From Down Under to the Land of Enchantment

Bridgette Watkins Joins the Junior Class


Photo by Sofia Taylor







A group of girls in a video chant before a rowing race. This is the Brisbane Girls Grammar School’s so-called war cry.

“It’s pronounced like Brisbin, not Brisbane, like everyone here says,” our year-long Australian exchange student, Bridgette Watkins, tells me. Although there is no major language barrier between here and Australia, there are still slight language discrepancies. Bridgette has no problem reciting this half gibberish war cry at top speed, but ironically struggles pronouncing some words here, mostly the ones with Spanish roots. Two weeks into school, Bridgette still can’t pronounce her history teacher’s name, Mr. Gutierrez, and opts for Mr. G. instead. She says tortilla like, “tor-till-a” and was confused in the first day of US history class because she had never heard the word “pueblo” before. She told me that she hoped to learn some Spanish during her stay, but the only word she remembers right now is adobe, “because of, you know, the computer program.” 

Bridgette signed up for a year-long exchange to the United States through a program called ASSIST and got randomly assigned to Albuquerque Academy. She admits she knew nothing about Albuquerque when she first heard of it. After talking to teachers and parents, she heard about Breaking Bad which, of course, may not show Albuquerque in the best light, but certainly does a good job of exposing our city to the world. While doing her research, Bridgette found internet statistics showing New Mexico as having some of the highest crime rates and worst public education quality in the country. However, one of the sites she looked at claimed that Albuquerque had a high “quality of life” and she saw Albuquerque Academy was one of the top schools in the nation, warranting mixed feelings about her new home. 

She tells me with a laugh, “Mum was kind of like, ‘Why are you going to school in a state with the worst education?’” Her parents were justifiably a little apprehensive about sending their child to Albuquerque for a year, and Bridgette admits she was a little scared too.

 “I was nervous it’d be a town where nothing happened… barren, with those-” she searches for the word tumbleweed- “things rolling around.” 

After 30 hours of travel and a 5-day-long orientation in Boston with other ASSIST kids from around the world, Bridgette arrived in Albuquerque with a beaming smile on her face, her saxophone, a chess set, and boxes of classic Australian biscuits called Tim Tams- (her family is actually sending more Tim Tams through the mail, which might help with the homesickness, although Bridgette claims she hasn’t felt any yet.)

Despite what she might have heard about Albuquerque, Bridgette has enjoyed her time here so far. She’s excited to try all the fast food places and likes the change to a uniform-less and coed school. While Academy doesn’t offer her favorite class from back home – accounting – it does have a chess team, which her school does not have. Bridgette tells me she’s not the classic surfing, blonde, tan Australian girl she thought Academy kids would expect, but that she’s still making friends really easily and finding an accepting community within Academy.

Watch Brisbane Girls Grammar School’s “War Cry” Here: