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Open Love Letter to Australia

Time July 6th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

It’s been over a week since I left my second home in Brisbane and I can’t believe I’ve already started to resume my normal life back here in America. It was a LONG trip back to New York of 26 hours and felt so strange to be back on American soil, but for the time being I’m happy to be home. It’s been a week of old firsts — first sleep in my bed after 5 months, first trip back to my favorite restaurant {Outback of course…so I still have my love of Oz in my heart}, first time seeing my family since February, first time purchasing alcohol legally in America since I turned 21 overseas, etc. It’s been really nice to do all of the things that I once loved before I lived in Australia, but I’ve also noticed some differences that I was blind to before I left the states.

The US will always be my first love because it’s where I grew up and learned everything about life for 20 years. I’ve strangely fallen in love with my country even more ever since spending 5 months outside of it and in another country. I think it’s because I’ve had time to appreciate the things I once took for granted, and also because I’ve gotten to see how another country works on a daily basis — meaning that nowhere in the world (at least from my knowledge and experience) is exactly like the United States. On the other hand, Australia has made its way into a special spot in my heart that I never thought was possible. While the US is my first love, Australia is my second and the one that has impacted my life so profoundly in not even half a year.

America has taught me what I know…Australia has shown me who I am.

I wish there were words to express what Australia has been to me and how my study abroad experience has affected my life. Australia is unlike any other experience I’ve ever had because it challenged me every single day. It threw the unexpected at me, made me adapt to change, showed me the hearts of people from all over the world, gave me confidence. But most importantly, Australia made me feel beautiful and loved. Australia is this amazing and unique nation that takes newcomers into its arms and shows them that they are beautiful in their own way.

I’ve always been a bit self conscious and the US fueled the fire into that self concept that I have because of the way society is run. The people can be judgmental and harsh if one does not fit into the tiny cookie cutter copy that is most accepted by the public. Australia completely shattered that mindset and showed me that different is not only acceptable but it’s something to cherish. I could feel comfortable in my own skin anywhere in Brisbane from wandering around the riverfront to walking into a club. I never once felt like I had to put on the mask that I constantly had worn each day in America because I wasn’t afraid of being judged for being me.

As for reverse culture shock, I can’t say that it has set in yet and I can’t be sure that it actually will. Maybe it’ll take a couple more weeks or even months to hit me or maybe it’s something I won’t experience. While I am acknowledging the differences between life in the US and Australia, it hasn’t been difficult to adjust back to the life I once knew. Maybe it’s because Australia taught me to love myself despite what others or US society thinks, so whatever is thrown my way now I’m prepared for.

I went to Australia looking to change it up from my regular life attending college in America, learn about Australian culture, & have fun in the warm weather. I never knew that I would get all of that plus so much more. I gained a second family through IFSA-Butler Brisbane that I now know I would never want to live without, and I am eternally grateful. I conquered my fears of being in a foreign place with foreign people and especially of flying over water (for 14 hours to be exact). I’ve learned that it’s okay not to take life so seriously 100% of the time and that it’s acceptable to just spend an arvo {aussie lingo: afternoon} kicking it with the kangaroos instead of working on 3 weeks worth of assessment.

I’m so excited for the life changes I have ahead of me and I have 5 months in Australia to thank for allowing me to realize what I truly want in life. My experience inspired me and those that I’ve met along the way at UQ in Brisbane have cemented the phrase that it’s never too late for anything. It’s never too late to take life into your own two hands and start living for yourself instead of for the rest of the world. So, even though I’m feeling home sweet America…I’m still thinking about Australia.

It’s bittersweet to be on day 7 of waking up without hearing the announcer at the South Bank train station through my window talking about train arrivals and departures. It’s bittersweet to be back in a small town full of hills and houses without being able to walk a few minutes down to walk along the Brisbane river. It’s bittersweet to be back with old friends and separated from the friends that experienced the last 5 months with me. It’s all so bittersweet.

But, I’m not saying goodbye to Australia because I know that one day I’ll travel back to the nation that gave me the strength to love myself first. I may have closed one chapter of Australia in my life, but I’m overly positive that I will have another further down the line in my book.

Dear Australia,

I miss your laid back culture, your endless sunny days, your love of life, your warm beaches…even your public transportation. Don’t count me out yet…I’ll see you again soon.

To everyone that has followed along throughout my incredible journey– thank you for all your support and love the past 5 months. I never could’ve gotten where I am now without all of you. And lastly, to IFSA-Butler & the Australian staff, thank you for giving me the most amazing experience that I could ever imagine. You exceeded my expectations in every way and I would 10000 times do it all over again if I could.

As an American..my heart physically belongs as a citizen to the US, but somehow along the way I left a piece of myself in Australia, and for that I will never again be the same.

Cheers,

The American that will forever bleed a little bit of Australian wherever she goes

xoxo

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The Beginning of the End

Time June 24th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

So I know it’s been quite a while since my last post, but it was a crazy few weeks with final exams. Classes ended June 6th and here at UQ {and I’m guessing in most of Australia}, uni students are given a study week to prepare for exams. The semester here really was so much different than a semester in the states, especially for exam period. It was hard to adjust to having an entire week off between classes and the beginning of finals because all of the extra time led to procrastination. I had two take home essay finals and two finals scheduled during exam period. Also, the exam period here at UQ includes Saturday exams and is 2 full weeks long. It was a struggle to motivate myself to study and get everything finished especially since it’s been summer break in the states for a while.

I can FINALLY say that I have finished my academic semester in Australia at UQ and it flew by. I feel lucky to have gotten to attend classes on such a beautiful campus full of world renowned professors and awesome students from all over the world. My last day at UQ was a bittersweet one for sure. I had an extremely early Sports Psychology final and then found myself walking around campus instead of going straight home to South Bank. I was feeling relieved for getting my last exam off my shoulders and for finishing my 3rd year of college, but also sad that I wouldn’t ever be getting on the 66 bus again to go to campus. I don’t think it ever fully hit me how soon it would all be over until I was completely finished.

As I’m writing this, I have less than 4 days left in Australia and while I do get excited about going home to America I’m definitely going to miss this place. When you stay in one place for a good bit of time you tend to take a lot of the things for granted until it’s about time to close the chapter and move on somewhere else. I’m glad that I still have a few days left to really embrace Brisbane and appreciate the city that has given me so much in the past 4.5 months.

I spent today walking along the river and the parklands on South Bank because it is absolutely beautiful. Although it’s winter now in the southern hemisphere the sun was still shining. Brisbane is the perfect city in my opinion because it is river, CBD, mountains, beach, and bush all in one. I think I’d say that I’ve had a truly authentic Australian experience here and although many of the other cities I’ve travelled to here were stunning, Brissy has always felt like home since the moment I stepped off the plane on February 8th.

I’ve felt so many things this semester from frustrated to overwhelmed to content to comfortable, but now that it’s about to come to an end I feel as if I won’t return to the states with my full heart. It’s something so unexplainable but Brisbane has captured my heart, and I know that because of the leap of faith I took this past semester in dropping my life in the states to live in Australia I will never be the same again. This hasn’t just been a semester of academic progression as I had expected in the beginning. It has been a journey of personal growth and learning to have the courage that I can be my authentic self in any part of the world.

Whats next?? Well I’ll be packing the last 4.5 months of my life back into my suitcases in the coming days {most likely with a bit of struggling to get them closed} and catching a flight back to the states early Thursday morning. I’m not quite sure if I know what to expect readjusting to home or if I’m even ready to take that step yet, but the time has almost come to say goodbye to the best experience of my life. I’ll be compiling pictures and video clips from the second half of the semester into a video soon & will write to you one last time once I’m adjusting back to life stateside. It’s been fun sharing my adventure with you all this past semester!

xoxo

 

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Checked one off the Bucket List: Great Barrier Reef

Time June 1st, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I spent some absolutely beautiful days with perfect weather in the perfect tropical north Queensland city of Cairns last week. Destiny {shoutout to you if you actually read this haha & now you’re famous} and I flew on Jetstar for 2.5 hours to our destination leaving basically before the sun even came up.

We got to our hotel and stayed right on the marina where the cruise boats for daily reef tours depart and it was a great view. Compared to Brisbane the weather was much warmer around 85 and sunny instead of low 70s with some clouds. The first day we ate lots of food (because who doesn’t like to do that?) and laid outside by the pool taking in all of the sun. It was such a great start to a small escape from reality and heavy load of school work that had overtaken my life just a few weeks earlier.

The next morning we got up bright and early for breakfast and to board our Great Adventures Catamaran for a day on Green Island and snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, something that has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. It was about a 50 minute boat ride out to Green Island (a little bumpy to say the least since the water was a bit choppy) but we sat outside on the top deck and got to see the beautiful blue and turquoise water leading up to the island. The island had so much to do with a gated pool, multiple beaches with visible reef, an eco walk, FOOD, and heaps of live crocodiles. We adventured around a bit when we first arrived and then there was a glass bottom boat tour over top of some of the reef with fish and turtles. I didn’t go on that because I was still recovering from the catamaran ride over, but it seemed like a really cool concept.

We walked over to the crocodile exhibit and were able to hold a baby crocodile and take pictures. There were lots of other crocodiles to look at and some were literally so massive I couldn’t even understand and all they do is lay there on the land or go into the water and lay there. Apparently they only really are active when they’re feeding and the rest of the time they’re pretty boring.

Being the typical {maybe not so typical anymore} Americans we are we had a lunch of french fries and chicken nuggets and burgers with ice cream of course before heading to the dive shop for our snorkel boat trip. The water was pretty warm so we didn’t have to wear a wetsuit but we got our snorkel equipment and flippers and headed down to the boat with the rest of the snorkelers and divers. The driver took us about 10 min out from the island to a part of the reef called the “New York” which fit perfectly because I was born and raised in New York in the United States. When we got there we put on our equipment and jumped in the water to start exploring. Thank goodness for lifeproof so I’ll attach pictures below of what we were able to see!! It was an absolutely incredible experience to be swimming with the fish and to observe something that wasn’t built or made by humans. Even from the small portion of the reef that I was able to see and swim along, I could tell how amazing it actually was and how lucky I was to be able to witness something that is a big part of the world.

As I was watching the fish swim below me and looking at the coral formation I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed with how beautiful the Earth is and how small I am as a human compared to the powerful creations of the world. In the hour I spent snorkeling along the different pieces of the reef, I was able to put into perspective how fragile the Great Barrier Reef truly is and that it is important to protect because it is home to so many creatures. It’s difficult to actually care about something until you see it in real life because until then it is just an idea or figment of the imagination, but thanks to my continuing semester in Australia i’m able to make more things a reality than I ever thought possible.

We snorkeled along the beach for another hour or so when we got back to the island from the outer boat tour and there was a stingray swimming on the ocean floor not far from the shoreline where we were watching the fish. I was surprised at how close the coral comes to the edge of the island and to also just see a stingray in its natural habitat swimming around and minding its own business. It’s easy to see some of these creatures as enemies because we perceive them as dangerous but they are just doing what they know in their habitat to survive with humans constantly intervening, and that’s something we need to think about when we place labels on stingrays or sharks or even the “deadly” box jellyfish that can be found in the reef.

The Great Barrier Reef was so many things at once: fun, exciting, adventurous, overwhelming, amazing, breathtaking, complex. I know that it’s a trip that I’ll never forget and I’m so incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to swim through the reef because each day more and more of it is being destroyed. So after a 7 hour day on Green Island and snorkeling the reef we headed back to the catamaran for the hour ride back to mainland Cairns. The pictures don’t do this beautiful place justice, but it’s still a snapshot of what we got to see throughout the day.

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Madness in May

Time May 26th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

So I realised that I never actually did post this segment after I wrote it a few weeks back, but it did save to my laptop so better late than never right? (The following was written during the first week of May).

Everyone knows the saying April showers bring May flowers right? Well at Australian uni it goes a little like this….Mid-semester break in April brings assessment overload in May. That’s exactly where I stand right now and it’s quite the struggle. I’m currently in the process of writing two long essays and a qualitative research report while also trying to balance somewhat of a social life and time to refuel. I’ve had a few long 12 hour days on campus this week {the only time I’ve ever been thankful for strong Aussie coffee} but the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter each day that goes by.

Highlights: Wednesday markets in the CBD of Brisbane are a good break in the school day of studies. Yesterday I had a bit of a catch up with a good friend at the markets with some yummy authentic spanish food of chicken and chorizo with rice and a frozen lemonade. I also buy most of my produce there because fresh fruits and vegetables are much cheaper than in the grocery store and are way less processed. The macaroon guy from the french pastry place knows to expect me every Wednesday afternoon for my order of 6 macaroons and always a free one that had been broken during the day.

Once 8 May hits I am finally home free for a few weeks until final assessments start to come out, but until then it’ll be exciting adventures to Surfer’s Paradise, Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef & my 21st birthday in oz!

 

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ANZAC in Australia: A History & Culture Lesson

Time April 30th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Last weekend I was lucky to experience Aussie culture on a much deeper level by taking part in the Anzac Day commemorations all throughout Brisbane. But what exactly is this holiday and why is it often considered the “unofficial” Australia Day? ANZAC is an acronym standing for Australia and New Zealand Army Corps., and 25 April marked the centennial of the 1915 (WWI) Gallipoli, Turkey invasion by these armies. Although incredibly unsuccessful, Australians adopted much of their national identity from Gallipoli and give it heaps of respect. All of the soldiers (or diggers as they were referred to in Oz) were volunteers, many of them university age and despite their failure they showed bravery, egalitarianism, mateship, and other characteristics that embody “Australianness.” I’m so glad that I was able to appreciate and really grasp why Australia has such a connection with the events that happened at Gallipoli. Instead of reciting a textbook to you, I’ll include some links of the history of Anzac and the Anzac legend if you are keen to learn more about it: Read More »

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Cuddling Koalas, Kissing Kangaroos, and Taking in all the Views

Time April 13th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, Australia, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

As promised, here’s a link to the video of my first two months in oz! There’s much more to come, but it’s hard to explain all that I’ve gotten to see and explore in words so here you go! Hope you enjoy it :)

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Academics, Academics & MORE Academics

Time April 13th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, Australia, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

It’s about that time in the semester where things start to get crazy. Mid-Semester break is just coming to a close as I finish vacuuming all the sand out of my room from the sunny coast, and UQ opens back up for classes tomorrow (Monday) with 8 weeks still remaining in the semester. The first half of the semester has been pretty quiet in regards to assignment because Australia’s education system is much more UK based than anything else. Most of the course grades come from final exams and long research essays/projects which are due near the end of the semester. It’s been a challenge to stay motivated not just because I’m in the beautiful country of Australia, but because the learning is so independently based that my mind is still having a difficult time adjusting. Even guidelines for assignments are much more vague than in comparison to those in the US. For example, while my school in the US might give a topic with bullet points of framework on what should be included, here at UQ the assignment instructions for one of my research papers is as follows: “Complete original research and assemble a 2000 word essay referencing secondary works for support”. It’s pretty frustrating for me since I like to have structure and know exactly what is expected from me, BUT there’s always some positive that comes with the negatives. Read More »

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Halfway done ALREADY?!!!

Time April 6th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, Australia, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hey guys!

Just a quick little update while I run around throwing heaps of clothes and swim suits into a bag for our week adventure in Mooloolaba and etc. for Easter break! Sorry that I’ve been away awhile but time really does fly when you’re having fun traveling & sightseeing {errr…I mean studying}. It’s about that time for MIDTERMS which are surprisingly different from what I’ve experienced in the US. It’s much more relaxed in that it’s more independent preparation and the lecturers do not get on you all the time about it. Also, my midterms just so happen to be AFTER the mid-semester break which isn’t the greatest. To apologise for my LONG absence I’ve been working on putting together a video of my first two months here in Australia for you all to see! It’s not quite finished yet but I will get right back on it when I return from my holiday away from a holiday {Sunshine Coast with NO WIFI=peaceful}.

In the past month I’ve been to Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast which is super touristy but also lots of FUN! We celebrated Leigh’s 21st at the Hard Rock Café (living up to our ‘Americanness’) and were probably WAY over excited to see American bacon in our meals hahaha.

It’s been raining quite a bit lately so I have quite the collection of movie tickets because it’s something fun & cheap to do on South Bank. We had a great Easter Brunch today with heaps of celebrations, french toast and of course CADBURY!!!

A word about uni life at UQ: They love to give out group assignments and make you collaborate with all different people. At first I was really hesitant to work with all Australians but it has turned out to be really good connections and I’ve made some new friends who invite me home to real Australian meals!

EXCITING NEWS TO COME: Me and my friend Maddie bought tickets to Cirque Du Soleil: Totem coming in just a few short weeks and also booked a sneaky little weekend getaway in about 5 min of planning to Melbourne!!!

Pictures will come with the video I post as soon as I get back into Brissy the end of the week!

Much love to you alll xxx!!!

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Adventure Weekend & How to Cope When Things Go Wrong

Time March 13th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, Australia, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hey guys!!

Before I talk about adventure weekend I just want to say that study abroad has been extremely testing on my sense of time management. So I very much apologise for the long amount of time between posts because I really do want to share as much as I can with you all about my experience {and yes, it still feels like a dream most days.} Read More »

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Life Down Unda

Time March 5th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, Australia, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hey Everyone!

I apologise for not posting in quite a while, but I will be sure to update you on all of the exciting things that I have experienced over the past few weeks! I have had a bit of trouble with my wifi and spotty connection, so every time I have had some time to work on a draft of a post it hasn’t saved correctly. I will be heading down to Binna Burra this weekend for an adventure in the outback and will not be able to write…BUT I promise I will have heaps to talk about once I return at the end of this week.

Ill briefly highlight what I’ve done in the past weeks and how I’m adjusting to Aussie life….and further details and fun photos will come in the next post {SO SOON I SWEAR!!! And it’ll be worth it}.

I last left off at my trip up to the Sunshine Coast with some Australian friends in mid-feb! We spent the day swimming in the ocean and hanging out at Mooloolaba Beach and it was so FAB. The following Tuesday I had a lovely dinner with Georgia’s family before leaving to start IFSA orientation in SYDNEY…..

SOOOOO SYDNEY WAS AMAZING! {and for the record….no there is not a 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney NSW in actual existence because I asked and was a bit disappointed to learn it is not a real address}. Once in Sydney I met other Americans on my program and going to my uni of UQ…and we stayed at the YHA youth hostel which was actually quite nice in terms of hostels with a great rooftop view of the Sydney Opera House so I was impressed and would definitely go back to stay there {it’s quite cheap with a great location & is super upscale for a hostel}. Our first day in Sydney we had a 3 hour walking tour of the city and we got to see the Opera House up close which was breathtaking!! IFSA-Butler put on an amazing orientation program for us and on day 2 we took a trip to the Blue Mountains for a hike and some fun learning about indigenous culture. We made a stop at Featherdale Park to have a lesson about animals such as Koalas and Snakes and other popular Australian animals as well as feeding Kangaroos & watching a Crocodile feeding. Day 3 in Sydney was our big info day where we learned about the education system and what to expect in uni compared to the American university system. We took a beautiful dinner cruise on the Sydney Harbour our last night in the city and it was probably my favorite activity yet in Oz because it was incredible to watch the sunset and the opera house light up after dark.

If anyone is unaware…THERE WAS A CYCLONE IN BRISBANE HITTING THE NIGHT BEFORE/MORNING OF OUR FLIGHT FROM SYD—>BNE. We made the flight out of Sydney only to experience some pretty insane turbulence and wind on our descent into Brisbane. We spent the day moving into our accommodation for the semester {in the pouring down in heaps of buckets rain} but we made the most of it and have been loving life in urbanest on South Bank.

Next was O-Week at UQ! I navigated my way to campus from my accommodation to receive my UQ student ID card, take care of some admin things, and attend a Getting Started Session compulsory for International Students. The campus is HUGE and I’ve gotten lost several times but props to UQ for realizing that nobody knows where they’re going and creating an app called UQnav to help you get around campus. Market Day, a day where UQ clubs and sport have booths with opportunities to have a browse, was filled with thousands of first years and internationals on one of the hottest days so far in my experience coming in at about 36 degrees {and yes that’s in Celsius because it’s what they use}. During Study Abroad & Incoming Exchange orientation we split up into groups and had extensive tours of the huge St. Lucia campus followed by a FREE Aussie barbecue because who doesn’t like free food??

After O-Week was over we had a few days before classes were actually set to start…so naturally myself along with the rest of my IFSA-Butler UQ group {14 of us living together at Urbanest} set out exploring the city and of course nightlife in Brisbane. I was also excited to be able to spend time with my favorite Australians as well, which I feel so lucky and grateful to have natives as really awesome friends as well.

YES YES YES I cuddled a Koala & chilled in the grass between some Kangaroos #typicaltouristmoment at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary just a short ride from where I live in Brisbane. A few things to note:

1. Koalas are just as soft as you’d imagine

2. Koalas are 99.9% grumpy and actually not as friendly as you’d think

3. THEIR CLAWS ARE SO SHARP AND MAKE YOU BLEED IF THEY’RE ON YOUR SKIN

4. They’re still the cutest little things and worth the claw marks to love on them

But the Kangaroos were definitely all for hanging out and taking some selfies with me. They even loved me for just feeding them grass which they can eat for themselves anytime they want. ALLLL the photos are coming in the next post so please be patient because there are so many but the wait is worth it!!!!

This past Monday on 2 March UQ classes commenced and I had my first day of uni which was exciting and intimidating! I found Australian professors to be much more laid back but also much more experienced and knowledgeable in their fields than their counterpart in America. Even all my lecturers are Drs. with PhD’s but encourage you to call them by first name and break down the usually rigid teacher/student barrier. Since it is now Thursday night 5 March & I have no friday subjects….I’ve officially survived my first week at UQ only getting lost a handful of times and meeting some Australians and other internationals in my classes. The work load seems a bit intimidating but I’ll give an update on that in the weeks to come.

So that’s the short version of what I’ve done since mid-feb here in Oz! Adventure weekend in the bush starts tomorrow and I am SO excited for that experience. I’m still loving Australia more than ever and am so in love with Brisbane that it’s crazy. The similarities are comforting and the differences are challenging but I’m learning to embrace them and to know that even a bad day in Australia is STILL a day in Australia. Until next time ill be spending all my free time getting sun kissed on the beach

Cheers,

Ashley xxx

 

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Steps to Becoming Australian

Time February 17th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, Australia, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

**This post was written on Feb. 12 but I’m just realizing that I forgot to press post when I was finished OOPS, so now you can read about my experience last week. I’ll be posting about my amazing weekend in the days to come**

I know that I’ve just posted a couple of days ago, but I feel that it’s only appropriate to make an update since a lot has happened in the past two days, and then the posts will start to become more spread out as I become busy with orientation & school. I’m lucky to be spending my first week in Australia staying with my perfect friend’s family who have lived in this country all of their lives. They have been more than helpful and incredibly kind to me as I begin to figure out my life here. I’ve really liked seeing how native Australians actually live and interact in everyday life & it’s really a lot of fun. So in the past 2 days I have basically become Australia’s newest citizen {I seriously wish though} because I am so in love with this beautiful place already.

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Land Down Under

Time February 11th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, Australia, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

G’day Mates (yes..some of the natives actually do talk like this)

I’m writing to you all from AUSTRALIA!!! I can honestly say that my 22 hours spent on airplanes was not the greatest thing in the world, but it all paid off because here I am about to live my dream for the next while! And also, shout out to Qantas for the real Aussie flight experience because it was incredible and I’m super glad I took the risk in flying 100% Australian!! A little story on the side: I spilt a whole glass of champagne on myself on my first flight because clearly I’m so good with keeping liquids upright. My flight attendant was the sweetest woman ever & gave me a new pair of leggings and then we had a good laugh and I got to have a really nice chat with her for the remainder of the flight to LAX since I didn’t have a seatmate. SO…if any of you ever get the chance to fly with them I definitely recommend it because they are rockstars.

I’ve been in this beautiful country for a little bit over 24 hours now, and it is so many things at once. Overwhelming, beautiful, pure, humid, AMAZING..just to name a few. When I stepped off of the plane and into Brisbane International Airport the first thing I noticed was how warm & humid it was (Australians apparently don’t like to use AirCon no matter how hot it actually is…so adjusting to that as well as the heat is a bit of a challenge). It still doesn’t seem quite real to me yet because for the next week I am merely taking everything in & immersing myself with all Australians before I travel to Sydney.

I also think that my experience may be a bit different than most other students in the program studying in Brisbane because I’m fortunate enough to have some pretty great friends already living here, so I have arrived about a week prior to the start of my actual program orientation. Once I landed and picked up all of my luggage {so thankful it was all there}, I had to go through a series of passport checks, screenings, and customs. The best person in existence (literally I am 10000% serious), my friend Georgia, picked me up from the airport & it was such a sweet reunion after being separated since last July.

I had a lovely little tour of some of the surrounding suburbs of Brisbane whilst we were driving from the airport back to her house. In case you didn’t already know…Australians drive on the opposite side of the road from Americans & also the driver’s seat is on the right side so that really messed me up! At first glance, the little part of Australia that I was seeing didn’t seem much different than America. The buildings were a bit similar, the people spoke English, and I quickly noticed many American chains such as subway, KFC, and Burger King (which they call Hungry Jack’s but same restaurant). But don’t get me wrong…there are definitely many differences that I am slowly discovering and things that we take for granted in America the way that they are. Prices are much more expensive here and public transportation is like the lifeline to everything. They have this chocolate type drink called Milo which I have yet to try but they claim that it’s awesome & also vegemite (yes it looks as bad as it sounds but for some reason Australian’s swear by it).

There’s literally so much to talk about that happened in my first 24 hours that I’ll just give you a brief summary of how I spent my first day down under! When I got to Georgia’s house I had a long shower & some breakfast seeing as it was about 9 am. Since she had to go to work for the day I was able to have a quality nap because I didn’t sleep much on the plane. JET LAG IS FOR REAL & I didn’t really think I would notice it as much as I do. At night we took the train down to Fortitude Valley to meet up with our friend Jemma for dinner at the Vietnamese House. It was so amazing to be back with people I have missed for so long and to finally experience it in their country instead of my own. Also, it was our friend James’s 21st birthday so we met up with him, some of his friends, and our other friends Dev & Jeff for some birthday drinks after dinner! Everyone was so sweet and was really giving me encouragement and telling me all of the must see places around Brisbane. It was overall a really great day and it really helped ease me into the country being able to surround myself with familiar people.

It’s a bit strange that it’s already Wednesday morning here because my body is still telling me that it’s tuesday night. Sleep is a bit of a struggle and I woke up this morning before 6 am feeling like it was much later. Surely it will take a few more days of getting used to but I am incredibly thankful and glad to have the help of a great family this week as I become Australian. More to come next week about my experience at the beach, the city, & of course koala and kangaroo encounters!

Cheers,

the newest Australian resident xx

Here are some photos that I’ve taken so far:

 

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Brisbane Bound

Time February 9th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, Australia, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Welcome back guys!!

I’m writing this post as I sit in the JFK airport as I wait patiently at my gate to board my first flight. I’ll be flying to LAX first, and then later to my final destination of Brisbane, Australia. Even though I am about to leave in just 2 more hours, it still hasn’t fully hit me yet that I’ll be sitting on an airplane for 15 hours across the Pacific Ocean once I depart from LAX. I’m really excited to finally be there and to start my adventure for real, but I’m also a bit nervous about the flights and getting adjusted to the many differences there. I’ve never flown overseas before or even been on a plane longer than about 6.5 hours so I’m not exactly sure what to expect!! I’m hoping to sleep {a lot}, watch movies, & eat(if you know me well this is one of my favorite things to do). Also…I don’t even arrive until TUESDAY. Because of the time differences I’ll spend “Monday” in the air and it will automatically be the next day once I land. I don’t really understand timezones but that seems pretty trippy to me.

departure

One advantage that I do have & that I’m extremely thankful for is having an amazing friend who has lived in Brisbane all her life to help me out & show me around the city when I’m trying to figure it out! I honestly have no idea what to expect about any part of this adventure…and I think that’s what will make it such a great experience for personal growth and furthering my independence.

I’ll post an update once I’m in Australia & starting to get used to everything {aka the jet lag if that’s a thing for me} and maybe you’ll see a video of me running around with kangaroos & koalas. I’m super excited that I’m about to leave the snow and be in the heat…probably the biggest pro right now to being in Australia vs America.

NEXT TIME YOU HEAR FROM ME ILL BE DOWN UNDER!!!

Cheers,

Ashley xx

 

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The Packing Chronicles: Crunch Time

Time February 2nd, 2015 in 2015 Spring, Australia, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hey guys!

I’m sitting in my bedroom surrounded by piles of clothes & shoes & accessories trying to figure out how I’m going to pack it all for my semester abroad. I leave cold, snowy New York in just 6 more days for warm, sunny Brisbane, Australia! The question that I’ve been asking myself for the past couple weeks: How can you possibly pack for 5 months away from home in just two suitcases?! If you know me…you know that I like to have options and extras and basically would find it most convenient to just transport my closet with me everywhere I go. BUT, I don’t have that option so it’s time to start getting creative.

img_9827 And so it begins…

I’ve put off packing for quite a while because it didn’t actually seem real that I’m for real getting on a plane and flying across the entire world for almost half a year. But now it’s crunch time!! I leave my small town of Horseheads bright & early this coming Saturday morning for New York City! I’ll be spending the day there before making my way to JFK International Airport on Sunday the 8th…AKA leaving day!!

One good thing about packing for Australia is that while it’s currently winter here in the states, it’s very hot summertime over there! Which means that while I’m running around trying to pick out the best and most practical clothing to take with me around the world, summer clothes don’t take up tons of room! I’m so excited to be running around in the heat in shorts & tank tops on the beach while chasing kangaroos…at least that’s what I see when I picture Australia in my head hahaha.

kangaroo Mr. Kangaroo & I are going to be fast friends

 

There’s no specific scientific equation for exactly what to pack when going abroad for an extremely long time. It’s probably more of a trial & error thing….me trying to fit as much stuff into my bags as possible while keeping in mind the airline weight limit & then ultimately having to leave some things behind at home. Props to my host airline, Quantas, for making it incredible easy to understand all of the dimensions & weights for acceptable luggage & items (even though it’s all in metric units…of course the US is the ONLY country that uses the customary system so I’ll soon have to learn to use kg & cm instead of lbs & in.)

The struggle of packing, unpacking, and repacking will probably continue until the minute I leave my house to head for the city because I am incredibly indecisive but shout out to my awesome Dad (you da bomb) for being the packing whisperer..it’s a talent…& helping me to fit everything I want to bring with me. Thank you to everyone who helped me get this far already & I’ll check back in at the airport before I head down under! xxxx!

Cheers,

Almost Aussie

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The Waiting Game

Time December 22nd, 2014 in 2015 Spring, Australia, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hello Everyone!

I would like to welcome you all to my blog where I will share all of my adventures, thoughts, ups, and downs throughout my semester in Australia! Join me as I journey through this beautiful country [and other surprise destinations along the way:)] for 5 months living the Aussie life as a student and traveler! I was officially accepted into the IFSA-Butler study abroad program at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia for Semester 1 2015 back in October, and I could not be more thrilled! My departure is still roughly almost two months away, and now that I am home in New York for the holidays the waiting game begins. It still feels like a dream, but becomes more real each day as I have booked my flights through Qantas Airlines (recommended by an Australian friend), gotten my passport together, enrolled in classes online, and started my visa application. My parents have been extremely supportive throughout the application process & heaps of paperwork, but I’m confident that all the hard work will pay off when I step foot in my beautiful host country. From now until my departure in February, I will be reading up on everything Australia to familiarize myself with the aspects of their daily lives as well as their history. The more I learn, the more I fall in love with the idea of Australia and I haven’t even been there yet! I am looking forward to an adventurous and spontaneous journey after a calm & somewhat boring (sorry family!) couple months at home this winter…not to mention the sweet summertime and warmth I’ll be entering in Brisbane. In case you didn’t know, Australia’s seasons are the complete opposite of what they are here in the United States, so when it’s winter here it is summer there! Although I am excited 99% of the time, there’s still that 1% of me filled with anxiety over questions such as the following:

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