Life in Exchange: Perspective from an Aussie-turned-Husky

G’Day champs, whaddaya know! That’s right, I’m just another Australian exchange student making you read more than your professors prescription of words per semester. Have a bit of trust in me here though, because we’re going to have more fun than a dingo in a delivery room.

I’m here on exchange from the University of Queensland in Brisbane, having a bit of a scribble in your local rag, or newspaper, to give some good thoughts about where you are and what kind of place you live in from the perspective of a fellah fresh off of the boat. 

Australia has an 18 year old drinking age which allows most people to get pissed legally on the last year of high school and throughout university.

First up; what a gorgeous campus. Coming from a city-bound university, it is hard not to appreciate the afternoon and particularly the morning sunshine. It’s amazing how the rays thread their way through the early clouds and fill the expansive spaces between buildings on campus, or the way the vast landscapes get bathed in sunsets and sunrises. It’s well worth a Captain Cook, or a look at. Even when it means the torment of dragging my booze ridden body away from Ted’s, braving the frosty morning to set up on Horsebarn Hill with a stick and watching the dawn have a fair dinkum crack at the forest in the beauty of fall. 

Keeping Ted’s in mind, one of the most obvious differences for me, being a bushie student on exchange, is the restriction of a 21 year drinking age. Being a 22 year old student, this doesn’t so much affect me, but I can see a marked difference in how it negatively affects the community here on campus. Australia has an 18 year old drinking age which allows most people to get pissed legally on the last year of high school and throughout university.

It’s no secret that getting on the grog helps to get most peoples’ chins wagging and generally helps break down all kinds of barriers that society forms around us. Friendships are formed easier and stories flow more readily the night after a big session, when you’re lying in a mates bed after a big breaky, regaling the lads and lasses of what fun or stupidity was had the previous night. 

Now imagine a gangly, red headed fellah and give him a lisp and anxiety. Well that was me, and let me tell you a lisp does not help you grow as a person, struggling to communicate with peers in school. But when I reached the legal drinking age, a shot of grog as a precursor to some socially awkward situations let me make mistakes and I transformed from a bumbling ratbag to a modestly functioning member of society. I see many students in similar situations around campus and am deeply sorry that they cannot legally appropriate a shot of speakeasy.

Then they could go to the bars on campus to try their hand at decent social interactions while still under the cover of high school and university society. It is better that students make these mistakes while they’re young and in college rather than in a real world scenario. 

The people I’ve travelled and lived with created stories that remain solidly imprinted in my mind. Stories that I hope my friends back home get so sick of hearing about that they pay for a one way ticket back here.

Bureaucratic nannas may make the point that 18 is not an age of maturity, but that’s a crummy argument. Maturity is not defined by age, but rather by experience and learning from mistakes. What better way to grow as a person than to experience and make mistakes?

Just some food for thought that the underage greek life students on campus are able to attend spirited events much more easily than the average scallywag confined to dormitories, giving the affiliated students an advantage above the rest with complex social interactions. Everyone should have such an opportunity with a decreased drinking age, resulting in a more level social demographic later in life, closing the social disparity that is obvious in a lot of communities in the USA.

This discrepancy, however, is not so apparent at the University of Connecticut. The people in UConn that I talk to are always up for a good chin wag, the passion for a few stories or a good yarn continues in their pride for the University. I don’t know if there is a team of ninja janitors that make the rounds at night, but you can barely find a piece of rubbish on the streets. You never see a piece of piss left on the dunny bowl and it’s even rarer to see a brown mullet floating there when you go to take a dunk. Contrasting to some areas back home the only reason they lock the public toilets at night is that someone might sneak in and clean them while no one is looking! 

Overall my time here at UConn has been such a great experience already. The people I’ve travelled and lived with created stories that remain solidly imprinted in my mind. Stories that I hope my friends back home get so sick of hearing about that they pay for a one way ticket back here. 


Graham Anderson is an exchange student at UConn from the University of Queensland in Brisbane. He can be reached via email at graham.anderson@uconn.edu.