The process of applying to EAP took about a year. I started in March of 2006 to complete loads of paperwork, raise my GPA, pay hidden fees and try to acquire as much information as possible about my university in Adelaide and life in Australia. Only one UCSB EAP advisor was helpful, so I spent months of aggravating preparation alone.
I couldn’t sleep on the 14-hour flight across the Pacific Ocean to Sydney, 6000 miles away from California. I was smashed next to a geriatric couple that drank every ounce of vodka on the plane and made me get up so they could use the bathroom every 15 minutes. Around the 11th hour of my ass being asleep and breathing chilled, re-circulated farts, I decided I was pretty much over studying abroad.
Even when we got into Sydney, I wasn’t so enthused. I had a fun group of UCSB girls to go around the city with for the two days we had free before the UC EAP orientation started. We visited the glittering Sydney Opera House and saw sharks at the aquarium and bought oodles of alcohol at disgustingly high prices. It was nice to see the sights and finally be able to buy my own drinks, but I wasn’t excited, I wasn’t happy.
When orientation started, however, my whole doubtful mentality turned around. The 62 other UC students studying in Australia and I crammed into a little conference room and watched a slideshow presentation by the EAP Australia Director, Russell Jones.
The presentation began with information about the Australian language, called Strine. Strine is basically English but there are many unique sayings and words like dinky-di, which means the real thing, and yakka, which means hard work. There are also some words we share that they use differently; for instance, a rubber means an eraser and fanny is slang for lady private parts. Good thing I don’t wear fanny packs!
In Jones’ big list of Australia’s Most Dangerous Things, traffic is the number one big threat. Thanks to British influence, they drive on the left side of the road here and pedestrians have absolutely no right of way. As an Isla Vista resident, I’ve almost been hit by about 20 cars. The second biggest threat is the sun. There’s a huge hole in the ozone layer over here and sunscreen application is necessary multiple times every day. I’ve only been here for three days and I’m already as tan as I am at the end of summer.
Nature, however, is the most interesting danger here. There seem to be more rip current and undertow threats here than in California. At Bondi Beach, for example, there are two flags that mark where you can swim and if you pass a flag by an inch, the lifeguards go nuts. There are also a lot of shark attacks along the entire coastline of Australia. The deadliest sea creatures, however, are Box Jellyfish. Jones said, “You have virtually no chance of surviving the venomous sting.” There are also many spiders and snakes with fatal bites, including the world’s most venomous snake, the taipan. All these fun critters are not limited to rural areas and Jones said the flooding in northern Australia has even let crocodiles loose in the streets. At this point, everyone in the room was involved in a panicked whisper summed up by “Holy shit, we’re going to die.” Jones assured us that with a little good sense we could avoid an untimely, though exotic, demise.
The last bit of the presentation was about drinking and gambling. Gambling is very legal and every city has a casino. Jones said 20 percent of Australian income is gambled. The drinking age here is 18 but alcohol costs a lot more, even if you just buy something from a liquor store. Australia was originally a prison colony for England so as we Americans are descendents of prudes, the Australians are descendents of Irish and English convicts. We were advised to not engage in drinking contests with them. I’m not making any promises, though.
The orientation really got me thinking about how amazing this country and these people are here. The similarities and differences blow my mind and it just dawned on me that I’ll be living here for months and I get to explore it all.