Emily Wotzka | THE SPECTRUM
Claire Hemsley is the witty and authentic Australian with whom I had the pleasure of traveling and forming a friendship with during my time abroad.
Prior to meeting Claire and a number of other Aussies over the course of my trip, I had a very specific opinion of what I thought people from Australia would be like.
I assumed that Aussies were very go-with-the-flow, adventurous and incredibly authentic. Although stereotypes can often be widely exaggerated and inaccurate, I was happily surprised to find that mine were fairly accurate.
While interviewing Claire, I found so much of her Australian culture and language coming through her words. For example, the famous Australian talent of being able to shorten every word imaginable into something that sounds distinctly Australian. Dinner becomes “din din;” afternoon becomes “avo” and football becomes “footy.”
Maybe it’s the accent or the unique sense of bonding you feel when you finally understand what “avo” means, but nevertheless everyone needs an Aussie in their life.
Emily Wotzka (EW): Why did you want to study abroad?
Claire Hemsley (CH): It’s a bit of a s*** answer, really. I go to uni (university) where I was born and where I grow up. And everything was cruising along at uni nicely, and I was just like … hmm I think I might want to do something a little bit different.
And my uni has a pretty good partnership with Chester and I have a British passport. And I also just really like fish and chips.
EW: You mentioned you have a British passport. How?
CH: So my dad was born in Birmingham in England, and when one of your parents are born in a country you can get a passport from that country as well.
He (Hemsley’s father) came to Australia when he was like 6 weeks old, so he’s really not even English, but he was still born there so my brother and I got to apply for a British passport and we got it.
EW: Has there been anything that has shocked you about the English culture?
CH: Nothing really shocked me too much overseas. I think mainly the thing I found shocking/different/disappointing, is although we speak the same language and so many things are similar, I think I’ve really struggled with how different British people are to what I thought they’d be, or who we are at home.
I just find it a lot harder to talk to people here who are English. What I’m used to at home is a lot of talking, a lot of being open with people. There’s so much chatting. If someone is new in your class, you chat with them.
I thought that it would be more welcoming, and I find that people here can be quite closed off. I think that’s been quite challenging and probably a little bit disappointing.
EW: Prior to this experience, what was your view of Americans?
CH: I mean, I had the typical “Kimmy K” (Kim Kardashian) stereotype in my head. But I feel like I know that that’s a stereotype.
All I’ve heard from people about Americans is they’re easy to talk to. They’re fun, which I found out. I often got the impression from some people that they thought Americans were overly loud and obnoxious.
I, from experience, don’t feel that way. I find their supposed loudness is just confidence and fun. I guess some people think they’re loud, but I love it.
EW: Do you think you’ve changed since living abroad?
CH: Yeah, I do think I’ve changed. I think even though I still rely on my family and everything quite heavily over message, I‘ve become more independent.
I still haven’t learned how to cook which is a little bit disappointing, but you can’t have everything can you? But I do think I’ve gotten better at talking to people and getting to know people quite quickly … and working on my conversation.
And just being more open to experiences that I maybe haven’t planned for or I’m unsure about. I just sort of think, ‘You know what? Let’s just do it while we’re here.’
EW: What has been your favorite memory so far?
CH: I think I’ll have to come up with a few because I don’t know if I’ve got one that’s like, ‘Oh yes, that’s the best.’
When it snowed, that was so cool because we don’t get snow at home.
Literally not even just saying this, but meeting you guys too. Meeting new people has been really good.
It’s been a collectively good experience. There hasn’t been once standout where I’ve been like “whoa” this is it.
Traveling has been cool. Amsterdam — loved Amsterdam. Iceland was cool. I still ate fish and chips there, and I climbed a glacier.