Snapshot of a trip Down Under

5 JULY 2000

Snowfights, spills on skis and snowmen are memories frozen on film snapped by Malaysian students on a visit to the Australian snowfields this week.

Snowfights, spills on skis and snowmen are memories frozen on film snapped by Malaysian students on a visit to the Australian snowfields this week.

The enthusiastic students swapped sandals and T-shirts for snowboots and jackets during their two-week trip "Down Under" which gave many their first unforgettable glimpse of snow and a taste of the relaxed Australian lifestyle.

More than 200 students who have just finished their studies with Charles Sturt University (CSU) through a partnership with the HELP Institute (Higher Education Learning Program) in Kuala Lumpur travelled to the inland regional city of Wagga Wagga to visit their alma mater and take part in a graduate seminar from 26 June until 8 July. Among them were Bachelor of Business students Lizi Lim and Simon Leong, both 24, and Bachelor of Information Technology student Gary Low, 25, all from Kuala Lumpur.

Visiting the snow for the first time was something that had to be seen to be believed, Gary said, who got a buzz from pelting his friends with snowballs and rolling around in the white powder.

The contrast in the weather, the fresh clean air and lack of traffic were the stark differences the students noticed when they arrived at Wagga Wagga, a rural city with a population of 57,000 located midway between Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.

Although snow does not fall in Wagga Wagga in winter, the temperature does fall below freezing at night, leaving a crisp white blanket of frost on the ground in the mornings.

A trip to the bathroom on the first morning with just a towel wrapped around him was enough to remind Simon that he was not at home in the familiar warm and humid climate.

"I got the shock of my life," Simon said, who raced back to his room to grab a jumper before venturing out again.

The students said Wagga Wagga and the University campus were nothing like they expected.

"We thought Wagga Wagga was a sleepy country village, but it is nothing like that. It is more like a suburb town.

"We got a pleasant surprise, it was better than we imagined," Simon said.

They were impressed with the spacious University campus located in a typical rural bushland setting, just a short and picturesque drive from the city centre, complete with resident kangaroos that bound freely around the grounds.

Gary said this was a huge contrast to their campus located in the basement of a building in bustling Kuala Lumpur.

In addition to their trip to the Mt Selwyn snowfields, the visitors packed in a day of sightseeing around Canberra, the national capital, and Wagga Wagga as well as enjoying the obligatory shopping trips.

Lizi was pleasantly surprised that salespeople in Australia did not follow her around, making shopping a more relaxing experience than back home.

She noticed that shoe styles were totally different in Australia - to suit the different climate - and were much cheaper. A big surprise was that cars actually stop for pedestrians at the zebra crossings!

A problem they hadn't expected was that the clothes they tried on were too big: "Even the small sizes were too big. The kids sizes fit just nice," Simon laughed.

When the exhausted students fly home on July 8 with their Aussie souvenirs and memories, thoughts will undoubtedly begin turning to the new life that awaits them as they begin their careers after years of university study.

The students will be presented with their degrees at CSU graduation ceremonies to be held in Kuala Lumpur in October.

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Albury-Wodonga International