February 11, 2023

Overseas and Off-Campus Programs Blog

Comings and Goings

Author Name

Alistair Thorpe and Camille Hildum

Author Program


Program Semester and Year

Spring 2023

Student Major


On Monday January 23, we attended the Bondi Beach Flickrfest to watch award winning Australian short films. Normally this festival is held outside, but on this day we were surrounded by incredible thunderstorms, so we filled a small theater to watch films. The producers gave a small speech on the inspiration and acknowledgement of their work, many of which filmed and produced the films within a few short days. The films embodied a wide range of symantec landscapes and interesting political/social commentary. Afterwards we stood on Bondi Beach as lightning in the distance decided to have its own light/film festival.

On Tuesday, January 24, we attended a lecture deconstructing the Australian criminal justice system: how it functions, who is most affected and how, and how the social and how politics inevitably play a huge role in the systematics of aboriginal groups in particular. We also watched parts of the Australian film Bush Law, which highlighted how Australia’s criminal justice system directly conflicts with indigenous laws. This makes closure for wrongs committed in those communities difficult to attain. That evening students gathered in the common room to yarn The Uluru Statement of the Heart. We learned that the statement intends to give First Nations people a larger voice in policy and decision making in the Australian government.

On Wednesday, January 25, students were turned loose to work on their independent projects. Many students ended up visiting the library of New South Wales followed by taking a ferry out to Manly beach. This day was also the lead up to Australia Day. There was an optional activity to take part in banner painting for the Invasion Day protest that would be held the following morning. Many students took part in this activity painting signs in black red and yellow the colors of the First Nations Flag. Shenanigans were numerous this Wednesday, involving large spiders and missed ferries.

On Thursday, January 26, we came to discover that “Australia Day” is somewhat of a hot topic in contemporary discussion surrounding acknowledgement of Aboriginal history in Australia. For some this day is one of national pride, marking the landing of the “First Fleet” and the raising of the Union flag by Arthur Phillip in 1788, while for many others, the 26th represents the horror and tragedy placed upon First Nations people by colonial invasion. So on this day, many of the students led by our fantastic coordinator marched in the blistering sun to acknowledge the people whom Australian history has failed to recognize up until recently. Other students walked around and enjoyed the festivities, myself included. Later on as the sun set, we took a train to witness a show held around the Sydney Opera House. This included an impressive light and semi impressive firework show and guest artists singing covers such as AC DC’S “ Thunderstruck.” Many proud Australians took it upon themselves to take their disco party boats around in Circles, while waving at the onlookers singing to “Thunderstruck.” Most importantly the commentators there simultaneously addressed powerful messages about body positivity. If it all sounds a bit comedic, it was, but a great experience nonetheless.

Friday, January 27, was a free day. While it was very relaxing and much needed, many folks from the program took public transit to the many beaches within 30 minutes of Mandelbaum. Others, including myself, laid in hammocks on the patio and eagerly planned our week off. Friday night in Sydney, as many of us have discovered, has a thriving live music scene. King Street, a ten minute walk from home, held events starring big names in everything from house and techno, with artists like Fred Again and Bicep to hip hop artists such as Yung Lean. This came as a pleasant surprise, as King Street, while busy and bustling, has a very local and humble and charming atmosphere.

The following morning (Saturday, January 28) we headed off early to Royal National Park, a beautiful piece of Australian nature, home to many waterfalls, bluewater beaches, and stunning limestone cliffs overlooking the ocean. We hiked as a group on narrow boards, walking over the rugged shoreline, before we descended into a small valley and arrived at the swimming hole. We swam and had lunch while enjoying the beautiful gum tree forest which lived above us. We went our separate ways and recombined at an oceanfront beach, one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever experienced. There students swam in the ocean making their best attempts to body surf the waves and passed around goggles looking for fish. That evening we headed back for our second to last night at Mandelbaum house.