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A taste of Australia’s Gold Coast


Once upon a time, January 2007, I was sitting in my Philosophy of the Mind class trying to tie up loose ends on Descartes’ substance dualism and my mind went adrift.

First, I start doodling little hearts on my notebook. “I wonder if Aristotle ever doodled?” I then lose focus on that ground breaking question and now I find myself quite intrigued by my professor’s entertaining English accent.

“Man, it be great to visit England”(the voice inside my head noted)!

My next stop was the study abroad office to gather some information.

It was a matter of time before I concluded Australia seemed more like my cup ‘o tea (sorry England) and after a few months of delegating my leave, it was official. I was going to Australia for a semester!

The journey started July sixth with a 14-hour flight to Brisbane, Australia, then catching a connecting three-hour flight to Cairns for our program orientation.

Joining me on this timely plane ride were exactly 60 other American students who were also with Austra-Learn.

When we arrived in Cairns, we set our watches forward 19 hours and jumped on a bus to a backpackers’ resort called Gilligan’s. Many students, unable to contain themselves at the excitement of being legal in Australia (the drinking age is 18), wasted no time and started the festivities right away.

Our orientation speaker was a charismatic Australian named Glen.

“Australians, unlike Americans, are not as open with their feelings,” was the first major point Glen made. Perhaps this is true; however, juxtaposing the two cultures, I found no noticeable difference.

“Unfortunately you may also encounter some anti-American sentiment,” stated Glen. I never encountered anything outside of being stereotyped as a loud materialistic American student (as was common among a few other American students). A friend of mine did have a related altercation at a “barbie” and was given a mouthful by a rudely outspoken Aussie, but that was the extent of it.

Winding down Glen’s presentation was a slide fully dedicated to the information, “No grind dancing here.” It is common to see American dance clubs full of young adults “bumpin’ and grindin’” but in the Land of Oz you keep you pelvis to yourself.

The next few days were packed with activities. We went snorkeling and scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef. Then took a winding trip through the mountains to Cairn’s sub-tropical rainforest where we were able to pet kangaroos and hold koalas.

After the orientation, we were back on a plane headed to the destinations where we would be studying for the next few months. I was headed to the Gold Coast amongst the majority of Austra-Learn students.

The plane landed and we loaded a bus which took us to the Courtyard Marriott. This centrally located hotel was in the heart of Gold Coast’s most urban sub-section known as Surfers Paradise, a beachside borough hosting numerous bars and clubs.

We stayed at the Courtyard Marriott for five days while students independently searched for housing. At first, students we certain they would need more than five days; nonetheless, most individuals found accommodation within four.

My first home was in Broadbeach, a borough right next to Surfers Paradise. For the first two months I shared accommodation with a middle-aged Aussie named Craig. Living with someone who knew the area was helpful.

He assisted me in the job search where I landed a gig waiting tables for his ex-boyfriend’s catering company. This proved to be a great opportunity for meeting locals and seeing less visited areas of Gold Coast. We catered several social events and one even took place on a yacht in the “broad waters” (river-like inlets from the ocean).

A group of American students opted to live near campus in an apartment complex called Metro. This was the closest thing to dormitories the university had to offer and was a 15-minute walk to campus. While Metro was close to campus, they were a 30-minute bus ride from the world famous Gold Coast coastline. This in mind, most of the Austra-Learn students chose places merely blocks from the beach.

After living with Craig for two months, I decided to move in with some other American students who lived two blocks away. At my new place, there were a total of five students crammed into a classy two-bedroom holiday apartment. While space was limited, we enjoyed the company (most of the time).

School-wise I was only enrolled in elective courses. Class in Oz consists of a one-hour lecture followed by a two-hour tutorial/lab. Fortunately for yours truly, I ended up only having Monday and Wednesday classes. You really appreciate having class just two days a week when it’s a 45-minute bus ride from home to “Uni.”

“So, Conrad, enlighten me on what you did with your five days of freedom every week?”

One day, on my regular commute to “Uni” I happened to feast my eyes upon a church only a block away from campus. This turned out to be another fruitful avenue for meeting local Australia’s and getting engaged with the culture/community.

Another point worth mentioning: the beach was a three-minute walk from our apartment. Naturally, my roommates and I became quite familiar with that stroll. When the water in the ocean is warm enough to the point where a wet suit is unnecessary a daily surf session is necessary.

In July, the tail end of Australian winter, one could manage the nautical temperature with merely a spring suit on their back. Come November, the last month of Australian spring, it was just “boardies” and surf boards. Clear skies, Clear waters, no wonder this is a world renowned surf destination.

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