Noch als Schülerin hat Sonja Müller an einem Austauschprogramm nach Australien teilgenommen. An ihrer australischen Schule hat sie - ursprünglich für australische Leser - einen Bericht über ihre Erfahrungen geschrieben:
When you are from Germany, like me, all you know about Australia is: Kangaroos, koalas and the Sydney Opera House. By now I know a lot more about this country, and for me it is one of the most amzing ones in the world. Last year I decided to apply for an exchange program in Australia, because I was so impressed by other students` experiences and I really wanted to do something exciting in my life.
The Australian Government doesn't make it easy to get into the country and therefore I had to fill in heaps of forms, make photos and hand in a medical report to make sure that I am not a risk for Australian citizens. At last I got on the plane and took off for a twenty-five hour flight, during which I felt crammed in like sardine. Most of the way, we had a beautiful view over the land we were flying over, but the most impressive part was our flight over Sydney at night. Everything was black except street lamps and other lamps in the city and the ocean reflected the full moon.
On a sunny morning we arrived in Melbourne and I wasn't realizing at all what I was doing. It was all like a dream to me. Australia was like I had expected it to be but actually you cannot imagine how big this country is, unless you see it with your own eyes. If you travel around in Europe you will see a house or even a city after a few kilometers but here you can travel for hours and the landscape doesn't seem to change at all.
My organisation at home had warned me of the 'culture shock' that you are supposed to experience when you first live in another country on your own. And it wasn't long in coming. My hostmother and sister had picked me up from the airport and when we arrived at my new home my first thought was: "I can't stay here for six months! I have to go home! Now!" Suddenly I couldn't understand anymore why I had had this absolutely crazy idea of living in another country and it seemed to me like the worst mistake in my life. I had the feeling that I would never get used to living in Australia and talking English every day, I would never make friends and I would be the only exchange student in the world who didn't enjoy her stay overseas. Even the first time at school was disappointing: I always got lost on my way to classrooms and I didn't know who to talk to. I felt like being in the total wrong place.
But everything changed quickly. I was invited to the first party, got to know most of the other people in my classes and finally, school started being fun. I found some really good friends and while my English was getting better and I started understanding jokes and what else people were talking about, I finally started feeling at home.
I don't think school is as strict as in Germany and so I didn't see my work as hard here in Australia. I was used to working a lot with the teacher, as in Germany taking part in the conversation in class is very important for the final mark and it was new for me to work on my own almost everytime.
Besides school, everything else was different, too. As you can fit Germany into the State of Victoria but 80 million people living in our country, I could hardly believe how vast Australia is with all its open space. Many things that are normal for Australians were somehow unbelievable for me.
I love the beautiful terrace houses in Ballarat because they look so cosy and small and always remind me of older days. When I walk through the city of Ballarat I really feel like in a western movie because of all the preserved buildings. In my country most of the beautiful old houses were destroyed during the two World Wars or were pulled down afterwards.
I was also absolutely enthusiastic when I first saw a kangaroo while my hostfamily looked a bit worried at me because nobody considered a kangaroo as something special.
I could have spent hours just wandering around in supermarkets because they are so huge and so is the variety of things to buy that I have never seen before.
I would say really everything is bigger here in Australia: The cars, every can, every chocolate bar and especially the distance to travel. Nobody in Europe would go 45klms by bus every day just to go to school, like I did all the time I spent in Australia.
And also the people are really different. I think Australians have a wonderful easy way of living, compared to our busy European lifestyle that leaves hardly anytime for a good laugh. In my opinion, it is great how people live in this country, not worrying too much about what might happen, and how friendly most of them are.
I was surprised that most teenagers I met would love to live or at least travel overseas to Europe while everyone in Europe would love to live in Australia which is known like a dream country like the USA.
In retrospect I think I should have decided to come to Australia for 12 months instead of just 6 because there are so many things that I couldn't see while I was here and I just love being in this country. I hope a lot of people get the chance to experience a completely different lifestyle in another country like I did, because I can't imagine anything more exciting than living somewhere else but at home and really seeing something totally different from what you are used to.
I would like to thank all the "Aussies" who helped making my stay such a wonderful time as these 6 months have been one of the best times in my life. I hope I will be able to come back to Australia one day to visit my host family and my friends in Ballarat. See ya soon!