Wow, has everything changed! After a long journey from the Minneapolis airport to the Newark airport and finally to the Heathrow airport in London, I can now say that I have hopped over the pond. We arrived in London around 7:30 AM, went through a long customs line, and met with our IFSA-Butler guide. At this point I was feeling so many emotions, but most of all, I was exhausted. I had woken up at 4 AM on Thursday and we landed in the morning on Friday. I managed a 2-hour nap on the flight but surprisingly, plane seats are not to best accommodation for a good night’s sleep. But I didn’t have time to feel tired, because we had landed in London and had a full day ahead of us. I was excited enough to be able to push my tiredness to the side. Read More »
Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler
As I enter my second week of registration period at the University of Havana, I decided to take a moment and reflect on our group adventures thus far.
From Toronto, my group and I endured a 3 hour flight to Havana as well as an additional 3 hour wait for our bags. When we finally made it through customs, our director Michelle was waiting outside to welcome and deliver us to our families. Because of our late arrival from the airport, we were only able to exchange brief introductions with our families before going to sleep. Read More »
Since being here I’ve found a lot of things to be different than back home. For example, Orientation or Week of Welcome doesn’t exist. I was literally dropped off at my flat, handed a sheet of paper with a couple events on it, and told “Good luck. Call if you need anything,” despite not having an international phone plan at the time. Picking classes (the term used here is modules) has been an absolute nightmare. Everyone in Uni here in Cardiff gets put in to classes for their specific school (or major) and only for that school. A liberal arts education does not exist here. Students take classes that apply to their degree and then they graduate–all in three years. And here I am, trying to squeeze everything I want to do in to four! However, I will say that I feel pretty accomplished now that I’ve got a working schedule (everyone here says “timetable”)! Although it was difficult, it got done. I am taking Cross-Cultural Management, Managing People in Organisations (have to make sure I spell it “correctly” here), Reformation History, Globalisation and Social Change, and Power, Politics, and Policy (In class today, there were four stabs at the United States, thanks to last night’s debate…). Not bad, eh?
Freshers Week–Orientation week, if you subtract the academic parts and multiply the social parts by 10x–was lots of fun. I met lots of new people and got to know the city a little better. I still have a lot to explore, though! I plan on exploring more of it this week. Tomorrow, hopefully, my flatmates and I will head on over to Cardiff Bay! This past weekend, some of us took a trip to Brecon Beacons National Park and hiked to the peak of Pen y Fan–one of the best hikes I’ve ever done! I was blown away–literally and figuratively, meaning it was absolutely breathtaking, but the wind was so strong, I found myself almost blowing off the mountain a few times! Check it out under the “Places” tab under the “Connections” tab on my blog caseyincardiff.weebly.com! There, you’ll also find photos from my trips to London, specifically from the day trip I took to see Sara and Bailey! It was great seeing them. #wheredasquadat #squadabroad
I’d love to share more, but my tummy is pretty full from my flat’s second Taco Tuesday, which is making me kinda sleepy. I have to write up some notes from my lecture today (Yes, just one! Another fabulous difference between the US and UK! I only have each class once a week and no more than two classes in general a day!) and prepare for my two lectures tomorrow. Wish me luck as I brave the next week! I’m super excited for everyone else I’ll get to meet, everywhere else I’ll get to go, and everything in between!
I believe that there are few things that are as chaotic as your first week in a foreign country. Everyone around you is scrambling to get kitchen supplies, food, mobiles, travel cards, friends—the full gamut of human panicking upon realization that ‘I’m going to spend a semester in this place.’
Imagine watching your favorite movie on TV. You’ve seen it a million times. Not every line is familiar, and you still notice new details every time you watch it, but you know the plot and the characters inside and out. Suddenly, someone comes into the room and starts flicking through channels on the TV, settling on some for a few seconds, others for a few minutes, and others still for entire episodes of unfamiliar series. Some programs are easier for you to understand; you easily pick up which are cooking shows and recognize certain cartoons instantly. However, the channels keep changing, and even when you figure out a show well enough to follow along, you still lack the background information that can only come from being invested for multiple seasons, story arcs, and characters. Read More »
I had a vision. A vision of orientation. And in this vision, I sat for hours and hours in a stuffy conference room where old men plodded through powerpoint slides and admonished me for future misdemeanors, and I was really jet lagged and really hungry. Now fortunately, this wasn’t the prophetic trance kind of vision because then it would have come true, alack. Nope, it was just a vision of unnecessary pessimism.
Orientation was great!
Ok, yeah, there were powerpoint slides, and conference rooms, and old men. But the old men were all pretty cool. We got Andrew, a jolly Welsh guy who told us about how weird Americans are (they wear neon and talk to random strangers and are all good at sports, the WEIRDOS). We got David, a friendly London policeman who schooled us on not getting mugged (which is a very useful skill!). And we got Lord Taverne, a very dignified and very funny member of the House of Lords who chatted about current politics and events.
There were a couple of other meetings too, but orientation week turned out to mostly be a time to explore London! Yipee!
(Boring but informative side note: this was the orientation from IFSA-Butler, the study abroad agency that my American university contracts with. It was me and about 200 other students, who are all going to various London area universities through IFSA-Butler’s programs. IFSA-Butler has orientation so we can get a little bit used to England before moving into our schools. Ok, end of boring but informative side note.)
One of our tour guides told me that no one will believe I actually went to England unless I have pictures of Big Ben and Westminster. So I guess I had better post those now and alleviate your doubts immediately. I really am here! In England! I promise!
You also get the red double decker bus for good measure. I’ve always seen those busses in drawings, but I wasn’t sure if they were tour busses or charter busses or something of old that isn’t actually here anymore. But it turns out they are the official city transit busses and they are everywhere!
A fun fact about Big Ben: the first bell they had cracked, so they got a new one from the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. Two months later, this one also cracked, but they didn’t want to replace it again. So it’s still cracked, which is said to give it a distinctive ring. The Whitechapel Bell Foundry also made another famous bell. Can you guess which one?
Oh yeah, it’s the Liberty Bell.
On our first day in London, my roommate Juliana and I decided we should go to a pub, since that’s a very English thing to do. We walked around looking for a cute one that would serve us dinner and found this one, the Cambridge.
Juliana doesn’t like fish but felt that it’s pretty much compulsory to order fish and chips on your first day in England.
Unfortunately, traditional or not, fish is fish, so in the end we both ate my macaroni and cheese.
We stayed in the St. Giles Hotel off Oxford Street, so we were in an excellent location for exploring. I saw lots of cool and unique places, like this umbrella store from 1830. It was lovely inside and full of very beautiful but very expensive umbrellas (I saw some for £100). A tour guide later told us that you know you’re a real Englishman when you have umbrellas to match all your outfits.
And we saw Convent Garden, which is currently featuring this fun balloon installation. Julianna and I ate in a really cute crepe restaurant in one of those little hidey holes in the lower level. There were musicians playing outside, and the whole place was very sweet.
All of the IFSA-Butler students got to see shows in West End, and my group went to War Horse. The puppetry in this show was just astoundingly amazing. Half of the main characters in the show are horses! Played by giant metal framework puppets with three puppeteers each! And actors actually ride them! And the movement of the horses was so realistic. I started cringing and could barely watch when some of them started dying. It was worth seeing the show just for these puppets. As for the rest of it… I liked the happy beginning and happy end, but the vast desert of despairing bleakness between the two was just a little too much for my sunny disposition. My favorite parts of the show were the singing and the COMIC RELIEF DUCK. There was a DUCK PUPPET. Oh my gosh, it was so cute!!!!!!!!!!!! They didn’t allow photos, but you can see one online here: http://blog.fabulousfox.com/image.axd?picture=2012%2F4%2F852-288tighter.jpg
On our last day in London, we went to Greenwich. We visited the Maritime Museum, the chapel and painted room at the Old Royal Naval College, and of course the Prime Meridian at the Royal Observatory.
For lunch, I told our tour guide that I wanted to eat somewhere “good and local.” He said, “Oh, what you want is pies and mash!” He directed Juliana and I to this lovely restaurant, Goddards, which has been there since 1890. It was perfect!
The staff and the food were both really lovely. The first things on the menu were “pies and mash,” “double pies and mash,” “pies and double mash,” and “double pies and double mash.” The food was very simple but so pleasant and homey. I learned that “mash” is mashed potatoes.
I got apple pie for desert, and they asked if I wanted custard. “Oh,” I thought, “I know what that is. It’s ice cream!” So I ordered it. Nope, it was this:
It was served steaming hot and was strongly vanilla flavored. I liked it ok but didn’t eat all of it.
While we were touring around with the tour guide, we saw this cat, and everyone stopped to take pictures. Our tour guide laughed at us and said, “I’m showing you all these famous historical sites and the best thing you see all day is going to be a cat.” But it was a really pretty cat.
Before I end this post, I would like to impart to you a very important lesson I learned during orientation week: Some things shouldn’t be made into legos.
We saw this in a toy store. I wish I could convey to you the skin-tingling, nightmarish creepiness that grabs your soul when you are suddenly confronted with this. I feel like they don’t look that bad in the picture, but when they are towering over you with their jagged skin and beady eyes… ugh. I kept thinking they would be perfect Dr. Who villains.
With IFSA orientation completed I moved into AUS as an Exchange Student! The living accommodations are definitely better than my home university. I have a room to myself for sleeping and homework and share a bathroom and kitchenette with a single suite mate. The room is spacious and very comfortable. All I have done is added new sheets, leopard print, and a rug I bought while at the Central Souk. (Bartered for it and paid less than half the first offer!)
Thankfully, I did not have to start class immediately after moving into campus and IXO, International Exchange Office, had its own orientation planned. This was another great way to get accustomed to the area and the cultural norms as well as meeting other students who are in the same situation as myself. Something I quickly noticed was this week was very much like freshman orientation at my home university. There was a lot of small talk as I tried to meet new people and find others with similar interests as myself. Luckily, I was able to meet some great people!! After the initial awkwardness of ice breakers and small talk, IXO took all of the exchange students on many excursions within Sharjah and also in Dubai. These trips helped me become more comfortable with area, the culture, and with my fellow exchange students. A difficulty of the excursions is traveling with large groups, I realized that traveling in large groups can be very difficult and that splitting up is definitely the way to go.
IXO also provided cultural seminars about the UAE and Sharjah in particular. They do a great job at explaining the many consequences of not following the law and cultural norms, but many times it seemed as though it was more focused on scaring us from doing “wrong” rather than being realistic about what occurs on campus. Sharjah is the most conservative Emirate, but you still see couples talking together in public, holding hands, and other things couples would do in the United States and I have yet to see anyone be deported for sitting too close to someone of the opposite sex!
The pictures attached to this blog include the Sharjah Light Festival, an annual event where many Mosques, government buildings, and other buildings are illuminated with colorful designs, the Burj Al Arab, the only seven star hotel, the Eye of the Emirates, a much smaller London Eye, pictures from a short boat ride we had and the main building at AUS.
I will be posting one more post and I will finally feel caught up to present!
Orientation provided by Butler IFSA was extremely valuable and enjoyable!! We were able to see the Heart of Sharjah and Dubai before moving into my dorms and experience the culture with the guide of Chris, David and Mohamed.
It all began when I landed in Dubai and went to acquire my visa for the semester and found that they did not have my visa. After a minor panic attack, contacting anyone I can and a 5 1/2 hour wait I received my visa and continued through passport check and met Chris outside luggage pick up. She was very helpful in fixing the issue!
Chris, David, and Mohamed lead some very informative cultural education sessions on the UAE and differences between Dubai, Sharjah and the U.S. We were soon though experiencing the culture as we went to the Global Village, basically a larger Disney Epcot with shops and food, and met Patrick, a student already at AUS for a semester, and Kiri, our regional director.
We went to The Dubai Mall the next day and realized the sheer size of this mall. I have now been there over 4 times and I am sure that I have not seen it all. It is truly spectacular.
Fast forward to the final day, easily the most jam packed and exciting. We walked the area known as the Hearth of Sharjah and visited the Islamic Heritage Museum. We did more walking outside that day than we had all week and it turned out to be the warmest. We moved on to view the livestock souk, exotic animal souk, and the Central Souk in Sharjah. the exotic animal souk included adult falcons, large parrots, tortoises, peacocks and many, many more. We stopped at a tiny Indian restaurant in Sharjah. We were the only white people in the restaurant and were the only people served with silverware. I don’t remember the name, which is a shame, but continued proof that hole-in-the-wall places are amazing!!
The day concluded with a trip back to The Dubai Mall and dinner over looking the fountains. The area of The Dubai Mall shows the majesty of what this country has to show. The world’s largest mall, with the world’s largest fountains with the backdrop of the world’s tallest building. Dinner was very enjoyable, Mohamed made sure that Moises and I did not leave orientation hungry. We had nearly the equivalent of a 5 course meal before we left and viewed 3 fountain shows. It was a remarkable dining experience, but the night was not over, we left dinner to go to the 124th of the Burj Khalifa. The height we were at was unthinkable, especially when we were able to walk outside onto a viewing deck. This was really an amazing experience, and a truly great send off to AUS from Butler-IFSA. I just want to thank Chris, Mohamed and David for the experience!
Again, I’m trying to catch up to present, the next post should be very soon!!
Any iPhone users out there are probably familiar with the Health app that was added in the latest iOS update. For those who may not know what it is, it’s basically an app that can do a number of things, but most notably it acts as a pedometer. Over the course of the past few days we have been watching the number of steps we’ve taken go up and up and up as we continued to progressively adventure further and further into London. We’ve officially left the city, and have reached over 64,000 steps. That’s about 34 miles done solely by walking. But we were in London. It was completely worth it.
Today marks three full weeks in Costa Rica, well almost three weeks. Really it’s a day shy… but who’s keeping track? Given that the past couple of weeks have, more than anything, been an exotic extension of my summer break vacations I certainly have not been keeping track of the days. But even while my lazy summer mindset hasn’t quite worn off, my days have been filled with anything but lazy summer afternoons. In the two weeks since the program has started I have gone to the beach, to the mountains, to the country, around the neighborhood, around the university, around the city, and halfway across the country. (Okay maybe just a quarter of the way across the country, but halfway sounds a lot more dramatic). In short, I have done a lot. And instead of boring you guys (and myself) with a list of what I did I’m just going to make an extensive photo gallery with rocking captions that will hopefully give you a picture (*knee slap* I am tooooo good) of my past two weeks in Costa Rica. So for those skimmers out there, READ THE PHOTO CAPTIONS they are important!
P.S. For those of you tracking me on the map, I have had the hardest time getting Google to find Heredia the city. So for future reference, when it says San Jose I really mean Heredia.
I’m quite embarrassed and surprised about how much I missed having internet and my phone for the past week. I love being in the woods and not having cell service when I’m backpacking or canoeing, but whenever I’m doing that it doesn’t feel weird. But yesterday when I was finally able to plug my laptop into the new blue Ethernet cable patiently awaiting me on my desk (courtesy of UNSW), this wave of relief washed over me, not unlike the feeling I get when I’ve been in the car for too long and then finally reach an exit with a bathroom.
So, mom and dad, family and friends, I must admit, I miss you! And I’m blessed to have people to miss.
But I’m also blessed to have met so many new people! However, it’s not quite as easy as it sounds. Perhaps I complicate things a bit, but finding where I fit in this new place is quite tricky.
The first few of my days in Australia were spent staying at the Sydney Harbour Youth Hostel – a lovely place!! Probably the nicest hostel I will ever see. Families were staying there with their kids like it was a hotel, which seems like a very deceiving first impression of hostel culture, from what I’ve heard and read. Not that hostels are dangerous and grungy!! This hostel just seemed to be a misspelled hotel.
I stayed there with 34 other IFSA-Butler students, some of which have joined me at UNSW, some of which went on to study at Macquarie University, and some of which are studying at University of Wollongong. Together, we formed a large American tourist group.
Our student services coordinators (SCCs) Fiona and Jess, and our resident director Christi planned an amazing orientation for us that included all the main checkboxes on a Sydney tourist’s to-do list. We took a walking tour of the city, saw the Opera House, walked through the Royal Botanical Gardens, visited the Featherdale Wildlife Reserve where we met kangaroos and koalas (and more animals!); we hiked through the Blue Mountain National Park and saw the renowned Three Sisters; we saw an Aboriginal performance and painted boomerangs, participated in Sydney nightlife, relaxed at Manly Beach, and ended the orientation with a dinner cruise through Sydney Harbour. With all that experience on my resume, I was ready to be accepted into the community of locals! Right?
Well, of course not. Just like I’ve never been inside the Washington Monument even though I live an hour from it back home, many locals here have never taken a picture with a koala, and kangaroos are just animals they have to avoid on the roads. Arriving at UNSW reminded me that although I’m in my third year of college, I’m still “Fresh Meat” here. There are so many things that I don’t know! Besides the things I expected to have to learn, like the layout of campus and the bus system, I also don’t know what time breakfast is, and what events are going on, or what events I should go to! Us international students have been dumped into the middle of UNSW’s exciting “O-week,” short for orientation week, without water wings, and I’m not quite sure how to swim yet.
The good thing is, it’s a beautiful day to learn how to swim! And there are tons of people to help, as well as tons of people learning alongside me. A new friend I met at lunch today is going with me to try to find shampoo later today. And my inbox is full of emails already from clubs I wrote my name down on their interest sheet, inviting me to barbecues and cook-outs and meetings.
I guess in conclusion, help out the fresh meat around you. Tell them what time breakfast is! And then go eat breakfast with them! Someone who is eating alone doesn’t necessarily have leprosy, they probably just don’t know anyone. Go talk to them and make them feel welcome, because a false diagnosis of leprosy is a hard thing to overcome. I am so thankful for the people that have made me feel welcome, and hopefully I’m passing it on.
Don’t know when I’ll come back again. Hi all, and thanks again for tuning in. I’m writing this post today because the time for my departure is almost upon me, and I wanted to update y’all on my travel plans, and talk a little bit about my host family. Tomorrow, I’m going to board a plane from Denver that takes me to Atlanta, and then from Atlanta I have my 12 hour flight (8 AM to 8 PM) with the majority of my IFSA-Butler Study Abroad group to Buenos Aires. From there, we are whisked off into the 2nd largest city in the Southern Hemisphere for a few days of a orientation, introductions to our host families, and registration for our classes (as well as much more, I’m sure).
And speaking of host families, my new folks seem absolutely wonderful. I will be living with a family of four in a lovely house in a nice suburb of Buenos Aires called Almagro. My host father, Javier Carroll, works for the Department of Justice, and my host mother works for the hospital as a hematology technician. I also have TWO younger brothers named Julian and Martín, who are both high-schoolers and look like super fun guys. After growing up with a younger brother my whole life, I can’t wait for more of that experience. Bottom line; I can’t wait to meet my new family, and I’ll post pictures of all of them as soon as I am able.
My life is about to change in so many ways, and while I’m a little apprehensive, I’m mostly stoked. After spending my whole life living in some variety of a small town, I can’t wait for some big city life. Wish me luck, and I’ll for sure send out an update once I land in beautiful Buenos Aires. Until then, enjoy some quality old school rap.
So last week we had IFSA Butler & UCC orientation, and I must say I have a great group. We have 3 Scrippsies, 4 Colby students, and 9 students from various other colleges. Day 1 (New Years Day!) consisted of meeting at the airport (I had to take the shuttle back from my hotel), taking a bus to Cork from Dublin (there was a full size rainbow), and having a dinner together.
Day 2 was held in a conference room of the hotel, where we were given the most incredible breakfast I’ve ever had in my life (it was called an Irish Breakfast), as well as the rundown on Irish Culture and Academics and what to expect for the coming year. We were then transported to our flats (which were surprisingly large) and shown the way to Tesco, basically this country’s version of Walmart. It was when we were left alone there that the trouble started.
First of all, I’ve never had to feed just myself in my life. Sure, I’ve cooked often, but I usually make family dinners, and the excess ingredients are used up within the week. Suddenly I had to deal with the fact that if I didn’t eat it, no one would. I had absolutely no idea how much to buy, and muddled about picking out things I might like to eat. Second problem was the fact that you shouldn’t use paper bags if you are going to walk home in the rain. Yes, Heather thought we were clever at first for not purchasing the bags the store was selling, but in reality those things rip fast. Luckily those with plastic bags were willing to help out the idiots of the group (including me). Second, if you are buying a phone, realize that our generation texts, not calls. I got unlimited calling to all Irish mobiles and landlines, but unfortunately (and intelligently) everyone else in my group got unlimited texting. Luckily I can change it next month, so all was not lost.
Thursday was our University College Cork (UCC) orientation, which gave us most of the same rundown that Butler did, except it was for all international students. We also got a tour of the campus in the rain, and our computer accounts. Classes started on Monday, and luckily I got the ones I wanted! (more on that later)
It seems completely counterintuitive to send study abroad students to a completely different place for their first week of orientation, only to shuttle them off to a completely new town with completely new family.
It’s paramount to doubling the culture shock, antithetical to IFSA’s promise of “More culture. Less shock.”
But, by George, it works. Transition to university has been easier than I could have imagined, no small thanks to my time in Liberia.
The first week of orientation took place in Liberia. We had Spanish class each morning from 8:00 to 12:00, which wasn’t as bad as it sounds, because we had luxuriously catered coffee/juice-and-pastry break in the middle, and that lasted about half an hour. I was pretty disappointed by the class itself, but the argument could be made that the program was simply using a different pedagogical strategy than I was expecting. I really wanted a blistering review of all of Spanish grammar, with drills coming hard and fast nonstop for four hours, and maybe some hefty vocabulary lists to memorize each night. I wanted a linguistic boot camp that would give me everything I needed to go charging into battle. Instead, it was slower-paced with longer-term goals. The first two days were spent entirely on assessment tests and exercises. The rest of the time featured some basic grammar review (present tense, ser vs. estar, por vs. para…) but focused mainly on conversation. I guess the idea was just to oil us up, to make us feel more comfortable speaking the language even if we weren’t actually speaking it any better. Oh well.
I didn’t realize that we would spend this first week with a temporary host family in Liberia, so my knees got a little wobbly when they told us we would be going home with them. But I had to put on a good face once I met them, and before long I fooled myself, too. It helped that I understood a surprising amount of what they were saying. My stay ended up being an entirely pleasant one, largely because the family didn’t worry themselves too much about me. From stories I had heard of other people’s host family experiences, I had two main fears: 1) having to listen to interminably long one-sided conversations, and 2) being forced to eat more than I wanted to avoid insulting my host mom. Neither was a problem. I spent the entire first evening with my Liberian host family, but after that I hardly saw them. I got to come and go when I pleased, and when I was hungry my host mom or host sister would simply dish out moderate portions from some Tupperwares, stick it in the microwave, and leave me to eat alone. It was exactly the sort of low-key introduction to host family living that I needed.
Of course getting to know my peers was fun. Though there are only 13 of us in the IFSA group, we make full use of the geographic and academic diversity our sprawling homeland allows. There was a certain anthropological delight to be had in watching us form a social community ex nihilo. At least for me, the biggest obstacle to integration was the language barrier, or rather, the languages barrier. To speak English would betray our common mission of learning Spanish, to speak Spanish would betray the sense of solidarity in the face of linguistic and cultural challenges coming from all directions. I worried so much about choosing one language over another that sometimes I didn’t speak at all (readers who know me are just going to have to take my word for it).
But best of all, IFSA arranged for us to have “amigos Ticos,” a group of four university students that were integrated into some of our activities. I would never have imagined that such an artificial social arrangement would yield such amazing results. The credit, of course, goes to the Ticos, who were incredibly nice. They even went out with us in the evenings. How they had the patience to put up with our strong accents and butchered conjugations I don’t know, but we learned more about the language and culture with them at the bars than we did in the classroom. (Also, it’s pretty awesome to casually go to bars. I don’t drink, so it’s not worth trying to sneak into a bar in the States, but since the drinking age is 18 here, bars make for fun places to meet and talk over grapefruit soda.) At the end of the week, goodbyes were sad and sweet.
On our last day in Liberia, we got to leave the city and go for a short jaunt through Parque Nacional Rincón de la Vieja. Binoculars hanging from my neck and notebook in hand, I had reached nirvana. (Believe me, there will be plenty of sylvan romanticism later, so I’ll spare you the details now.)
I have landed in Australia and my past week has been nothing but amazing and surreal. But MAN! have I been a busy bee. Here’s a basic summary of everything I’ve done at IFSA-Butler’s amazingly planned orientation:
Institute for Study Abroad – Butler University
Semester 1, 2013 Orientation
Sydney Harbor YHA – The Rocks
- Arrive at the Sydney Harbor Youth Hostel (YHA)
- Welcome Presentation
- Received our IFSA-Butler mobile phones with a $10 credit.
- Got a mobile phone plan, in addition to the $10 credit, to text friends from IFSA-Butler’s program for FREE.
- Sydney Walking Tour – saw all the main sites near The Rocks, including the Opera House, Sydney Harbor Bridge,
- Botanical Gardens, Hyde Park shopping centres and more!
- Free time to freshen up and relax a bit (Yes, we still hadn’t showered since the 11th! YIKES!).
- 8. Burger and salad dinner at the YHA
- Travel Presentation for advice, recommendations, and tips!
- Relax and finally SLEEP! (Got through the day without any naps to fight the jetlag and it surely has paid off!).
- Breakfast or should I say “Brekkie” at the YHA – pancakes, yogurt, and fruit, YUM!
- Visited Featherdale Wildlife Park to get introduced to all of the Aussie animals! Pet some wallabies, kangaroos, koalas, and more!
- Lunch near the famous 3 Sisters and Echo Point. We were given a wrap, a piece of fruit, and an Australian candy bar to try! I had a spicy chicken wrap, a green apple, and an Aero bar. Everything was delicious!
- Bushwalked (hiked) down into the rainforests of the Blue Mountains (walked down over 1,000 steps!). Luckily, we didn’t have to walk back up. We took the Scenic World railway — the steepest in the southern hemisphere! The views were INCREDIBLE.
- Next, we went to a Aboriginal Culture center to paint some boomerangs (which tell stories through their symbols), learn about the Aboriginal culture in general, and watch some extremely entertaining performances through music and dance.
- After falling asleep on the bus home from the Blue Mountains from exhaustion the IFSA-Butler crew went to dinner at The Orient in The Rocks. Dinner options were great and I was able to try kangaroo for my first time. It was served with beetroot relish, rocket, tomato, mustard mayo on sourdough with fries. I would definitely get it again!
- After going back to the Sydney Harbor YHA to freshen up, a bunch of us decided to go back to The Orient for a few drinks, a live band, and a bit a dancing. It was a blast! And that is exactly why we went back again the following night for the same guaranteed good time!
- Day 3 of orientation consisted of compulsory information sessions. The sessions focused on academics, health and well-being, and university specific information (Macquarie Uni). I learned a lot and felt one step closer to being prepared for my upcoming semester in Sydney.
- From noon to 6:45PM we had free time to do whatever we wanted. A group of us decided to take the ferry to Manly beach from Wharf 3 at Circular Quay. I loved the town of Manly with all of the cafes, restaurants, boutiques, and shops. We decided to eat at a small cafe with a beautiful view of Manly beach. Next, we hit the beach and I touched Pacific waters for my very first time!
- We took the ferry back home and started getting ready for our Sydney Harbor Dinner Cruise in which we were offered chicken, ravioli, salads, and desserts buffet style. There was also a cash bar to buy some drinks. I decided on some white wine with one of my new mates.
- The cruise had beautiful views, some dancing, and prize drawings. I won an “Australia” flip-flop (or as the Australians say “thong”) keychain!
- After the cruise, we made our way over to The Orient again for a similar night to the last. The Orient didn’t disappoint.
- Move-in day finally arrived and after a short bus ride to Marsfield, all of the IFSA-Butler students made their way to the Macquarie Village reception center to check in.
- After checking in and getting our room assignments, my new roommate Amy and I made our way up the hill to our apartment. We were lucky enough to get a little help with our multiple bags from a German international student.
- After we put our bags in our rooms, we headed back to reception for our IFSA-Butler advisor Joanna to lead the way to the Macquarie Centre. She showed us the Mac Centre so we could walk through part of campus and buy some things for our new living spaces. It was a bit of a walk (15-20 minutes), but I found everything I needed.
- Once getting back from the Macquarie Centre, I unpacked some of my things and had a BBQ with some of the IFSA-Butler students. It was a great way to kick off the semester!
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“Everyday, you should do something that scares you. It reminds you you’re still alive.” ~ So. Winter in Cairns…
After departing Sydney, JCU students boarded a flight for Cairns! Everyone dreaded getting on another plane. However, we were very excited to go to a place that had warmer weather. The flight was a quick 4 hours and soon we found ourselves in Cairns!
Our luggage was loaded into a pick up trailer (haha kinda funny) to head to the Cairns Student Lodge. 15 minutes later, we were at the lodge getting our rooms and then dinner. Let me just say- our Sydney Orientation SPOILED us in terms of amazing food! It’s not that the lodge food is bad by any means or there isn’t a variety- it’s just different. For instance, they put bbq sauce next to their hot dogs. I was SO excited because I thought it was ketchup. Well- I was COMPLETELY wrong. Ketchup was nowhere in sight. Plus, I expected to have lot of fresh fruit and vegetables- but that really wasn’t the case. Instead, there was like six different types of pasta dishes. But hey, as our advisor, would say: “food is food, so just eat it.” So, like any cafe food, we have our good days and bad days haha.
So. You’d think that moving into our apartment and everything would allow everyone to settle down and what not. Nope. The next day, my two roommates and I went to find the Smithfield Shopping Center. Unfortunately, we went in the completely wrong direction and instead hiked an hour up the coast. We missed two buses on the way back (one passed us because we weren’t on the right side of the road and the second we barely missed). Finally, we caught the third bus to Smithfield Shopping Center. The mall was way bigger then I expected, with a variety of stores and lots of people. We found a Kmart in the mall and, while we were shopping, we came across an aisle with bikes. That’s when we decided that we were going to buy bikes and, yes, assemble them in the middle of the mall. We didn’t’ really think it through- because we then had to carry all of our stuff back to the lodge while riding our bikes. Now that was tricky. But, we made it! (even in time for dinner). Longest six hour adventure ever, but it’s something we’ll always remember! Sometimes when things go wrong when you’re abroad you just have to laugh it off and keep moving forward.
Our next big adventure was a trip to Trinity Beach! We knew that we could bike it- I had NO idea how long the distance would be. It was about a combined 8 miles round trip (an awesome workout haha) but it was completely worth it! The beach was GORGEOUS with bright blue water and tons of palm trees! I’m sure I’ll be making a lot of trips back to hang out with friends and study (beats the library!).
My time in Cairns is filled with sunny days, cold nights, beach volleyball, biking and tons of beaches. Then- BAM! Reality hits and I remember oh- I actually came here because I’m going to school here. That’s right. And then began…orientation! Yes- it was JUST as awkward as orientation freshmen year. I had no idea where on earth I was going and papers and information was just consistently thrown at me. But I mean it all worked out (it always seems to). During orientation week, a bunch of my friends and I decided to check out Aj Hackett Bungy Jumping. We can literally walk to the place from where we’re staying, and many of us were interested in jumping. The jump is 50 meters (164 feet) and looks SCARY, TERRIFYING – basically any word you can think of. As we were walking up the path to the bungee jump, we kept hearing terrified screams coming from jumpers. The second we got up there, a number of my friends started signing the forms and getting ready. Initially, I decided to wait and see how they faired before signing up. All of them RAVED about it and before I knew it I was signed up and headed up the staircase to the bungee tower.
The funny thing is- I really wasn’t nervous anymore, I wanted to do this and overcome my fear of heights. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. And I did! I was strapped up and ready to go and I jumped. The two-second free fall was probably one of the scariest experiences I have ever had in my life. One second I was on the ledge and the next I was flying toward the pond centered in the middle of the jungle while my friends cheered me on below. But I survived! And actually- I think I would do it again! It was an awesome experience and one of the most memorable things I have ever done in my life. I say this because I was able to overcome my fear of heights, and it’s a great feeling to know that you’re brave enough to be able to overcome your fears and just simply live and experience new things.
As part of our JCU orientation week, we went on a bus tour of Cairns later in the week. And yes, they did in fact rent out the party bus, which was really cool to sit on top of, and so many people were waving and honking their car horns (pretty funny). During our tour, we got to see different parts of the city of Cairns (like the Cairn Esplanade), Crystal Cascades (which was absolutely stunning!), and Palm Grove Beach.
And yes- it is winter here. The only bummer is that it gets dark pretty early (like around 6:30/7ish). The bright side is that the weather is gorgeous and that a bunch of the deadly animals (like the boxed jellyfish and crocodiles) are not as active (but they’re still around haha). So I’m loving it! And each day has its struggles. On and off I find I get homesick and start comparing things to the U.S. and my university at home. Also, there are HUGE spiders here which I am not a big fan of. But, also, with each day, there are numerous rewards. It all balances itself out and I am finding that I am adjusting to life here a lot better then I initially expected. I know that it takes time and I am excited for the next four months here. I’ve already had a lot of great experiences and have met some really interesting and friendly people- I can’t imagine all the fun times to come!
And, with each day, I keep this quote in mind: “Everyday, you should do something that scares you. It reminds you you’re still alive.”
I can’t believe I have been in New Zealand for over a week. It seems like ages ago when I was siting in LAX waiting for my flight. Luckily for me, lots of IFSA-Butler students arrived at the airport early making my 7 hour layover a little more enjoyable. I knew right then that it was going to be a great orientation. After an enjoyable 13 hour flight we landed in New Zealand. We quickly made our way through customs and loaded our stuff up on the bus. Before leaving we had some kai (food). This would be a common occurrence throughout the weekend. I felt like a hobbit with all the meals and could not be any happier about it.
I felt as though we were in Jurassic Park on the ride to Shakespear Regional Park due to all the fog. Emily and Amy served as tour guides for the hour and a half bus ride but there wasn’t much to see since the fog was so thick. Once we arrived we had a meeting and the fog lifted. It was quite a sight seeing the countryside for the first time. The lodge we stayed at is situated on farmland and not far from the ocean. In short, a terrific location. Over the next few days there were many outdoor activities such as kayaking, rock climbing, archery, wandering (hiking) and mountain biking.
We also got to go to a hot springs water park. It was a little cold since its the middle of winter but Icouldn’t help but go on the slides. Luckily since we were the only crazy people not sitting in the hot pools there was no line. I’m pretty sure the slide would be illegal in the U.S. since my legs went over the side of the pool when I landed but it was awesome! We went to stay at a Marae for a night in order to get a sense of Maori culture. Although it was not as authentic as I was expecting, it was still a cool experience.
After a stop at the Auckland Museum we were taken to our schools. Since I was the only one in the group who picked to study at Massey Albany, a cab came and took me and one of the staff members Greg to my flat. I’ve go ten all settled and love it here. I can walk to wherever I need to go and can take a bus to various parks. I look forward to starting classes this week and to the many adventures that are sure to unfold over the semester!
Life Down Under! ~ Australia is PARADISE!!
So- after the 20+ hours of flying. ridiculously long airport lines, and hauling my suitcases around the Sydney airport, I have found myself in PARADISE! And I completely love every second of it! Australia has lived up to and also exceeded my expectations in so many ways. I am really looking forward to the next four months and all of the adventures and enjoyment to come. I can’t believe that I am finally here…
But the journey didn’t begin this well. Saying my goodbyes to my family at the airport was rougher than I expected. I left Harrisburg on this little rickety plane and was just trying to mentally brace myself for the additional two plane rides I was going to have to make. However, on my second flight from Chicago to LA, I sat next to an Australian racecar driver. The guy was awesome! He was so excited that I was going to Australia and he told me that I was going to love it (in addition to telling me his obsession with kettle corn from the US haha). He also led me to the international section of the LA airport (which was a LIFESAVER considering that I got kind of lost in the Chicago airport hahaha). Once in LA, I met up with the other members from the group flight and we were off to Sydney! The flight wasn’t too too bad. The food was decent and I slept most of the time.
Orientation in Sydney was INCREDIBLE!!! IFSA did such an amazing job arranging everything from airport pick-up and accommodation to amazing food and great sight seeing. I completely felt at home and comfortable right away (which I really wasn’t expecting). I was so nervous about leaving my friends and family, but I found that with the busy and fun filled schedules that I was completely distracted from any feelings of homesickness I may have felt. Plus, I was really fortunate to make a lot of awesome friends instantly. Here are some of the highlights from orientation:
Pictures taken on the awesome walking tour of Sydney! The tour was three hours in length but we literally saw EVERYTHING. Sydney is the nicest city I have ever seen! It is clean, quiet, and laid back. I’d go back in a heartbeat! It was a little chilly however (thank god I packed the North Face haha). Australian winter can actually get a bit cold.
Featherdale Wildlife Park- oh my god. It was literally heaven for me- I FINALLY got to meet a koala (and yes they are SO FREAKING ADORABLE!). The zoo is so nice and well kept, plus you can interact with a number of the animals. I was thrilled!
Pictures taken on a hike in the Blue Mountains in Katoomba. The views were BREATHTAKING (seriously the picture doesn’t do it justice). Literally everything from the waterfalls to the palm trees and the rocks to the vast mountains was simply spectacular. Nature at its best!
After our Blue Mountain hike, we went to an aboriginal center where we learned about the aborigines and saw traditional dances, artwork, and even painted our own boomerang. The music was awesome and the people were so friendly and informative.
Later that night we had dinner in Sydney at Pancakes on the Rocks. BEST. PANCAKES. I. HAVE. EVERRRRRR. HAD. (And it’s not just because I am in Australia- they were THAT good!).
The next day we had a free afternoon and me and a bunch of my friends went to Cockatoo Island. Our advisor told us a free art exhibit was going on over there so we checked it out. All I can say is….WOW. I am a HUGE art buff and the island was covered in warehouses FILLED with modern art (the warehouses used to be prison cells/work areas). Literally one of the best displays I have every seen. It was gorgeous!!
That night was our “farewell to Sydney” night. We had a gorgeous dinner cruise on the harbor. The night was bittersweet. Half my closest friends were going to JCU in Townsville and the other half of my closest friends were going to JCU in Cairns. But, the towns are only four hours apart, so some visits will definitely be in order.
Then, the next morning, I packed all my things up in the hostel we were staying in and I boarded another flight- to Cairns! There, many more adventures await me. I was lucky enough to get an apartment with my two closest friends from the trip (thanks to our IFSA advisor for making a last minute phone call haha). I literally can’t wait for all the fun times to come!
But, so far, here is what I’ve learned:
1) Vegemite is disgusting (but you have to try it anyways because I mean c’mon you’re in Australia).
2) Kangaroo is actually pretty good. Kind of like steak haha. It’s especially great on pizza!
3) Tim Tams are AWESOME and would probably make me gain an extensive amount of weight if I ate them as much as I wanted to.
4) Yes, Australia is different. Ketchup is scarce. Sometimes people have difficulty understanding my American accent. And the whole driving on the opposite side of the road thing still scares the crap out of me. But, you just have to embrace it.
5) Koalas and wallabies are the cutest animals I have ever met. Like really. They are so friendly and fluffy. Coolest marsupials ever.
6) Don’t have expectations when you go abroad. Live it up. Be yourself. And, in the end, you’ll find that’s enough to keep you incredibly happy.
“Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey.” –Fitzhugh Mullan
I didn’t feel like typing a ton, so I tried out doing a video… Hope it turns out ok! Also, I’ve got some pictures of what’s going on so far. On the 29th, we’re going on a trip funded by IFSA to Colonia, Uruguay, which is a small town that’s apparently very picturesque/historic. So I should have some good pictures of that for later!
What a whirlwind it has been since I arrived in London and now Cardiff! I’ll try my best to give a good recap in this post and the next. A lazy (/busy) reader’s summary of this post can be found at the very bottom. Cheers.
IFSA Butler Orientation, London: DAY 1
I was lucky on the flight to London in two ways: firstly, I happened to be seated next to another girl who was going abroad to the UK through IFSA Butler, and secondly because we had a very strong tail-wind and got to the UK in only 6 hours! This was especially great because our flight was delayed, but in the end we made up the time so it didn’t matter so much. The flight itself was pretty standard. I dozed in my seat, watched TV shows, and listened to the entirety of the Sweeney Todd Original Broadway soundtrack on my iPod.
When we arrived in London, we waited a bit for our luggage, then breezed through customs and were greeted just beyond by a lovely jolly man named Rob, who was holding an IFSA Butler sign. He took us by coach right to our hotel in London, where Cambria from the IFSA staff met us, and gave us our IFSA Orientation info packets.
My London roommates and I, as well as the girls from another room, immediately went out into London in search of mobile phones–we found a shop fairly quickly and all purchased pay-as-you-go mobiles. I chose to go with Lebara because calls and texts to the US were the cheapest of any of the carriers, and calls/texts within the UK were about the same/a little less than the other carriers. Thus far it has worked out very well! Following the phone purchasing we realized we were all absolutely starving, as it was about 3pm by this point and none of us had really had a proper breakfast (or any at all), so we stopped in a little place called Cafe Aphrodite where we had some very delicious sandwiches–fresh tomato and crumbly, salty feta cheese on hot crusty bread for me.
After our tasty lunch, we headed back to the hotel where my roommates and I took brief naps and freshened up, because that night the IFSA Butler staff took us out to dinner at a dim sum restaurant called Ping Pong! It was such a lovely dinner. The IFSA staff members were so nice and the food was very good! Following that, a small group of us went off to a pub, The Walmer Castle, where we were told Jude Law sometimes goes (though sadly Mr. Law was nowhere in sight during our visit). It was still quite early for pub-going, but we were all pretty jet lagged and after going for a bit of a walk for an hour we headed back to the hotel and turned in. Thus concluded Day 1 of IFSA Butler London Orientation. I should also note that the weather was absolutely beautiful when we arrived–sunny and cool! No rain!
IFSA Orientation, London: DAY 2
Ah, Day 2! What a day it was. This was a rather grey day, but that was to be expected really. At least it didn’t rain! We spent the morning through mid-afternoon at the IFSA Butler office in Notting Hill Gate getting briefed on various aspects of studying abroad–differences in the US and UK academic systems, traveling information, that sort of this. We had a discussion about personal safety with a very interesting man who used to be a cop-he was very informative but also quite funny, and looked rather like a film character when he put on his trench coat and fedora-like hat to leave. Our last speaker of the day was Lord Dick Taverne, a member of the House of Lords, who talked to us about current political, social, and economic concerns in the UK; that, too, was a very interesting talk. While it may sound like spending all day until 4pm cooped up in meetings would be boring, every one of the meetings we had at the IFSA Butler offices was both extremely helpful AND interesting.
That afternoon, we got to go on a walking tour of London! Although we didn’t go into most of these places, we at least got to see and hear a bit about Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Parliament, 10 Downing Street, Trafalgar Square, and the Strand, and it was really cool to just be out and about getting to experience the city. The tour also involved my very first trip on the London Underground! Sadly my camera died halfway through the tour, however, so I am without many pictures to show for it. After a quick dinner at Pizza Express, we all hopped over to the Vaudeville Theatre where we saw a play called Broken Glass (by Arthur Miller), which was quite an intense drama about a Brooklyn couple involving issues of race, personal identity, love, tragedy, and issues surrounding Kristallnacht in Germany. All in all, it was quite a fun time, though I was very eager to get to Cardiff! I definitely would like to spend some more time and London and see/do more.
And that was pretty much it for IFSA Butler London Orientation! The next morning we all departed for our respective host universities, each escorted by a member (or two) of the IFSA Butler staff. While I know I could’ve gone abroad without being in a program like this one, I really think it was a good idea to go through a program. Being picked up right at the airport, informed about issues such as safety/security/travel, and being escorted directly to my host University by a knowledgable person made arriving in a new country much less stressful than it could have been, and everyone at IFSA has been so kind and willing to help. It’s nice having that “safety net.”
As it is now getting quite late here I think I must end this post for now. Tomorrow I will try to write another one and talk about what I have been doing during my first three days at Cardiff! Until then!
Lazy Reader Summary (LRS): IFSA Butler made arriving in a foreign country very easy. I had some very good food, met some great people, and learned & saw quite a lot within a very short space of time. I must return to London. Up Next: Cardiff, the first three days.
The first week has been pretty amazing. It is orientation week and i must say I am really impressed with the group. Everyone has been getting along extremely well. I could definitely see myself hanging out with everyone of these people. Needless to say we have been playing soccer with local Chileans (and winning…beside the point)dancing traditional salsa and tango eating enough food in one day than I usually would in a week and overall having one of the greatest experiences of my life! And classes haven’t even started nor have I met my host family. Needless to say studying abroad has been one of the best decisions I have made in my entire life!
Here is some game time footage.
What better thing to do while in South America then to play futbol (soccer)? Some workers at the resort we were staying at for orientation organized a game. There were fans and little kids holding signs for both los Estados Unidos and Chile. It was a great time and definitely a highlight of the trip so far!
My last few days in America were beyond hectic. Believe me when I say you do NOT want to know how packing went. Despite all six weeks of preparation, I still didn’t even finish packing until an hour before leaving for the airport. The night before I even went to Rutgers University to cheer on my a cappella group, The Lehigh Melismatics, in a big competition. I’m just happy that I somehow managed to not get an over-weight baggage charge. Hoorah!
I had been dreading the flight over more than anything else. I’ve been flying all of my life, but last year, when visiting my best friend Shannon in Barcelona, I developed an irrational fear of flying. I literally have spent every flight since gripping the arm rests and square breathing. I’m not sure what it was – perhaps my friend Sarah talking to me and keeping my mind off of things – but I made it through the flights with no problem. I slept a lot, and it only took me a day or so to stop feeling jetlagged. All in all, I’d say it was a success!
We spent the next four days at the Sydney Academy of Sports and Recreation in Narabeen. Truthfully, I was a little antsy to get to my apartment in Coogee, but orientation ended up being pretty fun. We had time to get to know our roommates, housemates, and people in our program, which was really nice. We went to the Taronga Zoo, walked around Circular Quay, took surfing lessons, and had some aboriginal bands perform for us. The orientation was a really great way for us to get over our jetlag, get to know each other, and introduce us into Australian culture.
On Friday we finally got to move into our apartments. My expectations were more than exceeded. Our apartment, which is brand new, is about a five-minute walk from the beach, and has a ton of security. It’s fully furnished with a big living room, kitchen, two bedrooms, and two bath. We have four balconies in our apartment alone. How crazy is that?!
This past week my friends and I have been doing a lot of exploring. I think we’ve eaten at pretty much every restaurant there is in Coogee, have done shopping in Randwick and Eastgartens, gone to the Sydney Aquarium, of course gone to the beach, and have gone to UNSW a few times for orientation-related things. I’m actually off to our last day of Orientation Week now!
That’s all for now. It’s funny to think that there’s snow on the ground at Lehigh University, and I’m about to walk out of the house in a sun dress. I’m not complaining ☺