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Smile because it happened

Time July 16th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | Comments Off on Smile because it happened by

I am back in the United States and it is quite strange! It was so difficult to say so long to my friends but I would rather say good bye than to have never met them. My beautiful roommate, who became more like a sister, traveled with me from Wollongong to the Sydney airport. The amount of love I have given and received this semester is incredible. I will always think of Wollongong as a second home.

 

almost everybody Therese and me img_1821

 

The plane rides were not a pleasant experience but they showed me that I am quite capable. I had to take three flights to make it home and ran into some complications. The first flight, from Sydney to California, was delayed a bit which made the transition to my connecting flight more stressful. However, the 13.5 hour plane ride itself was not bad. I was on a Quantas flight and was well taken care of. They give you food very frequently, blankets, a pillow, turn out the lights for a portion of the flight so you can sleep, and there is a sweet movie selection. You just have to make sure to stand up and walk around a few times when on the plane. If you do not, your legs swell up and it is quite uncomfortable.  After the first flight, I ran to my connecting flight’s terminal and arrived when they started boarding the plane. I made it! That plane took me from California to Texas. When I arrived in Texas, I found my final flight was cancelled and the next possible one I could take would be 11 hours later…. I was feeling sad since I had to leave Australia and just wanted to get home. I cried in the airport. There were people who were really nice and tried to help me but they could not really do anything. I finally worked out a plan with my family concerning which flight I was going to catch despite my phone continually turning off on me. I ended up grabbing some dinner, doing some stuff on my laptop, and sleeping in one of the terminals. The next morning I successfully caught my plane and made it to Baltimore where my family picked me up. It was so nice to hug my family again! My luggage was in another airport, so we drove there and luckily found it.

 

Once home, it was really nice to see all my neighbors and my cat again. I am still in the process of meeting with my friends and distributing souvenirs. I realized some of the differences from Australia are:

–          Coins are smaller here and weigh less

–          McDonalds is cheaper here!

–          We drive on the other side of the road (Crossing streets is strange for me now)

–          We do not have to hit buttons to cross a street

–          We do not have two options to flush a toilet and we really should

 

Life is good and I am so happy I went to Australia. Everyone keeps asking me if I am going back and I sincerely hope so. In the meantime, technology offers various forms of staying in contact! I have already skyped a few times and chatted over facebook. The time differences are annoying but we are making it work!

Thank you for reading my blog and I hope you found it informative, helpful, etc. I wish you the best of luck and if you are studying abroad, be EXCITED!!! It is going to be a unique experience and you will learn more about the world and about yourself. Go get ‘em!

 

smile
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Ready or Not, Here It Comes

Time June 21st, 2013 in College Study Abroad | Comments Off on Ready or Not, Here It Comes by

My time in Australia is rapidly coming to a close. I am so surprised and cannot believe it! I am not ready to go back home because I have met so many wonderful people and have had many wonderful experiences here  I do not want to say goodbye! However, I am looking forward to seeing my family and friends again.

 

Life at International House has been just as amazing as it has been all semester. About 30 of us went camping the other weekend and we had a blast. We cooked on the barbecue for dinner and slept in tents or under the stars. The campsite was right next to a beach so we were able to sunbathe, play soccer, swim, and walk along the beach. On the final day, I woke up to see the sunrise over the ocean.

 

camping tents

 

sunrise

 

I also went to Manly, which is a ferry ride away from Sydney, to volunteer at the Food, Wine, and Sustainability Festival. It was great! My two friends and I made sure people disposed of their food waste properly. There were recycle, rubbish, and compost bins so a lot of the waste was diverted from landfills when the bins were used properly . We received free t shirts and lunch and afterwards, we floated around Manly until the evening. Then we went to Sydney to see the Vivid Light Show. It was incredible: lights and images were projected onto the opera house. I still have no idea how they did it!

 

sustainability festival

 

sustainability festival friends

 

vivid

 

Last weekend was the International House end of semester formal. It was very similar to prom and just as fun. Everyone dressed in formal wear, ate a three course meal, and some people received awards. I danced the night away and had a blast.

 

formal

 

formal with table

 

When classes ended, I had a week off to study for exams. We have two weeks for our exams and once they are over, I go home. It is still so strange to think about! Many study abroad students traveled during this break but I spent my time doing things around Wollongong I have not had a chance to during the semester.

 

bird's eye Wollongong

 

Kiama

 

If you are considering studying abroad, which I recommend, consider staying 2 semesters. People at my home university do not generally stay for more than a semester but once you are here, it is quite common for people to stay for a whole year. You are able to travel more, meet more people, and experience more of the seasons and holidays in the country you visit.

 

Some other tips that I would give to students considering studying abroad in Australia in the Wollongong/ Sydney area are:

– Realize the seasons are going to change during your time here. In the beginning of the semester it was quite hot and now it is quite cool. Pack accordingly.

– I read a blog before I came and a person recommended packing more rough up clothes as opposed to nice clothes. That may be true for the tropical sections of Australia but nice clothes are good for Wollongong and Sydney. Also, I was surprised by the amount of formal events available here at IHouse (Masquerade, Harbor Cruise, Formal).

– Sunscreen is very important if you are coming at some point during the Australian summer. For semester 1 (February-June), you catch the tail end of summer and need protection. You have to coat every inch of your exposed skin with sunscreen unless you want to be a lobster or have strange burn patterns. The sun is stronger here and I used a ton of sunscreen!

 

That is all of the advice I can think of for the moment but here are a few things I have been depending upon this semester:

– Watch with built in alarm and timer

– Water bottle

– Sneakers

– Sunglasses

 

These things have not been necessary but have come in handy

– Hand sanitizer

– calculator

– rain jacket

 

 

 

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I am trying to impress an environmentalist!

Time May 28th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Life in Australia is as wonderful as ever. It is quite chilly now so sweatshirts, blankets, and the works are being pulled out and put to good use! Classes are continuing as usual but the end is in sight now (which is weird and unbelievable.) Lots of fun events have been happening with International House. Two weeks ago I taught volunteers from IHouse the basics of Argentine Tango. Everyone enjoyed themselves and requested a repeat lesson! This past weekend we went to a rugby game and our favorite team won! The other day there were soccer matches between IHouse and Weerona, Campus East, Koolabong, and Marketview, the other residence halls. (IHouse won one of the two games played). We also had a performance night filled with talented IHouse residents!

 

rugby

 

Performance Night

 

One thing I have been looking into throughout my time here is how Australia views sustainability and the environment. It is awesome, Australia in general is very conscious of its impact on the planet. I took pictures to prove it but first I am going to break this down into different sections.

 

Water Usage- conserving water

When I first arrived at International House, my Residence Assistant/Mentor informed everyone that we should only be taking 5 minute showers because Australia is prone to droughts. We had an image of the Outback desert hanging in the bathroom for the first few weeks to remind us! Naturally not everyone followed this, or even remembers at this point, but it is always good to make an effort to conserve water and respect the place where you are staying.

One of the most noticeable ways Australia reduces water usage is flushing a toilet. You have two options: to fill the entire toilet bowl or to fill half of the bowl. This way you can select how much is enough water to get the job done but is not using more than required. Australians poke fun at the automatic flush toilets in America; they believe the toilets do not conserve water well because they flush more frequently than necessary (such as when a stall door closes.) They do have a point!

 

flush

 

Reducing waste- reusing materials

Water re-fill stations can be found on campus and around cites (such as the mall area in Brisbane). This increases the convenience of reusable water bottles and makes disposable water bottles unnecessary. In addition, a few stores require its customers to pay a few extra cents for plastic bags to carry their items. Go reusable bags! Also, recycling bins are almost as common as rubbish bins here which promotes recycling.

 

water refill station

 

Transportation- reducing fossil fuel consumption

Wollongong makes public transportation for International House students very accessible. Free shuttle buses run from the university, loop around the city, and return to the university. If you ever have to go somewhere, chances are it is within walking distance or the bus can drop you off close to it. Also, the North Wollongong train station is a five minute walk from International House. In addition, in the city of Brisbane, there is a rent a bike service with different pick up and drop off racks throughout the city. This provides a healthy alternate to driving. I particularly enjoyed the sign found on the bikes:

 

bike sign

 

bikes

In General:

Environmentalism was prominent in Cairns, Australia. The first tour I went on promoted environmental consciousness and protection of the beautiful tropical areas we were exploring. When snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef, we were made aware of coral bleaching due to increasing ocean temperatures and acidity.

At IHouse, you have the option to dry your clothes outdoors which saves energy and reusable cups are used in the dining hall. Also, the mini fridges in some of the rooms come with stickers denoting the energy efficiency of the fridge.

 

mini fridge

 

It is awesome having environmentalism ingrained into everyday life. It is not asking for extraordinary measures to be taken, rather, small gestures.

 

Australia is environmentally aware since it is heavily impacted by the nature. However, an exception to this is one of the primary industries in Australia is coal mining. This industry is environmentally degrading and fossil fuel intensive. Yet a country needs to support itself, the mining industry is powerful, and affluent. The Prime Minister Julia Gillard passed a carbon tax to try to fix the amount of greenhouse gases industries produce. It was passed, many parties were angered by this, and it is unclear how long it will be in place due to its unpopularity and opposition from the mining companies. Australia is trying to be even more environmentally friendly but still has some battles to win.

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“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” -J.R.R Tolkien

Time May 6th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | Comments Off on “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” -J.R.R Tolkien by

Last week was my mid semester break and it was fantastic! I had been planning it with my friends for months and it was wonderful to finally experience everything. We are the type of people who try to do as much as possible in the time allotted so we scheduled something for every day.

Our trip was broken up into two parts: the first few days were spent in Cairns/Port Douglas and the remainder of the trip was spent in Brisbane. Both are in Queensland, the North Eastern part of Australia. It was quite a lovely to be in the warmer temperatures again in tropical Cairns. It has been getting chillier in Wollongong as it is autumn. Luckily the weather was beautiful for the entire trip!

Cairns

The first day consisted of flying to Cairns, meeting up with more friends, catching a sunset over a lake, and checking into our accommodation. The second day was when the real fun began! The four of us went on an amazing tour with Backcountry Bliss where we traveled around the Port Douglass area. It was not tourist season so it was just the four of us and our engaging tour guide. We visited beaches and look out points but the main part of the tour was ‘jungle surfing’ or zip lining through the rainforest. It was an epic experience; I relied on a few ropes to hold me as I slid off the platforms and flew through the tree tops! At one point I flew down upside down which was mindboggling! At the end of the day we went to an unbelievably beautiful river and had a quick swim. It was one of my favorite days since I saw Australia’s beauty, learned a lot from our knowledgeable tour guide, and tried lots of new things.

Backcountry Bliss Zipline

 The following day was just as amazing, we went snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef! The water was clear and a distinctive blue. The texture, colors, and patterns of the coral were phenomenal while various fish swam right next to you.  I saw a giant clam, clown fish, squid, and a sea turtle! And sunbathing on the deck of the boat was not a bad way to end the day either.

Turtle Reef

 We spent two more days in Cairns. We explored the area, visited shops, and museums. The last day we went on another tour of the area. We saw a waterfall, an enormous fig tree, and the ruins of a Spanish castle. It was really interesting going around the castle learning what the rooms were used for and the quirks of the creator!

Waterfall Paronella Park

 The rest of the break was spent in artsy city of Brisbane. We were unaware of the fact that we were there for the Australian holiday ANZAC day which commemorates the fallen soldiers. Many of the historic museums we wanted to visit were closed but on the flip side we caught a parade filled with veterans and Australians showing their patriotic side! The following day we went to a Koala Sanctuary and wildlife park. I saw my favorite animal the platypus so my day was made right then and there! There was no way to get a picture, he was swimming too fast! I will admit, the koalas and other animals were pretty cool too. The remainder of our time spent in Brisbane was filled with checking out various museums, the botanic gardens, and the mall.

ANZAC parade Brisbane Koala Sanctuary

 On Sunday we returned to Wollongong after and incredible break. It was nice seeing everyone again and hearing about their adventures. A group of students went to the Gold Coast and relaxed on the beach whereas another group flew to New Zealand and traveled around the country in a camper van. We were provided the time but it was up to us what to choose to do with it!

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Finding Balance

Time April 3rd, 2013 in College Study Abroad | Comments Off on Finding Balance by

Happy Easter! Here at International House it was a joyous holiday complete with a trip to Sydney, egg decorating, and an egg hunt. On Easter morning, people were dashing to and fro on the first floor of the building, searching the nooks and crannies for little brightly colored chocolate tin foil eggs. Someone even sported a one piece pajama outfit for the event. I only found six eggs but I raced against another Australian for the slightly larger, yellow egg placed next to the globe outside the front door. I was in a dress and slightly closer to the ground compared to my adversary but was able to obtain the egg! Victory is sweet!

 

easter-egg-hunt

 

For the past few weeks I have been trying to find a balance between all of the demands of being a college student in a foreign country.  Of course there are academics, physical requirements such as sleep and exercise, socializing with friends and people back home, spiritual habits, and financial limitations which can make handling all of them somewhat stressful.

For the past two weeks, academics have taken priority in my schedule and I was not able to exercise, sleep, or socialize as much as I would have liked. This happened as a result of not being aware of all of assignment deadlines. I am not mentally on top of my game here in Australia and did not realize the build up of papers, tests, presentations were due within a short amount of time. It was my fault since I volunteered to give the first presentation in one of my classes while forgetting I had a number of other things due at the same time while underestimating what the presentation entailed. In the end I successfully completed everything and now do not have another assignment for that one class for some time. Also, now I am acutely aware of the deadlines for my future papers. I certainly have learned from my blunders!

Not many people have been experiencing what I have in regards to academics. I have been working really hard whereas other students do not have as many assessments. I believe the work load depends on the classes chosen while studying abroad. It does not necessarily correlate with the level of the class though; my 100 level course is more demanding than my 200 level course.

 Meanwhile, I have been squeezing in Australian adventures between my classwork. After I turned in my last assignment for the week, I indulged in a victory nap then spent the rest of the night with friends. In between those two highly academic weeks, IFSA Butler took my fellow students in the program and me on a Country Life Weekend. It was a very enjoyable experience!  It was very relaxing, provided another perspective of life in Australia, offered fun activities such as a bonfire and interacting with animals, and enabled me to catch up on some sleep (which helped me gain an advantage over a cold I have been fighting). Sleep and exercise have been pushed to the side but now that I have more time, I am happily experiencing them again. It all comes down to balance. I believe it is ok to temporarily let the demands of one side take the priority but not to monopolize life. Now I am more balanced.

 

Country Life Weekend Drive

Going for a drive during Country Life Weekend

 

North Wollongong Beach

Running at North Wollongong Beach

 

Life in Australia is still wonderful. Over the Easter weekend I have fulfilled one of my goals while studying abroad: seeing a live platypus! I saw two at the Sydney Aquarium! They were about a foot long, very energetic, and surprisingly graceful in the water. It was so awesome and experiences such as this make me grateful for the opportunity to be living in Australia.   

 

Dori

Just keep swimming!

 

akward-aquarium

Akward Aquarium Photo :)

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Livin’ In the Land Down Under

Time March 14th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | Comments Off on Livin’ In the Land Down Under by

It is unbelievable; I have been in Australia for a few weeks now and so much has happened! I worked out all of the necessities such as phone service, internet, classes, and books. I ended up choosing the phone plan IFSA Butler set up and the internet provider UOW uses. My schedule is good; I do not have classes on Fridays and managed to find cheaper textbooks. Life is good!

There is a lot to talk about but I will focus on where I have been staying. I am attending Wollongong University this semester which is an hour and forty five minute train ride from Sydney. It is awesome because Wollongong is close enough to Sydney to be able to take weekend trips and am right next to the train station you need to get you to Sydney! Wollongong is a smaller town and I am happy because I can walk anywhere, including the beach, or use the free shuttle service. However, people are nice whether you are in Sydney or Wollongong!

 

Day trip to Sydney

Day trip in Sydney!

 

The residence hall where I am staying is fantastic! It is called International House and I live with people from all over the world. You will find people from Australia, Spain, India, South Korea, Pakistan, France, China, Iran, Norway, Mexico, Kenya, Mongolia, Canada, Brazil, Japan, and the United States all living under one roof. During orientation week, we all bonded by participating in the various events ihouse organized. For example, we bowled, roller skated, visited a rainforest, raced around Wollongong in an amazing race competition, sang during karaoke night, watched movies, and hosted a gala night. I particularly enjoy meal times in the dining hall because I am able to chat with everyone!

 

International House Globe outside the main entrance

Globe located outside the main entrance of International House

 

North Wollongong Beach during the Ihouse amazing race challenge

First stop on the International House Amazing Race Competition

 

As for living on campus, it is a whole new experience. Like I said before, I have a roommate from Dubai and it is amazing how well we get along. We have a nice room with enough space for both of us. My side of the room is decorated with pictures from home, wildlife images, jokes, and a recently purchased Aboriginal boomerang. It is different having so many friends around you all of the time and somewhat distracting! However, help is just around the corner as well. I have become skilled at asking people for help and people take pity on me and assist me. The other day a neighbor helped me find my classes and today I helped him with an assignment. I have been enjoying the whole atmosphere so far.

 

Gala with Therese my roommate (L) and Lauren (R)

Gala night with my roomie Therese on the left and Lauren on the right 

 

My side of the room, not including the mirror or closet

My side of the room (not including the closet or mirror)

 

I think the food is really delicious here. It is not easy to satisfy everyone’s tastes, as we are from all over the world, but I have certainly been eating well. I appreciate the vegetarian options (even though I eat meat) and the availability of healthy foods. On the other side of the spectrum, the ice cream machine is a very popular. International House provides breakfast and dinner every day and has a sandwich bar so you can pack something for lunch. I have been experimenting and creating some interesting sandwiches! I have also tried Vegemite. When first tasting it, it is better not to expect anything (especially expecting it to taste like nutella; they look similar to each other but they are completely different!) It is not horrendous but it is salty and unusual. The candy, or lollies, are quite delectable here. Caramello Koalas are good and so are Cherry Ripes.

 

Australian food (some of which has been eaten...)

 

On that note, I will stop talking to you so you can go and raid the fridge. Until next time!

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Go the Distance

Time February 25th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | Comments Off on Go the Distance by

G’day mate! Surprisingly this is not used as much as one would expect while in Australia but people are really very friendly and will occasionally end a conversation with a jovial ‘Cheerio!’ Sydney's botanical garden

The packing is finished, the plane ride was successful, the IFSA Butler orientation was completed, and the move in was accomplished! So much has happened in one week!

Everything started on Saturday, February 16 with my five and a half hour flight from Philadelphia to San Francisco. It was a smooth ride and I enjoyed the five hour layover I had before my next flight. I was able to walk around outside the airport and the warm weather was great after being in an enclosed aircraft! Then it was time for my sixteen hour flight, dun dun DUNNN!!!!!

It was a group flight so all of the IFSA Butler students were in one section on the plane. We waited to board the plane, flew, and spent the next few days at orientation together. It was pretty sweet because the girls I sat next to on the plane were also going to the same University in Australia that I was and were my roommates for the rest of orientation. IFSA's Wollongong Girls

The flight itself was not too bad; it was at night and I slept most of the ride. Also, the plane had tasty food, a decent movie selection, and they turned out the lights.  However, I did not able to walk around the plane since I had the window seat. For the first day or two after the plane ride my legs were swollen and unappreciative of the abuse they withstood. Moral of the story, if you are going to Australia walk around the plane and your body will thank you later.

Orientation was amazing. We went on a walking tour through Sydney, visited a wildlife park, bushwalked through the Blue Mountains, experienced an aboriginal demonstration, and went on a Sydney Harbor Cruise. Sydney is huge and has a little bit of everything. The tour was filled with historical and interesting facts such as a man once climbing the Sydney Opera house with only his bare hands and feet. Sydney's Opera House It was possible to feed a kangaroo (or emu), get a picture with a koala, and watch a crocodile snap up some food at the wildlife park! Munchies for a Kangaroo! The Blue Mountains were beautiful and provided quite the workout walking down heaps of steps but it is worth it. the Blue Mountains The aboriginal demonstration explained many things and the musical performances wowed everyone. The cruise was a great way to see the city lights at night and made me excited about the incoming semester.

On Thursday I moved into Wollongong University. It is very nice here and I luckily I have the sweetest roommate. I am trying to adjust to not having my technology sorted out but it I will have it figured out in the next week or so. In Australia you have to pay for your internet usage, carrier, etc. It will be nice when I am fully settled in and have a routine established. This upcoming week I have another orientation and the following week I start classes. Life in Australia is buzzing!

So far Australia has been great! It is incredibly beautiful and I am looking forward to seeing what lies ahead.

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Welcome to my blog!

Time January 29th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

For the next few months I will be writing about my experiences at Wollongong University in the land Down Unda! I cannot wait to pick up some Australian lingo and will try to sprinkle it into my postings so you can have a better flavor of the Outback.

I offer a unique perspective as a study abroad student as I never lived away from home before (woot woot commuters!) This will be an interesting experience living on my own and being in another country at the same time. I had many doubts about studying abroad but realized I will never have this opportunity again. Plus, I have always wanted to go to Australia! During the application process, I received a fortune cookie saying, “You will travel to many places” which sealed the deal.

This brings me to the present. I am still working to compile all of the necessary paperwork, supplies, etc. but am confident I will have almost everything together by February 16 when I leave for my flight. I started the whole process over the summer and have been continually working on it since then. Apply early if you are considering studying abroad! Originally I was really worried about what to pack but IFSA Butler has circulated lists of what to bring and the average temperatures so that crisis has been neutralized.

Let the packing commence!

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