Photo By: Courtesy of Dorothy Dickson
Los Altos High graduate Magdalene Lim, right, met many new friends while traveling in Australia last summer with the Los Altos Sister Cities program.
Magdalene Lim, a Los Altos High School graduate, is a freshman at UC Berkeley.
Last summer, I had the wonderful opportunity to make a three-week visit Bendigo, Australia, which has been a Los Altos Sister City for more than 25 years.
Bendigo, located approximately two hours by car from Melbourne, gained fame in the 1800s as a mining town. It is currently expanding its reputation as a wine-growing area and a center of commerce.
Thanks to a scholarship from Los Altos Sister Cities, I attended school in Bendigo while being home-hosted by wonderfully friendly families.
I went there to experience living in a culture that has fascinated me – but secretly dreaming of seeing kangaroos! Funnily enough, my first host family lived next to a forest with wild kangaroos, which were right outside my bedroom window.
Each family I stayed with made sure I was treated to Australian delicacies such as meat pies, Tim Tams and kangaroo sausages. They packed a lunch for me every day before dropping me off at school in the center of town.
The school is a beautiful stone building with added modern classrooms, right in the heart of the city and surrounded by a beautiful park. Luckily, because my visit was part of a youth exchange program, I didn’t have to deal with the stress of grades. Instead, I placed my efforts into meeting many new people and understanding the school culture. I attended classes such as 20th Century History, which gave me a different perspective from what I’d had in my AP U.S. History class at Los Altos High.
Communication wasn’t a problem, save for certain words like “tomato sauce” for ketchup, but the accent took a few days to tune into. My classmates were genuinely curious about American culture, and I often received questions about whether I lived like the people in “Gossip Girl.”
Australians may be the friendliest bunch of people I’ve ever met, always ready with a “G’day” and a genuine smile to go with it. I even felt quite safe and happy during the times I walked around town by myself after school.
I was introduced to the Australian game of “Footy,” the Australian Football League. I spent my weekends cheering on football teams along with my host families.
On my last day in Bendigo, they took me to a game in Melbourne where we had fourth-row seats. The fact that everyone was so willing to give me such a real experience of Australian culture shows their sincerity and care for me.
I returned home with new friends, a large box of Tim Tams, lots of photographs and a new appreciation and understanding of Australian culture.
For more information on Los Altos Sister Cities’ youth exchange program, visit www.losaltossistercities.com or call Dorothy Dickson at 941-3640.