Australia: Taking in the Tassie Lifestyle

Submitted by Alexandra Curnyn on the 2020 winter session study abroad program in Australia sponsored by the Department of  English…

This past weekend, my group had the unique opportunity to board a flight to Hobart, Tasmania, one of the world’s most isolated and southern cities that can be accessed by humans. At first, I had no idea what to expect. I went into this study abroad experience only hearing about Tasmanian devils, but I left with a greater appreciation for the vastness and diversity of Australia. Even through the plane window, the differences between Tasmania and the familiar hustle and bustle of Melbourne were stark. While Melbourne (like the rest of the country) is flat, hazy, and concentrated with people, Tasmania had rolling hills and mountains with steel-covered homes built onto its sides. The ground was full of crop circles alternating with burnt-out forests and deserts, and I found myself thinking, I can’t believe I’m in the same country right now.

Recognizing my initial shock (which was not unlike that of when I first landed in Melbourne several weeks ago), I decided to take it all in and partake in this new way of life for the 48 hours I was about to spend on this island state rather than worry about things I “had” to see. Unsurprisingly, it made for a weekend that exceeded all of my expectations. After speaking with locals and going to markets, restaurants, and sharing spaces with those who stayed and worked at the hostel my classmates and I were based in, I realized that Hobart, like much of Tasmania, is incredibly laid-back. Everyone I encountered spoke slowly and gently, and were willing to stop and have a conversation because they appreciated that outsiders genuinely go out of their way to get a taste of life in Tasmania, as it is very different from more well-known parts of the country.

Besides the beautiful scenery and waterfront location, my favorite part of experiencing Tasmanian life was spontaneously attending a night market that my friends and I came across in a park. Among the food trucks featuring small businesses, a band was playing surrounded by locals sitting on blankets, many of whom would get up and dance with one another in front of the stage. Instead of filming everything like the tourists in crowded Melbourne squares, these people were truly living in the moment, providing even more of an authentic taste of life in a smaller city that remains off the beaten path. It was an experience I didn’t expect to have, but observing a new way of life without getting caught up in tourist attractions or having a set agenda all of the time taught me so much more than anything I could have planned out myself. I feel so fortunate that not only did I go somewhere that not a lot of people set out to go, but that I also got an authentic look at life in said place.