The Land Down Under: An Australian Student’s Semester Abroad

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Mar 052013
 

Author: Anna Palmer

AustralianWith short, dark-brown, curly hair, 22-year-old Ellie Cooper sports a red silk skirt, black stockings and a knitted yellow scarf.  Her bright smile and easy-going mannerisms, coupled with the go-to phrase, “no worries,” warmly gives Cooper away as a cheerful and truly down-to-earth ‘Aussie’.

Though Cooper may be from “the land down under,” she currently resides in the college-town of Ft. Collins.  On “exchange” from Adelaide, Australia, the capital of South Australia, Cooper literally traveled halfway across the world to experience a new life for six months.

“I really love to travel,” she said. “I love my hometown, but it is too small for me. You learn so much about a place when you go stay for an extended period of time.”

Being that Colorado State University was one of the 10 institutions Cooper could choose from, she took into account what would work best with her degree.  As a journalism major, the upheld reputation of the Journalism and Technical Communication Department at CSU stood out to her.

“Ft. Collins looked so pretty and there was so much to do and see, and it seemed easy to get around,” Cooper said, with a glint of excitement in her eyes. “I live right by the beach back home so it was nice to come to a place so close to the mountains.”

Staying in Ft. Collins for only a semester, she hopes to take advantage of her travel time in the United States.  With Washington D.C. on her radar, she notes that her interest in U.S. politics was one of the determining factors that swayed her over studying abroad in Europe.

Outlining her travel itinerary, Cooper plans to go to San Francisco, Cali., over spring break for an Indie music festival.  Her parents are coming to visit after the semester ends to travel together to New York and Chicago before she continues her solo journey up the East Coast into Canada.

Currently Cooper lives in a house with Americans as well as other exchange students.  She enjoys being able to observe the American perspective, especially when it comes to politics.

Bearing this in mind, one apparent difference between the two countries comes to mind: the “right” and “wrong” side of the road.  However, she highlights one drastic difference in particular: the weather.

Upon leaving Australia in 120-degree heat, Cooper, wearing her heavy winter coat, lugged her lone survival backpacker’s bag full of winter clothes onto the plane.

“I’m not used to the constant cold,” Cooper said. “I saw snow fall for the first time [here].  It was such a pretty, white powder.  I ran to tell my roommates and was like, ‘Guys, it’s snowing!’ They were like ‘we know’, like it was completely normal. As soon as it’s slightly warm, everyone’s wearing t-shirts and flip flops and I’m still all bundled up. I guess you have to make the most of a warm day here.”

Another slight difference Cooper has stumbled upon is that of the food and bar scene.  Though corporations like McDonalds and KFC have become ubiquitous globally, permeating into countries including Australia, there are slight differences in food choices and availability.  She notes that there’s “heaps” of international cuisine in Fort Collins.  In particular, there is more Mexican food here, not that she has any complaints with her newfound love of burritos.

“I do miss Vegemite,” Cooper said, vouching for the staple of any Aussie diet. “I’m waiting for my care package to come because it has Vegemite in it.  It’s definitely an acquired taste.”

In regards to the bar scene in Ft. Collins, Cooper gave her two cents.  The Trailhead Tavern in Old Town was the first bar she visited, and she immediately noticed all the TVs, pool tables and beer, calling it “so American.”

“The bars here are more quirky, a bit older, in a good way,” Cooper said. “They have character.  Our bars are very modern with strobe lights. The bars close early here.  Back home they stay open till 5 a.m., sometimes even 10 a.m.”

Stemming off of this difference, drink specials are pretty much non-existent in Australia.  In fact, the Australian government is considering doing-away with “happy hour” due to the increasingly high levels of intoxication.  There is more control in Australia, Cooper commented.

“[Almost] no one in Australia has guns.  It is really difficult to get a permit.  I felt naughty because I held a gun for the first time here,” she said, hiding a smile.

In terms of her experience interacting with Americans, Cooper rates it as being a positive one, commenting on the friendliness and helpful nature of CSU students in particular.

While abroad and despite all the new and exciting things Cooper doesn’t “normally get to do,” she does keep in contact with friends and family halfway across the globe via Facebook and Skype.  Mentioning that the only time she felt homesick was when she had the flu, she makes the point that “six months goes so quickly” and to take advantage of the time she has here.

“[So far], I’ve only seen Ft. Collins and Denver.  I love Old Town though,” Cooper said, as her mind drifted back to a pivotal point in her time abroad. “A couple of days after I had just arrived, I was tired and jet-lagged.  I had just got a bike so I road down to Old Town with other exchange students.  The lights came on and it was awesome.  It was the first time I knew I had done the right thing by coming here.”