2018-02-07 / Opinion

Hello from Down Under

BY EMILY
KOVAC

Editor’s note: Emily Kovac, of Lexington, a student at Michigan State University is studying political science in Australia for the winter term through MSU’s study abroad program. The Cros-Lex grad will be sending articles to the News about her stay Down Under. We hope you enjoy reading her experiences.

My trip here in Australia continues to go well and is very exciting! I’ve had the opportunity to experience an even wider variety of interesting things since my last article.

Although we have experienced our fair share of rain, the weather is beautiful and warm. I’ll take that over the cold and snow of Michigan winters!

Initially, I spent much of my time exploring the city of Sydney. We toured some prisons, which are places where you definitely don’t want to stay. The prisoners stare and yell and curse at the visitors.

Of late, our group has focused on the natural aspects of the country. Our class took a trip to the Blue Mountains in New South Wales, Australia, an area much like our own Grand Canyon. We then spent three days visiting the city of Cairns, off the coast of which is the Great Barrier Reef. We ventured by boat about two hours into the ocean and snorkeled for a couple of hours along the reef. Even though it stormed the entire time, snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef was an amazing experience. There was such a wide variety of interesting sea life to observe, including jelly fish, and dozens of species like you would see in the film “Finding Nemo.”

Cairns itself is a beautiful place. It’s about four hours from Sydney by plane. It is much less populated and has a touristy feel. People from all over the world come to Cairns to visit or live in the midst of its lovely scenery. Most of those that come to stay support themselves by working as travel agents, waiters, or in a variety of local shops.

This past Friday (January 26) was Australia Day, which is a huge celebration throughout the country, but especially here in Sydney. The holiday is marked by barbeques, time at the beach, concerts, and fireworks attended by massive crowds. It is much like our Fourth of July. However, Australia Day keeps its main focus on the landing in the late 1700’s of the first British convict ships, and the hoisting of the British flag over the land. Australia was largely settled by convicts from Great Britain.

Many of the ceremonies honor the military both on land and sea, and also the indigenous peoples, who, only at this time of the year, are allowed to fly a flag representing themselves above the harbor.

Many indigenous singers, musicians, and especially dancers, perform throughout the city dressed in their traditional clothing as a reminder to Australians of the country’s native history. Their costumes most frequently replicate animals. They use fire in their dances, and paint their faces as symbols of good spirits, as they welcome those coming to Australia for the first time.

This upcoming week we will be shifting gears and looking at the government and criminal justice system in Canberra, the capital of Australia.

I’m looking forward to sharing with you what I learn there.

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