Australia Day 2020

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

“Like you, I have watched in anguish and horror as fires lay waste to precious Ewen land, taking everything with it. Lives. Homes. Animals. Trees. But to the first nation’s peoples, it is also burning up our memories, sacred places, all the things that make us which is ours. It is a particular grief to lose forever what connects you to a place in the landscape,” recounted Margaret Beazley, governor of New South Wales during the Morning Smoke Ceremony.

The WugulOra Morning Smoke Ceremony is an Aboriginal custom in which native plants are burned with the intent of healing, cleansing, and warding off bad spirits. The embers produced from this particular ceremony then traveled to the Yabun Festival, Tallawoldah, and Circular Qauy throughout the day to continue to smoke and cleanse the crowds throughout Sydney.

“The devastating bushfires has drastically changed the ceremony,” voiced Harry Tumero, a WugulOra Ceremony onlooker. “Normally, government officials come and apologize to our past, present, and emerging communities. But this year, the catastrophic impact of the fires was a main point. The governor said it herself, the fires are sadly overshadowing everything at the moment.”

During the Australia Day ceremony, there was reflection of Aboriginal practices that sustained the land and how their knowledge is currently being used to better protect the environment and communities. The bravery of the first, all Aboriginal fire squadron was also mentioned due to their excellence in protecting their sacred sites, caring for their country, and fighting fires.

“There has been less focus on whether it’s Australia Day or Invasion Day,” proclaimed Marissa Wilkson, a descendant of the Gadi community. She mentioned that grief normally overwhelms her throughout the day because of her outlook on the true meaning behind Australia Day; however, Marissa explained this year’s grief was completely different. “I was overwhelmed, some but not mainly because of the horrors that occurred after this day many years ago to my ancestors, but because our country is becoming a wasteland. Since, our fires have been so bad, we’ve had no choice but to push our differences under the rug and deal with our huge environmental problem.”

Australia Day 2020 was drastically different; even Australia Day events focusing on the celebration, not the healing process, commented on coming to terms with the impact of the fires. The bushfires forced all Australians, Aboriginal and non- Aboriginal, to come together and to push away some of the political meaning of this controversial day to fight a common enemy for their land, lives, and homes.

Australia: Cooking Class with Chef Julie Goodwin

Submitted by Mia DeRicco on the 2020 winter session study abroad program in Australia and New Zealand sponsored by the Department of Hospitality Business Management…

I can now say I took a cooking class alongside a famous Australian Chef Julie Goodwin. This experience is one I will never forget. It not only taught me more about Australian cuisine, but also made me more confident in my abilities to cook and bake! Part of the program I am on is all about learning about the cuisine of Australia and there is no better way than to learn hands on!

Julie first taught us how to make Pavlova, which is a white cake that is hard on the outside and spongy on the inside similar to the texture of a marshmallow. This dish is famous in Australia and when topped with fruit is absolutely delicious! Seeing how simple the recipe was makes me eager to share this Australian tradition with my friends and family back at home! The main course we made was seafood risotto. Throughout my time in Australia, I have seen firsthand how popular seafood is within Australian culture. Since Australia is surrounded by water and has access to fresh seafood, it is understandable why it is so popular and tastes extremely fresh! Julie Goodwin also prepared a lamb for us to eat along with the two dishes we prepared. I got to smell different Australian spices that are used on many dishes and that she seasoned the lamb with. I felt immersed in Australian cuisine and it aided my knowledge on what makes Australian cuisine and culture different from ours back at home.

Pavlova topped with fruit
Seafood Risotto with Squid, Salmon, and Shrimp

Australia: Out of My Comfort Zone

Submitted by Cassidy Pieper on the 2020 winter session program in Australia and Thailand sponsored by the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics…

This week, we traveled to Sydney, Australia, the final city of our time abroad. We started our week filled with fun adventures on Monday. We toured the Sydney Opera House. We learned about all of the architectural pieces, the history of how the design was chosen, and the challenges that were faced when building the iconic building. Later that evening, we did the Sydney Harbor Bridge climb. This was my favorite cultural excursion of the week! It was the most enjoyable for me because it was both mentally challenging as well as an adrenaline rush. I would have never done that on my own, but it was beneficial for me to get out of my comfort zone and try something new. Our tour guide, Catie, taught us the history and facts about the bridge and how difficult it was to make. It was also a bonding experience for my small group of eleven who climbed together. Some of us were more comfortable than others during the climb and each of us supporting one another was a special moment for me. A couple of days later, we explored a wildlife park where we learned more about the history of the Aboriginal people. We were able to see actual artifacts in caves and paintings on cement form by them. At the park, we also were able to hang out with animals such as pythons, kangaroos, and koalas.

Throughout the week, we also went on multiple company visits. My favorite of the week was a presentation from Merlin Luck, the Vice President at Salesforce. He not only told us about how Salesforce continues innovating and how they became a pioneer in the industry, but he also gave us career advice and told us how to become successful. The personal messages he gave really resonated with me and I will remember them as I choose my path after college.

Almost to the top of the bridge!
Sydney Harbor Bridge climb
After our tour of the opera house, looking at the bridge we were to climb later that evening. Sydney Opera House


Meeting the animals in the Walkabout Park!

Arrival in Sydney, Australia

Submitted by Erin Malley on the 2020 winter session program in Australia and Thailand sponsored by the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics…

This past week, our group embarked on the 9-hour flight from Thailand to Sydney, Australia. When we first landed at the airport, it was raining in Sydney, a good sign for the bush fires that are still blazing across the country. The rain, and the minor jet-lag, didn’t stop us from exploring the city, though! On our first day, we walked to an area called Darling Harbor where there were shops and restaurants on the water. I could immediately pick up on the differences between Sydney and large cities in the United States. For one, it was much cleaner, and I noticed Australians put much more effort into being environmentally conscious. Throughout the week, we went on many excursions like climbing to the top of the Sydney Harbor Bridge and visiting a wildlife park where we got to interact with native animals like kangaroos and koalas. We also have had the chance to visit many of the famous beaches throughout Sydney like Bondi and Coogee, that have some of the most beautiful cliffs and blue water I’ve ever seen! It’s been such an incredible experience to visit a country on the other side of the world and see how life can be so different, but also similar to everyday life in the United States. With only one week left on the program, I’m excited to see more of Australia and what else this country has to offer!

Australia: Inspiring Experiences

Submitted by a student on the 2020 winter session program in Australia and Thailand sponsored by the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics…

As my study abroad program is coming to a close, I’d like to reflect on the last few things I was able to experience during my last week here in Sydney, Australia. I was finally able to visit two different beaches, Bondi and Manly, and watch the sunset. Both beaches had a different aesthetic, Bondi being more touristy and Manly being a local beach. I was also lucky enough to have visited an animal sanctuary called Walkabout Wildlife Park where we were able to see and learn about different animals such as kangaroos, koalas, dingoes, etc., and learn about the history of the Aboriginal people. The last and final highlight I experienced was seeing the Sydney Opera House and the Harbor Bridge. Both are significant landmarks in the center of Sydney. They both were built upon a rich history and continue to share an inspiring story. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. The people I met and the friends I made are things I will look back on and cherish forever. I would highly recommend this program to others and would encourage them to share their stories and experiences as well.

Sydney Harbor Bridge
Sydney Opera House

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.

Australia: Lunar New Year

Submitted by Shenalee Fernando on the 2020 spring semester study abroad program in Australia sponsored by the Alfred Lerner College of Business & Economics…

This weekend was such an awesome weekend. It was the Chinese New Year, the Lunar New Year, the year of the rat. My friends and I went to Chinatown, here in Sydney and it was so amazing to be immersed in the Chinese culture. There were street vendors, carnival games, music and little shops that were set up on the streets. We got to see a performance with dragons and rats. There was also a  group of little kids performing in the street. They were very cute! I don’t know what I was expecting, but it was very crowded and very hot. There were so many people. It was nothing like I’ve ever experienced and I’ve been to  New York City, Philly and other cities. The food was amazing. I got these noodles with prawn and crab balls. It was by far the best thing I’ve eaten here. We also went to the Chinese Garden of Friendship. It was breathtaking. It was like a little piece of China was actually here in Sydney. There were ponds with koi fish and little waterfalls. It was beautiful! The whole experience was so unique. I’ve never been to a lunar new year festival, so it was nice to be here and be a part of it.

Chinese Garden of Friendship
Prawn and crab balls

Australia: Public Transportation

Submitted by Olivia Szefer on the 2020 spring semester study abroad program in Sydney, Australia…

Being in Sydney for over a week, I have encountered many times when I was taken aback with culture shock. One particular time was when I was taking public transport, more specifically, the light rail which runs through the central parts of the city. To travel on any public transport, each individual should have an Opal card that holds money on it in order to pay for their journey. Everyone is expected to check on and off on a particular pad in order to pay for the transport, and absolutely everyone – adults, children and tourists alike – tap their Opal cards onto this in an orderly fashion. After tapping the card, they would calmly enter the light rail. This shocked me at first because they could easily rush onto the tram without paying without anyone noticing; however, they choose to be orderly and follow exact protocol in these instances.

Australia: New Heights

Submitted by a student on the 2020 winter session program in Australia and Thailand sponsored by the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics…

I have been in Sydney for a little over a week and have loved it. It has been a very different experience than Thailand was and I am happy I got to see two different ways of life. We have gotten to immerse ourselves in the culture here and see many different places. One of my highlights of the program so far is the Sydney Bridge Climb. Although I am very afraid of heights, I successfully completed the climb and was very happy I did. We also got to visit a walk about park where we saw animals such as kangaroos, wallabies, and a koala. It was sad, but informative to hear about how the devastating wildfires impacted the environment of these animals. I have a few days left in Sydney before heading to Cairns and I am looking forward to what else this beautiful country has to show me.

Australia: Environmental Awareness

Submitted by Harrison Crum on the 2020 spring semester study abroad program in Sydney, Australia…

I’ve been in Sydney for a week now and I have already experienced so many new things. The first of which had to have been the heat. In the United States, it’s winter and quite cold around the country. When I arrived in Sydney, I was thrust into temperatures well above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, much different than the 30 degrees I had become accustomed to. The time change was also a big adjustment. Here in Sydney I am 16 hours ahead of my family back in the States, so figuring out times to call was difficult. When I’m available, my Mom is asleep. And when I’m about to go to sleep is when she’s waking up. But after a few days, I was able to find the times in which we both could talk.

Something that became very noticeable during my first week in Sydney was the environmental awareness across the entire city. Restaurants avoid using single use plastics, there is much less trash on the streets as there are many signs encouraging people not to litter, numerous green spaces, and even at the Taronga Zoo water is reused in most, if not all, of the enclosures. To respect the natural world around you appears to be an essential aspect of Australian culture and everyone does their part to ensure a sustainable environment. This is different from what I’m used to back in the States. Back home, the overall feeling seems to be that the responsibility of taking care of the environment is on the government and big corporations, and less on the individual. I look forward to experiencing more of what Sydney, as well as the rest of Australia, has to offer.

Bondi Beach