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On Coming To America from Down Under

by Georgia Frizelle, V Form Australian Exchange Student

Some of the strange accents or the weird slang terms around St. Mark’s this fall have come from my friend, Zeldene, and me, Georgia Frizelle, both from Australia. We are here on a six-to-eight week international exchange program that is offered to sophomore girls, and soon also to boys, over the summer. Living on the beach, surfing, or holding a koala—these typical aspects of Australian life are what we left to come to the United States; I strongly encourage St. Markers to consider applying for the exchange for 2014 so that they can experience that life! Even though Australia is a fairly typical westernized country, much is culturally different from the United States. Instead of having a Thanksgiving celebration, we celebrate Australia Day by having a BBQ on the beach with a game of beach cricket and a paddle pop (a type of ice cream popsicle). For Christmas Day, we have a seafood buffet with the family and play some touch football in the backyard.

Before this exchange program, I had never been away from my family for more than two weeks by myself, let alone 16,000 kilometers across the globe for six weeks. Yet when the opportunity arose, I signed up because all I could think about was meeting many new people in a different culture and how I would never get the chance to do this again.  However, in the week leading up to my departure from home, I started to become uneasy about my decision to dive into the exchange program.  Then, during my first week here, I felt even greater uncertainty. I was in a foreign environment overseas, I only knew two people at the school, and I was away from my family.  I had to find things that would make me feel comfortable because I refused to spend the six weeks being miserable. My mindset soon changed: meeting new people and getting to know them, occupying myself with work and sports, and not thinking about how long I had to go until I was home truly helped acclimate me. I was lucky to come to St. Mark’s in particular because, once I arrived, I had met so many new people that were friendly.  That is something that I am truly thankful for: the kindness of St. Markers.  If it hadn’t been for this, my time here would not have been as enjoyable. If we fast-forward to now, with only a week left, I get very upset whenever I think about leaving here.

I was fortunate to welcome Mame Kane, a St. Marker in the V Form, as she lived with my family and me for six weeks over her summer and experienced living as a day student in Australia. Although a lot of things were similar to her normal life, many aspects were different as well. Two weeks after she departed, the roles were reversed, and since then I have been Mame’s exchange student. Since being in the US, I have done so many exciting activities from seeing NYC for the first time, to watching Rafael Nadal win a semi-final at the US Open, to going to a school dance/social. These experiences may not seem pivotal to the average American high school student, but going to the world’s most famous city and walking those streets on my own impacted me deeply. Being a boarder was also something new for me.  I can now relate more to my boarder friends at home because I now know what it is like to live at school 24/7 with the same people and how easy it is to get homesick. I also got to experience what is was like to go to a typical prep school and dress like a prep school student, which was interesting because we don’t have that type of school where I live. Something else I got to do that I enjoyed was being part of a school that was very integrated in terms of race and so un-segregated by year in different kinds of classes.

Before coming to this school, I never knew it was possible to take Psychology, Government Literature, or Literature on Trial as subjects because at home, those types of classes are university courses.  Conversely, I find it weird that there’s no gym class.  Being a boarder at a school where the majority of students live on campus has taught me how to coexist with other people even, whether I’m in a social mood or if I just feel like being in my room alone. I have gained an appreciation for different cultures, especially American culture. Before coming here, I did not realize that Americans do not have chicken sushi and that ketchup (tomato sauce) is used with absolutely everything. I still don’t understand the fascination with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and I am going to be very sad going home and not having waffles for breakfast everyday or being able to order in food whenever I want.

I would recommend for anyone to take the chance to visit other countries or study abroad. I have made so many new friends whom I am going to stay in contact with for years to come. Without this trip, I would not have learned that I can be away from home and cope with it, nor would I have learned that you don’t have to be friends with people who are only in your grade.  One of the most important things I learned is that friends come in all walks of life. I am so grateful to everyone who has made this opportunity possible and fun, but I also hope that more people will embrace the chance to study abroad and make it a big program in the future for St. Mark’s School.

Georgia Frizelle is a V Form Australian exchange student from St Hilda’s School. She enjoys sport and plays softball, touch football, track and field, and rowing. Her favourite subjects are English, Sport Science, and Business, and for fun Georgia likes to go to the beach, shop, watch movies, and hang out with friends.

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