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

“Where you invest your love, you invest your life.” –Mumford & Sons ~ Road Trip to Townsville!!

Time November 12th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

 

 Over four months ago, when a bunch of us (abroad students) met in Sydney during the IFSA-Butler orientation, one of my (now) friends (Andrew) mentioned that Mumford & Sons was touring Australia and he wanted to see them. The second I heard that, I wanted to see them as well (I could not believe that one of my favorite bands was touring right in Australia while I was abroad). Conveniently, they had stopovers in both the town my college was in and the town his college was in. Needless to say, a month later, my two roommates and I decided to road trip it from Cairns to Townsville in October to meet up with a few of our orientation friends and see Mumford & Sons. And, before we knew it, the weekend finally came!

We left on a Saturday morning to pick up our rental car in Cairns. It was a cozy little car- perfect for our first road trip! My one roommate Anna told us she would drive (it was on her bucket list of things to do in Australia). The idea of driving semi terrified me, but I was also nervous to actually ride in a car with someone who had only driven in the US before. But everything went super smoothly! The road to Townsville wasn’t bad (except for the numerous stops we had to make due to highway construction). But there were gorgeous sites, cute little towns, and even some really cool fruit stands along the way (with GIANT avocados)! The road trip was the perfect excuse to get away and enjoy pleasures as simple as riding in a car with the windows down, blasting music, and spending invaluable time with friends.

We arrived in Townsville early Saturday evening. Townsville was a lot different than I expected. It’s a huge army base, but for some reason I still expected it to have a small town feel to it. I was completely wrong. It was HUGE! There were malls and buildings everywhere (although a number of the smaller shops were closed down/ abandoned).  It was still very charming! However, the James Cook University at Townsville was A LOT different than the James Cook University in Cairns. The entire university was made up of a bunch of different schools (based on majors), and was completely and entirely different than James Cook University in Cairns. There were a variety of living situations (single rooms in suites, single rooms in dorms, shared rooms, etc.), campus was a bit more tricky to navigate and large (making it a long walk to go just about anywhere), the food was better (more variety was offered), it was not within any walking or biking distance of a beach (although a river was nearby to swim in), and there was definitely more of a university life (in terms of having a club on campus, more sports teams, etc.). JCU at Cairns is much smaller, way more remote, and does not have a large campus life. But, after visiting JCU in Townsville, I can honestly say that I made the right decision for myself to come to JCU in Cairns. I love smaller schools, the proximity to a lot of beaches, and I wouldn’t trade the close-knit family I have made at the Cairns Student Lodge for anything else.

On our first day in Townsville, we went into town and saw the strand. This is the main beach in Townsville, and has a lot of community life surrounding it. We participated in a full-moon drum circle, got some amazing Indian food and gelato, then took a drive up to see some of the planned burning that was going on in the mountains. We even spotted a kangaroo among the flames- which is very rare to see! And, they are A LOT larger than I expected to be in the wild. The next day was pretty relaxing as well- we celebrated a friend of a friend’s birthday by tubing on the river and then by eating a wonderful homemade dinner. 

Then it was Monday- Mumford and Sons concert time! We had be anticipating this concert for MONTHS and it was finally here! During the afternoon, we drove up to Castle Hill- which was INCREDIBLE! We hiked five tracks at the top, and we could see panoramic views of Townsville. It was a gorgeous day and we got some really amazing pictures. I am going to miss this bright blue Australian sky and beating sun like nothing else when I have to go home for the winter!

 

That evening, we headed into the convention center for the concert an hour before it was supposed to start. We were getting a little nervous, since we were expecting massive crowds and a ton of traffic (just like the US). However, we arrived there, and literally got a parking spot five steps away from the convention center. People were lounging around and having picnics on the grass- you wouldn’t even be able to tell that Mumford & Sons were about to perform in an hour. However, literally five minutes before the concert, people suddenly poured in. The general admission and seating areas were PACKED. The concert was INCREDIBLE (Mumford & Sons sounded so much better live than on their cd). We were all awe struck when we left- it was SO good! I am so grateful that I was able to see one of my favorite bands perform live while I was abroad- it was completely surreal. 

The next morning, we packed up to head home to Cairns. Unfortunately, we had finals to start studying for. It was weird saying goodbye to our friends, because we realized that this was actually a final goodbye in a sense. Like, we may never see these people again because we live in totally different states in the US. That’s when we started dreading the goodbyes we would have to make with our friends at the lodge in a few weeks. It is amazing how close you can become with people in such a short period of time. So, we came home to our beloved Cairns, and buried ourselves in hours upon hours of studying. My first exam is in a few days (thank goodness I only have two). But, a week from now, I will be headed home to the USA. I’m excited for everything to come, but I am nervous about all of the great things I am leaving behind. All of a sudden, I find myself searching for internships, registering for classes, looking at careers, filling out applications for positions in clubs at home- and I realize that I am going back to A LOT of work that I have temporarily been relieved of here. But, like always, I am pumped for the next step. Oh, and may I mention- I spent Halloween on the beach in 80 degree weather- I can assure you there is probably no other time in my life I will be able to do that! And, I got to dress up as a koala!  

 I have had the time of my life in Australia, and I feel so blessed that I was able to experience this great adventure at such a young age. I still remember as a little kid being glued to the TV during the Olympics in Sydney. That’s when I said to my Dad, “I want to go to Australia.” And that’s when he laughed and said, “Maybe when you’re older, you can take yourself there.” And I remember watching “Holiday in the Sun” with Mary Kate and Ashley and their trip to Australia. Then, when I was in 9th grade, I had a sketchbook assignment to draw my dream trip. I drew a picture of Australia. Never thought I would actually have the opportunity to come here in college. I’m only 20, and I feel like I already accomplished one of my biggest life goals. But, I know I’ll get back here some day. I have a ton of things I want to see and do that I haven’t had the opportunity to yet.

And this is where I would like to quote one of my favorite lines from the Mumford & Sons’ song  “Awake My Soul:” “Where you invest your love, you invest your life.” I think that statement is true with everything and anything one does in life- whether in be the relationships one has with others, the career one pursues, where one travels- when one does things one loves or has things one loves, one will invest one’s life into them. And that, in my opinion, is what makes one’s life worthwhile when one looks back on it. I have loved every moment of being abroad in Australia, and I can truly say that I have invested my whole life into this experience. And, I can wholeheartedly say that I have gotten the most out of the experience I have had while I was here. It’s invaluable and I will never forget it. It was truly life changing. 

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Road Trip, Day 1 – We Made It! Bachaquero, Venezuela

Time February 16th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Highway mainte-what?

These potholes could swallow a small car without problem; driving past them, I couldn’t see where the holes ended. The tollbooths were all abandoned; as I understand, the federal government prohibits them from collecting tolls. And there were the burnt out streetlamps that haven’t been fixed for kilometers at a stretch (according to my travel companions, something that didn’t happen prior to 1999).

And there were the speed bumps.

Yes, speed bumps. On the highway.

You’re flabbergasted I know. Allow me to explain.

Along the highway that connects Barquisimeto to Maracaibo, small towns have popped up far less than a stone’s throw from the road. The people in these towns sell coffee, lemonade, fruits and homemade bread to travelers, but not from their roadside stands. Instead, they stand in the middle of the road and conduct their business via the windows of passers-by. Between these vendors standing in the middle of the road and children playing nearby, there were enough accidents to prompt the construction of speed bumps throughout the highway.

Unfortunately, these speed bumps have not been maintained. Which means unpainted speed bumps – let’s call them, “surprises” – litter the highway for miles and miles. Walking around later, I continued feared that my world might suddenly be jolted up and down while the sound of thunder/an abused suspension system assaulted my ears.

Other fun facts:

  • Whenever road construction is under way, or a car has wrecked, or the highway is for any other reason impassable at some point, large piles of dirt and branches are thrown in the road as an indicator of such news. This was used once to indicate that the four-lane highway was about to become two lanes. Half of the bridge ahead had collapsed and it was inadvisable to try to jump the gap. Of course, without signs or arrows, it’s hard to know what calamity you’re supposed to avoid until you’ve either avoided it or not.
  • Impatient drivers often pass you via the shoulder when somebody is passing you too slowly in the left lane.
  • Brake lights? Good joke.
  • Signaling to change lanes? Waste of time.
  • Looking before you change lanes? Ditto.
  • Semis looking before changing lanes to avoid crushing your Vitara like a cockroach? They have better things to do.

I can’t imagine making a road trip in the States anymore. As Gertrudis said, it’s boring driving in the States. You can’t help but fall asleep when you’re not dodging potholes and fallen bridges and unpainted speed bumps on an unlit road.

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