Sion Students Visit the Land Down Under


Maura Eveld, Co-Editor-In-Chief

Senior Allie Lampo held up a stack of photographs, clutching the three-inch-thick collection between her thumb and forefinger.

“And this is just from the first day in Sydney,” she said.

Lampo, along with seniors Hannah Malvey, Marina Dennis and Lauren Ruiz, shared and scattered their photographs across the two cafeteria tables. They pointed, oohed and smiled.

Apparently, their trip to Australia was a fond memory.

All four took part in the Australian exchange program and hosted Our Lady of Sion students from Melbourne, Australia last January. This summer it was their turn to travel.

Seventeen and a half hours of flying. And 15 of those hours were spent on a double-decker plane.

“The plane ride there was so worth it,” Malvey said. “I would do it every day.”

Before Malvey began the exchange program last winter, she wasn’t planning on going to Australia. She said she thought her summer would be too busy and she wouldn’t have time to take a month off. But Malvey and her exchange student Caroline Bermingham skyped several times before Bermingham arrived, and their friendship forced Malvey to rethink her decision.

“And then I met Caroline [in person], and I knew I had to go,” she said.

Lampo also explained that before she met her exchange student Claire Anderson, she hadn’t been set on going to Australia for the summer. But after she met Anderson, she said they became very close friends, so it was an obvious decision: she was going.

For the others, the decision to travel to Australia was simpler. Ruiz said that once she knew for sure she was hosting an exchange student, she knew she would travel this summer. Dennis also made her decision early.

“I’ve had this planned,” Dennis said. “I heard about the exchange program on freshmen orientation, and I was like, ‘Mom, start saving. I’m going.’”

And so they went.

The girls toured sights in and around the city of Melbourne, including Graffiti Alley, a collection of streets lined with graffitied buildings, and Phillip Island, a nature park home to koalas and penguins. They also attended several Australian sporting events such as netball, a version of basketball, and footy, a sort of quasi-football.

Ruiz said her host family took her on the Great Ocean Road in southwest Victoria. From there she took a helicopter ride overlooking The Twelve Apostles, a rock formation on the coast.

“We were looking out the window of the helicopter, and there’s this whale breaching in the water,” Ruiz said. “And then we saw some more as we were heading back towards Melbourne, and we pulled over and climbed out on some rocks and took pictures of them.”

Malvey, Dennis and Lampo also visited Sydney with their host families, where they toured the Sydney Opera House and climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

And a trip to Australia wouldn’t be complete without one animal in particular: the kangaroo.

“I wanted to take one home,” Malvey said.

The girls said kangaroos were a common sight. Ruiz said she saw a bunch at her exchange student Georgia Thomas’ farmhouse. Road signs warned, “Kangaroo Crossing next 25 km.”

“They worry about hitting kangaroos and wallabies and things like we worry about hitting a deer,” Ruiz said.

In addition to the distinct animal species, the girls noticed other differences between the United States and Australia. Lampo and Ruiz said they felt much safer in Australia, and they were comfortable running around the city by themselves at night. They all also agreed that the cities were cleaner, except for the fact that everyone smoked.

It was winter there, so the temperatures were much cooler than the Kansas City heat, averaging around 50 degrees Fahrenheit each day. The catch? No heaters.

“I don’t think I was warm once,” Malvey said. But the girls agreed that the biggest difference was that the people of Australia were much friendlier than Americans. Lampo explained that it took a long time to buy something because everyone in line would stop and have a conversation with the cashier before heading out the door.

“So much better social skills than here,” Ruiz said.

The girls also contrasted Kansas City Sion to Melbourne Sion. Physically they were different, Dennis said, because the buildings were much more spread out and the students walked outside much more. The bathrooms and lockers were both outdoors.

“And their uniforms take 15 minutes to put on,” Lampo said.

They started with the socks. Then came the shirt, tights and shorts. Then the skirt and the tie. Finally, the sweater and the blazer.

“Your hair had to be up and back, and you couldn’t really wear makeup or jewelry,” Ruiz said of the dress code.

The girls also said the Australians put a lot more emphasis on appearance outside of school. They rarely went anywhere (except school) without makeup on. And they made sure their uniforms were perfect before boarding the train home, so they could present their school in high esteem.

But being “the American” was a special treat in the mix, they agreed.

“You’re a tourist, so you can just walk up to anybody and be like, ‘Hey, I’m from America,’ and they’re suddenly your best friend,” Lampo said.

Dennis explained that she kept getting asked the question, “Who have you met?” The Australians were wondering which celebrities she had seen in the U.S.

“A girl was actually starstruck when she met me,” Malvey added. “She couldn’t speak. Literally could not get her words out.”

The girls agreed that it was a trip they wish everyone could get to experience. Malvey said she loved immersing herself in a new culture.

“It was the best experience of my life so far,” she said. “No, not one of. It was the best.”