Ouachita, like many other colleges, offers a wide variety of opportunities to study abroad. Through the Daniel and Betty Jo Grant Center for International Education, Ouachita students can choose such diverse locations as The Hebrew School in Jerusalem, the University of Pelita Harapan in Indonesia or Murdoch University in Perth, Australia. Hannah Dixon, a junior biology major with a minor in psychology, from Arkadelphia, chose the latter, Murdoch University.
Dixon was curious about what a trip across the world might bring her, but also understandably cautious of culture shock.
“Before I left, I got the chance to talk with Abbey Little, who studied in Perth the spring of 2016. I also talked with [Ouachita freshman] Zeb Barrett, who lived in Perth. They were both super helpful, in that they gave me an idea of what it would be like to live in the city and [study] at Murdoch.”
Dixon made sure to remain open to new people and to making new friends, and, like most college experiences, her first friends were her roommates.
“There are eight of us that share the flat, and the others are from Germany, Canada, Singapore, Darwin in Northern Australia, Victoria in southern Australia, Burnbury, located just south of Perth and one hails from the city itself,” she said.
The group became fast friends, each eager to learn about each other and their culture and experiences.
“We have movie nights where the Australians show us classic Australian movies, we have gone to the Fremantle Markets for shopping and we have had multiple Aussie slang lessons,” Dixon said.
The Fremantle Markets are equivalent to a large farmers’ market in America, with vendors and buskers selling wares and honing their crafts to the delight of tourists and locals.
Then one travels anywhere, they are often asked about the differences from their hometown. Normally, the contrast is between places such as Wylie, Texas and Arkadelphia, but the difference for Dixon between her hometown of Arkadelphia and her adopted city of Perth was dramatic.
“One of the biggest differences for me was all the different cultures represented in Perth. Perth is truly an international city. Getting used to all the different types of accents, foods and clothing styles took a while,” Dixon said.
Australia is the only country in the world that is its own continent, but it still has inherited some traits from its days as a British colony, such as driving on the opposite side of the road.
“Another thing that has taken some getting used to is driving on the left side of the road. I always have to remind myself to look right and then left when crossing the street. There have been multiple instances where I looked at the [American] driver’s side of the car, and there’s nobody in the seat. It still gives me a mini heart attack, but then I remember the driver sits on the other side of the car.”
For Dixon, some of the Aussie speech patterns are still strange to her ear.
“Australians shorten most words. For example, afternoon is shortened to arvo, mosquito is shortened to mossie and avocado is shortened to avo. At first, I had to ask people to speak slower, because I couldn’t understand them. However, my ear for Aussie slang has gotten much better.”
The thing that affected Dixon almost immediately upon landing in Perth was the time change.
“It’s a thirteen-hour time change between Perth and Arkadelphia. It’s weird for me to have to plan a talk with my family when I’m used to being able to drive over to the house for a visit,” she said.
Like anyone studying abroad, Dixon has missed some aspects of her home, many of which tend to be taken for granted by other college students.
“Not gonna lie, I really miss Chick-Fil-A. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. Going from eating at Chick every Friday to not even having the option was rough,” Dixon said. “I really miss my family. I am fortunate that my parents, grandparents, and aunt, uncle and cousin all live in Arkadelphia. They are such an important part of my life, and now with the 13-hour time difference, it’s a little bit harder to have a conversation with them.”
However, she has been keeping busy seeing sites and traveling around the Perth area.
“Some of my favorite memories from my first month in Australia are: going to Caversham Wildlife Park [a wildlife conservation park in Perth] and getting to pet a kangaroo and koala, exploring the art museum and shopping in downtown Perth, taking surfing lessons and spending the day at Rottnest Island (home to the quokka, quite possibly the cutest animal on earth).”
Deciding to study abroad is always a step of faith. Hannah Dixon decided to go all out and study at Murdoch University, in Perth, Western Australia. She has had some adjusting to do and still is working through it, but overall is excited about her time there.
“Australia is absolutely amazing!” she said. “There really aren’t enough words or pictures that could possibly describe this country.”
By sports editor, Chris DiGiovanni