By Enrica Geloso ’20
People have asked me countless times if I felt like I gave up my summer to go on an exchange. The simple answer is yes, the longer one would really be no. It’s no because I didn't really give anything up. I’ve had a better summer in Australia than I would have had, had I stayed in Canada. I love travelling and I love to experience the world - so when the opportunity of an exchange was presented I didn't hesitate to say yes.
I landed in Sydney, Australia one week prior to the start of term with my mom and two younger sisters. In Sydney, we toured the Opera House, the Sydney Harbor bridge and Taronga Zoo. On our way up to Armidale, which is where the school is located in New South Wales, we stopped in Port Stephens and Coffs Harbor. The day before the boarders returned to The Armidale School I had the opportunity to take a tour with the school’s Round Square Rep, Mrs. Annabelle Barnier. My first impression was that there were a lot of open outdoor areas. I loved how the school was built with dark red and brown bricks and I loved the oldness of it.
I got my schedule the first day of classes. Having seven periods a day and a different arrangement of classes daily was confusing to say the least. Every two weeks the schedule repeats itself but it's still a good idea to have the schedule on hand. My first couple of weeks at TAS were filled with new faces, new classes and new experiences. I had the opportunity to play on one of the netball teams, as well as be a boarder for the first time. Boarding was something I had to adapt to. There were so many rules and times to remember, it was a good thing I constantly had girls reminding me what came next. Along with all the amazing people I met, there were also three other exchange students, one from South Africa, one from New York and one from California. We shared many classes and found each other to be comforting to one another. It wasn’t uncommon to find each other during the day and discuss our exchange, home and daily experiences.
I also had the delightful experience of cadets. During my ten weeks at TAS there were two times in which I had to participate in cadets. The first time was an activity day in week six where the year seven’s to ten’s are split into platoons, each of which has a different activity that they must complete. I, along with the other year ten girls, had to do navigation. We were driven to a place and told to find our way through the hills to a road using only a compass and a map. The second time was for a parade. Every afternoon for the entire week leading up to the official parade the school spent an hour and a half lining up, standing still, marching and learning commands. Cadets was definitely an experience. One that I’m happy not to repeat.
Another opportunity given to me was to try aviation as one of my three electives. I spent the majority of the term learning about aerodynamics, general knowledge, radio communication, flight safety and aircraft performance. In week eight, I was able to be a pilot in a trial flight. The plane was a small, two-seater for just the pilot and co-pilot. I was able to take the pilot’s seat and do most of the flying myself. I did receive instruction in the landing process and a little bit of aid for takeoff but the rest of the flight it was up to me to handle the turbulence and altitude. Getting to watch the ground peel away before me, knowing that I could either fly or fall, was definitely an exhilarating feeling. Being able to have complete control of something so impossibly beautiful is a feeling I’ll treasure for a long time.
One of the biggest challenges I faced during my exchange was at the beginning. At the beginning, every face was a new face. I was left in a completely new environment knowing nobody but my exchange partner, Chloe Lawson. Even then, I didn't really know anyone because I was placed in the year below. The people in year ten were very welcoming to me and I was quickly shown the ways of TAS life. Another thing that baffled me during my first weeks in Australia was the dialect. Yes, they spoke English but there were so many words that I had to get clarified and I would often turn to friends to ask for a definition.
All challenges aside, going on exchange is one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. It’s one thing to travel to a country and learn about the culture, but it’s another thing entirely to be dropped into a culture and live alongside local kids for nearly three months. The people that I met and friends that I made really helped to make my time at TAS that much better. I’m so glad to have met such fun-loving, hard-working and extraordinary people.
The whole exchange experience has allowed me to become a more independent and self- confident person. Little things, like knowing nobody in the beginning, helped me to be a little more extroverted. I was dropped in the deep end and no matter how much I had prepared for it, I wasn't ready for the real thing. I had to problem solve and figure things out as I went along, ultimately resulting in a higher independence level.
An exchange is a fantastic experience that allows for so many new opportunities. It is a great chance to meet new people and see the world from a new perspective. My message to other LCS students: If ever the opportunity of an exchange is presented, take it, because an exchange is so much more than just time abroad.
Thank you so much to Mr. Bird and Mrs. Barnier for arranging this spectacular experience, to my parents who guided and supported me throughout the process, as well as my host family and the head of house and house mothers at TAS for being so welcoming. Without the support you’ve provided, I never could have enjoyed these amazing three months in Australia!