Awesome Australia adventure
A semester out of the country didn't make Andrew Boyd forget where he lived.
During his nearly six month stay in Australia, the Baldwin High School junior was constantly reminded of his roots in Kansas.
"There were a lot of Wizard of Oz jokes that went on pretty much the whole time I was there," Boyd said.
He tried to laugh the jokes off at first, but over time they began to wear on him.
"I was pretty upset after a while," Boyd said. "It just got pretty annoying. They couldn't tell me anything else about Kansas except Toto and Dorothy."
Despite the teasing, Boyd did enjoy his time as a foreign exchange student in Australia. He met several other students from around the world.
Boyd isn't the only BHS student to study abroad in Australia. BHS teacher and 1991 graduate Kit Harris studied there for a whole year while at Baldwin High. Harris hopes to share stories with Boyd about their experiences.
"I am going to talk to him more when I get a chance," Harris said. "He was on the west coast and I was on the east. I'm sure that was an exciting opportunity. That's a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
"It's a really cool trip," Harris said. "You are really far away from home, but they still speak English. It has awesome weather and great sites. It's also a very unpolluted country. It is a lot of fun."
After returning home, Boyd was impressed with how much he learned about himself while halfway around the Earth.
"It was really good," said Boyd. "You not only learn a lot about the country itself, but you learn a lot about yourself. I learned a lot about myself that no one else would point out to you."
Boyd may have learned a lot about himself while in Australia, but he also spent weeks with the other exchange students. He even went on a two-week trip through the Australian Outback.
"I went on a safari all around Western Australia," Boyd said. "I camped in the outback for two weeks with just a sleeping bag and a tarp. We cooked out food over the campfire. I went with all of the other exchange students. We all traveled around and saw different things."
During the excursion, the group saw numerous species of wildlife, especially kangaroos. Most of the animals weren't a problem for the students, but one particular ornery one was.
"I had a dingo steal my shoe while I was sleeping," Boyd said. "They steal anything that is not hooked down especially if it's shiny. I found it eventually, but it was over by a tree about 100 yards away. I just kind of stumbled upon it."
Boyd spent much of his time in Western Australia. On one adventure, he went snorkeling in the Indian Ocean.
"We went up to the very northern part of W.A. and we went snorkeling over a reef," Boyd said. "We went quite a ways out. It was a giant coral reef and we saw some giant fish, sting rays and other animals."
He eventually made his way to the eastern part of the continent, but only for a brief time.
"I went to Sydney, but I didn't go around very much," Boyd said. "I had to stay pretty close to the airport. It was a really nice area."
Time for school
While in Australia, Boyd attended Armadale Senior High School in Perth. He took a normal course schedule, but that might have been the only similar aspect of the school system.
"I did my regular courses and got credit for my stuff here also," Boyd said. "I didn't study anything particularly special, but it was just an experience because they run things differently."
The grading system at Armadale was vastly different from the American style. According to Boyd, students were graded on a one to seven scale with one being the lowest and seven the highest.
Another aspect of the school that was peculiar to Boyd was the set up of the classrooms and buildings.
"They were all outside," Boyd said. "There are random, individual buildings connected together. They had no air conditioning, just heaters. They just opened up the doors, so you pretty much felt like you were sitting outside. Like an entire wall would be an open window. It was really pretty cool."
The last, but certainly not least highlight of the school system dealt with deadlines and letting the students be more chilled.
"They just seemed to be a lot more relaxed about everything in general," Boyd said. "They don't have nearly as much homework, which could just be the school I went to. But everybody in that area was really chilled.
"They got it done, more or less, when they got it done," Boyd said. "They set deadlines, but they weren't really set in stone. It was a relaxed setting, which was cool."
Down under love
From August to mid-January, Boyd spent time in Australia with the American Field Service Intercultural Programs. BHS has taken in many exchange students over the years, but not many students have traveled to other countries.
"There have been some other students like Charley Jo Schwartz (2006 BHS graduate) and Katie Sigvaldson (BHS senior) that went for a short time," Harris said. "The time to take a trip like that is when you are a student, because it's really affordable."
Boyd's reasons for taking the trip were simple.
"I wanted to see other parts of the world," Boyd said. "I also wanted to see other cultures and how they are run.
"I've always had a fascination with Australia and thought it would be a great place to go," Boyd said. "There are lots of beaches and lots of interesting people. I was also considering Hungary and Austria, but Australia was my first choice."
On Aug. 4, Boyd left Kansas for Perth, Australia. His initial reaction to the country was positive.
"I just thought wow," Boyd said. "It was very beautiful and scenic. It was very clean too. It was very impressive."
His impression of Australia didn't change from August until he returned home last week.
"It's a great experience that I would recommend to just about anybody. I know we have lots of people coming in but enough going out."
One of the first things Boyd had to take care of after returning home was preparing for classes at BHS. He started back as a BHS student on Monday, but he still felt like he was on vacation.
"It's pretty cool to be back, but I still feel a little estranged," Boyd said. "I recognize the people and the places but it still feels a little weird. I am kind of missing the warm weather and the beach."
Boyd wishes more students will become foreign exchange students.
"I would recommend it, because it's really a wonderful experience," Boyd said. "You will have a little different experience at different places, but overall it's the same. I talked to people that went to all different places around the world. They all had different memories, but their experience was the same. It's a really special thing."