Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

Tick- tock…is it time yet?

Time November 30th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Peru | No Comments by

The countdown has begun! In less than a month, I will be back home, home to the peach state of good ol’ Georgia. I can’t believe time has flown as fast as it has. I’m so excited to be home. The other day as I was cleaning my room, I got inspired and I started to pack. I packed all the winter clothes that I had brought to Peru (there is really no need for them now that it is spring time here). I also packed some of the souvenirs that I have bought from when I went to Iquitos and Cusco. I have yet to be close to finishing with my souvenir shopping, but for now, I’ll pack everything that isn’t breakable into my massive pink and black suitcase. I’m hoping mom will take it back home when she comes to visit me for Thanksgiving break…

In preparation to my leave, I plan to exercise as much as I can because I’m going to be eating as much Peruvian food as I can, because truthfully I will miss it. Peru has a huge variety of fruits and potatoes. My host family is not much of vegetable eaters, so getting back to the U.S. will be good for that reason. The main reason though that I want to be home is that I miss people. Peru is a very (VERY) affectionate country. You are greeted with a hug and a cheek kiss, but it doesn’t fully make me not want to be hugged and kissed by my family and friends. *cough, cough, and boyfriend.

I’m anxiously awaiting the day I go home. It’ll be a good change of things. I’ve gotten used to having my breakfast waiting for me in the mornings, and I need to do my bed more than I should. I also need to eat better. Having a sweet tooth is not good when you are staying in Peru for 6 months. There’s delicious mouthwatering sweets at every corner. Peru is too good for my own good. Haha. I just hope time flies and that final exams are not too stressful! Smooth sailing is the plan. Let’s hope it happens that way. Until then, I’ll keep enjoying Peru.

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On Iguazu, Mendoza, & Salta

Time November 22nd, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

I realized I haven’t talked about any of the trips I’ve been on during my study abroad trip. I’ve been exceedingly blessed to have gotten to explore so much of Argentina. Buenos Aires is lovely and chaotic, but it has been nice at times to leave the pollution-filled air behind to travel to sparsely populated provinces. All of these trips feel like centuries ago, so I am going to try and generally summarize them instead of providing a lot of details.

My first trip outside Buenos Aires was to Iguazu Falls, one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. I went with some of my closest friends here, and it was super fun! That trip was definitely a blast because of the nature and companionship. I would say the hostel we stayed at was one of the best I’ve been to in Argentina.

Speaking of hostels, it’s really interesting how the quality of hostels vary so widely. You really never know what you’re going to get. Some are $10 a night and basically 5 stars(as far as hostels go) and some are $10 a night and really feel like you’re getting the absolute minimum for what you paid for. Isn’t that interesting?

Continuing on, Iguazu deserves its name as one of the most beautiful natural wonders of the world. I was in awe most of the time. The surrounding town was  quaint and had a lot of nice murals that my friends and I took pictures next to. I remember going to a Mexican food place that was decidedly not Mexican food. Well, they tried.

In Mendoza, I got to ride a horse! That was my highlight. I also got to eat bread and olive oil, which is always nice. Wine tastes the same to me no matter the brand, so I must admit I got a little bored on the wine tours. Still, I’m glad I got to go on them. I got sick on the bus coming back from Mendoza which was the opposite of fun. But overall that trip was really fun.

Salta was a lot of exercise, travel, and beautiful scenery. I don’t even know how to describe Salta/Tilcara. I think, in this instance, a picture is worth a thousand words. I remember coming back very dusty from that trip. I miss the sun and the dry heat of Salta. In Buenos Aires, when it’s hot, it’s sticky and humid.

Well, that’s a not-so summary of my experiences. I’ll end by saying I had an amazing time in all 3 places and am definitely blessed that I had the opportunity to travel to 3 very different places within Argentina.

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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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Advice About Budgeting in Buenos Aires

Time October 27th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

The title is a misnomer because I’m not really going to be talking about budgeting during study abroad. If you are a firstgen college student/ poor and planning on studying abroad, I really hope you’ve been planning for this for awhile now. Basically, study abroad is different from “real life” at whatever university. If you don’t treat study abroad like it’s different, you’re going to have a bad time. Don’t expect to be as frugal as you are back home. It’s definitely possible, but you will be miserable. There are expenses in study abroad that don’t come up in regular school situations. You will be going out more, eating out more, and hopefully travelling more. Anticipate these expenses and plan for them. The two biggest money-handling mistakes I’ve seen on study abroad are:

  1. Spending as frugally as one would back home and not being able to experience study abroad as it should be experienced
  2. Spending more money than one normally would because it’s #studyabroad but then constantly berating oneself for the reckless spending

Both of these behaviors are a MISTAKE and will detract from your study abroad experience. I was in the first boat for about 3 weeks, the second boat for another 3 weeks, and now I am free from both! I already sort of went over why number 1 is a mistake above. Don’t treat study abroad like it’s back home. If you have a college budget, don’t just carry it to study abroad and expect it to work and be fine. Number 2 should be obvious to everyone. If you’re berating yourself for your spending, you’re just going to make yourself feel awful. Also, study-abroad spending is not “reckless spending”. It’s a once in a lifetime experience and should be treated as such. The best thing to do is spend the extra money on the study abroad experiences (relative to each individual person’s  means/ budget) and be fine with it.

Alright, so how do you get to that point where you can spend and be fine? This is where the planning comes in…That I hope y’all were doing way beforehand. If you are like me and don’t have family members to hand you money at your every whim, having the ultimate study-abroad experience takes a little finessing.

Apply for IFSA scholarships/jobs! The IFSA first-generation scholarship literally saved me so much grief. Apply for other scholarships as well. Apply for all of them, if you have the time. If you are eligible, apply for the Gilman scholarship. There are also a lot of university/region specific scholarships out there. These are usually less competitive than the nationwide scholarship programs. Brush up on your writing skills because you will be writing a lot of essays. My university has people that specifically help with proofreading scholarship/fellowship application essays. Check to see if your university has something similar.

For those that have a job during the school year: SAVE. I am serious. It is painful and hard, but it must be done. I managed to save a significant amount of money in a little over a year by consciously restricting my spending. That is in addition to paying for my miscellaneous expenses( like soap, conditioner, etc.). I created an incredibly restrictive budget for myself and stuck to it. My sophomore year social life suffered considerably, but I saved that $$$. Watch Netflix with your friends. It is free and fun. Don’t eat out. Don’t buy Starbucks. Don’t take that Uber to the bar/wherever. Obviously, it’s impossible to completely follow these guidelines unless you are a complete recluse, but you need to make a concerted effort to spend less. Sometimes I’d go to random club meetings/career events to get the Pizza/catered food when I really, really wasn’t feeling the dining hall.

Other options are, of course, loans. But taking out a loan is a personal decision and everyone qualifies for different types/rates.

Also! IFSA specifically provides students with budget calculators, so look that up. Just make sure to be realistic and don’t plan on spending $5 USD a week in expenses. Good luck!

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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 »

Preparing to Go Home

Time February 22nd, 2016 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, England, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

Wow. Preparing to go home is crazy. For one, it’s coming up on the end of term, so you have all the last minute work from school. You also have to make sure that you collect all your things, if you’ve lent anyone anything, or left things at a friend’s house. Along with all that, you have to check your travel arrangements, make sure you have your travel papers, and everything arranged for getting home as well.

I think the most that I changed was in what I appreciate about home. There are a lot of things that are amazing about England and that I will miss, but at the same time, there are a lot things and conveniences of home that I really missed. What I most look forward to is my CAR. I want my car soooo bad. I am so ready to be able to move independently and not have to rely on public transportation.

I think the hardest thing for me, was having to say good bye to all my new friends. I made some really good friends when I was abroad and it was hard to say good bye to them for what is going to at least be a very long time. Not only that, but I know I will miss England in a way similar to how I missed home when I first got there.

Overall, it is such an amazing place. I love the history that is around every corner. Not only is it historic, but that history and tradition is cherished and preserved. I loved England, and I think one of my new bucket list items is to go back again. After spending 4 months there, there is still so much to see.

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Home Again

Time February 22nd, 2016 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, England, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

The first thing that happened when I saw my family is lots of hugs, and a few tears. Coming home wasn’t as hard for me, because my parents actually came over to England a couple weeks before I came home so we could have a family vacation. I cried when I saw my boyfriend too.

It was so very nice to be able to DRIVE. I love my car so much and I realize how much I consider it a part of my independence. My friends who didn’t go were jealous and asked me lots of questions. It was a lot like when I got to England and they all asked me questions about guns and politics. And the pictures. Oh my gosh, the demands for pictures were crazy. Everyone wanted to see the pictures from my time over there. I actually think that school over here requires more effort for me, because there are several assignments, plus tests, and reading.

England was so amazing, and I feel so incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to spend a significant length of time there. I learned so much and I made some really good friends in the process. Studying abroad will definitely always remain a memorable highlight of my schooling experience. Everything that made me who I am, from being a first generation university student to my incredible family, helped me to have the courage to explore outside my comfort zone in another country. I will always be grateful to the programs and people who helped me be able to participate in such an amazing program and an amazing experience.

But it’s still really good to be home.

 

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Advice

Time November 30th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, England, First Generation Scholars | 1 Comment by

Advice, such a wonderful concept, but there is always something left out, something that may be important to you but not to someone else.

Packing: pack light, I guarantee that you will see something you have to have and buy more clothes here (especially if you’re a girl who likes to shop). I brought 5 or 6 shirts with me, I have doubled that.

Shoes. Do NOT bring 50 million pairs of shoes. Bring shoes that are comfortable for walking in, because you will be doing a lot of walking. Also, make sure you have at least one pair that is water proof or you are going to have wet feet a lot. If you LIKE to hike and plan to do so here, then it’s good to bring hiking boots. I’ve barely worn mine even though they were recommended on the packing list. Hiking always seems to be optional, so the footwear is also optional.

Another one (which may or may not be weird) but if you are particular about your personal hygiene products, like deodorant, bring it. They have many things to offer here but they are NOT the same as what is available in the US.

Bring a raincoat. With a hood. Umbrellas are great, but I gave up carrying mine after the wind turned it inside out a couple times. Sometimes it just isn’t worth the fight. If you worry about your hair, believe me, everyone else will be just as windblown as you.

 

Shopping – be prepared to go to more than one store. They do have Asda, which is like Walmart, but with not quite as much variety. Other than that, groceries, medicine, and clothing/linens are not generally sold in the same place. Also, different stores have different varieties depending on how picky you are. However, the variety of stores are usually located geographically near each other, probable because they don’t threaten each other’s sales. Either way, shop around for the best deals and ask the locals for tips. Usually, the other college students can tell you the best places to shop for particular things for cheap.

 

Academics

I’m fairly independent to begin with, so I haven’t struggled as much as some others with the course load here. As a short-term student (only 1 semester, and Autumn term) all of my lecturers provided me with a longer or another essay for my course assessment. Be prepared to write.

Also, pace yourself. Don’t procrastinate until the last minute for your essays. The only other real homework I have received for my classes is reading and being prepared to discuss and critique the material assigned. Start the research part of your papers early or the amount of reading to find papers with usable material is evil. And if you do leave it, you have no one to blame but yourself for the workload. That research reading is what everyone else means when they tell you that you’re expected to research and read on your own.

Classes: whatever you do, do NOT miss seminars. Not all of your classes will take attendance and sometimes you want to go to lecture when you’re sick. But no matter how bad you feel, it isn’t worth missing seminar. Seminar is where you get to APPLY what you’re learning. The seminars are usually much smaller and allow you to interact more with the material.

 

I think the most important bit of advice, especially for those of you who are close to your family and friends, is to have fun! This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. You get to study in another country. Stay in touch with your family and talk to them as much as you need to keep homesickness as bay, but also immerse yourself. Canterbury, England in general, has so much to offer and explore. Take advantage of the opportunity you’ve been given. Do your schoolwork, but explore when you can. You never know what friends you’ll make and what amazing places you’ll see until you try.

Like visiting the White Cliffs of Dover with the friends I made here…

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Goals

Time November 30th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, England, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

One thing I think everyone who studies abroad shares is goals, from personal to professional. Mine were a bit of both, if I’m honest. I needed to prove to myself that I could do this, that I could leave my family, my friends, my country, my whole life behind and study somewhere else. Considering that I’m doing that, here, now, and well over half way done, I think I’ve at least accomplished that goal.

But my personal ability to not only survive, but thrive in an unfamiliar environment wasn’t what originally drove me to seek out study abroad. I wanted to build my resume. I wanted to add my exposure to another culture, another political climate, and another society to my list of assets. Coming here has allowed me to see how the students of one of our allied nations see things. How they look at psychology and criminal justice and how they look at the interplay between the two. I have gained a perspective from my exposure that, while being unique to me, also includes what I have been exposed to. I hope that I can draw on both my experience and my ability to succeed here in the future, in the course of my duties.

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Family and Friends

Time October 28th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, England, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

Back home, my family and friends still have each other and life goes on as usual. The only difference for them is that I’m a long way from home. My parents, boyfriend, gran, and one of my aunts have taken it the hardest. I text my parents through an app and Skype, message my boyfriend through another app, and keep my gran and aunt updated with frequent pictures and posts on Facebook. I miss them all terribly. I text my parents every day or two and message with my boyfriend daily. I also have a weekly appointment to talk with my parents on Skype, and we usually talk for an hour or two, just talking and spending time with each other. At first it was really hard, seeing them made me really sad and homesick the first few weeks, but as I settled in here and made friends and started having a life here at school, it got easier to talk with them back home. I still miss them all terribly, but having ties here makes being away from them easier.

One of the hardest things to deal with is the homesickness. Most days it isn’t too bad, but sometimes it just suddenly hits really hard. One of the things I’ve found that helps is staying busy. I’m in 3 societies (clubs), I read a lot, and I hang out with my housemates. The more involved you are in life on campus, the easier it is to fend off being so homesick. When I do get really homesick, though, I talk to someone from home. Either by messaging them and sending pictures back and forth or Skyping. Just knowing that someone from home is paying attention to you and getting that reminder that they’re ok and you are too helps. Another thing that helps is to remember that the feeling will pass and in a few months you’ll be back home with everyone and everything you love.

 

Some helpful apps: What’s app (both parties have to have the app, uses data on both sides to text/message), GroupMe (you can text people, the app uses data and assigns you a random number from the same area as whoever you’re texting so you need to identify yourself the first time. If both people have the app it works better), Skype (video chats and messaging), Facebook Messenger. All of these apps are free and there are many more out there.

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Other Students Studying Abroad

Time October 28th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, England, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

There is such variety in the people who study abroad. You have students who are abroad for an entire program/degree, for a year, for a term, or for a few weeks. I’ve met people here of all but the last. And, just like at home, there are a wide variety of incomes included as well. Almost all of my housemates are, like me, on a rather tight budget. It’s like any other university back home, most of us are accustomed to living on the rather tight budget of a student, with a few thrown in who don’t really have to worry about that.

But, despite budgets, everyone finds room to fund going out. Below is a picture of my housemates, a couple friends, and myself before we went out for a Caving Society (club) social, which was essentially a roving party through town. A lot of the societies (clubs) throw themed socials where everyone in the society and their friends can get together and just hang out and have fun. Most of the pubs have a really causal atmosphere and reasonably priced food and drinks, perfect for students.

And we made most of the costumes from over sized t-shirts, towels, sheets, and finger paint – classic budget costumes and lots of fun to make together.

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From US to New Zealand learning

Time March 2nd, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars, New Zealand | 1 Comment by

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”

Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky (Discworld, #32)

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7 weeks has never felt shorter

Time February 23rd, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars, Mexico | No Comments by

Though it’s completely flown by, this first month and a half of studying abroad has been incredibly, incredibly busy and exciting…and scary…and a little stressful…and really amazing. I haven’t posted yet because things have been so crazy…exciting…scary…and a little stressful…and really amazing. Jaja, but here I am to tell you all there is to know about Mérida, México (or better said, all that I’ve learned in these seven weeks). Read More »

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Oxford: Magic Land

Time February 5th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, England, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

Everything is so old and magical here. It has been a little difficult adjusting to the tutorial system– it is much different than what I am used to in the states and requires much discipline! The food in college is amazing, especially at formal hall. I also went to Burns night: A Scottish themed formal in honor of Robert Burns.

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G’Day Melbourne!

Time June 3rd, 2013 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

I have exactly two weeks left till I head back home to Atlanta, and with the classes being finished, I decided to take a trip to Melbourne. I wanted to keep my trip short and sweet, so my weekend started on Thursday. I left for Melbourne in the morning, and arrived at my uncle’s house. He lives about two hours away from the city, in a suburb called Castlemaine. The suburb is kind of like the area I visited for country life weekend, lots of green trees and cold, crisp wind. Side note-Melbourne has super extreme weather, so in the summer it is extremely hot, while the winters are rainy and cold. Upon my arrival, of course it started to rain so buying an umbrella became a necessity. Anyways, I got to explore the town of Bendigo, which was quite beautiful and picturesque. Afterwards, on Friday we headed to the city. The city of Melbourne is beautiful, with street performers entertaining the crowd to the fancy stores and the uptown malls. I also checked out the Eureka tower, which gives a 360 view of the city. The tower also had this attraction called the ‘edge,’ where you are put into a glass box, and it seems as though you are on the edge of the building, where you can see the streets beneath your feet from a 88 floor height. It was honestly a pretty cool experience! Melbourne also has a great scenic river that is similar to the harbor in Sydney, but not quite.

In Melbourne, I saw more fashion, hipsters, rich people, and a structured pattern of living. It is very different from Sydney, but good different. My friends here say that either you love Sydney or Melbourne, but not both. Although Melbourne has amazing coffee, cheap shopping, and great atmosphere, I am a Sydney girl at heart. I would say that Melbourne is good for bringing up new families and creating a professional lifestyle, but if you’re single and like adventure and creative locations, Sydney is for you.

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It’s not the end, just yet.

Time June 3rd, 2013 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

Recently, IFSA–Butler organized a farewell dinner for all the students to see each other before heading home. The dinner consisted of students from different universities in Sydney, which gave me an opportunity to meet others that I haven’t yet. However, the dinner was also a minor reminder of our departure back home, leaving Sydney. At the dinner, we went through a long slide show that showcased all of our adventures in the past couple of months. It was interesting to see how my friendships had developed, or rather changed over time, how many adventures I had taken on, and my changing attitude over the course of the semester. In the beginning, I had been friends with a whole crowd of different people, which then slowly condensed to merely three or four close friendships. It was quite funny to see my first koala picture, in which I looked scared and uncomfortable, transform to me diving in the shark cage at Port Lincoln. The slideshow was a reminder of how much I had changed, yet remained the same. I had changed through my thinking processes, my way of experiencing adventures, and learning to enjoy every moment. However, I realized that I had maintained my value for quality friendships, lasting relationships, and a desire for learning.

A bit later in the program, we received the letters that we had written on the first day. I remember writing the letter in the hot February weather thinking about all the crazy fun I will have and all the cool people I would meet. I had thought about learning, but exploring was my main focus. After opening the letter, I felt so immature. The letter started with, ” It’s not the end, just yet,” which made me smile. In the letter, I had written myself encouraging notes, talking about crazy adventures, sky diving, getting my first tattoo, and making heaps of friends while abroad. The reality was that I had only accomplished one of the things-getting a tattoo. I did not make lots of friends, but made some really close friends that I would want to visit sometime. I did not go skydiving, but went to the tallest tower in Sydney. I did have crazy adventures though, just not the ones I had originally planned for myself. My adventures consisted of visiting mostly all of Australia, getting lost on the streets of Sydney, taking a 5am train from the city to Newtown, meeting random people on the streets and having long conversations, and creating lasting memories every step of the way. I actually was right. Even though I have only 2 weeks left until I leave, it’s not the end just yet. I have lots to see, lots to do, lost of places to get lost at, and lots of conversations waiting to happen.

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Easter Break Travels

Time April 8th, 2013 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

I traveled a bit during Easter Break, which commenced today. I flew from Sydney to Adelaide, then to Port Lincoln. At Port Lincoln, located in South Australia, is the home of shark cage diving. Shark cage diving is basically going into a huge cage with open bars under 5-7 ft perhaps of the ocean, and witnessing the Whites first hand. I saw 4 sharks total, one of which was the Bronze. The experience was exhilarating, and my body was full of adrenaline. It was a rush of emotions to see the Great Whites up so close, almost like a dream. The sharks literally come close to your face, and that’s when the reality of it hits you. It was an incredible experience, and I would do over a million times if I could.

Then, after a three night stay at Port Lincoln YHA, I flew to Cairns. Cairns is located in Northern Australia, home to the Great Barrier Reef. I took a Reef tour, and my mind is blown from the experience. I got to scuba dive for the first time, and that too at the Barrier Reef. We went down and saw the coral and the reefs up close, not to mention the beautiful fish and the glowing nature of the ocean itself. The dive was splendid, and afterwards I snorkeled. I ended up seeing a clownfish, a sea snake, some eels, and beautiful fishes that cannot be described in words. It seemed as though the water was glowing, and the experience was life changing.

After the Reef, I went on a Rainforest tour to the Kundra village. The rainforest tour was on a train ride, and the scenery was picturesque. It was a beautiful tour, ending with a trip to the rainforest markets. I also had my first hot dog there, and boy was it delicious!

 


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week 1 in Sydney!

Time February 25th, 2013 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

Hello!

I have been in Sydney for about a week now, so here are some updates of my time spent here, some general aussie culture, and my experiences so far!


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