Alternative Spring Break Iowa 2015

One of the perks of selecting the spring semester as my exchange semester was that I would be able to experience the famous, Spring Break. Growing up in Australia, I would frequently watch American teen TV shows and films which would depicted college students during Spring Break. Thus it was a concept I was familiar with and excited about. Back in Australia we have a “mid-semester break” but this is generally a week where students catch up on their studies, study for exams and rest. Prior to researching my options for Spring Break I assumed that most students went to Florida and partied similar to the film Spring Breakers. This option didn’t really appeal to me because of financial reasons, so I went on the search for alternatives which would still allow me to have fun whilst seeing more of the United States. One of my friends was taking a communications class and her teacher informed her about the alternative spring break trips. She then discussed it with me, we looked at all the different locations which were offered, and we signed up. Prior to arriving in the United States I had no intention of travelling to the MidWest as I did not think the opportunity would arise and in addition to this, it is not exactly the typical tourist destination. We were both excited about the idea of the trip but did not know what to expect.

Our home for the week

Our home for the week

SUNY Oswego’s alternative spring break’s are organised through Habitat for Humanity, which is a non-profit organisation. I had heard of this organisation and the worthwhile work they do, so I felt comfortable and safe embarking on this trip. Our group was going to Iowa so we were volunteering with the Iowa Heartland Habitat for Humanity. This specific location builds between 10-12 homes a year which is an incredible movement to be part of.

Day 1

We travelled through the night in an attempt to preserve whatever sleep patterns we had prior to the trip, and arrived refreshed and ready to explore our new home for the week. We were staying in Cedar Falls, Iowa, in a United Methodist Church, this church was more like a community centre rather than a church. It had modern facilities that we were able to utilise including a basketball court, cinema, games room, three kitchens and general common areas. We spent the day unpacking, becoming familiar with our new setting, preparing for the week ahead and getting to know each other.

Community service project

Community service project

Day 2

Day 2 marked the beginning of our work week and thus our routines were established. We woke at around 7:30am, ate breakfast as a team, travelled to the site and commenced work at 8:30am. This first day we completed a project in the community. We pulled down a fence which surrounded the oldest property in the area. This was a sensational effort on our part, as initially we were predicted to complete the job in three days, we did it in one. We left the site at 3:30pm and spent the remainder of the afternoon exploring the main street in Cedar Falls and visited the University of Northern Iowa. Our evening traditions emerged which consisted of watching a crazy number of The Cleveland Show episodes, whilst playing trivia board games, before bed at 11pm.

Day 3

Once we arrived on site, we were advised that we would be working in the warehouse and creating the exterior frames of a house. I was clueless about framing but fortunately we had an excellent instructor. Framing is reading a wall plan, following the measurements, doing

St Paddy's Day!

St Paddy’s Day!

some basic calculations, cutting the wood to size, fitting the wood together, and nailing the wood together. It’s quite a process. The first day it took each team all day just to complete one wall each as we were all still learning. It was actually St. Patrick’s Day, so after we had finished work for the day, we decided as a team to celebrate by getting a McDonald’s Shamrock Shake – we do not have these in Australia so I was very excited. In the early evening we attended a dinner which the church was hosting, this was great as we were able to interact with and meet some community members. Several of us decided to go for a jog in the later afternoon – it was beautiful. I really enjoyed being in the fresh air and seeing more of the town.

Day 4

Once agin we were framing, we became slightly better and each team

Framing

Framing

managed to complete either two or three frames, we saw this as a significant improvement. I discovered that I am allergic to saw dust as even with a ventilator my throat was still irritated. This was annoying but didn’t put a damper on my day as I knew I just had to endure several more days. After we had finished work for the day we went to the local sports complex which was fantastic. We worked-out individually for around half the time, before coming together and having an epic volleyball game.

Day 5

Day 5 was the last day of framing and by this point we were serious pros. At the end of the day, we had actually completed the entirety of the exterior walls of a home. We were really proud of this effort as not only had all of our construction skills improved, we were the ones responsible for these frames being completed which a family in need would eventually live in. Once we left the site we returned to the church where we had Brinner (breakfast for dinner – duh); it was incredible. We then went downtown to explore the main street more, purchased specialty popcorn and checked out the local ice-cream parlour where we devoured some tasty treats.

Photoshoot!

Photoshoot!

Day 6

Day 6 marked our last day working for Habitat and it was bittersweet. We spent the morning doing another community service project which consisted of pulling down a handicap ramp, and then spent the rest of the day assisting with cleaning up the warehouse and yard before finally doing a photoshoot as a team and saying our goodbyes to the Habitat team. We spent the afternoon packing our bags and napping before heading out for a Mexican dinner and attending a semi-professional Ice hockey game. The Ice hockey game was like nothing I had ever witnessed before. The fans were all shaking their cow bells when their team had possession, and the hosts were engaging with the audience through shouting and dancing competitions. My seat was apparently lucky as I won a coupon for a local ribs outlet.

Day 7

Chicago!

Chicago!

We hit the road at 7am, Chicago bound. We arrived in Chicago around noon and driving into the city was sensational as we were able to see the skyline and the Willis (Sears) tower very clearly. My first impression of Chicago was that the city is a smaller version of New York City. We explored Millennium Park and I was in awe the entire time. I was so excited to see the Big Bean and couldn’t wait to see what else the city offered. We passed the Chicago river which was still a hint of green from St. Patrick’s Day, and also walked down the Navy Pier. I was amazed by the pier, and Lake Michigan’s beauty. It was one of the most beautiful shades of blue I had ever seen. We had intentions of walking down the magnificent mile and shopping, however our stomach’s interfered with this plan and instead we went to Pizzeria Uno to eat the original Chicago-style deep-dish. We waited around an hour and a half for this pizza, but in my opinion, it was worth it. The pizza had a fruit pie-like base with fresh toppings. After two slices I was uncomfortably full. By this point it was around 5pm and it was time to go. We once again drove through the night and arrived back at campus at approximately 5:20am. Although it was a long day, this day was one of the best days of my life.

The group

The group

Final thoughts

We all agreed that the trip was a very worthwhile experience and I would certainly recommend it to students looking to do something different during their break. Working for Habitat put life into perspective for me, and allowed me to see how fortunate, blessed and lucky I am. I want to give back where I can, and prior to this trip I found it difficult to discover these kinds of organisations which were inline with my visions and values. Habitat provides this opportunity in a safe environment with the chance to learn useful, valuable skills. The kinds of people that you meet on these alternative trips are a special kind, I feel it takes a certain type of person to be willing to sacrifice their break in order to go and do community service. I am sure that the friendships which were formed during this trip will last in years to come.

Thankyou SUNY Oswego for providing me with this opportunity, thankyou to the incredible group I was able to experience this with, and a massive thank-you to Scott Ball for being an incredible leader and role model.

Peace Out

K

Ozzie scored a job at Cooper!

Working in Cooper

Working in Cooper

SUNY Oswego has 13 residency halls as around half of the enrolled students live on campus. To accommodate this large volume of students, Oswego has 5 dining halls. As an international student living in Hart Hall, I eat approximately 80% of my meals in Cooper Dining Hall. Because I was spending a large proportion of my time in this dining hall, I was able to witness the culture and attitude of Cooper and its employees – I wanted in. Whenever I was being served a meal the staff were always smiley, friendly and wanting to strike up a conversation; I loved it. I was also motivated to earn some pocket money due to the AUD being weak.

So I did the next logical thing, I applied for a position. Initially I didn’t hear back as there were no openings, however several weeks later I received a call asking if I was still looking for a position. I started two days later. So far I have only worked as a server (dishing out and serving students food) and in the deli section (making wraps and sandwiches) but I am enjoying the work and grateful for all the new friends I have made so far.

I have a positive attitude towards this job as that’s exactly what it is, a job, it’s not a career, and it’s a way for me to make friends whilst earning some cash. Being employed has forced me to setup a US bank account and obtain a Social Security number, both which put me in good stead if I decide to return to the states in the future for work purposes.

Hard work is good for the soul,

Peace out

K xx

Snowshoeing in the Adirondacks – an Aussies POV

Early start

Early start

Since I began my semester abroad, my new friends would always speak of travelling to the Adirondacks on weekends and hiking, fishing and camping. The word Adirondacks itself sounded like some foreign language and I could barely even pronounce it initially. I had heard of snowshoeing but only on TV and in movies and I was under the impression snowshoeing was when someone straps a tennis racquet-like head to their shoe and walks through snow. Technically I was correct, but those were the “old school” style of snowshoes – they are more sophisticated these days.

I joined the SUNY Oswego Outdoor club with some friends and signed up for this snowshoeing adventure to Lake Placid, Adirondacks. I honestly had no idea what to expect or what it would entail but I was very eager to see part of the Adirondacks.

Beautiful snow capped trees

Beautiful snow capped trees

Lake Placid is located roughly 5 hours from SUNY Oswego so we left at 3am on Saturday to begin our journey. We stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts and various convenience stores on the way to use the bathrooms and stock-up on snacks. I found it remarkable that convenience stores in the U.S are reasonably priced and items are priced almost identical to their prices in Walmart. In Australia the prices are approximately 2-3 times higher in convenience stores.

Fortunately enough I was able to get several hours of sleep through the night during our travels so by the time we arrived I was refreshed, excited and ready to snowshoe. Once we arrived at the Adirondacks we layered up, fastened out snowshoes and set out on the trail. We were chasing Tabletop Mountain which is one of the 46 high peaks in the Adirondacks. It was approximately a 7 mile hike with snow literally everywhere.

Incredible

Incredible

The hike up was difficult to say the least. It started off okay as it was mostly flat with small inclines but as we progressed the trees became thicker, the trailer thinned out and the inclines were steeper. About a mile before the peak was when the real inclines began and it was a struggle. In several places we resorted to getting down on all fours and climbing (scrambling) up the mountain as it was too steep to walk. The whole climb we were regularly stopping to take off layers as we were sweating, however once we reached the peak the wind had a strong chill and all these layers needed to be put back on to essentially prevent hyperthermia.

The view from the peak was breathtaking in my opinion. It was grey, cloudy and snowing heavily so it was hard to capture the outlook on camera, however I thought the view suited the atmosphere of the day and exceeded my expectations.

Peak

Peak

Once we had admired the scene for long enough we proceeded to slide down the mountain and go back to base. We had begun the hike at around 9:30am and were all back at the lodge by 5pm; it was a long day. Because it had snowed so much during the day it was a longer trip home, but I mostly slept so was not phased. When we arrived back to campus, myself and two friends went to late-night and ate our hearts out – it was fantastic.

I feel so lucky, blessed and privileged that I was able to go on this trip as it is so different to anything I had ever experienced or imagined I would do in my life.

Peace Out

K xx

The Oscars! In Hart Hall

Oscars!

Oscars!

Being from Australia an all, I had never actually watched the Oscars – only ever the highlights. This is because the timezones are so out of whack. Anyway! This year because I am in the U.S.A I was fortunate enough to not only watch the oscars, but also attend a party organised by my hall. It was so much fun! The Oscars reminded me of the Logies but on a bigger scale as all the big stars were there, lame jokes were cracked, award winners made moving speeches and all the celebrities looked incredible. My highlight of the evening was seeing Lady Gaga perform a tribute to the Sound of Music, as I grew up watching this film with my Mum and Ba, so this was really special to me.

death2At our event in Hart Hall, there was a red carpet setup to make us feel fabulous as we entered, big cardboard images of cinema film reels and stars dangling from the ceiling and walls, posters on the walls, and food. Lots and lots and lots of food.

We all watched (and cheered) the Oscars and participated in mini competitions whilst continuously stuffing our faces with food. I did not win anything but one of my friends won a Walmart voucher which we all thought was pretty neat. I had a great evening and really enjoyed watching the Oscars all the way through as it’s something I probably will not be able to do again.

 

Peace Out

K xx

 

 

 

 

My first Chinese New Year!

Chinese New Year decorations

Chinese New Year decorations

In Australia Chinese New Year is recognised and celebrated but because I do not have many ties to China, I had never really embraced it before… this year was different!

Because I live in Hart Hall (where most international students reside), I meet many different students from all over the world, many being from China and Taiwan. To respect their traditions and for something fun to do, our residency hall threw a Chinese New Year Party! There was food from China, Taiwan & Korea (Korean New Year is typically on the same day as Chinese

New Year except when a new moon appears) and many students chatting, having fun and celebrating this occasion.

Goodluck gift

Goodluck gift

I was very fortunate that two of my new friends who are from Taiwan and China, both gave me red envelopes which symbolise good luck. One of the envelopes contained One New Taiwanese dollar coin, and the other was a rectangular shaped red purse with embroidery.

I love living in Hart because I am exposed to so many different cultures and traditions, it really is unique and special.

Peace out

K xx

University in Australia vs. College in the States

On my decision to come to SUNY Oswego for an exchange semester, I knew that things would be different, but I assumed that more or less Australian and American university life and culture would be very similar. I was wrong. I have outlined the main differences below. Enjoy.

College is love

College is love

1. College is love, college is life. Literally. Since beginning college my days typically consist of eating all my meals with friends, going to class, going to the gym with friends, doing homework with friends, watching Netflix with friends, and sleeping. This is vastly different to my university days at QUT as everyday would always be completely different. In Brisbane some days I would go to work, others I would have class, and others I would do absolutely nothing but hang out with friends. I like the structured format of college in the states because I am forced to be more dedicated to my studies and I actually feel like I have time for things (such as working out) because everything is on campus.

2. Homework and pass grades. At QUT in my course, to pass a subject you simply need to get 50% or higher, which is simple and makes sense to me… Here it varies on the subject. For instance one of my subjects is 60% and another is 70%. However it is easier to get marks here (from my recent experience anyway) as professors tend to give out marks for attendance and small homework tasks. Which brings me to my next point; homework. Per subject at QUT I would have two exams during a semester and 1-3 large assignments, and class work/homework is completely optional. Whereas at SUNY Oswego I actually have to keep up to date on course work by submitting graded homework tasks weekly. I like the feelings of always being on top of my course work here, and it gives me reassurance that I will pass and do well, but I do miss weeks of procrastination and doing things last minute as I work well under pressure.

3. Structure of classes. At QUT all of my weekly classes are made up of two parts: one being a lecture which takes place in a hall and is run by a professor, and the other is a practical session in a classroom environment which may be run by a professor or a researcher. At SUNY Oswego all my subjects are in a classroom environment. I feel as though I am back in high school at times. I prefer my university’s style of teaching because a lecture might be one day, and the practical session the next, so it gives me time to digest the information. However I feel as though I have the potential to develop closer, more meaningful relationships with professors here as the contact is more personal and regular.

Snow storm

Snow storm

4. Classes are cancelled if there is a snow storm. This is vastly different to what I am used to. It doesn’t snow in Brisbane, but when we do have extreme weather, scheduled activities are rarely postponed (the exception being sporting events). I was surprised that classes were cancelled when there was a blizzard because most students live on campus and have the warm clothes needed to withstand these conditions anyway.

5. Not everything will kill you in the states. I was bitten by a spider two nights ago and I did not die; I initially thought it was a mosquito bite as it was itchy, small and hard, but turned out it was a spider bite. If this had happened in Australia I probably would have gone straight to the ER. I am enjoying the fact that I do not need to fear for my life when I encounter bugs and reptiles here.

6. American’s have awesome accents. I am always interested in what my peers and professors have to say because I cannot get enough of the accent.

7. American’s have a different definition of thong. I was telling some new friends about my regular encounters with spiders and how I kill them with my thongs (flip flops), and they thought this was hilarious because they were imagining me killing them with a g-string. Lol.

College food

College food

8. Dining halls. At QUT we do not have any dining halls, rather we have food courts, cafes and bars, where items must be purchased in $AUD. When I arrived at Oswego the whole dining hall and dining dollars thing was so foreign, amazing & like something from an American movie. I love that there are so many dining halls on campus and their hours are long and flexible. I wish we had this culture at QUT.

 

Peace Out

 

My first impressions of Walmart

For years I had always heard Walmart referenced in movies and pop culture and I was always so intrigued as we have nothing quite like it in Australia. The college is really well serviced with public transport so getting to Walmart was not an issue. My friends also had never been to Walmart before so we decided to make a day of it.

As expected it was huge. I had built it up so big in my mind, however it really wasn’t as incredible and exciting as I had expected. It was underwhelming to be completely honest. It was just like several stores in Australia combined (Woolworths and Big W). I was really impressed by how inexpensive everything was, especially makeup. I was able to pick up lipsticks which are usually around $17 in Australia, for $6 at Walmart. I also loved how friendly and willing to help all the folks there were and the great range of cheap, American candy.

Sweet selfie we took

Sweet selfie we took

Ski Trip to Bristol Mountain Ski Resort

Yesterday I went twilight skiing. It was awesome.

Beautiful views

Beautiful views

As a student from Australia, the idea of going skiing as a college related activity, is unheard-of. There are always posters around SUNY advertising upcoming events and I saw this ski trip to Mt. Bristol listed. I was in. I signed up for the trip, paid the small fee and was all ready to go with eight of my closest friends.

The mountain is only 1 hour 30 minutes from campus and besides not having cell reception for most of the way, the bus trip proved to be enjoyable. When we arrived I was so ready. I had been ready since I saw the trip listed and finally I was here.

I had only ever been skiing at Coronet Peak & Perisher prior to this trip so when I arrived and looked at my surroundings I was amazed. The flora and fauna was completely different to anything I had seen or skied in before, it was beautiful.

feeling very 80s with my beanie

feeling very 80s with my beanie

We skied between 4pm – 10pm which forced me to make productive use of the time (i.e. spend as much time on the slopes as possible). Some of my friends elected to take lessons before skiing, so whilst they were doing this I was exploring the slopes with two of my friends who, like me, did not need a lesson. We warmed up by skiing around 6 or 7 green runs until I decided I was comfortable enough to take on a blue. I was wrong. The sign indicated that there was a blue trail ahead, however it lied (or maybe I read it incorrectly) and there were only two track options – both black diamond runs. Fortunately it was still early in the afternoon (so I was not tired and my technique was fine) and the snow was powdery. I only fell over twice, ejected from my skis once, and most importantly did not get injured. I am glad that I challenged myself and went down this first diamond run as it gave me confidence, and desire to explore the mountain.

My friends and I all met up for dinner in the Rocket Lodge and it was perfect. It was this big wooden hut with long tables, a canteen service, and great vibes. We ate hamburgers, pizza and waffle fries – can I seriously be doing anything more American? I love it.

I think by the end of the night the only runs I had not attempted were the double diamonds, and skiing through the deeper woods. By the time 10pm came we were all fatigued and ready to go back to campus. We stopped at a McDonald’s on the way back and all went to sleep content.

wow pretty
Thankyou SUNY, you are awesome.

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.

_MG_1019

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.

Marissa’s Japan adventure Blog post #2

Day 2: Osaka

Everyone. is. so. nice. SERIOUSLY EVERYONE. Take our waitress for example- I asked her how to say “water” in Japanese and because she wasn’t too sure of her English, she found someone to help her and she drew a picture to explain it to me! She really went out of her way to try and help me, something I’ve noticed many people here do, especially in Osaka. We are also having a difficult time with the trains here because everything is basically written in Japanese characters… and no one in our group can read any of it. Problematic, yes I know. Every single person I have asked directions from on the trains can’t speak a word of English, yet they all go completely out of their way to try and help you! We have had people walk us right over to the platform we needed because they couldn’t figure out how to say it in English. Slightly different from the train stations in New York, huh?!

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Now today was the day we got to actually meet the Japanese students, so needless to say I was pretty excited! In all honestly, I was kind of nervous as well, because I didn’t know what they thought of our students, or Americans in general. As a culture, Japanese people are pretty polite and they are not blatant at all in what they say (generally unlike many Americans). Sometimes this is kind of nerve-racking because you aren’t sure whether they actually like you or if they are just being nice… I am much more equipped to deal with people who tell it like it is I think! However, I could not get over the overwhelmingly positive response we got from the Kansai students!! It was such a relief. They aren’t really a hugging kind of culture… it is actually part of their culture to bow when they meet people. But after we introduced ourselves formally they came running over to meet us and hug us! I physically couldn’t stop smiling because it was such a warm feeling. Everyone was also so excited to talk to us and practice their English!

With some of the Kansai students today at the university!

Kansai University

Kansai University

Ally and I were invited to stay and have dinner with the students on campus, and they were so awesome that we ended up staying for two hours talking, getting to know one another and our cultures, and just having a good time. Best part of the day? The Kansai students wrote my name for me in Japanese characters!! What I didn’t know is that there are actually two different ways to write it in Japanese, and a third way to write it in Chinese Kanji. (what they call the characters.) So here is a picture of all three! COOL RIGHT?!?! They made my day!

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It was pretty incredible to see how infectious all of the smiling and laughing was as we got to know each other and the different things about our cultures. It really goes to show that no matter what language you speak, some emotions are just universally understood! Stay tuned…

 

Marissa Sarbak