my bank account on my way. I had actually planned to pay the taxi driver with coins, yet he preferred the paper version and it turned out that over 100AUD in round metal pieces had accumulated in my ‘coin-bag’ over the time – a very welcome surprise.

Alas, I left Brisbane…

3Brisbane did not only invigorate me with a new-found love for markets with its Greek-themed fairs, noodle-markets, the West End market and colourful East-Street market, where I fully endorsed the indispensability of a poncho. I made friends from across the world, got some insights into new languages thanks to embracing the proximity to Asia, and, all in all, just got to live, see and learn about a previously unfamiliar land and its people.

It left me with a hunger for more and a motivation to study harder to keep rewarding myself with experiences of a lifetime. The intensity of the moments that I lived, created a desire to keep hold of my principles and philosophies that were moulded and developed also during my sojourn in Australia. Amongst others these included continuing saving material as well as non-material resources that can be made available for travelling. I feel like I learned so much. Also, the courses at UQ and the discussions with students were in many cases inspirational, helped me chart my future academic and career plans by defining my interests further, and offered me a wide range of new perspectives where to draw from and relate to.

It was an amazing, time that was energising to its core.

Truth-seeking

by Karl Vikat

Looking back at the course of my stay in Australia, and UQ in particular there were a number of experiences, but there is a string of experiences that I would like to share with you and that stood out to me.

Since I had enrolled in a course on Indigenous Policy & Politics as well as Conflict & Nonviolent Change I had the chance to meet Mary Graham, Lyndon Murphy and Morgan Brigg who via a concerted engagement with us students discussed and explained the settler-colonised dynamics. I realize that I cannot by any means elucidate the issues pertaining to the entangled conundrum that is the relationship between Indigenous Australians and ‘White Australia’ concisely within the limits of this blog. Still, I want to give some insight in order to be able to show you why my experiences were so meaningful.graham

Mary Graham has been actively involved in Aboriginal organisations since the 1970s and has been grappling ever since with the content of, as well as the manner by which the government goes about enacting policies affecting the Indigenous Australians. She is an experienced activist, who currently is a member in the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples Ethic Council. Through a number of discussions she conveyed the fundamental hypocrisies inherent in the Australian government’s and society’s approach. Above all, a lack of balance and rejection of Indigenous Australians’ terms of reference in political negotiations was brought to the fore as a key critique of the status quo. Furthermore, she addressed the lack of genuine societal discussion, dominant discourse favouring benevolent symbolism over substance and action on Indigenous Australians’ terms, and above all the lack of a treaty between Australia and the nations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. In general, through discussions with her and our lecturers in and around two courses, it emerged that the celebrated history that finds its expression amongst others in ‘Australia Day’ represents mainly one narrative and ignores the other for the sake of creating ‘One Australia’ where difference is erased and harmony underscored for the detriment of the Indigenous minority that represent 3% of the inhabitants of Australia.

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For students who will head over to Brissy next semester you probably won’t manage to avoid the exhibition, Courting Blackness that will be installed at the very heart of the university in the Great Court and that deals with these pivotal questions.

Now, off to the experiences.

As I headed off to Fraser Island, past the sand dunes and into the deep rainforest I could not help but be amazed of the splendour of the surroundings that qualify it as a World Heritage site. We walked among ancient giants who had escaped the once booming logging industry on the island. Whenever, we were told of the history of the land, the story begun with the loggers who arrived and focused on the environmentalist movement that managed to end sand mining and logging on the island. It finished with a summary of how the tourism industry established itself on the island, adorned with facts and figures about the veritably magnificent island flora and fauna.fraser-treetops

When I enquired about the fate of the locals who had lived on Fraser before the logging industry, the guide conceded that there probably must have been some conflict, but returned to speaking about the arrival and the demise of the logging industry. Ultimately, then he either did not know, or insinuated that the Indigenous Australians on Fraser became part of the logging industry and left the island for the mainland, as did the loggers. With regard to the well-documented removal of the local population from the island in order to harvest more land for the timber industry, the murderous activities of the Native Police in the area, as well as the forced concentration of the population in reserves that is part of the island’s history, the narrative that was presented to us was heavily asymmetric and naive to say the least.

capetribIn Cape Tribulation it was the same old song. The commercially conveniently named ‘Indigenous tour’ that turned out to be part of our tour package left us speechless. We had expected time for genuine engagement with a knowledgeable member from the local clan, who would share the history of the land and his people. The ‘Indigenous tour’ however ended up being a phenomenal 10 minute display of precisely the ignorance and ‘pseudo’ way of dealing with the Aboriginal heritage, catering a worldview to backpackers and tourists that is comfortable and arguably meets the expectations of curiosity, affirming the already pre-established stereotypes. We were told how didgeridoos were made, how central the forest is and has been to the life of the local tribes, and the presentation also included some clarification on the utility of some tools…

As my travel companion engaged in conversation after what we interpreted as the introductory talk, we were called back by the tour guide as we had to be rushed through to what seemed at that stage just another piece of rainforest. We had come with a bus, hopped off at the information/tourist centre of the local area, seen an ‘authentic Aboriginal’ play and teach us about the famous didgeridoo, and now we hopped on again. Hello, thanks, goodbye, in a 10 minute interval. It was obvious that Cameron had not even scratched the surface of knowledge and experience that he could have communicated and made apparent in conversation.

I feel like these experiences were very useful in that it made me so much more aware of the salience of history in any place that I encounter when traveling. Also, they illustrated to me the immense power in shaping narratives and perceptions that local travel guides can have. I felt the power of the dominant structures in pushing a narrative and arguing for a discourse that attempts to forget and assimilate, while asserting remembrance, and the value of diversity. What was left untold carried more weight than any of the guides’ digressions on plant life. Knowledge is power, and I can be grateful to my tutors, lecturers and fellow students who helped me gain a slightly better understanding of the otherwise blindingly misty and contentious topic. As a politics student, this topic is what captured my attention and, as illustrated by the experiences, the confirmation of its relevance only added more fuel to the fire.

Studying at UQ

by Karl Vikat (University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia)

You got to know a little bit about my travels and enough time has passed now to cast some light on the academic side of university life.

As in Manchester, I have been able to organise my week in a way so that I got lectures and tutorials Monday to Wednesday, with the rest of the week off for independent study. Therefore, Monday is especially packed, as tutorials here are generally planned to follow the lectures immediately. This makes it more convenient, in the way that you’ll necessarily be doing your readings for the lectures already, come more prepared, and won’t be able to wait for the ‘tuts’ to come around. Yet, this also entails that days with two blocks of lectures can get pretty tiresome towards the end of the 6 hours.

The lectures tend to be more interactive at UQ, as lecturers encourage discussions and allow them to go on for a substantial amount of time, with the lecture essentially turning into a seminar. However, the more ‘classical’ IR, security lectures follow less this discursive approach.

Some lecture recordings are made available only after all lectures have been completed. Since the powerpoint slides are seldom packed with information, the course convenors that apply this tactic obviously encourage more people to come. Although this can be annoying if it clashes with other obligations, I have found it to be a better solution than simply creating an audio/visual companion that incentivises absenteeism and renders a lecture theatre virtually redundant. For that purpose, some courses at UQ have the option of ‘external’ courses, where the lecture material becomes available immediately and tutorials are replaced by short analyses of key texts. A number of my courses have also had guest lecturers come in from either Griffith University (another uni in Brisbane), or have had politically engaged academics present specific issues.

Immensely more convenient than in Manchester is the submission of assignments, as no hard copy submission is required, and Turnitin alone does the trick already. Also, taking a nap outside on the greenery is a much more realistic option than in Manchester. Whereas late autumn brings cold winds, mud and freezing temperatures in the Northwest, Brisbane’s mild climate allows you to leisurely lay on one of the many green pitches, still now in May.

When it comes to the workload, then Manchester has the advantage over UQ, as every course has an additional assignment, beyond the essay, tutorial and exam mark. This means that, although I did not have mid-terms, I was writing on the extra assignments, instead of preparing for the major essays. Managing that with the extra assignment I still had from Manchester made for quite an intense week and a half. Next up are essays, every week from the end of April to the first week of June.

Worth mentioning is also the weekly movie screenings put on by the POLSIS (Politics&InternationalStudies) department, where a faculty member presents a certain movie, followed by a little discussion/analysis session later on. Compared to Manchester, these events are more regular and enjoy a greater attendance and arguably more enthused viewership. In one case, we even had the opportunity to skype with the director afterwards. On other occasions, researchers have been able to share their expertise on the context of the issues treated in the films.

Getting to class is easy, just a 5 minute bus ride away, and the campus is very well connected with two main bus stops catering to the Western, and Eastern suburbs respectively. The spaciousness of Australia also allows for more breathing room in the city, as houses are larger and less squeezed than in the UK. Well after all, Australia ranks 235th compared to the UK’s 53rd place in population density.

The University campus houses a plethora of coffee shops, a smoothie bar, Pizza café, bar, food court and even a cinema. On another note, what squirrels are to Manchester campus, big yellow lizards, i.e. Eastern Water Dragons are to UQ. Doves are replaced by large ibises and Noisy miners, who sneak up whenever you’re putting on your best cookie monster impersonation, also apparently another campus even hosts a wild koala.

So there’s a little something about the working-part of uni,

You’ll hear from me again soon,

Karl

Surfers’ & Straddie

By Karl Vikat (University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia).

Lightly sparse news on the blog lately, times have been really busy, but I have been able to collect some notes and reminisce about the last month in the process, so that hopefully you’ll get a good feeling of what’s been going on.

The first weeks were loaded with socializing and meeting a great number of fellow exchange students and local Aussies. I spent the Sochi ice-hockey finals surrounded by a sea of red, joyous Canadians, celebrating a double threepeat with their women and men both winning gold to a tune of ‘O Canada’.

On the second weekend I finally got a look outside the city into close by Gold Coast, Surfer’s Paradise; WP_20140223_001Essentially the surfer’s hub, with a sand strip as far as the eye can see, reaching all the way to neighbouring Gold Coast (the city) and beyond. At Surfers’, we spent the day on the beach, rejoicing from the warm ocean waters and the surf breaking along the coastline.

 

In the afternoon, shortly before we were leaving, a triple rainbow over the Pacific Ocean emerged for a minute. WP_20140223_003Although imprinted in our memories, none of us had a lense wide enough to capture the mystical triad. Also, the cloud cover by then couldn’t do much to prevent the foreseeable consequence of not applying my sunscreen generously enough – yes, clearly I do understand now why Australians are so serious about it. In terms of our return; it is a quite convenient feature of trips into the well-connected area around Brisbane, that once you have done your daily bus trips to uni during the week, trips on the weekend are free.

In ‘O-week’ I had to sit through the standard introductory talks, however, since it’s Australia, they we’re spiced up with references to seriously deadly minuscule beings – spiders, jellyfish, frogs, snakes. Good to know that there is a jellyfish, the size of the thumbnail, whose sting will cause you two weeks of intense pain, that all the morphine in the world can’t soothe. Of course, we were also made aware of the red-yellow flag rule. Taking into account the considerable force the pull of the waves exert that I got to experience first-hand in Surfer’s Paradise, one might want to refrain from swimming out into the ocean with no lifeguard in sight. WP_20140228_021After all, these are some of the sweetest spots to work in that profession, so the competition should guarantee that your life is in good hands, as long as you mind the flags.

The week after, I headed out to North Stradbrooke Island, the second largest sand island in the world, located in Moreton Bay. Just a couple hours from Brisbane, we took the ferry over the bay to ‘Straddie’ and found ourselves a misty and humid sight, with the intense green of the rainforest shining over the island in a light drizzle. Its location off the coast and open to the winds of the ocean gives it a distinct climate, its refreshing morning coolness being particularly appreciated coming from still scorching Brisbane.

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Whereas on arrival, Friday, we had to recharge our batteries by spending some time strolling and relaxing on the beach, recovering from the week behind us, the weekend was filled with veritable marches across the island.

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Still, on Friday evening we headed out to Point Lookout, the northern tip of the island, where water has been lashing against rocks for millennia, carving out gorges and a coastline of smooth rocks.

 

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In the surrounding forest, I first got to see kangaroos – we had previously mocked the seemingly misleading brochures at the hostel, picturing kangaroos and koalas, doubting we would see any on the island.  WP_20140228_050

Considering that if they have not been brought over here by humans, these families must have had innumerable ancestors living off the same land here for eons. It was great seeing them grazing, hopping and even boxing (!) in the wild, before encountering their lazy counterparts in the zoo.

On Saturday, we made our way up sandy hills and parts of forest that were draped in the black of charcoal due to bushfires that had ravaged the island in January, to a rather peculiar lake. Bummeira, or Brown Lake, is a freshwater lake whose water sports a particularly smooth quality and brown colour. Surrounded by tea trees, their leaves sicker through on to the ground, and paint the water a distinct bronze.

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After a swim and an invigorating meal of our weekend staple, roasted bread, and luxurious barbeque chicken we decided to call it a day and make our way back to finish the day off at the beach. We saved about 2h30 of what would have been a strenuous return journey, had it not been for a helpful local, himself still jetlagged from a recent journey to the Czech Republic, giving us a lift to the city alongside his crossbreed whelp. The following morning, when hiking to Amity Point, the first (and originally failed) European settlement on the island on Sunday, we had less luck than previously with fauna sighting and came across a dead koala on our path, who, it seemed, had just recently held on to the wrong branch and suffered a fatal fall. His relative, well and alive, dubbed Stevie by a fellow hiker-group who had also set out from our hostel and spotted him, unfortunately remained out of our sight in the treetops.

Back on the mainland, the usual weekend breakdown of train services struck us, yet, for those of you who might plan to head to Brissy yourself, you should know that this isn’t a problem. The price is the highest per-capita carbon footprint in the world, but you get an express service taking about one third of the time you would spend in the train, by a good-spirited bus driver and in good company.

So, that’s the travel so far, in the next post you’re going to get the full academic update.

 

QLD – Endless Summer

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’.

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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.

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ImageI 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. ImageHowever, 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

On my way to Brisbane

by Karl Vikat (University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia).

Take-off – in about one and a half days Australia should be in my sight. Starting in Geneva, the Austrians will fly me from Vienna to Bangkok to Brisbane. I expect to be quite in a chronological mess with a 10 hour long pit-stop in the Thai capital, getting a slight taste from the day of Tom Hanks’ character in ‘Terminal’. Two weeks have gone by now since exams, giving me plenty of time for good-byes and to replenish energy-wise. I also found time to work on a rather big assignment that I have due in the end of April, considering that the deadline will come around sooner than later, since time in Australia will probably pass quickly. Knowing I would go abroad beforehand, I had rented uni-accommodation for one semester, avoiding the stress that goes with finding somebody to take over my accommodation. Finding accommodation in Brisbane will be enough of a hassle already. Similarly, although I had to go through medical examinations for my visa, the application process went over smoothly and it’s a good thing the Australians prefer to keep it easy, managing the process entirely electronically, via internet.

The excitement has had time to build up, the template appearance of airports will probably only be able to add so much, however, the knowledge of firstly setting one’s feet outside European grounds might just be the right counterbalance. I guess the last stage, when I arrive at the hostel and a few days after that will feel like quite a rush. In general, I expect the first weeks to be pretty intense, setting the time right, getting the administrative stuff done, fighting the fatigue, meeting new people, mapping the area in my head, trying to find a part-time job as well as trying to set up a new place to call home for half a year, yet this is precisely part of why I signed up for this. Although the circumstances are different, moving to Manchester to study abroad has previously already given me at least some idea of what to expect. I have given myself about two weeks before the semester starts to get most things sorted out, yet I doubt that things will fall in place that soon, rather in a month maybe. I worry that my schedule might get pretty packed quicker than expected and I also know that there are going to be a few if any constants before things get a bit more settled, yet I cannot wait to get started. The courses sound great and ultimately, excitement trumps anything right now, changing rainy cold European winter for sunny Brisbane and 5 months in Australia takes care of that.