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NSW Domain and Botanical Garderns

Time November 5th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Cities love their parks. NY has central park, Memphis has Overton Park and as I have already told you guys Auckland has the Domain. As it would happen Sydney also calls their park in the city the Domain. In addition to the Domain they also have the Royal Botanical Gardens which is right next to the Art gallery so I decided to take a walk through there and see the best foliage that Sydney has to offer. The Domain and the Botanical Gardens used to be connected, but when the main highway through the city was built they were separated and the highway was constructed right between them, but a bridge was built above the road to ensure that the two remained as connected as possible.

If I had to compare the two I would say that the Domain in Auckland is worlds above the quality its Australian counterpart. But, the Royal Botanical Gardens makes this Sydney park worth a visit. Be warned, it does close at night which not only disables your ability to see the flowers, but it also considerably increases the time that it takes to get through the city on foot. As for the flowers, they were beautiful. I went right at the beginning of the spring season so most of the flowers were in bloom, as it’s a little hotter year round in Sydney than Auckland, but if you could wait till the end of spring or even summer it would be ideal. Even so the plume of colors that covers the ground of the Botanical Gardens is amazing during any season. The range of species that call this place home would make any botanist blush, but the selection of flowers is rare enough that it is exciting for any passer by. I could tell you how beautiful this place is all day, but I think Ill let my pictures speak for me.

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The First Day Down Under

Time November 5th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

The first day in Australia I got a bit of a late start but, luckily for me things in Australia stay open a bit later than their NZ counterparts. For example most business, with the exception of restaurants and bars, close around 5pm in NZ. Public buildings such as museums, galleries and parks close around 4. In Australia this is pushed back almost an hour with some things staying open even later. Luckily for me the Art Gallery of New South Wales is one of those buildings that stays open till 5.

The Gallery of NSW is located just a short walk from kings cross and Victoria street which is right in the area with the majority of hostiles and hotels. If you plan to go to Australia I would definitely recommend you stay off Kings Cross, but around it. Victoria street is fine but “The Cross” as they call it is loud and exciting during the night, which is fine to visit, but not a place you want to sleep. Think of it like the strip of Vagus except without soundproof walls in your accommodation. The Cross can get so wild that the locals actually have a saying that again draws parallels with the US’s sin city : “What happens in the Cross stays in the Cross”. It wasn’t my type of scene, especially being a lone back packer, but if you have a buddy and want to go out I would definitely recommend stopping at the pubs. I don’t, however, want to give the impression that Kings Cross is unsafe. I walked along the street at night alone and never felt endangered in any way, just annoyed at all the drunks and ladies of the evening roaming the streets and slowing down my trip back to my hotel. Yes, you read that right. Prostitution is legal in both NZ and AU and if you go down town you will see the signs for “massage” parlors and gentleman’s clubs that provide these services.

Having said all of that, the walk to the NSW Art Gallery is only about 15 mins and it is definitely worth a visit. The majority of the galleries are free to view with the exception of a small portion of the museum that one must pay to view. The Gallery is beautiful both inside and out. The outside is adorned with columns and statues of Greco Roman Gods and Goddesses. On the inside you will find sculptures, paintings, drawings, films, photos, audio exhibits and a whole range of exhibits both modern and traditional. One of my favorites was the exhibit of Art created entirely from refuse material extracted from the worlds oceans. Essentially the idea is turning trash into art in various ways. One of these takes paper shopping bags from global corporations like star bucks and Gucci and turns them into dioramas of trees. This creates a sense of irony in turning the paper bags created from trees by corporations into art depicting trees to be enjoyed by people. The other exhibit that particularly impressed itself upon me was created by an artist who collected the personal stories of European immigrants and created constellations out of the routs they took from their birthplaces to where they migrated to. You can view the constellations as stand alone works, or you can watch video of them being created while listening to the persons telling the stories their particular constellations represents. Both of these examples of modern art truly impressed themselves upon my psyche and not only cemented their place in my mind as ‘favorites’ of the NSW Art Gallery but also as some of the best art exhibits I have ever seen.

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Hopping the Tasman.

Time November 2nd, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Spring break in the NZ semester is two weeks wich means plenty of time to take another trip! I decided to go to Australia and kill two  travel birds with one stone. If you traveled to Australia from the US the plane ticket alone would run you about $2,000. However since i was right next door I got my ticket there and a return for only 500. I got a room at a hotel, because I was traveling alone, for around 500, but you can get hostels as cheap as 20 a night if you look for specials in advance. Here are some pictures taken of the city from the docks.

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One of the best Zoos in the World!

Time November 2nd, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Being from Memphis TN I have a special attachment to the Zoo. Its right across from my school for one so on stormy days you can hear the monkeys howling from my dorm room. The Zoo is also one of the best attractions Memphis has to off. It shares that pride with the Auckland Zoo. The Zoo is inexpensive for students (about 20 dollars) and it has a wide selection of animals and other attractions that will keep you occupied for hours. From red pandas to crocs and flamingos they have it all. In addition they also have some animals that you would be hard pressed to see outside of the southern hemisphere like Kangaroos and Wallabes. They also have an excellent selection of birds to spot and the exhibits that they have created for them are perfect. They are virtually large netted sanctuaries that you walk inside. This creates an experience like no other where there are zero degrees of separation between you and the more tame animals like the ostrich and tui birds. To get to the Zoo you have to pay about three bucks for a bus ride that lasts about 45 mins and then get off at a local park for a 10 min walk. All in all its easy and accessible. A great day trip for any Kiwi or visitor living in or around the city. Dont forget to check out the pictures!

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Animal Crackers

Time November 2nd, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

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Pie in the Sky

Time November 2nd, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I just wrote about the Sky Tower and then I went to visit the Sky Tower! It’s about 30 minuets walk from my flat and just a little ways past queens street down town. The price for a ticket is $28 for a student so not too bad for an afternoon activity in the pricy city that is Auckland. You take a huge elevator up to the first level where the ring is around the outside of the tower. Then you get off and board a much smaller elevator that takes you all the way into the top of the tower where you can look out over the city from a stellar birds eye perspective You can easily spot Uni and the Museum that is Right in front of Parnell. Not only that but as the photos of the outside indicate the whole observatory is circular giving you a 360 degrees view of the surrounding landscape. Its definitely a must see for anyone visiting Auckland and if your studying abroad it’s a great afternoon filler, or if you want to hit one of the pubs during dinner in the surrounding streets you can make it a fairly cheap night out as they usually have specials down town in the evenings. $15-20 Plates and $5 glasses of beer frequent the signs on the sidewalk making it a nice place to eat if you want to do something different. Afterwards you can go down to Queens street and continue the party, get some dessert around the corner, or just walk down to the Harbor and listen to the water. If you’re on a budget as I certainly am, and most study abroad students are its as good as it gets.

P.S. My camera died while I was there but luckily I was able to snap one photo of the Museum just to give you guys a view of something.

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The Tower in the Sky

Time November 1st, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

The Sky Tower has the claim to fame for being the tallest free standing structure in the Southern Hemisphere and if you are in Auckland city you cant help but notice. Before arriving in the city I heard from Kiwi’s that the quickest way to navigate the city is to always look for the sky tower no matter where you are. That might be the single most useful piece of advice I was given by anyone in my study abroad travels.

The Sky Tower is more than just a navigation tool however, it is also a standing testament to NZ engineering and patriotism  Standing at   328 Meters tall (1,076 feet). Its unique shape also makes it stand out against the skyline and the rest of the buildings around it. Even in the dead of night you can spot this marvel as the entire body and needle of the structure are illuminated in a range of marvelous hues Ranging from red, blue, pink, orange, green, and gold depending on the occasion. For example during the Chinese New Year it is red and gold and when the America’s Cup sailing event takes place in the Harbor below the tower stands a solid bright red. The lights only shut off once a year during earth hour as a show of commitment to environmental conservation and sustainability. It truly is a gorgeous marvel to behold. Luckily for me after traveling half way around the globe its right outside my window.

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Time October 31st, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

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Flat 2

Time October 30th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

After two days we said our goodbyes to the IFSA Butler staff as they dropped us off group by group at our accommodations. Two of my roommates were already here and then the other two showed up during the next couple of days. I’m in the Parnell Student Village accommodation run by the university. It is right behind the Auckland War Memorial Museum and the Domain. The Domain is basically a park. There are soccer goals and flower gardens that you can walk through to get to the Uni campus. There are five people to each flat, each with their own bedroom. There is also a communal kitchen and a living room/dining room. The best feature by far has to be the patios that are joined to each room. The two rooms on the top floor and the one on the main level have wooden decks and the two rooms in the basement where I am have a concrete porch that is shared but considerably bigger than the wooden decks. Having the ability to sit outside on nice days in a Big city is something that Uni students in the city have told me repeatedly they envy. When your stuck in a concrete jungle 24/7 surrounded by people its nice to be able to get some peace to commune with nature quite right outside your door. Other than that the accommodations are pretty basic. The rooms come with a standard desk, dresser and bed combination. Overall the accommodations aren’t great but they give you all the essentials and having your own room is nice especially if you’re used to sharing an American dorm room.

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Kior and Kai!!

Time October 30th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

After a long day of flying from nashville to L.A. then into Auckland I arrived only to find that the fog in Auckland was so thick that I couldn’t even see the runway much less the city below. Gathering my backpack and swallowing the disappointment of not being able to see the city I had flown nearly twenty hours to inhabit for the next four months I exited the plane.

After going through customs and then security at Auckland I walked under the beautifully carved tribal wooden frame that served as the door frame for the passage out into the main section of the airport. Immediately I was greeted by the very friendly IFSA butler staff who, after having outfitted me with a name tag and expressed their kioras (greetings), pointed me in the direction of a currency exchange booth and a pay phone to call my family.

The currency exchange was simple, I went inside handed over my American dollars and was given the corresponding amount of New Zealand dollars in return.The pay phone was not as straight forward. This was demonstrated by twenty minuets of inserting coins having them returned to me unaccepted, slamming the receiver down and picking it back up as requested by the machines display and contacting several confused people around the globe not one of which had the same name as a member of my family or knew of their existence. Eventually I was able to get my calls to the correct sources, yet they went unanswered. In absence of such conversations, voicemails were left. With my hard fought victory over the pay phone under my belt I took my luggage outside to the IFSA bus and about an hour later we were off to see New Zealand!

Or, we would have see New Zealand if the fog had not completely veiled the entire country from view. Driving through Auckland up north to the YMCA camp where orientation was to take place was the most sightless sight seeing tour I have ever experienced, at no fault of the IFSA butler staff who kept telling us what we would have been able to see had the fog not been present. Once we reached Shakespeare’s lodge however, the fog had mostly cleared and we struck off for a walk after a quick Kai (a meal). We walked to the top of one of the highest hills in the area to see the waves lapping at the beach down below and Auckland across the sea. The water was shockingly blue and much more clear than the bodies of water In the states. After the walk it was back to camp to grab some more food and then we went down the beach to kayak in the Pacific.

The kayaks we used required one person in front and one in back making for a fun activity to get to know some peers. With some instruction from the YMCA staff it wasn’t long before my partner and myself were maneuvering around the water with ease. After everyone had a chance to get acclimated at controlling their vessels we played a game of water polo. The rules for water polo are simple. It requires a rubber ball a bit smaller than a soccer ball and much more suitable for gripping, basically a dodgeball but lighter. The goal of the game is to get the ball through a goal marked by two posts standing vertically in the water. There are two goals, one for each team. You may pass the ball to other team members, the only hinderance is that any one person may only hold onto the ball for no more than three seconds. My team was trounced by our opposition, but the loss only slightly detracted from the fun of being out on the water and learning a new game.

Once everyone was spent from polo we made way down the beach to the remains of a sunken ship covered in barnacles. Not much of it was above water, but what we could see was a spitting image of Davie Jone’s ship from the pirates of the Caribbean film. Fifteen minuets later we made our way back to shore. The deadly combination of jet lag and a long day had taken its toll and I was completely spent. It was all I could do to drag myself to the meeting that would prepare us for visiting the Maori village on the eighth. During the meeting we covered the procedures for entering the village and practiced speaking and singing the Maori language with which we would pay thanks to the Maori for allowing our visit. With the meeting over it was time for dinner and then off for a much deserved rest.

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Kiora and Kai photos.

Time October 30th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

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He’s leaving home.

Time October 30th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

No matter how many times I go abroad, the night before the flight is always the most nerve racking to me. I usually begin packing a couple of days before I leave and then go back and double check my packing list to give myself time to repack forgotten items. Inevitably, I always forget something no matter how many lists I make or times I repack. The reason I think this is the most anxious and sometimes exciting moment for me is that packing is where great trips are made or broken. We have all been on that trip and forgotten that one thing we cant live without. In most cases you can live without whatever it may be for the weekend, but when you go abroad for large periods of time its one more thing that your forced to waste your traveling money on. Thats why, to a large extent, what you pack or dont pack directly affects what type of experience you are able to have abroad. For example one of my good friends went to New Zealand (NZ) and took his snow skis, Golf clubs and lacrosse gear. He paid  a pretty penny to have them travel on the airplane with them and spent a lot of energy lugging them around till he got to his accommodation in Auckland City. Auckland city is located on the north part of the North Island of NZ where there is never any snow or any place to Ski. Every golf course is considerable driving distance that is not accessible by public transport. You can begin to see how packing these extraneous things that he had a hard time putting to use became a waste of time and energy, not to mention all the precious room it took up in his small bedroom at the University of Auckland Accommodation. On the flip side, he completely neglected to bring all of his camping gear which could have been put to excellent use in NZ. Its packing discisions like that, big or small, that can have a great negative or positive impact on your time spent traveling abroad and when your studing abroad the repercussions of such descisions are only magnified because they are not easily or cheaply rectified. Thats why I have a list of genneral rules I follow when packing for any trip.

1. Know what you need for your location. From my above example you can see why this is important.

2.Know the amount of space you have. Look, all university accommodations are small everywhere. Its a necessary evil of life thats why when your stuck in the same room for months on end you want to make sure you pack exactly what you need and not a thing more. Over packing can be just as detrimental to you trip as under packing.

3.Make a list. Its always good to be organized and making a list that you can see and mull over a week or so before you leave forces you to stay accountable for your trip. Its also useful if you have someone helping you pack and you dont want to have to think about what you need to tell them to put in your suitcase everytime you can simply look at your list and know that you need X shirts, . This saves a lot of dilibiration and consequently valuable time you could be using getting to the airport or sleeping the night before.

4. Have someone else double check your packing against your list. We are all human and people are forgetful. That is why regardless of how good you think your memory is always have somone else open up your suitcase and go over your list with you to make sure you didnt forget to pack something you thought you packed.

5.Make sure your organized, but keep it flexible. You are never going to remember everything on your list 100% of the time and you are also never going to know everything you need the night before you leave. For this reason I always remind myself that traveling is nothing if not an exorcise in personal flexibility. When you start packing and your running out of room its ok to pack three pairs of jeans instead of four even though three is on your packing list. Just write down the amendment so you know exactly whats in your luggage and move on. Dont freak out and add two more suitcases just because you have written down that you need 8 pairs of shoes. Over packing will do nothing but create a lot more unnecessary  hassle and stress than leaving the items behind would have.

6.Know what you can and cannot buy abroad and pack accordingly. There are alot of things that we are used to packing. Things like toiletries and books are great for a weekend trip to the beach, but not so much for long stents abroad. toiletries will rarely make it through security and if you have them in your checked luggage you can expect a mess later. Thats why i never pack them. When i go abroad. I wont be showering on the plane, and Ill need to go to the store as soon as I get there any way so why waste prescious packing space on them anyway? Even things like Iphone chargers your going to need an adapter to use, so just buy one abroad with a local plug. It will save you time, space, and the hassle of having to carry adapters with you everywhere you go.

These are the rules I have come to learn are essential in packing for long trips abroad and they have helped me so far. If NZ helps me think of any new ones ill be sure to list them, but for now i better start putting my rules into action before I miss my flight to NZ!!!

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Cahuita/Playa Buena Vista

Time October 30th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

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