On January 30, I began the 40-hour journey to Australia. When I landed, I stepped out into the sweltering 39ºC heat and met my exchange partner Sam. The next day I headed off to Bunbury Cathedral Grammar School, many of the students had never met a Canadian before so I got many questions, the worst being “So you’re American right?” The annoyance of this assumption was quickly overridden by all the good friends I made and the fun we had, from playing footy to trying to bait possums down from the roof.
The daily life at Bunbury was quite similar to school at Lakefield. Wake up, go to school and have class until 3:30 p.m. After the school day was over the days were noticeably different, Bunbury Grammar was much less co-curricular oriented than Lakefield, with their sports only practicing once a week. The time after class allowed for a very relaxed visit in Australia because after class I would play basketball, surf or play footy with my friends. This led to a very different atmosphere around the school as much of what we did was outside of school. At Lakefield your arts, sports, friends and “home” are at the school, while at Bunbury you needed to find your place outside of school, as well as in the new school.
The exchange was a experience of a lifetime and I loved every moment of it. I feel I have reached a new level of independence as a result of this trip. It's the perfect experience to learn how to work on your own but still be connected to a support system. It helped me grow by removing me from what I was accustomed to and giving me a new place to live, family and friends to adjust to.
The most challenging aspect of the exchange was the ten-day hiking trip we did in the Australian bush. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. It was very difficult to complete as we walked almost 65 km and rafted another 20 km, this tested me as it was a very different experience from Canadian hiking and I did not know what to do or what creatures I might run into. The best part of the trip ended up being on the hiking trip when we went spearfishing at night for crabs and cobbler, a fish with venomous spines on its back.
I can’t stress how much I would recommend the exchange program to anyone interested. This program let me visit places and see things I probably never would have had the chance to see otherwise. My exchange partner Sam has become one of my best friends. The program allowed me to meet so many great people. This is such a unique experience, so to anyone who is considering an exchange next year - take the chance and go for it -I promise you won’t regret it.