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.
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.
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!
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!
I spent a weekend on Rottnest Island, which is a little paradise just offshore of Perth. When I was there, I referred to it as a “playground,” which makes sense because it offers so much for all ages to enjoy. People can take advantage of its secluded coves, crystal-clear waters, reefs, and surf breaks. The main way to explore it is the miles and miles of bike paths that cross the land. It boasts two lighthouses and pink lakes. And of course, it is one of very few homes to the quokka, an adorable cat-sized mammal that has been marketed successfully as a companion for selfies with its endearing smile and willingness to get up close and personal with tourists.
There are so many beautiful things to see on land, but even more to discover on and under the water! Being the water-lover that I am, I did not have the heart to cut out enough aquatic footage to fit into my previous two outback videos, so I made one just dedicated to H20.
In this video, you will see all sorts of beautiful water creatures such as fish, sea turtles, reef sharks and one of my favorites, dolphins! I will take you gliding through the waves on a catamaran and diving under them into the coral reefs off the Northwestern coast of Australia.
Whitmanythought 1: All I can do is smile when I watch this
This video features many clips of of quad-riding along the coast of Coral Bay as the sun set, which was an incredible add-on that only my friend group did, some aboriginal artwork sighting and waterfall climbing at Karijini National Park and a whole lot of smiling.
As I said last week, I took an abundance of video during my nine day Northwest outback trip and I could not just throw away the footage, so I made several videos. This is the second video in my three-part outback trip documentation. Let me know what you think!
Whitmanythought: I would sleep in a van all over again if I could just go back to this trip
At this time last year, I had just gotten back from a 9-day trip to Australia’s Northwest outback. The trip was planned by Murdoch University’s study abroad and exchange office in tandem with the company Australian Adventure Travel and I was fortunate enough to get a spot on the trip along with about 40 other students.
We got to see so many amazing sights, from bluffs that dropped right off into a roaring ocean and gorges that snaked through red rock to old indigenous wall carvings and new animals of which we had never heard. We explored so many beautiful places from beaches and national parks to reefs and caves. We had early mornings and late nights. We ate surprisingly tasty food and had many laughs.
On the other hand, almost everything that could go wrong on this trip went wrong. We ended up getting stuck in a three-day cyclone which made us leave the trip early and cut us off from exploring everything we could. We definitely roughed it by sleeping in damp tents and sometimes not even having access to running water.
All of this combined, though, is what made this outback trip so memorable, even if some of it was uncomfortable. I mean, who gets to say they got stuck in a cyclone in the outback of Australia? I captured so much footage from this trip that I actually made three videos for it: two containing video from my above water adventures, and one video dedicated solely to my underwater explorations.
The time I have been so excited for since I first started rolling out videos from Australia is finally here…I am posting my videos for public viewing! I have had some of these videos completed for over a year now, so you can imagine how much suspense has built up to show people my experiences through motion picture.
The first video to my “Oz Through Sara’s Eyes” series is about orientation week, or “O-Week.” This is a week prior to the start of classes, when students are learning about the rules and expectations of dorm and university life. The week also included many trips, such as a beach visit,a night tour and a wildlife park adventure.
This semester is flying. We are almost halfway through March and I really don’t know how that happened. Then again, I never even know what day of the week it even is.
I have been overloaded with work, my internship, classes, extra-curricular activities, and other obligations, but I have thankfully found time to keep my beloved blog updated. Plus, I began writing celebrity and lifestyle content for Her Campus, and online college magazine targeted at female students!
For the last month, I have also been reminded that my life a year ago was way cooler than it is now, as Facebook’s “Today in the Past” feature shows me every day all my old blog posts and pictures from my semester in Australia. I bet you know what I want to type next: something along the lines of “I wish I was still there!” Well, you are right and it is true.
I actually just had my AIFS representative from headquarters come to campus to meet with me about my experience as an AIFS Alumni Ambassador and to finally meet with my campus’ study abroad director. It is really mind-blowing to me that AIFS actually sent a person to check in on me, who has encouraged me and helped me throughout the year. The post-AIFS and study abroad experience has truly been incredible.
As part of the ambassador program, I am required to write at least one blog post for AIFS and create one video for it. I thought I would share my AIFS content in case it could help someone out. Below are the posts I created, followed by my video: