How was Australia?

‘How was Australia?’ it’s a simple question that I have been asked countless times since returning home. Usually this has been asked by someone in quick passing and with all questions such as this it is typically answered in one or a few words. I usually say, ‘Awesome! Amazing!’ or ‘So fun!’ but the truth is that these words don’t even come close to describing the experience that I had in Australia.

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Since returning home I’ve realized that a few words can’t successfully summarize the time that I have spent exploring the world and developing as a person.

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It sounds really corny and cliché to say but I really do feel like studying abroad in Australia this semester helped me to grow as a person. Even though I am technically “an adult” I feel that up until this point in my life I have largely relied on my parents and other people to help me make decisions and to figure things out. Not only that but I have never been in a situation before where I truly didn’t know anyone and I had to make all new friends.

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I am really proud of myself for taking this adventure head-on despite my fears and doubts. Over the course of this semester, there were a lot of situations where I had to rely on myself and that was terrifying because I had no idea what was going on. I am someone who is scared of change and of becoming an adult but I think that I have found a sort of strange peace in realizing that being an adult doesn’t necessarily mean that you have all the answers. I feel like there are some things you know, some things you learn and some things you have to make up as you go along.

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All in all, I truly wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. I don’t think I necessarily “found myself” but I feel like everyday I am changing more and more into the kind of person that I want to be and that is very exciting. I think that I got what I signed up for and then some, it definitely was the adventure of a lifetime.

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Back to Reality

Yes, it’s official, my time in Australia has come to an end. 😦 It was really hard to leave but I felt like it was time for me to come home. Of course traveling home was no small task for me as it involved an almost 9,000 mile journey.

I’m from northeast Iowa so my travels home involved a two hour drive from Newcastle to Sydney, a 14 hour flight from Sydney to San Francisco, a three hour flight from San Francisco to Minneapolis and finally a three hour drive from Minneapolis to my hometown of Waukon. If it sounds like an endless marathon, that’s because it was.

I looked at my flight plan the day before I left and the total travel time was over 18 hours and that was before figuring in the car rides to and from the airport. The huge amount of time spent traveling is frustrating in itself but this was just increased by the fact that I went back in time by time zones so I actually got back to Minneapolis less than two hours after I left Sydney.

I’ve traveled out of the country before and it’s always a good feeling to return to the US. I was excited to be going back to the US but during my big flight, I was really stressed out about making my connection. I only had an hour and 10 minutes to make my connecting flight and if you know anything about United States Customs, that is really cutting it close.

Due to the increased security caused by terrorist threats and the busyness of traveling on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I thought that I didn’t have a chance of making that second flight. Thankfully, my first flight landed 30 minutes early. I ended up making it to my gate with only 20 minutes to spare before boarding began.

I finally landed in Minneapolis around 4:15pm and my wonderful family was waiting for me by the baggage claim.

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After talking about how I was running on about two hours of sleep and picking up my bags, they handed me my winter coat and we headed out into the frozen tundra.

When I finally got home it was so nice to see my dogs again and be able to sleep in my own bed! Since returning to the US, I have been working a lot and eating as much of the American food chains that I missed as possible.

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My jet lag wasn’t too bad when going to Australia but I thought that it was going to be a killer when I returned to the United States. I don’t know if I’m a freak of nature or if my sleeping schedule was just so messed up that changing it didn’t make a difference but I really didn’t have any jet lag. My parents said it took them a couple of weeks to adjust and the time change was 17 hours so you would think that I would have had some struggles with this. I don’t know, I think maybe I should be tested for medical research.

It’s also really weird to be home this time of year because almost all of my friends are at school prepping for their upcoming finals. I can’t even tell you how nice it is to be able to fully relax and enjoy the holiday season without constantly having to worry about my impending doom of final exams. I may have sacrificed half of my summer but I think if going back earlier was the price that I had to pay to have this time off then I think that it was worth it.

This leaves me with extra time to work and build my bank account up again and to work on some professional things like polishing my resume and editing my portfolio. I’m trying to enjoy this time while it lasts because I know that soon I will be back to the reality of going to school at Iowa State and trying to balance a million different things.

I already miss Australia in a lot of ways but really I think that I’m content with the time that I spent there and the experiences that I had. I wouldn’t trade my study abroad experience for anything but let’s be honest, I’ve also got a pretty great life here in Iowa that I was happy to go back to.

Melbourne

During my last week here in Australia, I decided to travel south to the city of Melbourne for one last adventure. I had heard good things about Melbourne as a city but I mostly wanted to visit there to see the Great Ocean Road and most importantly the 12 Apostles. Due to friends either going home or having other travel plans, I went on this trip alone. Going on a trip alone probably would have scared me a few months ago but now it just means that I need to have more of a set plan, mostly because I don’t have a working phone.

I could have done a one day tour of the Great Ocean Road but since I was traveling alone, I thought I would look for a longer tour so that I could explore more with a group of people. I settled on a three day tour of the Great Ocean Road and the Grampians which is a National Park and had a great time.

The Great Ocean Road is known as one of the most beautiful coastal drives in the world and I thought it was incredible!

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I finally got to see (and take selfies with) the 12 Apostles,

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visited the London Arch (or London Bridge),

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wandered to “the Grotto,”

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and made some unexpected stops as well including seeing wild koalas,

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looking at some beautiful Australian birds

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and having an uncomfortable lunch date with a seagull.

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The next two days of exploring the Grampians was really fun too. On the morning of our second day, we went for a walk up to a lookout point and saw a wild wallaby family! It was so precious to see in real life!

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There’s no denying that the Great Ocean Road views were amazing but the Grampians were gorgeous as well in a very different way.

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Once I was there, I was really happy that I had made the effort to visit both and not just done a shorter tour of the Great Ocean Road. The Grampians of course involved quite a bit of walking or ‘hiking’ but as with anything like that, the view at the end makes it worthwhile.

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There were even a few hidden gems including a beautiful waterfall!

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After my tour was done, I did have a little bit of time to explore Melbourne on my own. My main goal was to visit Brighton Beach which has the Brighton Bathing Boxes.

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These colorful wooden structures were built over a century ago based upon ideas of morality and seaside bathing. Today these 82 bathing boxes still line the foreshore of Brighton Beach and are an interesting sight and obviously a tourist attraction.

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Melbourne was the last major thing on my list of places that I wanted to go in Australia so I am really glad that I made it there. The sightseeing on this trip met my expectations and even positively surprised me in some ways. I’m so thankful to have visited Melbourne and hey, I made it to four out of six states in Australia this semester, so I would say good on me.

The Final Countdown

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.

  1. 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.

Final thoughts

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.

Thailand

I just returned from my trip to Thailand and it was incredible. As I mentioned in my last blog, I visited my friend Sammi, who is from my hometown, and is studying abroad at a university near Bangkok. I was there for about a week and we managed to squeeze so many activities into that short amount of time!

Getting There

I have to admit that the journey to Thailand was nasty. I had to take a three hour train ride to Sydney (as usual) and then an almost nine hour flight to Bangkok! A lot of people that I talked to were really surprised that the flight was that long but if you look at a map, Thailand’s not exactly nearby.

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The flight wouldn’t have been that bad but I was also trying to study on it because my first final was the day after I arrived back in Sydney. Studying with a laptop on a plane is a lot more difficult than it sounds and I’m going to be honest, not a lot of studying happened.

Arrived

Once I finally arrived in Bangkok, I had to wait in line for Immigration for TWO HOURS. They are apparently really thorough and take a few minutes to check each person before they enter Thailand. Multiply a few minutes by all the people in line and evidently that equals two hours of waiting. I felt so bad because Sammi was waiting to pick me up from the airport and my flight arrived at 1am. Then by the time I got through Immigration and got my bag it was 3am and technically 7am for me. However, we were still really happy to see each other and managed to look enthusiastic for this picture!

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She was waiting for me with a sign and even had a little welcome bag for me so that was sweet.

Traveling

The long journey to get to Thailand was definitely worth it! I had a great time and managed to get a lot of bang for my baht (baht is Thai money, just go with the pun). I also tried to take in the Thai culture as much as possible which involved visiting temples and Buddhas, learning the language and eating the native food.

Buddhism

During my time in Thailand, we visited many temples and Buddhas as Buddhism is such a hugely practiced religion in Thailand. I still don’t know a ton about Buddhism but I did learn that it is basically centered around living a moral life. I was told that Buddhists believe in having multiple lives through reincarnation however, it was kind of confusing because one temple that we visited also showed what going to Hell would be like for those who disobeyed elements of the religion.

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We asked for clarification on this and evidently even Thai people will give different answers on how the afterlife and other lives work. Not only do opinions on this differ but there are apparently many different types of Buddhism as well. The constant element of Buddhism is the essence of the teaching, the Dhamma or truth.

I found visiting the temples and Buddhas to be really cool. This religion is so different from my own but I think it is really interesting. I did my best to take a step back and appreciate their culture and religion instead of constantly comparing it to my own lifestyle.

While in Thailand I saw a reclining Buddha,

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a BIG Buddha,

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(Even the fingers were huge!)

a Buddha head in tree roots,

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and many, many more.

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All temples require you to remove your shoes as feet are considered the lowest part of the body both physically and spiritually. Depending on the dress code of each specific temple or museum, women also need to cover their knees and shoulders before entering. If you don’t have the proper clothing, some temples provide sarongs that you can borrow like the attractive ones that are pictured here.

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The temples that we visited were incredibly ornate and beautifully designed both inside and out.

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While in Thailand we also visited the Erawan Museum which is a giant three-headed elephant.

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Not only is this museum striking from the outside but the inside is gorgeous as well,

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including the temple that is in one of the elephant heads.

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During the rest of my time in Thailand,

we explored ruins from a previous dynasty,

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went to the beach,

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watched a Thai cultural show,

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rode in an infamous took took,

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sampled the local food,

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(Pad See Ew)

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(Banana pancake)

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(Coke in a bag, they save money by recycling the cans or bottles)

took in the rooftop views of Bangkok,

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and last but certainly not least, we rode and fed ELEPHANTS!

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Lifelong dream = achieved

Overall

My trip to Thailand was an amazing experience. I had never been to Asia before this trip and I think that Thailand was a great introduction. I was really surprised at how safe and comfortable I felt even on the streets of Bangkok. Thailand was extremely hot, in the 90s and reaching over 100, and was not always the cleanest but it was beautiful.

The Thai people that I met were very kind and it was really fun to hang out with Sammi and meet her study abroad friends. I was glad to have this sort of culture-shock experience while studying abroad, as Australia is a pretty tame experience compared to this. Before coming to Thailand I was ready for an adventure and I definitely got one. Mai pen rai!

Finals and Final Travels

It’s getting to be that time of the semester where classes are wrapping up and stress is at an all-time high.

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After 12 weeks of going to class, writing essays and working on group projects, we are finally on our last and final week of regular classes. While it is nice to put an end to the assessments that we’ve had throughout the semester, classes ending mean that finals are about to begin.

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Now notice how I said finals and not ‘finals week,’ this is because finals here are actually over the course of three weeks! (Crazy, I know!) So this semester, instead of hoping that I didn’t have any finals on Friday, I had to instead hope that by some kind of magic my finals would fall within the same week. They of course didn’t.

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Out of my four classes, I only have two final exams so I guess I am relatively lucky. My other two classes are ending with a group project report and a reflection essay. I have one final on Saturday, November 14 and the other on Friday, November 20 making traveling at the end of the semester difficult.

Due to this schedule, I am actually going to travel before my first final and after my last final. Before my finals, I am going to Thailand for the week!

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My friend Sammi, who is from my hometown, is studying abroad at a university near Bangkok so I am going to visit her. I actually leave to go there in a few days and I’m SO excited!

It will be really fun to explore Bangkok and ride elephants but I am mostly excited to spend time with my friend as we never get to see each other anymore. It is crazy to me that we barely even see each other at home but here we are about to hang out for the week in Thailand!

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This will also be a relatively inexpensive trip because other than the cost of the flight, everything will be really cheap. I will be staying with her, so I won’t have to pay for a hostel and the exchange rate is incredible. $1 US is worth 35 Thai Baht so food and travel activities will be really affordable.

I have heard a lot of great things about Thailand and I am really eager to see what it will be like. I have never been to Asia before so this will be a whole new experience for me. I think after I get the nine hour flight out of the way, it will be amazing and I definitely won’t want to come back to take my finals.

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I also have a full week after my last final is done before I have to go home and I’m planning to go to Melbourne in Australia. The main purpose of visiting Melbourne is to take a tour on the Great Ocean Road and see the 12 Apostles. The Great Ocean Road is considered one of the world’s most scenic coastal drives and I’ve heard that it’s incredible.

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The 12 Apostles are a collection of limestone structures that gradually eroded to form caves in the cliffs which eventually broke off into isolated formations. There are currently only eight remaining stacks as five have fallen since their discovery.

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Seeing the 12 Apostles is the last major thing that I want to do in Australia. Unfortunately, the previous travel plans that I made to go with a friend have fallen through so I will have to go there alone. Traveling alone is a little intimidating, especially because I still don’t have a working phone, but I plan on doing a tour so I will be with a group. Honestly, at this point I traveled over a day by myself to get here and I have taken a million flights and train rides so I’m not worried.

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What I am worried about are my final exams. I am terrified to take these finals because they are going to be essay style rather than multiple choice. So if I have no idea how to answer the questions then I can’t just guess and pick a letter.

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During my lecture last night, they were explaining that for one of my exams we have to answer nine questions in two and a half hours. Three of these questions are supposed to be two to three page ‘mini essays’ and the questions could be from any of the 17 chapters that we have learned about over the course of this semester.

Even just the thought of taking these final exams makes me uneasy but I just keep telling myself that I only have to pass the class. Like with any finals, I’m just going to study as much as I possibly can and hope that these exams go well.

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Sydney

I think that when most people think about going to Australia, they imagine Sydney. The iconic sights of the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge are huge selling points for tourists, not to mention that the city’s airport is the busiest hub in the nation.

When I flew into Australia, I came from California to Sydney and then unfortunately had to immediately ride in a car for three hours to get to my school in Newcastle. At that point, after being on a plane for 14 hours, I was a zombie but it was still disappointing to have to leave Sydney without getting a chance to explore it.

Thankfully, not long after that, we decided to go as a group to Sydney for the weekend. Being that it is only three hours away by train from my campus, it has become a relatively close and easy place to go.

I know that a lot of Australians don’t like Sydney because they think it’s too busy or too touristy but I love it. It’s a city of over 4 million people and has so much to offer! Between taking trips just to see the city, going to the Blue Mountains or traveling to the airport, I have probably been to Sydney five or six times and I will have to go at least three more times before I leave.

Opera House

Of course the number one thing that you have to do as a tourist in Sydney is take pictures in front of the Opera House.

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This iconic structure is so unique and incredible to see up close. Interestingly, the various shells are not connected but are actually separate buildings that are linked through underground walkways.

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Of course the outside of it is largely recognized but touring the inside was interesting as well. Some of the theaters were much smaller than I thought they would be and the purple carpet was an exciting twist.

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During our tour, we learned that the design for the Opera House was chosen as the winner to a design competition and was conceived by Danish architect Jørn Utzon.

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It was unveiled in 1973 by Queen Elizabeth II after 16 long years of labor. The Opera House had an estimated budget of $7 million and ended up costing $102 million, so that makes me feel a little better about my spending this semester.

Utzon resigned from the project in 1966 after the government withheld his payments and refused to agree with his building ideas. During the building process, he was often blamed for delays and cost over-runs. Sadly, Utzon died in 2008 and never returned to Sydney to see the finished structure.

Today, there is a room that is dedicated to him called the Utzon Room. This room was the only interior space that was designed by Utzon and was renamed in 2004 in his honor.

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In its short lifetime, the Sydney Opera House has earned a reputation as a world-class performing arts center and become a symbol of both Sydney and the Australian nation.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

I won’t discuss the Sydney Harbour Bridge in great detail since I already explained climbing it in a previous post (https://adventureofalifetimeau.wordpress.com/2015/09/15/adventure-time/) but it is of course worth mentioning.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge is the world’s largest, but not longest, steel arch bridge in the world. This bridge is known as the “coat hanger” and was opened in 1932 after eight years of construction. Prior to this, the only links between the city center and the residential north were by ferry or a long and winding road. (Any Beatles fans here?)

I honestly don’t find the history of the bridge to be as interesting as the Opera House but the views of the bridge and on it are incredible.

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Photo opportunities are everywhere and with the harbour, Opera House and bridge combined, some amazing pictures are sure to surface.

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The Harbour

Being that Sydney Harbour is such an active waterway, there are more than 240 kilometers of shoreline and meandering waterways that involve endless activities. After buying a 24 hour ferry pass, we explored the Taronga Zoo and the suburb of Manly.

Like I said, I have been to a lot of zoos and animal parks since coming to Australia but I’m always keen to see more animals. The Taronga Zoo was actually really cool in that you can see animals and also get a great view of Sydney in the background.

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Manly had a really laid-back, beach town kind of atmosphere that I really enjoyed. We didn’t really do much other than walk around town and go to the beach but I thought it was an awesome place. What surprised me the most was how different it felt from the actual city of Sydney. I’m really glad that we decided to visit such a different part of Sydney and got to experience more of what this large city has to offer.

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I have really enjoyed the time that I’ve spent exploring Sydney. I will have to travel there three more times to go to the airport but I hope to just go for a visit as well. Believe it or not, after all the times I’ve visited, I still have things that I want to do in this city. To me this just proves what an iconic and interesting city Sydney really is.

Australian FOOD!

Food. Whether you eat to live or live to eat, food is a part of everyday life and a favorite topic of most people. It’s no surprise that different cultures have very different cuisines and coming to Australia has involved trying a lot of new things. I have definitely seen and experienced various foods, brands and restaurant chains that I had previously never heard of.

I’m going to review some of the unusual foods that I have encountered during my time in Australia but mind you that I am no expert in this category. Everything listed here is based upon my own observations and may not be entirely accurate. So to any Australians that may be reading this, please don’t be offended if I missed your favorite meal or snack.

Milo

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Milo is a chocolate and malt powder that is made from malted barley. This drink is commonly mixed with cold milk but can be mixed with hot or cold water to produce a chocolaty drink. I have not actually had the drink powder of Milo but I have tried their cereal and breakfast bars and I liked both of those.

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The texture of it is very different to other cereals in that it would be thicker and crunchier than a box of corn flakes.

Tim Tams

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In my opinion, there is no greater Australian delicacy than Tim Tams. They are delicious chocolate biscuits that come in a huge variety of flavors. These biscuits are made up of two layers of chocolate-malted biscuit, separated by a light chocolate filling and then coated in melted chocolate.

In Australia, 35 million packs are sold each year meaning that there is an average consumption amount of 1.7 packs per Australian.

These tasty treats are so delectable that thankfully they have made their way to the United States. As of July of 2015, it was reported that the original and caramel-flavored Tim Tams are now available in the US. I’m not sure how vast this distribution is but the company was hoping to soon sell through the world’s biggest supermarket chain, Walmart. They may be hard to find when I get back to the US but I will succeed.

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Meat Pies

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Meat pies are Australian or New Zealand hand-sized pies that contain largely diced or minced meat and gravy and sometimes with onion, mushrooms, or cheese. They are often eaten as a takeaway snack and these pies are so popular that Australia has their own chain for takeaway pies called Pie Face. We even have a place that sells them on campus!

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I personally can’t really get into the meat pies and would prefer any kind of fruit pie instead but to each their own.

Vegemite

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Vegemite is by far the most well-known Australian food product. It is loved by Aussies but seen as disgusting by foreigners. The reason why it is so widely disliked is because visitors don’t know how to properly eat it. Vegemite is not a sweet topping like Nutella or jam but instead is a type of savory spread that is made from concentrated yeast extract. The correct way to eat this spread is on toast with butter and a TINY bit of Vegemite.

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Never put globs of it on your toast or eat it straight out of the jar.

Other strange foods

Australian burgers will sometimes add egg and beetroot to what we would consider the classic American burger

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Chicken flavored chips – other than the Lays flavor contest chips, I have never seen chips with a Chicken flavor

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Kangaroo meat – not available everywhere but can be seen on restaurant menus occasionally. It apparently has a high nutritional value and is best if not overcooked.

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It can also be possible to sample emu and crocodile if you’re an adventurous eater.

Sausage with bread – I don’t know what Australian’s have against hot dog buns but every time they eat sausages it’s with a piece of bread

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Fast food

Fast food restaurants haven’t been all that different here. I have seen McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, KFC and Burger King during my time here. However, one strange thing is that Burger King is actually called Hungry Jack’s.

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Most of these fast food places taste exactly the same as they would at home but McDonald’s has an option for fancier dining here that I haven’t seen in the US. They have the standard fast food that we are used to but then they also have burgers and fries that look like they came from an upscale restaurant as an option.

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Conclusion

I could go on for days about the differences between food in Australia and at home but I think I’ll leave it at that. There are so many differences not only in food options and taste but also in the way that certain foods are referred to. I feel that coming to Australia was not as extreme of a food change as some other countries would have been.

Australia does have a lot of Asian influence in their food and a lot of seafood options but I can also have a burger and fries or pizza if I want something familiar. I’m planning to really enjoy the foods that will be hard to come by when I get home because I only have a little over a month left of this adventure.

Aussie Animals

There were so many things that I was looking forward to before coming to Australia but one of the most highly anticipated parts was getting to see all the exotic animals. It’s no secret that Australia has some extremely strange looking creatures and also a lot of poisonous ones. It’s almost as if these animals were meant to exist on their own giant island and then humans just happened to inhabit it as well.

During my time in Australia, I have so far been to three zoos and/or animal parks and have also seen wild kangaroos and crocodiles. While some animals are definitely more widely recognized or adorable than others, they all have been interesting to learn about.

Kangaroos

Kangaroos are at the point now where they’re almost synonymous with Australia. I guarantee that if you ask a group of Americans what they know about Australia, at least 90 percent of them will mention kangaroos. They are kind of like the deer of Australia in that they can be a nuisance to farmers, can be hit on the road and are sometimes hunted and eaten.

Even though they can be a bit of a pain, these animals are so adorable and such an iconic part of going to Australia. No trip to Australia is complete without a picture or a selfie with one of these cuties.

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At most animal parks in Australia, the kangaroos actually live in an enclosure that you can walk into, making it really easy to take a nice and up-close photo.

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Koalas

Koalas are the other main cute and fluffy animal that tourists generally want their pictures with. These animals, as you may know, are not bears and are actually marsupials meaning that they carry their young in a pouch like kangaroos. They are also everything I aspire to be in that they sleep 18 to 22 hours a day and spend the rest of their time eating (Eucalyptus leaves).

Unfortunately, we were told that only handlers are allowed to hold the koalas so most pictures with them also show the handler’s back.

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I know a lot of people were disappointed to not be able to hold the koalas but I feel like they’re secretly kind of devious, so I was ok with that.

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(I mean look at that little smirk)

Sadly, the status of the koala is ‘vulnerable’ with less than 80,000 existing in the wild today. These animals are declining rapidly due to habitat destruction, domestic dog attacks, bushfires and road accidents and could one day face extinction. These little guys need to be protected at all costs as it’s so hard to imagine Australia without them.

Dingoes (yes, that’s the correct spelling)

Dingoes are Australia’s wild dog and arrived in Australia about 5,000 years ago after they were brought by Indonesian Seafarers. Unlike domesticated dogs, dingoes have some strange abilities such as howling instead of barking, being capable of rotating their wrists and being able to turn their heads almost 180 degrees. It is actually extremely rare to see a pure dingo and today there are many different cross breeds of dingoes and dogs.

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I personally can’t look at a dingo without thinking, “Maybe the dingo ate your baby” from Seinfeld.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ghCTZF61ey0

This clip was inspired by the famous phrases “A dingo ate my baby” or “The dingoes got my baby” which refer to the disappearance of Azaria Chamberlain. In 1980, in the Northern Territory near Uluru, baby Azaria mysteriously disappeared on a family camping trip. Her mother, Lindy Chamberlain, claimed to have seen a dingo carrying her baby from their tent. She was convicted of murdering her baby but later acquitted when new evidence found that the baby was actually killed by a dingo.

I guess the moral of the story here is to not trust dingoes, even if they do look this cute as pups.

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Crocodiles

A not so cute and lovable Australian animal would definitely include the crocodile. I find these animals to be fascinating and also terrifying. I didn’t really see crocodiles until we went as far north as Cairns because they tend to live where it’s warmer.

During our time in Cairns, we saw a lot of crocodiles both at the zoo and in the wild. We had a lot of heavily-informative tours of crocodiles causing me to only remember small tidbits of information such as that crocodiles sit with their mouths open as a way of cooling down, similarly to a dog panting.

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They also said that crocodiles are opportunistic creatures and basically eat whatever they can find. While they typically eat fish, birds and mammals near water, it is not unlikely that people would be attacked as well. This is why it is extremely important to proceed with caution when seeing a crocodile warning sign or really whenever you’re near water in northern Australia.

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If they do attack, crocodiles commonly perform what’s known as a ‘death roll.’ This involves the crocodile grabbing its prey and rolling in the water until it drowns. This death roll is also used to separate limbs, as crocodiles can’t chew and have to break up their food into chunks that can be swallowed.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dIwAeJOwE5s

I don’t know about you but that is definitely not how I want to spend my last few minutes on Earth.

Campus Life

After the huge amount of traveling that I did over break, it’s time to push pause on voyaging for a while and focus on school. With only four weeks of actual classes left and then finals, it really is crunch time and I will be hanging around campus a lot more often. This is fine with me as traveling after a while becomes tiring and hard on a college student’s budget. Since I will be hanging around UoN more often in the next few weeks, I thought I would explain my living situation and also discuss some differences in the campus life compared to Iowa State.

I live in an on-campus apartment which is nothing new for me as I lived in Freddy Court at Iowa State last year. I think most people who study abroad live on campus. It’s hard enough to line everything up to go to a university on the other side of the world, you really don’t need to add apartment hunting to the list of things to do. My apartment is really nice and is actually way better than I thought it would be.

I live in a six bedroom apartment in one of the four new buildings that just opened in February of this year.

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Living in one of the “New Res” buildings has been great. My apartment has six bedrooms,

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two bathrooms,

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a kitchen with a dining area,

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a living room with furniture and a TV included

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and even a balcony.

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It is by far the nicest place to live on campus, in my opinion, and I am grateful that I ended up here despite putting it low on my priority list of places to live. Otherwise, I would have ended up in a one person dorm room or similar apartment style living in a much older building. I really miss having a washer and dryer and a dishwasher like I did in Freddy court but you can’t win ’em all I guess.

Co-Ed

The housing here is actually co-ed everywhere which I didn’t even think about before I got here. Almost all apartments and dorm floors are co-ed and they don’t think anything of it. There aren’t actual dorm rooms that are co-ed because the dorms are made for one person unlike ours that have two. This concept of sharing an apartment with guys terrified me when I first got here and I was really curious as to how that would play out. Luckily, I was actually put by chance on an all girls floor so I didn’t have to worry about it. I’m sure that it would have been fine to live with guys but my roommates are so clean and I love it (we even have a chore chart)!

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Meal Plans

My housing costs $217.50 per week which seems expensive but keep in mind that that is in Australian dollars. It is also around $80 cheaper than living in the dorms because I don’t have to pay for a meal plan. I am really glad that I am in a self-catered apartment because I honestly don’t think that the meals are worth the money. If I were to pay for the additional 16 meals meal plan now, it would cost $116 and only include breakfast and dinner daily with lunch on the weekends.

The dining halls here are not like the ones at Iowa State with the amazing and endless buffet lines and options. It’s basically one main meal option like a high school cafeteria and there are no dining dollars included in the plan to buy snacks at convenience stores. I love being self-catered. It gives me the freedom to make what I want at whatever time I want and to spend whatever amount I see fit.

Paying for things separately

I know that it is everyone’s favorite pastime to talk about how their college or university should give them more free stuff because we pay enough as it is but we should consider ourselves lucky at Iowa State. One of the most annoying things that I have had to deal with at UoN is paying for things separately that would have been included with other fees at Iowa State.

Here at UoN the gym is not included and would cost $250 if I were to get a membership just for this semester. We also don’t get any printing credits. Those cost $.11 per black and white page and $.18 if you print front and back on one page. Students also have to pay separately to ride the city bus. It goes through campus and you can get a student discount but you can’t ride it for free around town like CyRide.

These seem like small things but they definitely add up. A lot of things about living in Australia and going to UoN have made me realize just how good I have it at home. I think that when I get back, I will have a much greater appreciation for things like having a washer and dryer and being able to drive my car to the grocery store. Like anything in life, it’s the little things that count.