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

Intro to Tasmania

Hello! And welcome to my OZ blog. I am hoping this blog will demonstrate (somewhat mundane) sociological and cultural differences that I come across in Australian culture in Tasmania. For now, I am keeping the blog light, as this is just an introductory post to prepare my followers for my adventure (and to practice blogging skills…).

Honestly I still don’t really think about how I will be across the world In Tasmania, Australia in about a month and a half. It really hasn’t sunk in yet, I suppose. At the same time, I don’t know how I would be able to “expect” anything since I’ve never done something like this before. Sure I’ve traveled before, but never alone. Which happens to be the most appealing part of the entire experience for me.

It’s funny because being alone is what was once deterring me from the idea of studying abroad. Oddly enough, I eventually decided to follow in my sister’s footsteps, who recently traveled for a semester abroad to Tanzania, Africa. DISCLAIMER: Sarcasm should be included in the previous sentence. Following in my sisters’ footsteps is something I have been doing since I can remember.

I’m weirdly excited to be in a place where no one has any idea who I am. And I happened to choose Tasmania… mainly because I’m not ready to take on another language (AKA: I’m lazy).

a building on UTAS campus that I thought looked cool

a building on UTAS campus that I thought looked cool

Check out the school’s website here!

Before I go, I’d like to give a few shout outs. As the Spring 2014 semester came to a close, I became sad thinking about the many ineffable people I would be leaving behind for almost five months.

Dear…

OSWEGO:

I will miss you, my geese….

 

PATHFINDER:

I will miss working with this wonderful, hard working, personable crew. Thank-you so much for opening my eyes to a group of dedicated and caring individuals, and for being patient and helpful. You have impacted me in ways more than you will ever know, and I’m glad that I am showing my appreciation before I graduate! I’m excited for working for you for one last semester! ;)

me workin' hard

me workin’ hard

 

NEWMAN CENTER:

Ahh.. the center. Sorry for not saying bye to anyone, by the way… I really wanted to avoid any crying that may have occurred, and I’ll see you next semester anyways so no harm, no foul. I hope everything goes well with the retreats and please know that I will miss all of you so much! I’m also upset I’ll be missing the Fall retreat… make sure you folks stay up late and have extra special conversations in dedication of my absence. And have some of those sugar cookies at the meetings at LEAST one time. You know what I’m talkin’ about.

peace OUT.

peace OUT.

MY FRIENDS:
OMG you know I wish I could put a personal picture up with special captions for each of your individually, but I would say too much and then no one would take the time to read the blog. I will miss all of you SO MUCH and hope you have AMAZING SEMESTERS (but then have an even better one when I’m back from Australia). Thank-you for constantly supporting me, listening to my troubles, and giving me a good time. That’s all we need in life <3

Cats & hats!

Cats & hats!

the last [high school] dance!

the last [high school] dance!

FAMILY:

Thanking you over a blog post seems so lame… but if I didn’t include you it just wouldn’t be fair. I cannot express my gratitude to you in words. I hope I can show you it through my actions for the rest of my life. It is through your love, hardship, fighting, honestly, and trust that I am how I am today, and that alone is inspiring enough for me to go across the world in confidence. Thank-you Mom, Dad, Jenn, and Becca for making me a large part of who I am! I love you all.

Well, the next blog I post will hopefully have a picture of me holding a koala. See you then!

-Patty

 

Australia Bound 2014

 

“Life is short, break the rules, forgive quickly, kiss slowly, love truly, laugh uncontrollably, and never regret anything that made you smile. Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~Mark Twain

Making the Decision 

Being able to travel abroad is an amazing opportunity. Being able to study abroad? Well it doesn’t get much better then that. Don’t be afraid to take risks and don’t wait around for your friends to do it with you. Studying abroad is all about pushing yourself to try new things and meet new people. Don’t be afraid, there are tons of people more than happy to help you through the process and answer any questions you have. Everyone at OIEP is super friendly so visit their office and ask any of the questions you have. Take the risk. Trust me, your future self will thank you. It took me more than one try for me to commit to studying abroad. My original plan was to spend the summer following my sophomore year in Sydney, Australia. I sent my application in and awaited a reply from the International Education office. At this point studying abroad was just a thought in my mind that I wasn’t completely committed to. I had planned on spending a summer abroad mainly because I was afraid to leave my friends at Oswego behind and I didn’t want to miss out on any of the shenanigans that often occur each semester in Oswego. However, when the time came for me to accept my offer to spend the summer abroad, I soon realized that this wasn’t really what I wanted to do. Summer sessions are much shorter than full semester sessions and our summer is actually Australia’s winter. It was then that I realized that I needed to make this decision for myself. I couldn’t let old friends keep me from making new ones and experiencing new things in different places. Although I will miss the friends I have become so close to in Oswego, I know that they will be there when I come back and I know that I have made a decision that I couldn’t be happier with. I am about to embark on the journey of a lifetime that I will never forget.

Let the Countdown Begin: 

Just about a month until I take my adventure to Australia. Plane ticket is booked, visa is received, all my forms are filled out. Anticipation is killing me, naturally. New plans have me going early with a fellow SUNY student that my coordinator has recently introduced me to. We will be departing a week early to hit up the Gold Coast where we will be relaxing at the beach in surfers paradise. Can’t believe I’ll be sitting on the beach in February, a time when I am usually trekking through the snow to class in good old SUNY Oswego. Needless to say, I would trade my winter jacket and gloves in any day for a bottle of sun tan lotion and a bathing suit. Next step packing…this shall be an interesting task to tackle.

Packing Up and Getting Ready to Go:

I have to say, packing may be my least favorite activity in the world. After about a month of procrastination, I finally broke out the suitcase and started weeding through my things deciding what would be worth packing and what would be better left at home. There’s no better time to pack for the next 5 months of your life than the week before you leave, right? I don’t think there’s really a handbook out there that can tell you exactly what to pack or exactly what you’ll need. Everyone’s different and no matter what you’ll always feel like you’re leaving something majorly important behind or pack something that never even makes it out of the suitcase. I think the most useful advice I received about packing was also the most simple piece of advice out there: don’t stress over it. This same advice can be applied to leaving home in general. To be honest no one’s ever really sure what the future holds and it might be scary to try new things, but you’ll never know what you’re capable of unless you push yourself to do it.So if you’re stressing about whether that pair of shoes really needs to come with you halfway around the world or if you’re stressing about whether you should even take that journey across the world, just remember, there is no right answer. Stressing doesn’t solve any problems. Just let go and follow your gut feeling, and remember this is a chance of a lifetime. You won’t know you’ve made the right decision until you experience it yourself. Tomorrow, my journey really begins. It’ll be a long flight but it’ll be so worth it when i look out the window and see my new home for the next 5 months for the first time. I couldn’t be more excited.

Airport Chaos 

After months of anticipation the day had finally come for me to make my journey to Australia. Of course it was snowing the day I left New York and its crummy weather behind. I guess it was only fitting that I should experience snow for the last time this winter. I was incredibly anxious and excited to get there. The plan was to meet up with a fellow SUNY student named Alyssa, that I had been talking with over Facebook and we planned a trip together to the Gold Coast in Brisbane. However, things never go as planned. When I showed up to the airport Alyssa was there but the airport staff had informed her that she would not be getting on the plane that day. Apparently her visa had never actually been processed so they couldn’t let her out of the country. At first I was pretty calm about it; I guess it didn’t really hit me that I’d be doing this alone. Anxiety started to set in as I sat for hours in the airport waiting for my plane. Traveling alone is scary and I started to worry I wouldn’t know where to go in the airports or when I arrived in Brisbane. We had a connecting flight in Los Angeles but due to the snow, we had missed our connecting flight. Luckily a lot of the people on my plane were in the same boat and the airline was super accommodating. They ended up rerouting us into Melbourne before we could fly to Brisbane. In actuality, everything went smoothly from the second I got on my first plane till I arrived at my hostel. It didn’t feel that way at the time since Alyssa wasn’t with me and I had an extra leg of flying. I ended up being really proud of myself and am thankful that I was forced to be grown up about the situation and learned to deal with traveling alone. That’s what studying abroad is all about: pushing yourself to step out of your comfort zone and experience new challenges.

Last snowy day before I arrived in Australia. (Cortlandt Manor)

Last snowy day before I arrived in Australia. (Cortlandt Manor)

 

Waiting to catch this plane to Brisbane. (Melbourne airport)

Waiting to catch this plane to Brisbane. (Melbourne airport)

 

First sight of my final destination after about 30 hours of traveling. (Brisbane)

First sight of my final destination after about 30 hours of traveling. (Brisbane)

 

While at the airport I made sure to take out some Australian money and buy a converter so I could plug my appliances in.

While at the airport I made sure to take out some Australian money and buy a converter so I could plug my appliances in.

Backpackers in Paradise 

After what seemed like endless hours of traveling, it was finally time to explore Australia. I was staying in a backpackers’ hostel in Surfer’s Paradise. It actually started off as a miserable experience in all honesty. I was feeling a little out of place since I was there all by myself and didn’t know a single person. It was essentially a party hostel and it got pretty loud at night. I was staying in a 4 person bedroom and on the night I arrived no one was actually in the room. I really should have just gone downstairs and tried to make new friends but I was intimidated by all the people who sounded like they were already friends. My first full day there I decided to get out and explore the beach. The beach was absolutely beautiful and the weather was perfect. Things started to feel a little better, being at the beach. The beach was just a short walk from the hostel and insanely easy to find. I had to think to myself that of all the places to feel alone, at least I was in paradise and could enjoy the beach. I continued to go to the beach and got some new roommates. It wasn’t till about the 4th day that I really hit it off with one of my new roommates. Ironically enough the day I met this new roommate, Alyssa ended up showing up to the hostel. I spent the next day with my new roommate and that night we joined the party downstairs. It was funny cause I had been upset about the fact that Alyssa wasn’t with me but I didn’t even end up hanging out with her the day she got there. My roommate and I sat down at a table and immediately people came up to us and started talking to us. It amazed me how easy it was to meet new people and become friends with them here. If only I had just gone downstairs the first days I was there. Most of the people I met were actually traveling alone as well. I found these people so interesting. Most of them were traveling around all of Australia stopping in hostels along the way. Some were actually staying in the hostel from months to years. After talking to these people I started to become really interested in the concept of traveling. We live in such an amazing world and there’s so many awesome people in this world that we will probably never get to meet cause we’re stuck in one spot. I think we forget that there’s more to this world than our hometown. Traveling is such an interesting concept to me and I think its important for us to step outside of our little bubbles and really branch out. You’ll be surprised what/who you can find when you leave your comfort zone. I am beyond thankful for this opportunity and am really learning what this world has to offer. The next night Alyssa and I went out together and had a blast. I was so excited that I’d be spending the next 5 months with her. Both of us were so anxious to get to Melbourne and ready to start our journey.

Backpackers in Paradise, hostel I stayed at in Surfer's Paradise.

Backpackers in Paradise, hostel I stayed at in Surfer’s Paradise.

 

View of the common area where everyone hung out at the hostel.

View of the common area where everyone hung out at the hostel.

 

First beach I went to in Australia. Beach went on for miles and the water was beautiful. (Surfer's Paradise)

First beach I went to in Australia. Beach went on for miles and the water was beautiful. (Surfer’s Paradise)

Boardwalk at Surfer's Paradise.

Boardwalk at Surfer’s Paradise.

Off To Melbourne 

The day had finally come for me to head to my new home. I was really excited to meet the people I’d be spending the next 5 months with. It helped that I was coming with Alyssa so that I wouldn’t feel completely alone in the situation. When we arrived we were taken to our rooms. We lived in different buildings and Alyssa had not yet gotten a phone plan so at first it was hard to find each other after we moved in. Luckily we bumped into each other and managed to find some dinner. We were feeling a little stressed out and overwhelmed by everything but were glad that we had each other. We met some people in the dorms, mostly other exchange students in the same boat and some Australians that were RAs. It was nice getting to know some new people and I was excited to get to know everyone. The next night a few of us went into the city to explore. We met a kid who had been studying at the university for a couple years and he offered to show us around. It was so nice experiencing a new city and Melbourne’s streets were bursting with culture. Beautiful graffiti covers the alley ways and people frequent rooftop restaurants/bars to take in the view of the city at night. I had heard that Melbourne was a beautiful and artsy city and everything I had heard was so on point. I was so happy to be experiencing this awesome city first hand and ready to do some more exploring soon.

Dorm room, after I settled in a little, a few weeks after I arrived.

Dorm room, after I settled in a little, a few weeks after I arrived.

Wall of pictures to remind me of home and all the people I love most.

Wall of pictures to remind me of home and all the people I love most.

Shelves filled with some food since I'll be cooking for myself this semester.

Shelves filled with some food since I’ll be cooking for myself this semester.

View outside my window.

View outside my window.

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Lake on campus.

 

Some street art displaying the proper pronunciation of Melbourne.

Some street art displaying the proper pronunciation of Melbourne.

Night view of the city.

Night view of the city.

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Street art covering alley ways.

Union Square where people hang out at night and watch the big screen outside.

Union Square where people hang out at night and watch the big screen outside.

Pre-Orientation Trip 

We didn’t have much time to settle in after we arrived on campus. A couple days after arriving a whole group of international students took a trip to the Great Ocean Road and Lorne to start to experience the wonders of beautiful Australia while also getting to know each other. This trip was one of the best experiences of my life and I could not imagine a better way to transition into life in Australia. It helped me meet a whole group of people who were in the exact same position as me, while also helped me get excited to see all the gorgeous views Australia has to offer. While on this trip I learned to surf, got my first taste of “goon” (their lingo for box wine which is very popular among broke college kids), saw the 12 Apostles and Loch Ard Gorge, saw my first koala up close, and made friends from all over the world. We stayed in a hostel in Lorne, which is a few hours away from Melbourne. I stayed in a room with about 10 other people and had the best couple of nights getting to know these people. Experiencing Australia for the first time provided a great bonding opportunity for all of us. Travel is not only a good way to meet new people, but it is also a great way to become closer to people. I am so thankful that I got to share my first experiences in Australia with these people. I couldn’t imagine a better start to my journey.

First stop : Bells Beach. Where the movie Point Break took place (though we learned it was actually filmed in Oregon, USA).

First stop : Bells Beach. Where the movie Point Break took place (though we learned it was actually filmed in Oregon, USA).

Part of the pre-orientation gang I shared my room with for the couple nights in Lorne.

Part of the pre-orientation gang I shared my room with for the couple nights in Lorne.

 

Hostel we stayed at in Lorne.

Hostel we stayed at in Lorne.

Learning to surf with the gang.

Learning to surf with the gang.

 

First time seeing a koala bear.

First time seeing a koala bear.

Start of the Great Ocean Road.

Start of the Great Ocean Road.

Sight of the beach on our bush walk.

Sight of the beach on our bush walk.

View of the Great Ocean Road from the bus window.

View of the Great Ocean Road from the bus window.

12 Apostles. Probably one of the most gorgeous views I've seen so far.

12 Apostles. Probably one of the most gorgeous views I’ve seen so far. Picture doesn’t even compare to seeing it in person.

Loch Ard Gorge. Such a beautiful beach.

Loch Ard Gorge. Such a beautiful beach.

 

Enjoying the beach with friends at Loch Ard Gorge.

Enjoying the beach with friends at Loch Ard Gorge.

Trip to Sydney 

Shortly after arriving back in Melbourne, the gang set out again, this time to see Sydney and celebrate Mardi Gras at the Gay and Lesbian Parade held in Sydney. Our group was a little smaller this time around; only 11 of the pre-orientation gang decided to explore Sydney together. We went through the same company that organized our pre-orientation trip and were joined by international students from campuses all around Australia. This trip was a little different from the pre-orientation trip since most people on the trip already had a group of friends. This trip seemed to be less about meeting new people and more about getting closer with the people I already knew. We took a big coach bus out to Sydney and traveled overnight for about 10 hours. Sleeping on the bus was a little difficult and I probably only got a few hours of sleep in total before we reached our destination. We couldn’t let sleep deprivation get in the way though because we had a full schedule planned from the minute we arrived in Sydney. This time around we stayed in a hostel right in the middle of the city. The hostel definitely had  a city vibe to it and was very different from either of the hostels I had stayed at previously. Unfortunately, my first purchase in Sydney was an umbrella.  The weather was rainy and pretty crummy the entire time we were there, but we had a good group of people determined to make the best of our trip regardless of the poor weather. While in Sydney, we got to experience the New York City feel of downtown Sydney, a very fast paced city. We ventured out to the Botanical Gardens, took a party cruise around the city at night, saw the famous Opera House and Harbor Bridge, experienced the Gay and Lesbian Parade, took a trip to Manly Beach, and did a coastal walk from Bronte Beach all the way to Bondi Beach. Though it rained for the majority of our trip, I had a blast the entire time and was glad to be able to cross Sydney off my list of places I’ve seen in Australia.

Botanical Gardens in Sydney.

Botanical Gardens in Sydney.

St. Mary's Cathedral.

St. Mary’s Cathedral.

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Tour group outside of St. Mary’s Cathedral, all of us with umbrellas in hand.

 

The gang at the Opera House.

The gang at the Opera House.

View of the Opera House at a look at tower.

View of the Opera House at a look at tower.

Harbor Bridge.

Harbor Bridge.

The girls getting ready to board the party cruise.

The girls getting ready to board the party cruise.

The gang about to head out to Oxford Street to celebrate Mardi Gras.

The gang about to head out to Oxford Street to celebrate Mardi Gras.

The girls at Manly Beach.

The girls at Manly Beach.

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Coastal walk from Bronte Beach to Bondi Beach.

Pool at a hotel along the coastal walk at Bondi Beach.

Pool at a hotel along the coastal walk at Bondi Beach.

Bondi Beach.

Bondi Beach.

Checking Out the Beach Scene in Melbourne

One of the things I was most looking forward to about studying in Australia was the beautiful weather and hanging out at the beach at a time that I would usually be trekking through the snow. So as the snow continued to fall in Oswego, I sought sun and sand at the beaches in Melbourne. Now i should clarify that Melbourne is not the perfect place to be a beach bum seeing as it is not particularly the beachiest of cities in Australia, but that hasn’t stopped us from enjoying our time in the sun. The closest beach to La Trobe University is called St. Kilda Beach. Its a smaller, more simple beach and not exactly the most breathtaking beach I’ve seen. It is however, a lot of fun on a sunny day and still a pretty beach. The town surrounding the beach is more of an attraction than the beach itself. There’s tons of shops and restaurants around the beach and you don’t have to walk far to find good food, which is a definite plus for me. Nothing like chowing down on some amazing grub before you bask in the sun and laze around on the beach. This past weekend the gang and I hit up a small burger joint near the beach and had some of the best burgers I’ve ever tasted. On the weekend, there are also tents set up with small street vendors selling everything from jewelry to soap. So on the sunnier weekends, the gang and I will hop on the tram and make our way down to St. Kilda. La Trobe is located a little far from everything so we are used to taking the tram for about an hour to get places. The ride can be a bit of a pain, but in the end it is worth it and it gives us something fun to do on the weekends. Luckily public transportation is pretty amazing in Melbourne. Its pretty easy and there are often trams running that will take us directly to campus. For me, life is good whenever I’m on the beach, no matter how long it takes to get there.

Spotting St. Kilda just beyond the road down below.

Spotting St. Kilda just beyond the road down below.

Grassy area by the beach at St. Kilda.

Grassy area by the beach at St. Kilda.

Street vendors selling their products along the road at St. Kilda.

Street vendors selling their products along the road at St. Kilda.

Luna Park. Amusement park right by St. Kilda Beach.

Luna Park. Amusement park right by St. Kilda Beach.

St. Kilda Beach

St. Kilda Beach

 

Another shot of the beach.

Another shot of the beach.

Uni Life: Oz (Australia) vs. Oz (Oswego) 

Just starting my third week of classes and beginning to adjust to school life in Australia. Sometimes in the midst of everything its hard to keep in mind that school is the primary focus of studying abroad. You tend to get caught up in meeting new people and traveling around the country. Those moments truly are the highlight of the trip and what you’ll most likely remember the most. However, there is much to be said about school life while abroad and the differences in teaching techniques from your home country. Though you may not think you’ll look back on those times you were sitting through a two hour long lecture,  those moments have helped you grow as a person. I am currently enrolled in four business classes, three of which are required classes from my home campus. For each class, I have a two hour long lecture once a week and a one hour long “tutorial,” also once a week. The lectures are held in big classrooms and there is little interaction between the professor and the students. The professor pretty much spends the whole two hours reading power points and elaborating off them. The tutorials, however, are a little more personal; the class size is much smaller and there is a high level of interaction between students and the tutor. I find the lectures to be a tad boring and harder to pay attention to, but I really quite enjoy the tutorials. Back in Oswego, you either have a class that is taught lecture style or a smaller class that is more similar to a tutorial. Its interesting to me to have both here. I am used to having smaller class sizes for my business classes so it’ll be more of an adjustment to have such little time in a more personal setting. Also in Oswego, meeting times are a little shorter but you meet more times throughout the week. For some of my classes, I have both the lecture and the tutorial on the same day. So a week will pass before I go to class for that subject again. The breakdown of the classes is very different for me and something I’ll have to learn to adjust to. All the lectures are put online so if you miss a class you always have the option of just listening to it online, which actually discourages some students from showing up to the lectures. All the lectures can be viewed any time throughout the semester, though, so you can always go back and review it if you’d like, which is a nice option. All of my classes have a group project assignment which is something I am actually used to. Being a business student, I am accustomed to having to work in groups to complete an assignment. I enjoy the fact that I have group assignments in all my classes because it has introduced me to new people and helps me get to know them better while also learning to work in a team dynamic, and here I get to do this with people from another country. You don’t always socialize with the people you sit next to in class, but if you’re forced to work in a group, you have to branch out and meet the people in your class. I anticipate that the most challenging aspect of school life will be learning to balance school and fun. There are a lot of opportunities to blow off school work to go hang out with friends here, especially among the international students. A lot of us feel that we are only here for a few months so we’d rather not spend that time buried in book work. We are however here to experience everything about the Australian lifestyle, including their educational lifestyle. As a business student, I understand how global the world has become and I personally would like to make the most out of my educational experience abroad as well. It is my hope that I can find that balance between school work and my social life. I want to make the most of every minute here and have no regrets about the things I should have experienced here, whether that be taking trips to different parts of Australia, or learning a new perspective about the business world.

Studying aspect of studying abroad.

Studying aspect of studying abroad.

College Kid Challenges (aka Cooking)

I’ll be the first to admit, I’m no world class cook. In fact when it comes to cooking, I’m actually quite challenged. Back in Oswego, I spent the last two and half years living on campus with a full meal plan. Oswego meal plans are no joke either, buffet style, unlimited swipes, access to breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even “late night” (basically second dinner). At home, I’ll make myself lunch but my parents will cook dinner for the whole family. So, with no cooking experience to my name, I was shocked to learn that the dorm I was staying at here at La Trobe had no dining hall but rather a kitchen on every floor, where residents would cook for themselves. I’ve spent about a month now living on campus here at La Trobe, and I’m not going to lie, I haven’t gotten much better at cooking. I have however, become the master at making pasta topped with jarred sauce, probably one of the simplest and cheapest meals a college kid can make. Having to cook for yourself is a real adjustment when you are used to having food provided for you on a daily basis. Budgeting your money for grocery shopping and deciding what to make each meal is no easy task and I’ve come to really appreciate my parents for providing me meals the past 20 years of my life. Lately I’ve accepted the fact that I can only really cook pasta and have cooked it pretty much every night for the past month. However, I have vowed that before the semester is over, I will start to eat healthier and I will learn to make at least one dish other than pasta. For now, pasta gets the job done, but I think it would be a real accomplishment for me to learn to cook something more challenging and perhaps healthier. As if cooking isn’t hard enough, I’ve also learned the joys of grocery shopping. There is a grocery store near campus that is about a 20 minute walk from my dorm room. The walk there is not so bad, but the walk back can be pretty torturous, with plenty of grocery bags to weigh you down. I’ve learned that a backpack is essential when planning a big grocery trip and I’ve also learned that buying everything at once is not a good idea. Not only is it hard to carry back, but it is expensive and can be wasteful if you buy perishables. I’ve gotten a little better at grocery shopping having been at it for about a month. I still remember the first grocery shopping trip I made here, wandering aimless up and down the aisles wondering how everyone does this and picking up anything that didn’t require cooking utensil (which wasn’t much). Oh yeah, that’s another joy of cooking in college, you realize how many utensils you need to actually buy for cooking, which is shocking when your used to them just being there. Though cooking may not be my forte, I have taken this as a learning experience and know that it’s only a part of life and a huge part of growing up. Next year I will be living off campus and will have to continue cooking for myself. It’ll be nice to have a little experience by then and perhaps (I can only hope anyways) I will have graduated from cooking pasta every night for dinner.

The kitchen I share with about 10 other people. Can get dirty at times.

The kitchen I share with about 10 other people. Can get dirty at times.

Sink and stove. Gets crowded only if you cook when other people are too.

Sink and stove. Gets crowded only if you cook when other people are too.

2 fridges and a freezer for the whole floor. Generally one shelf per person but may end up sharing shelf space at times.

2 fridges and a freezer for the whole floor. Generally one shelf per person but may end up sharing shelf space at times.

My shelf at the moment. In desperate need of a shopping trip.

My shelf at the moment. In desperate need of a shopping trip.

The extent of my cooking utensils. Small pot and a spoon, and of course, pasta.

The extent of my cooking utensils. Small pot and a spoon, and of course, pasta.

Sydney Round 2

On a random weekend in April, a friend and I decided to pack up our bags again and head to Sydney. This was the second time I’d be in Sydney, though it was her first. The first time I had been in Sydney was a planned trip organized through a travel company, but this time was a little more spontaneous. We booked our flight the week before and decided to find a hostel when we got there. When we landed we walked around the city aimlessly checking out different hostels where we might want to stay. When we finally found the hostel we wanted to stay at, we were able to put our bags down and explore the city a little more. We were only there for the weekend but we were able to see the Opera House and the Sydney Harbor Bridge and even took a ferry ride to Toronga Zoo to see some koalas and kangaroos along with all the other zoo animals. We ate some delicious food at various different restaurants and checked out some of the many shops in Sydney. My first trip to Sydney was a rainy one so it was only natural that we’d get a little rain the second time around too. Luckily it only sprinkled for a little bit and we were able to duck into the Museum of Contemporary Art to escape the rain while checking out some funky artwork. On our last day we met up with a kid who went to high school with my friend who is studying at University of Sydney this semester and got to see what their university life was like. All in all it was a great weekend and felt great to get away to see the awesome city of Sydney again, this time with a little less rain.

Sydney Harbor Bridge

Sydney Harbor Bridge.

Sitting at the Opera House.

Sitting at the Opera House.

Escaping the rain for a little at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Escaping the rain for a little at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Riding the ferry to Taronga Zoo.

Riding the ferry to Taronga Zoo.

Posing with the kangaroo at the zoo.

Posing with the kangaroo at the zoo.

View from the hostel's roof.

View from the hostel’s roof.

Enjoying some delicious breakfast.

Enjoying some delicious breakfast.

Saying goodbye to rainy Sydney through the plane window.

Saying goodbye to rainy Sydney through the plane window.

Spring Break 2014-Byron Bay

The time had come for Easter break, which only meant one thing, time for another vacation. This time we headed out to Byron Bay seeking some warm weather and beautiful beaches. Being that the seasons are opposite down here, it is starting to get a little cooler here in Melbourne, so it was only natural that we’d head up north where the weather is still warmer. Byron Bay is a pretty small, hippie town and everyone is super laid back and friendly. We were there for a total of ten days and just about every day was perfect weather. We spent most of our time on the beach, soaking up the sun and getting a nice tan to bring back to Melbourne. We took a tour to a town called Nimbin, on a bus that played all kinds of hippie music (Bob Marley and the like) while it winded down country roads in the middle of nowhere. We got to check out Minyon Falls and Rocky Creek Dam, both incredibly breathtaking. We stayed at a hostel called Arts Factory which was very outdoorsy with the option of sleeping in a giant tepee or just setting up your own tent in ‘the jungle.’ We however, opted for a regular 10 bedroom dorm room. The whole vibe of the hostel was very cool. You can meet such interesting people at hostels, as I have mentioned earlier, and this place had plenty of interesting people. A lot were aspiring musicians and artists and pretty much just all around hippies. The hostel was very accommodating for those who wanted to exercise their creative sides, with a talent show every week and even a recording studio owned by the hostel. This trip was a rather interesting one and helped me see another side of Australia. Byron Bay was the perfect place to spend our spring break cause not only was it warm, but it was super care-free and helped us unwind and leave our troubles at the door. I could definitely see myself getting used to such a simple yet happy lifestyle like that. Sometimes life moves a little too fast and its refreshing to spend time in a town like Byron where everything seems to slow down and there doesn’t seem to be a care in the world. Needless to say it was a little difficult to return to a slightly colder Melbourne to get back to reality. I only have about 2 months left here and finals are just around the corner. There is, however, still plenty of time for me to enjoy all Australia has to offer, and now I can check Byron Bay off my list as well.

At the beach in Byron Bay for my  Aussie Spring Break Trip.

At the beach in Byron Bay for my Aussie Spring Break Trip.

Checking out the beautiful beach at Byron for the first time.

Checking out the beautiful beach at Byron for the first time.

View of the beach.

View of the beach.

Puppies enjoying the beach too.

Puppies enjoying the beach too.

Sitting on the rocks at the beach on another beautiful day.

Sitting on the rocks at the beach on another beautiful day.

Big Tepee at our hostel.

Big Tepee at our hostel.

The pool at our hostel.

The pool at our hostel.

Area in the hostel where you could just chill out and meet new people. Super comfy hammock chairs by the lake.

Area in the hostel where you could just chill out and meet new people. Super comfy hammock chairs by the lake.

Ride through the country to Nimbin on a bus blasting some hippie music.

Ride through the country to Nimbin on a bus blasting some hippie music.

Beautiful waterfall we checked out on our Nimbin tour.

Minyon Falls, we checked this out on our Nimbin tour.

Rocky Creek Dam, Nimbin tour.

Rocky Creek Dam, Nimbin tour.

Friends and I at the Rocky Creek Dam.

Friends and I at the Rocky Creek Dam.

Byron Bay-Australia Spring Break 2014.

Byron Bay-Australia Spring Break 2014.

The Final Stretch 

Four months have passed, yet it feels like just yesterday I was sitting in the airport, nervously waiting for my delayed flight to arrive. A lot has happened in these past four months and I can honestly say I’ve learned a lot and grown a lot. Now its that dreaded part of the semester that no one really looks forward to: finals. Time to show exactly how much I’ve learned in the classroom. Though the stressful feelings surrounding finals remain the same, finals are done a little differently here in Australia. Instead of allocating one week at the end of the semester for finals, La Trobe dedicates the entire month of June for the finals schedule. However, it just so happens that all my finals fall pretty much in the same week. I do have more time leading up to my finals to get my studying done though. Finals are also different here in both their overall weight and structure. I’m used to having more assignments during the year that make up my overall grade with a multiple choice final at the end of the semester that accounts for a decent proportion of my grade. Here, however, my finals count as 50 percent of my grade and they are all short answer and essay questions to test my knowledge of the subject. It really is make it or break it at this point. I’ve seen a lot of my international friends leave already, having taken classes that don’t have any finals. They’ve either decided to spend the rest of their time exploring more of Australia or returned home to their friends and family that they’ve been away from for so long. It is hard seeing people leave, while I’m still stuck on campus anxiously awaiting my finals. It is also difficult knowing that all my friends back home have long finished their semester and are already enjoying their summer vacation. It also doesn’t help that the weather is getting colder here while it gets warmer back home. It is at this moment though that I am truly savoring the moment and enjoying every last bit of this experience as I can. Before I know it I will be on my flight home, not knowing for certain if I’ll ever return to this beautiful country. I know that my flight home will be bittersweet as I will be anxious to get home to see the loved ones I’ve been apart from for what seems like forever. At the same time I’m sure all the memories of this experience will be flashing through my head and I’ll wish I could get back that feeling that I felt upon arriving in Australia. It was a feeling of experiencing something totally new and not knowing what the months ahead of me would hold. I am definitely proud of myself for being smart enough to take my opportunity to study abroad. A lot of people let this opportunity slip through their fingers, and I am truly grateful that I was not one of them. This is an experience of a lifetime and I have no regrets about it. As my opening quote says, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did.” On that note, I just need to get through these finals before I get to take one last trip to Hamilton Island, thus concluding my experience abroad. I guess its also time for a new countdown: 23 days left of this amazing experience.

Last Trip: Hamilton Island 

With only nine days left in Australia, my academic semester abroad had finally come to end. I had finished my last exam and was finally free to enjoy summer vacation and my remaining time abroad. All in all I have to say my academic semester went pretty well. I learned a lot about how to balance school work and experiencing Australia. Though work is always important, it’s also important to make time to explore the country you’re in and meet new people. The key to a successful semester abroad is finding the right balance between the two. With my school work all finished for the semester I decided to take one last trip. I had been dying to travel to the Whitsunday Islands and figured it would be a perfect way to end the semester. So I packed my bags and headed out to Hamilton Island with a friend. This time around, we stayed in a hotel instead of a hostel. We booked a room that was slightly more expensive, opting for a room with a beautiful ocean view, which proved to be well worth it. The weather was perfect from the second we landed in Hamilton Island to the second we left. Apparently we had gotten really lucky, and managed to arrive just in time for some good weather. It had been a rainy few months in Hamilton prior to our arrival, and we were lucky enough to catch a break in the crummy weather. Our time in Hamilton was very relaxing and was spent lounging around the pool, trying different fruity cocktails, soaking up the sun on the beach, paddle boarding on the beautiful ocean, watching the sunset over the ocean, and taking in some of the most gorgeous views I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, I was unable to make it to Whitehaven beach and was unable to see the famous Hill Inlet lookout because all the tours were all booked up. However, that will just have to give me the perfect excuse to come back. My last trip in Australia was a good one. Between the perfect weather and the beautiful views, I couldn’t have imagined a better place to be for my last trip. It served as a reminder of just how beautiful Australia really is and how lucky I have been to have had this experience. I have promised myself to make an effort to return one day and see all the things I didn’t have time for. I am completely happy with my choice to come here and wouldn’t have changed a thing. I may be saying goodbye to Australia in a few days, but I’m sure it will be more of an “I’ll see you later” than a goodbye forever.

Boars in the marina at Hamilton Island.

Boats in the marina at Hamilton Island.

Boats fill the marina many of which go on tours to different islands.

Boats fill the marina many of which go on tours to different islands.

View of the pool at our hotel from our balcony.

View of the pool at our hotel from our balcony.

Balcony in the living room of our hotel.

Balcony in the living room of our hotel.

View of the ocean from our balcony.

View of the ocean from our balcony.

View of the ocean from our hotel room during low tide.

View of the ocean from our hotel room during low tide.

Enjoying a fruity cocktail by one of the main hotel's pools. Anyone is welcome at all the pools at any of the resorts on the island.

Enjoying a fruity cocktail by one of the main hotel’s pools. Anyone is welcome at all the pools at any of the resorts on the island.

Swim up bar at the pool.

Swim up bar at the pool.

Enjoying some coffee on the balcony as the sun shines bright over the water.

Enjoying some coffee on the balcony as the sun shines bright over the water.

Walking along the beach that gets much larger during low tide.

Walking along the beach that gets much larger during low tide.

Underwater reef becomes exposed during low tide.

Underwater reef becomes exposed during low tide.

Reef during low tide with parasailers in the background.

Reef during low tide with parasailers in the background.

Walking in the reef during low tide.

Walking in the reef during low tide.

Taking in the sunset on top of One Tree Hill at Hamilton Island.

Taking in the sunset on top of One Tree Hill at Hamilton Island.

Gorgeous view of the sun going down over the ocean.

Gorgeous view of the sun going down over the ocean.

What it looked like from our balcony when the sun was setting.

What it looked like from our balcony when the sun was setting.

Cockatoo on our balcony.

Cockatoo on our balcony.

Rainbow Lorikeet stopping by our balcony.

Rainbow Lorikeet stopping by our balcony.

Watching the Whitsundays disappear out of the plane window on my last flight back to Melbourne.

Watching the Whitsundays disappear out of the plane window on my last flight back to Melbourne.

Wine Tour

To finish off the semester, a couple of friends and I planned a wine tour trip. It was something I had wanted to do since I arrived in Australia. Australia is known for having good wine and what better way to experience the wine culture than taking a tour to several of their most famous vineyards. The tour consisted of a small group of people and we were able to stop at four different wineries including the famous Domaine Chandon. The tour also stopped at the White Rabbit Brewery where we were able to taste a selection of the local beer. We were also served a delicious lunch at Rochford Winery and got to taste a sampling of cheeses at the Yarra Valley Dairy Farm. To finish off the tour, we stopped at the newly opened Yarra Valley Chocolatier Factory and had some delicious ice cream. I had such a great day tasting wine, beer, cheese, and even ice cream with a couple of my closest friends. I was glad we were able to get in a wine tour before we left. We had all talked about how we wanted to experience a wine tour while in Australia but weren’t sure if we’d be able to squeeze in the trip before we left. I’m glad I got to experience a little more of Melbourne and Australian culture before I headed home.

The first winery we stopped at and began our day tasting all kinds of wine.

The first winery we stopped at and began our day tasting all kinds of wine.

Yarra Valley Dairy Farm where we got to sample some delicious cheese.

Yarra Valley Dairy Farm where we got to sample some delicious cheese.

Cheese counter at the Yarra Valley Dairy Farm.

Cheese counter at the Yarra Valley Dairy Farm.

The famous Domaine Chandon where we sampled some delicious champagne.

The famous Domaine Chandon where we sampled some delicious champagne.

Domaine Chandon champagne.

Domaine Chandon champagne.

Touring Domaine Chandon. The barrel room where the wine ages.

Touring Domaine Chandon. The barrel room where the wine ages.

Coombe Farm, a local vineyard.

Coombe Farm, a local vineyard.

Some bottles of wine for sale at Coombe Farm.

Some bottles of wine for sale at Coombe Farm.

The White Rabbit Brewery where we got to try some local beer.

The White Rabbit Brewery where we got to try some local beer.

Yarra Valley Chocolatier Factory, plenty of sweet treats available.

Yarra Valley Chocolatier Factory, plenty of sweet treats available.

Yummy ice cream at the Yarra Valley Chocolatier Factory.

Yummy ice cream at the Yarra Valley Chocolatier Factory.

The wine tour gang.

The wine tour gang.

 

Coming Home: Always an Adventure

Five months had passed since I first boarded my plane to Australia and the time had come for me to return home. Five months had gone by so fast and so many memories had been made on this amazing adventure of mine. I will always remember all the great things I was able to experience this semester and Australia will always hold a special place in my heart. From traveling to different parts of Australia to exploring Melbourne, I will cherish every moment of my semester abroad. I learned a lot, especially about myself and my abilities to step outside of my comfort zone and experience new things. Studying abroad also leaves you with the desire to travel further and experience even more. I hope one day I can make it to all the corners of the world and experience everything this beautiful world has to offer. Let’s flash back to five months ago when I first arrived at the JFK Airport, anxious and nervous to begin my journey. When my journey first began I experienced a little bit of drama at the airport, with my friend Alyssa not being able to go on the trip we had planned to begin our experience. And just as I had had drama on the way to Australia, you know I had to have some drama on the way home as well. My flight home was scheduled for 9 o’clock in the morning, meaning I would have to wake up early in order to give myself enough time to catch a cab and check in for my flight. That night there was a final celebration held at La Trobe for all the students who had just finished the semester. Of course, I attended it and said all my goodbyes to all the fantastic people I had met while studying abroad. The night was bittersweet and I had a great time seeing all my friends for the last time before I was to return home. I guess I may have had a little too much fun, though, because I ended up sleeping through my alarm and waking up at 8 o’clock in the morning, giving myself no time to make it to the airport in time to catch my flight home. That had to have been one of the worst feelings in the world, waking up and realizing I had missed my flight home. I called my mom in a panic and she worked to get me on another flight home that day. It ended up costing a lot of money and I had to take a cheaper quality airline which ended up getting delayed for about 5 hours. So I spent a long time waiting in the airport and it took almost 2 days in total to get home. It was the longest 2 days of my life and I had definitely learned my lesson: Never miss your flight home! Yet, when my plane finally landed in New York and I saw my parents waiting for me at baggage claim, it was the greatest feeling ever. Coming home after being in a different country for five months is such an amazing feeling. Although I had an amazing time in Australia, there is no place like home. Though I wish my flight home could have gone smoother and I am still kicking myself for missing my flight home, I guess nothing can ever really go smoothly. What’s the fun in that anyway, right? Missing my flight home does make for a good story (albeit an expensive one at that) and what’s life without a little adventure. And what an adventure these past five months have truly been.

Some of the international students I had met on the pre-orientation trip.

Some of the international students I had met on the pre-orientation trip.

Celebrating our last night together.

Celebrating our last night together.

End of the semester party.

End of the semester party.

Flash back to the beginning of our experience together. (Pre-orientation trip)

Flash back to the beginning of our experience together. (Pre-orientation trip.)

 

Things I’ve Learned From My Semester in Australia:

While it’s important to keep a budget don’t let money hold you back too much from having a great experience. Don’t turn trips down because you don’t want to spend money. I never once regretted spending my money on a trip or a tour. The whole point of studying abroad is to explore and experience the country you’re in. Unfortunately that does cost money sometimes, but it is well worth it.

Don’t even worry about getting fat; trying the local cuisine is a must. You can lose that weight when you get home. So go ahead and eat a whole box of Tim Tams. They’re delicious and who knows if/when you’ll get to stuff your face with Tim Tams again.

Make sure to explore the city you’re living in. While going on trips is always fun and exciting there is also plenty to do and see only a short ride away.

Don’t be afraid to be out of your comfort zone. A lot of people travel alone and they’re usually the ones who get the most out of the experience. You meet so many more people and are more likely to make new friends if you just put yourself out there and make an effort to talk to new people.

It’s okay to feel homesick, scared or alone when traveling/studying abroad. Studying abroad is a learning experience and learning to manage these kinds of emotions is all a part of the experience. Talk to fellow international students. You’d be surprised how many people have felt the same way at some point or another.

Being away from home for so long can make you appreciate what you have back home so much more. Being away from my family and friends has truly made me so fond of my life at home. My family and friends mean the world to me and being away from them for so long has made me realize just how important they are in my life.

That being said, there’s a whole world out there outside your hometown. “So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~Mark Twain

 

Australia, you will be missed!

Australia, you will be missed!