As I departed for Brisbane, I was frantically packing until the last minute and ensuring that I had said all my goodbyes, froze my phone plan, and checked everything off my never-ending to do list. I barely had time to process having left until a couple of days into our trip, when we had located our Airbnb, navigated the transit system, unpacked, and purchased groceries. After slowing down and exploring the surrounding neighborhoods, I started to become excited about discovering all of the local spots Brisbane has to offer.
At first glance, Brisbane is very similar to Calgary, and it really didn’t feel like we had left North America. Similar shops scatter the streets, recognizable brands fill the shelves, and the weather is surprisingly dry. It was more humid at the Vancouver airport! The east coast has been experiencing bush fires, and filling the air with smoke, making Brisbane even more congruous to Augusts in Calgary.
The first few days we walked a ton! We explored several of the nearby districts by foot, and even walked to Queensland University of Technology to meet our liaison, which was over an hour away. We explored the city centre, which hosts an inner city beach, botanical gardens, a university campus, and several eateries and street markets. We took the opportunity to immerse ourselves in Australian customs and traditions, collectively trying a Kangaroo burger and sampling some vegemite – with mixed reviews. We are slowly learning some Australian slang, such as “It’s right,” “How you going?,” and “tuck-shop.” Additionally, all of the locals have been super welcoming thus far, and are excited to learn about the weather, culture, and tourist hotspots in Canada.
It was great meeting with the exchange students who travelled to Calgary last January, as it made me excited hearing about their adventures. They provided a plethora of advice for sightseeing and navigating Australian culture. Meeting with the QUT education faculty members, helped ease any anxiety I was feeling about visiting the schools, as we learned about our schedules and overall expectations. I want to share some of the things we have learned about surviving in Brisbane so far:
- Pack reusable shopping bags. Brisbane has cut back on single-use plastics, and you will need them to carry your groceries all the way back to your apartment.
- Swim between the flags. You want to make sure you are aware of the tide and it is best to enter the water where lifeguards are present.
- Don’t go into the bush alone. The paths are often not marked, there are various flora and fauna to look out for, and travellers can get easily lost.
- Restaurants do not typically provide table service. You have to go up to the counter to order food, otherwise you will spend a long time waiting! Oh – and you are not expected to tip.
- Even though we may think 25 degrees is pool weather, we got some questionable reactions from locals for wanting to go swimming in their “winter.”
- "Swooping season" is real. The birds here are quite viscious and locals wear zip ties and wigs on their bicycle helmets to deter birds.
On the first weekend after settling in, we took two day trips to the Sunshine Coast, and spent our day at Mooloolaba beach! It was beautiful to visit the coast and to enjoy swimming in the ocean and soaking up the sunshine.
All in all, I am looking forward to getting accustomed to the routine in our first school, and exploring more of Brisbane! We are busy making plans for Spring Break, and I cannot wait to travel through the rest of Australia.