Hi, my name is Savannah, and I grew up in Australia. Technically, I am from New Zealand and South Africa, considering I have citizenship in both of these countries, but in my heart, I’m a straight up Aussie. Travelling to and from Denmark, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and now the US, I have had the privilege of experiencing many different cultures.
I moved to California in August 2016 from Queensland, Australia, where my house was a five-minute drive from “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin’s “Australia Zoo,” and firstly, there are a few things I want to confirm. Yes, we do have Christmas in summer, water does naturally turn the opposite direction down the sink, and Vegemite is a common household item, which, when used correctly, is enjoyable.
The tech industry brought my dad on frequent work trips to San Francisco and Palo Alto, and distant family brought us to Marin, specifically Mill Valley and Tiburon. My parents both loved Mill Valley. Coming from a semi-rural location, it seemed somewhat similar to our old lifestyle, except for the close housing proximity to our neighbours. (I enrolled in Tam at the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year as sophomore.)
America’s education system is very different to what I experienced in Australia. Uniforms are required in most Australian state and private schools, and are often prioritized over the education itself. Uniform monitoring came down to the small things, such as colored hair ties, printed socks, the length of compulsory skirts, ensuring we would wear blazers over sweaters and never sweaters alone. There is such an immense focus on only allowing leather black ankle length shoes and no jewelry other than one pair of gold or silver studs, that many believe the standards of education are sacrificed. Many Australians love the ideas of not having uniforms, but are afraid of being judged. This is not a fear in America. At Tam, I was not trying to impress others with my wardrobe, and I did not have teachers and administrators trying to squeeze me back into the crowd.
I saw someone wearing blue mascara the first day of school. My Australian-wired brain immediately recognised the person as doing something that I did not consider “normal.” Throughout my time in the US, I learned to appreciate individuality on a level I never had before. Before long, I was buying purple mascara myself.
In the U.S., students can take accelerated classes and challenge themselves as much as they would like. In Australia, my classes were mostly chosen for me, and there weren’t as many opportunities. Tall Poppy Syndrome is a common phenomenon in Australia that describes the tendency for ambition to be discouraged. In many ways, it is the opposite in America. My friends in Australia did not encourage me to work hard in life, get good grades, and try to get into selective universities. My friends here, on the other hand, motivate me to push myself to my full potential.
At first, I was overwhelmed by the competitive nature of Marin, but now, I love it. I’ve learned to respect and nurture my academic abilities.
I am lucky to have landed in an area that educates me in many topics which Australia did not, such as racial and gender equality and education regarding politics. That being said, my experience with shortcomings in Australia’s education system is specific to myself and I cannot speak on the behalf of all Australians.
Overall, I am fortunate and lucky to have been a part of the community at Tam, and Mill Valley more broadly. Alas, my family has decided that America is not the right fit for them. Despite the downsides to Australian culture, though, there are many things I love about it:….. I am moving back in a few days, and I must say I’ll miss the States. No doubt about it, I’ll be back. It’s just a question of when.