Sat10252014

Schools

Australians roll out the red carpet for visiting student


Photo By: Courtesy of Dorothy Dickson
Photo 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.

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