After embarking upon the longest aero plane journey possible (approximately 17 hours from Sydney to Dallas followed by 2 hours domestically) I had arrived in Charlotte to meet and greet with the UNC intercultural outreach program PA's Dion, Anna and Steph along with the self titled 'party bus' of Aim students, it was evident that although the excitement of travelling to the US was compelling, we were ready to reach our destination. After a warm welcome from the staff at the Dury Inn, we lugged ourselves into our rooms, ready to dispel the layers of clothing and baggage that accompanied us on our journey. Eager to make the most out of the night however, we quickly found ourselves venturing to Chilli's
a Mexican fast food joint, we dug into our overly proportioned and conveniently underpriced steaks, and exchanged travel stories of those who had travelled around the US prior to beginning the program.
It was not till after collectively deciding on the appropriate tip amount and momentarily being stunned by cars driving on the wrong side of the road that we made our way into our rooms and attempted to salvage what little sleep we could get after the jet lag settled down.
The first day of our American Adventure began at an early 9am. After scoffing down some classic assortments of waffles and "tatortots", today's escapades began with a trip to Wallmart, where as quoted by one of our fellow team members Rhonda, could be best described as 'Big W on Steroids', with products available ranging from wholefoods, home appliances, to more extremes like ski jackets and white chocolate pringles, banking and insurance and the crÃ¨me de la crÃ¨me? Its very own McDonalds - it was a wonder we even left!
We then proceeded to do a tour of campus, both by Bus and by foot, and were astounded to see just how far we could see the red double brick buildings extended - all 1000 acres (approx. 405 ha). It was so exciting to finally get to know our campus and all the innovative new features of the university and the pride associated with it.
The highlights of our first week would defiantly be the variety of sporting events we have quickly become keen fans of the charlotte hornets, winning against the Miami heat and the Charlotte Checkers whose ice hockey performance was mesmerizing, particularly with an authentic experience of on ice fighting and getting on the big screen, with a few of us getting free t-shirts.
Our weekend has been fraught with a constant battle between working to get our homework done and enjoying the vibrant student life and getting to know the history of our new home. Through our combine classes we were able to meet many American Students and enjoy some southern hospitality at their beautiful student housing facilities.
Our trip to the Levine museum of the New South has substantially allowed us to see the town around us with new eyes, as we understand the strong sense of growth and pride this this town shares and the importance of the cotton industry in allowing it to be a booming commerce hub.
In our free time, we were able to take the time to explore the town at our own pace, which included experiencing the local cinemas - with every chair equip with its own menu and waiters allowing us to order whatever we liked during the movies - talk about dinner and a show!
On the Sunday, we were able to visit the historic Latta plantation. I personally found this to be of great cultural significance and allowed many of the students to reflect on how well off we are in today's society, where cultural diversity is celebrated and the medicinal system is highly effective in improving lives.
We are now regulars at the Charlotte Time Warner Cable Arena. Over the course of three days this week we have watched two NBA games and are fast becoming avid fans of The Hornets, with some healthy banter occurring between program participants after a close game against the Heat, 78 -76.
Our hockey game experiences were thrilling, with the stadium transforming itself from a basketball arena to a ice rink. We were able to finally get on the big screen while supporting the Charlotte Checkers, and the stadium staff allowing some of us access passes to get front domain seats and meet and greet with the cheerleaders and Charlotte V and an Ice Hockey Game.
As you can see, we have been greeted with great southern hospitality making friends with many individuals on campus. We have managed to deal with the homework load so far but it has proven challenging for some. Luckily we have a strong team here and we are able to constantly help one another through the tasks. We are learning a lot about one another and ourselves.