My Final Weeks in Australia

These last few weeks that I was abroad were definitely the hardest. Everyone began to study for finals about 2 weeks before they actually started. We were given a reading week, basically used just to study, which was very nice because we don’t have that at Oswego. It definitely gave me a lot more time to understand all of the material throughout the whole semester. Even though this was useful for schoolwork, it meant that everyone was hidden away in their rooms or the library for a majority of the time. At the time I wanted to see everyone the most, it was that much harder to do so. Studying was really important but I wanted to see all of my friends before I left.

My first final was on the first Saturday. SATURDAY! I didn’t know that ever happened. It was nice to get one out-of-the-way though. My other two finals were on Monday and Wednesday so there was a good chunk of time in between each to continue studying. As I finished my last final on Wednesday, November 12th, I couldn’t have been more excited! In the morning I was heading to Tasmania for a week to travel around the island. I quickly packed my bag so that I could get a couple of hours of sleep because my flight was at 6 AM. But before all of this happened, I sadly had to say goodbye to my friend Arj who lived in Canberra. He was leaving for home while I was in Tasmania so I had to say my final goodbyes. It was a lot harder than I had expected but I knew we would see each other again.

At 5 AM my friend Scott drove me to the airport for my final vacation in Australia. Tired but excited, I boarded my plane (alone!) that would take 8 hours to take me to Hobart, Tasmania (that included a stopover and an hours time difference). It was exciting to be able to travel on my own for once but it is always more fun to travel with a friend however all of them still had finals. I knew this would be an amazing experience to meet new people from around the world and to see one last part of this amazing country. Once I landed in Hobart, I boarded a bus that took me to my hostel. It was such a beautiful place and I ended up getting a room all to myself for the night! I put all of my bags down and decided to take a walk around the city before everything closed at 5 PM! It is a small city, only 200,000 people in total but the largest in all of Tasmania. It has a lot of older buildings with a lot of history. Dinnertime came around and I decided to get some Chinese food from the restaurant next to my hostel. I ate and was exhausted from all of my travelling so I headed to bed because my tour guide was picking me up at 7 AM the next morning for a 5-day tour around the island.

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Welcome to Hobart!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I woke up the next morning and met my tour guide, Rhen, and boarded our bus. Another woman, Felicity from Germany, was already on the bus. We then picked up 5 more people, an older couple from San Francisco, Nicklas from Germany, and Yannick and Axel from France. As we left Hobart, we all got to know each other. We rode to a few waterfalls in the rainforest on the western coast of Tasmania to begin with. It was a lovely and cold walk through the forest. The western coast of Tasmania was extremely cold compared to Townsville. Townsville was constantly humid and at least 90 degrees Fahrenheit while Tasmania was about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. It was a good thing I brought a few pairs of pants and long-sleeved shirts with me! One the same day we stopped at Lake St Clair for lunch. I had bought a loaf of bread and PB&J for the week and the first thing I hear is, “you are so American.” We arrived in the small town of Strahan which had about 500 residents and settled into our rooms at our hostel. We all made a barbecue dinner together and ate outside while we talked more. Bedtime came early again but not before I video chatted with my parents so they could feel a little better about me travelling by myself.

Lake St Clair

Lake St Clair

Tasmanian waterfall

Tasmanian waterfall

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday was boat cruise day. We boarded the Eagle run by World Heritage Cruises and sailed towards the Southern Ocean and through Hell’s Gates. This was where prisoner’s from the mainland came through on their way to Sarah Island, the place where the prisoner’s were kept and were worked many years ago. The boat stopped here and our fantastic tour guide told us all about the island and prisoners and the stories of all of their lives. We also saw aquaculture pens for salmon and trout at Liberty Point and sailed down Gordon River. We were served lunch on the boat as well while the captain shared history about the area. The ship returned to Strahan by stopping at the Morrison’s Huon Pine Sawmill so the family could do a demonstration and tell us about their business. To end this relaxing day, Rhen took us to the longest beach in Tasmania where we played Frisbee and went for a walk.

Rhen and Nicklas playing Frisbee

Rhen and Nicklas playing Frisbee

Such a beautiful cruise!

Such a beautiful cruise!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day was a hiking day!! It was one of my favorites. We left Strahan and headed to Lake St Clair National Park where we saw the beautiful Cradle Mountain. The hike up to the top of the mountain next to it was fantastic. There were chains along the way to help you pull yourself up and the hike was only about an hour to the top with amazing views of the surrounding park area. This was probably my favorite day out of the 5-day tour. It made me realize the type of environment I want to live in when I’m out on my own. The mountains and the lakes were stunning and I couldn’t have asked for a more amazing view. This long day in the park lead to us driving to Launceston, the second largest city in Tasmania, where we checked into our hostel and relaxed for the night. Sadly, Nicklas and Felicity had to leave but we picked up 3 new people; Tiffany was from Arizona and we also picked up a Danish couple, Jan and Meredithe.

Cradle Mountain

Cradle Mountain

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the morning, before Felicity left, we all went on a nice walk through Cataract Gorge in Launceston. It was such a beautiful sunny day filled with flowers, peacocks and a beautiful walk. From here, Rhen drove us to the Bay of Fires! This area is on the east coast of Tasmania and is basically a large area of beaches with sand that squeaks and extremely blue waters. So, this day was a beach day. I collected some shells, saw a wild echidna and platypus and took so many photographs. Although the east coast was so much warmer than the west, sadly it was still not warm enough to go swimming.

Wild Echidna!

Wild Echidna!

Launceston Cataract Gorge

Launceston Cataract Gorge

Bay of Fires

Bay of Fires

 

 

 

 

The final day on the tour was another hiking day. We entered Freycinet National Park, home of Wineglass Bay. Rhen had mentioned that the hike up to the top of Mount Amos, which overlooked the bay at its highest point, was really difficult. I had done quite a bit of hiking back home so I was excited to give it a go. The only other person who wanted to try the hike was Yannick so we headed up the mountain together while the rest headed towards the lower spot that led down to the beach. The hike was a lot more difficult than I expected! It was a flat rock face for a majority of the hike and it was extremely steep! We had to put our feet and hands in cracks in the rocks so that there was something to hold onto. The hike although difficult was not very long and we reached the top of the mountain in about 1 hour and it was absolutely worth it. The views were unbelievable and made for some wonderful pictures and memories. From here, we climbed back down which took a bit longer. It was actually really scary because it was so steep. We both slipped a few times and after sliding down the rocks on my butt, we made it to the bottom where we met the rest of the group. After Freycinet, we drove to Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary where we met some furry animals and fed some kangaroos. Our tour guide gave us a talk about each animal, most of which were rescued from the wild while some were born at the sanctuary. Sadly, this was the last stop on the trip. The drive back to Hobart took a couple of hours because the Chinese President was in town, making for a bit more traffic than usual. But we finally made it back and I said farewell to all of my new friends. I checked back in at my hostel (I stayed at the same one I had the first night in Hobart) and met my roommates. One girl flew from Sydney just to see the Chinese President (she was from China and studying in Sydney). She said that everyone had lined up along the road on the sidewalk so they could simply have a glimpse of their president however they sadly never saw him. Another roommate was from Denmark and had just arrived to Tasmania and was trying to find things to do. I shared my experiences with her and hoped she got the opportunity to enjoy her trip.

Wineglass Bay

Wineglass Bay

Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary: Wombats

Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary: Wombats

Kangaroo mob

A group of kangaroos is a mob

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day I boarded a bus back to the airport. My flight was at 1 PM and went from Hobart to Melbourne to Brisbane and finally to Townsville. It took me 10 hours of travelling to reach uni where I would only stay for another 30 hours before I left for good. My final day was relaxing. I took one last walk around campus picking up papers and getting a few souvenirs to bring home. I spent quite a bit of time with friends that day. We had dinner together and eventually went out to town to celebrate the end of such a great semester. I couldn’t help but get emotional a few times throughout the night. I was the first one to leave which made it so much harder. I did not want to go AT ALL. I knew it would be hard to say good-bye but I never thought it would be that hard. I made such good friends over the 4 months I spent abroad and that’s what was the hardest to leave behind. They are all such amazing people who I hope I get to see again one day. It’s very cliché, but I know that this was more of a see you later.

I have been home in the USA for about 3 weeks now. It has taken me this long to finish my last blog about my travels because I knew once it was written that it would be the very end of it all. There is no amount of words that could explain what I got to experience abroad and it can only truly be understood if you take the opportunity to do so yourself. So, take advantage of all of these opportunities given to you now. This is the time to see the world, meet new people and make amazing memories. I have grown so much as a person and travelling has taught me to be more independent and more comfortable being myself. If you want to experience something truly breathtaking, all you have to do is travel.

Melbourne, Maggie and Paluma

So this post is a little late, about a month (oops!), because I have been a bit busy with school work. Now during finals week, a.k.a. swotvac, I figured it was a good time to take a break from studying to share my experiences again through Australia.

Melbourne

For my lecture recess, I went to the artsy city of Melbourne, Victoria. This is probably one of the coolest cities I have ever been to because there is so much street art, graffiti and amazing architecture everywhere. There is a large mixture of old brick buildings and new glass/futuristic looking buildings throughout the city. I went with my friend Andrew for 5 days to explore the city and the surrounding areas.

Before embarking on our journey we planned the trip about a month in advance. A friend from back home had studied abroad in Melbourne a year earlier so I asked her some of the best places to visit and where she suggested I should stay. Luckily, she put me in contact with one of her old housemates who was so kind to let us stay with her for the duration of our visit, and we have never met before! Caitlin went out of her way to pick us up from the airport and set up our own little nook for the week! She suggested a bunch of places to visit and eat and showed us how to take public transportation as well; highly necessary since she lived a half hour outside of the city. After a while, we definitely got the hang of it and it honestly felt like I was actually living in the city.

Our plane arrived late Friday night so we were picked up by Caitlin and her friend from the airport and went back to her house for the night. In the morning, we woke up early to take the train into Melbourne to wander around and basically just get lost. That’s exactly what we did. I had heard about all of the different alleyways with graffiti covering them so we set out on finding some. They were everywhere! We started walking down one of the main streets and then suddenly saw artwork. One alleyway led to another and pretty soon we were at the other end of the city.

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So much graffiti!

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One of my favorite small pieces

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some art was really large and others were tiny but each was very unique. Walking through such ‘sketchy alleyways’ sounds like a bad idea but we went down them during the day and there were always a bunch of people around. We stayed safe!

This same day we walked to the Queen Victoria Markets which are basically one giant flea market where I got a lot of great souvenirs, along with some needed Bubble Tea.

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Queen Victoria Markets

 

 

 

 

 

 

To finish off the day, we watched the AFL grand final in the middle of Federation Square where the Hawthorn Hawks beat the Sydney Swans in an exciting yet confusing game of rugby. It was such an amazing experience to be part of such a big cultural event. After the game, hundreds if not thousands of people left the rugby stadium and the city flooded with yellow and red. Go Hawks!

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AFL Grand Final in Fed Square

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Einstein

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day we went on the Great Ocean Road tour! Everything we saw that day was absolutely stunning. We stopped at several places along the way and even bumped into a floor-mate who happened to be on a tour the same day as us!! There were beautiful beaches and coastlines as well as rolling hills filled with farm animals like sheep and cows. The highlight of the tour was definitely the 12 Apostles! This trip is best described in pictures.

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Found our friend San on the Great Ocean Road!

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Great Ocean Road

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So many sheep

 

 

 

 

 

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12 Apostles

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Loch Ard Gorge: Andrew and I

 

 

 

 

 

 

A tour to Phillip Island took up the entire next day and we got to experience the famous Penguin Parade! Every night just after the sun goes down, groups of fairy penguins leave the ocean waters and waddle their way up the beach to make it safely back to their nests where they will rest over night and venture back out before the sun comes up. This is a natural event that has been happening for a very long time! The rangers take good care of these little penguins, the smallest in the world, by banning all use of photography so that a flash isn’t accidentally set off, blinding them in the process, so I don’t have any pictures of them. But here’s some others from the day!

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Kangaroo petting happened a lot

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Great Ocean Road

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Such a beautiful day

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we headed towards our last full day in Melbourne, we were unsure of what to do. Caitlin recommended the Royal Melbourne Show which was basically a large fair. We decided to go to that to check it out and had a great time. We saw lots of animals and went to a petting zoo, saw a demonstration on how to train a horse, got a show bag filled with lots of goodies, ate amazing food, watched a rodeo and saw a motocross show. The fireworks that ended the night made it such a fun day.

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Wood carving

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I made a goat friend!

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Amazing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Placed 2nd in X Factor Australia and 3rd in Australia’s Got Talent

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Piggies!

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Royal Melbourne Show

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, Andrew and I had an amazing time in Melbourne and its surrounding areas. We made a new friend in the area and made some great memories too! On the last day, we took Caitlin out to lunch as a little thank you and we said our goodbyes. Andrew went from Melbourne to Perth and I flew back to Townsville.

Maggie

After I arrived back in Townsville, I realized I had 2 days of nothing to do before my class field trip to Paluma so I decided to spend one day relaxing back at school and another day on Magnetic Island, a.k.a. Maggie. When I was in the hostel in Sydney, there was a girl from Canada who said she went horseback riding on Maggie and got to go swimming in the ocean with the horse. This sounded like a fantastic idea and I had been wanting to go horseback riding for a while so I decided to give it a go. None of my other friends were back on college from break yet so I went over to the island by myself. I had been to Maggie before so I knew how everything worked so it was relatively simple and easy to get there. Once I hopped off the ferry and took the bus to the other side of the island, I relaxed on the beach for a couple of hours before walking over to Horseshoe Bay Ranch to ride horses! I got paired with a horse named Jack and our small group of about 10 people headed down a trail towards the beach. Once we arrived the horses were unsaddled and we rode them bareback into the ocean. It was extremely difficult to stay on the horses because the waves were so rough but I had a blast trying to stay on! After about 20 minutes in the water we rode back onto dry land, saddled up and headed back towards the ranch.

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Horseshoe Bay

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My horse, Jack

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Beautiful sunset

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paluma

The final weekend of lecture recess I had a field trip to Paluma, a rainforest close to Townsville. Our class started out early in the morning north towards the forest. We stopped at a few locations along the way to observe the different kinds of rainforests that exist in the area. There are a total of 12 different kinds and we made our way from the non-obvious tall open woodland to the classic dense rainforest. Once we arrived at Gumburu Environmental Education Centre at the top of the mountain, we settled into our rooms for the weekend. The center was beautiful and nestled into the rainforest itself. The rooms were basically setup like cabins from summer camp with bunk beds. Later, we went for a walk through the forest where our teacher explained some of the species we saw and the overall makeup of the area. It was actually quite cold in the rainforest, very surprising, and it didn’t rain while we were there (which was only 3 days, but still).Later that night, we got to identify the families of certain plant species our teacher collected throughout the day. We were also able to record data about the rainforest that will be used for a future research project in the class. We recorded things like leaf litter, sprout number and tree girth. It was such a good experience to be able to learn about such an extremely different area than what I have at home and it was also a great way to get to know all of my classmates.

Overall, it was a fantastic week of travelling and learning!

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Lecture in the rainforest

 

 

 

 

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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Sunset over Sydney

I finally made it to Sydney for a five-day vacation with my friend Erica. We left Thursday afternoon for the airport, getting dropped off by my mate Mitch. It was a straight shot to Sydney once we boarded the plane. It was a much-needed vacation since I had two tests earlier in the week, one in GIS and one in Rainforest Ecosystems. We arrived in the famous city after a two and a half hour plane ride from Townsville. And the cool thing about our plane ride was that the entire Cowboys team was on it! They play AFL rugby for Queensland and were going to Sydney for a game.

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3 Sisters at the Blue Mountains

Anyway, the hostel we booked had a free airport pickup service so we hopped on the bus to get there. Westend Nomads hostel is located right in the middle of the city with only a 30 minute walk to the bay and the Opera House. We got checked in and headed up to our room where we met our four other roommates. The best thing about staying in hostels is that you meet people from all around the world. The people in our room were from China, Canada, the U.K. and France. Each was here for a different reason for a different amount of time.

The first night consisted of walking across the street to the grocery store to pick up a few things for the week so we wouldn’t have to spend much on food. Coles (which I thought was like our Khol’s) was the store we went to and it was packed, as most places in cities are. We got the basics of PB&J, milk, cereal, juice and chips. We also snagged some fun cookies that were shaped like platypuses, roos, and wombats. The hostel also provided free pasta and rice so we took advantage of that too.

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Theater in the Opera House

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Echidna!

On Friday, we went for a walk to the bay and took a tour of the Opera House! It was absolutely beautiful and we even got to go inside to see the theaters. I also found out that the outside of the building is covered in over 1 million hand-lain white tiles, 1,056,006 to be exact. Our tour guide also mentioned that that is an answer to a Trivial Pursuit question. Also, the Opera House holds events other than operas including plays, ballets, orchestras and the stranger being boxing and even sumo wrestling. It was a wonderful tour that should be experienced if you ever get the chance. The same day we went to the aquarium, wildlife zoo, where I saw a Tasmanian Devil for the first time, and the Sydney Tower Eye which is a very tall tower in the middle of the city that allows for 360 degree views, sort of like the Empire State Building. We went at sunset making everything more beautiful. After that we went back to Nomads to eat and pass out. But, on the way back, everyone was out and about seeing as it was a Friday. We stopped at a little park where there was live music and people playing ping-pong in the middle of it. Tons of others were sitting and walking around enjoying the night.

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Tasmanian Devil :)

Saturday morning around 7AM we walked to a pickup point for the tour we booked to the Blue Mountains. Sadly, before we left we discovered that our food had been stolen from the communal fridge, forcing us to buy more at the grocery store. I guess that happens at backpackers hostels. We didn’t let that ruin our day though. The bus we took drove to an aboriginal center to start off the tour. Here we watched a traditional dance and learned about different cultures in Australia. Most aboriginals don’t consider there to be 6 states and 2 territories but over 300 states that are based on cultural groups. The show was beautiful and from here we could also see the Three Sisters rock formations. Later we went to Scenic World that had a couple of rides through the mountains. Erica and I walked through the rainforest for a bit too before returning to the bus to head to a little nearby town for lunch. The Featherdale Wildlife Park was the last stop for the day. This is where I saw an Echidna for the first time and well aren’t they just the cutest! There was a Tasmanian Devil feeding, and a buzzard that ate his dinner right in front of me. There were giant pelicans, roos, wallabies, wombats, koalas, dingoes and several kinds of birds. All were either rescued or born in the sanctuary. On the way back to Sydney, our driver drove through the Olympic Park that was used in the 2000 Summer Olympics.

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Aboriginal Show

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Sydney Running Festival

Sunday we went back towards the Opera House to look at shops and to eat lunch. There was a running festival going on that morning so we cheered on those running through the city. We stopped at an aboriginal art gallery where I got my mother her didgeridoo and shipped it home so I wouldn’t have to deal with taking it on the plane. We ate lunch in front of the Opera House and took in the views of harbor views. We did a bit more shopping and walking around before getting on a ship (it literally looked like a pirate ship) for a harbor cruise. I booked a mast climb on the ship so once in the harbor I was hooked in and got to climb up! It was a little nerve-racking at first but I made it to the top. It was heaps of fun and I could see everything from up there. After the climb, it was open bar and they provided nibblies too. The ship sailed under the Harbor Bridge as well making for a wonderful boat ride. I met a couple from Long Island on the ship who were there on a business trip (they noticed my Oswego State sweatshirt) and one of the deckhands was from Colorado. It really is a small world!

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Mast climb on the Soren Larsen!

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Bondi Beach art

Our last day in Sydney consisted of taking the ferry across the harbor to go to a marine sanctuary. Most of the sanctuary consisted of tunnels to walk through so that the animals surrounded you. I have only been to a couple of places like that before so it was pretty cool. After that, we headed back towards the hostel to catch a bus to Bondi Beach. The beach was full of people sun bathing and swimming but Erica and I were in pants and sweatshirts because we were so used to the heat of Townsville. The waves were massive here so there were quite a few surfers out. There was a wall with different artist’s paintings on them too. Each was completely different from the one before it but all were beautiful. So we ended the trip with a (cold) beach day and collected shells at Bondi too.

Our plane left Tuesday morning at 6AM so we were exhausted when we arrived back in Townsville, but were warm once again! Sydney was such a wonderful and fun city and is definitely a must if you come to Australia!

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Sydney Opera House

Oz Down Under

It’s been such a great month and a half here in Townsville. There are so many fantastic people I have met and made friends with. I was lucky enough to spend my 21st birthday here with all of them and was surprised to find out how fast you can become good friends with people. They all made it such a special day for me, even though I had class for the first time ever on my birthday! We celebrated by going out for gelato, hanging out on the beach and taking a drive to the top of Castle Hill (no drinking seeing as it was a Monday night).

Love these guys!

Love these guys!

Other things that have been going on down under:

Townsville’s Cultural Festival: this was filled with food from different countries including, Thai, Greek, Italian, Indian, etc. and several performances by each culture

Drinking Coconut Milk straight from the coconut!

 

VisitedPallarenda which acted as an old fort base during World War II and walked along the beautiful beach that included the city of Townsville and Magnetic Island in its view

Pallarenda

Pallarenda

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Had a holiday themed floor party that included St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween, Australia Day,Cinco de Mayo, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and New Years.

Floor Party: My quad was St. Patrick's Day

Floor Party: My quad was St. Patrick’s Day

Attended my first touch rugby game as well as my first netball game

Touch Rugby: Uni Hall vs George Roberts Hall

Touch Rugby: Uni Hall vs George Roberts Hall

Completed the ice bucket challenge

Completed and handed in my first assignment! (GIS related)

I made this beautiful masterpiece.

I made this beautiful masterpiece.

Learned how to identify leaf families and have now started to press leaves

Figured out how to get netflix on my computer (it has not come to this country yet) and have made new friends by sharing the wealth

Fed a polychaete

Took a road trip up to Cairns for a weekend and spent it visiting waterfalls, walking through the rainforest, mountain biking and canoeing

Road trippin' to Cairns

Road trippin’ to Cairns

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Stopped at the beach on the way to Cairns

Female Cassowary!

Female Cassowary!

The gals.

The gals.

Cathedral Fig Tree

Cathedral Fig Tree

Milaa Milaa

Milaa Milaa

Saw 3 wild Cassowaries!

Swam under a waterfall

Learned about culture and life in Singapore

Went for a hike up the mountain behind Uni

Have used the word “keen” to show how excited I was for something

Say “oi” on the daily

Held the world’s largest cockroach

Found out cotton candy is called “fairy floss”

Ate my first mandarin

Ate my first scone

Completed all seasons of Breaking Bad

Planned trips to Sydney and Melbourne

Played a few jokes on some of the wonderful Australians here

Painted faces using ochre

I am truly blessed to have all of these wonderful opportunities and couldn’t ask for anything more. Classes are going really well although I find it difficult to want to go to class and do work while I am here. My next assignment is due this Friday but it’s going pretty well so far. I get to use the concepts and ideas of behavioral ecology in the real world by going out into the field and finding examples. It is a lot of fun and a new way to learn material that will be useful in the future. I have not received any grades yet which makes me a little nervous because a majority is based solely on the final exam. I just need to stay on top of the work and I am sure it will all work out. I am still loving every second here and will continue to keep you updated!

Touring Townsville

Wombat

Wombat! What a cutie.

The first 2 weeks of my stay in Australia are officially over. I feel like I have been here for a longer period of time though. My floormates are all so nice and friendly and I have made some great friends so far. O Week was filled with talks about everything from the basic rules of Australia to a tour of the campus to fun things to do around town. JCU also offered so many fun things to do during orientation week as well, besides all of the informative presentations I had to sit through, including a visit to Billabong Sanctuary where I met some beautiful koalas, kangaroos, crocodiles, wombats (my new favorite animal), snakes, birds, dingos. They were all so precious and we were able to touch and hold some of the animals as well. A lot of the animals were rescues that were taken in to live out their lives in peace.

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A koala named Ray Charles. He was hit by a car that blinded him when he was a little joey.

 

There was also a scavenger hunt that took our group all over the campus to find random items such as a ukulele, surfboard, wig, jump rope and some other difficult things to find, especially since we were all study abroad students that brought the least amount of things with us possible. Most things were borrowed from Australians, so we made quite a few friends along the way.

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Take a picture in front of the menu board at Green Plate Cafe

Over the weekend a group of friends and I took a trip to Magnetic Island, which is a 20 minute boat ride away and stayed for the weekend to relax on the beach and get out of Townsville one last time before school started. We went hiking from the backpackers resort to the other side of the island where we found a beautiful beach to go snorkeling at. The water was a little cold, but for winter it was absolutely amazing. There were giant boulders on each side of the beach so we got to do a little rock climbing as well. We spent the whole day there and eventually caught a bus back to our hostel. The next day we went to a closer beach and laid out for the day and looked for seashells.

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Horseshoe Bay

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Florence Bay

 

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The gang.

The vacation ended of course but the first week of classes went pretty well. My schedule was very difficult to understand at first but I thankfully made it to all of the classes. It was basically an introduction week so there wasn’t much to do but all of my professors are funny and nice so the semester should go well. I also get to go on a field trip for my Rainforest Ecosystems class to a rainforest! That was definitely a good choice for an elective! Now that the second week has started there are assignments already so I know I need to stay on top of them all before it becomes overwhelming. Each subject seems really interesting so I’m sure it won’t be too difficult to keep up. When it came to buying school supplies I cut back so much from what I usually have at home. I didn’t bring anything with me so I had to buy it all. The basics for me included notebooks for each subject, post-its, a highlighter, and a mini stapler. Luckily I only had to purchase one textbook so that was another money saver. Also, I only have 4 classes to take here, Rainforest Ecosystems, GIS, Invertebrate Zoology and Behavioral Ecology. It’s nice to have a smaller work load for a semester and the behavioral class is even based off of field work every single week! Everything is great here so far and I can’t wait to share what happens next. (:

We Have Arrived: James Cook University

After travelling for over 35 hours, I am happy to say that I made it to Australia! This was the longest trip that I have ever made away from home and it was not a fun time. I started my travels by leaving my house at 9 AM on Tuesday, July 15th and drove down to JFK with my parents where I met  my travel buddy, Deanna. She is in the same program however she does not go to Oswego, but goes to Oneonta instead. We had been discussing everything before the trip but this was the first day meeting each other. After having trouble printing my boarding ticket, I finally said goodbye to my parents and headed toward the gate. It was easy to find the gate and navigate through the airport. But of course there had to be a thunderstorm directly headed our way so our plane to LAX was delayed 3 hours! It was a good thing we had a long layover there because by the time we landed and got our next boarding pass, the plane was boarding for Sydney, Australia. This wonderful flight was a whopping 14 hours over nothing but ocean water, and it was a red-eye flight so there wasn’t much to look at. Luckily it wasn’t too hard to fall asleep and I slept for 8 of those hours, making the trip a little more bearable. There were also plenty of movies to be watched which took up the rest of the time. But this flight did have one good part to it; the girl who sat down to my right happened to be going to the same exact place as Deanna and I; town, school, dorm building and all. So we made a new friend, Natalia. There was another study abroad student, Luke, who sat in front of us who was traveling from Kansas State to Perth, Australia.

We all got off the plane together at about 6 AM on Thursday, July 17th. After collecting our luggage in Sydney, and going through customs, we got separated from each other! I did freak out for a few minutes but then realized that if I just keep going to my next gate that we would meet up there. As I got back in line to recheck my bags, I found Natalia but Deanna was still nowhere to be seen! I waited with Natalia for a few minutes before getting on the bus to our next terminal. Finally, when we found the gate, Deanna was there with Luke, safe and sound. Luke’s plane left first and we said goodbye as we prepared for boarding as well and after landing 3 hours later at our final destination, we went to pick up our bags and meet our ride to the Uni (what they call the college campus). There was of course one more setback; my bags were lost. Come to find out, they were left in Sydney and never boarded the plane to Townsville. But I brought 2 changes of clothes and travel size shampoo. Deanna let me borrow a towel for the shower and I should be getting my bags today (Friday)!

Townsville Airport

Townsville Airport

After arriving to uni and our dorm building, I met my RA, Andrew, and got to see my room for the next 4 months. It has its own balcony which is the highlight of the whole building. People, mostly those here for the whole year, have decorated them and even have hammocks too. But besides this awesome feature, it is a pretty standard dorm building. It’s not as enclosed as those in Oswego, for obvious reasons, so there is more air flow making for a beautiful tropical feel.

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The view from my balcony

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The balcony

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My room

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My room

Deanna, Natalia and I decided that we would go to the store and get a few things after we showered and looked decent after travelling for such a long period of time. We asked someone on our floor how to get to the store that was on the uni and they said it was a short walk down the street, so off we went. It was literally a 5 minute walk, and I just got a few things, including a phone that I could use just in Australia. We walked back, dropped our stuff off in our rooms and walked around for a bit, exploring a little before we went to the dining hall for dinner. We had a nice chat with one of the cooks who told us about some of the local birds and the kangaroos that enjoy sitting on the grass right next to the dorm building! I also met another exchange student from Norway! She got there the day before. Her name was something very Norwegian (I could not pronounce it to save my life) so she told us to call her Chessa. There are so many people to meet still and O week hasn’t even started yet. It is going to be an exciting time here in beautiful Australia!

Australia in T minus 7 Days

Hi everybody! My name is Kelsey Thomas and I am a senior zoology major with a photography minor and I am studying abroad at James Cook University in Townsville, QLD, Australia this upcoming fall 2014 semester. It has already been a stressful process of filling out an endless supply of paperwork however this last week is going to be crazy! There are still so many things I need to do, such as going to doctors and dentists appointments, verifying my visa (which was not completed correctly the first time), verifying my flight, printing out all necessary papers, visiting family and friends, oh, and packing too. I am just praying that I remember to do everything. Determining what is necessary to bring with me will probably be the toughest part of this whole process! What to pack and what not to pack will be difficult but starting a week early will hopefully give me enough time to look through everything a few times over.

I have to say, I am very nervous about the trip. Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely excited as well, but I will be sad about leaving everything behind for the next four months. Learning a new culture and finding my way to classes is going to be stressful at first but I know it will all be worth it in the end. It does make it a little easier with Australia speaking English (kudos to those studying abroad in countries that don’t). I really can’t wait for all of the new memories and friends that will be made in this country. The school looks absolutely beautiful and the town itself looks nice as well, not to mention that it’s located right on the Great Barrier Reef.

Heads up to all of the Biology and Zoology students out there; I picked this school because the man I talked to in the international office said that Australia was the best option for our major. It is so different from what we have here and they do focus a lot on science majors. If you’re looking to study abroad, check out JCU’s website!

http://www.jcu.edu.au/

James Cook University

Townsville, QLD www.nextstepaustralia.com

Departure is in one week and now I am just counting down the days. I will be sure to keep you all updated on this wonderful adventure!

-Kelsey