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Home Again

Time December 3rd, 2015 in 2015 Fall, Australia, College Study Abroad, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

I have been home for about a week and a half. This has been the longest week and a half of my life, it seems. Going from Melbourne as it was entering its summer back to home as winter is coming (if not already here) would be very jarring – if I could keep my eyes open during the day. Hello jet lag my old friend. You would think after a week and a half I would stop effortlessly staying up well past 4 am and stop struggling to wake up by noon. You would also be very, very wrong in thinking that. I have seen  far to many sunrises for my taste.

I am also entering a period of “what am I doing with my life?” Since my program ends so early, I am home, left to my own devices with nothing to employ them on. Most of my friends are still at university. I am slowly beginning to volunteer at one of my local hospitals (applications are still in the works.) As they are entering finals, I am almost halfway through the sixth book I’ve read since being home. Granted I do not envy their stress over tests and essays. But I really do miss feeling busy. After such a whirlwind semester, my life has gotten extremely quiet.

Let me be one of the first the say: REVERSE CULTURE SHOCK IS REAL. Australia and United States are very similar as far as culture is concerned . Mostly, I would have to say America has a greater appreciation for the term “go big or go home.” Everything here is just so much more than I remember. And quite frankly what I’ve gotten used to. Supermarkets, for example. In Oz, a quick trip to Woolworths meant a small grocery store that I could cover in under half an hour. Here, a “quick” trip to Walmart for Kroger means getting lost a minimum of 4 times looking for the coffee isle, running into people because I now walk on the wrong side here, and buying way more than I need. It’s exhausting. I remember being able to conquer a Walmart in my sleep. Now, it’s a nightmare when I need to get ice cream.

But other than hiding from grocery stores, things here are pretty much as I left them. The reverse culture shock plus the familiarity of home leads to the feeling that I’ve been gone for about 3 seconds, but also about 12 years. Everything is in its place, as it should be …. but I no longer have the muscle memories of doing everyday tasks. I remember how to work my coffee maker, but I can no longer eyeball the amount of water needed for a perfect cup. I remember that the ice machine is reluctant at first but then shoots out all the ice it can in 1 second, yet I still am surprised when the floor is covered after I’m done.

All in all, I am glad to be back. I miss Australia and the temporary home I made that didn’t feel temporary at all. But being home at last is readying me for my next adventure.

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Week, Well the last one: One More Plane

Time November 20th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, Australia, College Study Abroad, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

It is my last night in Australia. It is my last night in Australia. No matter how many times I say it, it doesn’t seem real. I am in my room, eating strawberry fro yo, unable to believe that this incredible experience is almost, well it is, over.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been dreading this day. I tried to make a list of all the things to keep me busy. Finish packing. Buy the rest of the souvenirs (last on the list is dark chocolate tim tams). Learn to spell “souvenirs” without spell check. It was a short list. And once that was over, I was left to confront the last plane ride I’ll take during my study abroad. From the time I started this trip, I’ve taken so many plane rides. And now, I only have one more.

I have also began making a list of things that I am excited for when I get back. I did this in hope it would make coming home easier. And it did. I highly recommend it.

  1. Holidays. I’m coming back just in time for Thanksgiving. I am so excited to eat home cooked, American classics. Pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, and of course the turkey. And as soon as Thanksgiving is over, Christmas season begins. And I am so ready for Christmas madness.
  2. Ice Water. I know it’s silly, but I miss water with ice cubes in it. For the past 5 months I’ve been drinking chilled water that quickly becomes room temperature water. But ice water, I’ve found, is something truly American.
  3. Mexican Food. Something, when done right, is not so American. But I am desperate for a killer enchilada from my favorite Mexican joint.
  4. My Friends, Girlfriend, and Rugby Team. In other words, I miss my people. The ones I go to when I’m upset and stressed. The people I have grown accustomed to sharing good news with first. I have missed them more than just about everyone and everything. I can’t wait to have my friends surrounding me again.
  5. My Puppy. My puppy who is no loner a puppy. I feel this one is self explanatory.
  6. My Family. Last but certainly not least, my family. I miss being able to rely on them being just a phone call away. While gaining more independence was an amazing thing while I’ve been away, I miss the safety net and support of having my family around.

And all of this is just one more international flight away. And now, typing this I’m getting nostalgic already. I am going to miss my new friends I’ve made here. I am going to miss my IFSA family. I am going to miss the amazing ladies at my lab, and the city of Melbourne, and, well….everything. But on the other hand, I am so ready for next semester and my next adventure. Being in Australia, traveling has really become a normal part of my life. I am so excited to travel more and see more and do more. But for now I have one plane I have to focus on catching.

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Week 18: What’s Scarier, Monsters or Finals?

Time October 30th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, Australia, College Study Abroad, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

Halloween is practically here! Back home I would be picking out costumes with friends, trying to find the perfect balance between cute and warm. We would be getting candy and enjoying the weather as the leaves change and the air cools. But here, Halloween is  just like any other Saturday. Friends around UC are going to their typical Saturday night haunts, getting a couple beers, and preparing for finals. Some of us ‘Mericans are having a Halloween part despite this. It’s crazy to me that on the side of the globe where weather wouldn’t hinder a costume decision, they don’t care at all about Halloween. But ce la vie. We’ll have our hommage to our holiday ourselves.

Sadly though, Halloween marks the end of SWOTVAC and the beginning of the final exam period. My first exam is on Tuesday. Then a nice two week break. Then my last two finals on the same day. The stress is really starting to hit. The whole semester was leading up to these last three tests (and a paper). But once they’re done I can relax again.

And I get three whole days to relax, then I’m back on a plane to the U.S. I have very mixed feelings about leaving in less than a month. I’ve made a place here. I have friends, connections to the faculty here, places I go for a reliable bite to eat and cup of coffee. I am comfortable in Melbourne. Plus I am nowhere near done exploring! How can four months be over?! It feels like last week I was flying into Sydney … and now I’m looking down the barrel of my plane ride home. Then again, I am going home. No more uncertainty when going to the doctor, no more issues with a cell phone and not being able to drive. I get to see my friends back home, my girlfriend, and I get my old community back. I am excited to play rugby again. I am excited to have my LGBTQ+ support group. So there are things I am looking forward to. I go back and forth from day to day. Like right now, I can’t wait to get home, eat some real pizza, and see everyone. But yesterday, you would have had to drag me kicking and screaming to the airport.

We had our IFSA – Butler Farewell Dinner on the 20th. Being surrounded by everyone again, looking at pictures taken over the semester was heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. It made me realize that I’m leaving this amazing country and these wonderful people much sooner than I thought. I can remember back to only having 21 days before I left for Australia. I was excited beyond words. Going back is an entirely different form of excitement – bittersweet and a bit apprehensive. I’m worried I won’t feel at home there anymore. I’m certain that I’ve caught the travel bug and sitting around in one place won’t be enough for me anymore. But then again, I know I have wonderful friends and family that are going to help me out.

Still….I don’t want to go just yet.

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Week 16: Surf Camp and Strep Throat

Time October 26th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, Australia, College Study Abroad, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

Coming back from a week-long break from classes is always hard – even harder with mid-semester break I had.

But is was back to business. Continuing my research project, attending classes, everything fell back in place. However, that place was not nearly as cold as when I left. The shift from Melbourne winter to Melbourne spring brought a whole new vibe to campus. People were studying outside, wearing shorts, and seemed on the whole much cheerier.  Everything has been bright and alive since I’ve been back. Even the magpies don’t sound as harsh anymore. Things became laid back and calm – very Australian. If you’re thinking of visiting Melbourne, October to November is the time to do it.

Speaking of things stereotypical of Aussies, I went to surf camp! It was a three day event along the great ocean road with camping, surfing, bonfires, and barbecue. The camping was….less than ideal. My friend and I shared a cheap tent from Kmart and slept in thin sleeping bags on top of twigs and rocks. Not to mention, it doesn’t matter how warm it is during the day, it will get cold at night. I had never been more grateful for a pair of sweatpants in my life. But everything else was idyllic. Surfing is a billion times harder than any surfing movie makes it out to be. Rookies like me get the giant longboards. They’re twice my size, and carrying them down the beach was not an easy task. And while the air was warm, the water was cold; so I doubled up on wet suits. So there I was struggling to carry my surfboard, in two wet suits, can barely move my arms, and I couldn’t have been happier. After a short lesson from Chel, one of our lovely surf instructors, we hit the water. It took me about 5 waves to stand up. And that first stand lasted about .0005 seconds. Then wipe out. But I went at it again and again. In total we surfed about 14 hours that weekend and I stood up a fair amount. However, don’t forget sunscreen. You will get tan/burn lines from your wet suit – and tan hands and pale arms is not pretty.

On a less fun note, I am currently battling my first (real, I need a doctor) illness – strep throat (which I did NOT get from surf camp – promise). Lucky for me I’m not missing classes because it’s SWOT VAC week – a week of reading days before finals can begin. But it no fun I assure you. Nothing so far has made me miss home too much; but needing a doctor and not knowing where/how to find one is nerve wracking to say the least. If you are thinking of studying abroad, don’t do what I did and wait until the minute to get your overseas health insurance card. Do it right at the beginning when they tell you to. But in all honesty it wasn’t too much of a nightmare. The amazing people at UC helped me get to the doctor and then to the pharmacy and I am now recovering as quickly as my antibiotics can manage.

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Sorry September Part 2: Week 14

Time September 28th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, Australia, College Study Abroad, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

Again, I am not paying September it‘s dues. I am sitting in a hostel lounge, listening to a homesick Irishman talk about flying home, typing on a borrowed computer with a German keyboard.

But on the very, very bright side, I made it to New Zealand! What a day (and a half) it has been. We arrived at the Melbourne airport late, my visa wasn‘t in the system at my check in gate, the flight was delayed, and I have walked over 30,000 steps (somewhere between eight and ten miles) all over Auckland. Did I mention I had only 2 hours of sleep and a quick power nap in on of Auckland‘s fine parks?

So it is barely 10:30 and I am exhausted. But despite all of that it has been incredible. I got to see, touch, and enjoy the stadium where the New Zealand National Rugby Team, the All Blacks, play and practice. Much to the envy of my entire team. And during my very extensive walk, got to see some gorgeous sights of this city.

Tomorrow Kristina, Alex, and I head out to Waiheke Island for a wine tour and general sight-seeing. Then we catch a bus to Rotorua 4 hours south. There we spend the night and get ready for a tour of Hobbiton. Excited doesn‘t begin to cover it. I can‘t wait.

This trip, as well as my time in Melbourne, has taught me so much about stress and letting things go. The Aussies in general are quite layed back and don‘t tend to let people bother them. And I can say that I have (somewhat – let‘s not get crazy) adopted this. My visa didn‘t show up in the system – well that gave me the chance to meet a very nice man from immigration; can find a bus – I got a tour of some of Auckland‘s wonderful residential neighbourhoods. And despite all of this I am surprisingly relaxed. After a hot shower of course.

And as promised I want to talk about “The L Word.” And how that show (recommended by my friend Courtney) has reflected somewhat and LGBTQ experience (sorry I can‘t find the plus button on here). Specifically with the character of Alice. She is one of the women in the clique and is a bisexual woman. Not that you‘d really know it. Her bisexuality, much like bisexuality in western society, is largely ignored. And that is what I‘ve found here. Sexuality in general is not really discussed among the students here (unless you‘re talking about gay marriage – and that‘s usually in reference to the Prime Minister). Not in a bad way per se, but in a very played back, Aussie fashion. It‘s like it doesn‘t really matter what your sexuality is, they just see the person. Which is in some ways refreshing – not having to be defined by a sexuality and many of the stereotypes that are associated with a non-heterosexual identity. But it does make me wonder, if Aussie students are so relaxed, can hinder change? In my experience, before the Supreme Court ruling, the talk of sexuality and LGBTQ equality was at the forefront in US college student populations. The college kids here didn‘t even mention the PM change. Not that anyone was mad Tony Abbot is no longer in office… This realization hit me hard after watching “The L Word” and identifying with the way bisexuality is silenced or stereotyped in a show that was supposed to be inclusive for all queer women. That here is isn‘t discussed in the one place I have found it to be the most prevalent in the States. Just something I‘ve been thinking about.

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Sorry September: Week 13 Part 1

Time September 23rd, 2015 in 2015 Fall, Australia, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

Why is the second full month of classes so….heavy? We talk about heavier topics, receive heavier assignments, not to mention the crushing weight of mid sems (mid-semester tests). So I want to formally apologize to the month of September. I meant to blog so much earlier. I neglected you, and you deserve so much more.

But anyway, in between exams and papers and lab work, I did get up to some pretty fun stuff. I,along with my IFSA-Butler group, went to Phillip Island. Beautiful doesn’t begin to cover it. Everything was so saturated. The grass was the greenest I have ever seen – and the sky was so vibrantly blue during the day and the stars were killer at night. We got to do amazing things!

We went to a cider tasting which ruined me for the cheap stuff I had in my room. When we arrived at what could only be described as the cutest country orchard in all of Australia, they brought us into this wood paneled room that smelled like apple pie and cinnamon with a hint of lemon from the lemon trees growing right outside the window. We were given three ciders and two juices to try and all of them were incredible.

This was after a day on Arthur’s Seat, a mini mountain – bigger than a hill but definitely not Everest – where we took in the beautiful weather and breathtaking scenery. There we also went to the Enchanted Maze Forest. The EMF for short. The EMF was this charming play park with hedge mazes, zip lines, ropes courses, and inner tube slides. What they didn’t tell us before we got there was that is was designed for, well, children. So we embraced it and became the biggest bunch of kids out there.

We also were witness to the Penguin Parade. For those of you who don’t know, in Australia (specifically Phillip Island) there are these tiny blue penguins appropriately named Little Penguins. And every day they come to shore after weeks of gorging themselves on tiny fish. Their return to dry land to digest and enter food comas is what is known as the Penguin Parade, because group after group came ashore, fought their way through the territorial seagulls and made it back to their homes. It was a great way to end the night, well sort of end it. We got pizza after and that was pretty great too.

Another exciting trip that is coming up is……NEW ZEALAND! I will be spending my spring break in New Zealand with a couple of friends. We are going to see Kiwi Birds, visit Hobbiton ( where they shot some of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies), and …oh yeah… bungee jumping! More to come on my next post.

Also in my next post, Sorry September Part 2, I want to talk about a little show called “The L Word.” It centers around a tight-nit group of lesbians (and a couple bisexuals) and their friends. This was recommended to me by a friend here and I think it deserves discussion based on it’s LGBTQ+ themes and how accurately, or not so accurately, it has reflected my experience here.

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Week 9: Gold Coast and Back

Time August 31st, 2015 in Australia, College Study Abroad, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

If I could describe Melbourne weather in one word…bleak. Not to say that when the sun decides to grace us with its appearance it makes for a lovely day. Or fifteen minutes. The weather can go from cloudy with a chance of “I’m not going to enjoy this walk home” to sun-kissed and back again in mere minutes. There have been may days where I have left the house with the sun in the sky and a temperature in the 60s to come back drenched wanting a hot shower and a warm cup of hot chocolate to thaw my frozen hands. So when I got the chance to go to a place called “Gold Coast,” I was 100% down.

And Gold Coast, in the southern tip of Queensland, is where I (along with my roommate and other IFSA-Butler girls) have been for the past weekend. It looks as if St. Lauderdale or Miami was carved out of the ground and plopped in the middle of the California bay area. But, ya know, in Australia.

Gorgeous doesn’t even come close to describe the atmosphere. To be honest it looks like someone placed a giant green screen on the coast of Queensland. The sunshine and the cool breeze made for perfect tanning weather; and while someone as pale as I am will never be “golden” by any sense of the word, some color was achieved despite the SPF 50 sunblock. In between sunbathing and hot tubbing; we ate burritos, went to some of the local hot spots for drinks, and ate some pretty amazing burgers. It was a perfect break from the past two-ish weeks.

Speaking of the past two-ish weeks, I feel like I’ve been sucked into a time vortex and have come out the other side confused and looking down the barrel of two mid-semester exams. I was sick for about a week in early August, this missing the LGBTQ+ rally… something like that would happen to me… But the routine of getting up, getting coffee, and getting to class and lab have been like blinders. Now I’m a day away from September! What happened?!

Next week, a week from today actually, I will be sitting my first exam here. Test anxiety is already kicking in. It doesn’t help that these tests are worth a minimum of 20% of my grade. Back home there would be quizzes and projects to even out the weight of exams. Not here. So this weekend is going to be a quiet one. Or at least I’m going to try to make it one.

It’ll be a bit easier with footy over. It was a blast. I met so many wonderful girls that learned just as much about the sport as I did. We even made it to the semi finals of out intercollegiate tournament, even if we got muddied up in the process. This is a new record at University College too. Previous to this year the UC Girls Footy team hadn’t scored a single point and therefore finished last in every tournament. Go team!

 

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Is it Nap Time Yet?: Week 6

Time August 10th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

School is definitely catching up. I have officially entered the slump of the first month back to school. Classes seem to last an eternity. The walk to campus and then back home from campus feels more like Frodo’s trek into Mordor. And the few assignments I have seem like the most arduous tasks imaginable.

That being said, I still really enjoy my classes. It’s still early but we are beginning to delve deeper into topics I find really interesting. Like in Pharmacology we are discussing the types of drugs that interfere with autonomic nervous system functions on both macro- and micro scales. It’s really cool.

Research is also going well. A huge difference between research here and back home is the surprising amount of chill my P.I. and both of my supervisors have. They are extremely dedicated to their projects and the work that they are doing. But at the same time they aren’t constantly double checking everything. They aren’t on edge like my supervisors in the past have been. My schedule is mostly up to me. I come in when there is work to be done and when it is convenient for me to do the work that doesn’t have a strict time table. It is also nice that I am learning something every time I go in. It’s the perfect combo of challenging and  enjoyable.

In my anthropology class (titled Sex: Science and the Community) we were discussing whether or not reproduction was a human right. Most of the class took this in an IVF (In vitro fertilization) direction; discussing government subsidies and support for couples who couldn’t get pregnant due to infertility of either the husband or the wife. But a few of us looked at it from an LGBTQ+ scope. Is having children a right? They’re certainly is a lack of fairness, or equality for those who can versus can’t have children. A heterosexual, fertile couple can accidentally have a child. Same-sex couples and couples that are unable to have kids obviously can’t reproduce accidentally. But is it a fundamental human right? For me, I’m still on the fence. Rights constitute necessity in my mind. It is a human right to be free, read as not enslaved. I would never chose to go against this human right. However, I do chose not to reproduce. Is that me denying myself one of my basic human rights? Then again, in the case of infertility or being in a same-sex relationship, is denying them that sense of equality – or separating them further from what is considered “normal” – infringing on their rights as human beings? Like I said – I’m still mulling it over.

Which brings me to the rally. Turns out the LGBTQ+ rally isn’t until the 19th. So that is marked on my calendar. And I am eagerly awaiting it. I’m still trying to find someone, anyone, to go with me. We’ll see how that goes. I wonder if the barter of chocolate (possibly in the form of tim tams) would be acceptable…

Other than that they’re really isn’t much to talk about…

 

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School and the Stomach Flu:Week 5

Time August 3rd, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

It’s been five weeks in Australia and I am just starting classes. So far they’re how you would expect them to be. Lectures, homework, the impending doom that is mid-semester tests. The usual. Well, mostly. Read More »

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AFL!: Week 4

Time July 28th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This past week has been the first week where relaxation and, dare I say it, sleeping in has been possible. The calm in between two orientation weeks has been wonderful. Besides from the stress of picking classes and getting lost on campus (more than once in my case), I am really starting to get into the rhythm of the city. All of the essentials have been covered. I know where to get late night Chinese food, four dollar pizzas, and the best spot to get my caffeine fix. There are even a few sushi places here that offer a vast array for a student’s budget.

Continuing the on the happy train, the weather here has been amazing this past week. Compared to my first week (or two) in Australia – with the rain and the wind and the cold – this week has been phenomenal. The sun has been out every day and the temperature hasn’t been frigid, but in the only slightly chilly mid-fifties to low-sixties range. It has inspired many walks into the city. My orientation group and I even went on a tour of the local (legal) graffiti.

Despite the many connections I’ve made with the other international students, I’m attempting to really integrate myself in my new college community. I’ve joined the surfing club (which should be more appropriately titled the surfing and drinking club.) As well as the rec futsal team. For those of who who don’t know, futsal is like a mini version of indoor soccer. I also plan to play AFL or footy for my residential college while I’m here. Unfortunately for me, Victoria is more of a footy state than a rugby state; so rugby will have to take a back seat this semester.

Speaking of footy, I got to see my first live game last night. The Carlton Football Club took on the Hawthorne Hawks at their home stadium. The Carlton Blues were demolished. My friends and I left at the end of the third quarter and the Hawks were winning 122 to 19….

For those of you who don’t know a thing about footy: the game is like a mishmash of basketball, soccer, volleyball, and American football.

There are 18 players on each team on the field. To move the ball, you can either “handball” it (which is like an underhand serve in volleyball) or kick it. Players work their way down the field to four posts. If they kick it in between the middle two posts, it is a goal and worth six points. If they hit one of the posts, kick it through the outside posts, or if the defense hits it through the posts, it’s called a “behind” and worth one point. Also there are these things called “marks.” A mark happens when you catch a kick. From where you make a mark you have a free kick and can’t be tackled. This helps the players move down the field unobstructed.

Confused yet?

So was I. Watch a game if you’re ever down here. One, it’ll make so much more sense. Two, it was a great experience. 10 out of ten would recommend.

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Frustration: Week 3

Time July 20th, 2015 in College Study Abroad, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

I never thought I’d be the one to say unpacking was enjoyable. But after TWO WEEKS of living in and out of suitcases, being able to put my clothes in a closet is nirvana.

This past week was the second week of orientation since arriving in Australia. With only one more orientation week to go, I can assure you I am going to be the most oriented person on the planet. Not that it hasn’t been a blast. The Melbourne Welcome Program has introduced me to so many great people and we did so many amazing things. The first day we were split into 20 groups – I was group number 6. Our mascot: the life guards…. And what an international group of life guards we were. There were people from the Netherlands, Denmark, Austria, and the U.K. Not to mention those of us from the States. Together we went for a wine tasting and tour of Chandon winery, went to a chocolaterie in the Yarra Valley, went on at least three tours of the Melbourne CBD, and got up close and personal with some birds at a bird show.

The longer I’m here, the more I am meeting LGBTQ+ peers. It’s nice to see the LGBTQ+ communities from several countries represented so well. It is strange, however, coming from a country that just recently legalized same sex marriage to one that hasn’t. To be honest, the sociopolitical climate surrounding the issue reminds me a lot of the U.S. last year. On street corners and around the university campus, there are people handing out fliers and asking for signatures to support same sex marriage – much like there were in the States. Many people I talk to are wondering why it hasn’t happened yet considering the progress so many other countries have made; especially when such a large majority of Australians support same sex marriage and LGBTQ+ rights.

It is hard for me to talk about one form of discrimination without talking about others though. Gender inequality for instance.

Get ready because I’m about to rant.

I had some lovely gentlemen say that not only could women not play sports as well as men, but deserved to be paid less because they didn’t generate the same revenue as men. “It’s just economics,” they said; “You just don’t understand,” they said. First of all – I understand economics. I know my lady brain gets in the way sometimes, but I am a reasonably intelligent human being. What I don’t understand is how you can use economics to justify inequality. Especially when the reason behind the economic disparity is discrimination. The southern United States had the same argument about slavery. It didn’t turn out so well for them. Women are told from an early age that they aren’t as good as men at….well, anything. We see this not only in verbal put downs (i.e. you run like a girl) but in – you guessed it – the economic side of things. Women’s sports aren’t nearly as well funded as men’s. Women’s sports aren’t nearly as well advertised as men’s. Women’s sports aren’t even shown on network television like men’s. As Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers pointed out, the Women’s World Cup was being mainly broadcast on Fox Sports One…”Who gets Fox Sports One?! Really?” So no wonder women don’t pull as much revenue, the entire system is a vicious cycle of sexism. Women don’t receive the press and funding they need to earn as much revenue as men, and then their lack of revenue is cause for them to be paid less.

Also, congrats U.S. Women’s national team on your World Cup WIN. And U.S. Men’s national team good job losing in round of 16….

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Jet Lag and Overweight Bags: Week 2

Time July 10th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Tired doesn’t even begin to cover it. I could feel my bone marrow aching to be in bed. But no. Don’t fall asleep they said. I mean they were right but still….it was hard.

Jet lag took three and a half days to get over. But Sydney was the perfect place to take on the challenge. We stayed at a hostel with sweeping views of the Sydney Harbor (or Harbour to the locals, but “no worries”). So watching the lights of the Sydney Opera House come on as the sun went down on the first night was enough of an incentive to push to at least 9 pm. Plus the drinking age being only 18 meant the pubs were calling my name. But mom if your reading this, it’s because I really like Coca-Cola on tap.

On our second day, after a breakfast at 7 am where coffee was the true hero of the day, we headed out to Featherdale Wildlife Center. It was ok there. We just got to, ya know, PET KOALAS AND FEED KANGAROOS. Like, no big deal. But actually, it was incredible. A quokka literally took a carrot from my hands. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience. Thanks IFSA!

I probably should have mentioned (though I’m sure if you’ve found this link you know) I am a LGBTQ+ Correspondent for IFSA-Butler. This means issues of sexuality, gender identity, and gender/non-gender equality are going to be a big part of this blog. It has not however, been a big part of my experience so far. I am out as bisexual to my fellow study abroad students. And they have no qualms about it. However, I am the only openly non-heterosexual person (that I know of) in my group. That in itself is a bit isolating.

So far I’ve only had 1 mention of the recent Supreme Court decision to legalize same sex marriage in the U.S. It is not (yet) legal in Australia. I say yet because, from what I understand about 70% of Australians support marriage equality. Funnily enough, that’s the same percentage that do NOT support the current Prime Minister – one conservative by the name of Tony Abbott.

As far as being a queer student in Australia, I was pleasantly surprised to have LGBTQ+ offices on campus. We have one on my home campus, as well as support groups for all sorts of niches in the queer community. To be honest, I was worried about having that support here. Back home, I have my friends and teammates (many of whom identify as queer) that have been my main support. Like I said, being the only out person that I’ve met has been somewhat isolating. So it eases the transition a bit to know I have a place where I can seek the support I’ve found at home.

Speaking of similarities to home (yeah, it’s a crappy transition, bear with me I’m exhausted), the fact I have unlimited wifi in my dorm makes me happier than it probably should. I’m definitely having a millennial moment.

We also had the unfortunate experience with overweight luggage and the strains – emotionally, physically, financially – that came with those heavy suitcases.  Seeing those orange heavy tags are now the bane of my existence. Nevertheless, we made it to Melbourne – finally.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Here We Go: Week One

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

9, 682 miles. Tomorrow that will be the furthest I have ever been from home. 18 minutes, 37 seconds, and my order from my favorite Indian joint will be here. 9 loving and sincerely freaked out adults that are even less ready for me to be over 9000 miles away for 5 months than I am. 1 night. I have 1 night left before I leave Atlanta, cross the Pacific Ocean, and begin my study abroad adventure in Melbourne, Australia

Now the obligatory “this is me” section. My name is Danielle. I was born in Louisville, Kentucky. I am a Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology major at Emory University. I play rugby, perform in musicals, and I am a huge nerd – evidenced by my love of all things Harry Potter, Star Trek, and Doctor Who. And I’ve always wanted to travel the globe.

Like I said, I leave tomorrow to study abroad; the first stop on my lifetime world tour of the….well, world. It’s weird but the realest part of the whole thing is the 24+ hours I’ll be spending in the air (or in airports). What I’m really excited for is, well the reason I chose to study abroad in Australia, the research opportunity. I will be working in Dr. Heather Young’s lab. My focus will be on neural crest cell development in the enteric nervous system. I am beyond excited to work in the lab and to get a taste of research outside of the U.S.

My journey begins with my first stop: L.A. I’ve never been to California, and it’s bittersweet that my first time there I won’t see anything outside of the airport. My dad says that doesn’t count. I’m tempted to agree with him… But there I will meet up with my fellow study abroad students. And prepare for the long flight. But hey, there’s ocean views right?

After L.A., I begin the 16 hour flight to Sydney (well 16 hours before the “super-fun” delays airports are known for). But I’ve stocked up on reading materials: Tale of Two Cities by Dickens, Return of the King from the Lord of the Rings series, and Neuromancer by William Gibson.  I also have my Rubik’s Cube (remember that nerd thing I mentioned earlier?) not to mention the almost 50 hours of music I have at my fingertips. Hopefully that will get me through the time I don’t plan on sleeping, because I am the worst at being bored. Maybe that’s why the insanely long time in the air is what feels like reality. The five months in a new country still feels so far away.

But no. It’s so close. In a a little over 24 hours, I’ll be in Sydney getting over jet lag and taking touristy pictures of the Sydney Opera House. I’ll be there for 4 days. They’ve got quite a line-up for us: walking and harbor tours of the city, a pub dinner, and (what I am most excited for) a trip to Featherdale Wildlife Park in the Sydney Zoo.

Then it’s another flight. Luckily it’s the last one for a while. This one takes me to my final destination – Melbourne – for three more weeks of orientation. And as a hard-core night owl, the 8:30 am sessions are going to be…. really, really hard. Step one when landing in Melbourne: find the nearest coffee shop.

Well, I look forward to blogging with you over the next 140 days! See you next week.

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