When I first saw the title “Xmas in August” I assumed it was a joke. The Australia I imagined from study abroad brochures and Google images online consisted of eternally-sunny beaches, cute fuzzy marsupials, smiling tanned bodies in tank tops and short shorts, and bright blue clear skies.

Snowshoeing in Australia
I’m on the front right snowshoeing with my friend Mel. This was our last day in the mountains of Mt. Beauty, and my first time snowshoeing ever! **Photo credits go to my friend Sam

Never in a million years did I think I would experience Australia in below-zero degrees weather with the onslaught of hail on my back attempting to carve a wall of snow around my tent with numb fingers for the purpose of preventing the howling wind from keeping me shivering all throughout the night.

Fog and snow in Australia
At times throughout the course, it would be hard to see an arms-length distance in front of you! It was quite disorienting to push past waves of fog and feel like you’re flying by clouds.

A couple of my European friends also studying abroad at RMIT University thought I was crazy when I badgered them about joining the Outdoors Club “Xmas in August” trip with me. They weren’t intrigued by the idea of backpacking and cross-country skiing in the frozen bush of Australia for a whole weekend, for that was exactly the reason why they left the cold in Europe to study in Australia. I, however, was hooked after reading that gear rentals (skis, tent, sleeping bag, snow boots, poles, etc.) for RMIT students during the entire weekend was a refundable sum of $20, and that we would be enjoying a real Christmas dinner consisting of turkey topped with cranberries, gravy, and a surprise visit from Kris Kringle himself! Maybe it was the Cali girl in me who hadn’t seen snow in years, but I was bouncing off the walls out of sheer excitement regardless of the fact that I still had some papers to submit before I left for the weekend.

However, my pent-up energy was put to good use as I acquired some new skills that weekend in Fall’s Creek, a couple-hours-long car ride away from Melbourne City; I now know how to splitboard, snowshoe, and cross-country ski while testing my balance and endurance as I literally carried half of my weight during the trip. I also learned very basic outdoor knowledge; after waking up the next morning in a damp sleeping bag, I will never forget the most efficient and proper way to pitch an all-seasons tent especially if I’m in another snowy situation.

Selfie in the Australian snow
I hope this picture sums up the extent of my excitement about cross-country splitboarding on Mount Beauty in Fall’s Creek. Can you spot my budding sunburn/windburn?

In addition to the useful tricks that I can now proudly show off, I also had my fair share of fails and embarrassing stories during the three days of no showers, forgetting to apply sunscreen, and sleeping in 9 layers of clothing (not counting my scarf). On the first day of our cross-country trek, our crew was lucky enough to experience the excitement and skiing mastery of racers participating in the Kangaroo Hoppet 42K. Because our path towards the campsite at Edmonson’s Hut overlapped in sections with the actual race course, at one point, I accidentally continued onto the race course after missing the correct turn into Edmonson’s!! After 5K of solo skiing, I soon realized that I hadn’t seen any human beings for the past half an hour! Luckily for me though, around the 20K mark, staff members picking up the last round of racers informed me of my wrong turn about 5K ago. With the dense fog rolling in and sun going into hiding, I got the golden opportunity to hop on board with ski patrol. This weekender also served as a reminder to appreciate the importance of certain objects like a headlight, gloves, sunscreen, sunnies (Aussie slang for sunglasses), hand sanitizer, clean dry socks (these really make sleeping much more comfortable), and toilet paper.

Snowboarding in Australia
I’m ascending a slope right outside our camp (Edmonson’s Hut) with a splitboard in my hands. This weekend was filled with hilarious memories, fun people, and unbelievably pristine nature.

Needless to say, my first “White Christmas” in Australia did not disappoint. Best of all, I spent a wonderful weekend getting to know Melburnian students from various Melbourne uni’s as well as working individuals in the community. I am so thankful for an unforgettable first (and definitely not last) trip with the RMIT Outdoors Club (ROC), as they offer a wide variety of fun and affordable activities. Everything outdoorsy I can possibly think of attempting while in Australia is now right at my fingertips: indoor rock climbing, real rock climbing, caving, kayaking, surfing, backpacking, bushwalking, rogaining, and cross-country skiing, just to name a few. I’m looking forward to when the weather gets warmer in Melbourne so I can kayak and attempt my first outdoors rock climb without worrying about freezing or getting windburn.

Jodi Huang is a student at the University of California, San Diego and a TEAN Featured Blogger. Jodi is currently studying abroad with TEAN in Melbourne, Australia.