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Lena Wolf - 6 months in the sunburned country

It was at the early beginning of the 10th grade, when I got an information paper from my class teacher, about a private organisation, called Intedu, which organises school exchanges to Australia. I was already very interested in Australia at that time and therefore, after talking about an exchange to Australia with my parents, my mum and I went to an information day of the organisation. First my parents weren't very convinced of the idea that her daughter would spend one year or half of a year on a strange continent far away from home, but after my mum had listened to the people of the organisation, she was totally enthusiastic about an exchange. The only problem was that an exchange to Australia would cost a lot of money, because this organisation only organises exchange to private schools in Australia. We had a meeting with Mrs Denecke, the owner of the organisation, where she told us all about the exchange, the costs and she showed some schools to me. Finally we, my parents and I, decided that we could probably be able to pay an exchange for a half of a year. After this decision was made, the critical phase began. I had to choose the school, where I would like to spend my exchange and Mrs. Denecke contacted the school to check, if they would be able to take another exchange student. We got the O.K. and I had to choose, if I would like to spend the time in a boarding house or a guest family. I had decided to spend the exchange in a boarding house already long before this question came up. I had heard so many bad things about guest families that I didn't want to experiences my exchange in one. The next thing to do was to apply for a visa. It was so annoying to fill out all this hundreds of pages for the visa, but finally it was worth it! When all this was done, I had to get the freeing from IKS for year 11.1 and then I just had to wait. Mrs. Denecke arranged everything for me: the visa, the tickets for the flight to Australia and back, the stay in the boarding house of the school and everything else I can think off. I had to do nothing but waiting and thinking about what I was going to put in my suitcase. The next few months I was so excited and when we finally came closer to the day where I had to fly, I couldn't think of anything else. My family and my best friends drove me to the airport in Frankfurt and I had to say goodbye for half a year. The flight started in Frankfurt, stopped for 2 hours in Singapore and for another hour in Melbourne, until it finally landed in Adelaide, where I would spend the next six months. I wasn't alone on the flight, because there were four other exchange students on the plane, who would spend their exchange at the same school as I would. At that time I was glad to have them with me. When we landed in Adelaide, the head of the boarding house was already waiting for us. He picked us up and we drove to the college. The MOD's (these are people who take care of the kids in the boarding house) welcomed us and we got our room keys. I lived in a Unit. This is like a little flat with your own room, but you have to share the bathroom, living room and toilet with 3 other girls or boys.

Please don't think that I understood every word the Australians said. The first time I heard an Australian talking I was just shocked. I had never heard such a terrible accent before. But the most embarrassing thing was that I didn't even remember the easiest words like pillow or blanket. The first two weeks have been the hardest! I had to meet all kind of people and arrange some important thing because of my classes, but finally I got to know some of the boarders and they helped me in a lot of ways. The schools in Australia are very different to the schools in Germany. You have to wear school uniform (even in sport lessons; they have a special outfit for this lessons), school begins at 8.30 and ends at 15.30 and you have a big break in between. In year 11 they just have to choose 7 subjects, but they must do maths, English and religion. All the private schools in Australia belong to a religion and because of this there are chapel services twice a week before school starts. In these services teachers talk about their experiences and try to teach the students a lesson about God. I was very impressed about these services every time.

When there isn't a chapel service in the morning the students meet in their tutor groups. It's a bit like Harry Potter: They've got houses but not just 4 but 10 of them. As in Harry Potter they have a house competition, but they don't play Quidditch or collect points, they just do swimming carnivals, footy games and netball games. It's real fun being a member of a house. In the tutor groups the students talk with their tutor about what is going on in classes at the moment or if there are some problems between teacher and student. The tutor also gives information or the test papers you have written. Tutor group was always a lot of fun for me because I had great people in my tutor group! Not just the meetings in your tutor group are different from the German school system. All the other lessons are different as well. Before I came to Australia I chose to do Food and Hospitality, English, Maths, Music, Art Practical, Religion and Australian Studies, which was of course the most boring lesson of all. When I first took part in a lesson, I was confused. They don't raise their fingers if they want to say something, they just say it. They discuss a lot. If the teacher asks something they must write the answer in an essay. Their homework hasn't to be done for the next day, but three or four weeks later and it has to be written in essay form as well. They have to do assignment, where they have to do a research and a presentation most of the time. There is no such thing as verbal participation. They just get marks for what they have written in their homework and assignments. They don't write a test after they have finished a section, they write an exam at the end of every semester about all the things they have learned in this semester. I loved this way of school and teaching.

It was winter in Australia when I arrived and it was cold indeed. It's not the air temperature that is very low, but the winds blowing around the place I stayed were freezing. This weather anyway didn't stay for long. After one month the sun was shining nearly very day and the temperatures raised with each week.

Adelaide has two coastlines. One in the west and one in the east. And one of those coastlines was just 10 minutes away from my school. We had to go on a tram to get there but it was only 1 dollar for a ride, what is as much as 50 euro cent. Another good thing about going to the beach was that there was a shopping street before you get to it. On each side one shop next to the other. It was great to go shopping there.

Australia is a multicultural country and that's why you are able to get nearly every kind of food that you want: Chinese, Japanese, Indian and even German food. Therefore I wasn't starving while I have been there and I discovered my love for Chinese noodles. During the spring holidays (in Germany the autumn holidays) the school arranged a trip for the German exchange students through 3 of Australia's 8 states: South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. Two teachers stayed with us and we drove in a mini van to all the famous and wonderful places in these states. It was awesome and a lot of fun. I spent the second week of the spring holidays at a friend's house in Leaton, which was close to Sidney (we had to drive 14 hours in a bus to get there! It was the most horrible ride in my life!). This was the most eventful time during my stay!! I loved to be there!

But at this time I still haven't touched a kangaroo or a koala. I had seen many of them but haven't touched. This changed during another trip at the end of the year and after we finished the exams. The school organised another trip but this time to a little island close to Adelaide called Kangaroo Island. On this trip I finally got the chance to touch one of the really cute little bears and feed the kangaroos in a small national park. I also saw the most beautiful beaches in the world!! I can't imagine that there are any other beaches as beautiful as the beaches of Kangaroo Island.

When we got back to school from Kangaroo Island, we had one last church service where the principal gave some awards to students, who did a great job in a subject. I got one for being an exchange student (I didn't really know why we got one.it was pretty funny!). The last two and a half weeks of my exchange, I spend at a friend's house 4 hours away from Adelaide. It was already very hot for this time of the year and we spent most of the time at the beach surfing, boggie boarding, snorkelling or just swimming. We also watched the sunrise and sunset and did a lot of other things you normally do in your holidays.

After these two and a half weeks I had to say goodbye to all my friends, who were waiting for me at the airport and to Australia itself. It was hard for me to go, because I had fallen in love with the country and the people living there and I became really good friends with a lot of people there. But finally I had to get on the plain and fly back to Germany, passing Sydney and Singapore. At the airport in Frankfurt my family and good friends were waiting for me to arrive. I was glad to see them again after I haven't seen them for more than 5 months. It was Christmas Eve when I came back to Germany.

I really miss Australia. This country is awesome. I love it! And I love the people living there and their way of life. Australia cast a spell on me. I still keep contact with most of my friends down their and call them nearly every weekend. My exchange to Australia was the best thing that ever happened to me! I learned a lot and didn't just improve my English. I advise everyone, who loves travelling and is interested in Australia, to do an exchange to this country, if it's possible.

Lena Wolf

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