I’m going to make an exception today. For the first time I’ll write a travelling post that is not about Central or Eastern Europe; after all, I’ve been to more places, even if it’s that specific area the one I want to keep exploring in the short term.
Erasmus in Poland activated my wanderlust in such a way that I started looking for scholarships to go anywhere the moment I was back in Sevilla. I had heard of the Atlanticus scholarship even before Poland so, after checking it out again and seeing I could be sent to the United States, Canada or Australia, I applied and obviously asked to be sent to Australia. Why obviously? Because the farther, the better. To be honest, I didn’t have many hopes, as translation students had priority over everyone else.
A few weeks later, I got a phone call from a classmate when I was arriving at uni: “Juan, Juan, you’re going to Australia!”
Holy guacamoly. I was going to Australia. Brisbane, specifically.
My parents weren’t very happy about it, which is quite understandable considering I hadn’t even told them that I had applied. Oops. I have to admit they ended up paying for most of my stay, since I didn’t have that much money and the scholarship was only enough for the trip and the visa.
The beginning was a bit rough. Thirty-six hours of trip left me dizzy and confused in a very strange way. When I got to my dormitory I didn’t really know if I was tired, hungry, sick, stunned or all of the above. A few hours later, already in bed, I started feeling something was really wrong and soon the bathroom witnessed how I violently threw up everything I had eaten that day. Three times. Sorry for the details but I’m actually not telling everything. You don’t want to know.
I spent the next three days in bed, with an occassional visit downstairs to take a piece of fruit from the kitchen. That’s a lot for a person who had done terrible things to his stomach with zero consequences, believe me. I suppose all those hours travelling lowered my defenses and the suspiciously tasting food from the last plane did the rest.
I have mixed feelings about Australia. It’s definitely an amazing place, but for some reason I didn’t seem to fit in and I have the feeling I could have done much more. The first few days were a bit hard and it took me a while to get people, although one evening the dormitory organized a dinner for the international students so we could get to know each other.
That dinner will always stay in my memory. One morning, an Australian student came to me and told me I had to prepare a little presentation about my country, nothing serious. He said that, nothing serious. Come dinner, every country (which, by the way, had several people representing them, while I was the only Spaniard), had prepared a kick-ass presentation with two thousand powerpoint slides, five million photos and a hundred page speech with pre-made jokes and all. On the other hand, I had prepared literally three powerpoint slides with a few photos chosen at random and no speech. I started my impromptu speech with a “well, you’ve heard Spanish people are lazy, right? It’s just that I haven’t prepared anything so I’m gonna improvise the whole thing”. I then proceeded to shoot a series of self-deprecating jokes about Spain and its politics and cheap stereotypical jokes about Australian animals and meal timetables. I think it’s the best presentation I have ever given and no, I’m not joking.
I had already met a few people, but that dinner helped and I ended up sharing my meals with a very heterogenous group with people from Australia, Taiwan, Italy, Germany, China, Singapore, Bahrain and Canada. The conversations were often about how awful the food was: there was a bunch of cooks who prepared food every day with ingredients which surely had to come from Hell itself. It’s either that or the cooks were drunk monkeys. I mean, how can anyone get paid to cook bad pasta? How can you cook bad pasta in the first place? To give you an idea of how awful the food was, my old dorm was the only place where I was given a slice of pizza, ONE slice of pizza, and I couldn’t finish it. I swear I could feel how I was slowly dying.
On the other hand, university was amazing. Sure, my experience is very limited, but at some points I felt even motivated to work hard, something that I don’t remember happening in many years in Spain. I had excellent teachers (shoutout to Anthony Cassimatis and Tamara Walsh for their amazing lessons) and everything was just more professional, which made me concentrate on what was important without having to waste my time on useless copy-paste assignments.
The campus at the University of Queensland was an interesting place. Being mostly green, funny animals roamed freely, such as turkeys, spiders of various sizes, colours and probably types of poison, aggressive birds that attacked people during nesting season and some weird birds with a scythe shaped beak which looked almost dangerous until one day I saw one of them run away in fear from a toddler that had been unleashed from his mother.
The city centre was far away, and I have to admit I didn’t go there often, since my social life wasn’t the best and I didn’t like the city that much anyway. I’ve always preferred old places with a lot of history and Australia just doesn’t have that. The weather was amazing though, and I have to admit all those skyscrappers looked pretty nice trying to reach the blue sky. I went there in July (Winter) and stayed until the middle of November (spring), and it barely rained until a couple of weeks before I left. I guess the sky got sad because I was leaving, because some days it just couldn’t stop crying.
Finally, I have to say Australia is the place where I fell in love with Asian food. Before that I had been to shady Chinese restaurants in Spain in which the quality of the food was rather non-existent than questionable. In Brisbane I had amazing Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Thai food. That’s actually one of the things I miss the most from there.
This was, long story short, my life in Brisbane, rather uneventful. However, I did a few very interesting excursions which I’ll talk about some other time, nice photos included.