Category Archives: Australia

Holiday Weekend in Gold Coast, Queensland

By   April 30, 2013

I flew up to Gold Coast last Wednesday to meet up with one of my oldest friends from Michigan. Jessica just finished her postdoc in Melbourne and is moving back to the US tomorrow, so this was our last trip together in Australia.


View from hotel in Broadbeach


Queensland needs more beaches

Most people head to the GC either for the beaches or the theme parks. We did spend some time on the beach, but we actually spent most of the time playing with cute Australian animals at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.


Jessica and me on the train at Currumbin


Momma kangaroo and joey

Of the various districts in the Gold Coast, Surfers Paradise is probably the most well-known and popular. I definitely heard a lot of foreign languages (mostly French!) spoken there. The tallest building in Australia, Q1, is also in Surfers Paradise. You can go up to the Skypoint observation deck (though it’s rather expensive) or even climb around outside.


The Q1 in Surfers Paradise

We also rented a car for the day and drove down to Byron Bay in New South Wales, where the most easterly point of the Australian mainland is.


As close to the US as I can get on foot

Gold Coast is a great tourist destination since the airport is quite small (and resembles a food court more than an airport) and public transportation to and from the airport is incredibly easy to figure out. Bus 702 serves the airport every half hour and heads up the Gold Coast Highway. If you buy a go card from the shuttle desk in the airport (for $5) and add money to it, you will save a lot.

The rest of my travel photos are in the Gold Coast album at the Gallery.

A Weekend on Kangaroo Island, South Australia

By   February 1, 2013

Kangaroo Island is Australia’s third-largest island and definitely worth a visit for the beautiful beaches and adorable wildlife. Although I’ve been to many beaches in Australia already, every new one I see is just as gorgeous as the last one. KI did not disappoint.

Pennington Bay

Pennington Bay

The first view upon getting off the ferry in Penneshaw:

Clear water

Clear water

Sadly, I did not see any (live) kangaroos on the island, but I did see plenty of sea lions, wallabies, echidnas, goannas and koalas.


Sleepy sea lion at Seal Bay

My friend and I drove down for the weekend (it’s only a 1.5 hour drive from Adelaide, plus a 45 minute ferry) so we weren’t able to visit all of the towns and attractions. We mostly did the southern coast along the highway (the only paved road) since riding in my little car probably wouldn’t have been too comfortable in the north, where almost all of the roads are gravel. The major tourist attractions are mostly along the southern coast too.

Remarkable Rocks

Remarkable Rocks

Weirs Cove

Weirs Cove

You can also fly to Kingscote from Adelaide and rent a car (there are no taxis or public transportation on the island) instead of driving. There are some bus tours that depart from Adelaide but the one day tour sounds extremely exhausting, so I would highly recommend driving and staying for a few nights. Just try not to drive after dark when the animals come out!

Watch out for wildlife on the roads

Watch out for wildlife on the roads

Check out the Kangaroo Island album in the Gallery for more photos.

Australian Vacation / Holiday 2012

By   December 19, 2012

I recently returned from two weeks of travelling around Australia. A friend from Arizona, Michelle, came to Australia for the first time and we decided to visit all of the major tourist attractions. We went to Sydney and Melbourne, drove along the Great Ocean Road, enjoyed a few days at the Great Barrier Reef and Whitehaven Beach, and finished at Ayers Rock Resort. Michelle also came back to Adelaide with me and we went to Cleland Wildlife Park so she could hold a koala (one of the few places in Australia where you can do that) and up to the Barossa Valley for a wine tour. Because of the large distances between all of these places, we had to fly everywhere but since flying in Australia is the opposite of flying in the US (i.e. it is actually a pleasant experience), we had no problems with our flights or baggage.

I met Michelle in Melbourne where I had rented a car so we (ok, I since Michelle had never driven on the left before) could drive along the Great Ocean Road. We actually did it in one day, which turned out to be nine hours of driving for me, but we made so many stops along the way that I was not tired at all. Plus the drive is incredibly beautiful and I was so excited to finally be doing it.



We also wandered around Melbourne in 100° heat (38°C) and watched the Penguin Parade on Phillip Island. Then it was off to Airlie Beach where we did the Great Barrier Reef and Whitehaven Beach tours with Cruise Whitsundays. I managed to not get sick on the boats, but even if you are prone to motion sickness, they are totally worth it!



Next we flew down to Sydney and luckily it was not as hot as in Melbourne. I don’t really like big cities but the big cities in Australia are different than those in Europe or the US. I can’t really explain it but they are just somehow better (like everything in Australia!)


The last destination was, of course, Ayers Rock – or Uluru, as it is called by the traditional owners of the land, the Anangu people. There are also other rocks in the national park, called The Olgas or Kata Tjuta, which are just as beautiful. A three day pass to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park only costs $25, but getting there and the price of accommodation can be a bit high.


We flew to the Ayers Rock airport instead of Alice Springs (“only” a five hour drive away) because we were staying at the Ayers Rock Resort next to the national park, which is the only place to stay since there is no camping inside the park. It is essentially its own little town, with a gas station, grocery store, post office, police station, etc. but what I loved most was hearing so many languages. Since Ayers Rock is the biggest tourist destination after Sydney and the Great Barrier Reef, there are more foreign tourists there than Australians. Australia is very multilingual and I often hear several languages in the big cities and even when I’m out shopping in the suburbs of Adelaide, but languages were everywhere at Ayers Rock! In addition to the wonderful dry heat of the desert (anything less than 95°F / 35° C and I’m chilly), it was paradise for me.


I’ve already uploaded my photos to the Gallery, and I’ll work on typing up some travel trips for anyone who is interested in going to the same places. But I do need to get back to working on that pesky thesis over Christmas break. If only I had the life of a kangaroo…



I’ve uploaded some videos of Ayers Rock, the Great Barrier Reef and Australian animals to my Youtube channel.

Australia in the Asian Century: Focus on Mandarin, Japanese, Indonesian and Hindi

By   October 30, 2012

The Australia in the Asian Century White Paper was just released on Sunday, and it contains 25 major goals for Australia, some of which pertain to language learning. Essentially, the paper states that every Australian student (in primary or secondary schools) will have the opportunity to learn one of the four priority Asian languages: Mandarin, Japanese, Indonesian and Hindi. In addition, all students will leave school with a knowledge of Asian cultures. You can read the White Paper at the government’s Asian Century site as well as a response to it by the Australian Federation of Modern Language Teachers Associations. A few other articles include:

Gillard: Australia must embrace ‘Asian Century’

Questions over white paper implementation

Australia’s Asian Literacy in the Asian Century

That last article by William Steed pretty much sums up everything I have to say about this paper. I’m glad the government is actively promoting learning languages and using technology to do so (with the National Broadband Network), but this is mostly a continuation of what previous governments have been encouraging for years. The switch from a focus on Korean to Hindi is a tiny bit surprising, and will probably require the most work to implement. Of course I am most interested in where the teachers for these languages will come from. Many universities have already shut down Indonesian programs because of a lack of interest, so how are we supposed to train students to become language teachers if they can’t even learn languages at university? And as a speaker/teacher of a European language, I wonder what this means for other non-Asian languages.

My university currently offers classes in French, Italian and Japanese, though students can take other languages such as Mandarin, Spanish, German and Indonesian cross-institutionally. Japanese and French have the highest enrollments, and almost all of the students in my class said they chose French because it is a global language and would be more useful in their future careers. So while I am happy that the government encourages language learning, I feel that focusing on Asian languages only is not necessarily the way to go about it. There are many other languages spoken in Australia, and students have many reasons for learning foreign languages, which include living abroad. Not every student is going to stay and work in Australia. I had a similar feeling in the US where Spanish is promoted as THE language to learn, and sometimes it is the only language offered. I knew that I wanted to leave the US and that Spanish would not be as useful to me as French. If I had been forced to take Spanish classes instead of being offered a choice of which language to learn, I don’t think I would have had much motivation.

And indeed, the motivation to learn a language is probably the most important aspect of language acquisition. If you have no interest in a language or its culture, you will not learn very much or very well. Motivation often comes from an appreciation and/or love of the culture, not the actual language itself. Future career or travel goals are also major factors. I’ve actually switched from a focus on Italian and German to Spanish (oh how ironic!) and Dutch/Afrikaans because I plan to travel to places where those languages are spoken within the next few years. Although there are some Italian and German speakers here in South Australia, I have slightly less motivation to study those languages because I know I will not be returning to Europe anytime soon.

Obviously I did not grow up in Australia or go to school here, but from what I’ve heard from teenagers who are thinking about going to university, languages are not valued or encouraged enough in the school system. Students said the classes were too hard or too boring, or they simply didn’t think they would ever need another language while living in Australia. And of course, only spending a few hours a week for maybe three years in no way guarantees that students will become proficient in the language. By the time they enter university, they have bad memories of language classes and choose not to take them anymore, especially when it is difficult to add elective classes to their timetables. And since there is no foreign language requirement in order to obtain a Bachelor’s degree (not that I agree with required classes anyway…), very few students end up taking a language at university, and far fewer actually become fluent.

In a perfect world, all languages would be offered so students would have the choice of which language(s) to learn. This is possible with online classes and I am eager to see how or if the NBN will change teaching in Australia. Of course, the way we teach languages needs to change as well, but that’s another blog post (or thesis!)

404 Days in Australia: On my way to Permanent Residency

By   August 13, 2012

As I am diligently working on my PhD research and starting to write up my preliminary results, I haven’t had much time to devote to the website or blog. My one year anniversary of arriving in Australia came and went in the middle of finally buying a car, learning to drive on the left, moving into a house, spending way too much money on furniture and appliances, and adopting a cute black cat.

His name is Charlie. Or Chah-lee.

I am feeling much more settled in my life in Australia. I really like my house, I can go to the places that I need to go without having to depend on someone else, and I have a routine and purpose to my days that was missing in France. I have two years left of my PhD, and then I hope to do a post-doc and perhaps even stay in academia to become a full-time French and/or linguistics lecturer. Or maybe I will leave academia and do something completely different. I’m not entirely sure. The certainty in all of this is that I will stay in Australia. Once I finish my PhD, I can apply for permanent residency, and then hopefully one more year after that I can apply for citizenship.

I am much happier in Australia than I was in France, mostly because I feel that I can have a real career with a decent income here. In France, I was always searching for a better and permanent job but always ended up with temporary contracts and very low incomes (compared to the US and Australia, that is.) Teaching English was never my passion even though I have a TESL certificate and many years of experience. Teaching French to Anglophones instead of teaching English to Francophones was always my intended goal, but I could never accomplish that while in France.

There are things that I miss about France because they were such a large and important part of my life. But life goes on regardless of where I am in the world. True friends know how to stay in touch, and I can always go back and visit. I still love being a tourist and traveling around France but living there as an expat is a totally different experience that I don’t want to try again. And it certainly isn’t that I don’t care much for France; it’s more that I am completely in love with Australia.

I love wide open spaces and sunshine. Plus cute animals!

For now I’d like to focus on the French influence in the South Pacific, and to help Australians learn about all of the wonderful places  that are much closer to home than France. (New Caledonia and French Polynesia are at the top of my travel list once I’ve seen more of Australia.) I am, of course, very interested in creating resources for Australian students learning French since all of the textbooks used here are either written for American students or designed for foreigners living in France. Implementing online French classes for students in rural areas is also important to me. Australia is a big country with not a lot of people, but the few people who do live far away from the major cities deserve the opportunity to have a good education as well.

On textbooks, moving, and being cold in Australia

By   July 7, 2012

Sorry about the lack of updates lately! I have now been in Australia for one year, which means (supposedly) I am a third of the way through my PhD already.  My days are filled with reading textbooks (all eighteen of them) and analysing vocabulary lists, which I know sounds incredibly tedious exciting. I’m also currently in the middle of moving so even though we’re still on the break between semesters, I haven’t had any time to update the site or blog.

Just a few of my new best friends

I am extremely excited about the house I’m moving into (not so much about all the money I’m spending on furniture though), especially since it has ducted heating & cooling. Australia may be known as a hot country, and it doesn’t exactly get that cold in winter – the average temp around here is 15° C / 59°F – but to North Americans like me, it is very cold indoors. Houses aren’t built to keep the warmth in, and a lot of places just have electric heaters which are very expensive to use. The place I live now is usually only 12° C / 53.6°F when I get up in the morning. I cannot wait for spring! Plus I will be able to have a cat at the new place, so Canaille will soon have an Aussie cousin. The other major accomplishment this past month was buying a car. I’m still getting used to driving on the left, though it’s actually sitting on the right side of the car and using my left hand to shift into drive that I still find bizarre. I keep reaching for the seatbelt on the wrong side!

She’s the same age as some of my students

So while I’m still distracted from the blog thanks to real life, here’s a quote from Paul Nation on the vocabulary in language textbooks that teachers and students should think about:

“It is worth noting that there are principles that some teachers and course designers follow that go against research findings. These include: ‘All vocabulary learning should occur in context,’ ‘The first language should not be used as a means of presenting the meaning of a word,’ ‘Vocabulary should be presented in lexical sets,’ Most attention should be paid to the first presentation of  a word,’ and ‘Vocabulary learning does not benefit from being planned, but can be determined by the occurrence of words in texts, tasks and themes.’ Course designers who follow these principles should read the relevant research and reconsider their position.” (Learning Vocabulary in Another Language, 2001, p. 387)

I am particularly interested in the first three principles, and I’ve already posted about use of the first language in classrooms. The issue of lexical sets is what I am focusing on right now and will hopefully be able to write about on the blog soon.

Happy Australia Day!

By   January 25, 2012

Happy Australia Day to my Aussie friends!

Australia Day commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove in 1788. The Commonwealth of Australia was officially formed on January 1, 1901, when the colonies federated but this date is not widely known as Commonwealth Day since it is already a public holiday (New Year’s Day) and Australia Day had already been established on January 26.

Though it does not celebrate independence from Britain after a bloody war as the American national holiday does, Australia Day traditions are quite similar: barbecues, beaches, parades and fireworks. However, today I will be participating in another British/Australian tradition which I know nothing about. I will be attending a cricket match at the Adelaide Oval!

In any case, to celebrate all things Australian, I give you a commercial that will seem oddly familiar to Americans:

 Football, Meat Pies, Kangaroos and Holden cars
They go together underneath the Southern stars

 It is the Australian version of the famous American jingle by Chevrolet! (Chevrolet is called Holden in Australia.)

Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet
They go together in the good ol’ USA

I hope everyone has a great Australia Day!

Cost of Living in Australia: My Personal Experience

By   January 19, 2012

January 2015: Updated to include living costs for all three places I have lived in the suburbs of Adelaide.

I was warned about the high cost of living in Australia before moving here, though luckily it is not as bad as I thought it would be. Perhaps it is because I came directly from France rather than the US, but I feel as though the only expense that is very high in Australia is rent. Yet keeping in mind that there are only 20 million people in this entire country (roughly the size of the US minus Alaska) and that most of them live in the big cities near the coasts, it’s understandable that the rents would be higher in a city of millions of people compared to 50 thousand, which was the average size of cities where I’ve previously lived.

Sizes of Australia and US compared

Rents have also increased in recent years due to the mining boom and the strength of the Australian dollar, which was just a few cents off the US dollar in the 2010’s.  For comparison, it was $1 USD = $1.50 AUD ten years ago. (By 2015, the AUD had decreased in value to about $1.20 for $1 USD). Once you leave the large cities and head to the countryside, prices are much cheaper and similar to what I’ve found in the Midwest. Yet living in the countryside in Australia is a bit harder than in the US because of the lack of people, which means a lack of certain infrastructure facilities and services. Many of the small towns only have populations in the hundreds.

However, cost of living is only half the story. Incomes also need to be taken into account. It doesn’t really matter what the cost of living is or how much you make; what matters most is how much money you have left over each month. In France, my bills were high but my salary was incredibly low. In Australia, my bills are still high but my salary is 50% more than what I made in France – and keep in mind that my income in Australia is a living stipend that is just above poverty level, whereas my income in France was for a full-time job that required a Master’s degree. So I am much better off financially in Australia.

Cost of Living in Australia

For anyone who is interested in living in Australia, here is what I have paid and currently pay living close to Adelaide (only about 5 miles/8 kms from the city center) for three different locations. Keep in mind that I am single with no kids AND prices are much higher in Sydney/Melbourne/Brisbane so if you are planning on moving somewhere else in Australia and you have a family, these costs may not help you much. If you are a student in Adelaide, you can expect to pay between $130 and $180 a week (about $560-$780 per month) if you rent a room in an apartment or house, and that usually includes utilities such as electricity/gas, water, and internet. Check your university’s accommodation website for listings, as well as for current rents.

1. Monthly Bills for apartment near campus

Rent (includes water): $1300

– two-bedroom, furnished 60 M2 apartment run by a student housing company that is 2 minutes from campus so I could walk. Obviously I could have cut this in half if I had a roommate but I quite enjoyed having the whole place to myself. (Other big cities have higher rents; luckily Adelaide is not as expensive as everywhere else.)

Electricity: $50 for most of the year; $100 during “winter”

– there was no actual heating system in the apartment so I had electric heaters, which meant that this bill was higher in the winter months. No gas in this apartment (only electric stove/oven).

Internet: $30

– for 10 GB of data per month, but you can definitely find cheaper/more data. Since I was in student housing, it was just easier to use their pre-paid internet. Some companies do offer unlimited DSL internet (no data caps) for about $60 a month, but their customer service is not the greatest.

Cell phone: $30 (pre-paid through Telstra, which I rarely use)

Groceries: $150

Transportation: $15 (about half off normal bus fares thanks to my student ID)

Laundry: $8

  • Total monthly bills: about $1600

2. Monthly bills for house near campus + car (2012-2014)

Rent (includes water): $1540

– three-bedroom house, within walking distance to campus. I had one or two housemates for some of the time to reduce costs.

Electricity/Gas: $100-$150

– gas stove and hot water heater plus ducted heating/cooling; having both gas and electricity means paying two supply charges of over $70 each quarter in addition to usage charges

Internet: $60

– for 150 GB of data per month (DSL connection through Internode)

Cell phone: $15 (pre-paid, which I rarely use)

Groceries: $180-$200 (I adopted a cat in 2012 and his food is expensive because he is spoiled)

Gas/Petrol: $40-$50 (I didn’t have to drive much since I lived near campus)

  • Total monthly bills: about $2000 (maximum without housemates)

3. Monthly bills for house near campus + car (2014-2015)

Rent (includes water): $1250

– three-bedroom house, within walking distance to campus. I have one housemate (but she was gone for 6 months so I paid full rent during that time).

Electricity/Gas: $200

– gas oven/stove and hot water heater plus one heater in lounge; having both gas and electricity means paying two supply charges of over $70 each quarter in addition to usage charges. This house is a bit older and very drafty so it’s insanely cold in winter and the heater uses both gas and electricity.

Internet: $73

– for 50 GB of data per month (I couldn’t get DSL in this location so I had to get a cable connection)

Cell phone: $15 (pre-paid, which I rarely use)

Groceries: $180-$200

Gas/Petrol: $40-50 (I don’t have to drive much since I live near campus)

  • Total monthly bills: about $1800 (maximum without housemates)

Yearly Bills

Private health insurance (optical/dental): $264

Renter’s insurance: $170

Car registration: $600

Vet plan for cat (consultations/vaccinations): $280

No residency card because my visa is valid for the duration of my PhD. (Though I did pay $550 to get the visa in the first place.)

No income taxes because my living stipend is tax-free, and currently income up to $18,200 is not taxed either.

No occupancy tax on my apartment or houses.

There are other costs to factor in, especially if you move to a new place, such as disconnection and reconnection fees for electricity/gas, cancellation fees for breaking contracts, and new phone line installation for internet connections (even if you never plan on using the phone line!). When I moved between houses in 2014, I had to pay around $150 for electricity/gas to be moved and $358 for a new phone line in order to get cable internet connected. I also bought a lot of furniture and appliances since the houses I lived in were not furnished (except for an oven) but you can find really inexpensive stuff on Gumtree.

Prices for other things such as clothes, books, electronics, etc. are more expensive than in the US but it is quite easy to find sales and discounts, especially after Christmas and during the end of the fiscal year (June-July). Some stores such as Kmart and The Reject Shop have lower prices as well. Telecommunications are more expensive than France but comparable to the US. Bundles for home phone/TV/internet are around $100-150 a month. Food items can be hit or miss, especially fruits and vegetables, depending on the weather. Bananas were $15 a kilo when I first arrived in 2011 because the crops had been wiped out by cyclone Yasi in Queensland, but now the prices are back down to less than $2 a kilo. Look for food that’s labeled “quick sale” – the expiration date will be that day or the following day so you’ll need to eat it quickly but it will be much cheaper.

Cost of Living in Australia: Bananas were really this expensive in 2011!

Staples such as bread, milk, and pasta are quite cheap but cereal, yogurt and cheese are more expensive than I would have expected. Gas is just over $5 USD a gallon ($1.33 AUD a liter) while eating at restaurants and going to the movies are pretty much New York prices. Since Australia is an island that is rather far from everywhere and has strict import and quarantine rules (to protect from diseases or pests further destroying the native populations), higher prices are reasonable for some things. But with the strength of the Aussie dollar and the ease of shopping online nowadays especially at US stores, there is more competition for local stores to lower prices.

If anyone would like specific prices for certain things, let me know.


Trains and Planes in France and Australia

By   January 6, 2012

Traveling by train is still a pretty nice experience in France, and even though Australia is just as big as the US, long-distance train travel across the continent is quite enjoyable Down Under too. I have taken the high-speed TGV and slower regional TER trains in France numerous times, and when I first arrived in Australia, I took The Overland train from Melbourne to Adelaide. I don’t have much experience with trains in the US, though I would love to hear some opinions on Amtrak.

Most areas of France are well-linked by trains and the TGV routes lead to the major cities. Annecy is only 3.5 hours from Paris on a direct TGV line and tickets can be as low as 17€ or 22€ if you buy early enough. The TER ticket prices never change and you can buy them right before getting on the train. The convenience of being able to hop on a train and get to where you want to go without having to drive (especially if the weather is bad) was always a nice possibility in France. I took the TER to Grenoble last week from Annecy and while it cost 37€, it was probably only slightly more expensive that paying for gas and tolls – which are rather expensive in France – and knowing that I didn’t have to drive through the snow or while tired from traveling/jet lag was worth it.

Even though Australian trains are not high-speed and the journey from Adelaide to Melbourne took 10.5 hours, I would gladly do the trip again to see more of the countryside between the large cities. Australia has fewer major cities (and people! there are only 20 million people in the entire country after all) but they are all linked by railways and tickets can be as low as $50 for some routes. Taking luggage is free though sometimes there are restrictions. For example, the Overland allows 2 checked suitcases at 20 kg each.

I traveled a lot by plane while living in France, but mostly to other countries since France is rather small and taking the train is usually easier. Flying in Europe tended to be a hassle because of the ridiculous liquid ban and always having to go through security at every stopover if you didn’t have a direct flight. Luckily with the Schengen Space nowadays most airports don’t require you to go through security as often as long as you are traveling completely within the borders (similar to flying domestic in the US), and even though you can at least lock your bags (unlike in the US where TSA gets to steal your stuff), friends and family still cannot accompany you to the gate. Plus the US continues to use irradiating body scanners, while they have been recently banned in Europe where they only use non-irradiating scanners. You only have to face the dilemma of get cancer or get groped in North America. So I have never liked flying because of the unpleasant ambiance I find at airports, especially American airports.

And then I flew on a domestic flight in Australia.

What a world of difference:

  •  ANYONE can go through security to get to the gates.
  • You can lock your bags.
  • You don’t have to take off your shoes.
  • The security agents are actually nice!
  • Qantas still provides free food and free checked luggage.
  • Even though Virgin Australia (on a Saver fare) and Jetstar (the low-cost offshoot of Qantas) make you pay extra for food and luggage, it’s still rather affordable to fly across the country.

The only thing that I didn’t like was that no one checked my ID at any point so I could have used someone else’s boarding pass to get on a plane. But overall flying in Australia is a very pleasant experience and a thousand times better than flying in the US.