My name is Philip Kirkbride. I’m a college graduate from Ontario studying at AU. I’ve always wanted to do an exchange program or study abroad but never found the right time to do so. This is the story of how Athabasca University has allowed me to create my own study abroad program. In the last issue Matt and I enjoyed our last days in Hawaii biking e-cycling around Oahu.
The flight from Honolulu to Sydney was about ten hours. I had a good meal before the flight and took a few sleeping pills when we took off. After a ten-hour sleep interrupted only for a quick snack, we landed fully recharged. Well, at least I was recharged. Matt was extremely exhausted and jet lagged. But going through immigration was a breeze?it turns out it’s easier for a Canadian to go to Australia for a year than it is to go to Honolulu for a week.
After a $17 subway ride from the airport we arrived in King’s Cross, part of Sydney. I’d chosen a hostel in the King’s Cross area called the Blue Parrot because of the good ratings on TripAdvisor. And, as it turns out, I wasn’t the only backpacker who chose to start in King’s Cross. Walking out of the subway station you’re immediately approached by travel guides trying to ’help’ you (aka sell you accommodation, tours, and travel).
As is often the case when landing in a new country, the first thing we needed was a Wifi connection. Following in the steps of many travelers before us we immediately saw McDonalds (or “Maccas” as the Australians call it) and headed there, mobile phones in hand. In another completely original decision we both bought the Australian themed McMate Meal.
After loading Google Maps, the hostel was only a few minutes away. The owners of the hostel were very friendly and soon had us checked in. In the living room about a dozen British travellers were watching a movie. It seemed at first that most of the house was British but, as it turns out, all the French guests were, stereotypically, in the backyard smoking cigarettes.
While there was lots of stuff I wanted to do in Sydney, we had a plan for our trip. We needed to purchase a vehicle and drive to the cherry farm Matt had worked at four years earlier. There we’d be able to start earning some money and lower our living expenses. The first step was figuring out the laws and process of buying a used car in Australia.
King’s Cross is packed with bars, cafes, and nightclubs. So it wasn’t hard to find a café where I could use my laptop. Yet when I ordered a coffee I got a bit of a funny look.
“What kind of coffee do you want?” the barista responded.
“Just a regular coffee” I insisted.
As it turns out what we consider ’regular coffee’ here in North America doesn’t really exist in Australia (though you can get it at an Australian Starbucks). In Australia coffee refers to espresso-based drinks and the closest thing you can get to an American coffee is a long black (espresso with hot water).
Now comfortable and with coffee in hand I started reading through the process of registering a vehicle. Matt back at the hostel was searching through used cars online. With a little luck we’d have a car bought, registered, and on the road in no time. Half way across the world, looking for work and a car, concentrating on my AU course wasn’t a big priority.