Oz Through Sara’s Eyes: Fiji

Before landing in Australia, I chose to take an additional Pacific studies course at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji. While there, I stayed with a homestay family with three other AIFS students. We really lucked out and had such a kind and welcoming family. Our “dad” took us to his home village of Daku, where he carried out a lot of work involving environmental changes and how it affects the village. Our trip also took us to the Sigatoka Sand Dunes and then to Mana Island, one of the little, picturesque islands that surround mainland Fiji.

Whitmanythought 1: I would love to spend more time relaxing on the outer islands of Fiji.

 

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Oz Through Sara’s Eyes: Thailand

The final trip I took during my time in Australia occurred during the last study break in the first week of June. The destination? Thailand. Yes, it was a study break. I had my flash cards with me the whole time, I promise!

I was extremely proud of this trip because I planned 99 percent of the week my two friends and I had in the Southeast Asian country, and executed it on my own as well. It was my first time coordinating and carrying out a trip by myself as a young adult in such a linguistically and culturally different country. Looking back at it, I am amazed at how I was able to navigate this foreign city, which speaks a lot less English than major European cities, and get my friends and I to and from our tours and appointments safely. All in all, it was an incredibly enriching and unique time, and it will always be a special trip for me.

Of course, my written posts about this trip will come, but first, I want to show you Bangkok and its surrounding jungle. This trip took us to Kanchanaburi, which hosts a working part of the Thai-Burma Railway used in World War 2, on a floating hotel on the River Kwai, to an elephant sanctuary, and to many elaborate, magnificent temples right in Bangkok.

Thinking about this trip, I really cannot believe I got to do all these exciting things and learn about new places and histories. I hope the video shows the joy I felt during my Thai adventure!

Whitmanhythought 1: I’m trying to go to another floating hotel. Who’s in?

Whitmanythought 2: Also, I am craving some mango sticky rice.

Oz Through Sara’s Eyes: Queenstown, New Zealand

On today’s episode of me sorrowfully yearning to be back in the land down under, I take you to Queenstown, New Zealand. I had no idea I would be so moved by this energetic city, but between the extremely kind people, breathtaking views and endless list of adrenaline-pumping activities, a piece of my heart lives in the “adventure capital of the world.” This trip took my Pop Pop and me on a bus ride through The Remarkables mountain range and over it via private airplane, on a boat on the Milford Sound where we saw seals and dolphins, on my first helicopter ride, and more. Just watching this video puts the largest smile on my face, and I hope it gives you the slightest idea of how incredible New Zealand is.

Whitmanythought 1: I hope to return to New Zealand and see the rest of this magnificent country!  

Oz Through Sara’s Eyes: Sydney and Cairns

During my semester in Australia, I was lucky enough to have my best friend and traveling partner visit me for a week with one of his best friends. Per usual, we made the fullest of our time and explored three cities: Sydney, Cairns and Queenstown, New Zealand. Some of our adventures took us up a 1949 Danish sailboat, a World Heritage rainforest and snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef! I have not yet released my blog posts about this incredible trip, but here is a visual of all the exciting things I got to experience with my Pop Pop.

Whitmanythought 1: I remember finding this song and instantly connecting with the lyrics and overall message to live life to the fullest and to take it all in while you can, because you won’t always be here. Rest in peace to the artist of “The Nights” and beautiful, talented soul, Avicii.

Whitmanythought 2: Cherish the memories you have and seize all opportunities while you can!

Oz: Classes are over, now I Holiday

My crunch time has officially been crunched. After diligently working on projects, presentations and papers, my two weeks of jamming assignments in is over and I am about to leave for a final holiday. I never expected to say this, but I am heading for Thailand!

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Planning this trip was not easy, as I ran into many road blocks trying to please my friends while scavenging for budget-friendly activities that had enough availability. After dealing with indecisive and fickle people, multiple trips and emails to a lovely STA agent and numerous rant sessions, I have planned a trip for Brian, Sierra and I in Bangkok and its surrounding area. This is the first time I have ever been in charge of and fully planned a trip to a country that does not speak English, and nervous does not begin to explain how I feel. However, as I have been reminding myself, everything happens for a reason and it will all somehow work out.

The next time I post, I will be back from Thailand, hopefully with a positive review. Cheers!

Oz: Something Special

I switched from having the best week of classes to having the most uneventful week of classes. The only thing I did all week that was not related to conquering my homework or to-do list was watch a British television show with some mates that were accompanied by some delicious onion rings and a game of Uno. However, this is a special week and it will be followed by an even more special week. As I am typing this, my best friend and my world travelling buddy, my Pop Pop, is on his way to Australia!

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It just seems like months ago I was planning this abroad semester and had the hope that Pop Pop would be able to come visit. Well, it was not easy to get him here, and after thinking he would not be able to visit at all, we broke through the ice and planned a trip to Sydney and New Zealand. And by “we,” I mean he planned it and I simply put in my feedback. Pop Pop is a professional trip planner, and I am glad I got to see him work his magic one more time.

If we had endless time and money, Pop Pop knows I would be flying all over the world with him until we saw every last place on Earth.

I am beyond thankful that I have another opportunity to travel with this incredible man. From Paris in sixth grade and Italy and Spain in high school, to our European adventure last year, I have seen so much of the world all thanks to Pop Pop. He is so special to me and so selfless. It brings tears to my eyes that I get another chance to explore a new place with him.

This is probably going to be our last international trip together, as heartbreaking as that is for me. If we had endless time and money, Pop Pop knows I would be flying all over the world with him until we saw every last place on Earth.

I so look forward to seeing him Friday and making our trip just as marvelous as our last. I truly hope Pop Pop realizes how special he is to me and how thankful I am I get to do this with him. I also would not be able to do it without my grandma for letting him go, because she thinks we are crazy for all these travels (Thank you Grandma).

The next time I write, I will be on the East coast!  Here’s to my next adventure!

Oz: Rottnest Island Day 2

I woke up to quokkas and peacocks outside my door on Sunday. What a way to start my morning!

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For those who do not know what a quokka is (I did not until I got to Oz), a quokka, in my own definition, is a mixture between a rabbit (because it hops and of its size) and a rat (its body and tail). The island literally got its name from these cute critters with its name meaning “rat’s nest.” Rottnest has successfully marketed quokkas, which only inhabit a few islands off of Perth, as selfie attractions. It took some time, but I got some selfies along with a few kisses.

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Nicole, Sierra, Barry and I biked almost the whole island again Sunday, but it was definitely a more relaxing ride. We stopped at a series of bays, including Parakeet, Little Armstrong, City of York and Stark. We ended the day sitting on a bench in the shade, watching people wipe out on the blow-up course in the water.

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We cut through the middle of the island on the way back to base. To my surprise, we came across a pink lake! I am so happy I finally got to see one up close. In person, it is really just loads and loads of salt that turns into an icy pink color, that eventually mixes with the water. It was an exciting sight to see!

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Rottnest definitely treated me well, and I could not believe that the picturesque piece of land was so close to where I live. With its crystal clear waters and cliffs that lend a phenomenal view, this is a special place that the people of Western Australia are lucky to have.

The perfect weekend turned into the best week of classes yet and was followed by yet another perfect weekend. I could not be more thankful.

Oz: Second Week of Classes

Somehow I have already completed my second week of school here at Murdoch.

I am definitely adjusting to the new style of classes and am much less stressed than last week. I actually switched from my indigenous studies course to a photography course. I did this because neither course will count towards my degree, and I can do much more with some extra photography skills than historical knowledge. It’s not that I am not interested in the history of the indigenous people to Western Australia, I just thought that photography would be much less stressful. This is the first time I have ever switched classes. Usually I would make myself stay, but I am trying to enjoy myself as much as possible here.

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Beaching and studying

Monday night was by far the best night of the week, and most definitely the best night of my time here in Australia so far. Tuesday was awesome because after class I went to a time management workshop. Although I am pretty good with organizing my life, I figured the small workshop could pump up my motivation. Following that was Italian Night put on by the village, and I was fortunate enough to indulge in delicious pasta carbonara with bacon, spinach and mushroom. I wish I took a photo!

Wednesday was another night at Newport in Freo. I had respectfully declined the last two times my friends went out, so I promised them I would. I actually had a fantastic time and it made me look forward to going out again, whenever that will be. Nightlife is not always my scene, but I can always have a really good time dancing the night away.

Finally, Thursday was a low-key day of class and catching up on various things such as ordering an external hard drive and filling out an academic application. I rewarded myself for getting through another week by working out twice and having a huge chocolate ice cream sundae, courtesy of the village.

I am glad I am adjusting to the academics here, and I can say that I am enjoying my classes so far. I am also remembering where my classes are more easily than I expected. Of course, the thing getting me through the week is Pancake Friday, and the fact that I leave for a 10-day trip in one week. Cheers!

Oz: Purpose World Tour

Monday, March 6 may not see like that important of a date to most, but I had been looking forward to it for months. It is the day I saw Justin Bieber on his Purpose World Tour at NIB Stadium in Perth, Australia.

As soon as I found out he would be in Perth when I was, I knew I was getting tickets. The only uncertainty I had was if I would be going alone or not. Luckily, Jordan is a huge fan, and Brian wanted to see the special guest, DJ Martin Garrix, so I had two friends to share the experience with.

The opening act, Sheppard, is an indie pop band formed in 2009. The leads are both super talented and I thought to myself I would have to check them out. Then, they played their last song, “Geronimo,” and I realized I had heard it before. I became super excited I got to see a fairly popular band and hear a song I already knew.

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Sheppard

 

The next act was Martin Garrix, who I almost saw in Ibiza. He played an hour long set, weaving in and out of remixed songs and beats set to vivid graphics and tricked-out light and fire effects. He ended with his new song “In the Name of Love.” I enjoyed his music, but one can only listen to a DJ for so long. I was ready for The Biebs.

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Martin Garrix

The lights went off. The screen came on. A video came on the screens with Justin’s silhouette teasing the audience. About a minute later, the one, the only Justin Bieber rose from the stage in a clear box, which we wrote “Mark my words” on, which was his opening song. This was it. He was finally here. Someone I have supported for about ten years was right in front of me.

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Justin Bieber

To make it short, his whole performance was absolutely marvelous. This was my seventh time seeing him, and I can confidently say this was his best performance yet. For a while, he was going through a rough patch in life, and seemed like he was just moving through the motions of touring. However, this time around, he was joking, smiling and talking to us with meaning. I had never been more proud of him and thankful to be in his presence.

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My favorite photo from the show

On top of the spectacular show, my seats were super close to the stage, about 25 yards away from him, so that was just fantastic. He wore Adidas soccer pants the whole time and only changed his top three times, which is a smaller amount than usual. He thanked Australia for having him back, and I thanked him for being there.

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Jordan, Brian and I had such a great time. I think Brian even turned into a bit of a Bieber fan, even though he doesn’t want to admit it. I can’t wait to see Justin back in the states!

 

Oz: Sculpture by the Sea

My roommate’s birthday was Sunday, and I definitely did not want her sitting home all day. So, Sierra (my roommate), Nicole and I traveled to Cottesloe beach. This time, it was for Sculpture by the Sea. This is exactly what it sounds like: many, many sculptures on the beach and the surrounding pathways for all to come enjoy. There were many more than I expected, which was a neat surprise. I have posted a few of my favorites below.

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Loyalty – Ayad Alqaragholli
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Canumerism – Hayley Bahr and Tim Keevil
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Narration of the Sea – Lei Huan
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Dearest – Margarita Sampson

The night ended with a trip to the library and a move night with the birthday girl. We watched The Intern, which I highly recommend. It was a low-key birthday, but I hope she enjoyed it!