By Lucy, Grade 10 Student
My Global Exchange to St. Margaret’s in Brisbane, Australia, has been one of the most unique experiences of my life. From the temperature and humidity (it’s summer here) to the koalas and rodents of unusual size, there are plenty of things that are different 'down under'. St. Margaret’s is an Anglican girl’s school and I’m living in the boarding house. There are 130 Year 10 (aka grade 10) students and 30 of us are in boarding. Everyone is from different parts of Australia, except for me, and two international students from Tokyo. Being in the boarding house gives me the opportunity to hear all about the Australian Outback as many boarders are from the countryside with families who operate farms. Luckily, Brisbane has not been affected by the bushfires but many of the boarder’s farms are suffering from the current drought.
Although being in the boarding house means I can sleep in a little later in the mornings, it takes me a while to get ready for school as there are many parts to the uniform, and I am required to wear a freshly laundered uniform every day. Like Crofton, St. Margaret's is over 100 years old, but unlike Crofton, St. Margaret's still wears the exact same uniform they wore over 100 years ago. Students, who call themselves, ‘Maggie's Girls’ wear navy blue dresses that go to the ankle with short beige socks and brown school issued shoes. There are four pins that must be reattached to collars every morning. Makeup is not permitted, neither is nail polish or jewelry (except for small stud pearl earrings). Hair must be a natural colour and tied in a low ponytail tied with a school issued hair ribbon. Uniforms are strictly enforced by a roaming ‘Uniform Marshall’ who issues red cards to anyone out of proper uniform. This includes wearing a panama hat any time you are outside. Unfortunately, I received a red card for neglecting to wear my hat. If a student gets three red cards, they will receive detention, so I am working hard to remember my hat every day!
The Boarding House has strict rules about when we eat, sleep, shower and access our phones. The limited phone time means boarders socialize more with each other. The rules loosen up on weekends and I have loved being surrounded by other girls, making it feel like a giant sleepover every night. In conversations with the other girls, I've learned some Australian terms that initially confused me. Instead of, “how are you doing?”, Australians say, “how are you going?”. Except with an Aussie accent, it sounds more like “how ya gone?”. Another thing Australians say a lot is, “do you reckon?” when Canadians would say, “right?”. I think my favourite thing they say here is “bloody oath” which means “yes” or "it’s true”. They actually say “bloody” quite often to emphasize a point. We are adjusting to each other's accents and learning the Canadian and Australian version of different words.
The school day is also quite different. Instead of four classes per day with ten minutes of travel time in between, at St. Margaret's, I have seven classes per day with only one minute of travel time. We also have morning tea and afternoon tea where other boarders and I can go to the dining hall for a snack. Campus is very spread out, which results in lots of girls being late for class. Generally, students don’t run across campus because running in the sun with 80% humidity wearing a dark full length thick dress is not easy.
I feel incredibly lucky to have this opportunity to participate in the Global Exchange Program. Settling into the boarding house and adjusting to a new set of rules was tough at first, as everything is so different from my life in Vancouver. However, after three weeks of being here, I’ve started to look at the positive side of things. I’m also learning to be more independent, flexible and resilient. I am grateful for the friends I have made here, and we have already planned to visit each other in the coming years. For now, I am enjoying each day and the new experiences I am having. I cannot wait to see what lays ahead!
By Lexie, Grade 10 Student
When I first stepped off the plane, the thought that I was in a different continent finally hit me. I knew this experience would be life-changing, but I didn’t realize all the things I would soon face and encounter. To begin with, Brisbane is much warmer than Vancouver, and the uniforms of my new school do not feel practical for this heat.
The school uniforms are navy, but not pleated like ours. The uniform contains a long skirt with a matching top. There is a white-collar you have to wear with the top too. There is a school pin and a house pin everyone has to wear on their collar, but other girls have to wear more if they are apart of other clubs or if they are boarders. I have to wear tan socks with brown polishable shoes. Did I forget to mention that we also have a hat? You have to arrive and leave school with your hat on, as well as wear it during morning tea and lunchtime.
During lunchtime, the majority of the students eat outside in the piping hot sun. Not many girls eat their lunches inside, so I think they can cope with the heat more than I can. The school schedule is very different than Crofton House. At home, we have four 75 minute classes a day, about 45 minutes for assembly or advisor, a one hour lunch, and 10 minute travel times between our classes. At St. Margarets, you have seven 45 minute classes a day, but you can have double blocks of a certain subject. Your day also consists of a 35 minute flex time for advisor or assemblies, 25 minutes for morning tea, and 45 minutes for lunch. I find their schedule much harder to follow than ours. Some of their classes feel very short, but when a class has a double block, the class feels extremely long.
While I am in Australia, I hope to visit popular local places and the beaches. I am looking forward to going to Sydney with the school, and I think it will be very interesting to see the popular city that everyone talks about.
I find it extremely fascinating learning at a school across the world. I think as the weeks go on, I will learn new skills and begin to understand new ways of learning. I am very fortunate to be able to have this opportunity. I believe I will grow as a person and become very independent. I have already learned how to cope with emotions I am not used to, and it is very important to focus on the positive and not think about the negative.