Australia is a magically diverse place. Coming from one of the least diverse states in America has made my transition to such a culture much more drastic. Especially since I am attending the International College of Management in Sydney where many of the students come from an international background. I have learned so much, not only about Australian culture, but about the German, Austrian, French, Polish, Nigerian, Kiwi, and Indonesian cultures as well. This environment is everything I had hoped it could be and more. Studying abroad brings intercultural learning to a new level. Australia has one of the worlds highest percentages of foreign born individuals, and it’s not difficult to see why people like coming here.
In Sydney, you can find food from almost any culture, especially unique Asian cuisines that have probably never reached my small Vermont town. You can travel to the mountains, the sea, and the outback in one trip. You can see the diversity in wildlife too. As someone who has appreciated nature her entire life, I was extremely excited to come to Australia. Most would think of koalas and kangaroos when picturing Australian wildlife. However, I have stumbled across some pretty unique creatures here in the Sydney suburb of Manly. ICMS just so happens to be on the edge of a wildlife refuge for bandicoots and Eastern water dragons.
Although I have encountered many creepy-crawly things here, I will avoid showing you too many. Thankfully, they are not as prevalent as I thought they would be before arriving. Here are the not so creepy-crawly creatures I’ve encountered so far!
My favorite new wild friend in Australia is the sulfur crested cockatoo. They are large birds that circle the ICMS campus every night screeching as loudly as possible. It sounds like an annoying nuisance, but when you see their sweet faces up close, all is forgiven. They also leave quite beautiful white and yellow feathers all around.
Australia also has these gorgeous creatures not-so-affectionately known as “bin chickens.” Actually called the Australian White Ibis, these birds are known for stealing snacks from the trash. Their face reminds me of a turkey from home, but not to be confused with the Australian bush turkey, which will also try to steal your lunch at the beach.
This is not slime, but a Red Triangle Slug. I found this one in the Blue Mountains on a road trip. It was very foggy and wet, the perfect weather for a slug, but not for viewing the monstrous waterfalls and mountain tops.
Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful Australian creatures is the rainbow lorikeet. Sometimes hundreds of them will flock to a tree by the beach in Manly. It’s a magical moment that is worth all the hardships of getting here. (Believe me, it wasn’t easy trying to study abroad in 3 different countries during a worldwide pandemic.)
These little guys are Hardyheads. They’re tiny fish that make good bait for larger fish. They swim in small schools and tickle my feet every time I go to the beach.
The Australian raven may seem like a foreboding symbol, but for me it has been a reminder of home. Every morning in Vermont, I am awoken by my cat crying for attention. This bird sounds just like her! The Australian raven has one of the strangest raven family calls that I have ever heard, only behind the Australian Magpie and Eurasian Magpie, both of which I encountered during my last semester abroad. Every morning that I hear it calling, it gives me the little taste of home that I need. It reminds me that while Australia is extremely different from Vermont, I can still find similarities that unite me to this wonderful place.
The more I travel, the more I discover that we are all the same underneath. Yes, even a slug with a triangle on its back. I’ve got plenty of friends with geometric tattoos! Studying abroad has given me the chance to see what is below the surface of our cultures that look very different, and recognize what is the same. Remember to bring compassion wherever you go!
Check out Kayla’s website to see her study abroad story in more personal detail!
Kayla Bailey, Champlain College, is studying abroad in Australia with TEAN.