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!

 

Oz: Surf’s Up!

Surf’s up down under! One of the days I was looking forward to the most was here: surf lessons! I have surfed a few times in my life, but I am absolutely horrible at it. I was looking forward to having a lesson with other beginners so I would not feel as ashamed of my poor skills out in the water.

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Surfing actually went very well, and differently than I imagined. The waves were no more than two feet high, and they were crashing one on top of the next. These are not ideal waves to surf by any means, but they worked out better than I expected. There really was no time to paddle into a wave, because they were crashing so frequently, so it was more of catching any wave I could and hoping for the best. Apparently, this worked out for me because one instructor told me I looked like I was brushing invisible dirt off my shoulder when I stood up so casually, and that it looked easy for me. A few other people told me I was better than anyone, so that definitely felt nice. I hope I can come home this summer and have the confidence to try again.

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That night, we planned a surprise birthday party for my roommate, who was turning 20 the next day. It was black-out theme, so we all dressed in black, including her, who had no idea what she was getting herself into. The party ended up being a huge success.

From surfing to a surprise party, it was another eventful and fun Saturday.

Australia: Two Weeks in & Still Alive

I cannot believe I have been living in Australia for almost two weeks and school starts tomorrow. However, I thought I would have started school by now and did not realize I would have 12 days to adjust before classes commence, so I am not complaining.

The last two weeks have been such a cool experience. I’ve met people from all over the world, I’ve adapted to being “on my own” (needing to buy things for the flat, grocery shop and cook for myself), and I have explored what I will call home for the next four months a decent amount.

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AIFS students’ first trip to Kings Park (minus Brian)

I do wish I could meet more Australians; As I said before, most of the people living on campus are international. I hope to make a friend or two in class. The Australians I have met, however, have been at flat parties, surprisingly enough. Everyone I have met has been so nice and welcoming, and I love it.

I did receive many free meals over the last two weeks as part of O-Week, but I also have cooked a bit for myself. To my surprise, I really am loving it. I thought to myself that I could do this back at Hofstra, but then I realized I am way too busy and if I try to cook my meals, it will be at midnight. I have been making a conscious effort to eat healthier, even though it is a little more expensive to do so. I am tracking my exercise and food intake, and I think that will help motivate me to stay on top of things.

I love where I live. Actually, it really reminds me of being at home. At home, I am 15 minutes from the beach and 75 minutes from New York. Here, I am about 40 minutes from the beach and 30 minutes from Perth. I thought having to commute so far to the beach would really dampen things for me, but public transport here is so easy and I really don’t mind the ride. I am really glad I am taking the commute so well, because being away from the ocean after college is one thing I constantly worry about.

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View of the Swan River

I have some friends, I haven’t poisoned myself with my cooking (yet) and I am really enjoying where I live. It has been a bit of a vacation, so I am interested to see how I will adjust to school starting. I am extremely nervous for classes—getting to them on time when two will begin and end at the same time, and for staying on top of the work, which apparently may be partially on the internet without being told so by a professor. It will definitely be different, but I know I will make it through somehow. Here’s to my semester abroad!

Australia: Perth City Lights

Friday did not end after my awesome animal-filled trip to Caversham. I signed up for a few events weeks ago, and Friday night was one of them: a Perth city night outing. I thought this would be an actual tour of the city, but it was composed of a few stops throughout the night.

The first stop was King’s Park to overlook the the city while day transitioned to night. It was basically a photo shoot of 40 people trying to get the perfect shot. The sun did not cast much color on the city, but it was nice seeing the city lights slowly light up the darkening sky.

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The next place we stopped was the Perth Twilight Hawkers Market. This is a gathering of food vendors of all sorts right in the Central Business District. Occurring every Friday night, people congregate to try foods of all types, from burritos, fish and chips and barbeque to sweets and so much more. The summery, relaxed vibe was set with a live band. I had a fantastic time browsing the area with my friends and trying refreshing mint iced tea.

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I thought this food truck was sweet

Our final stop for the night was Crown Casino. This is the first time I had ever been in a casino and it was enormous between the vast amount of games offered and multiple bars throughout the venue. I waited for my friends to purchase drinks before heading to the nightclub upstairs to dance for about an hour.

The night was an overall success. I loved being in the city at night and the festival, as it reminded me of summer nights at home.

Fiji: Vacation Time

Now this is the Fiji everyone thinks of! For our last day in Fiji, the group boated to Mana Island, one of many small isles off of the mainland. We stopped at a series of islands along the way, some with small resorts that are more for couples and one that was the tiniest island possible with a few small structures and some beach chairs on it. I loved the site of the islands: blue water that turns turquoise as it gets shallow a few meters around the shore and lush, green land jutting from the sea with tan beach surrounding it.

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Our resort, Mana Island Resort, was one of three and the biggest on Mana Island. As soon as we arrived we headed for the snorkel gear. The girls had a quick photo shoot before putting our gear on and making out way to the reef.

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Snorkeling is one of my favorite things to do, and of course, being in the water is my favorite place to be. I was so excited to be swimming a foot above a reef with colorful fish of all types. Looking back at it, the fish that sticks out in mind was one that was the brightest blue I have ever seen and a blue starfish. I have never seen coral that reflects the exciting colors of its inhabitants. I noticed some white coral, which I am almost positive was due to coral bleaching, which is caused by warming water temperatures. I had a great time swimming around with my friends visiting the magical creatures that thrive underneath the ocean’s surface.

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After snorkeling, we laid out on the beach, and I took a quick snooze. Then, we walked to lunch, which was a buffet. Score! The resort dining hall is located on the other side of the island, and when I heard this, I thought we had to drive. Alas, it is about a two-minute walk to the other side of the island.

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Once we satisfied our stomachs, we jumped in the pool which had a small water feature and a brown wooden bridge over it. I also went down to the beach on this side of the island and splashed around in a couple of inches of crystal clear water. At one point, we saw an off-white, speckled crab carrying a smaller crab. We only saw a glimpse of it before it buried itself in the sand. We also found some more beige colored fish and hermit crabs.

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After lunch, we were supposed to go paddle boarding and kayaking, but the winds picked up on the original side of the island we were on, and we decided it would not be easy to perform either activity. The rest of the afternoon consisted of lounging on beach chairs and taking in the warm sun and cool breeze.

By the time we had to go, it started raining ever so slightly. I am so thankful the weather cooperated for our island time, considering it seemed to rain any other time we were outside. I am glad we finally experienced the vacation side of Fiji. The only thing that would have made this day better is if we could have stayed over for one more day of fun under the Fijian sun!