My Time in Perth, Australia: Andrew Clark


Posted: July 20, 2012

Aside from all the wonderful things I saw, I am extremely grateful for all the friends I made on this trip. This trip tested my confidence and my independence and from it, I believe I have become a stronger person...
Monkey Temple

Monkey Temple

On February 10th 2012 I left for Murdoch University in Perth. On arrival I had a little problem. My luggage showed up four days late, but aside from that hiccup everything went smoothly. The first culture shock I experienced was getting into a car and seeing the steering wheel was in the wrong place. Also, on campus there are quite a few varieties of species of birds I've never seen as well as big rats called Quendas and mini kangaroos called Quokkas. Some other small cultural differences I found were that everything is super expensive. I bought a stick of deodorant that cost $7.98 and a pint of beer at a restaurant is around $9.00 and that is in Aussie Dollars which are worth 1.10 US dollars. There are also no dryers for clothes. Most everyone puts their clothes on a line.

During my stay I ventured all over the local city of Fremantle or Freo as the locals call it. One of the first excursion destinations was a two day stay at Rottnest Island which was about 20 km away from the coast of Perth. It is a government owned island meant to be for the people to enjoy. Here we were treated to a bike tour of the island and we were able to snorkel and see an astounding amount of tropical fish and coral.

ClarkAustralia3.pngFreo also gave me the chance to be culturally introduced to some indigenous history and I was blessed into the country by Ingrid, an aboriginal Australian, and taught some of the cultural history of the aboriginals. I also visited the first jail in Western Australia called the Round House in Freo. It was originally used to process aboriginal prisoners and then the prisoners were taken to Rottnest Island. I took a trip just outside Perth to Caversham Wildlife Park. This trip was amazing because I was able to get in the enclosures with the animals and actually feed them. Here I got to pet a Koala, get right up close to some Kangaroos and I was even pooped on by a Wambat (not my greatest moment). Also in Perth I got to have my first surfing lessons. From what I've heard, surfing is supposed to be really hard but I think just about everyone in our group stood up by the end of the one hour lesson and most of us were catching our own waves.

As for classes, I figured out fast that Australians expect a lot more out of you than most schools in the U.S. While most areas of study don't require many exposure hours and lectures, the sciences do. I took Plant Diversity, Animal Diversity, and Indigenous Sustainability as well as a 2 credit course on living in Australia with Paul (our CIEE contact/"Cool Younger Uncle") which is keeping me busy. My biology courses covered pretty much every animal and plant group in existence while my Indigenous studies class challenged me to think outside the box and problem solve the current struggle of the Indigenous people. I really enjoyed my classes even though they were some of the most difficult classes I have taken in college. Many of the excursions I went on I learned a lot about how Australians have to cope with harsh conditions such as sand erosion on Rottnest or the importance of eucalyptus trees to the outback. Much of the thing I found most interesting and will be able to use professionally were things I learned outside of the classroom.
During my first study break, I felt spontaneous so I booked a ticket to Bali, Indonesia. I really had no idea to think of Bali before leaving because I had never been to any foreign country other Australia where cultural differences weren't so shocking anymore. After landing, I quickly found out that Balinese drivers are crazy. Our van barely stayed on the correct side of the road and everyone was weaving in and out of traffic on their mopeds. As we caroused through the streets of Bali, I got a brief look at the architecture and people. People were carrying huge baskets on their heads, kids were playing in doorways and stray dogs lazily watched the traffic go by. Almost every building we passed contained a shrine that was adorned with flowers and garments.

Our hotel, the Mentari Senur, was a little tropical paradise with a pool and a small restaurant. We were greeted with orange juice as we checked in and were asked to walk around and swim if we wished while the rooms were being prepared. The last place I would have thought to get air conditioning was on a vacation to a third world country but I wasn't complaining. After some quick breakfast, a few of us went down to the beach and checked out some local shops. Exchange rates were fun because for the shortest time in my life, I became a millionaire. Each American Dollar was roughly worth 8,800 RP (Rupiah). I realized we stuck out like a sore thumb right after we stepped out of the hotel because we were instantly hounded to enter shops and buy things.ClarkAustralia2.png

While in Bali, I participated in a few touristy activities such as white water rafting trip and visit to an elephant park. I also got to visit some historic temples and villages including the sacred monkey temple and Tanah Lot.
My favorite trip and the thing that sold me on going to Murdoch University was the Northwest trip around the entire state of WA. On this school trip I traveled north up the coast of Western Australia and back down the center of the state. The trip took about 10 days and covered over 4,000 miles. I road on a tour bus with 13 other people and enjoyed a camping lifestyle and the amazing sites Australia had to offer. I got to swim with sharks, snorkel on Ningaloo reef, cliff dive, see wild dolphins and much, much more.

Aside from all the wonderful things I saw, I am extremely grateful for all the friends I made on this trip. This trip tested my confidence and my independence and from it, I believe I have become a stronger person. Eventually I wish to move back to Australia and make a permanent life for myself. I would encourage anyone and everyone to visit Perth because it is completely unlike Sydney and offers so many great things.