Local student Remi Sonsalla spends time ‘Down Under’

Caledonia High School junior Remi Sonsalla, who spent six months as a foreign exchange student in Australia, seemed to have enjoyed the company of this young kangaroo. Submitted photo

By Clay Schuldt
Special for the Argus

On July 14, 2011 Caledonia High School junior Remi Sonsalla left Minnesota to take part in an international exchange student program. After a 22 hour flight,  Remi, the daughter of Jody and Dawn Sonsalla of Brownsville, reached her destination: Australia.

Remi would spend the next six months going to school in the city of Adelaide, Australia which is  the fifth largest city in Australia with one million inhabitants.

“Before this, the farthest I had gone was to Florida with my family,” Remi explained.

Remi chose to take part in the exchange program after meeting with other students who had attended schools in other countries.

She originally chose Australia because a friend had moved to Port Lincoln, Australia.  Remi’s parents were supportive of their daughter’s trip to the other side of the globe and helped to find a host family to stay with on her adventure.

Remi had to search through multiple programs before she found a host family in Adeliade, the Matias family, who would take her in for six months.

Since Australia is in the southern hemisphere, Remi arrived during their winter season. Remi explained that an Australian winter is significantly mild compared to a Minnesota winter, with temperatures only dropping to 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

According to Remi their winter is closer to a Minnesota spring.  “They think it’s cold”, Remi joked, “and I had to explain to them that no it is not!”

Australia’s summer, on the other hand, happens during North America’s winter months. Remi estimated that the average summer temperature is over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. As a result, the traditional Australian Christmas is an outdoor barbecue.

The temperature also plays a role in the design of Australian homes.  Remi’s host parents’ and nearly every other home in Adelaide was a single level dwelling. Basements are unnecessary since the ground never freezes and houses with a second floor are rare as a second floor would be unbearably warm in the summer months.

Remi attended school at the Charles Campbell Secondary School in Adelaide where she noticed several major differences from Caledonia Area High School.

The most significant difference was all Australian students are required to wear uniforms to school plaid skirts or dresses with polo shirts for girls and dress pants or shorts for boys.  Students in Australia are not assigned lockers and must carry book bags everywhere.

Even simple transportation to and from school was something of a cultural shock.

“They asked if we actually had yellow school buses,” Remi said.  In Australia students have to rely on public transportation to get to and from school. In addition the taxi cabs in Australia are all white and the students found the idea of a yellow taxi fascinating.  Many students wanted to know if the Hollywood movies depicting America were accurate, to which Remi would respond “sometimes”.