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Small changes add up to a big adjustment for Western Australian
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Twelve years ago Christine Vermeulen moved from Australia to the Quad-Cities with her family. Ms. Vermeulen is a college student in Moline working toward her degree in psychology, sociology and English.
It's a long way from Perth, in western Australia, to Moline, but over the past 12 years,
Christine Vermeulen has learned to embrace all kinds of change, in everything from weather to culture.

"I moved here with my family: My parents, Mark and Heather Vermeulen, and my brother, Stephen. My parents were offered a job over here, so they made the decision to move our family. I really didn't have much say in the decision. My parents did what they thought was best for their family at the time."

Moving halfway around the world is a big change, and Ms. Vermeulen had no idea what she was in for. "I really didn't know what to expect, since I was quite young when we left. All I really knew about the U.S. was what I had seen on movies."

Her biggest challenge has been dealing with several small differences in her life.

"I really haven't had too many big surprises, but even after 12 years of living here, I still get surprised by small cultural differences that most people don't think about," she said. "Things like groceries, the way the light switch works, the correct side of the car door to go to, units of measurement, terminology and slang words -- all relatively small things that add up to making major adjustments to how one lives their everyday life."

There were some tough adjustments to make, including learning a new language -- in a way. While Australians speak English, it's not quite the same as the English used in the U.S.

"The hardest thing for me, besides getting used to not having as much family around, was school. I had to re-learn spelling, grammar, math and history," Ms. Vermeulen said.

Even though she was a good student in Australia, she had a tough time in the U.S. because she hadn't learned certain things in elementary school. "I went from being a straight-A student to struggling to get a C in most classes. Things I was expected to know because I was in junior high, I had never even heard of before. I had never been exposed to American history or the U.S. system of measurement, and I found it hard to catch up when my peers had been raised with this knowledge that was now common sense," she said.

Today, even though she has lived in the U.S. for years, Ms. Vermeulen still has fond thoughts about Australia. "I miss the weather, the food, the culture, the political system. I spent a year there as an adult, and I realized just how much I really do love it. But, as long as my parents are here, this will be my home."

She doesn't miss everything, though. "I don't miss the spiders. Australia has a lot of poisonous spiders," she said.

Ms. Vermeulen is keeping busy working her way through college with a job at Cool Beanz Coffeehouse in Rock Island and classes at Western Illinois University Quad-Cities Riverfront Campus. She intends to graduate with a bachelor's degree in psychology, sociology and English. "I plan to continue my education with hopes of one day becoming a college professor," she said.

Right now, those plans don't include a return to her country of birth. "I have no plans to move back to Australia, but you never know what the future holds," Ms. Vermeulen said.

Australia
-- Location:Oceania, continent between the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific Ocean.

-- Population:22,015,576 (July 2012 estimate). No. 53 in the world.

-- Languages:English, 78.5 percent; Chinese, 2.5 percent; Italian, 1.6 percent; Greek, 1.3 percent; Arabic, 1.2 percent; Vietnamese, 1 percent; other, 8.2 percent; unspecified, 5.7 percent (2006 Census).


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  Today is Tuesday, Sept, 30, the 273rd day of 2014. There are 92 days left in the year.

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