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!

Oz: Game Time

I believe I just encountered the most relaxed weekend of my semester here so far. My weekend consisted of a mix of homework and night adventures in Northbridge for some time away from my piles of work.

However, Sunday ended up being a great day to experience some Australian culture: I attended an Australian Football League game. Australian football/Aussie rules/footy is played on an oval field with a whopping 18 members per team trying to kick the oval-shaped ball between two tall goal posts. Players can kick, throw and run with the ball. My best way to describe it is a mix between American soccer and football.

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Apparently AFL is hugely popular in Western Australia specifically. It is usually more difficult to enjoy a sport while unaware of the rules, but I had a fantastic time spectating and rooting for the Fremantle Dockers, despite the rain that fell most of the time. On the bright side, we won! For some reason, I only had a slight idea of attending an Australian sporting event while here, and I am not sure why I did not make it more of a priority. I am so thankful that Murdoch University Village snatched some student-priced tickets!

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To end the night (and put off homework), my roommate and I enjoyed some churros and hot chocolate for dinner at San Churro, which is where I ate for my birthday. I was not planning on going out, but I knew that the next 10 school days would be a scramble trying to complete two projects and two papers before my next scheduled trip, so I thought I would treat myself. Can you guess where I am going next?

Oz: Week 11 of Classes

A week during which I planned to be checking things off of my to-do list turned into a week of work accompanied by a lot of play.

Monday served to be a day of class, homework and recuperating from the amazing Southwest trip from which I just returned. Tuesday was about the same, until my awesome friends told me to meet them at 6:30 and ended up forcing me to go out to eat. I actually had never been pulled out for dinner by friends before, as any other time this could have happened, I would have used the homework excuse (which I did try). It actually ended up being a festive night at Mexican Kitchen in Fremantle, where I was finally able to try its huge plate of half-priced Tuesday nachos. They were some delicious nachos!

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I intended to do volunteer work while abroad, but every scheduled event was during class or I had plans or no way of getting there. I was super stoked Wednesday, because I would finally get to volunteer some time at Rockingham Regional Environment Center at a small cost of skipping my recorded lecture. The volunteers in charge had us busy with our hands all day, as we transplanted grass to the amphitheater on the grounds and then cleaned up some of the dead wood along the center’s walking trails. Not only do I love volunteering my time, but I love the environment and anything outdoors, so it was the perfect day. I am so glad I got to help revive the center!

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I promised Jordan I would go out with her Wednesday after having such a great time the previous week, and she was not letting me out of that, either. So Wednesday night, Jordan, Nicole, Lynn and I headed back to Raffles for a girl’s night out. Once I hyped myself up to go, it was an incredible time.

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Nicole and I

The week ended, or the weekend started, with another round of chocolate and Nutella pancakes Friday morning after a nice exercise session. I really have come to love the people who generously donate their time to make a bunch of hungry university students delicious pancakes every Friday. I always eat my pancakes with one of the volunteers who always has something to joke about. It truly is something I look forward to every Friday; first it was the pancakes, and now it is the people and the pancakes. Today was extra special because an older gentleman just moved into the village and brought bacon and cooked up some blueberry and banana compote that I got to try. It was definitely a successful morning!

Per usual, I ate too many pancakes and retreated to my bed to listen to music before starting the day’s tasks. I had motivation to get some stuff done due to the fun-filled weekend I had ahead.

Oz: Birthday Week

The last few days I have felt nothing but loved and lucky. Turning 21 is a time I will never forget.

I started the celebration by heading to the beach Monday. I was supposed to go Tuesday, on my actual birthday, but we had a feedback session with the vice president of AIFS to attend. This was my first time skipping class, but it was only a lecture, which is recorded and available online to watch. It was a beautiful quick escape with my roomie.

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Well I was already fun, but now I am also 21! Tuesday was a low-key, but great day. I spent most of my day, and my week, talking to friends from home. I only had my wellbeing class Tuesday. This class focuses on the promotion of and facts around physical and mental wellbeing, but that day we got to experience what I think a wellbeing class should be: yoga. I got to take a free yoga course for class—what a birthday treat! I have never been good at yoga between my lack of flexibly and my racing mind, but I am still glad I could try it out again.

Tuesday night, Sierra, Brian, Nicole and I went out for my birthday dinner; or should I say dessert? We went to an eatery called San Churro, and it serves only churros and sweets. We split a platter of 18 churros with six sauces (dark, light and white chocolate, hazelnut spread, caramel, and salted caramel) and I tried a salted caramel popcorn hot chocolate. It was the sweetest dinner I ever had! Then, Brian and I split a savory salted caramel lava cake.  We literally had dessert for dinner and for dessert! My dream. I could feel the sugar rush coming fast and strong.

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Nicole said she had to buy me a drink since it was my birthday, and she didn’t let me argue, since apparently her surprising me with chocolate cupcakes was not enough. So afterwards, we walked the strip and settled at the National Hotel bar to listen to some live music. I had no worries and no complaints!

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Wednesday was an average day of class for me, but nighttime was nowhere near average. We invited a bunch of friends over to Courtney, Stivia and Hannah’s apartment and had a birthday party complete with pink and black balloons, my favorite colors! I could not believe I was all the way in Australia having a birthday party for my big day, and that I had made enough friends that cared to celebrate. Thankful does not even describe how I felt.

After my birthday party, we took the train to Raffles, a hotel and bar on the water. I was nervous that it would not be a satisfactory place to celebrate, but it ended up being mint. Everyone had a blast! I am so delighted everything worked out so well.

Between last weekend and this week, this has to be up there with the best birthdays ever (maybe the ponies at my sixth birthday has it beat). The best part is that the celebration is not ending here—Friday morning I was set to depart for a weekend getaway to the Southwest region of Western Australia!

Oz: Nature and Nightlife

The weekend arrived and I was ready to celebrate! If the enjoyment that came with Thursday night was an indicator for the days to come, I knew I would have a fantastic weekend.

Friday started off with my favorite chocolate chip and Nutella pancakes, which I had missed for a whole two weeks. The rest of the day consisted of homework and finally creating videos from my Northwest trip. While I was trying to plan Friday night, I learned that it was the last night of the Twilight Hawker’s Market in Perth. This is the lively food market right in the Central Business District that we visited during our Perth City Lights tour and we all agreed we would love to go back. Well, it looked like we had plans!

hfghSierra, Nicole and I visited the market and we were eager to try some fantastic food. Nicole took my advice and got paella, which was her first time having it, and she was super excited she did. Sierra bought an Asian noodle and chicken dish, which was light and refreshing. Before dessert, we wandered to the stage to listen to the Latino band that was performing. Nicole and I got up and twirled around together, shamelessly laughing at our horrible dance moves.

We finished the night by sitting on a bench and eating some scrumptious fried dough covered in Nutella. I am so glad I made it out to the city for a tasty night with my girls!

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I got up to exercise the next morning even though we had a full day of hiking ahead. AIFS planned a waterfall tour for us Saturday, so at 8:30 in the morning, we were on the bus and ready to explore Perth’s surrounding nature. Along the way, we stopped at Serpentine Falls, Ellis Brook Valley Reserve, Lesmurdie Falls and Noble Falls. We saw some wild kangaroos at Serpentine Falls, which was a great way to start the day. I braved the chilly water and went swimming at the first and last stops.

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Noble Falls

There was no water flowing at Ellis Brook, but the hiking and views that reached to Perth City were still beautiful. I thoroughly enjoyed exploring trails and visiting some waterfalls, even if there was not much water to fall. In my opinion, a day in nature is a day well spent!

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Ellis Brook

I left no time for rest Saturday night. The resident assistants planned a “Big Night Out” at Library nightclub in Northbridge and I was super excited to go to a proper club. Plus, this would be the last night I went out of age everywhere besides America. That’s right—my 21st birthday is just around the corner! It is almost legal for me to get into clubs and bars and purchase alcohol in the United States, which is a bit of a right of passage for us Americans.

I gathered with some friends I met on the wine tour, and we all headed out to begin the night together. Unfortunately, Sierra and I are the only ones who made it out to the city due to several different reasons (one person chose to got to her boyfriend’s house, one person had a cold, etc.). Library treated us super well—Sierra and I danced all night with people we don’t usually get to spend time with and it was a blast. What a way to start my birthday week!

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Sierra (left), me (middle), Nicole (right)

I reverted to my state of laziness Sunday, as I was giving my body a break due to the exercising, hiking and walking around in heels I endured Saturday. Sierra and I made a movie day out of Sunday by watching Grease, Twilight and New Moon (throw back to my middle school Twilight obsession). This weekend was absolutely fantastic and definitely motivated me to get back on my school, exercise and fun grind. Up next: my birthday!

Week Six of Classes

Week six of classes turned out to be enjoyable, especially since I was powered by my strong surge of happiness I received from the previous weekend.

IMG_1116Tuesday was special because the weather warmed up and it turned out to be a fantastic beach day. Plus, Ben & Jerry’s was hosting its annual free cone day, so after the beach, we went to the B&J’s store in Fremantle to claim our prize. We also took advantage of the fact that we were allowed to hop back in line and we scored a second cone. It turned out to be the perfect day.

The rest of the week was filled with classes and assignments. However, Thursday and Friday nights were packed with celebration. Thursday I went to a different section of Perth to a bar called Mustangs to celebrate Jordan’s flat-mate’s birthday.IMG_1123.jpg I met up with Mitch Friday at his friend’s boat before heading out to the city again to celebrate our coordinator Brodie’s birthday.

The week could not have gone better. The perfect weekend lead into my most enjoyable school week yet which lead into what would become another perfect weekend.

Oz: The Weekend of Bliss Continued

My weekend of wholesome bliss did not end Saturday night. Something I try to live by is to not let a beach day go to waste. So, of course I went to Leighton to soak in the beautiful sun and warm weather. Despite dropping temperatures, I hopped in the beautiful, clear water and fully enjoyed it.

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After the beach, I worked on some essays and then met my friend Mitch, who drove me to Hillary’s Harbour for some yummy fro-yo. The only other time I had been to Hillary’s was a short visit after a village trip to Floreat Beach. To my surprise, there were some amusement rides set up and plenty of people enjoying the marina.

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From two nights of Embargo and wine-touring around the Swan Valley, to the beach and Hillary’s Harbour, this was a weekend for the books. Thankful and overjoyed is the least I could say, but at this point, it’s all I can do.

 

Oz: Festival Day

You didn’t think my first week of classes was all work, no play, did you? I don’t work that way!img_1426

On the first day of classes, there was a mock tail night put on by the university village. The resident assistants showed us alcohol-free drinks we could make, and add alcohol into on our own (in a responsible way, of course). I really enjoyed the daiquiris, which were basically frozen fruit and ice. Because it was the first week of classes, I did not have a science lab or workshop that day, so I used my free time to go to the beach beforehand. Is anyone surprised?

Between Tuesday and Wednesday, I was pretty busy buying my expensive books and getting started on my plethora of pre-lecture homework and readings. I was lucky enough to score a new textbook for $100 less than its cost, thanks to a Murdoch buying and selling page. I am also lucky that Brian is in half of my classes, so we could figure out the first week together.

Thursday was super fun because it was Festival Day. This is held on Bush Court, the central area on campus. Clubs and organizations are not too popular here, but there were a few, including Quidditch, mixed in with many outside organizations aimed towards students. I also indulged in a Nutella crepe, which made my day.

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I made some last minute plans with some of the group after classes finished Thursday. We headed into Perth to check out some spots the others wanted to see. This included a fast food place called King of the Fries. The name tricked them, because they thought the place would have a variety of fries, which it did not.

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We spent most of the night at Elizabeth Quay at a really cool pop-up bar. We watched the sun set behind the city and then took a stroll across the bridge there.

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We ended up stumbling upon the Cider and Pork Festival, which was really cool. All the food there was centered around—you guessed it—cider and pork. We sat on the grass there listening to a great vocal/guitar duo before heading back home. To our surprise, on our way out, we passed a music concert that was part of the PIAF (Perth International Arts Festival).

Thursday night was the perfect way to end a fairly stressful week. The best thing was knowing I did not have class the next day.