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.