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: Rottnest Island Day 1

Rottnest Island, or what I like to call a little slice of paradise, is located about 20 kilometers off of Perth and is a huge attraction to the inhabitants of the region. I was lucky enough to spend my weekend at the beautiful playground.

I hopped off the ferry around 10 a.m. on Saturday and was given a bike and helmet. From there, I was left to find my way around the island with Nicole, Barry and Sierra. We really had no idea where we were going, where our accommodation was or what to expect. Barry and I grabbed a map, talked to an information lady and we were on our way.

We were encouraged to visit the West End, which is a piece of land jutting out on the western side of the island and boasts magnificent views of the sea. It was a long trek, and unfortunately Barry and I lost Sierra and Nicole along the way. However, once we finally reached our destination, we were able to relax by eating lunch and taking in the beautiful scenery.

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My view for lunch

Barry and I spent the rest of the day checking our different spots along the coast, such as Strickland Bay, which offers phenomenal surfing and the Wadejemup Lighthouse. The lighthouse is perched on the tallest point of the island, and views of Fremantle and Perth can be seen from it.

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Wadjemup Lighthouse

We returned to Thompson Bay to check into our accommodation, which is done at the information center, and grab some food. I was excited to munch on my very first meat pie, which is a popular food in Australia. I was definitely not disappointed. We then biked a bit to explore one of the nearby beaches and watch the sun give way to night.

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Barry and I finally found our accommodation, which was the Kingstown Barracks, a converted military base. We finished the night by mingling with Nicole, Sierra and a few others at the Rottnest Hotel, which is a hotel and bar with live music and good eats.

It was a great first day, having biked over 25 kilometers and checking out the whole island. I looked forward to the next day, however, which would be a more leisurely.

 

 

 

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: 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!

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!

Fiji: Leaving our Homestay

I cannot believe we had to say goodbye to Walter and Terri today. They have been such a great homestay for us and I genuinely believe I am so lucky to have met them. Between cooking us breakfast and dinner, letting us set up their Wi-Fi box, doing our laundry and driving us virtually anywhere we wanted to go, Walter and Terri spoiled Jordan, Ethan, Brian and me. Before we left, Terri and Walter thanked us for choosing Fiji, choosing them and being such well behaved children. I really do not know why they thanked us, as they were so gracious during our whole stay. They let us know that we would always have a place to visit in Fiji.

We embarked on our cross-country road trip back to Nadi after getting dropped off at USP. After two hours of driving along the shore and past villages, we stopped at a beach resort for lunch. Despite the rain, this actually ended up being a fun time, as we played pool, ping pong and walked along the coral-filled beach looking for shells. The water was not for swimming; the ocean broke off shore onto a barrier that separated the salt water from the fresh river water the was flowing off the land into the still, shallow crystal clear pool that reached the barrier.

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There were many great things for lunch, including burgers, quesadillas and pizza. Although I wanted one of those, I saw a traditional Fijian dish and got that because I felt like it would be beneficial to try a dish original to the island. It was called Kokoda and consists of sliced wahoo ceviche style in lemon, lime tomato, red onion and a coconut cream sauce. It was a bit spicy, but I was fine as long as I only ate the fish.

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We headed back to the Trans International and of course had nothing to do besides keep each other company and use our phones on the Wi-Fi that is only located in the lobby. For dinner, I had pan-fried lamb in a sweet pineapple sauce, which had a flavorful taste.

I am trying to understand how our time in Fiji is almost over. I spent a small amount of time in the classroom, but I truly believe I learned more than I ever thought possible during my stay here through living with my homestay family. I wish them nothing but the best in life.