So you haven't heard from me in a month, which is not so great on my part because now I have so many things to catch you up on and I'm sure you don't want to read it all at once. At least I'll take a stab at starting the process tonight.
After the Melbourne Welcome program I moved into my apartment with my roommate Maya who's from Montreal and Israel. Our apartment is super centrally-located in the middle of a great area of the city and right along the tram like that runs to school. The state library across the street has an awesome lawn that is always crowded with people hanging out or reading. I met the five other religious (American) girls who just happen to live down the hall. It's been really nice to have other people on the hall to hang out with, and we've all bonded and spend a lot of time together. I'll post pictures of my room as soon as I take them, which is generally true of whatever else you would want to see pictures of. I'll get around to taking pictures, but probably at the same rate I've gotten around to posting to my blog.
We had a week of relatively lame orientation activities. Lame, because they were geared for first-years so it was all about adjusting to life at "uni" and study skills and things I wasn't interested in. I got a chance to check out the lively swing dancing scene in Melbourne. I've joined the dance club at uni and I've gone out dancing in the city a couple times as well. Really nice people, and some awesome dancers too. I also got to meet some of the Jewish students who are part of AUJS - the Australasian Union of Jewish Students, which is roughly the equivalent of Hillel in the states. It doesn't really have a strong religious component, though, since most students live at home and wouldn't be around on campus for Shabbat or holidays.
It'll take an entire separate post for me to tell you about how wonderful my experience has been with the Jewish community here, with the student organizations but more significantly with the Conservative community: Kehilat Nitzan. They're just great and I love being with them.
Classes started two and a half weeks ago, and the beginning was incredibly busy for me but really fun too. Instead of just picking my 4 classes in advance and sticking to them, I decided I would be better off if I checked out a bunch of different options and saw which ones I enjoyed the most. That meant that for the first week I attended eight classes and spent my time zigzagging all across the campus. I certainly learned my way around quickly. But it was all worth it, because I ended up with a schedule of classes I really enjoy, with none on Fridays and only one final exam (the rest are papers). Those are:
Algorithms and Data Structures - the only required course for me, replacing one offered back at Penn that I'm missing right now. Many of the concepts, at least so far, are review, but they're programming in C which I haven't really used much, so I've got plenty to learn.
Language and Media - fun times with media analysis and a quirky American professor who combines ridiculous linguistics terminology with media stuff I actually understand.
Media, Politics, and Society - more media analysis with a social/political twist. It's filled with first-year students who talk a lot and dress like each day's a fashion show. It's certainly amusing people-watching, and the class is teaching me a lot about Australian media in particular.
God and the Natural Sciences - more accurately the history of the relationship between science and Christianity since the medieval times, but despite the limited scope it's still really interesting. The main professor is an Anglican priest AND has a PhD in Physics. It's the closest to a philosophy course that I'll probably ever take.
Because of Easter, our semester break starts this weekend. I'm spending Purim and Shabbat with Kehilat Nitzan and then on Sunday I'm flying to New Zealand for a week and a half filled with adventures all over the south island. That trip is part of the reason I am actually getting around to writing to you now, since I know when I get back I'll want to tell you all about my trip.
Thanks to everyone who sent me a note wishing me a happy birthday this week. It was very exciting for me to hear from people all over the world who took a minute to say hello and wish me a good day. It did turn out to be an enjoyable one, despite the fact that birthdays away from home have a tendency to end up pretty disappointing. I got a bunch of friends together - new ones and reconnected ones - and we had ice cream and went out bowling. What a great way to spend an evening! My birthday presents consisted almost entirely of candy and stuffed animals. Did I really turn 21 or maybe 12? or 5? I loved it.
Please don't forget to write and update me about your adventures!