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The Final Leg

Time January 5th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Roughly sixth months ago, I was sitting at home, counting down the days until my arrival in Australia. Now six months later, here I am, sitting at home, counting down the days until my return to Australia. It’s strange being home, although minus the tan, it’s as though I never left. Was it all a dream? Did I make it all up in my head? Are we living in the matrix?

There’s no way to know for sure.

But I’m fairly certain the answer is no. At least, the container of Tim-Tams (Australian cookies I smuggled home) in my cabinet is telling me: “Yes. Australia is real, and you were actually there.  Now eat me.”. So I’ve come to the conclusion that my semester abroad was too good NOT to be true. And not without further adieu, I present: THE FINAL LEG OF THE JOURNEY.

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Studying < Tasmania

Time November 17th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Like a lost dog who returns home, I’M BACK AND I MIGHT HAVE A TICK OR TWO.

Back in Townsville that is; not back in Chicago. Did I mention I left? You see, when I was told there was a week-long study vacation, I heard “VACATION” and hopped on a plane to Tasmania.

I wasn’t alone though; two other friends and myself rented a car and drove over 900 miles in the course of five days. It was the ultimate procrastination destination. And to keep the procrastination going strong (yes, i have a final exam tomorrow IT’S FINE), I’ll give you the play by play.

DAY 1: Arrived in Sydney and spent the evening on the famous Bondi Beach. I ate a burrito.

DAY 2: Had an early flight to Tasmania and spent the day exploring the city of Launceston. We took a chairlift up to Cataract Gorge, hiked around the mountain, and walked across the suspension bridge overlooking the gorge. We then drove to the Tamar wetlands for a sunset walk and bird watching.  After checking into our lovely little hostel, we cooked up a delicious green curry. By 8:30pm, we were sound asleep.

DAY 3: After grabbing a quick cup of coffee, we set out West to Cradle Mountain. Along the way, we stopped at the old fashioned town of Deloraine for some shopping, and then at Mole Creek for a tour of King Solomon’s caves. At one point on the tour, all the lights were shut off, revealing the hundreds of glow worms on the ceiling of the cave. After the tour, we continued onwards to Cradle Mountain stopping only to photograph the wild wombats. Every. Single. One. …We passed a lot of wombats.

DAY 4: The day started bright and early with a sunrise hike around Dove Lake. We were surprised to see so much snow on the ground…! Maybe it was because of the snow, or perhaps because it was 5:30am, but we were the sole hikers on the mountain. Not a bad way to start the day. As I reflected on my past travels, it occurred to me that I’ve been hiking, scuba diving, biking, kayaking, swimming, and camping. So it was only logical that next, I go horseback riding! The views from the horse trail were simply stunning; it was an unforgettable ride. After lunch, we departed Cradle Mountain and set off for the East Coast, stopping at several lookouts along the way. Upon reaching our campsite at Bay of Fires national park, we immediately got a camp fire going. It was over these small and mighty flames that we somehow managed to cook fried rice using only an aluminum tin. McGiver himself would have been impressed.

DAY 5: Every vacation has one rainy day. Today was that day. On our journey down the East Coast towards Freycinet National Park, we were determined to walk up to the Friendly Beaches Lookout, despite the pouring rain. It took all of five minutes before we were running back to the car screaming “ABORT MISSION!”. The rain began to subside once we reached our destination, and the rest of the afternoon was spent hiking down to Wineglass Bay, rated one of the best beaches in the world!

DAY 6: After eating breakfast on the edge of a cliff, we embarked on the final leg of the journey: Hobart! We arrived early in the afternoon, checked into our hostel, and then spent the day walking and shopping around the city. We ate treated ourselves to a fancy Turkish dinner, and then went out for a few drinks afterwords. We ended up stumbling upon a hidden gem: salsa night at the Republic Bar. Maybe it was because I was wearing hiking boots (sorry, I didn’t have any room to pack cute shoes), or maybe it was because I just looked incredibly awkward, but my dancing was so horrific that I was approached and asked if I wanted a brief dancing lesson. Ladies and gentleman, I am now a salsa dancer. Thank you, Tasmania.

DAY 7: I was sad to say farewell to Tasmania, but at least I got to say helloooooo Melbourne! I wish I got to spend more than just two days in this happening city, but I made good use of my time. I walked around the entire city, shopped around the Victoria Marketplace, got lost a few (dozen) times, and went to a comedy show at night. The people I met were kind and friendly, and the city itself has a very modern and trendy vibe to it. Melbourne is certainly somewhere I hope to return to in the near future.

Now that I’m back at JCU, it’s hard to believe that I only have a week left in Townsville. I’ll save the waterworks for my final post, but just know, they’re coming.

 

 

 

 

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Spring Breakers

Time October 13th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Ah yes Spring, my favorite season. The rain, the flowers, the warmth, and of course, SPRING BREAK!

The first few days of break were occupied by an ecology field trip to Magnetic Field trip (Yes, this marks my third stay on Maggie Island for those counting). My particular group studied human impacts on mammal behavior which basically involved hiking, searching for wild koalas, and feeding rock wallabies. Science is no walk in the park.


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Scrambled eggs with ketchup

Time September 25th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Breakfast was delicious this morning! I made scrambled eggs with ketchep! It was super easy to make. First I took eggs and then I scrambled them with a fork for about 30 seconds. Then, I cooked it for about five minutes. For the finishing touch, I just added ketchup!

Oh wait, sorry guys. Wrong blog!      My bad.

 

Australia has been keeping me quite busy lately! Schoolwork has started to pickup, and I’ve been away for most weekends. My most eventful weekend was when I went on a scuba diving trip with the JCU Dive Club! About 10 of us boarded a boat on Friday evening and set off for the Great Barrier Reef. We spent 2 nights on the boat, and did 6 dives total. The first day, we did 4 dives on the reef, including a night dive! I was lucky enough to spot a shark on every single dive! The following day, we dived the legendary Yongala shipwreck, and I must say, it certainly earns its place as one of the top five dive sites in the world. We’re the first divers in the water at 6:30am, and the second I look down into the blue, I realize there’s a massive school of great barracuda swimming directly below. We descent into what seems like endless blue, until suddenly, a gigantic ship is right in front of my eyes. The size of the wreck was impressive, but the size of the fish was utterly mind blowing. Schools of spotted eagle rays and bull rays bigger than myself! We were even lucky enough to spot the famous grouper, VW, named for being the size of a VW Volkswagen. It was magical. It was like the Little Mermaid without the mermaids.

The following weekend, I went a camping trip with 6 other mates. We drove down to Crystal Creek, a beautiful campsite right along a crystal clear river with heaps of swimming holes. It was a jolly old time. We didn’t have the most gourmet food, but we had plenty of it! I’d say we went through an impressive amount of beans. I’d also say it’s impressive that we managed to all sleep in tents together after eating all those beans. We spent the days relaxing by the creek and the nights sitting around the campfire. It was EXHAUSTING.

This post is a bit on the short side, but seeing as tomorrow is already midsemester break, I’ll definitely have some exciting stories when I get back from the Whitsunday Islands! Peace outtttt

 

 

 

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Hey look another post

Time September 2nd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hi all, sorry for the delay! I got caught up in the iTunes visualizer.

These past couple weeks have been characterized by sunshine, beaches, and travels! So average weeks.

After returning home from Cairns, schoolwork resumed as usual. I dissected a tarantula, wrote a 22 page paper on overfishing, and surveyed the health of a hypothetical reef. In case you’re concerned, the reef is looking good. The actual Great Barrier Reef, however, has been facing recent threats of dredging and dumping off of Abbot Point. I’ve recently joined Act Now, the environmental activism group on campus, and we’re working to stage a protest in defense of the reef. The other day, we ventured down to the marina and attached flyers to all the boats to rally support for the protest. Tragic irony struck when hours after the postering, every single flyer blew into the water. Fortunately, all the paper was retrieved from the water. Unfortunately, it still looked pretty bad.

In other news, I’ve still been going strong with frisbee! My apologies to everyone who just lost bets. Last game, I only made contact with the frisbee once, but hey! It’s an improvement from the last three games! The annual frisbee pubcrawl was this past weekend, during which over 100 frisbee players dressed up as various fairy tail characters and had a raucous night in town. I dressed as both Hansel AND Gretel. Everyone guessed I was Pocahontas.

Prior to this weekend, I spent the past two weekends on Magnetic Island, only a 20 minute ferry away from Townsville. The first weekend was to celebrate the monthly full moon party that occurs on the island. Thailand is home to the world’s largest and most popular full moon party, however there are several others scattered across the globe. Thousands of travelers flock to Maggie Island for the event, and even though it was literally the ONLY night in all my time here in Australia that it has rained, we still had a blast. The headliner was… JOEL FLETCHER!!! (Some of you may know who that is.   I don’t.) The next day was a perfect beach day, complete with gellato, swimming, parrot feeding, incredible star gazing at night, and then more gellato.

The second weekend spent at Maggie was Butler’s weekend getaway trip! The Butler students reunited and met up with Lalena, our Butler student coordinator. We stayed at cozy little bed and breakfast which was certainly a step up from the hostels we had been accustomed to. We went for a beach walk during low tide and spotted at least 10 sting rays! At sunset, we fed rock wallabies and ate Thai for dinner. We had an early start the next morning and boated off to the Great Barrier Reef! On the two and half hour trip over, we saw a humpback whale with two calfs right beside the boat! Two great white sharks were also spotted, but of course, I looked a second too late! Soon after, I geared up to go scuba diving. The reef was even more breathtaking than the last dive in Cairns. We got within feet of a whitetip reef shark and saw a massive bull ray. Certainly a memorable dive.

I’m sure there are some things that I’m leaving out, but if I remember, I’ll just pretend they happened later and include them in my next blog post. YOU’LL NEVER KNOW!

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Finding Nemo

Time August 12th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

G’day mate! Or as they say in Australia, hey what’s up?!

It’s been about two weeks since classes have started, and I’m already so busy that I’m writing this blog to procrastinate from studying. I’m in four classes: Ecology and Conservation, Marine Invertebrate Biology, Marine Conservation Biology, and Writing for Stage and Screen.  Although I’ve wanted to be a marine biologist for as long as I can remember, this is my first experience with marine biology courses at the college level. Invertebrate biology is definitely going to be a lot of memorization though it’s already proven to be a worthwhile course. Last week, we looked at various corals, anemones, and jellies under the microscope. Did you know jellyfish have eyes? Well sort of… they’re called rhopalia. It’s kind of complicated. Actually, don’t worry about it.

Outside of class, I’ve been uncharacteristically active. I joined the ultimate frisbee team which has been a ton of fun so far. Yes, you read me. I, Lauren Langer, am participating in an organized sport. Don’t be alarmed. IT’S THE NEW ME.

I also purchased a slackline which has kept me way too occupied. It’s essentially a flat rope you tie between two trees and then attempt to walk across. (The keyword being “attempt”). It’s surprisingly social and students passing by often stop and give it a try. We even brought it to the beach one day! My friends and I spent hours trying to make it all the way across. The end result? ANOTHER VIDEO! (Check it out somewhere below)(I know, I know, it’s sideways again. Just deal with it)

In other news, Australia is starting to finally feel like home. My dorm, University Hall, is always bustling with activity. Everyone’s doors are usually open, all the rooms have balconies, and nearly all the balconies have hammocks. The vibe is unlike any other dorm I’ve been in. The first week of class was lined with various events: toga parties, bludgers at the Uni Club, barbeques, club fairs, and more trips to the beach.

This past weekend, a group of friends and I decided to plan an impromptu trip to Cairns in Northern Queensland. It’s about 6 hours north of Townsville and has the closest proximity to the Great Barrier Reef. We took a bus early Friday morning and arrived in Cairns in the early afternoon. We spent the afternoon exploring the city, checking out the Cairns JCU campus, and walking along the beach. For better or worse, Cairns is certainly a lot more touristy than Townsville. It’s basically a backpacker’s paradise; the city is bursting with restaurants/cafes, hostels, and bars. Not to mention, there’s a travel agency on nearly every corner advertising some sort of adventure trip. We shared an 8-person room at Gilligans, a loud and youthful hostel. We ate spent the evening there, taking advantage of their nightly live music and drink specials.

The next morning, we set out for the Great Barrier Reef! We booked an all day tour through Tusa dive company, and I couldn’t have been more impressed. They provided accommodation right from our Hostel and then served us breakfast and lunch aboard the ship. It took an hour and a half to reach the reef, but it was well worth the bumpy ride. Three of us went scuba diving with our own instructor, while the rest of the group snorkeled. I have to say, the reef lives up to the hype. We went to three different dive sites, and each was more spectacular than the last. We saw sea turtles, sting rays, and the largest coral structures I’ve ever seen. We even found nemo! I can’t wait to go back to the reef; it was simply magical.

After returning to the city, we went to the night markets where I ate my weight in Thai food and then convinced myself that I needed a 45-minute massage. I mean, I had a long day.

On our last day in Cairns, we decided to take advantage of the lush rainforest surrounding the beaches. We took a tram over the rainforest canopy and then spent the afternoon exploring the small rainforest town of Kuranda. I ate kangaroo pie for lunch and then went on a rainforest hike that culminated in a misty waterfall.

That’s all for this time! I’ll be back with some Magnetic Island stories!

 

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THE CITY OF TOWNSVILLE… exists outside of the Power Puff Girls

Time July 28th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Greetings from my hammock. It’s the middle of winter here in Townsville, and I’m wearing shorts and a tank top. Since my arrival last week, I’ve been extremely busy relaxing. As soon as I moved into my single in University Hall, I went out and bought the essentials: a hammock, poster, tapestry, and boxed wine (locally referred to as “Goon” here). My hall is a mix of Australian and international students. and everyone is just so friendly. If classes didn’t start on Monday, I would think I were staying at a tropical resort.

I’ve been spending most of my free time exploring Townsville and meeting new people. My friend Oliver, who has already been studying at James Cook for a semester, acted as our personal tour guide for the week. He lead us on a hike right behind our dorm that culminated in a sweeping view of the city and ocean. We spent the next day at the beach, swimming, sun bathing, playing frisbee… you know, beach stuff. On the other side of the water, you can see all of Magnetic Island (aka. Maggie Island), home to wild Koalas and wild full moon parties. Along the beach is what’s known as the Strand, the main part of Townsville, lined with beachside restaurants and shops. A twenty minute walk from campus is a relaxing lagoon. We spent another day there, swimming around and walking along the riverside.

Like a good little tourist, I had to take a trip to the Billabong sanctuary. Wallabies were pet, snakes were held, and Purell was applied. Afterwords, about 20 of us stayed in for a movie night. We discovered there is no Netflix here. This may be the biggest adjustment.

The second biggest adjustment? Probably the night life. While there’s the campus bar that has live music on Fridays, most students venture out to the city for entertainment. Despite Townsville being a laid back beach town, people DRESS UP at night. I’ve learned a lot of things since coming here, like if you wear Birkenstocks at a pub, you will get stared at. It’s okay though, I went out and bought heels the other day. No one has to know they’re from Kmart.

In honor of classes starting tomorrow, a few friends and I decided to make the most of our last free weekend and hike up the famous Castle Hill. The trek up was filled with picture breaks (AKA “let me stop and catch my breath while I pretend to take a picture of this tree” breaks). But once we reached the peak, we got to watch the sun set over Townsville and it was quite the view. Following the hike, we went out to eat at a Thai restaurant in town. I was so hungry, I licked my plate clean. And then once I ordered and received my food, I ate every bite!

I’m still working out some kinks in my schedule, but I’m excited to start classes tomorrow!

 

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Heading Over to a Land Down Under

Time July 22nd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

THE JOURNEY: After 20 hours of flying, 5 cups of coffee, 16 rounds of 2048, 2 Nyquils, and 45 minutes of sleep, I arrive at Sydney Airport. Besides having a middle seat, the journey was relatively painless. A four hour layover in LA allowed me to visit my dear friend Jessica from Wesleyan, and after refueling with some nutritious In and Out Burger, I was back on my way. Once I arrived in Sydney, I was quickly greeted by the friendly IFSA Butler staff. Thirty minutes later, I’m on a bus with 45 strangers.

 

DAY 1: It isn’t until I see the Sydney Opera House in all it’s glory that it hits me: I’m halfway across the world, and I don’t know a soul. It’s only a matter of time, however, before we all get to know one another.

We check into the YHA Sydney Harbor Youth Hostel and I’m placed in a room with five other girls also attending James Cook University in Townsville. The view from the terrace of the hostel overlooks the entire city of Sydney and is simply breathtaking.

The first activity we do as a group is a walking tour of Sydney. We explored the city and walked around the entire Sydney harbor. I believe some scenes in Finding Nemo were filmed there.

We eat dinner at the hostel and soon after the jet lag takes hold, and everyone is sound asleep by 8pm.

 

DAY 2: Six different alarms go off at 6:30am and we head downstairs for an early breakfast. Awaiting us are breakfast sandwiches, coffee, and cereal. But wait, what’s that next to the bread? Is it Nutella? Is it peanut butter? No, it’s VEGEMITE! Always eager to try new foods, I make myself toast with Vegemite. Now, if you’ve ever taken a sip of water thinking it was sprite and been revoltingly disappointed, you may have an idea of what it’s like to try vegemite. So naturally, I had everyone try it. And obviously, I videotaped it. Check it out somewhere on this page. (The video is sideways so just tilt your head. Apparently iMovie can make your videos slow motion but can’t rotate them 90 degrees)


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After breakfast, we visited the Featherdale wildlife park. I pet a koala, held a snake, and fed a kangaroo. Basically, all my dreams came true there.

We hop back on the bus and head out to the blue mountains for a guided bush walk. The mountains are stunning, and I have a great conversation with our tour guide, Jaime, about his travels throughout Australia. 1,000 steps later, we’ve reached the base of the world’s steepest incline train. It was a pretty exhilarating ride to the top of the mountain.

Once we return to Sydney, we go out for dinner in the city. Tonight, we have the energy to explore Sydney’s nightlife. We check out a couple “secret” bars before journeying to a recommended club called Scubar. Any day that ends in singing and dancing is a good day.

 

DAY 3: After some briefing about university life, we have the rest of the day to explore Sydney and it’s many beaches. My friend Kaitlyn and I decide to separate from the large group and catch a ferry to Manly Beach. Despite it being slightly overcast, the beach is stunning and pretty empty for the most part. We grab some Vietnamese food to go, and eat on the beach. We then venture out for cliffside hike along the water. The views are spectacular.

We spend the afternoon sipping wine at a fancy café and then reunite with the rest of the IFSA Butler crew for a dinner cruise. Tomorrow, I head to Townsville for move-in! All I can say is, thank GOD for the IFSA Butler team! They organized every aspect of orientation/travel/accommodation, and they made sure we were all knew what to expect upon arrival at our respective universities.  It’ll be bittersweet saying goodbye to the students going to different universities, but I’m ready to hit the ground running at Townsville!

 

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Prolonged Prologue

Time July 7th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This is the BEFORE picture.

 

I’m leaving for Australia in 108 hours. So far, I’ve packed only the essentials: peanut butter, duct tape, and chapstick. The rest should be a breeze. I must admit though, it’s going to be a challenge bringing only one suitcase. I can pack an entire suitcase filled entirely with socks and still need more socks. But I think it’ll be liberating to bring the bare minimum and jettison the rest.

There’s a lot of thoughts and questions racing through my mind. Besides the big ones (what am I going to eat for my last meal in Chicago? What am I going to eat on the plane? How much room can I make in my luggage for snacks? What’s the food going to be like in Australia??) I can’t help but wonder what my overall experience will be like. I’m excited to meet new people from all over the world and travel as much as I can. I want to dive the Great Barrier Reef and really take advantage of all the wildlife I’ll be soon be surrounded by. My biggest fear? The Australian Box Jelly. That thing is deadly.

I’m trying not to have too many expectations because expectations are like single men who write beautiful poetry, play the guitar and cook restaurant quality meals. They can be difficult to meet.

That’s all I got for now. I’ll be back when I’m on my way to Australia!

 

 

 

 

 

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