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Eight (8) Things I Learnt While Living in Australia
Moving to Australia (to study) was exciting and a start of a new adventure for me but on the other hand there were uncertainties in my mind. I was not sure how I was going to manage in a country where the culture was completely different to mine, the education standard was high and I had to work harder than a lot of students. English was not my first language, so how effectively I can communicate was another worry and so on. Anyway, I survived the two years and here are some of my experiences and what I learnt from my short stay.
1. Do not pack as if you are going where there is nothing
Keeping up with new fashion was not something that I was used to. I packed my suitcase as if I were travelling to a country where shops would be very difficult to get to. I made sure I bought myself a quilt which I remember back then, that I was frantically trying to fit into my already full suitcase. A week after my arrival, I realised that it was not necessary to bring the clothes that I brought and it was not necessary to bring the quilt too. The clothes were out of fashion and there were plenty of shops in Australia that I can buy clothes and the quilt from.
2. Never take a word for a word.
On arriving at the airport, we were greeted by a girl who was sent in by the international student center to meet us. She arranged for a taxi to take us to the university, gave instructions to the taxi driver and then walked away. We called her back and asked for our cheques. She was taken aback for a moment and then asked, ''what cheque?''. ''Our establishment cheque'', we replied. ''We were told it will be given to us on arrival''. ''Oh! ok. I am a student, I am not aware of this, you will have to ask at the International Student Center at the university,'' she explained.
3. Never assume that anyone that looked like you is the same as you.
The new students (international) arrived two or three weeks earlier then all the other students. I arrived with a couple of Papua New Guineans and we were accommodated temporarily in a student hall of residence in the campus. New students were coming in everyday from all over the world. Anyway, one day, I was in the bathroom and a new student walked in. I greeted her, I introduced myself and then I asked her. "Where in Papua New Guinea are you from?'' She looked bewildered, then smiled and said, '' my name is Edea, I am from Eritrea in Africa." Ops!.
4. Ask questions only when it is necessary.
After two weeks, all the international student moved out of the hall of residence, I got a room and stayed on. One evening at dinner, I saw a dark complexion girl, with long black hair and went and sat with her at table. I didn't introduce myself as everyone there knew who I was and where I was from. I was one of the three older students living there. Anyway, no one was talking so I decided to start the conversation and I asked innocently. ''So where are you from?'' She was completely taken aback, gave me along face, stared at me and didn't say a thing. Ops! I realised what I said was not right. It was an insult. ''Sorry'' I said. I realised that I just asked an Australian where she was from. She was an Australian Aborigines, that looked like someone of an Indian or Pakistani origin. Anyway, I ate quickly and left.
5. What is acceptable by you is not acceptable by others.
Still living at the hall at the campus, one day, I was standing outside the entrance waiting for someone. A girl came out from the hall and left a bag and some books on the side walk and then went back inside. A few minutes later, another student came out, looked around and then asked me who left the bag and the books. I didn't know the name of the girl so I went onto describe her. She is tall, fat, and has a long brown hair, with red stripes etc..etc... Instead of being grateful he gave me a look of disbelief. I was puzzled about his expression. I later found out that it was rude to say someone is ''fat'' out-rightly.
6. Expect the unexpected when venturing into the unknown.
After a few months into University life, I made friends and one day my friends decided that we should go to the campus swimming pool to swim. I was excited as I haven't been to the pool since I arrived, so I grabbed my towel, swim suit and followed them. I was at the back as we were walking, and when we arrived at the main entrance, one of the girls recommended that we should use a side door, so we turn around and walked in the other direction, I was now leading the group. As I was walking, one of them was calling,'' keep going, keep going, yeah! that way, that's the door.'' So I put my hand on the knob and opened the door and peeped in first. ''Ops! sorry, wrong door'', I said, and quickly closed the door before any of them could get into the room. ''What's wrong?'' they asked? Before I could answer, one of the girls said, ''that's the right door, just walk pass and act as if you didn't see a thing.'' The door was the exit from the women's bathroom and the sauna, so the girls and women were walking around without clothes on and one was walking straight towards the door. It was a sight I was not used to.
7. Not everyone that needs help wants your help.
I have moved out of the hall and was now living in a unit nearby. As I was walking home after classes one afternoon, I saw an old man with a walking stick (one of his leg was amputated), struggling to pull a long and heavy piece of timber which he got from a construction site nearby. He needed help. Everyone else walked passed without offering to help and as I got closer, I asked if I could help him and he said no. I asked the second time and he said no again. I knew he was soon going to have difficulty in pulling the timber. So I lagged behind him. He arrived at a corner and he had to turn 90 degree and about a meter away was the next street so he did not have much space to maneuver. He was pulling hard as if expecting it to bend so he can easily pull it in the other direction. The timber didn't move a bit. Anyway without asking again, I put my hand down on the end of the timber, lifted it and moved it so it is all align with the street he wanted to go down. He was angry at first, cooled down and then invited me to his house for coffee.
8. Most times you are on your own.
A few months passed and my boyfriend came to visit, one night, (his second night in Australia) as we were walking home, we saw a car broke down right in the middle of a very busy street and the driver got out and started stirring and pushing it to the side on his own. We went over and helped the man. We pushed the car to the side. He thanked us and said, ''you must be new in the country.'' My friend was amazed and asked. "How did you know?" ''I know because in this country, deeds like this are rare,'' he said.