Australia: One Year Later

It has been exactly one year since I landed in Perth, Australia to study abroad. When I realized this, I could not believe the anniversary had snuck up so soon. It seems as if I have been in a state of longing for clear waters rolling onto sandy shores, ginormous waves crashing on towering rock cliffs and warm air embracing my skin for more than a year. There is not a day that goes by during which I do not think about the happiest and freest semester of my life and I so wish I could go back to experience that alternate universe one more time.

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My first sight of Australia

My life is so much different one year later: my late nights out with friends turned into late nights at my internship, shopping for bathing suits has turned into buying professional-wear and lounging under the sun at the beach has turned into laying in my bed reading for class (I read for class in Australia too, don’t worry). However, cooking for myself reverted back into having a meal plan on campus and not having to prepare every meal every day, so that is a plus! I am not planning cool trips to new continents or packing a bag for a week-long outback trip. Instead, I am trying to find a weekend I am free enough to have a friend visit me in New York. I am not saying anything about this is bad; it is just different.

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Cliffside in the Northwest

Studying abroad really was like living in an alternate universe, if the above descriptions did not portray that enough. However, it was more like an elongated dream; one that would eventually have to become a well-scrapbooked memory. Although my life is nowhere near as adventurous as it was a year ago, I am so thankful for what has come since leaving from Australia and what is to come in the future (more travels, please).

One year later I can say I still live with the essence of my past life. I have remained more confident in my own decisions, which I really had to learn as I was making travel plans down under. I have continued to be extremely mindful of the people I surround myself with and stand up for my beliefs instead of letting other people walk over me. Finally, I have continued to learn to take a break. Whether it is doing a face mask and lighting a candle or journaling, I make sure I take time to reflect on the day and evaluate the progress I made on my daily and weekly tasks. Although I came to Australia with a deep understanding of who I am as a person, I now can better express that to others.

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Our first sight of Perth

I really do wish I could go back and to Australia and relive that enlightening, beautiful semester. At the same time, I don’t think it would be the same. My semester in Australia came and left, and now I can let the memories live on to remind me how full of pure ecstasy that semester was and to let that time shape how I live in the future.

Whitmanythought 1: Seriously, please let me go back

Whitmanythought 2: I have friends studying in New Zealand and Australia this semester and I wish I could visit them

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A Reflection of My Blog 2.0

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I am laughing at myself for calling my blog “mediocre” last year. I mean, it still is, but guess what—it is still making me happy!

Like I said in my “reflection” post that I wrote just over a year ago, I have thought about changing my blog into a “.com,” but I decided against it. Why? I have no idea what the future holds and I do not know how much time I will be able to put into my blog after graduation and once I start graduate school. What if I have nothing about which to write? What if I never leave Hofstra’s campus again and will have no more stories to tell? I’m kidding of course; I know that will not happen.

As I reflect on my blog again, (because why not), I wonder if the person sitting next to me is reading anything I type (go ahead, it’s free advertisement). I also wonder how many people have actually read my posts or even benefitted from them. I know a few have, and that makes me feel accomplished. This of course is not the ultimate travel blog that is going to tell you how to explore every city around the world, but I do hope people who come across it hear my voice, relate to it and it helps them in some way.

I am actually quite proud of myself for keeping up with the blog this past semester. After my hiatus in the summer after Australia, I told myself I would not let myself go without posting with the excuse of school in my way. From my transitioning tips post (which may be my biggest hit) to my Fall Concert Series 2.0, I published reviews, thoughts and advice of which I am proud.

I am super excited to continue my blog and see what direction it takes as a chapter of my life closes and a new one begins. To finish this post off the way I did last year, I will leave you with this: “To whoever reads this, I hope I have interested you.”

Whitmanythought 1: February is against me. It does not want me to post. I shall persevere!

 

Spring 2018: Not Australia

This time last year, I had just gotten back from an incredible two weeks in London and was preparing to study abroad in Australia. It is absolutely crazy to me to think that was my life just 12 months ago. Believe me, I want it back! However, I cannot dwindle on the past.

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I am saddened that I cannot declare that I am studying abroad in some exotic place this year, but I do have some things that may excite some (mostly my family). I am heading into my last semester of undergraduate at Hofstra University and I have just begun an internship with NBC Weekend TODAY. Although I just started, I have already been given so much to do, such as researching, running updated scripts to the control room during the show and logging music the show uses so royalties can be paid. It is a weekend morning show, so I am in New York City by five in the morning on Saturdays and six on Sundays, and I go in two to four times a week.

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Me in the studio at NBC TODAY

Due to my hectic schedule this semester (I am still juggling my sorority, fraternity, my school’s television station and a job on top of being an intern and full-time student), I will not be able to produce as much content as I did last semester (unless I can). Therefore, I plan to post a new video from Australia almost every week, one year after I experienced such incredible travels. My goal is to start this in March, as I do have some posts from winter break to share and maybe one or two new posts to type up in February.

I have said before: this is no top-of-the-line travel blog, but it is something I hold important to me and enjoy doing. So, with that being said, I hope some people take a liking to my upcoming posts and Australian adventures!

Whitmanythought 1: I cannot wait to share my videos! Most of them have been done since I was in Australia

Whitmanythought 2: Maybe I should just delay graduation and study abroad again

 

2017: From Traveling to Relaxing

How I am sitting down to write my 2017 wrap-up post is beyond me, yet here I am. Quite opposite to 2016, this year was not driven by my need to travel. Yes, I travelled; a lot. However, once my beautiful semester in Australia was done, I was not ready to hit the road (or sky) again. In fact, I did not want to travel at all. I wanted to rest and relax, and that is exactly what I did.

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My version of relaxation is still not what many would call “relaxing,” but it was perfect. I ended up working as a sailing instructor, which was my first job a few years back, I spent quality time with friends and family and I went to the beach every chance I could. The furthest I traveled was to my AIFS Alumni Ambassador training in Connecticut, and the only “trips” I took were to Philadelphia a handful of times and to a lake house in my home state of New Jersey. I took a break from social media and I simply lived.

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Summertime relaxation

Then, I quickly jumped into a hurricane of a semester; one that really tested me emotionally. During that semester, I really appreciated when I could “get away” and leave campus to take my mind off things. It was a mixture of my post-Australia summer and chaotic semester that led me to realize the purpose of 2017: to teach me to take a break.

When people ask me about my new year resolution, I tell them I do not have one. In fact, I never really do. What I try to focus on are the things that make me happy and the things that do not, and live accordingly. In 2016, I was all about acting on my “mid-college crisis” and my travel bug any way I could. Between studying in Rome, travelling to London and spending a semester down under, I think I did an excellent job (thanks to the support of my wonderful family). In 2017, I focused on taking a break, which really started in Australia. Although I was busy almost every weekend while there and went on three weeklong trips, I still had a huge amount of free time to which I was not accustomed. I learned to appreciate that extra space and use it as “me” time to let loose and distress. In Australia, a lot of that extra time was spent blogging and making videos. In the summer, it was spent laying at the beach or swimming in a pool. During the semester, any extra time I found was spent doing anything from a face mask and watching a show to napping. I mentioned at the beginning of the semester that I learned that it is okay to not have everything organized to a tee, and this semester has really allowed me to calm myself and leave a few days open for when last minute things pop up. And when they did not, the extra time was simply an unexpected treat.

2016 was focused on my thirst to travel. 2017 was focused on my need to learn to relax. Although so different, both years offered me wonderful things, from new experiences and knowledge to new people. I have no idea what 2018 will bring, and at the present moment, I do not have much control over it. Regardless, I have no doubt that 2018 will be just as fulfilling as the last two. Here’s to the memories of 2017 and the unknown of 2018!

How to Buy Gifts for Others While Abroad

It is the season of giving, and if you are abroad or beginning your journey soon, something that may cross your mind is how you will go about buying presents for friends and family. It is easy to get lost in a maze of tourist-aimed souvenir shops and feel at a loss when it comes to making a gift decision. Here is a quick guide to help your gift-buying thought process.

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Make a List

Before you decide what presents to get, you need to know for whom you are shopping. Making a list of friends and family you want to purchase gifts for will give your direction and organization during your present search, which will take some of the stress away. Of course, you can add people on as you go, but it is always efficient to start with a general outline.

Know Your Budget

Knowing how much money you have to spend is vital. Give yourself an overall budget, and then break it down by the money you have to spend on each person. For instance, you may set aside $20 for your mother and maybe $10 for your cousin. Of course, this is all up to you.

Think of the Gift

When it came time to buy presents for people, I knew for whom I wanted to get special items and whom I planned to give general souvenirs. For instance, I had a group of friends I bought a pack of Perth shot glasses for, but there were a few closer friends I wanted to give personalized gifts. Here are a few tips when it comes to buying gifts.

  • Personalize: Getting presents for friends and family is a nice gesture, and of course is not expected. However, if you are purchasing presents, it is better if the person can really use it. I gave shot glasses to my young adult friends who I know could put them to good use. I bought my mom a wine holder with aboriginal design because she loves wine. I got my friend a stone elephant from Thailand because elephants are her favorite animal. I also try getting something that is meaningful to the spot I was in: I bought the elephant from a sanctuary at which I volunteered, for instance.
  • Size: Think about the size of the presents you are buying because you need to fit them all in your suitcase, unless you are willing to send them home separately. When I was in Rome, I brought home tiny bottles of Limoncello for my friends and family to try. I also bought hand-painted bottle stoppers from Tuscany. These were meaningful and useful, and also tiny gifts. Presents do not need to be great in size to be great to give!
  • Durability: Remember that your presents are most likely coming home with you. Get items that can go through some bumps! If you are bringing something fragile home, make sure it is well wrapped and placed in soft items in your suitcase.
  • Customs: There are many restrictions when it comes to bringing items from country to country. For instance, if you are bringing a plant-based product such as a grass fan or wood carving from Fiji to Australia, it needs to have a stamp that says it is treated to be legally transported into the country. Make sure you are aware of these regulations so you do not end up having to throw out your souvenirs or pay a fine.

Keep this list in mind and you will be a pro gift buyer in no time. Happy shopping!

Thankful for Study Abroad

This time last year, I was fully aware that I was studying abroad in Australia the following semester. However, at the Thanksgiving dinner table I shied away from fully admitting it to my great aunts and uncles, because of the slight chance something might go wrong. Now, at this Thanksgiving, I did not have anything nearly as exciting about which to speak, but I have even more things for which to be thankful. To everyone and everything I interacted with during my time studying in Australia: this is for you.

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To the friends I made while abroad, it would not have been the same without you. We spent endless days studying, exploring beautiful Perth and making the best stories from wild nights out on the town together. We figured out what it is like to live in a new country together, and nothing can replace that. Even the people who I interacted with less constantly were so welcoming and open to me, and I knew that I had supports anywhere I turned. To the people I met who were friends by association, you enforced the importance of self-honesty and evaluation in me. You helped me stand up for my values and realize it is acceptable to not be friends with everyone, and to continue to surround myself with positive influences. The memories will live on forever, and you will never fade from them.

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Because I studied abroad, I am able to be alone. I was never good at sitting with myself and my thoughts; I always had to be surrounded by people. However, being abroad and not always having a thousand friends to choose from and obligations to fill, I found myself more easily ready to take a step back and relax. I was able to reflect on my own thoughts and appreciate my time alone, and for that I am thankful. Now, in America, I look forward to the time I have with myself to do homework or just let loose.

I am thankful for AIFS, my study abroad company. Without AIFS, I may not have found the perfect program or have been able to make my study abroad dreams come true. Additionally, being an Alumni Ambassador has given me a chance to continue my abroad experience, gain a network of travel-passionate people and develop my professional skills. These are things I never expected from a study abroad program.

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To the professors, professionals and volunteers I interacted with on my trip, I will forever be thankful we came in contact. You reminded me that there is good in the world, and despite popular opinion, one does not necessarily have to look far to find it. All my professors seemed so passionate about their subjects, and it made sitting in class while I could be at the beach a little better. To the volunteers who made me pancakes every Friday morning, those are times and the tastes I will forever miss. Any helpful stranger I came in contact with, from our trip leaders to random guides in Thailand who let me use their phones, your kindness truly made a positive impact on my endeavors. A little bit of love can go a long way.

There is always so much to be thankful for, and I am thankful for that. Studying abroad has taught me so much about myself and how I see the world. There is not a day that goes by during which I do not think about Australia and I will forever be thankful for all I got to do during those magical months of my life.

 

Home at Last

Long time, no blog! I cannot say I am pleased with myself for not posting in so long, but you know, life happens. And by life happening, I mean I have been home from Australia for just over a month. I considered the options for first blog post after I got back from my Australian adventures—tips on transitioning back home, dealing with post-trip depression, what I learned while I away—the list goes on and on. I didn’t want to do anything too fancy or pretentious, so here are my responses to questions I’ve repeatedly received.

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My last picture from Australia

“So you’re actually going to be in America, Miss World Traveler?”

I cannot tell you how many times I heard this phrase or something similar. Yes, I was just traveling the world, but I did not forget where my home is! To be honest, exploring the world is still so important to me, but coming home to sweet New Jersey in summertime was the best timing possible. I do not want to be anywhere else than the Jersey Shore with my family and friends for a summer full of beaching, water-skiing and fun before I head back to Hofstra to begin my senior year of college.

“How was transitioning back to reality?”

Despite popular assumption, coming back was super easy. I luckily had a job lined up as soon as I got home, quite literally. I walked in my door at 11 p.m. on June 25, and started work at 8:30 a.m. the next morning. Jumping into work and a schedule made it simple and necessary to transition myself back to home life.

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Fourth of July at home for the first time in two years

“What was your jetlag like?”

Luckily I slept/cried for almost the whole duration of my first two flights, and stayed awake for my last, so my sleep pattern was not too far off. Waking up early the next morning for work was easy and I almost flawlessly transitioned into Eastern Standard Time. Of course I was tired, but my sleep schedule was nowhere near backwards like some people thought.

“How sad are you to be back?”

As cliché as this sounds, I am sad that my adventure is over, but so thankful I have heaps (still using popular Australian terms) of memories to look back on and new friends to outlive these memories. Like I said, there is nowhere I would rather be in the summer than New Jersey with my friends, family, awesome job and of course, my pets. If I returned in winter, it may be a different story…

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The best part about coming home

“Where to next?”

People who know me know I will go anywhere I can if I have the chance. I plan on staying in America for quite some time to finish my undergraduate studies and earn some of the money I blew through back. However, the next large trip I want to take is a cross-country road trip through America. I feel like I have seen more of “the world” than I have of my own country, so I’d like to focus on that.

Coming home after living in another country for months can be a huge change, but I think it is all about perspective. Yes, I was upset to leave the new life I created while away, but I had so much goodness waiting for me at home. It has been a beautiful and crazy ride, and I plan to continue my journey of world and self-exploration one day at a time.

Oz: Soaking it Up

The only concerns I had for my last week in Australia were my final exam and soaking up as much of Perth and Fremantle as I could.

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Mandurah

We take the Mandurah train line to get to and from Perth, but we had never actually been to Mandurah. Some friends and I changed that Monday when we hopped on the line to Mandurah to explore the waterfront. It’s a cute town set with a walkway along the shore and shops and restaurants. After a stroll along the water, we got some tasty fish and chips from the closest thing to a diner I have seen in months.

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Tuesday was spent studying for my final the following day mixed in with some blogging. I ended up being well-prepared for my final, so I am actually not dreading the revelation of my final grade. I celebrated the end of finals with Sierra, Jordan and Lynn by going to see Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales with the movie passes we had won at the very beginning of the semester. The movie was great, as suspected, and the ending brought tears to my eyes. That night, we had our final Murdoch University Village dinner in the form of chicken curry, which was absolutely fantastic.

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The first half of Thursday was spent in the Media Arts Center’s television studio for my own personal practice. However, I have absolutely nothing to show for it because technology hates me (really, it does). However, my sorrows were lifted with a delicious half-price caramel and banana waffle from a restaurant in Perth.

Afterwards, Sierra, Nicole and I decided to be extra touristy and take a tour of the Perth mint, which is Australia’s original and was established in 1899. The gold pouring at the end reminded me of watching glass blowing in Venice.

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The largest gold coin in the world

The night ended on a high note, quite literally. Sierra, Nicole and I went out with the pancake Friday crew to a karaoke lounge and it was one of the best week nights I had spent in Australia. One thing to know about me is I love to sing and I constantly have songs stuck in my head, and being able to scream tunes shamelessly with my friends was much needed and extremely fun.

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Singing with Nicole

Finally, Friday came—our last full day and night in Perth. We spent it by going to the Fremantle Markets for lunch. That night, we headed out to The Court, which is a club we went to one of our first nights out in Perth. Dancing the night away is one of my favorite things to do, and doing that with my study abroad friends made me feel so lucky.

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Saturday’s lunch

Saturday is not easy to think about because it was our last day in Australia. Sierra and I cleaned in the morning and headed to the Fremantle Markets one last time with Brian and Nicole to devour anything that caught our eye. It was a sentimental last Saturday afternoon, or should I say, “arvo,” as the Australians do? Fremantle has to be one of the most unique, fun places to explore and I am so thankful I got to experience it over and over again.

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Cronut

My friends told me I was going to miss the plane because by 4 p.m. I had still not started packing. One of my hidden talents is packing last minute, though, and I proved my friends wrong!

Because we had to leave the village at 3 a.m., Sierra, Nicole and I decided to stay up the whole night and we did that by taking on Northbridge one last time. I love Northbridge because it is always buzzing with people and the energy coming from the streets and clubs, and it is always able to throw a smile on my face.

We went to Mustangs to watch a band Nicole fell in love with the previous week (or should I say the guitarist of the band). I had no idea what to expect from the band and I was pleasantly surprised to hear everything from Taylor Swift to The Killers played by them. I was jumping around like a five-year old high on sugar all night and I loved every second of it.

I could not have asked for a better last night. Luckily, our friend drove us home and we got back an hour before we had to leave, which gave me the perfect amount of time to shower, eat and drag my bags to the parking lot. Luckily, the rest of the crew that we went out with that night pulled up to the village right before we left, so I got to say a second and final goodbye to them.

And with one last hug and a stream of tears, the craziest, most wonderful months of my life were done.

 

Oz: A Weekend for the (Scrap) Books

I would not have started my last full weekend in Australia any other way than having a huge pile of chocolate chip pancakes drenched with Nutella and syrup. I am so going to miss my Friday mornings filled with my favorite breakfast food and the kind folks who prepare it.

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I spent my Friday afternoon with Nicole and Sierra in Perth. We had a bit of a photo shoot between King’s Park, which overlooks the city, and the Central Business District. I have given a sampling of my work below.

To finish the eventful Friday, we celebrated Jordan’s 22nd birthday by going into the city and it felt just like old times.

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Me, Geoffery and Nicole

Saturday brought beautiful weather and a fantastic road trip to The Pinnacles in Nambung National Park about two and a half hours north of Perth. The best way I can describe The Pinnacles is a desert of limestone formations. There are many theories as to how these formations ended up there, from the wearing away of lime-rich sand dunes to the petrification of a forest.

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There is a short walking trail in the park, but the best way to see the limestone desert is the road that goes through the area and allows people to park and wander about the rocks. My friends and I had a fun time running in and out of formations, trying to decide what they looked like.

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Sierra, Shelby and I

Brodie scheduled an AIFS farewell lunch for us at an all-you-can-eat Brazilian meat buffet in Fremantle on Sunday. The interesting part about this buffet is servers come around again and again with the options until you flip over your coaster to the red side, signifying that you are finished.  I have never eaten so much meat in my life. Although I came for the various meats, I could have consumed the lasagna they served all day. It was a delicious feast and it was great having almost everyone together.

Sierra and I took our location as an opportunity to take some photos around Fremantle. We found some great street art in the side streets, as shown below.

My last full weekend in Australia is one for the (scrap) books. I took so many photos, which I had wanted to do for a while. Now, it is time to get serious about my last final exam!

Oz: 2 Weeks & 2 Cities

Perth. Study. Fremantle. Study. This about sums up my second to last week in the Land Down Under.

I took my plans to visit these two cities as much as possible seriously: I was in one of them almost every day of the week. Brian, Sierra and I visited Perth Monday to make an appointment for Sierra’s tattoo and then went souvenir browsing. I say browsing because we simply scoped out the prices of souvenirs and decided we would check Fremantle the next day.

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Old vs. new architecture in Perth

My first final was on Tuesday, and it went fairly well. There was a series of practice quizzes throughout the unit, and our tutor said not to expect the quiz questions to be on the exam. Not knowing how else to study, I used those quiz questions as flash cards and reviewed the lectures. I am lucky I did not listen to my tutor, because many of the questions on the exam were exact copies from the quizzes. Now I am awaiting my grade less nervously than anticipated.

That night, a group of us went to Mexican Kitchen in Fremantle to devour half-price nachos. They were absolutely delicious and I am so going to miss half-price nacho Tuesdays. Of course before that Sierra and I souvenir browsed again and decided to wait to purchase items yet again.

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The best nachos ever

Wednesday was tattoo day! I got my closest friends to come for the important mark in Sierra’s life, so it was me, Brian, Sierra and Nicole in the parlor. Afterwards, we visited Toastface Grillah, a gourmet grilled cheese place I found on Google that had awesome reviews. The shack, I’ll call it, is hidden around the corner from the shops of the Central Business District and is not easy to find if you don’t’ know where to go.

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Grilled cheeses with swag

Toastface has a handful of grilled cheeses (although I think they were more like paninis) for under ten dollars. It was packed when we got there, and we had to wait for seating in the hip, plant and pillow-decorated outdoor eating area. I ordered a grilled cheese with roast beef and horseradish, and it was absolutely worth the wait. A lot of flavor was coming out of a very small place!

Surprisingly, I did not go into Perth or Fremantle Thursday and actually stayed on campus for the day to study, blog and relax. The week flew by and my last full weekend in Perth arrived!