Chronicles of my adventure down under!


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Monday, September 17

Sydney Uni US Studies Centre

Over the next few weeks the university is launching a new US Studies Centre (partially funded by Rupert Murdoch). I initially learned about it because they invited all of the American exchange students to a barbeque to meet eat other (like I haven’t run across one of the other 1000 American students here yet?) and to learn about the new centre.

According to the Aussies I met at the Spanish chat on Friday (sidenote: I was getting frustrated with my spanish because several people have been commenting on how horrible my accent is. Not really great for someone who is already terrified of speaking! But I realized I can’t give up just yet since I have to pass a proficiency exam in March so I'm trying really hard to keep talking... The chat was ‘heaps’ of fun. Since the drinking age here is 18, we met at the bar on campus and got free beer. They kept asking me all sorts of questions about the US and my impressions of Aussies. We started talking about the Australian political system and gave up on Spanish since we didn’t know any of these words!)... Anyway, back to my point- apparently the centre was initiated to combat the anti-American sentiment in Australia. Well, this method doesn’t seem to be working and based on the fliers I have read around campus, it just might be doing the opposite. They are having student council elections this week, and I’m starting to get the impression that student activists on campus are a bit militant. Some of the other items on the voting agenda are: Free education (it used to be free here until about 10-20 years ago), Money for education not war (the US Studies Centre and protesting at APEC fall under this category), No nuclear research on campus (a rally will be held on Monday for this), Fighting for Women’s Rights (this includes maintaining “autonomous women’s spaces” to make creative and political publications and –surprise- organise protests), Fight Homophobia (there was no explanation for this, but I think it’s self-explanatory).

My feelings on the US Studies Centre are mixed, but overall I think it’s a little strange. Can you believe they are offering a master’s in US Studies? You can take classes on US diplomacy, economics, culture, business, etc. I was trying to think about it from another perspective- why do people study Asian or Middle Eastern cultures? Well, they have a lot of history and I think a lot of times people study the areas because they want to pursue careers in those regions. The US really only has about 350 years of history, and I’m getting the impression that the US has run over Australian culture. Some people here know more about the US than Americans do so I don’t really see why they feel the need to study it more. I think well over 50% of the tv shows here are from the US. The only really cool thing the centre is offering is internships with companies in the US. I think that would be a really great experience for students here. The barbeque to learn more about the centre should be very interesting....

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