I am finally done with my final exams and my semester at “uni” has officially come to an end! My exams were painful both mentally and physically (I think I might have carpal tunnel now after writing all those essays) but I’m done! I think they went fairly well but honestly I’m just happy that they’re over.
Now that my exams are finally done, I can just relax and enjoy my final week in Australia. I am actually sitting in the airport right now waiting to go on my trip to Melbourne and exactly one week from today I will be waiting in the airport to catch my flight back to the US. It is insane that I’m leaving Australia next week! It’s strange because time has gone by really fast this semester but it also feels like I’ve been here forever.
I have become really accustomed to life here and it will be hard to leave the nice weather but I am really excited to go home. At this point, it’s been so long since I’ve driven a car, had free drink refills or been able to talk to people at home without considering time zones. I think I’m ready to go, I really miss my family and friends, my dogs, American food, Iowa State and just the US in general. I’m excited to get home and eat my belated Thanksgiving dinner and sleep in my own bed!
Now that my journey is almost complete, I thought that I would share a little wisdom with those who are considering studying abroad.
- Exchange rate
This is tricky since the exchange can change over time but do your best to pick a place with a favorable exchange rate. This was something that I didn’t even consider until I was about to leave for Australia but the value of the US dollar is so important in determining the total cost of your experience.
The current conversion is $1 Australian equals $.72 US and this has benefited me greatly. If you think about it, basically everything that I bought in Australia was roughly 25 percent off. As a bargain shopper, saving money makes me happy and the good exchange rate was often used as an excuse to buy another souvenir or pay for another trip.
2. Public transportation
I had no idea what the public transportation system was in Newcastle before I came and looking back on it, that was kind of dumb. I think I just got to a point where I was so overwhelmed with everything that it didn’t even cross my mind. The great train and bus systems available in Newcastle and in New South Wales have been lifesavers.
I had heard from a friend who spent a semester in Hawaii that they didn’t have public transportation and that she would have to walk or take a taxi to go anywhere. If I had to take a taxi even to get my groceries, that would be incredibly expensive and take up money that otherwise could be spent traveling.
I am so thankful for the buses and trains in NSW. This semester I bought bus tickets that were good for 10 rides which meant I was paying $1.50 per ride. I would mostly ride the bus around Newcastle and to get groceries but I also took the train to Sydney all the time. UoN has a train station right on campus which was incredibly convenient. Rides to Sydney would often be $5-$8 but on Sundays with our Opal cards, that are refillable and used instead of tickets, it was only $2.50! Seriously if you can, check out the public transportation system and become familiar with it before you leave!
3. Flight restrictions
Make sure that before you take every flight you know the restrictions of the country or airline. I found out while in Australia that they have no restriction on the size of liquids in your carry-on when flying domestically. It was hard for me to wrap my American brain around this but it has been so incredibly convenient!
It is also really important to pay attention to the baggage policies of whatever airline you’re taking. I have been on flights that allowed one free 20kg bag and others where we could only have a 7kg carry-on bag. These obviously make a huge difference in packing and you should pay attention to them to avoid additional fees.
4. Metric system
It’s not something that I would bother learning before you leave but at least be aware that basically everywhere outside of the United States uses the metric system. I would get a converter app on your phone and do your best to understand it’s rough equivalents to the English system.
For example, 1 kilogram is 2.2 pounds so anything labeled kg is roughly double in lbs. An easy way to roughly convert Celsius to Fahrenheit is to double the amount and add 30. Americans, please don’t go on and on about how hot or cold it is where you’re from to Australians using farenheit, they have no idea what you’re talking about.
Well, those are just a few of my final thoughts and traveling tips that I have to share before my time in Australia comes to an end. I am excited to go on one last adventure by myself and then return back to the good ole US of A. I think I will have to restrain myself from chanting, “USA, USA, USA, USA, USA!” when I land, so wish me luck with that I guess.