This summer I had the opportunity to travel to Hobart, Tasmania for a month-long exchange trip. The program included classes at The Friends School (TFS), a fellow Quaker school in Hobart, as well as weekend excursions throughout the island.
I traveled with three other sophomores from Abington Friends in Philadelphia. The trip began with 24 hours on a plane to fly from New York to Hobart with layovers in Los Angeles and Melbourne. Upon landing, we met our host families and started settling into the laid-back Australian lifestyle.
School at TFS was significantly different than WFS. There were more options in elective courses such as sports science, dance, and cooking, which gave me the ability to try new classes. Classes there were slightly larger in comparison to those here which took a little bit of getting used to, but eventually, I came to enjoy having so many opinions in one room. They also didn’t have homework which was surprising to me. One of the major differences was that the school was split into four “houses.” The houses competed against each other in various competitions including drama, athletics, and more. The winner of each event earned points for their house. This was really interesting because the students were all very devoted to their house and wanted to earn as many points as possible. They also offered other sports, such as Aussie rules football, netball, and crew, that aren’t available at WFS. I took advantage of the fact that they only practiced once a week and tried them all. While I don’t think that I’ll be taking up any of these sports in the near future, I appreciated being able to try things that I would not have the opportunity to try here. It was really interesting to me that sports were a lot more low-key and relaxed.
Each weekend I was able to take trips to see some of the most memorable parts of the island. Some of these included hiking through Shipstern Bluff, visiting the MONA museum, and exploring the top of Mt. Wellington. We also took a day trip to a local animal conservatory so I could see all the native wildlife including kangaroos, Tasmanian devils, wombats, and echidnas. All of these places were very different from each other, but I noticed that they all value nature a lot. During these trips, I also noticed some cultural differences, including a lot of colloquial language and a relatively relaxed way of life in comparison to the constant busyness many of us experience daily.
This winter, I will have the opportunity to reconnect with a member of my host family, Eloise, who will stay with us for a month. She will be involved in the WFS culture both academically and athletically. We also expect to do trips to Philadelphia, New York, and Washington DC to show her some of the highlights of the East Coast. I’m definitely looking forward to reconnecting with both my host family and the other exchange students.