Armidale and UNE

So I’ve been at UNE for about a week now. UNE is the University of New England. It is located in a little town called Armidale, which is basically in the middle of the mountains and it is known as the highest city in Australia. It is so beautiful here and so green. The weather has been absolutely perfect all week with sunny and clear skies. The campus is technically very small but it is also very spread out. Its about a 15-20 min walk to the campus, but it is also very hilly – that means I won’t have to go to the gym (just kidding). But it will definitely help with staying fit while here. Apparently I’m going to seriously need it due to the crazy amount of drinking that will be going on, especially during O-week. O-week is the orientation here and it consists of normal school related stuff , but after that it consists of group bonding activities with a large entirety of drinking EVERY NIGHT (except Wednesday which is sober night). I didn’t realize how big the drinking culture is here, but don’t worry I don’t give into that stuff. Here I live in a college called Austin College. Being in a college is the equivalent of a dorm, but each college is like its own little community that does everything together. We also don’t normally interact with other colleges unless we play them in sports. After learning a little more about it, it sounds kind of like being in a frat or sorority because there is a bit of beginning rituals that occur however, my college doesn’t have as much as some other colleges.

O-week has been very tiring but also very fun. Everybody arrived on Sunday, and it was kind of awkward when everyone was arriving because I was just kind of sitting there already settled in, but the weirdness slowly went away after a couple hours. The first thing we had was a block meeting, where he went over housekeeping things like rules and expectations. Then we had dinner and got ready for Trivia night where there was a mix of trivia competitions and other little games. It was fun and that’s where I learned what skulling is. They sing a song and the person they sing it about has to chug their drink until they’re done with it – good way to get wasted easy. After the trivia activities we went up to our college’s bar, which is a licensed bar, but we are lucky because we are the only college that has one. Monday morning we went up to campus for the commencement ceremony which is their welcome ceremony. Pretty boring but they played a bag pipe and it seemed like a pretty big deal for Australians. They were streaming it live to the other UNE colleges as well. After the ceremony I left because there was an academic talk, which I was told, I didn’t have to go to because I’m not in my first year at a university. Monday night was R & B night and Gearsticks and Motors, which is wear the girls and boys split up to do bonding type stuff separately, then we met up at a pub in town. Tuesday was life-saver day which is basically their get involved fair where groups and outside companies come in to advertise. I signed up for a rural science club where I could get my AI license for free! We took the fresher picture and then went to the sports Olympiad between the colleges. It was fun  and there was even volleyball, but it was especially frustrating cause of the ref and the fact that nobody knew how to play volleyball.  People thought I was amazing and thought it was cool that I almost played in college… if only they knew how good volleyball in America actually is. Overall we would have won if the ref wasn’t so impartial because it came down to a tie and we lost the tug of war because we had to use girls and boys and the other colleges girls had gone to a talk with an ex-cop. He talked about sexual assault and a strategies of getting out of a sticky situation – go along with it then say you have to go to the bathroom and escape. Tuesday night was back to school night where we had drinking games in the Dining room of our college.Wednesday was academic stuff for freshers which I didn’t have to go to so I got a ride into town. I finally got my bank account and hung out doing shopping with my friends. When we got back we all took a nap together than then had a slip n slide flip cup thing. It was super fun and our block won. The last 2 races I got the cup on the first try and in the grand final I came from behind to win it for us!!! It was an awesome feeling and Thea (my friend) got a great video of it. Wednesday night was sober night and movie night in the courtyard. We watched “Get hard” which was pretty stupid but it was nice to just chill out and get to bed early. Today is Thursday and I went to SportUNE this morning (our rec center) and got my membership, worked out, then came back and have been doing random stuff every since.

The people here are super laid back and they don’t care about stupid little things. I have been hanging out with a group of 4-6 girls. Thea, Sabrina, Ellie, Holly, and Reanna, and Annie.  They are all 18 except Thea (who turns 18 Sunday). They are really nice and chill and I can tell that we’re already good friends because they like to give me stupid crap, but in our day and age that’s a sign of affection and friendship. So far I am very happy here and all I really love the atmosphere!

Saturday I am taking a trip with some international students to a national park called Dorrigo, which is about an hour-hour and 1/2 away. It should be super awesome because a part of it is a rainforest.

Next blog I’ll let you know how it all goes!!!

Things I have learned:

  1. They shorten everything here, for ex. breakfast = brekky, Sunglass = Sunnies, Dining room = Dino, Courtyard = Corto… etc.
  2. College is a big deal depending on where you are from – most people don’t go very far from home.
  3. Australians love American accents… I know, weird.
  4. French fries = chips

Pictures to come later!!!

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Sydney

Well I have arrived in the beautiful country of Australia. Coming in was vey exciting because I got to see very iconic things like the Opera house and the Sydney harbor bridge. After customs (Which was easy and quick) I got my phone plan and relaxed at the airport for a couple hours while waiting for a train and to check in to my hostel. For those of you thinking about a hostel as a sketchy, run down, unsafe place – this was definitely not that. For as cheap as it was they had very nice facilities and the place was highly populated with many people my age which was comforting. I stayed in a 4 person, shared, female room. Although I didn’t meet my sleep mates until morning before they left. It was IMG_2024two girls from Switzerland just traveling around the world. They were going to New Zealand for the next three weeks. The most interesting part, however, was that they didn’t have an set plan for where they were going and where they were going to stay. I have been so blown away by the culture already. I have met quite a handful of people who graduated high school and are just taking time to travel or do whatever with no specific plan. They just pack a bag and leave home anywhere from 4 months to a year. What a lifestyle!!

After checking in and settling down a little bit I decided to relax for the day because I didn’t feel awake or energized to really see anything. I figured it’d be best to do those things when I could really take in everything and enjoy, so I decided to go to Bondi Beach for the day. It was a recommendation by the people I sat next to on the plane, and the Sydney information booklet. It is a very popular beach that has lots to do like very cheep surfing lessons, swimming, tidal pools, beautiful rocks and outlooks, and many little shops and restaurants just off the beach. I rodeIMG_1974

the railway then took a bus and ended up meeting a local Sydney resident who told me a little bit more about the beach and things to do around Sydney and we exchanged contact info for when I come back to Sydney. The public transportation system here is very similar to the subway and buses of New York City. You can purchase an Opal card (the equivalent of a Metrocard) and load it with as much as you want and when you get on and off a railway or bus you tap it on a machine to calculate the fare. This is just one example of how the transition has been easier – Australia, especially big cities, are very westernized. Just like New York City, Sydney has very big buildings (the first thing I saw was the Ernst & Young building just like the one in time square), lots of buses, and people.

IMG_2046After getting off the bus I walked up and down the street just off the beach and found myself in a little restaurant with a nice salad and a glass of beer. Ironically the bartender didn’t even card me, which was almost frustrating because I wanted him to because I am now of age. After eating I went and laid on the beach for a while and then continued to walk along the beach and the rocks that line the little peninsula. On my way back to the bus I stopped for a happy hour drink then headed back to hotel. I found a small shop that had toiletries for very cheap and even bought some perfume as I hadn’t brought any with me. I also found a target like place and went to look for sheets but didn’t find any I liked so I decided to wait for Armidale. Eric and I met for dinner in the lobby and headed to a sushi restaurant for dinner. He had never tried it so I opened him up to the world of Asian cuisine and after we met some of Eric’s friends for drinks at the hostel. These were all people he had met just through the hostel which was nice and it kind of made me feel young and adventurous again. I discovered a new kind of boxed wine called Goon. Apparently its very big here and very cheep. We played “Goon Pong” then headed to the bars and I was finally CARDED!!!!! And of course let in. It was so nice to be able to purchase a drink with no worry of getting in trouble. Anyways we played a round of pool the hit the dance floor. We danced and hung out for about 2-3 hours then headed back. I found the two girls in the room so I slipped into bed and passed out.

This morning Eric IMG_2058and I packed up our bags, met for breakfast in the café downstairs, then hit the train station where we almost missed our train cause Eric didn’t buy a ticket in advance, but we made it. On long trains here there are assigned seats so we of course sat in the wrong ones but were eventually moved to another car where we could sit together. We’re now into hour 4 of our 8 hour journey to Armidale. At least this is a very scenic ride. The country side is absolute gorgeous!! Beautiful terrain, animals, and clear blue skies.

Well that’s all I have to say about my activities, but at this point I would like to let you all in on some very interesting things I’ve learned about Australian culture.

  1. They do not tip in Australia unless it’s great service as more of a reward instead of a courtesy.
  2. There are so many Asian people in Australia… way more than I would have ever expected.
  3. People drive on the left side of the road.
  4. The steering wheel is on the right side of a car.
  5. Traveling without a plan is a totally normal thing.
  6. Meeting other people in a hostel is a very open and normal thing.
  7. Staying in a hostel is a very normal thing – Even families do it.
  8. People don’t say sorry for little things, like cutting in front of someone. Not because theyre being rude but because nobody really cares and its not a big deal.
  9. Pedestrians do not know how to J-walk – people looked at me like I had 3 heads when I walked across the street with a green light and in between cars.
  10. Everyone here (at least in Sydney) is seriously nice and genuine.
  11. The money here is very similar to the Euro with coins and paper money as big denominations of cash.
  12. Public transport is easy and similar to that of NYC
  13. Tim Tams (chocolate wafer kind of things and its known as an Australian thing) are very good, but I haven’t tried veggiemite yet.
  14. Cheers is the in thing.
  15. One cannot walk out of a store with alcohol past 10
  16. One cannot enter another bar after 1:30 am. This means you can stay at a bar until whatever time, but you can’t hop around or go someplace new after 1:30am.
  17. Even security guards at clubs and bars are super chill. Even train conductors who left a minute or two late to make sure Eric and I got on the train (and they weren’t even pissy about it)
  18. Aussie is pronounced Oz-zy.
  19. New slang includes cheers, Rubbish, the Luo, mate, good fun, and other proper language
  20. Official times are in army time but nobody talks about it like that. For example, if its 5:00 they will say 5:00 instead of 1700 hours.
  21. Stay away from swamps beause that means there are frogs which means that there are snakes that will bite and poison you.
  22. Take a tour with a guide who knows nature because there are lots of plants that are poisonous as well.
  23. Skydiving is still amazing.
  24.  Coles is the Australian “Target”.

 

Well that’s all for now folks. Till tomorrow when you get to hear about my first experiences at UNE

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Santa Monica, Airport – Hello Australia

Yesterday was my last day in LA. We slept in then went down to Santa Monica for the last day of adventures. First we went to brunch at the Shutters hotel, which is
a more upscale, and according to Alex, a very famous place. After we walked down the beach towards the pier where we rode the “West Coaster” and the infamIMG_1912ous Ferris Wheel. Then we got some dip & dots (one of my favorites) and churros for Alex. After hanging on the pier for a little then we went to an outdoor mall nearby for drinks/before dinner snacks then decided to go to the Cheesecake factory for dessert. Very American way to send me off. The airport was next up, went to the wrong terminal initially but made it to the right one in time to check in and have to move everything around to fit the 50 lb limit in didn’t end up sitting next to him, but it was the first exposure to Australia and made me really happy that I am going to such a warm and welcoming country. One piece of advice I can definitely give readers, especially students going abroad, is that before you travel, measure your suitcase to make sure they comply with size and weight restrictions!!! Then you’ll have a much more hassle-free experience.

On the plane I ended up sitting next to a different very attractive Australian dude, and made me realize how hard it might be to resist these very attractive accents 😉 (just kidding dad!!). But seriously, him and my other Australian row-mates were very nice and gave me some advicIMG_1865e on places to go etc. All in all a good flight. Slept for about 9-10 hours of the trip on and off. Watched “The Intern” and part of “Spy” then beautiful Australia greeted us through the window. So excited to be hear and so thankful for this great opportunity!!!

I am now sitting in the airport waiting for the train to take me to the center of the city where my hostel is and where I will be before I head to Armidale on Wednesday!!

Next blog I will tell you more about my first day in Sydney!!!

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Day 2 – Universal + Downtown

Today was Universal day!! After picking up Alex’s friends at LAX we headed back towards the valley to Universal Studios. Spent the day doing very touristy thinIMG_1783gs and going to all the attractions in the park. While we explored the entire park perhaps the best part was going to “Springfield” (Also known as Simpson’s World) because it brought back good memories of when Alex and I used to watch it when we were little. This trip has been really nice for us because we don’t normally see each other for such long periods of time, but it has been really nice getting to know him a little better and reminisce about times and things we did as children.

Continuing through the day I realized how much really goes into creating a film. I thought I already knew so much just by hearing Alex talk about it all these years, but today was really eye opening in learning more and more about it at the park. Alex’s friends were IMG_1701chosen to be involved in the special effects show which gave us a look at how different tools are used put effects into movies to enhance the authenticity of a picture. With the studio tour we got to see sound stages (which I had already seen at Warner Brother’s) and other sets used to shoot famous movies and tv shows. While this trip has been so fun it has also been so educating in learning what fuels one of the biggest industries not only in LA, but the entire world, and that is entertainment.

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After much needed naps the gang hit the road once more to have dinner at a very good restaurant called “Ink”. The owner was a winner of Top Chef so you can only imagine how good and top scale the food was. I have only been to 3-4 fine dining restaurants and I have definitely been learning more about cuisine and the technical aspects of taste and pairings in conjunction with it’s presentation. It has definitely been nice trying new things and experiencing them in such elegant settings.

After dinner we decided to finish the night out with a walk down Hollywood Blvd and a look at the “Stars”. We took pictures, got a bottle of wine, then headed back. IMG_1818

Santa Monica Pier on tap for tomorrow, and tomorrow night I’ll be off!

Until then!

 

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Exploring Day 1 in LA

Today was a great day fill with a lot of different, but exciting things.

First, I went to work with my brother. Alex works at Warner Brother’s Studios doing special effects. To start off we walked around and he gave me a tour of IMG_1572the back-lot which houses the different stages and outdoor sets where movies and tv shows are shot. Some big names include the Ellen Degeneres Show, Friends, Supergirl, Greece live (got to see them break down that set) and many other big name films and shows. After breakfast and a little tour of his building we continued into the museum which houses the Harry Potter exhibit and the Batman trilogy exhibit. Both exhibits showcase original costumes and art created to put together each production. I was even sorted by the sorting hat from HIMG_1576arry Potter… I got Slytherin (not sure how I feel about that). After the museum I got my picture with the infamous Warner Brother’s  water tower and was on my way for a day of adventure.
The first place I went was the Griffith Observatory. The exhibits were quite interesting and I got to see images shot with telescopes that are actually used. I also saw an amazing show that had awesome visual effects that reIMG_1642ally made you feel like you were in outer space. After the show I got some lunch and then went on my way for a beautiful hike down the mountain and back up with some very intense inclines, but incredible views of LA. Huge shoutout to all the random people I stopped to take my picture!

My next stop was the LA zoo where I got to see a vast array of animals. It just so happens that they have an Australia exhibit which consisted of Mama Kangaroos, Koalas, Wallabies, an Tasmanian devils. This of course continued to make me excited to be leaving in just 2 days!!!

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After the zoo I tried driving over to the HOLLYWOOD sign but then realized it would have taken too long and the sun was already setting soon. After checking in with Alex and realizing he wouldn’t be done at work till late I decided to go see 2 movies, Dirty Grandpa and Hail Ceaser. When they were over I went to pick up Alex and we went to a great Mexican restaurant downtown call The Velvet Margarita.

I am wiped after such an amazing day, but I’ll be back again tomorrow to fill you in on tomorrows adventures!

 

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Airport Life

The first leg of my trip is underway. Made it to the airport, through security, and onto the plane. Something I must learn is how to gage 50 lbs per bag because unfortunately my big bag was about 16 lbs overweight and my carry-on was too big so I had to check it (but I got away with not paying for it). I guess I forgot how to pack for a long trip.

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I am writing this post from 33,384 ft. thanks to JetBlues free “Fly-Fi”. We just passed over Indianapolis which of course made me think about Purdue. It was weird for me not to go back this semester, but I am so thankful for this opportunity through this great university. I have received endless support from my friends, advisors, professors, and coaches, and could not be more thankful for that as well.
Lucky for me the middle seat between me and the other passenger was open, giving me and my long legs some more space to spread out. I’m flying JetBlue into Burbank where Alex will pick me up. Downtown LA and a tour of Warner Brothers Studio is on tap for tomorrow. Universal is on tap for Saturday and Sunday, Santa Monica Pier and the beach will send me off to Aussie land.

Getting more and more excited each day!

 

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Twas The Night Before

Hey guys,

I am sitting in bed at 2 a.m. the night before leaving for my journey. I have been packing, cleaning, and organizing everything for the last 4 hours and am ready to sleep.  My backpack is ready to be packed tomorrow filled with my GoPro (thanks to Alex and Alissa), SD cards, Camera, Selfie stick and stuff I’ll actually need for school. I am so excited and I hope you all will enjoy following this trip with me.

The first leg of my trip is to LA to spend a couple days with my brother before I leave. Can’t wait to be a tourist!

Sunday I hit the road (more like plane)!

Until then!

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