I am writing from Australia, where I am studying at Southern Cross University in Lismore, New South Wales. I’ve been here a week, and have had some wonderful experiences, but I miss Mills! I am able to pretend like I’m home, though, because of all the eucalyptus trees around. Also, I don’t have a chance to miss the Fournders Hill or the Mary Morse Hill, because I have to trudge up and down an even larger hill every day in order to get to classes. At least I’ll return to the hilly Mills campus without a problem.
Australia is wonderful, and I haven’t experienced much culture shock. Of course there isn’t any language barrier, and there are many of the same stores, restaurant chains, brands, and T.V. shows here; so I really feel quite at ease. My main difficulty has been adjusting to a coeducational environment again.
It has been two and a half years since high school, and I had forgotten how the interactions between males and females can affect group dynamics. During my initial orientation through the IFSA-Butler program I was appalled at the way my peers were acting. As I put it in an email to friends and family: “Why are women who are not Mills women, not, well, Mills women? Why are women outside our oasis so stereotypical? And why are some boys so full of themselves? The random flirtations I saw, where the males of our species strutted around like peacocks showing off their tails and the girls lowered their IQs by about 1000 points in order to make themselves nothing but brainless, giggling pounds of makeup. It is disgusting. And I now truly realize the monopoly males have on group discussions. For example: Out of the 12 of us who are going to Southern Cross, four are boys. Whenever the group was together the guys would dominate the discussion, they’d ask all the questions, and they’d make asses out of themselves to impress each other and the girls. Oh, how I missed Mills over those days.”
In a nutshell, that was my first reaction to being away from Mills. In the past couple of years I have become accustomed to being around women who strive to make their voices heard; women who try to break down the stereotypes which have evolved over the generations. However, I have since had to admit to myself that first impressions are misleading. I have spoken with many of those young women and men in my program, and they are very respectable, intelligent, and strong-willed. I am happy to be getting to know those people, and I’m happy to be here.
I’ve only been gone a couple of weeks, but I know this will be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. If you have a chance to study abroad, do it. But in the meantime, enjoy Mills. And go up to Founders and eat some fro-yo on my behalf. But most of all, keep being the amazing Mills women that you are (and if you’re a male grad student, keep being the amazing Mills man that you are.) Mills surely is one-of-a-kind.