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 🙂