Archive for the ‘Beach Orientation’ Category

Sitting in the Study Abroad pre-departure meetings, I thought the information was irrelevant and tiresome. There was all of this talk about “The Stages of Studying Abroad” and adjusting to a new culture. But I thought, “I’m as cool as a cucumber, traveling thousands of miles away will not faze me.”


After the initial week of adjusting, the “honeymoon phase” began.  Oh how grand the honeymoon phase was. Everything was sunshine and high-fives. Everyone was open to meeting each other, and there was always something to do. There was no school. My bank account looked gigantic. I was convinced that this was going to be the feeling for the entire trip. What’s this about a “Frustration Stage?” It sounds like a bunch of phooey.

And as sure as Lara Bingle threw Australian Cricketer Michael Clarke’s wedding ring down the toilet (yes that is an Australian pop culture reference), the “Frustration Stage” hit. Some of my initial excitement began to wear off. I started to have more questions.

Why am I not getting in to any more adventures?

Why have I not met more locals?

Am I missing out on what my friends are doing back home?

Why are some people having a better time than I am?

Why is Burger King called Hunger Jack’s?

This so-called “Frustration Stage” has been difficult. Since the lull of school took over, it has felt like I was doing the same thing I did at ODU. School, gym, Facebook, going out on the weekend. While that routine works fine while at ODU, my time in Australia should not be a mirror image. So, keeping with the mirror theme, I played “Man in the Mirror” and reflected on my time. After hearing the musical inspiration, I stood up and said, “apathy be damned!” I must change my ways.

Thankfully, the “Frustration Stage” was short lived. I decided that if I really want to jump in to Australia, I would have to talk to as many people as I can. Sure, some people will be cold and not care to talk, but many others are happy to talk about a sweet spot for adventure. Like my good friend Sid, the owner/operator of Café Delish, he always has a story to tell. Or take my fellow classmates, who I now strike up random conversation whenever possible. Hello “Understanding stage,” my name is Stephen Benkert.


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The next morning came early. Every day starts at 7am for those that can muster enough energy to fall out of the bunk beds (the sleeping arrangements have been made in the local hostels).

I must say, the hostels in Lorne were far nicer than the ones in Sydney. Our hostel even had fresh fruits to enjoy.

Hostel Entrance

The orientation had a “camp” feel to it. Our day was very structured, with activities to do all day. However, unlike camp, if you didn’t show up to an activity, your parents were not called.

The activities for the day varied depending on the color of your wristband. My schedule was such, adventure challenge, biking, and ending with late afternoon surfing.  To be honest, the adventure challenge was more of a challenge for the instructors than the students. Basically it was 15 vs. 15 beach volleyball. The bike ride was pleasant.

Bike Ride Final Destination

It is no secret that everyone waited around to go surfing. The surfing was fantastic. Seeing as “Virginia has no waves,” I was able to catch some killer swells. All in all the day was enjoyable.

The following day we departed on “The Great Ocean Road” to see the 12 Apostles. Heed the advice of those that say, “Sit on the left and don’t have a late night out before getting on the bus.” Even those with iron stomachs like myself became a wee bit queasy on this road that had more twists and turns than a slightly above average soap opera.

“The Great Ocean Road” is an unbelievable journey on the coast of southern Australia and culminates at the 12 Apostles. The 12 Apostles are massive rock formations that stand alone and guard the ocean. Regardless that the 12 Apostles are now around 6, due to erosion and whatnot, it is still a sight to see.

An Apostle

More Apostles

Even More Apostles

What a beach orientation! It was educational and enjoyable. It was a great way to make friends with other international students. We were able to surf and relax. Best of all, the entire trip was free! Thank you Deakin.

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I will tell you to study abroad at Deakin for this lone reason, beach orientation. If there has ever been a better idea than beach orientation for new students, I have never been privy to such idea. Putting 140 international students in the small town of Lorne means one thing, rich adventures.

The trip starts with a two-hour bus trip from Melbourne to Lorne. Sit on the left side of the bus. Always sit on the left side of the bus. Once we arrived, we had our brief orientation. After a few hours of powerpoint slides, I gathered this, “Work hard, play hard, meet people, and swim between the flags.”

Hanging at the hostel

Our first day there, we had a fair amount of free time. The only real scheduled event was dinner. What do you get when you combine decks, students, warm weather, and nothing to do? Many cheers and drinks to good health. After dinner, the entire group headed over to Cuda Bar, quadrupling its attendance. The night was grand.

Here is a story of Australian hospitality at its finest: While at the only bar in Lorne that stays open past 10pm, a sudden event changed the lives of a hundred international students. At first, it started with a few murmurs of free drinks at the bar. Then there was talk about some man named Simon. Minutes later, everyone in the bar had libations in hand without giving more than a tip.

Well, a millionaire satellite developer was just passing through Lorne and wanted to make sure all of these international students had a night they would not soon forget. So, why not put down a $5,000 bar tab? (That soon ran out, so without delay, he put another $1,000 down). Thank you Simon. I will remember, however, some will only remember the night through the tales of others.

Next up Days 2 & 3

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