Travel Log 5 “Conversations” By Erin Schirra, Gold Coast Australia

Because the majority of the students at Bond Uni are not from Australia, I found that having a conversation with the friends I have made in classes and at my club meetings would be ineffective, as we share the same culture back in the States. I decided to discuss culture differences and values with my friend Stephanie that I met at a local Catholic church service. Steph was originally born in Indonesia, but her parents moved with herself and her older sister to Australia when she was only four years old. Her youngest sister was even born in Australia! We began the conversation as she was driving me back to my apartment, and we continued to talk even after we arrived. I also decided to have this specific conversation with Steph because we have a lot in common, just from our similar religious foundations. I thought that it would be interesting to evaluate the cultural differences between myself and someone that is the same age, has a similar family life, and holds many of the same beliefs. I also felt more comfortable talking with Steph because she is an all-around genuine and wonderful human being.

In my four weeks on the Gold Coast, I have found that having conversations with local Australians and other students from around the world has deepened my appreciation for my own culture, the diversity of our world, and the potential this study abroad experience has for the development of my knowledge.   I think that it is critical to note that conversations like these should be had throughout the entire abroad experience, and not just for an assignment one out of the twelve weeks. Personally, I feel as though these conversations are what make our rites of passage as fruitful as they can possibly be.

The highlights of our conversation that I will notate in this post include equality versus hierarchy and rank, materialism versus spirituality, and informality versus formality. We found that the idea of class is different between both cultures, especially in how wealth is measured. Money and salaries are more taboo to speak of in Australia, and there is not much value set in ranking one another in society based on income. One specific way that this is exemplified is through their education system. Australians can go to University for free, and they “pay off” their education once they are employed. A certain percentage of their paycheck will go towards the payment of the institution for the current students at Uni. We discussed how different this is from back in the States, and I told her all about the drastic expenses of higher education, and how difficult it can be to afford a degree on families. We came to the conclusion that the value of equality goes a long way in Australia, and the value of status/hierarchy is very present in the increase in the size of the gap between the rich and the poor, as represented via education.

We found discrepancies in our country’s values of materialism versus spirituality as well. It was clear that the Australian values of spirituality were a stark contrast to the American values of materialism. We also noted that these cultural values are overarching an entire community, and do not apply to everyone a member thereof. Because of the similarities between Steph and myself, it was easy to discuss our views on our priorities of spiritual growth over materialistic tendencies. Although Australia is not considered a religious country, the ideas of success revolve much more around mental growth and experiencing as much as possible in one’s lifetime.

Lastly, we found that both the States and Australia see informality as a measure of friendliness and closeness. This similarity, as I told Steph, is one of the reasons why I feel extremely comfortable in Australia. I think that I feel rather comfortable in my community at home as well. However, this does not mean that there are communities that I am not a part of. For this reason, I am selecting the LGBTQ+ community. A few of my friends are members of this community, and although I do not view the community negatively and I am not uncomfortable with it, I have never personally identified with the community. I feel that sitting down with some members of the GLASS club at Quinnipiac could help me look into more of the presence of this community at school and what I can do to integrate this newfound knowledge into my day-to-day life.

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