Anita Asiedu

Anita Asiedu

Hi! I'm a Junior here at F&M engaged in the study of "Culture, Business, & Society," which is a major I created through F&M's Special Studies major program. I will be studying in Sidney, Australia through IFSA-Butler, and I am most looking forward to fulfilling my lifelong dream of acquiring an Australian accent while I'm abroad!

 

The weather was absolutely glorious when I arrived in Sydney in mid-February. What made it even better was the fact that by going home to Ghana for Christmas and by not returning to Lancaster, PA for Spring semester, I was avoiding a dreadful winter.

However, just as people in America are enjoying the warm weather that comes with summer, it is getting quite cold here in Sydney. Winter is here, even though most trees are still fully clothed with green leaves and there is no snow (thank goodness!).

A little over a month ago, I made a purchase that changed my life forever. I bought an electric blanket. I had just returned from buying some snacks at the nearby shopping mall, and I was telling one of my roommates about how I almost spent too much money on a blanket that had a ‘5 star’ warmth rating (I was really desperate). You see, we live in the ‘dungeon,’ the lowest floor of my college, where the effects of the central heating are barely perceptible. So we feel the full effects of the temperature drops to -2 degrees Celsius at night (it is usually 15 degrees Celsius during the day, and it’s still cold, because we have to have the windows open because the dungeon gets this smell sometimes…) If you think I’m only suffering because of my African skin, both my roommates (one lives in Maine, which is basically Canada, and the other lives in Atlanta which can also get cold) sleep with portable heaters as close to their beds as possible. The cold is so real haha.

OK, back to the Blankie, my electric blanket. Electric blankets are absolutely wonderful inventions, and God bless my roommate for making me aware of their existence!

Soon after I got Blankie, it was time for IFSA Butler’s Country Life Weekend, where us students studying abroad with IFSA Butler get to live on farms in the country (it’s actually a place called Bathurst, and it’s a 3 hour drive from Sydney Uni). It was wonderful to have home cooked food, breathe in the wonderful country air, and to see another part of Australia. Our program coordinator told us it was going to be cold there, as it is South of Sydney, but the house we stayed in had a fireplace, a heated floor, and lots of blankets, so it was very warm. Much warmer, in fact, than our room here in College; thus, Blankie was deemed surplus to requirements.

 

The couple we stayed with had moved to Bathurst after spending many years working in Sydney. Even though they kept saying they didn’t have a “real” farm, they had alpacas, chickens, a duck, and a very friendly dog. Other farms had horses and the biggest cows I’ve ever seen, which we got to feed.

IFSA Butler has really surprised me with the quality of its programs. We’ve watched a show at the Opera House (“The Reef”), taken a ferry to Watson’s Bay, had Thai lunches, 2 Tim Tam slam events (please google Tim Tams. They are the best things in the world, and our program advisor brought a lot of them!), and a Farewell Dinner at the Marriott Hotel downtown. It’s been so great!

I must say, Sydney is still lovely in spite of the weather, and I am not looking forward to having to say goodbye

 

Early last Tuesday morning, I trialed for my college’s women’s soccer team. The trial was in preparation for next semester’s (sadly I won’t be here) Intercollegiate women’s soccer (and other sports) competition, and I decided to come out of semi-retirement just to kick the ball around because I’ve missed the beautiful game so much.

Fast forward 4 days, and I’m heading out my room door very early in order to make my 7:50am flight to Auckland, New Zealand. In the darkness (my roommate was fast asleep), I chucked my runners (sneakers) from soccer trials into my duffel bag so that I could go for a scenic run in New Zealand. I was very excited.

Fast forward about 6 hours, and we are just about landing in New Zealand after about 4 hours in the air. I’m finally awake after passing about before takeoff, and I am completing New Zealand’s Passenger Arrival Card. As soon as I saw that the second question after “flight number” was “aircraft seat number” (I’ve never seen that on a country’s arrival card before), I knew New Zealand was not playing around. Two further questions gave me pause. 1) “Are you bringing into New Zealand items that have been used outdoors, such as boots, golf or sports shoes, tents, used camping, hiking or sports equipment?” 2) “In the past 30 days (while outside New Zealand) have you visited a forest, had contact with animals (except domestic cats and dogs) or visited properties that farm or process animals or plants?”

I started to worry about the state of my boots- they were probably pretty dirty and grassy from an hour in dew-soaked grass. I kicked myself- why didn’t I take a second look at them before I packed them. For the 2nd question, I had just spent a weekend on farms with alpacas, chickens, horses, ducks, and cows (more on that in my next post). I gulped. Am I going to make it into New Zealand?

I went through the first set of customs quickly. My passport was stamped, and I was in! The next set (after baggage pick-up) was dedicated to biosecurity risks. Everyone was asked if they had any food or fruit in their bags (signs about this were ALL over the airport), and that was where I was asked briefly about why I had answered “yes” to the boots question on the Passenger Arrival Card. I was then directed to a nearby closed off section and asked to fish out my runners. They were much, much, muddier and grassier than I remembered, and both the officer and I were shocked. He gingerly picked my runners up and disappeared into a lab room. I was terrified of getting fined, prosecuted, or even worse, deported. I was very disappointed in myself, and ashamed for possibly putting this beautiful country at risk.

After about what felt like 10,000 hours (it was probably more like 5 minutes), the officer emerged with my runners in a clear, large-ish plastic bag. They looked spotless. The officer told me he had doused them with a virus-fighting chemical, and instructed me to rinse them when I arrived at my final destination. Relieved, I went through the last customs check- baggage screening feeling much better. Never again, never again, I’m so sorry, New Zealand, never again.

I am writing this post from my room in Paihia, about 4 hours north of Auckland [pronounced pie-here (‘here with an Aussie accent- heeya)]. I have had a wonderful time in New Zealand in spite of the rain (which everyone kept apologizing for). I did a tour of historic Keri Keri yesterday. I stepped on the oldest floor in the country while visiting the “Stone House” (the home of English missionaries from colonial times), and did a cruise tour of the Bay of Islands today. We saw dolphins!! I got very sea sick on the ship because the sea was very rough. All I wanted to do was shut my eyes and lie spread-eagled on the floor, but this well-meaning fellow on the ferry kept telling me to focus on the horizon to steady myself in the rocking vessel. I felt much better after having some ginger beer which settled my stomach)

What Are The People Like?

Kiwis (people from New Zealand) are not much different from Australians. In that, they are active, laid back, funny, and friendly. They enjoy bantering with Australians (similar to that between Ghanaians and Nigerians), and their accents are pretty similar, but Kiwis pronounce their “e’s” differently. For instance, when they say “better,” it sounds more like “bitter,” “pressure” more like “prissure,” “mess” more like “miss,” and so on.

And The Food?

Again, similar to Australian food: lots of meat (lamb, fish, beef), fruits, and dairy of excellent quality.

Were You Mistaken For a Kiwi?

As a matter of fact, I was. It was quite interesting (I have previously been mistaken for an Aboriginal, a Torres Strait Islander, and a Pacific Islander in Sydney), so I wasn’t too surprised. I had just boarded the dolphin cruise ship, and I was praying that the sea wouldn’t be too rough (ha!) when I spotted and said hi to a retired couple from the historical tour I did yesterday. The lady, being a friendly Aussie, introduced me to another older couple that was on the same holiday package as they were (The Pacific Grand Tour). The friend, who wore a nametag that said “Dave,” asked me “whereabouts” (both Kiwis and Aussies say this) I had come to this part of the world from. I told Dave that I had come from Sydney, where I was studying, and he replied “oh, come home on holiday.” It wasn’t even a question; it was a definite statement. In spite of my African accent, Dave assumed I was a Maori (probably because of my hair and complexion). I replied, “no, Sir, I’m from Ghana and proceeded to azonto (no, not really).” Dave said “Ahhh, Ghana” in a noncommittal way like he didn’t quite believe me.

I love my country, and there’s nowhere in the world I would rather call home. And the more I travel, the more this point hits home for me.

Have a great day, everyone!

Not-Kiwi, Anita

 

One thing that IFSA Butler (my study abroad program) emphasized during orientation and pre-departure newsletters is the fact that Australians tend to underestimate how much work they do/have done. So instead of the boasting about/lamenting how little sleep one has had that goes on in American universities like mine, students here would say they didn’t spend any time at all on an assignment when that was not the case. I have definitely observed this on numerous occasions. Everyone in my residential college talks about how they were going to do work, but they ended up sleeping or watching TV, so they didn’t get anything done.

Australian students are definitely more relaxed about schoolwork. I’ve heard a lot of people talk about just wanting a pass (C in the US) in an exam or an assignment, which is interesting, considering you need to be a top academic performer to get into one of Sydney Uni’s 5 residential colleges (my college had 800 applicants for 60 spots last year).

Or maybe school is just more difficult in Australia. When I was told that an A here is 75+, I imagined it would be easier than my home university, where an A is 93+. However, fewer students than I expected received academic honors during the college’s academic dinner. I think it may be because grade inflation does not happen as often here as in the U.S.

Studying habits are definitely different here. Sydney Uni has 54,000 students, and only about 2,000 or so (probably less) live on campus, so most students commute, and do their work at home rather than on campus. Also unlike in the US where libraries are open later, Fisher library, one of Sydney Uni’s 11 libraries closes at 10pm from Monday-Thursday, and 8pm on Friday, because Australian students do work in the day and just chill at night. The library is also not designed as an optimum study space. On it’s 6 or so levels, there are the most computers and printers I have ever seen in my life. It seems to be more for students printing papers, or students surfing the net between classes.

My classes are fairly difficult because they are 2,000 level classes (for 2nd and 3rd years. Most degrees here are 3 instead of 4 years like in the US). I am taking 3 classes (Gender:Anthropological Studies, Foundations of Management, and International Human Resource Management), and completing an internship that counts as a 4th class because it has an academic component (4 reflective journals, 4 workshops, and a 2,500 word final report). Word of advice to anyone planning on studying abroad anywhere: make sure you get all your classes approved as soon as you can. Don’t just assume they will. I found out a day before the course drop deadline that 1 of my classes hadn’t been approved because it was too similar to 1 I had taken at my home university, and I had to make some major changes to my schedule 2 weeks into the semester.

Even though my study abroad experience is not as easy on the academic front as I anticipated (both my roommates feel the same way), it is a challenging and rewarding experience. I am new to the discipline of Management, and it is quite enjoyable.

Next week, I will attend one of my International Human Resource Management lecturer’s consultation hours to discuss an assignment. It will be nice to see her face up close, so far she’s only been a voice lecturing to a theatre of about 100 students, and I don’t know what she looks like haha.

Cheers!

 

Now that I’ve been Down Under for a grand total of 36 days, I feel as if a have a bit of a grasp of life here, so I thought I would devote a blog post to what life is like here.

Language: Australians have a lot of slang words and different ways of saying things. Reckon- Suppose/think Eg. D’you reckon you’re gonna watch the game tonight?

Heaps- A lot/very Eg. I have heaps of work to do tonight, that party was heaps good

Keen- Interested Eg. Text me if you’re keen to play pool tonight, I’m keen as mustard! (I really want to do that/I’m very interested)

How you going?- How are you doing? What’s up?

Mate- Friend Eg. I stayed with my mate when I went to Adelaide

Gridiron- American football

Footy- Rugby, rugby league (apparently not the same as rugby), soccer, and God knows what else haha

Maccas- McDonald’s

Arvo- Afternoon

Jell-O – Jelly

Food: Australians eat a lot of meat, which makes me very happy. Food items such as chicken, pork, beef, sausages, fish, kangaroo (haven’t had the opportunity to try that…yet), rice, potatoes, and bread are common here.

In my college, breakfast is usually eggs, baked beans, sausages, and a variety of cereals. There is also Milo (pronounced My-lo, as opposed to Me-lo in my home country Ghana), and Weetbix, which are brands I’m familiar with.

Lunch can be steak, fried chicken, sausage rolls, baked fish, or noodles, with rice, potatoes or pasta. There is also a salad bar and fresh bread.

Dinner is not similar to lunch with the exception of dessert. So far, we’ve had fruit, custard, ice cream, tiramisu, and sponge cake.

The portion sizes here are much smaller than in the US, and people generally eat much healthier than in the States. This is definitely one of the reasons why Australians are so fit!

My roommates and new friends and I have gone out to eat on a few occasions. The best street in the world (King’s Street) is one of our favorite places to go, because it has a wide variety of stores, and a wide variety of restaurants. From noodles to pizza to chocolate to frozen yoghurt to burgers to khebab to sandwiches to burritos. I reckon (see what I did there?) you could go to one new restaurant on King’s Street every day of the week for at least a month!

The thing is, Sydney is really expensive. I read in a lifestyle article that it is one of the top 20 most expensive cities in the world (I think it was no. 14). A chicken burger, small fries, and a can of Coke costs AU$10 (1 Australian dollar is a US $1.04) at a cheap Turkish food stop down the road, and that’s the cheapest meal! The Subway restaurants here also have a AU$6 for a 6-inch sub deal, whereas the franchise’s American restaurants have a US$5 for a 12 inch sub deal. So yeah, Sydney definitely has a high cost of living. I did some exploring on Monday in a bid to locate a place where I could do my hair, and I came across a Ghanaian restaurant on King’s Street. I will definitely be paying them a visit soon!

Music: I haven’t heard an Australian song yet…although I have heard the yiriki (didgeridoo) being played multiple times. American songs (country, hip hop) and techno music is what’s usually played at parties and clubs.

Movies: Someone said that Australia’s movie industry releases 3 films a year. I’m not sure if that’s true, but the kids here grew up watching American movies, and choose American movies for movie nights. Their exposure to American media makes it easier to imitate American accents, than for my 2 American roommates to imitate Australian accents.

Locals: Australians are very relaxed and friendly. They are very active (sports, jogging, hiking) and love to party A LOT. Australian teens are not much different from American teens, which is amazing considering how far America is.

That’s all for now! If you want to know more, just ask in the comments section.

Peace and love,

Anita.

 

 

 

 

After a very busy Orientation Week (O-Week), the “study” part of study abroad was in full force after we had our first week of classes.  My “week” was more like two days, as I had Wednesday (no classes for me on this day), Thursday (class cancelled due to an academic staff strike action – more on that later), and Friday (no classes for me on this day) off.

The classes that I have had (Social Inequality in Australia, Culture and Development, Foundations of Management) seem very interesting. There were so many options to choose from, and it was difficult settling on these classes, so I’m glad I made good decisions there. These “classes” are technically called “lectures,” because they take place in large lecture theatres with seats for hundreds of students. Most “course co-ordinators” (Professors) use microphones during lectures because of the sheer number of students present. A large number also record their lectures and place them on Blackboard, so the number of students that comes to class apparently dwindles as the weeks go by. Because the class size is so large, most classes have 3 points of student assessment (tutorial participation- about 10-15%), a long essay (2,000-2,500, and worth 40-50% of your grade) and a quiz/group presentation. So there is clearly a lot of self-directed learning involved.

Two of my course co-ordinators regretfully explained their decision to go on strike to us. They were concerned that the University has the power to not pay them for only their teaching and not their research (“production of knowledge”) because 1) they love doing research 2) the quality of their teaching will be affected if they are not up to date with what’s going on their individual fields. Both of them encouraged us students to support them when we saw them picketing. I was impressed that they took the time out to do this, as very few people knew about the strike until the University sent the student body an e-mail.

A lot of freshmen, “freshers,” did not how to feel about the end of O-week and all the free time we now had. O-Week was very full on, as each day was filled with multiple activities to “initiate” us into the college. Even though it was mentally and physically draining, it helped us freshers to become fast friends with each other, and to be comfortable approaching our O-Week leaders. This past Monday during our weekly formal dinner (we wear gowns and everything), the college’s “Master” (head of the college) briefly formally welcomed us freshers, and this Wednesday was an even more formal affair as we again wore our academic gowns had a chapel service (the college has its own chapel), signed our names in the same book that every collegian since 1917 has signed, had a very fancy dinner (salvete), and then the first of the college’s famous weekly courtyard parties.

We “the Americans/Team America” (the 3 IFSA-Butler students in this college) never forget how being a part of the college has enriched our study abroad experience, barely 2 weeks in. Most of the other IFSA Butler Sydney University students live in the Sydney University Village, which is full of Americans.

I look forward to this weekend, as our IFSA Butler advisor, Fiona (she’s the best!) has organized a trip to Watson’s Bay (the home of Sydney’s rich and famous) for us, in the same week as seeing a show at the Opera House together?! IFSA Butler is outdoing itself!

Looking forward to more adventures down under!

 

Show me a to-do-list for Sydney, Australia, and I guarantee that the words “Opera House, Blue Mountains, beach, koala, and kangaroo” will feature prominently. Thanks to IFSA Butler’s fantastic orientation program, I crossed all these items off my list within my first 3 days of being here. During our 3-day orientation, we took trips to the Featherdale zoo, a hike around the Blue Mountains, Manly Beach, had a walking tour of Sydney that included Hyde Park, and the Opera House, and went on the Spectacular Sydney Harbour Dinner Cruise. These activities were a great way to get over our jet lag, which ensured that we weren’t falling asleep on the 3rd day, during which we were briefed about academics, mental health, health insurance, visa requirements, and life at our individual schools. Keeping busy also helped me get over my curious case of homesickness that entails missing my life and loved ones in both Ghana and the USA.

The 4th day was bittersweet, because our group (IFSA Butler Australia 2013) separated to go to our respective schools, where we will be spending a semester, with most people (including yours truly) going to the Universities of Sydney, and New South Wales, and smaller groups going to the Universities of Adelaide and Wollongong, and Flinders University.

Moving into my dorm was uncharacteristically stress-free, as we moved in 4 days before the other students arrive. My dorm is one of the University’s colleges, and it looks like a castle and reminds me of Hogwarts (the fact that the basement is called “The Dungeon,” the weekly formal dinner tradition of wearing academic gowns, and the set-up of the dining hall clinched it). I am living with 2 American girls in an enormous triple room that is the usual abode for IFSA Butler’s students.

Apart from being guaranteed 3 meals a day (Sydney is an expensive city!), another advantage of living in a college is the fact that I am able to have frequent interactions with Aussies who are all funny, friendly, and fit. Additionally, even though the university has a huge campus, the college is not far from the shopping center (which houses everything from a cinema, a target and K-Mart, and an Apple Store), and the academic buildings.

Orientation Week (O-Week) begins on Monday, so we have a free weekend to do some more exploring of this beautiful city and this beautiful campus.

Cheers!

 

 

 

“You want to study abroad? Aren’t you already studying abroad?!” This is usually followed by an incredulous “you want to go to Australia? Why?” You see, friends and family alike continue to question my decision to study abroad in Australia even though I am already studying abroad in the US instead of my home country Ghana. Not long ago, I also questioned why I should go abroad. I felt that I had already experienced everything study abroad had to offer – maturation, a more developed sense of independence, and total immersion in a foreign culture – so there was nothing for me to gain. However, when I became more knowledgeable about the exciting countries that some of my fellow F&M students had studied abroad in – New Zealand, Ecuador, Senegal, among others – I realized that studying abroad would give me the opportunity to live in any country in the world that I wanted. That is when I decided to study abroad in Sydney, Australia. Go big or go home, right?

Even though I recently got accepted into IFSA-Butler’s Spring 2013 Sydney, Australia program, it still has not sunk in that I will be spending half of 2013 on the other side of the world. When it does sink in, I think I will be nervous about making friends and becoming accustomed to Australian culture. I am sure, however, that my lifelong desire for an Australian accent will ensure that I put myself out there and interact with the locals. The fact that I will be living in a dorm close to campus will definitely be helpful in that regard.

I hope my experience in Sydney will complement my experience studying in the US. I look forward to making new friends and learning about Australian culture. I also hope to try new food (I’m very conservative when it comes to food). The fact that I will have to at least experiment with food or risk starvation means I will probably be more daring when it comes to food. I also hope to be more open to adventure. On the academic front, I hope to learn more about Australia’s history and indigenous population through my classes. I also hope for a satisfying internship experience where I can put everything I’ve learned from classes here at F&M into practice.

I am grateful to F&M and IFSA-Butler for this wonderful opportunity, and I greatly look forward to a fulfilling experience down under!