Thursday, June 10, 2010

The End is Near

I only have about 4 weeks left in Australia. Time has been flying by. Classes ended a week ago and I just got back from my trip to Sydney. During the last week of class, there was an international student farewell event. I got to hold four new Australian animals; a snake, a crocodile, an orange possum, and a sugar glider (see pictures below). After classes we were off to Sydney.

We spent two days downtown, one day in the Blue Mountains, and three days at my friend’s house in Wollongong (suburb of Sydney). We took a three hour walking tour of Sydney on our first day. It was awesome seeing the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbor Bridge, the two structures that are in nearly every picture of Sydney. It was an interesting afternoon trying to walk around and learn about Australia’s history while avoiding the pouring rain. By the time we finished we were soaked to the bone and threw all our clothes in the dryer. Down in Wollongong, we did some hiking in a national park. We saw and fed wild kangaroos, walked on the beach, and climbed on giant rocks at the edge of the ocean. We spent our last day in the Blue Mountains, about a two hour train ride inland from Sydney. It was amazing because we could see for miles all around us. The only downside of being up in the mountains was the weather. I was the coldest I’ve been since February in the Wisconsin winter. It was about 32 degrees and they said it might snow. I’m looking forward to coming home to the warm weather.

It was nice getting out of Brisbane for a change. Now that I’m back, it’s time to actually study for some exams. My mom and Julie get here in exactly 20 days and I can’t wait to see them. Here are some of my new pictures.

Sugar Glider named Byron

Snake named Zappa

Orange Possum named Amber

Baby croc named Snappy

Me and our tour guide - Harbor Bridge in back

Up in the Blue Mountains

Opera House


Got to touch a baby joey in the pouch!

Exploring the ocean caves

Singing on the Opera House steps

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Living the Good Live

As the end of the semester approaches, I’ve been continuing to travel, relax, and enjoy the weather. Life is far from stressful and the minimal amount of homework I get is hardly disrupting my relaxation. I’ve been keeping busy with running, reading, playing volleyball, and going to the beach. The weather here is slowly getting cooler and I actually have to use a blanket at night! After classes I am spending a week in Sydney with some friends. A few weeks later my mom and sister will be visiting me and I’ll get to show them around Australia before heading home. I can’t wait to see them!

One of the things I was looking forward to most in this trip was to hold a Koala. I finally accomplished this! We took a trip to the zoo and got to play with lots of Australian animals. Here are some pictures from the zoo and around the city.

Me and Violet

Baby Roo!


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Keeping Busy

It has been quite some time since my last post and I realized that I need to update before I forget about all the fun things I’ve done. Like the title says, I’ve been keeping busy… not with classes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m doing well in all my classes, they’re just really easy. I’ve been keeping busy with things like jumping out of planes, swimming on the Great Barrier Reef, and working on my tan.

Last week was our mid-semester break. My friend
s and I went to Cairns, the main city by the reef. We had a full week of fun planned out. On Monday, we went bungee jumping from 40 meters, just over 130 feet. We jumped out over a small pond and got to dip our hands and head in the water at the bottom of our jump before we got shot back up in the air. There’s nothing like starting your week off with a little adrenaline! On Tuesday we had a full day of white water rafting. We spent about four hours rafting on the river, not including our barbeque we had half way down. We had a ton of fun and met a lot of cool people. Although Tuesday was fun, Wednesday was the day I was really looking forward to. It was the day that I can officially say I’ve taken off more times in a plane than I have landed. That’s because I got to jump out! My three friends and I all went skydiving from 14,000 feet. It was the adrenaline rush of a lifetime. Everything from the plane ride up, looking straight down for two and half miles, falling at nearly 120 mph, and floating down with the parachute was simply amazing. My favorite part was free falling and being able to see the reef, city, and surrounding mountains. We couldn’t handle much more adrenaline so we spent the next two days relaxing. Thursday was spent fishing (we saw a crocodile!) and lying on the beach. Friday was our trip out to the Great Barrier Reef. We took a boat out to the reef and spent a few hours snorkeling. I didn’t see anything that impressive, no sharks or turtles, just a lot of fish and coral. Also, everything was a lot less colorful that I imagined. I still had a great time and although the reef was a bit of a disappointment, we had fun wearing our fashionable full body “stinger suits”. It was jellyfish season so we had to cover up our whole body, as you can see in the pictures below.

Our week of fun had to come to an end eventually, and so it’s back to the books. We are taking a trip to the coast with the volleyball club this weekend and we are planning a trip to Sydney for some weekend soon. I can’t believe I’m almost half way done with my trip. I’ve done so much already. I’m so excited because my mom and Julie are coming to visit me my last week here. It will be fun showing them around my life in Australia. I’m sure I’ll have more adventures to write about soon!

The stinger suit

Getting ready to skydive

Top of the bungee tower


We found Nemo!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Koalas and Kangaroos with a side of Rugby

I had an exciting weekend, as you can probably guess from the title. On Saturday we took a trip to The Australia Zoo. As previously mentioned, this is the zoo that Steve Irwin, a.k.a. the Crocodile Hunter, worked. There were pictures of him everywhere and a statue out front, not to mention the road is called Steve Irwin Way! The people here really embraced him as an Australian icon. The zoo was about an hour bus ride away. Although the rain put a bit of a damper on our day, we still had a blast. We saw crocodiles, dingoes, wombats, koalas, wallabies, elephants, tigers, lots of kangaroos, and many more. My favorite part was getting to play with the kangaroos. There was just a huge field with trees and park benches where the kangaroos lived. We got to walk around and feed them and pet them and basically just hang out with them. I also got to feed an elephant. There was just a constant line of people circulating in front of the elephant and grabbing a piece of fruit and holding it out for him to grab with his trunk. It was a fun experience.

On Sunday I attended my first rugby game. Our team, the Queensland Reds, took on the Western Force. We ended up winning 50-10, Go Reds! We went with a big group of American students, which was interesting considering none of us understood rugby very well. We just cheered when everyone else did and had fun.

Other than that, classes are going well, the weather is improving (it was raining A LOT), and I am getting excited for Easter break when I get to go sky diving and bungee jumping. I also just found out that my mom and sister are probably going to visit me at the end of my time in Australia! I’m really excited to show them around this side of the world. Check out the pictures from the zoo and rugby match.

Right at the Entrance

Feeding the Elephant

Hanging out with Kangaroos

My roommate and I at the game

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

All Settled In

It is surprising how long it takes to settle in to a new home, at least for me. I was sick last week, my computer screen isn’t working, tuition is due soon, and I was missing home very badly. Thankfully I am feeling better, my computer screen is getting fixed tomorrow, I have my finances organized, and this place is feeling more like home every day. I’m hoping and praying that the most stressful part of my journey is over.

I finished my first week of class and have officially been living in Australia for over two weeks now. My classes seem significantly easier than the classes at Madison. This semester promises to be a breeze. Our apartment is slowly becoming more decorated as we get posters, souvenirs, or whatever we can find on the side of the street. (seriously, we found a cool painting in the garbage!) I have been walking everywhere around town instead of taking the bus. It is about $1.15 per bus ride, even if you’re riding less than a mile. That would add up if I take the bus every day to and from campus, so I’m working on my ‘power walking’ to get to class on time.

There are so many things to do and places to see here, we are constantly trying to find a weekend to do something. This weekend we are going to the Australia Zoo, the zoo that Steve Irwin used to work at. It’s supposed to be unbelievable and I’ll finally get to hold a Koala! I made my plans for Easter break. A few guys and I are going up to the city of Cairns, the main city by the Great Barrier Reef. We have 7 days there, and we are planning on snorkeling on the reef, white water rafting, bungee jumping, and sky diving! I’ve always wanted to sky dive, and now seems like the perfect time. The weekend after that we are going to Byron Bay with the beach volleyball club. Apparently Byron Bay is a great city along the coast south of Brisbane. Later in the semester we will hopefully plan a weekend trip to Sydney and another weekend to take some surfing lessons! I can’t wait.Last Saturday was International Student Day downtown. We all went and got tons of free stuff and got to see some Australian animals. I got to hold a wombat! See pictures below.

That’s all for now, I’ll update in a week or two.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Interesting Australian Differences

I have been in Australia for almost two weeks now. It seems like I've been here forever! I've learned so much already and am constantly finding out something new and interesting about Australian culture. I've been keeping track of all the differences I find. Some are simply a different word or phrase and some are a completely different lifestyle. Here is my list of Australian oddities and interesting differences.

- I do not go to 'College', I go to 'Uni' (short for 'University')

- "How are you going?"/"How'd ya go?" is the same as "How are you doing?"/"How'd ya do?"

- Internet is payed by usage, not by month. When we run out, we have to buy more.

- Eggs are not kept refrigerated, they are just kept down the normal isles at the grocery store.

- Phone numbers are really weird! The area codes are 4 digits, and the number is 6 digits, instead of 3 and 7 in the US. But, unlike in the US where numbers are represented in the 123-4567 form, numbers here can be represented any way you want. Ex: 123456, 12-3456, 12-34-56, 123-456.

- Distances are obviously measured in meters instead of feet or yards. It just takes me a second to think "How far is 50 meters down the road?" when I get directions from someone.

- Students have to pay each time they go to the rec center. You would think we could work out for free if we pay $9000 of tuition!

- There seems to be a stereotype that Americans are stupid. Thanks a lot MTV.

- Speaking of MTV, the cashier at the grocery store told me I "sound like MTV"... thanks?

- I never realized how Americanized the world was! The exact same music is played here. All hip hop/pop/rock music that is popular by US bands and artists is played everywhere here.

- Relating to that, there are Australian versions of lots of American shows. Example: Biggest Loser Australia, So you think you can dance, Australia?

- There are no hot dog buns here. They just use pieces of bread. I actually had someone ask me, "So do you really have special bread for your hot dogs?"

- Cars drive on the left side of the road, which makes scary to cross roads because you need to take a second to think, "Ok now which way will the car come from?" People also walk on the left side down hallways and sidewalks.

- The Australian money is different. First of all there are no pennies. Prices are still listed as $2.99, but you are just charged $3.00. The coins are 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, 1 dollar, and 2 dollars. The cash is $5, $10, $20, $50, $100. Which means anything less than $5 is in coins. I hate carrying change around! Last but certainly not least, the cash is un-rippable! I tried to tear a 50 dollar bill... impossible. Their money is made with some sort of plastic that makes it basically waterproof and tear-proof.

- French fries are called "chips"

- Rent is payed by the week

- Subway advertises their $7 footlongs

- Guys wear short shorts

- No sales tax

That is all I have right now. I'll post more if I come up with another list.

Friday, February 26, 2010

UQ Library - Finally some pictures!

Hostel room that I hope I never see again

View of downtown from our balcony

Walking around campus

Downtown Brisbane

We played lots of beach volleyball

Taking the boat to the next island

The whole gang

Typical island in Fiji

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

UQ Campus - Homeless in Australia

Wow. No words can explain the feeling of being homeless on the other side of the world with such limited contact to family and friends.

The fact that I'm posting this means everything is fine and I found a place to live. Blogging was the last thing on my mind these last 5 days. Upon arriving in Australia, we knew we had to find a place to live soon. We just didn't know how hard it would be. It was just scary navigating around an unknown city, paying $3.90/bus ride, eating out all the time, walking as much as we could, trying to keep our valuables safe in the hostel, while being overwhelmed by all the orientation sessions we were attending for school.

Orientation was overwhelming but a bit of a relief. It was organized well and they had lots of free food. We got to meet the students that are studying at Wisconsin next semester. We were trying to explain Badger football games, but they'll just have to find out for themselves. On Wednesday they had "Market Day", which was basically a huge campus fair that all the campus orgs and clubs attend. There were TONS of booths set up all over campus and everyone was handing out free stuff. I looked into a bunch of different orgs and such. The only ones I was really interested in were the tennis club, beach volleyball, mechanical engineering society, the Lutheran campus group, and maybe rugby. I'm sure I won't be able to keep up with all of those, but I'll give them all a try.

So besides orientation, we spent all our time searching for somewhere to live. We literally wandered around looking for real estate companies. We found a bunch of places, but all the crappy and cheap places were taken. We don't want to live in a mansion! In Australia, rent is payed by week (why? no clue, I ask my self the same thing every time)And the cheapest we were finding was $180/week. That's 720/month! Not including utilities! We almost gave in and signed a lease for a nice place, but we decided to keep looking. Good thing! We talked to the accommodation services on campus and they suggested splitting up, instead of trying to find somewhere for all 5 guys. We continued our search individually (even scarier), and had better luck. I happened to stumble across a 2 bedroom apartment that would fit 3 guys. Rent would be about 135/week. Not bad compared to the previous price. We scheduled a showing and loved it immediately.

We just moved in today. It was so nice to finally unpack my suitcase and do a load of laundry. We are now in the process of getting internet set up, finding things to decorate our empty walls, and getting our class schedules organized. It's such a relief to be settled in.

We are going to a rugby game tonight and classes start on Monday. I'm sure I'll have plenty to write about in the next week or two. I'll post some pictures soon.

Brisbane - The Adventure Begins

We are staying at a hostel in Brisbane while looking for permanent residence. We flew into Brisbane International Airport today(Saturday, Feb 20th) at 9:15 AM, where we were greeted by a driver from the University and driven to our hostel. The Australian people are all so nice and helpful. The first thing we did after we got settled into our rooms was going looking for cell phones. After asking around and talking to several phone companies we found one that worked. We considered the day a success and spent the afternoon and evening walking around and learning about the city. It is amazing here. The city is very clean, colorful, busy, and diverse. We took even more pictures! Staying in a hostel is pretty fun because I’m meeting so many people and experiencing new things every day. Hopefully we’ll find a place to live in the next few days and I’ll have permanent internet access, instead of paying per hour each time. We plan to visit the campus in the next few days and attend orientation this week. I’ll update later this week as my adventure continues to unfold.

Fiji - A Tropical Paradise

Hello, or Bula! (as they say in Fiji)

I have finally arrived in Australia after a week in Fiji. It was an awesome experience. I met so many people and made a ton of new friends, especially the group of students I’m traveling with from UW. The seven of us are all best friends after a week of sleeping in small dorm rooms, waking up early and going to bed late, applying sunscreen multiple times per day, and experiencing all Fiji has to offer. It’s hard NOT to be best friends when you’re all going multiple days without a shower and slowly building up layers on your whole body (sunscreen, sweat, salt water, dirt, more sunscreen… more dirt and sweat). One of the best parts was meeting people from all over the world. I met people from Fiji, Australia, New Zealand, England, Germany, Denmark, France, and more Americans! We all made a new best friend named Olivar from London. He is going to come visit us in Australia sometime this semester. Most of us did a good job of avoiding sunburn, but our pale Wisconsin skin really didn’t stand a chance against the Fijan summer sun. Towards the end of the week, we would literally avoid going outside at all costs from noon to 3. It would only take a few minutes without sunscreen during peak hours to get scorched. Despite the intense heat, we got to do a ton of fun things.

We stayed on four different islands, or five if you count the Fiji mainland. Each had its own culture, people, food, activities, and atmosphere. The islands we stayed on were Kuata, Korovou, Long Beach, and Beach Comber. The first day we just settled in and adjusted to the new climate and culture. We swam in the ocean, played beach volleyball, threw the Frisbee, and read our books on the beach. The food was different but good. We ate lots of fruits, vegetables, and rice. There were many differences in culture that I found interesting, and sometimes frustrating. For example, I think there was only one garbage can on the first island we were on. (very small islands, but still… one garbage can?!) Also, all of our meals were included in the price of the trip, but they still made us buy something to drink for dinner. They also didn’t have fresh water for us to drink. Needless to say, we bought a LOT of bottled water. It was pathetic how detached I felt after one week without internet. It really makes me realize how much we depend on our technology and take things like cell phones for granted.

The highlight of the Fiji trip was on the fifth day when two of the other guys and myself went cave diving. It cost about $40, but it was totally worth it. We took a boat for about an hour to another island, where we walked down into a cave with pitch black water and dim lighting. It was very creepy so we let our tour guide jump in first. It looked like something straight out of a horror movie. The scariest part was when we had to dive underwater and swim about five feet to get to another part of the cave. The second part was pitch black, except for our guide’s flash light, or ‘water torch’ as he referred to it as. I thought this was the best part of our Fiji trip.

Overall, Fiji was an amazing experience. I’m glad I went not only because of the great weather and beaches, but because of the awesome friendships I formed with the other students I’m with. I know this is a long post, but trust me it could have been 10 times longer if I wrote about everything we did. Here are some pictures from the trip. (It was REALLY hard to choose a few pictures considering we took literally more than 1500 pictures between the seven of us in one week!)

P.S. Because of my limited internet situation, I have been writing blogs on my laptop and not posting them. This was written about a week ago right when we got to Australia.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Here are some pictures from my time with Julie in San Francisco. I had a ton of fun.

Julie, Me, Golden Gate Bridge, and San Francisco. Awesome view.


Standing in the Ocean, the same body of water I'll be standing in on Saturday.... but thousands of miles away.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

First Post! Basic Trip Info

Well this is my first post. I've never blogged before, but I've been told it's a great way to keep in touch with everyone while I'm off having the time of my life. So for the next five months, I will make an effort to update once a week on my adventures in Australia. I plan on putting plenty of pictures up throughout this trip and hopefully this blog will help me remember everything I do. I don't consider myself much of a writer, but I'm always up for trying something new. Who knows, maybe I'll find some hidden talent in writing.

I am studying in the Australian city of Brisbane, at the University of Queensland. Brisbane is located on the middle of the east coast of Australia, in between Sydney and the Great Barrier Reef (Still a couple hundred miles away from both). I am traveling with 10 other UW-Madison students from the engineering department. I have only met them once, but I'm sure we'll all be best friends soon.

On my way to Australia I am making two stops. The first is in San Francisco to visit my sister Julie where she goes to school at Stanford (where I'm posting from right now). The second is on the small island paradise of Fiji. I will be in Fiji for an entire week! I am staying in Fiji with 8 of the UW students. We will be island hopping and relaxing on the beach, getting ready for our studies in Australia. On February 20th I will finally arrive in Australia. I will have a week long orientation before class starts on March 1st. That's all I know right now, the rest will be an adventure. Can't wait.

Look for me to update with pictures of San Francisco and Fiji in the next week or two.