by Vivian Chiang（江佳倫）
Being excited and nervous, I studied abroad at Perth with other nineteen classmates in the summer of 2006. Perth, the capital of the mysterious realm of West Australia (WA) is extremely different from East Australia. The weather in WA is much warmer than that is in East Australia. Most areas in WA are deserts, while there are many busy and prosperous cities in East Australia. The shops in West Australia are usually closed at five o'clock in the evening, but in East Australia the shops are closed late in the evening. East Australians are more open-minded than West Australians. West Australians are slow paced, and they like to stay home on holidays. On the contrary, East Australians like to go out and hang out with their friends. However, East and West Australians are all nice, kind, and friendly. Although these differences sometimes gave me cultural shocks, I fulfilled my dream of appreciating various aspects of Australian cultures through a series of English classes, interesting excursions, and a homestay in a host family.
We had English classes in the morning and had ELICOS (elective courses) in the afternoon. The teachers in the morning classes taught us daily life English, Australian cultures, and some information of our excursions. We learned how to communicate with foreigners. We also learned words and phrases, such as the subtle difference between “on the bed” and “in bed,” or the difference between “in the evenings” and “at night.” I practiced pronunciation, speaking, and listening comprehension in ELICOS. Trish, one of my favorite teachers, taught us to imitate the intonations of the dialogues and practiced the tongue-twisters. She was patient and humorous. I like her very much.
Curtin school also invited an aboriginal speaker, Josiz, to deliver a speech. She introduced us to the aboriginal culture and language. Before the whites occupied Australia, the native people believed the “bunna” and the red dirt were their protection. The aborigines, being like primitive people, were naked, slept on the red sand, and lived in the bush. They used fire to heat the ground and kept themselves warm. They ate emu and kangaroo in order to keep their skin smooth. They did not have written language. They recorded their stories and culture by singing and drawing. At their leisure time, they reminded themselves of the journeys by singing the songs. When they drew, they liked to use dots and bright colors to fill the paintings. Each dot had its story and meaning behind. For the aborigines, every one was equal. No one was labeled. They did not know what “fear” and “jealousy” were. Aboriginal people lived peacefully in each village. They believed in Nature, not God. When the white people occupied Australia, aboriginal people were forced to adapt to the life style of white people. The whites thought that aborigines were barbarians, so the white men took the aborigines to modern cities and forced them to put on the clothes. Moreover, the aborigines lost control of the nature, and they did not adapt well to the life in cities. “All human beings would come back to nature some day,” they thought. After I listened to Josiz's speech, I fell completely in love with the aboriginal arts, songs, cultures, and languages. What a unique and wonderful speech!
Besides the morning classes and ELICOS, Curtin held many excursions for us. The three spots that I highly recommended were: Caversham Wildlife Park, Sandalford Winery, and Rottnest Island. In Caversham Wildlife Park, I saw many kinds of Australian animals. I fed the kangaroos and hugged the wombat. They were so cute. I also rode the camel. It was a horrible experience. When the camel stood up or sat down, I could not stop screaming. When I rode the camel, I felt I would be flung out of its back any minute. When we took the pictures with the koala and her babies, we had to be quiet; otherwise, we would have woken them up. Other animals were cute as well, like the emu, the dingo, the black swan, and so on. The dingo was like the dog. I had great fun in Caversham Park. In addition to Caversham Park, Sandalford Winery is an old and established winery which is located near Swan River. The clerk in the winery introduced us to red wines and white wines. We tasted different flavors of wines. I did not get used to drinking wine, so I just drank a little bit. It was too bitter for me. The last impressive place was Rottnest Island. It took us one and half hours by ferry to go there from Perth city. It was a beautiful day, and the vivid sunshine, the impressive scenery, and the lovely atmosphere depicted a marvelous picture in our mind. We used all our energies to ride the bikes. Going around the whole island was an impossible task, so we just rode to the ship dock area at a small unknown beach. We felt calm and peaceful when the light wind blew our hair and the sea wave slapped upon our feet. It was wonderful to have a vacation in Rottnest Island. Besides cycling, we saw the quokka (a kind of marsupial animal similar to a small kangaroo). It was very cute and fuzzy. Rottnest Island gave me a good time and an unforgettable experience.
We improved our English abilities not only at school but also in our homestay interaction. I like to chat with my host family and my roommates. We learned different cultures from each other. For example, I learned what “Azaria Chamberlain Case” and “daylight savings” were in Australia. My roommates and I talked about music, food, traveling, and accommodation in Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Furthermore, my host family members were like family and best friends. They did their best to take care of and satisfied our needs. They provided a warm accommodation and a pleasant atmosphere for us. If we needed their assistance, they would stand beside us and help us out. We deeply appreciated them for all they had done for us.
I am grateful to everyone who has ever helped me, has been friendly to me, and has chatted with me. Although there was not enough time to learn everything in Perth, I enjoyed the life there.