Getting to Know Greensboro

Greensboro, North Carolina did not ring a bell. I had been to America, even to North Carolina before, and I’d never heard of Greensboro. But there it was, next to Chicago, San Diego and New York on the list of places I could study abroad.

Every destination on that list had its merits and drawbacks. I wondered about weather, transport and cost of living. I loved New York and I’d always wanted to see San Diego and Chicago, but Greensboro? It didn’t have a Statue of Liberty or a Brooklyn Bridge and it wasn’t known for its beaches or culture.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that what I wanted out of this experience was not to visit monuments and take photos. I wanted the college experience, and any of these choices would have provided that. I knew that I would visit the other cities whether I studied there of not, but what reason would I ever have to visit Greensboro? It was my chance to experience real America, everyday America, and I wasn’t about to pass it up.

If I was looking for the “typical” experience, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) ticked all the boxes. At around 18,000 students, it was a pretty standard size for a state university, although it felt huge to me. I lived on campus, shared a room with an American student, and ate at the Cafeteria. On the weekends we took road-trips to nearby towns, explored Greensboro or hung out on campus watching volleyball or soccer games. The friends I made in the first week were the friends I did everything with for four months, and the friends that I travelled with at the end of the semester and will travel across the world to see next year.

Flying to Greensboro was long and expensive. After a direct flight from Melbourne to LA, I flew to Phoenix, then to Charlotte and then 29 more minutes to Greensboro. It airport was tiny and opened to a town that was green and spacious. It was raining and I was already in love with its endless red brick buildings and university culture. It was the third largest city in North Carolina, with 2 major universities and lots of college kids. It was driving distance from Washington DC, Charlotte, Atlanta, Nashville and (at a stretch) New York.

The University and the place that seemed to revolve around it were perfect. Not a city but not a small town, everyone went to the same club every week and we got to know the best cheesecake shop in town. The University was walking distance from downtown, and the mall was a free bus ride away. It was enough of a community that we came to feel a connection to it after only four months of living there.

I also came to realize that, as much as I loved Greensboro, it was really just the setting for me to meet so many beautiful people and experience amazing things. To anyone who is considering studying abroad and is facing the tough question of where to go: think about it, but not too much. Pick somewhere that will be not interfere with the incredible experience that exchange will be – regardless of whether or not you can see the New York City skyline from your bedroom window.

 

A Sneaky Bottle of Penfolds Grange

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New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell has gotten himself into a bit of strife, all over an overpriced bottle of wine. Following his 2011 election win, he allegedly accepted a $3000 bottle of Penfolds Grange from the CEO of Australian Water Holdings. At the ICAC hearing today, Barry had an interesting argument as to why it’s impossible that he accepted the gift:

I’m no wine connoisseur. I don’t drink a lot these days, that’s evidenced by my size.”

This is no $10 cask we’re talking about. If he (or anyone) was gifted a $3000 bottle of wine, I highly doubt he would have sent it back because he’s restricting himself to one glass of red a week. If Barry is limiting his wine intake (note he says he doesn’t drink a lot, so obviously does occasionally), then what better way to treat yourself than a $600 glass of wine?

On that note, it doesn’t take a wine connoisseur to know that a $3000 bottle of wine is going to be pretty awesome. As a not-wine-connoisseur myself, I think it’s unlikely that Barry returned the wine because he felt he was unworthy of it’s quality.

Can’t go doing that, Barry.

Payne and Broken Promises

Last night’s all-female QandA was an interesting one for a few reasons. The panel included three senators, Liberal Marise Payne, Labor Penny Wong and Jacqui Lambie.  Representing the Palmer United Party, Lambie had some completely outrageous opinions on everything from climate change (“scientists are split half and half”) to compulsory national service (the only solution to youth unemployment). It was the first time I’d heard her speak in a forum like QandA and my, was it entertaining. Let’s hope they get her back soon.

Anyway, Liberal Senator Marise Payne had something interesting to say about election promises. An audience member called the government out on promising taxpayers no cuts to education, health, pensions and ABC funding before the election. Marise Payne, minister for human services, responded:

“I think it would be, perhaps injudicious to take all of the pre-budget commentary as verbatim truth…”

Ummm, what? Firstly, the Abbott government has not just renegotiated on a couple of insignificant election promises, as Marise suggests. Health and education are key areas and key reasons why taxpayers may have voted for Abbott in the first place. But according to Marise, we shouldn’t be upset because it was said before the budget and it’s completely excusable to lie and break promises when trying to get elected. Right.

This exchange on QandA last night is reflective of a wider problem in Australian politics and one that voters should not be putting up with. As Clementine Ford rightly pointed out:

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If you can’t keep a promise, don’t make it. By trying to please both those who want more funding and those who are concerned about fiscal responsibility, you’re lying to everyone and you can kiss the trust of the public goodbye.

Maybe Jacqui Lambie did get one thing right: