Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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Sunset over Sydney

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

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3 Sisters at the Blue Mountains

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

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

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Theater in the Opera House

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Echidna!

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

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Tasmanian Devil :)

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

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Aboriginal Show

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Sydney Running Festival

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

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Mast climb on the Soren Larsen!

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Bondi Beach art

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

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

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Sydney Opera House

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

Thanksgiving and broken car.

ok I’ve got a good thanksgiving story for you all :-p

Welll… let me just start by saying that my car is a 1986 Saab. That should explain a lot.

Anyways, towards the last few days that I was in Oswego, my car started getting louder and louder when one day, i turned the key, and this roar came from the engine that was completely new to me. I was running late for class, so i was like, “oh well, I sound like a race car for today.. no big deal”. I’m used to things happening to my car, and a loud engine did not seem very out of the ordinary, since my car is old enough to legally drink in any country.

Later that day, I called my dad and he said there was something wrong with the exhaust system most likely, probably the catalytic converter. he said, “just make it home to Buffalo, and ill fix it when you get here”.

When I got home and my dad had a chance to look at my car, he informed me that the entire catalytic converter was now missing from my car’s ensemble. Of course I had no idea when or where I lost it, which probably angered whoever was driving behind me at that point.. :-/ He told me that he would have to order a new one, and that wouldn’t come until around christmas time. So he decided he would just attach the two pipes underneath my car so that it wouldn’t be loud anymore, and I could go back to school and deal with it until christmas… sounded like a plan to me.

After a very filling and refreshing thanksgiving break, I began the journey back to Oswego. Everything was going great and I was on the Ontario parkway around Brockport. Low and behold my ever-so-exciting car decided to yell at me again, fist softly whining, and eventually crescendoed into the roar much like the one before. Except this time, when I took my foot off the gas I heard clunking and clanking underneath my car, which I concluded to be the pipes dragging on the pavement. To say the least, i was extremely frustrated and upset; mostly at my father, who claims the name “mister fix-it” and thinks he can repair anything. Lucky for me, I have an aunt in Rochester with an extra car who was gracious enough to let me switch it with the race car. At the moment, my poor little Saab is sitting in my aunts driveway, awaiting repair and my return for christmas break.

Of course also at this time it was beginning to snow/slush, and I was trying to make it back for practice at school at 5:00. to make a long story…still too long, i got stuck behind a bunch of grandmas and got to practice 30 minutes late.

So, whats the moral of this story? I’m not really sure except that you should probably give yourself lots of time to get back to Oswego in the winter time, and you probably shouldn’t own a 1986 Saab. Although I love my little race car, it throws a lot of curve balls at me, and every trip is an adventure. other than that, I had a great Thanksgiving! My exchange student from high school from Germany goes to school in the US now, so she flew in for a visit which was really nice, and naturally we both ate way more food than our swim coaches would like to know. :-p

Hope everyones Thanksgiving was as exciting as mine, I’ll get back to you soon!

<3 Leah