I intended to make this post over a week ago, so let me start with a piece of advice: when you’re studying abroad, time can get away from you pretty easily. It’s a challenge to stay on top of your schoolwork when so many other, more interesting things are happening around you, but those are the things you’ll remember when you get home. I’ve learned that balance is key: do the work you came to do, but remember that you’re also in the middle of a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Speaking of, the trips I’ve taken since I arrived in Australia have been incredible. The first weekend, we all stayed in Canberra and visited a wildlife refuge. That’s right, I’m talkin’ kangaroos. The next, some friends and I visited Melbourne, where we learned our first great lesson of the trip: research the city and find some things that look interesting, but don’t try to plan every minute of your trip. The best part of visiting Melbourne was just walking down the street, saying “Hey, that museum looks neat,” and going in to see what was happening.
The next weekend (this past weekend, actually), I visited Sydney. Planning our day was a little bit easier there, but it was also a better choice because admission to many attractions is cheaper online than at the door. That brings me to the next lesson we learned: don’t be afraid to look like a tourist. Take your gigantic camera with you. Tour the Sydney Opera House with all the retirees. Locals may think you’re a weirdo, but who cares? When are you going to see these things again? Pay for the ticket, stand in line, get your picture taken, and let yourself have fun doing those things! I have one caveat to that statement, however: don’t be the tourist who takes Uber everywhere. You’ll see a completely different side of the city if you walk or take public transit when you can, and you’ll save more money than you’d expect.
On the academic side of things, I have been surprised by the different expectations that American and Australian professors have. Australian students call their professors by their first names in class, which we would never do in America unless a specific professor asked us to (and even then, some of us would still feel weird calling a professor “Bill” to his face). It’s also not as big a deal to be called on in class and say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t have time to read that.” In American law schools, telling a professor you didn’t do the reading they assigned is akin to opening the Ark of the Covenant in an Indiana Jones movie; the look you get will make you feel like your face is melting off. Combined with the fact that most Australian law students are undergraduates, law classes here are much more laid back than they are in America. That doesn’t mean we aren’t working hard, though. In fact, some of us are struggling to figure out just what is expected of us.
We start our trek back home in about a week. If I’m honest, I have only recently started feeling completely comfortable here in Australia. I’ll miss it, but I’m not going to dwell on that now. We still have a whole week, and in that time I’m going to snorkel at the Great Barrier Reef, so there’s no room for complaints!