Australian visitor learns 'People are pretty much the same' in South Dakota, compared to her home by M. Jill Karolevitz Forget Crocodile Dundee. And don't give a thought to kangaroos named Skippy. Australia is more than that, as Rachel Callaway, 23, is teaching the people she visits in South Dakota.
Callaway, from Wollongong, Australia, has been in the United States since June 21 through the International Farm Youth Exchange (IFYE). She has been in Vermillion for about two weeks, staying with Virginia Delvaux, Clay County Extension educator.
"IFYE is a cultural exchange," Callaway said. "It gives people the chance to see how others live in other cultures."
Just as Australia is more diverse than its stereotypical presentation in movies, television and commercials, Callaway is learning that South Dakota, too, is more than what the media depicts.
"I was in Philip and stayed with a ranching family," Callaway said. "I helped with harvesting wheat, moving cattle and moving hay bales. But we also went to Devil's Tower, the Badlands and to the Black Hills to see Mount Rushmore."
In Huron, Callaway stayed with a 4-H family and camped at the state fairgrounds during the South Dakota State Fair. In this area, Delvaux has taken Callaway to Riverboat Days in Yankton, where she witnessed a tractor square dance for the first time in her life. She has toured The University of South Dakota and Clay County, attended both Vermillion's and Yankton's Lewis and Clark festivals and traveled to Mitchell for Dakotafest, the annual agricultural celebration.
At every South Dakota destination, Callaway has learned that "people are pretty much the same," she said.
Callaway was born and raised in Wollongong, a city of about 100,000 people.
"It's in the southeastern part of Australia, about one and a half hours south of Sydney," she said. "It's a pretty little town between beaches and a mountain range. Tourism is its main industry."
While the ocean view is obviously much different from South Dakota's rolling prairie, Callaway also pointed out how the Black Hills, while beautiful, don't measure up to the mountain range that surrounds her home.
"You definitely don't have any hills as big as what we've got," she laughed.
Minor terminology differences have also surfaced as Callaway stays in the United States.
"It's a definite advantage to travel to where there is no language barrier," Callaway said. "But I have had to learn to be creative in describing things because there are different names for different things."
Callaway discovered that with something as simple as lemonade. While it's a squeezed citrus drink here, lemonade in Australia is Sprite or 7-Up. Other soft drinks, or pop, are called fizzy drinks. And just as South Dakotans have differing ways of describing meals, according to regions of the state � breakfast lunch and dinner, or breakfast dinner and supper � it's breakfast, lunch and tea in Australia, Callaway said.
Weather, however, is similar. Summer temperatures in Wollongong can reach 100 degrees, with a bit of humidity, although "not like what I saw here at the state fair," Callaway said.
After she has experienced ranching, South Dakota's endless vistas and a variety of festivals, Callaway will return to Australia to continue her work as an electrician.
"I started by doing electrical work in a coal mine, installing conveyor belts," she said. "Now I'm working with a smaller firm that does a lot of overhauls for mining equipment. I do more of the design work."
Callaway is also a volunteer lifeguard, where she sees people from all over the world on the beaches of Wollongong.
"It was an especially challenging job during the summer Olympics last year," Callaway said. "People don't realize how dangerous the beaches can be if they swim in the wrong place. The swimming areas are flagged off and when people go out of the area, it's hard to tell them they have to stay within the flags when they don't speak a word of English."
Callaway became involved with IFYE as a member of Australia's Rural Youth, which is similar to America's 4-H program. "Each year they run competitions and an exchange trip is one of the prizes," she said. To "earn" an international experience, Callaway had to write an essay, give a slide presentation and go through an interview process. On the first leg of her journey, Callaway flew into Washington, DC for orientation, traveled to Vermont for an IFYE conference, then flew into Sioux Falls. When she leaves Vermillion Sept. 6, she will head for Los Angeles, then Hawaii.
"I have had fun since I've been here," Callaway said. "I've probably learned more about people here in South Dakota than I would have in California, which was my first choice. People here are a lot more down to earth, but I will find out more about that since LA is where I'm going next."