International student: Gary Birtch

Gary Birtch and the love of his life, Stacey
International exchange students Gary Birtch and the love of his life Stacey.

During my final semester at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, I stumbled across an information booth promoting an amazing opportunity to complete my studies in Education abroad and so the memories began…

As a novice traveller I took flight in February 2008 and flew out of Toronto, Ontario, Canada all the way across the Pacific Ocean until I arrived in Sydney, New South Wales to officially begin my unforgettable journey. Upon arrival it hit me, "Wow, I'm all alone in a new country". With that thought in mind, I grabbed my three large pieces of luggage and jumped on my connecting flight which would bring me to my final destination, the Gold Coast airport, where an unknown and exciting opportunity stood waiting to begin. Upon my arrival at SCU Gold Coast Campus I was alone and wondering, "Where am I going to live?" Then I realised that I wasn't the only one with the same predicament. Now the obstacle was to find a suitable roommate compatible for a small northern Ontario guy who enjoys having fun and being adventurous. Sure enough I soon met none other than outgoing Toronto, Ontario, Canada native, Sean Broda, and we quickly became roommates and lifelong friends. Within a week of being in my new surroundings I began to forget about the great white north and embrace life down under.

Throughout my ten months of living in Australia and studying at Southern Cross University there were many memorable experiences within the classroom as well as away from it. Who could ever forget the smell of calamari & chips we always brought to HSIE curriculum class, or Neville's famous bowties and boundless humour that all made us feel like our dads were right there supporting us.  How about the memories of travelling and experiencing the entire East coast from a rented Wicked van with my new friends or the sheer beauty of the natural landscape that only Australia has to offer? As a diehard ice hockey fan in a country with a strong passion for Aussie Rules and Rugby, one could only jump on the bandwagon and adopt this fanaticism as my own. Imagine an Aussie fan mixed with a Canadian hockey fan which can only equal sports passion on steroids. What an opportunity to cheer alongside Australian fans who have led me to become an Aussie fan on the local and international stages forever.

Unfortunately my one year at SCU had to come to an end and it was time to fly back north to Canada. With no job lined up in my hometown of North Bay, Ontario, Canada, I made my way to our country's capital, Ottawa, where I met the love of my life, Stacey, and obtained a career opportunity as a permanent high school teacher at Rideau High School. The opportunities of teaching at Murwillumbah and Banora Point High Schools really paved the way in the ability to understand and deal with numerous and sometimes delicate situations that may arise in a classroom setting to ensure all students are given equal opportunities to succeed academically and grow as individuals.

The joy and happiness that I felt during my time at SCU are forever logged as valuable and priceless memories. I will continue to share my stories with my future students and friends and will always encourage my peers to travel to Australia to enjoy all that there is to offer in what I would now call my second home.

Gary Birtch