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Culture Shock: Australia

By Haleigh Zueger, Special to The Chronicle

At first glance, Ben Thompson-Star might appear like a typical US student. But strike up a conversation with the senior Public Relations major with a Music minor, and Ben's prominent accent reveals that he is far from home. Ben makes the trip to Hofstra each year from his hometown of Port Macquarie, Australia.

The popular tourist town, located nearly ten thousand miles away from campus, is situated along the eastern coast of Australia and is well-known for its beaches, beautiful weather and prominent Koala population. "It's a beach culture town, where things like body boarding and surfing are common" described Thompson-Star of his temperate home ‘down under.'

Ben's educational and athletic ambitions have carried him far from the year round sunshine of his southern hemisphere home. The lifelong tennis player knew from an early age that he wanted to attend a university in the United States to experience American culture and strengthen his tennis competition. "I wasn't sure what I wanted to study out of high school, so I decided to go somewhere where I could explore my options and play tennis."

Ben is more than just your typical student athlete. In addition to playing tennis, he works as a Resident Assistant, interns at music law firm in Manhattan and plays the piano in his spare time.

Surprisingly, Ben doesn't see too many differences between his home country of Australia and the United States. "It's different when you live somewhere, you're not experiencing it as a tourist—you become a part of that culture," said Ben of his time spent on Long Island.   

However one major difference, Ben has noted, is the attitudes of his fellow Aussies compared with those of New Yorkers. "Australians are more laid back and easy going," said Ben. "New Yorkers seem a bit more uptight." In addition, the colder weather has been quite the adjustment for Thompson-Star. "That was one of my biggest concerns coming here. Am I going to be able to survive the cold?"

Although Thompson-Star is ultimately happy with his decision to live and study in the United States, he admits that being away from home and the 22 hour flight across the Pacific Ocean is not always easy. Ben chooses to return home only a few times per year because of the extreme length of travel. "There's no way I'd be going home for spring break, let's put it that way."

For now, Thompson-Star is enjoying his final semester as a senior, and is looking forward to graduating in May. Ben plans to enroll in law school in Melbourne, Australia, and eventually hopes to return to New York. "I like the opportunities of New York—it's exciting."

Hofstra senior and Australia native Ben Thompson-Star plays both singles and doubles on the men’s tennis team. (Photo Courtesy of Ben Thompson-Star)

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