Back from Break

So the second half of the trimester has started. But chances are, you’re more interested in my trip to Melbourne and Tasmania.

Melbourne was, without doubt, one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been and definitely the best Australian city I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. It’s sort of like a laid back NYC with more street art that’s actually artistic. I spent the better part of a whole day just exploring alleyways and looking at the street art. My first full day there, I explored the CBD, visiting sites like Degraves Street, Federation Square, and the Royal Botanic Gardens and then went to the Victoria Markets that evening. The markets were full of ethnic foods from all over the world as well as a myriad of handmade crafts and other goods. Not to mention the live music — if you can find Tim Scanlan online I definitely recommend checking him out. Quite an amazing solo acoustic guitarist. That night, I went back to my hostel in St. Kilda after the markets and spent some time with the friends I made living there relaxing and playing Mario Kart. Everyone at the hostel was super friendly and it was difficult to leave; they definitely made me wish I had planned more time in Melbourne, aside from the amazing city sites.

When my time in Melbourne ended, I returned to the airport for the short flight to Tasmania. Upon arriving in Hobart, my first impressions were that the landscape was rugged like pictures I’d seen from my friends who were traveling in New Zealand. The city itself is fairly quaint and maintains its colonial feel. My first stop after dropping my luggage at the hostel their was the Salamanca Market, which is held every Saturday. Almost everything there was handmade or produced in Tasmania, which, according to one of my professors at Griffith, is already 100% sustainable and proud of it. The only problem is the market is highly recommended to tourists and was quite congested and crowded, but still an amazing experience. The following day, I explored the sites of the CBD on foot, taking in the views of the waterfront and a few small museums that were free (most museums are free in Australia). Having covered most of the sites I could walk to, I decided to book a bus tour of the city that extended to some of the surrounding areas, including an ascent of Mt. Wellington. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much of a view from the top because it had been raining and the top of the mountain was still shrouded in clouds, but still a beautiful ride. After that, I stopped at the Female Factory, the remains of a prison where England used to send female convicts to do hard labour and reform from their sins — most of which were petty theft, disobedience, and free thinking behaviors. In fact, many of the claims against the women incarcerated were poorly substantiated and flimsy at best. After taking a brief tour there, I rode the bus for the rest of its route. I had hoped to get off at the botanic garden there, but I was on the last bus of the day and if I got off I would have had to find my own way back to my accommodation so I decided not to. All too soon it was time to fly back to the Gold Coast.

I spent the rest of semester break exploring the local area with my roommate Liz and counting down the minutes till the chaos of the Commonwealth Games would come to an end. Public transit became incredibly challenging with all of the extra tourists and law enforcement presence.

This week, we returned to class to complete the last 6 weeks of the semester. Tomorrow a friends from school and I are driving down to Byron Bay to explore there because we’re both already done with school for the week and neither of us have ever been. It’s the most easterly point of continental Australia and the first to see the sunrise. Most locals have told us it’s ‘the place to be’ and ‘you have to see it before you leave AUS.’ I couldn’t be more eager for the adventure to continue! Talk soon 🙂

Half Way

Unbelievable as it may sound, my semester abroad is already almost half over. We’re currently in our semester break here, which is two weeks instead of the usual one, due to the Commonwealth Games being hosted here on the Gold Coast. My school, Griffith University, is a primary sponsor of the Games and quite a few of the events are happening there. The athletes are even being housed there. Essentially, the Commonwealth Games is a smaller version of the Olympics which only includes the 81 countries of the British Commonwealth. Most of the people in my program have taken off to escape the congestion we’re expecting — Prince Charles is coming, after all, and we’ve been given information to “get set for the games” since we’ve been here because it’s expected to be a public transit nightmare. Some of my friends have gone to Thailand, Bali, Fiji, or New Zealand, to name a few places. Myself, I leave today to spend three days in Melbourne and from there I’ll be spending three days in Tasmania, then heading back to the Gold Coast from there. Melbourne has been at the top of my list of places to see in Australia since I knew I was coming here. It’s one of the biggest cities in the country and it’s known for being very artsy. I can’t wait to get down there and explore! Tasmania looks incredible too — it’s supposed to be a similar experience to New Zealand, sort of rugged but gorgeous. When I get back, it’ll be back to the grind to finish the semester’s assignments — your grade isn’t based on homework and quizzes so much here, it’s mainly composed of two or three “assessments” per class. Personally, I prefer this model because it allows me to better absorb and retain the material. It has certainly made me wonder what a happy medium between our system and theirs might be, because I feel both have merit. Here, you have more down time to study and work, but at home you cram in more material in less time. Why not develop a system that’s somewhere in between? I’m interested in the possibilities.

Well, I’m off to the airport bound for Melbourne! Talk to you all soon 🙂

P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney

Hello out there! I know I haven’t written in awhile and I’m long overdue. We had some issues with the Wi-Fi in our apartment when we moved in but everything seems to be working now! I’m also halfway through my third week of “Uni” which has definitely been keeping me busy. I’m now living on the 22nd floor of a smallish flat-style apartment with my three roommates in Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast of Queensland, Australia and we’re all studying at Griffith University, just a short tram ride away in Southport. School is approached pretty differently here — I’m taking four classes and only have class three days a week. Each course holds a lecture once a week and a single workshop or tutorial associated with it. The workshops/tutorials are basically the same as a recitation at UML. Having the spare time makes it so much easier to stay on top of my work (since classes meet less frequently, students have to take more responsibility for their learning and keep up on required readings on their own time) and still have plenty of time for fun and hopefully even get a part time job.

Our apartment is about one minute walking distance from the beach and about ten minutes away from the central business district where most of the shops, cafes, and nightlife can be found in our area. Because it’s a somewhat touristy area, it’s almost like the party never stops down there. Ladies night is a popular tradition in Australia, and many of the bars downtown observe it at least once a week, offering free drinks to ladies. There are some stores in common with the U.S., including H&M and McDonald’s, but most of the others are different, albeit similar. There are also a bunch of surf rental shops in that area and, having learned to surf as a part of my program a few weeks ago, I definitely plan to rent a board a few times before the semester ends.

Two weeks ago now, my roommates and a group of other friends went down to Sydney for Mardi Gras (it’s nothing like Mardi Gras in the U.S.). The city itself was beautiful beyond words and, in some ways, similar to Washington D.C., at least visually. We were taken on a walking tour of the city, passing through Hyde Park towards St. Mary’s Cathedral, and then wandered through a botanical garden before reconvening outside of the world famous Sydney Opera house (I looked, but I didn’t find Nemo or P. Sherman while we were there). From there, we walked over to the Harbor Bridge and climbed the first pylon to take in the views from a better vantage point. After that, our guide set us loose in the city to explore on our own. I walked back through the botanical garden to Macquarie Point to take some photos of the Opera House with the Harbor Bride behind it before visiting a local art museum. We also toured the Blue Mountains the following day, which are basically Australia’s Grand Canyon, and from there we went to the Mardi Gras Parade in downtown Sydney. Unlike what you might see in New Orleans, this is more of a rainbow event — Mardi Gras in Sydney is mainly and LGBTQ+ event and the celebration was a little extra special after the country’s national legalization of gay marriage last year. Plus, Cher was there, so crowds were estimated in the vicinity of 50,000 people. It was an unforgettable, and glitter filled, weekend.

Believe it or not, although I’ve only been in class for three weeks, I’m almost a quarter of the way through the school term. The grade for each course is determined based upon two or three “assessments” as opposed to numerous homework assignments, tests and quizzes. So far, I’ve been loving every minute!

The Wonderful Land of AUS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hi everyone! I’ve been in Australia for nearly 2 weeks now and I’m finally settled and ready to write!

This place is like a dream. After nearly 30 hours of travel, I arrived in Cairns, the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef in tropical North Queensland to meet up with the other study abroad students from the program. Since I arrived 2 days before everyone else, I had a little extra time to conquer jet lag (15 hour time difference people!) and explore the area. I visited Cairns ZOOM at the casino next to my hotel for some ziplining and to meet some local wildlife (marsupials and reptiles galore – I even took a photo with a cuddly Koala named Micro). The real fun didn’t start until the rest of the program arrived tho. As part of our orientation, we traveled north to Port Douglas to visit the Port Douglas Wildlife Habitat and the Mossman Gorge Aboriginal Community. At the wildlife habitat we were able to feed and play with wallabies and kangaroos and see a variety of other local Aussie animals up close – did you know there’s such a thing as a tree kangaroo? Neither did I. After exploring the different habitats of Australia – woodland, savanah, and rainforest – we met back at the cafe for a quick lunch and headed up to the Daintree rainforest from there. Our aboriginal guides were waiting for us there to take us on a light hike through the rainforest their tribe has been calling home for centuries – the rainforest itself is one of the oldest in the world! Our guide pointed out different native plants and animals, including snakes, rainforest dragons, and the Milii Milii plant, which is similar to poison ivy but much MUCH worse (you have to pour urine on the rash to heal it). The rainforest is one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen since I’ve been here – it didn’t even seem real, it seemed more like a movie scene from Avatar or Jurassic Park.

The next day was a free day for program students to make their own plans and explore on their own. Some of my new friends and I opted to go skydiving that afternoon. To anyone that’s ever thought about skydiving and been too scared, all I can say is do it. It’s an incredible experience and the views are to die for. 8 of us went up in a small puddle-jumper and, one after another, jumped out from 15,000 feet – it only took about 5 minutes to reach the ground from there. You don’t even really have time to be scared before you land and want to go again! They also jump without a countdown so you literally can’t over think it. I would absolutely recommend it and go again myself.

You may ask, how can you possibly go up from that? The answer is, you go down. Monday last week we went out to the Great Barrier Reef to snorkel and scuba dive. It truly is one of the 7 wonders of the world. It’s difficult to fathom the amount of life in the Reef – innumerable fish and more variety of coral than you can imagine. We saw a few giant clams, tons of parrot fish and zebra fish, and moon jellyfish (which don’t sting; one of the crewmembers on the boat dropped one in my hand. They’re kind of slimy and gelatinous but they feel really cool). I was in the last group to scuba dive that day – we got to see sea cucumbers, sharks, and cuttlefish. My one complaint is the dive was too short – I could have stayed down there exploring for the rest of time and I don’t think it would be enough.

Just like that, we were going to our farewell dinner to say goodbye and head to our host cities. Most of the program is here at the Gold Coast, but I have a few friends at Sydney, Newcastle, Perth, and Wollongong. Orientation week at my school, Griffith University, starts tomorrow and class starts next week. The adventure has truly begun!!