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Home & Not Just Away

Time July 9th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

You may be wondering what is meant by the title of this final blog post. For most of you, you have never heard of the Australian hit television show, “Home & Away”, but being someone who spent everyday with an Australian best friend, I have heard of the plot surprises, makeups, breakups, and everything in between. I have to admit I never sat down and watched a full episode of the show, but if I was naming my own show documenting the last two weeks, the title would be slightly tweaked.

I have been home for a week and one day now. I have showered with no shoes on, endulged in Dunkin Donuts, Panera Bread and all the other American foods I missed while Down Under for the semester. But besides the little things, I have gotten back in touch with my family and friends while doing my best to remain in touch with those who are no longer a walk or train ride away. The friends I made in Australia, as I have said previously in this blog, were the biggest reason my experience was the way it was. Brittany, the australian I met within my first week and immediately found tons in common with was a half a block away. On the weekends, I’d take the 45 minute train ride to Macquarie to catch up with a group of people I always, always looked forward to visiting with. I got used to a schedule, to the transportation, to the lack of dependence I had on others to feed me, to the $2 a laundry load, and to the availability of my amazing new friends and amazing new sense of independence and curiosity. I became wrapped up in Australian life and was by no means was I “away” for the semester. Being away means you are removed from your normal life, from your everyday comforts and to-do lists. Feeling at home somewhere else however is completely different. And that? That is the category I put Australia into as I reflect on my semester from my New Hampshire living room. Australia is not just a place I spent a semester “away” in. It is the place that forced me to grow up, that forced me to learn differently and that allowed me to see, do and experience.

As I sit here knowing that the Australian work week will start in just a few hours and that I still have about 4 hours until darkness on my Sunday evening, I can’t help but feel some disbelief in the fact that I really am “home”. It’s as if I will wake up tomorrow in my UTS dorm room with my 7 roommates and new friends only a short distance away. I will wake up and take the bus to Coogee to take the scenic walk to Bondi Beach. I will have gotten my fresh fruits and vegetables at Paddy’s Market last night as they go on sale every Sunday. I will have perhaps spent the weekend at Macquarie, or in the Hunter Valley with Brittany’s family. I will look forward to another week of exploration and discovery. Instead, I am a car ride away from Hannaford’s rather than the Sydney Opera House and the quietness of my little town is quite the dichotomy to Sydney’s hustle and bustle.

Coming home was inevitable. We all knew it would eventually come, but how difficult it would be to leave was something we could never really prepare for. It’s a bizarre feeling really, especially saying goodbye to someone who lives on the other side of the world and will probably never be a car ride or even reasonable flight away. Let’s face it, I don’t consider 20 hours a reasonable flight time…

However, I have not spent one minute dwelling on the end of this 5 month journey. I have been way too busy talking my family and friend’s ears off about how special my adventure really was. What’s that corny quote, “Don’t be sad that it’s over. Be happy that it happened” or something like that. Could not be more true. I could sit and remember the care-free semester I had of countless laughs and amazing friends but there is no time to do that when all I can daydream about is when a.) I’ll be back in Australia and b.) when I’ll see those amazing friends ago.

IFSA-Butler’s staff tells their students a lot about the U-curve of study abroad emotions and feelings. One of the events on this curve, believe it or not, is reverse culture shock. I can tell you that this is 100% real and definitely coming to me as I write this post. It is difficult to come home and put yourself back in your old shoes so to speak, however it is vital that we take the time to appreciate what this experience did for us and to be thankful that we have something, someone and somewhere to come home to. For future study abroad students, I hope you let your study abroad journey take its incredible course. You will be amazed at how little you will just feel “away” and how much you will feel at home in another country.

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No Longer a Tourist

Time May 30th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Less than one month until I land back on American soil and I am struggling to find the words that could even come close to describing the way I feel about this inevitable end. However, I will try my best.

You no longer feel like a tourist when you become so comfortable in a place that it seems impossible to say goodbye. You have figured out which bus routes take you to Circular Quay and realized that the free bus goes in circles down George Street and up Elizabeth Street. You no longer carry a heavy camera around your neck every time you go into the city. You offer help to someone fiddling with a map desperately trying to find their way from A to B. You know the cheapest place to buy a coke and that 7/11’s one dollar coffee isn’t so bad after all. You recognize the faces of the homeless people that occupy the same corner of the same street day after day. You wave to the old man who runs the coffee shop right below your apartment complex…and he waves back knowing you are a familiar face. You don’t consider how on earth you are going to fit the contents of your room into suitcases to head back home…because you can’t imagine yourself anywhere othan than here. You know the one ways and the dead ends. You never notice that everyone around you has a different accent than you do. You have figured out how to navigate your way through academic buildings to avoid the rain. You know the locations of 15 different places that offer a $39 one hour thai massage and a million more travel agencies/currency exchange windows/ATM’s/hostels and everything in between. You know your way around even without your iPhone’s Maps tool…no Wifi really throws you a curveball when you’re lost. You are comfortable asking a store clerk or a bus driver for directions.

You’ve learned the ins and outs of this city that was once just another distant destination in your mind. But truthfully? Sydney is of course no longer just a city to me…it’s a home and an adventure and a place that transformed me from a tourist into a wannabe aussie. Throw me in the middle of Boston and I would have a difficult time finding my way to Route 93, but throw me in the middle of Sydney and I am plenty confident that I could find my way. When you live right in a city, it makes it so much easier to learn the ropes because of all the times you mess up first. I can’t count how many wrong buses and trains I’ve hopped on only to bring me to the amazing hidden gem places I discovered. I mean I have been taking the longest possible way to one of my classes the entire semester only to realize I could cut that walk in half by taking one less turn.

So, with less than a month left I am trying my best to take my time in every thing I do. While the excitement to see my family and friends is hard to deny, this last month will conclude an amazing journey in a place that has made me grow up more than I ever thought I needed to.You know you’re no longer a tourist when you gain another home.

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Spring Break New Zealand

Time May 2nd, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

A compilation of all the photos and videos I took during my 10 day stay in New Zealand. Incredible week, incredible memories!

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Better Late than Never–Easter!

Time April 17th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Ahhhh a huge sigh of relief that midsemester exams are finished and I have TONS of exciting things to look forward to—first of which being my trip to New Zealand that begins in just a few days. The past few weeks have been filled with finishing assignments and preparing for midsemester exams before the big 2 week break. I was lucky enough to spend a very relaxing Easter weekend with my Australian friend Brittany and her family at their holiday home about 3 hours north of Sydney.

I guess coming into this experience, I didn’t really consider the fact that I’d be away from home for Easter. I didn’t acknowledge the idea of missing out on Mom’s chili dip or not sitting on the living room couch peering over the window sill for our guest’s cars to climb up the mountain of a driveway. I didn’t think of any of these things..until Easter snuck up on me. The thoughts crossed my mind briefly of course, but instead of having any time to dwell on what I’d be missing back home, I was too focused on my excitement for my Easter weekend to come.

Not in New Hampshire, not in Hilton Head where I’ve spent an Easter before, not at Brown’s Seafood Shack by the beach, and not even in Sydney..this new place I call “home”. Brittany invited me to go to her family’s house in the Hunter Valley for Easter weekend. I had been looking forward to this getaway ever since the day it was brought up in conversation and now, I completely understand why.

We arrived at Brittany’s summer house by the ocean at around 6 PM on Thursday and relaxed on their deck (stunning views of sailboats and a moon that could light up the entire sky). We even got to see some wallabies…one with a joey in her pouch too! It felt fake. When I look off my deck, I see squirrels and the occasional pretty bird (don’t get me wrong Mom and Dad, I do love New England!!) and Australians look out their deck and see wallabies. This was the first reminder that I was definitely in Australia and I was definitely in the country.

I spent the weekend getting to know her parents and 3 younger siblings as well as meeting more of her friends from back home. We went on a dolphin watch and camel rides, giving us the chance to take full advantage of the gorgeous weekend weather. On Easter Sunday, we all enjoyed a delicious home cooked meal! Yum.

Easter was the first chance I’ve had to really spend some time outside of this busy city that I love so much. It was a nice reminder of the beauty that lies in other parts of Australia. When I tell you I felt so at home with Brittany’s family, I couldn’t be more serious. Coming into this study abroad adventure, I was expecting to live with other Americans, befriend other Americans and only have Australian acquantainces. It has been an irreplaceable cultural experience to have a best friend here that is Australian. We have spent nearly every day together since I’ve been here and we still catching ourselves saying “I can’t believe we sat next to each other at that housing meeting!” Easter will definitely be one of my favorite memories of Australia. I am hoping to create so many more memories in New Zealand next week!

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The World at my Fingertips

Time April 8th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hello all! I have been a bit MIA for the past few weeks given the fact that I am SO busy. Busy is good though. It’s great actually. I will update you on Easter in the very near future, but first I think I should acknowledge how smoothly my apartment style living has gone thus far!

After having my Facebook newsfeed flooded with Spring Break pictures from my classmates at PC back home, I got to thinking about what it would be like to be back there this semester. Similar to the past semesters there, but I couldn’t help but have a brief moment of FOMO (Fear of missing out). I met my core group of friends within the first few months of my freshmen year and details of our life stories are programmed into each others brains—we know each others parents, we have visited each others homes, I could mimick the way Bianca talks to her dog and the way Ally talks to hers. We are completely in sync. You need people like this in order to get by—the people who know you better than you know yourself because they have lived with all of your annoying habits and sleep talking (sorry, guys), the people who share your sarcasm and let you know when your singing voice just isn’t spot on that particular day. These relationships are beautiful, priceless, rare, and really what living is all about. Having said that, I have come to realize that relationships with people that you find differences with can be just as unique.

I have met people that have grown up completely different than I have, speak different languages than I do, study some of the most challenging subjects here at UTS and yet, we are all sharing this 8 person flat comfortably and without disagreement because we have been breaking down the barriers between us (and because we have a cleaning schedule—just kidding, but seriously). Our schedules collide, our eating times are all across the board and the amount of studying going on between these walls is crazy (lots of engineers around here). Despite these variables, my flatmates have made a genuine effort to get to know me and where I’m coming from—geographically, academically, socially. We talk while we cook (or should I say while I burn my pasta—how is that possible?), we joke around about how I’ve managed to make the worst class timetable of all time and how Mohit’s sound system resembles the blaring music of a Las Vegas nightclub coming from his tiny room. We hosted a floor party last week where I got to meet even more people from all over the world (I was the only one there from North America!) and it was a night like this that convinced me how lucky I really am to have stories from all over the world at my fingertips—just a knock on any door down the hall away.

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Looseleaf and Lingo

Time March 14th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

You know the feeling of reaching the end of summer vacation, picking up a pen and regaining your grip that has been on a vacation itself for the past few months? You begin to get your normal penmanship back and remember how your letters connect…or for those of you who print, how your letters are straight and separate. Our fingers wrap around our pens just like our feet slide into our favorite pair of sneakers. Since I was a kid, I have always loved feeling the glide of a pen on paper or an expo marker make its way across the white board Santa brought me one Christmas. Our dependence on technology has recently diminished the need for written words. In reflecting on that and revolting against it I suppose, I am writing this blog out on looseleaf paper before hitting the road running so to speak via my computer’s keyboard. It has taken me twice as long to write this short bit as it typically would when I use the help of a computer, but maybe there is more behind my words if I let them come slowly in this way? Either way, I still do love the feeling of a good pen making its mark on looseleaf.

I am sitting in the UTS Student Union tapping one foot to the sound of Tim McGraw while people watching like it is my job. My pen wanders beyond its assigned lines as my eyes remain on a crowd for one second too long. Again, another element of writing by hand. You have to watch what you’re doing! With 45 minutes between me and my last class of the day, I will give a recap of the last few days. In addition, I want to include some more little tidbits that I’ve picked up on over here (observations, differences, realizations, etc.). Ya know, another one of those lists since lists are such a natural yet effective way of writing a blog post. Since my last post, I have been taking mental notes but also physically writing notes in my planner as well of all the different things I hear and see that may be blog worthy. This is my attempt at compiling a bunch of random thoughts into something that makes the slightest bit of sense.

1.)  Australian Jargon and Lingo- Things Australians say that I had never heard in real conversation before but am really starting to get used to! On the left is the Australian term and on the right is my translation of it.

  1. “Reckon” : I think, I believe
  2. “Heaps” : lots, tons, many
  3. “Toilet”, “Loo” : Bathroom, Restroom
  4. “Yank” :  American ; I’ve heard it said as “Crazy Yank”
  5. “Swimmers”, “Togs” : bathing suit
  6. “Thongs” : Flip-Flops
  7. “Bin” : Trashcan (we say bin too, but they NEVER say trashcan—they say it’s too long)
  8. “Cheers” : Thank You
  9. “Babe” : I think it means “Miss”. Or maybe there is just this one coffee barista that calls me “Babe” every time I order a regular cappucino. Watch out, Ry…
  10. “Primary School” : elementary school
  11. “How do you go with the readings?” : What do you think of the readings? What is your interpretation of them?
  12. “Devo” : Devastated, Disappointed
  13. “Have a shower” : Take a shower
  14. “First year, second year, etc.” : Instead of freshman, sophomore, etc.
  15. *** “Dodgy” : Creepy, shady (one of my favorites)
  16. “Hey?” :  They use it in the same way that we use “Huh?” or “What?”
  17. “Alright” : When shopping for example, if there is a bargain, Brittany will say “Oh now that’s alright”. And yes, as I’m writing this, I’m saying all these words in my head with an Australian accent. The Australians I’ve met say that my Australian accent needs some work—I disagree.
  18. “I am 170 cm” :  a.k.a. I am 5 foot 7 inches tall.
  19. “It is going to be a stifling 26 degrees tomorrow!” : 26 degrees Celsius that is…. Which is 80 degrees fahrenheit.
  20. “Tomato Sauce” : pronounced “Toe-mah-toe” sauce a.k.a. ketchup

2.)  Things that are just plain different:

  1. Iced coffee is not the iced coffee I’m used to back home! It has a scoop of ice cream in it. Speaking of coffee, there is no sign of any Dunkin Donuts anywhere either.
  2. Not that I don’t learn practical skills back home, but professors here are so blunt and to the point. Instead of assigning 50 pages of reading and telling the class there will be a quiz at the end of the week, my professor taught us “how to read” what is actually important rather than the whole 50 pages. They advise us to read the assigned questions before doing the reading so we are only looking for the information we need. They really understand the mindset of a student and want to work with what our natural brain tendencies as students really are.
  3. Most words that would have a “z” in it in the states are spelled with an “s” over here. Examples, organize is spelled organise.
  4. We pronounce “z” as “zee” when we say our alphabet. Australians say “zed”. I thought Brittany was lying to me at first, but when I asked Charlie, another Australian I met to say the last 4 letters of the alphabet, he pronounced “wxyz” like this: “double-you, ex, why, zed”.
  5. Dogs are often not on leashes, whereas I feel like your dog is looked at as the most disciplined creature in the world if you can walk it without a leash back in the States.
  6. When it is warm out back home, it seems that everyone (in the Northeast at least) take full advantage. Of course, people who are going to work have to wear professional attire which is often a suit or dress pants, but even the students here have been in jeans and sweaters! It is hot people! Take advantage and wear your summer clothes so I don’t stick out like a sore thumb American every day!
  7. Converse all-stars are THE sneaker here. Also, the trends seem to be very indie. The J.Crew style I am so used to seeing is nowhere to be found.
  8. Mad Mex is the Australian form of Chipotle. I have to say I will always keep faithful to my Chipotle roots.
  9. Like I have mentioned before, everything is crazy expensive. A few things I have written down: $7 for a notebook and $3.50 for a small coffee. You never appreciate the prices of even the little things at home until you are thrown into this place were EVERYTHING seems so inflated.
  10. Geordie Shore is a popular TV show here. It is the British version of Jersey Shore and is equally embarrassing/addictive.
  11. University classes are with people of all ages. Since many Australians take a gap year to travel or work, there is a wide range of students that are young and old. Some of my classmates have shared stories about careers they have tried for a couple years and didn’t enjoy so they are coming back to uni for a second degree.
  12. Unlike many of my classmates back at PC, my classmates here are mostly first year students and already have their degree decided on. They have come into uni with their minds made. So, I have people of all different career paths in my classes. Since my schedule is filled with classes in different degrees, I have future photographers, doctors, accountants and nurses, so I have been introduced to tons of different perspectives.

Of all these aspects of life that are different over here, it is comforting to know that there are still things very much the same. For example, I know that home is exactly the same since my brother told me that Mom made cookies and he was in the process of eating one. My jealousy was through the roof. I think about the people associated with home very often, but never in a homesick kind of way. Earlier today, for some odd reason my house’s wireless server popped up and asked me to join. I went to print something off my laptop today and the one placed in the corner of our living room showed up as an option. Little things like that remind me of home but always in a very good way…reminding me that it will be the same in just a few months when I return home.

But before then, there are tons of exciting things happening here in Sydney that I am SO looking forward to. St. Patrick’s Day is quickly approaching as well as turning 21 and going to Surf Camp for a weekend. Easter weekend will be spent at Brittany’s house in the country about 3 hours from here. Her mom already warned me of the Easter egg hunt that takes place! And then onto New Zealand for spring break and Ryan’s long awaited visit at the beginning of May. So lucky, so thankful and so excited for what’s to come, although my time here has already been full of adventure and lasting memories.

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Getting Used to Life in Oz

Time March 6th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I am nearing my second week of classes and already I feel like I have been living in Australia for months now! Having adjusted to my city lifestyle, I have mastered crosswalks and walking on the left side of the sidewalk (this was hard to get used to!). Having said that, I look both ways twice when crossing the street with cars on the left side too! Other than these minor traffic acclamations, I am completely settled into my cozy little life right in the heart of Sydney. Since I last wrote, there has been so much happening on and off campus. To start, I was able to touch base with Fiona, my IFSA-Butler site supervisor and she opened my eyes to Max Brenner’s Chocolate, an Australian favorite that I’m not sure I should have been exposed to. It was delicious beyond words can say and I have to stop myself from going for a treat too often. The picture doesn’t do my chocolate pizza justice, but take a look at the pictures above.

This past weekend, I took a short train ride to Macquarie University where other IFSA-Butler students I met during orientation are studying. I certainly could not be happier with my situation in the city, but it is a nice change of pace to visit a campus with grass and trees! On Saturday, myself and the other IFSA-Butler students took a train back into Sydney (it’s great how easy public transportation is) for the 35th Annual Sydney Mardi Gras Parade. We had a BLAST and got to see people from all over the world. My sister had always told me that Mardi Gras was one of her favorite events in Sydney when she was studying abroad here and I can absolutely see it as being one of my favorites as well.

On Monday night, we were all lucky enough to go see a show at the Sydney Opera House, which was organized by IFSA! It was called “The Reef” and essentially was a silent movie accompained by an orchestra playing the soundtrack. Pretty cool, right? Not to mention we all got to cross “See a show at the Opera House” off our bucket lists! The footage of the Australian reef was incredible and the music was breathtaking. It was also a great opportunity to see familiar faces from orientation and ask how their experiences are so far.

After a night at the Opera House, my Australian friend Brittany and I decided to wake up early on Tuesday and go on the long walk from Coogee Beach to Bondi Beach. It took nearly two hours and was nothing short of priceless. From cliff to cliff and ledge to ledge, it seemed the ocean views just continued getting better and better. While we were trying to get a workout in simultaneously, I don’t think our heart rate ever got too high seeing as I could not help myself from stopping to take another picture every 30 seconds! Once we arrived at Bondi, we jumped in the water as fast as we could. It was the perfect start to an Australian day and we even have plans to go back next Tuesday to do the walk in reverse—Bondi to Coogee. This is definitely a must-do for anyone coming to Australia.

I am actually currently wearing my IFSA-Butler Orientation T-Shirt that says “Real Academics, Unreal Location” as I type this blog and the saying could not be more spot-on. “Uni” as the Australians call it is going amazingly well. It’s interesting because the courses I am taking range from science to nursing to finance to photography. In each of my classes, there are future engineers, nurses, business-men and women and artists. I have met a variety of people with different backgrounds, interests and future aspirations which makes me ask myself, “What are you trying to get out of this life?” I find that I have pondered this question often while I’ve been here. Something about this city is so vibrant and inspiring. I am thrilled to see where the semester takes me and I am open to wherever that may be. Perhaps my dreams will change, perhaps I haven’t even discovered what interests me the most, but one thing I know for certain is that I am growing into my own every single day…in a completely unreal location.

I have some exciting things planned for the next couple of weeks! This coming weekend is “Future”, a music festival in Sydney that I am attending with Brittany and some of her friends from home. Meeting new people has been my favorite part about being here. In just a few weeks, I will be heading a few hours south for Surf Camp Australia with the Macquarie students! Not promising any impressive surfing photos, but I will do my best! Stay tuned for a post I have planned for next week about more tidbits and differences between American and Australian culture!

 

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Hello from Down Under!

Time February 25th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hello, mates! I am sitting in my 8 person flat looking out to the pouring rain (but I really can’t complain since I have been to the beach a lot over the past week and a half). I had intended on sitting on my building’s gorgeous rooftop to fill you in but I suppose I have many more oppurtunities to do that in the next few months! So, let’s rewind back to last Monday where my journey began.

I really don’t have much moaning and groaning to do in regards to the 15 hour flight from LAX to Sydney. Luckily for me, I can basically fall asleep anywhere and at any time, which of course I did for most of the flight. I did however get to enjoy the company of Nancy and Tom, the elderly couple that sat next to me. They were going on a vacation to Australia with friends of theirs (cutest old people ever). Nancy told me of Tom’s limited mobility in his old age and how generous the airport had been in providing him with a wheelchair. Tom overheard and said, “Hey, ya know what? It gets me from A to B!” We all laughed and I sank deeper into my seat content with my plane neighbors and their company. Nancy told me about their kids and their grandkids and how they have always lived so far from their family. She told me she was sad that she has never really got to know her grandkids given the distance. I have to say, that made me sad too. I wished I had the phone numbers of Brendan and Sue (her grandkids—I learned a lot about their family on this flight) and could tell them to fly to Toledo. It would be worth it for them to truly know and appreciate their grandparents. I offered Nancy and Tom a piece of gum as we were landing and Nancy said “Oh, just one for me. Tom has never liked gum.” I said, “I’m sure you know these things by now.” She looked at me, whispered “63 years” and placed her tired, wrinkled hands on top of Tom’s. Of course, I couldn’t take my eyes off of them since I’m pretty positive that my heart was melting. Tom squeezed her hand gently and they didn’t let go. I knew this was a positive start to my trip right from the beginning..

Once I arrived in Sydney, myself and about 25 other students were greeted by IFSA-Butler staff. The time difference was hitting us all by this point but we were shuffled onto a bus and taken to the Sydney Harbour YHA Hostel.

My baggage made it-phew. Some people weren’t so lucky. Soon after having lunch and checking out the beautiful rooftop view of the Sydney Opera House at the hostel,we were off to a 3 hour walking tour of Sydney. It was very informative, not too draining, and beautiful to say the very least. I admit that I hadn’t done heaps (what Australians say for lots or tons) of research on Australian history or culture before arriving here, but I walked away from the tour with much more knowledge. For example, this link represents the strong friendship bond as they call it between Great Britain and Australia.

There are a few art museums in downtown Sydney and a strong artistic presence in Australian culture. Along a narrow street hangs dozens of bird cages of different shapes and sizes. This is one of the forms of art Australians take pride in. After seeing a lot of downtown Sydney and getting to know each other, we walked through the botannical garden. I remember thinking, “This is right in these people’s backyard. I wonder if they appreciate it.” I hope that they do because it was truly stunning and the most peaceful place I have visited since being here.

The next day, myself and the other IFSA-Butler students were off to the Blue Mountains, which was about a 2 hour drive from Sydney. On the way, we stopped at Featherdale Wildlife Park where we were greeted by a guy whose job is literally to stand with a bag that has a baby kangaroo in it. Cool, right?

After ooh’ing and aww’ing over the baby “joey”, we explored more of the park where kangaroos were allowed to just wander, walk right up to you, and hop wherever they pleased. In general, from what I’ve observed so far at least, Australians are much more relaxed and worry-free than Americans are.

The following afternoon, we were given some free time to explore the city and sightsee. A few other girls and I decided to take the ferry to Manly Island (about a 25 minute ferry ride). The island itself was beautiful, but I personally love the ride over there much more.

Fiona, my site coordinator, is an Australian who works for IFSA-Butler. Basically, her job is to make sure I have a smooth transition to my new school and new environment. She is down to earth, hilarious, kind and someone I know is on my side. Fiona is in charge of a few schools, but mine was the only one at the orientation last week. So, we were able to get a lot of one on one time to talk about my worries and she gave me words of encouragement and advice. If Fiona hadn’t been there to make sure I was adjusting well, I’m not sure that this week would have been the same for me. She is there whenever I have a dumb question like how to get home when I’m lost on the public bus (note to self—Bus 373 does in fact NOT go to central station) or when I need someone to tell me that my decision to come to UTS was a courageous one. It is not often that we take adventures almost completely on our own. And to do so and feel optimistic and confident in that decision lets me know that I am coming into my own every single day.

I was nervous all week to leave these people I had just grown comfortable with only to enter a school as the only IFSA-Butler student, but I reminded myself that in situations like these, I will have to be brave. I said goodbye to the people I met who were off to different schools—some just a bus or train ride away, but others, like my roommates in the hostel, were catching flights to Brisbane. We all exchanged contact information and parted ways. Orientation kept us all busy enough not to think of home but let us explore the city on our own. It was the perfect introduction to this city that I know I will not want to leave come June 29th..

Now that I’ve refreshed my memory with the last week’s events, I’ll wrap up this novel blog entry with little things I’ve picked up on and learned while being here.

1.) Driving on the left side of the road also means that people walk on the left side of sidewalks. This is something I have to get used to!

2.) They are much more environmentally friendly—encouraging you to bring your own bags to grocery stores, take shorter showers, etc.

3.) Australians are incredibly friendly. I will be so sad the day I come across a rude Australian that shatters the generalization I’ve made about them all being nice.

4.) Crosswalks are very, very noisy. They beep loud and fast when it’s OK to cross.

5.) Grocery stores are located inside shopping malls. They are nestled in what would be a Macy’s or Sear’s size store right in the mall.

6.) Thai food is EVERYWHERE! Tried it for the first time the other day and really, really liked it.

7.) “Sunday Sesh” is when people go out to a bar on a Sunday around 4:00. No resting on Sundays for these Australians!

8.) There is a huge amount of respect for the aboriginal culture here.

9.) School kids look exactly how you would expect them to look. Knee socks, long shorts, dress shoes. For some reason, they just look so Australian to me and I’m not ashamed to say I’ve had that picture of what Australians look and dress like ever since the Mary Kate and Ashley movie “Our Lips are Sealed”.

10.) Another note to self: Don’t reference the Mary Kate and Ashley movie within your first hour of meeting new people.

11.) Vegemite, a traditional Australian toast topping, is the most foul smelling thing I have ever smelled. I have almost been convinced to try it but I really can’t get past the smell.

12.) Water at restaurants is usually served at room temperature.

13.) No tipping!! Ever!!!

14.) It takes 20 million dollars every year to keep the Sydney Opera House looking the way it does.

15.) The original architect of the Opera House got caught up in some scandal (need to research this more) and didn’t get any credit for his design.

I hope you enjoyed reading and feel free to comment with any questions! I will post again soon!

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T-Minus One Week!

Time February 6th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

And just when you think winter break could not get any longer, you realize you still have one week left of packing and repacking, catching up on all of your favorite shows, and going back to school to visit your friends. It’s the good life really—hanging out at home during the school week and living the college student’s life on the weekends. It has been great, I must admit, but I am ready to close this looong winter break chapter of my life and move on to the next chapter. I am ready to fly the quick flight to Australia (21 hours to be exact) and begin a journey I know will be one for the books.  Before I jump into my pre-study abroad preparations and expectations, I should introduce myself!

My name is Erin and I am a junior at Providence College (Go Friars!), although my heart will always be in New Hampshire, my home state. I am a Health Policy and Management major with a minor in Business Studies. I am quite simple in regards to what’s important to me:  my family and friends more than anything else—so let’s just say the decision to study abroad in a far away place was slightly difficult for me. I had the usual worries of becoming homesick and “FOMO” (fear of missing out) on things back home and at school. I have quickly come to realize that home and PC will be waiting for me in just a few months and to embrace this rollercoaster that is about to come my way. I love to write, love photography, love to travel, and love new people with interesting stories and backgrounds. These passions of mine are what made studying abroad a definite for me regardless of my fears. The positives outweighed the negatives, and there I was swooning over my acceptance to the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia. Both my brother and sister studied abroad in Australia just a few years ago and I couldn’t break the family tradition, right?? I had no desire too though after hearing the countless stories and adventures my siblings both shared with me.

IFSA Butler was recommended to me from my siblings as well as countless online resources I came across while researching. Since I am the only student from Providence College (as well as IFSA Butler) that will be attending my host university, I am comforted in the fact that I will meet other IFSA Butler students on the group flight from L.A. to Sydney. This feature is just one of the many aspects of IFSA Butler that is advantageous to me. The orientation, the advisers, the group flight, the quick email responses to what felt like thousands of questions I was asking my IFSA contact, Chris…it was all exactly what I wanted for my study abroad experience because let’s face it, at times the whole process can be slightly overwhelming. The overwhelming moments were well worth the excitement I am feeling now—one week away from weighing my luggage on the bathroom scale (please don’t be too heavy, please don’t be too heavy), driving down to Boston’s Logan Airport and off I go!

In preparation for next week, I first started by making a (long) list of things to pack and things to do. It has been beyond helpful for me in terms of staying organized in these past few weeks. In terms of packing, I have been realistic as to what I really need and what I can do without. What I am more concerned about is getting there and getting this crazy 5 month chapter started! I will be living with seven other people and cannot wait to meet my future roommates upon my arrival. Classes begin in a few weeks and the fun begins when the wheels go up next Monday morning. I will be sure to post as soon as I arrive in Sydney (with pictures as well!).  FYI, a large part of my blogging will be photos. I hope you enjoy! Bon voyage America, Hello Down Under!

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