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Home Sweet Home

Time December 5th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Australia, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

After a whirlwind of exams, packing, planes, and turkey overload I finally find myself recovered from jet lag, back on American time, sitting on my couch basking in the glimmering lights from our Christmas tree. My reunion with my friends and family has been warming.  Kind of like when you come home from your first semester of college and the only question you get asked is “How’s school?!” or “Don’t you love college?”, the only question I’ve been bombarded with is “How was your trip?” It’s safe to say I’ve been the talk of the family since I’ve been gone, and I’m more than happy to share my experiences with everyone who asks.

I genuinely can’t believe that it is already over.  I remember moving into my Urbanest apartment like it was yesterday.  But, at the same time, when I think back to those four months they are a blur.  Honestly, I sometimes feel like I dreamed it all. When I scroll through my camera roll on my phone and recount all of the amazing places I visited, adventures I journeyed, and friends I met I feel nothing but gratitude.  It’s no corny exaggeration to say that it was the trip of a lifetime, and the longer I spend at home and the further it gets behind me, the more and more I appreciate it. Read More »

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Un-Bali-vable

Time November 9th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Australia, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

One of my biggest fears when I chose to study abroad in Australia was that I would not get as rich of a cultural experience as my counterparts would in places like Europe, South America, and Africa. To my satisfaction, Australia still presented me with quite the cultural shock.  But, to this date the most amazing cultural experience I have encountered was in Bali.

For the reading week period we had off before exams, a group of about 15 of my friends and I booked a beautiful villa in Bali. So, after the last day of class I packed my bags for the anticipated warm weather and jetted off to the airport to catch my almost 7 hour flight to Indonesia.  The plane ride was particularly brutal because I sat in the kiddie section of the plane. Anybody who knows me knows I adore children but 7 hours with 6 different children, all under the age of 7, held in a confined space challenged my patience to a new level. Despite the commotion,  we finally landed in Denpasar around 4pm Bali time, collected our bags, and met our driver to take us to the villa. Read More »

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Twenty-Fun

Time October 27th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Australia | No Comments by

There are T-minus 16 days until my twenty-first birthday, not that I’m counting or anything…

This being said, ever since I turned 18 I have been dreaming of how amazing my 21st would be.  I dreamt of a nice dinner with my closest friends and family, celebratory champagne, and a night out clubbing with my best friends all while wearing a birthday sash and crown.  However, celebrating a twenty-first birthday here in Australia is nowhere near as exciting as in America.

So far in Australia I’ve celebrated three of my closest friends’ twenty-first birthdays.  While they have been amazing and special to us, whenever we go out to our favorite bars/clubs to ring in the big day, the staff and fellow Australians look at us like we’re crazy.  Of course they understand that every birthday is special, but we certainly haven’t gotten the stereotypical 21st birthday treatment we would have if we had been in the U.S.

So while I’m counting down the days until my birthday, I’ll be celebrating both here in Australia AND one week later when I return to the U.S… who says you can only turn 21 once?

 

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New Zealand- A Fairy Tale

Time October 17th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Australia, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

When I came abroad I made a rule of thumb for myself: have low expectations. By setting low expectations, despite all the hype I heard about a certain city or bar or restaurant, I would never be disappointed. But, after leaving New Zealand, I’m going to tell anyone and everyone that it’s okay to have high expectations there – – they will be met.  If there is one place in the world that deserves to be talked up, it is definitely this country.  I wanted to take a picture of everything — the roads, the mountains, the sheep, the hostel, the bars, the water, the lakes, the food… the list goes on and on because everything here was picture-perfect. Not only were the scenery, landscape, and fresh air pristine, but also the people were friendly, outgoing, chatty, and welcoming.

Two of my friends and I rented a car for the 4 days we were there and it definitely was worth it. I have no idea how we would’ve navigated all of the destinations we did if we didn’t have one.  We arrived late Thursday night around 10pm and roamed around the small town for some dinner.  Funny enough every restaurant we asked looked at us like we were crazy for asking if they were still serving dinner at that time.  Luckily an Indian restaurant (my favorite) just down the street was still open so we got to fill our stomachs with chicken tikka and red wine before bed.

The following morning we woke up at 7am to make the 5 hour drive to Milford Sound.  Although I was dreading how long of a day of driving it would be, the drive actually ended up being my favorite part.  It was incredibly scenic with lush green vasts of farm, sheep, and snow-capped mountains drawing my attention the whole way.  We arrived to Milford Sound by 1pm, with a couple of stops along the way, and prepared for our kayaking tour at 2! Kayaking was beautiful, and a lot more difficult than I had anticipated.  We walked 6 miles to a hidden waterfall along the Sound then kayaked back, so we made it back to the car to head home by 7pm.  The drive home was much less entertaining given it was dark, we were starving, and exhausted; but, we powered through by playing classic car games like would you rather.

The rest of the trip was relaxing and peaceful.   The following day we recovered with a nice hike up Queenstown Hill, ate at the infamous Fergburger, napped, and got dinner at a yummy restaurant on the water called the Public House.  Sunday morning we booked Onsen Hot Pools which were incredible private hot tubs overlooking Skippers Canyon. We then drove about 10 minutes to Lake Hayes where we enjoyed the weather in the sun. We unfortunately had to wake up early the following morning to head home, but there is no doubt I will be returning to that country for my honeymoon (:

 

 

 

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Spring Break in the Fall

Time October 5th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Australia, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

I’m writing this post the day after I returned from the most incredible Spring Break trip of my life. A small group of my friends and I booked a tour called One Fish, Two Fish with Extreme Adventures – –  to anybody reading this and thinking about studying abroad in Australia, DO THIS.  I have never met so many people, seen more beautiful things, or done more adventurous stuff in 10 days than I did on this trip.  The tour guides were a blast and made sure we not only had a good time, but also got to do and see everything we wanted to.

We started the trip in Brisbane which was a very urban, modern city. We boarded a bus that would soon be our home essentially for the next 6 days and began heading up the coast of Australia. One of our first stops was the Australia Zoo,  basically a Steve Irwin shrine to my pleasant surprise. We hung out with kangaroos and saw a crocodile show by Bindi, Steve’s daughter.  We then stopped at Rainbow Beach and watched sunset at Carlos Sandblow.  This ‘beach’ was absolutely breathtaking.  When you emerge from the forest and look left it’s the ocean and look right it’s the rainforest.  The sky literally looked like cotton candy, or ‘fairy floss’ as Australians would say.

The further north we kept heading the warmer and warmer it got.  It finally started to feel like how I had pictured in my head Australia would feel – – warm, sunny, and bright.  The following day we went to Fraser Island where we boarded what looked like military machines to ride along the beach, through the forest, to a stunning lake called Lake Mackenzie. It’s entirely pure freshwater and was crystal clear. On the way back to the ferry we got to see six whales swimming along the shore with us, so I guess I got my whale-watching in for free!

After Fraser Island we headed to the Whitsundays (aka the most beautiful place on Earth). The first day here we sped around on yellow speedboats, snorkeled part of the reef, I shot some footage of a beautiful sea turtle, then ended the day with lunch on Whitehaven Beach and a beach party. Easily the best day of the trip, if not my life.  The next day we got to do a similar thing and cruise around the islands on a sailboat, jump in for a swim, and soak in the sun.

After the Whitsundays we headed further up the coast towards Cairns, but along the way we stopped in a small town called Tully where we got to white-water raft in crocodile-infested water.  Not necessarily something I was excited about, but they ensured us we wouldn’t have an encounter despite the warning signs along the river banks.  After Tully we finally made our way into Cairns where we spent the last four days of our trip.  Cairns reminded me of a better version of Myrtle Beach – a tropical, party/vacation city.  In Cairns we scuba dove on the Great Barrier Reef, bungy jumped from a 164 foot tower, swam in a natural waterfall, and pub-crawled via a party bus through the best bars and clubs of the city.

It’s safe to say by the end I needed 48 hours of sleep, gallons of water, and a ton of shade, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Next adventure: New Zealand. And, cheers to a second spring break next semester.

 

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Time Flies

Time September 8th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Australia, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

It’s crazy to think I’ve already spent almost two months here in Sydney.  While I just finished mid-terms, all of my friends from home and friends who are studying abroad in other parts of the world are just starting class.  However, watching their Snapchat stories I am jealous of their beautiful summer weather.  When we first got to Sydney all of the locals sympathized with us because we arrived in their “dead of winter” (aka 50 degrees Fahrenheit, which is not a severe winter in my books), but I figured it would warm up quickly.  To my dismay, it certainly has not warmed up enough.  I ignorantly decided to pack mostly shorts, tank-tops, and swimsuits, so my winter wardrobe has now been worn thin.  While it does reach the upper 60s during the day, and occasional low 70s on sunny ones, the wind makes lying out on the beach impossible without a sweater.  Spring has officially begun though, so hopefully within the next couple of weeks I’ll make use of the cute swimsuits I splurged on before arriving.

Having just completed midterms I’m beginning to feel anxious that my time here has gone by so quickly.  I’m struggling to cram all of my bucket list into the remaining weekends we have left.  Thus far, I’m headed to Cairns, the Whitsundays, and the Great Barrier Reef for mid-semester break on an action-packed tour bus with most of my friends. The weekend after we return I’m flying to Queenstown, New Zealand to do some glacial hikes, kayak Milford Sound, bask in a hot spring, and eat at the infamous Fergburger.  That leaves just 2 weekends in between my return from Queenstown and departure for Bali during reading week.  While I love the fact that I’m getting to travel to so many different countries, I’m a little disappointed I don’t have more time here in Sydney.  Just when I think I’ve gotten my bearings and have seen all there is to do, I stumble upon a new suburb or shopping center or park that is just as incredible as the previous. Not to mention, I wish I had more time to see more of Australia.  I truly didn’t grasp the size of this country until looking up flights for different destinations.  When I thought I could make a “quick weekend trip” to Perth and Ningaloo Reef my Econ partner (a local) laughed and told me “you realize that’s a six hour flight”.  I suppose in the states I wouldn’t consider making a quick trip from Florida to Cali, but when in Australia…

It’s safe to say Sydney, and my apartment in Urbanest, is actually starting to feel like home.  I wish my friends and family could come visit so I could show them all of my newfound favorite pubs, restaurants, and walks.  I know when I go home and tell the stories, show the pictures, and describe my experience the words and photos just won’t do this amazing country, city, and experience justice.

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>>Studying<< Abroad

Time August 16th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Australia, First Generation Scholars | 2 Comments by

This post is being written under much more stress than the previous two as I’m quickly realizing, to my dismay, that the studying aspect of study abroad is very real.  Having just completed Week 3 of classes, assignments, papers, presentations, and project due dates are approaching much more rapidly than expected.  I have always been the type to organize and plan my schoolwork well in advance, but adjusting to the new self-taught style of learning here has made it much more difficult.  Advice — pencil in your assignment due dates in a planner straight away so that when planning trips you don’t accidentally journey to another country the day before a 2500 word essay is due (oops).  Although the idea of schoolwork is still hard to grasp, I’ve enjoyed the courses I’m enrolled in.  I was extremely hesitant to follow through with my “Performance: Production and Interpretation” theater class given that I’m majoring in Biology back home, but thus far I’ve actually been intrigued by the plays we’ve had to see.  Side note: I’ve had a hard time grasping the spelling differences between American and Australian English.  Theatre vs theater. Colonisation vs colonization. Colour vs color.  I’ve also been keeping note of some of my favorite slang terms used by Australians.  “Arvo” for afternoon. “Fairy floss” for cotton candy. “Brekky” for breakfast. “Heaps” for a lot/really/very (as in there’s heaps to do in Bondi or I’m heaps keen to go out tonight). Not sure if I’ll ever catch on but I never cease to be intrigued by their lingo. Read More »

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Sydney Stole my Heart (and my Wallet)

Time July 25th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Australia, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

Exactly two weeks after arriving in Sydney I can undoubtedly say this was the best decision of my life. All of my anxieties, worries, and fears were left in the trail of the Qantas airplane we flew on. From the moment I reached the airport I had already met dozens of new people, and now 14 days later I have adopted a new sense of independence, confidence, and eagerness to explore my new home.

Alongside these new traits though has come a serious toll on my bank account.  Sydney is beautiful, but you certainly pay the price to live here.  A small coffee from a street vendor (and keep in mind a small in Australia equates to kiddie cup in Australia), can ring up to $4.50 AUD.  A single load of laundry costs $8, and if you want a yummy dinner be ready to throw in at least $30.  All of this doesn’t even include the absurd night life costs, with cover charges up to $30 and drinks at least $10 a pop.  For those of you looking to study in Sydney I by no means say this to deter you, but definitely be prepared. On the plus side, minimum wage here is around $20 AUD/hour so I quickly took it upon myself to find what they call “casual” work.  Being a study abroad student this type of work is perfect because it requires the least amount of commitment.  The job I found at an after school day care allows me to change my availability every week and has certainly put an ease on my mind and bank account. Read More »

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Pre-Departure: #NervousbutExcited

Time July 5th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Australia, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

As the departure date for my trip halfway across the world, to Sydney, Australia, approaches T-9 days, the reality of my journey has begun to resonate with me. It feels like just yesterday I was an eager freshman visiting the Wake Forest University Study Abroad office discussing the opportunity. I was already fortunate enough to have explored Europe on two separate occasions, and as I narrowed down my choices I couldn’t get the hundreds of iconic pictures of Australian beaches, wildlife, and cities pinned to my “Bucket List” Pinterest board out of my head.  I immediately knew I couldn’t resist the opportunity to experience ” the land down under” for myself. Read More »