Lowdown on the Down Under

by Emily Huntington

Horizon Reporter

Italy. South Africa. New Zealand. Europe. Australia.

These are just a few of the places that students are able to travel through the study abroad program at Whatcom Community College. The Australia/New Zealand option was administered in 2001 by Green River Community College, and Whatcom has been involved in it for many years, according to Ulli Schraml, study abroad coordinator at Whatcom.

Overall the program costs $6,895, and includes round trip airfare to Australia via New Zealand. While overseas, students earn 15 credits in history, biology, and interdisciplinary studies. The classes are taught by Bruce Haulman, who works at Green River Community College, as well as Australia/New Zealand faculty.

A few students have recently returned from their 10-week stay in Australia and New Zealand (five weeks were spent in each country).

Bree Gorsenger, 18, a Running Start student at Whatcom Community College, returned to Bellingham about a month ago. In all, the trip cost her $17,000 when tuition, food, room and board, and general entertainment were taken into account. The price varies for every student, depending on how much money they want to save for general spending.

Gorsenger chose Australia and New Zealand for many reasons. “I really like change,” she said, and explained that she liked that it was far away from home, and of course that it was sunny and full of laid back, outgoing people.

While away, Gorsenger missed her dog and her bed the most. Surprisingly, she said, “I didn’t miss my cell phone.” International rates are almost not worth the trouble of texting or calling, especially with Skype and social networking sites that are free.

She misses the weather and the way that daily life was way more exciting in New Zealand and the overall culture. In Australia, people were so open minded. “You could talk about absolutely everything,” she said.

Some surprises for Gorsenger were the prices of things, and the overall exchange rates. In Australia, for example, a bottle of water is $4.

Gorsenger explained that before they leave they are advised to watch what they spend, since in a lot of countries the drinking ages are less than 21. In New Zealand and Australia, the drinking age is 18, “which was helpful,” she said.

In Australia, the natives hate kangaroos, and actually hunt them and hit them with their cars, then eat them. Gorsenger said it tastes almost like a regular hamburger, but since kangaroos don’t have a lot of fat on them, they’re way healthier. Whatcom student Alan Carroll, 21, who also went to Australia/New Zealand, compares kangaroo meat to venison.

Carroll also returned from his trip about a month ago, though he explains that it feels like just yesterday he was there. “It’s like a dream now,” he said. Carroll said he chose to go there for the different experience. He is studying anthropology, and said that his knowledge “helped me see different ways cultures interacted with each other.”

In New Zealand, there is a tribe of people called the Maori that make up about another half of the government there. They have several languages, and “most everyone has tattoos. The women have tattoos on their chins,” explained Gorsenger.

While there, it wasn’t all about studying. Gorsenger had the opportunity to go swimming with the sharks, and got to meet some rugby players. In New Zealand they are really big into rugby. Gorsenger also went bungee jumping twice.

Carroll missed the food here, and not having to worry about it. In Australia, besides hating and eating kangaroos, they are also big on eating lamb. Carroll explained that they would cook it like we cook t-bone steaks here and enjoy it. In Melbourne, where they stayed, it is against the law to pick up a koala bear, but in other parts of Australia it’s okay.

Carroll was surprised at how expensive everything was there. In Australia, the minimum wage is about $15/hour, so despite being warned about careful spending, they couldn’t really budget correctly because of the price increase.

Overall, Carroll prefers New Zealand to Australia, and he is already looking for a way to get back. The climate of New Zealand is similar to good summer days in Washington. It’s about 80 degrees, and the summer nights aren’t too hot or too cold, and you can actually sleep, he explained.

He encourages people to go, no matter what, at the first chance they get. “It’s so much better to learn by seeing and experiencing than hearing about it,” he said.

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