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 arrived in Young, the Cherry Capital of Australia.
We rose from our tents bright and early. Side of the road rest-stops and free camping grounds are plentiful in Australia, and the other great thing is that you can find other travellers at most of them. Unlike most of the travellers in Young, we had a lead on a job. But it wasn’t much of a lead. Matt had worked on an orchard in Young four years previous. While the orchard owners had no idea we’d flown across the world to work there, we hoped a friendly conversation could get us in.
Not wanting to tell other travellers about our lead we packed up quickly and went for breakfast. We found a gas station which also served sit down breakfasts not far from camp. The G20 meetings were happening one state up in Brisbane. So the talk of the country, across all the radio and television stations, was the world leaders flying in. As we ate we watched American President Obama give a speech at Brisbane University. An Australian patron getting gas made a rude comment about the president and Americans in general?we got the feeling he thought we were American.
After breakfast it wasn’t a far drive to the storefront of the cherry farm Matt had worked at. A young girl was working the storefront but she gave us directions to a new farm that had been purchased. The farm, mysteriously named ?Cherry X?, was hidden down several back roads, but when we arrived we knew it was the right place. A large sorting and shipping facility was the centre of the operation, and beside that you had several small cabins and a large area for camping with several travellers living there.
We walked into the facility and, as luck would have it, ran right into Matt’s old boss Wendy. She laughed at our story of travelling so far to reach the farm. Sure enough she gave us both a job as cherry pickers. We’d be living in the camping area at the price of $10 a day. While it seemed weird to pay to camp while we worked, we would have access to hot showers and a kitchen.
We drove the station wagon into the campsite and set up camp. I introduced myself to several of our neighbours most of whom were from France. I said a few phrases I’d picked up in Quebec which my new French friends found amusing. As we settled into our new living space a great feeling kicked in. We’d made it. From the other side of the world to the exact farm we’d intended, we’d made it.