Kindness, Koalas, and Kangaroos, Oh My!

Excerpt from Maria Bayles’ personal blog “Where He Leads I Will Follow.“  Maria is a spring 2015 ASC student from Wheaton College. Reproduced with permission.

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Omigoodness! So much has happened since my last post I don’t even know where to begin.

So when I last posted, the program hadn’t even officially begun. So here’s what has happened since:

Later that day, the rest of the people in my program arrived and we all hung out and got to know each other for the first two days. Everyone in the program is amazing!!! Each and every person adds to the group, and everyone is kind and inclusive. I honestly could not ask for a better group of American students to be on this journey with me. Also, the two leaders are incredible. They are the kind of people that are going to push you past where you think you can go – but in a way where they are there for you if you need them. I don’t know if you guys remember, but that was my prayer for this experience. That I would be pushed. I want the people leading me to be the kind of people that are going to take me out of my comfort zone – and they are! 🙂

After a couple days of hanging out with just our program, we went on a retreat to the Gold Coast with the college we are attending. Funny thing is, there was a cyclone making its way down the coast around the same time. So here we are, on the Gold Coast, in the Sunshine State, pretty much stuck in our hotel the entire retreat due to the weather. I don’t think I will ever forget that. But – in my opinion – the more adventurous and out of the ordinary things are – the more memories you make. And, we still had a ton of fun!!! We played tons of games and played in the pool, and even made our way down to the beach (don’t worry, not to swim…). All in all, it was a great weekend and a great chance to form some friendships with people that go to the college.

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The day we got back from our retreat, we met our host families!! I am so blessed! I get to spend the next 4 months with the most amazing and caring family! It has only been a little over a week, but I already feel like I am part of the family. I am so thankful that they’ve opened their home to me.

So, the past week was my first week of school. It went great! I love my classes and the times that they are at. My teachers are all amazing and all have a passion for what they are doing. My classes are all very small – smaller than my small classes at my home college – which I love!!! All I can say is I am really excited for the things I am going to learn this semester.

I have one class Monday, one class Wednesday, one class Thursday, and one class Friday. But guess what that means?!?! I get Tuesday off!!! So, this past Tuesday I had sooo much fun! It started with me and three friends traveling to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary which is a place where you can cuddle koalas and feed kangaroos, so that’s what we did!!! It was amazing!! I then went to South Bank and met up with some other friends and walked along the river to a place called Kangaroo Point. The entire walk was gorgeous! I am so in love with this city. So, that was my first Tuesday. I look forward to many more Tuesday explorations.

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On Friday nights, my host family attends Hillsong church! This past Friday was my second time at Hillsong, but my first time on a Friday night (last weekend we went on Sunday instead). Hillsong is INCREDIBLE. I have only been twice but I have nothing but amazing things to say about the church. The worship time honestly feels like you are at a Christian concert. There are lights, the youth go to the front to dance, the songs are amazing… it’s awesome. Then the messages have been out of this world. The speakers have been so on fire for God. I have learned so much and always come back with a passion for deepening my relationship with Christ and getting to that point of really being so in love with Him. Then the people at the church are so friendly. They are so helpful with getting you involved and connected. This past Friday after church, one of my friends and I joined a huge group of people our age and went to the mall just to eat and hang out. Apparently they do this every Friday. I’m so excited to form some great friendships through this church!

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Yesterday was Saturday, and it was also an awesome day. I went to South Bank with some friends for the day and we sat in the water and lied on the beach most of the afternoon. It was amazing. I then went to an event with the college I’m going to. It was a “coffee crawl” so we went to two different cafes and had hot chocolates (and other warm delicious drinks) and played card games. It was so much fun.

Today I’ve just been hanging around the house – went in the pool, read, etc. I made a video with all of the gopro footage I’ve taken the past couple weeks! But I have to wait until I go somewhere like a cafe to upload it. I will post the link to the video when I get the chance!!

So that pretty much sums up my last week and a half. But here are just some random things I didn’t know where to fit in….

Random Facts I’ve Learned:

  1. Almost everything here wants to kill you – but rather than being scared about all of the deadly creatures, you just joke about them
  2. The toilets don’t flush the opposite way, they kind of just swoosh all the water down at the same time
  3. You get used to driving (and by driving I mean riding in the car) on the other side of the road pretty quickly
  4. However, you don’t get used to walking on the left side of the sidewalk, looking the opposite way when crossing roads, or any of that stuff very quickly (or at all)
  5. Uphill both ways is totally a thing here
  6. I don’t think I’ve stopped sweating since getting off of the airplane
  7. They says “heaps” heaps here
  8. I’ve seen many people walking around the city barefoot
  9. There is a delicious fizzy lemon drink that I cannot get enough of
  10. They have squished trucks here – they are the strangest thing…

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That’s all I can think of for now, but I’m sure I’ll remember more later.

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