Upper School students and faculty traveled to Australia in August 2015 to experience the country’s culture and natural beauty firsthand. Blair Isken ’16 shares this account of the journey:
Seven students, two chaperones, three flights, 14 timezones. Over 24 hours of travel may not sound worth it, no matter the destination, but I can say on behalf of us all that the 15-hour flight was definitely worth it. By the time we arrived in Sydney, we were tired and overwhelmed, but we still had one more flight. After landing in Brisbane we still had a two- hour drive to the town of Gympie, where we would meet our host families who we would be living with for the next seven days. After arriving at St. Patrick’s College, where we were greeted with tea and desserts, we all went our separate ways back to the homes of our Australian host families to get settled in and prepare for the next day.
Our first full day in Australia was spent at the school where we attended classes with our hosts and met their friends and teachers. I was surprised to find that their high school, St. Patrick’s College, is quite similar to Tower Hill and other high schools in the U.S.
During the next few days we traveled to places like Fraser Island, where we got to swim in Lake McKenzie and wade through Eli River—and spot a few dingos too. Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world and a great vacation spot for tourists and Australian natives alike. While on the island, we even got to take a plane ride and get an aerial view of 75 Mile Beach and Butterfly Lake.
The following day we went to the Australia Zoo where Steve Irwin’s famous crocodile show was originally performed. Getting to pet the kangaroos and hold the koalas was definitely the experience of a lifetime and something we all really enjoyed in addition to exploring the exhibits.
Over the weekend we all got to spend our final days bonding with our host families. Some of us drove to Brisbane and spent time in the city, while others stayed in Gympie and explored the area some more. But before we left and headed for the Gold Coast, our hosts held a potluck at the school that we all attended with our families as a going away party. Our first week was a definite success. It was amazing to see how people on the other side of the world live, and see that they really aren’t all that different.
After departing Gympie we drove to the Gold Coast and spent our first day exploring Sea World. We saw animals like seals, penguins and polar bears. We spent the next day in Dreamworld, the biggest amusement park in Australia. With over 40 rides and attractions like the Cyclone, Buzzsaw, Tower of Terror II, and plenty more, it’s a very popular place for people visiting the Gold Coast. And so is Movieworld, another theme park on the Gold Coast that has rides styled after popular films like Superman and The Green Lantern.
With only a few days left in Australia, it was time to head to Sydney. On our first day there we got to spend time with a tour guide exploring the city and witnessing its biggest attractions like the Harbor Bridge and the Opera House. The following day we drove to the Blue Mountains, hiked the trails and saw the famous rock formation known as The Three Sisters.
Another popular stop is Manly Beach. We got to go swimming, surfing, snorkeling and shopping while resting up before our next big activity the following day, climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The Bridge itself is 440 feet tall and 3,770 feet long. One of the most popular tourist attractions, it definitely lives up to the hype. Although it seems overwhelming at first, it is definitely worth it. The view is extraordinary, and there is so much to see ad learn while you're up there. I can honestly say this trip was the experience of a lifetime and definitely an opportunity that I highly recommend everyone to take advantage of.