My first shocking realization had more to do with geography and less to do with culture. The shock was an ignorance to the fact that, June, July, and August are winter months in Australia. Can you imagine packing shorts, t-shirts, and flip flops, with hopes of enjoying the beach and palm trees, only to find out, what you really need is your winter sweaters and water proof hiking shoes. I was one of the heaps of American students who learned this simple fact, the primitive way.

During a Sydney winter,  traveling near the “harbours” or coastal areas can be brutal. The temperature will crisply drop by ten degree celsius and force you to take notice. You will not want to repeat the mistake of being insufficiently clothed again. Another harsh reality, is that your “unit” or apartment will not contain a thermostat to raise the heat on cold nights and the hot water for your shower will be gone in three minutes!

Sydney’s culture is similar to other metropolitan areas; but here, people stand in “ques” at McDonalds on lunch time. They eat “brekky” in the morning, and sip tea in the “arvo” or afternoon. The CBD or central business district boasts with the fast paced lives of millions of citizens from different races. The various sounds of voices, in multitudes of languages can make your head spin. Or, it can make you realize how lucky you are to experience a life, so rich with ethnic diversity, that your head will clear itself of conservative beliefs and ethnocentric perceptions.

Kim Caldwell is studying abroad at Macquarie University in Australia.