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: 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.

Thoughts on Turning 21

I remember turning 10 years old and having my mom say, “You’ll be in double digits for the rest if your life!” I thought that was scary. I recall becoming a teenager and having some friends over for some Wii Olympics. I remember deciding whether or not I should have a sweet 16. Turning 18 was an exciting day because I was finally a “legal adult.” My friend surprised me with balloons and I had more friends over for a bonfire that night. Then, I left my teenage years behind and said hello to “the best years of my life.” Now, I am 21 and I am speechless.

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I turned 20 last year and I had just confirmed that I would be studying abroad during the summer. I did not do anything special on my birthday, but formal was right after it, so I counted that as my celebration. I was ready to take on a new year and navigate through whatever came my way. I had no idea that 20 would treat me so well. I visited Costa Rica with my father and sister, explored Europe with my Pop Pop, I lived in Italy for a month and made some memories that are not even comparable to those from Australia. I landed my first internship at a big company and I even tried the college dating scene last fall. Then, I was lucky enough to ski in Park City, Utah for the first time with my dad and head to London with one of my best friends for two weeks. Of course, it was not all happy—I lost one of my closest friends growing up and experienced heartbreak—but that is all part of life. Regardless, I am in awe when I think about the last year and I am forever grateful for it.

I usually don’t get too stoked for my birthday because it just means I am one year older. Of course it is always exciting to have people reach out to wish me a nice day and have a bit of attention, but I never got extremely into it. Although I usually don’t get too wild about my birthday, this year was different. With this birthday, I would finally be “legal” in the eyes of American nightlife. I would have finished 10% of my twenties. This year, I am surrounded by people I basically just met who told me I had no choice but to celebrate my birthday and it feels awesome. This year, I am actually eager to become another year older because it means I am growing, learning and experiencing.

I feel so much love this birthday from all around the world. I had people from America  texting me “Happy early birthday,” I had people from New Zealand and Europe wish me a great day and I had all my friends and acquaintances here showing me love. Nothing is better than feeling loved and celebrated on my special day. It is pretty cool, because I feel like I have two birthdays since it is May 2 in Australia 12 hours before it is in America. I’ll have to keep this in mind during my birthday celebrations in the future.

I am so grateful for all the things I got to experience, all the new people I got to meet and all the new places I got to see during my twentieth year of life. It will be hard to top what I think was the best year of my life, but who knows what the future holds. With that being said, I am so thrilled to see what this year has in store for me. Wow, 21.

Oz: Week Nine of Classes

Week seven of classes may have been the most uneventful, but week nine of classes was the laziest. Well, the week was not lazy; I was.

I got home from the best trip with Pop Pop late Sunday night and I was so upset that it was over. The fact that I had to go to class the next day made it worse. The sad thing is that I only had one class on Monday, and I could barely pull myself out of bed to go. I could barely even get myself to hang out with my buddy that night. I did not have classes at all on Tuesday because it was Anzac Day, which is a day of remembrance for all who participated in the first major military action fought by Australia and New Zealand in World War I. For such a relaxed week, I was riding the struIMG_8140.jpgggle bus for sure.

My week took a turn for the better Thursday and my spirits started lifting up. After finishing classes, I told Sierra I would go into Perth with her so she can pick up and item she needed. Before heading out, my friend sent me the cutest picture of a seal, which definitely made my day. Then, I noticed I had letters from my sorority sisters on my desk! I was so ecstatic, I definitely screamed multiple times. I felt the love all the way from America and I could not be more thankful for my friends.

It gets better. I thought maybe I would do some light shopping in Perth, even though I keep telling myself to stop buying things. Well, I found some incredible sales and scored four dresses for $60 AUD, which is even less in USD! I was so excited about my purc
hases. I am pretty sure that after this trip I will have enough dresses to last me through my twenties.

ghjggkuiOnce we were done shopping, Nicole and Brian met us in the city to have some Hungry Jack’s. I was excited to try one of Australia’s most popular fast food chains. People told me it is the same thing as Burger King, but I thought they just meant they are similar. However, I learned that Hungry Jack’s is Burger King, but with a different name. Oh well!

Sierra and I finished the night by watching one of my favorite movies, Jersey Boys. I am so glad she enjoyed it as well!

The week ended so much better than it started. It went by much further than I anticipated as well. Of course, no day is that bad, because I am in Australia!

 

Oz: Halfway There

I leave Australia and return to “normal” life in exactly two months from now. How?! I have been here for just over two months and I really do not know where the time went.

I often think about what life will be like when I go home. I wonder where I will end up working this summer. I worry about my school schedule for next semester. I freak out because I only have one year of undergraduate university left. I remind myself I need to make this summer count. I feel like everything in Australia will become just a distant memory. Will I talk to any of the people I met here again? Will I ever see my Australian “little brother again?” The questions and concerns go on and on.

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And then I think about all the incredible experiences I’ve had while here. I have met so many fascinating people. I have gone to the outback and gotten stuck in a cyclone. I’ve spent my day at the beach countless times. I’ve watched the sun set behind the Perth skyline. The list goes on and on.

I noted that I never got the “Wow, I’m in Australia” feeling. But every day I wake up and say to myself, “Wow, I’m in Australia,” and I feel like the luckiest person ever. I saw myself switch from a nervous student who had no idea what was going on to someone who could be a tour guide of Perth. I have really thought about life, and although I still have no idea where I will end up, I am more confident than ever in my journey to find out. It really is difficult to put into words how thankful I am for this adventure.

Australia has been an experience of a lifetime. I am so thankful for all the memories I have gained and friends I have made. I also am thankful for the fact that I feel just as close with my friends at home, despite the distance of space and time. I am not excited to go home, but I am excited to be able to carry all these amazing experiences with me going forward.

I still have two months left, and although May is going to be a month full of tests, papers and projects, I am determined to make the most out of any free time I have. Here’s to the second half of my journey!

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: Back from the Outback

I have returned to Perth from the outback! It has been quite some time since I last posted, and that is solely due to the fact that I was embarking on a 10-day-turned-nine outback camping trip in Northwest Australia. I have so much to say about the trip, but I have to type it up first, since I was not able to bring my lap top. I project that I will post about my adventure in the later half of the year when my travels have calmed. Below is a quick preview of the magnificence that I witnessed.

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Circular Pool at Karijini National Park

The trip was shortened by a day due to a cyclone that rained on us for three days straight, causing Karijini National Park to close and for us to miss out on a day of hiking and a few points of interest. We also were lead to an upset in Coral Bay, where those who paid almost $400 to swim with whale sharks and those who paid $165 to swim with manta rays did not even get to see one. This was due to the coral spawn and the windy weather, which turned the marine beauties away and made it difficult to spot them.

The camping journey was definitely a bit unlucky, but I did have a swell time exploring the massive amount of land Australia has. I was absolutely astounded by the amount of nothingness in WA, and I really appreciated it as well.

Classes have started up again, and my mind is a swirling mess of due dates and facts being crammed in last minute for exams. It was nice to have a break from school after only three weeks of classes, but it definitely did not help with my motivation. Luckily, I only have another three weeks of classes until my next weeklong break and arrival of Pop Pop!

Oz: Weekend Whereabouts

Another beautiful weekend in Straya is down in the books.

Friday began with of course, a fantastic pancake breakfast. I had a few too many, but I had to eat enough to cover the pancake-less two Fridays that are in my near future. I spent Friday relaxing and chatting by the pool with Nicole and Jordan. It was my first time really spending any time at the pool, and it was actually quite satisfactory.

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Jordan and Nicole by the pool

That night, Brian, Ethan, Sierra, Nicole and I ventured to South Perth to Confluence, which is an art exhibit set up along the water. According to the Facebook event page, it is a “dense network of cone-shaped forms” with responsive lighting that illuminates the path as one approaches a cone. We were warned not to go, and I understand why. It really was not “dense,” nor interactive. The most interactivity I saw was all the little kids punching and jumping on the art, and ignorant parents encouraging the the kids to run wild. The view of Perth lit up at night was worth it, though.

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Sierra, Nicole and I at Confluence

Saturday was another day spent at the beach with Sierra and Nicole. This was the most gorgeous beach day by far. There was a slight breeze, only a few clouds and the temperature was perfect for warming up to go into the water, without dripping sweat. The water was crystal clear and gorgeous. I felt like I was on a tropical island.

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I was excited about the pretty shell I found

We headed back from the beach to go food shopping and to buy some items for our upcoming 10-day trip. Sierra and I made it back to campus in time to participate in a village craft event, where we made dream catchers.

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My masterpiece

To end the already successful day, Sierra, Jordan, Nicole and I headed out for the night to Tiger Lil’s in Perth for a girls’ night out.

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Left to right: Me, Sierra, Nicole, Jordan

Finally, to top off the fantastic weekend, I met up with a nice guy I met on the way to Newport last week to go cliff jumping at Blackwall Reach into the Swan River. It was the highest I had ever jumped; he said it was about 8 meters, although it seemed much higher. Regardless of the height, it was super fun and I also enjoyed climbing up the rocks and wood to get back up.

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View of the Swan River from Blackwell Reach

We ended the night by going to my first casual dining chain restaurant in Australia, Sizzler’s, where I had a steak and calamari combo platter, preceded by great salad, and followed by a delicious apple crisp dessert. We spent some time at City Beach before he dropped me off at Murdoch.

My fourth weekend in Perth turned out to be fantastic. I feel so grateful I was able to spend so much time with my American friends and enjoy a popular local spot with my new Australian friend.

 

Oz: Second Week of Classes

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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A view of campus

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!