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Melbourne (Part Two)

For the most part, living in Australia is not that different from living in the United States. Daily routines and general priorities are strikingly similar between the two countries. There are a few minor things, however, that can definitely throw you for a loop if you're not paying attention.


1. Their sweeping annoyance with the imperial measuring system: Australians are, on the most part, incredulous at the fact that America has a different measuring system than the metric. To them it makes no sense. I have had several people get quite upset when discussing it, like they expect me to go back home and start a metric revolution. Sorry, guys...

2. Speeding tickets are sent via snail mail: Yes, I know what you're thinking--how would I know this? Well, I got a speeding ticket, or 'infringement' as they say here, for going less than 10kph (6mph) over the speed limit. These friggin cameras are set up all over highly trafficked roads, and if you deviate in the slightest, you get a sneaky little fine in your mailbox a few months later. At any rate, I wrote a letter as an attempt to plead my case, so hopefully I can get out of the $207 fine. Not a fan.

3. Christmas is in the dead of summer: In talking with a few local friends about their holiday traditions, many mentioned activities such as going to the beach, eating seafood, setting up the pool, eating melting chocolates in the sun, etc. The whole idea of 'white Christmas' is foreign to them, although they still play all the Christmas songs we hear in America. Also, Australia doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving, so the unspoken rule about not playing Christmas music until after Thanksgiving is inapplicable down under. Any time when the weather gets warm is good!

4. The public holidays Melbourne gets are sports related: AFL Grand Final (Australian rules football) and Melbourne Cup (horse racing).

5. The name of the first Harry Potter book was actually Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. J.K. Rowling was convinced by some editors to change it to Sorcerer's Stone for publication in America because they felt like US audiences wouldn't buy it with the word 'philosopher' in it. LOL. So all the books and movies outside of the US reference the philosopher's stone, not the sorcerer's.

6. Gas is bought by the liter. There are over 3 liters per gallon. One liter is $1.75 to $2 on average. You do the math.

Word Usage:

1. lollies= candy

2. serviets= napkins

3. chips= fries

4. thongs= flip flops

5. brekkie= breakfast

6. vego= vegetarian

7. Rockmelon= cantaloupe

8. Capsicum= bell pepper

9. Rocket= arugula

10. Large coffee= about a 12oz cup (US medium)

11. Chemist= Pharmacy

12. Hundreds and thousands= sprinkles

13. Any word can be shortened and ended with an -o or a -y. Context is key.


1. Most classes meet as a lecture and as a tutorial (small group discussion) during the week. Attendance at lectures is optional as the whole thing is videoed and made available online. Most students go to tutorials to get help or ask questions about assignments, even if attendance is not a hurdle for passing the class. Of course, for music students, there is no video-capture so attendance is highly recommended.

2. Grading marks are: H1, H2A, H2B, H3, Pass, N (fail). Presently, I am still not sure exactly how these translate back to US A-F.

3. I was taken aback in my first few music classes as words like crochet, quaver, semiquaver, etc. were used frequently. I had no idea what they meant--my deepest fear that I would get here and realize that I don't actually know anything was coming true! But then I realized that a crochet was a quarter note. And a quaver was an eighth note. Everything was fine woohoo!

4. University of Melbourne students are given a week called SWOTVAC right before the exam period where no classes are scheduled and is meant to be an intense study time for exams. Many exams range from 60% to 80% of the overall grade. So passing is a must. Music classes are different of course--I only had one aural exam and a mini scales test during the exam period. Everything else was project or composition based for me.

All in all, it has been a subtle but complete culture switch. I can say with certainty that going back to America will be difficult and disorienting, but I wouldn't have it any other way. It just means the study abroad was successful ;)

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