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Coming To An End…

Time June 18th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

The past few weeks have been filled with final papers and exams, but we’ve still managed to have a lot of fun in between!  The last few weeks, there was a festival called Vivid Sydney.  During this time, Sydney Harbor is filled with light shows and music concerts.  We spent about 4 nights there just walking around and watching the city light up!

My friend who is studying at the conservatorium ofmusic even invited us to a jam with a bunch of her other conservatory friends, so it was great to watch her perform.  And last night, a bunch of kids from my program went to hear her sing jazz at the Roxbury Hotel with the Graham Burns Quintet!

Aside from Vivid Sydney, things are beginning toslow down as people start to think about leaving.  We went to an IFSA Butler rugby game and had our farewell dinner at a Mexican Restaurant lastweek, and even though we have about two weeks left in the semester, it seems as though things are quickly coming to an end.

I still have one big trip left to Cairns (where I will get to see the Great Barrier Reef) and Melbourne.  My sister is flying in tomorrow, and will travel together for a week before I come back, take my last final and enjoy my last week in Sydney.  It’s been an incredible semester!


April and May in Sydney

Time May 14th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

The last few weeks have been filled with midterms and adventures around Sydney.  Right after spring break, papers and exams slowly crept up on the entire group.  Luckily, my classes only transfer back to Brandeis as pass or fail.

Some of the highlights have been more trips to Pancakes on the Rocks, rugby games, Cinco de Mayo $5 burritos, picnics in the botanical gardens, 21st birthdays and trips to the movies!

A few weeks ago, I went to see my first movie in Sydney.  Although the movies cost over double what it does at home, Tuesday nights are student nights and you can see a non-3D movie for 11 Australian dollars.  Unfortunately, the non-3D version was sold out, and we ended up spending 17.50 to see the 3D version ofAvengers.  It was fun to get to see it a week before it actually opened in the US!  My friends were jealous.

We also went on an IFSA Butler trip last week to Jervis Bay.  It was great to get out of the city for a day, and the scenery was beautiful.  It’s starting to get a little bit cold, so we didn’t spend alot of time on the beach, but we went on a boat ride in hopes of seeing dolphins!  We only saw one or two, but still had a great time.  Afterwards, we stopped at a winery and I got to have my first Australian wine tasting!

This weekend, a few of us went to see Fiona, our program director, in her comedy show!  It was great to see Fiona play a different role than our program coordinator and get a sense of Australian humor.

It is so strange to talk to the majority of my friends now because they are home already from their study abroad programs!  Although I still have about a month and a half left, this month has beenflying by though, and I can’t believe how soon it will all be over.  In just one month, my sister will be coming to visit, and after traveling and touring Sydney with her for about two weeks, I will be on a plane back to Washington, DC for the summer.  I’m just trying to make the most of my time in Sydney during the time I have left!


New Zealand

Time April 18th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Last week, we had Easter break, so headed off to New Zealand with two of my friends studying in Melbourne!

New Zealand was absolutely incredible.  Everywhere you look, there is some sort of beautiful mountains, beach, rainforest or glaciers.  Everybody told me that it is not worth going unless you have at least a full week, and they were right.  Even in 8 days, it was hard to fit a lot in.  We only got to do a few parts of the South Island.

We arrived in Christchurch late on Thursday night really did not get to see that much because our bus left for Queenstown at 9am the next morning.  The ride to Queenstown was an all day adventure from 9am to 6:30pm, but our bus made a bunch of stops along the way for lunch and bathroom breaks.

That night in Queenstown, my friends and I headed to Chabad to celebrate the Jewish holiday, Passover.  There, we ran into a bunch of study abroad students from Australia and New Zealand in addition to tons of Israelis!  After the seder, we settled in at our hostel which was very nice and only about 18 months old.  Each room was labeled with a name like “Brendan’s Room” or “Josh’s Room” to give it more of a home-y feel, and the owners host a hostel dinner every Wednesday and Sunday night.  That particular Sunday night happened to be Easter, so we got to have Easter dinner with practically the whole hostel!

The next day, we walked around shops in Queenstown and had brunch at the Wharf by the water where there was also a crafts market to explore.  Then we did an hour-long hike up a mountain and had a gorgeous view from the top.  From there, we took a gondola ride back down and found dinner in town.  On Sunday, we took an all day trip to Millford Sound where we got to do a boat cruise and see dolphins and some beautiful waterfalls and scenery.  There was even a rainbow!

On Monday after a bus time mix-up, we ended up renting a carfor the next four days.  This actually worked out much better than our original plan because it gave us a ton of flexibility to make stops along our trip and leave at convenient times.  Originally, we were nervous about driving on the left side of the road, but we adjusted pretty quickly.  In Franz Joseph, our full-day glacier tour was switched to a half-day tour because of rain.  We took advantage of the morning by stopping in at the Franz Joseph Wildlife Center where we got to see Kiwi birds and learn a little bit about the glacier before the hike.  On the hike, our tour guide was telling us that part of the glacier we hiked on was going to collapse sometime in the next few months, so our tour was actually one of the last groups that would get to walk on that particular trail for the next 30 or so years!  After the hike, we got free hot chocolate and passes to the nearby hot pools where we spent the rest of our night relaxing.

The next day, our skydiving appointment was cancelled because the plane was getting repairs in Mount Cook where it was snowing.  Although they told us we may be able to re-book for the next morning, the plane never made it back in time.  Instead of Skydive, we decided to do a 10.5 mile hike up one of the mountains.  Unfortunately, it was a very foggy day, so we didn’t really get to see a view from the tops, but it felt good to accomplish something that day after the disappointment of skydiving.  That night, we watched the Lord of the Rings with a bunch of other people fromour hostel.  It felt appropriate since Lord of the Rings was all filmed in New Zealand!

The next morning, we drove back to Christchurch and stopped along the way in a little town called Hokitika for lunch.  In Christchurch, we went to the Maori Culture Center where we got to see Traditional Maori dances.  They even made us go up on stage and learn some too!  The next morning, I flew back into Sydney, a little sad that I had to say goodbye to break and New Zealand!




Gold Coast, Byron Bay and Bathurst Country Life Weekend

Time March 28th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I’ve been so many places in the past few weeks!  Somehow I managed to arrange my schedule to only take classes on Mondays and Tuesdays, so I’ve had lots of time to explore.  Two weeks ago, I traveled with a bunch of friends to the Gold Coast and Byron Bay.  As we arrived at the airport, we were surprised to find a free wine tasting on the way to the gate.  This would have never happened in the US!

The  Gold Coast is very similar to how I would describe Miami.  There are lots of palm trees and hostels lined along the beach.  Both of our destinations were north of Sydney, so we enjoyed lots of warm weather mixed in with a few rainy days.  On Wednesday night, we arrived, checked into our hotel and walked along the long chain of shops and restaurants.  The next morning, I had to wake up around 6 am so that I could speak to Brandeis about my classes.  The time difference here has been generally fine for speaking with friends and family, but the hours of 9am-5pm at home are from 12am-8am which is sometimes hard to deal with.  Anyways, once our classes were sorted out, we found a bus to take us to a water park for the day.  We hung out on the lazy river, did some water slides, and some of my friends even did a version of bunjee jumping offered at the park (it was only $12 where bunjee jumping usually costs over $100)!

After the water park, we came back to the hostel for a little to relax and then went out for a delicious sushi dinner!  Afterwards, we went to a nightclub called East where Thursday night is ladies night and they serve free champagne from 9-11 and other types of free drinks after 12.  Definitely the least we’ve had to spend on a night out!  Any other night, a drink can cost about $9.50.

On Friday morning, I had to wake up at 7am to speak to Brandeis again and do a phone interview for a position back home!  Luckily, we left our hostel a few hours later and got to sleep on an hour and a half bus ride to Byran Bay.  Byran Bay is one of my favorite places that I’ve visited in Australia so far.  The beach is BEAUTIFUL, and there are lots of local shops and restaurants to walk into.  It’s also a very popular place to do skydiving which a few of my friends were brave enough to sign up for (I think I’m holding off until New Zealand!).  While my friends skydived, I went off with another group on a two hour hike to a famous lighouse by the beach.  That Saturday also happened to be St. Patrick’s day, so even though we were all exhausted, we bought green drinks at dinner to celebrate!  I also had my first fish and chips of the semester and they were delicious!

The next day, we took a day trip to Nimbin, a tiny hippie town about an hour from Byran Bay.  Apparently, Nimbin is the ‘Amsterdam of Australia.’  Although weed isn’t legal there, our tour guide told us many stories about past tour participants who got high and missed about half of the actual tour.  After walking around for a little while in Nimbin, we re-boarded the bus and got to do a waterfall hike and eat a barbecue lunch.

That night, I finally headed back to Sydney.  After a week of classes, I boarded the bus again to go on IFSA Butler’s Country Life weekend in Bathurst.  This was one of the best weekends I’ve had so far.  After about a 4 hour drive, the group split up and each of us got to stay with a host family on a farm!  It was so refreshing to stay in a real house and eat a home-cooked meal.  On Friday night, we sat at dinner from about 8:00pm to 11:30pm just talking and sharing stories.  On Saturday during the day, we met up with the rest of the group and their host families and did a nice walk and ate a barbecue lunch at a park nearby.  Afterwards, we got to go for a ride in the back of a host family’s truck and we saw cows and tons of wild kangaroos (I even got a video)!  We had a huge dinner that night on another family’s farm and saw so much beautiful scenery including a fantastic sunset.  We learned from our host family that this property is so breathtaking that many people rent it out for weddings and other special events!  The next day, we woke up early and got to check for any eggs the chickens lay.  We found three!  And then I even got to hold one of the chickens.  Afterwards, we traveled to another family’s house where we had a home-cooked brick-oven pizza lunch and drove around feeding their cows.  Finally, we took a quick drive around the famous Bathurst race track before saying goodbye and heading back home.  I’m almost looking forward to a relaxed weekend in Sydney this week before I head off to New Zealand for Easter Break!!



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Settling In

Time March 12th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Everything is finally starting to settle down here in Sydney as people are becoming more familiar with public transportation, navigating campus, figuring out how to cook for themselves and getting into a routine with class schedules.

Last week, I started to meet Australians and other people outside of IFSA Butler while signing up for my Syndey Uni Access Card!  This card allows you to join any of the clubs/societies on campus and receive discounts on local food and drinks.  I think that I signed up for the card on the wrong day because the line ended up taking three hours!  Luckily though, all study abroad students are set up with an Australian buddy who attends the University, so I got to hang out with one of my IFSA Butler friends, her buddy Liam and his friend Chris during the long wait.  We got to ask questions about the university and learn about the best restaurants nearby.  And after our long long wait in line, we went to lunch with Chris and Liam to get the 6.50 pad thai lunch special at a Thai restaurant on king street.  It was great, cheap, and I definitely have plenty of leftovers for later!  And the next week, I got to meet with my buddy who took me out to coffee at a cute cafe on King Street and then gave me a mini tour of Newtown, pointing out her favorite restaurants, shops and bars.

As part of O-Week, there were plenty of events to keep us busy.  Besides the beach, which is always an option on any sunny day, there was everything from pizza trivia night to foam parties to the Mardi Gras parade followed by a recovery brunch the next morning.  And my new favorite restaurant is definitely Pancakes on the Rocks.  They are open 24/7 and have all kinds of delicious pancakes accompanied by chocolate, ice cream, bananas and many other options.  Delicious!

On Friday night, I went with a few friends to a temple in Bondi Junction to celebrate Shabbat (the Jewish holiday that happens every Friday night to Saturday evening).  It was nice to meet some other people on abroad programs and cook a traditional shabbat dinner with chicken, salad and challah!

Starting classes wasn’t so bad because with my current schedule, I only have class on Mondays and Tuesdays!  I’m still hoping to get an internship to do during the day on Wednesday, but I will probably have to interview at a few places this week.  Everyone has been so friendly and helpful around campus.  After one of my economics classes, I started talking to an Australian student who had the same hour break as me before her next class and offered to take me to coffee!  The only thing that is tough is that most of the Australians do not live on campus and only take classes a few days a week since they have to commute.  As a result, unless you catch your Australian friends during the days when they have class, it is hard to make plans.

I joined the gym this week and went to a group fitness class which was a lot of fun.   I love group fitness at home, so I’m glad I found something that will keep me in shape while I’m here… and will hopefully be an opportunity to meet more people!

This weekend, I had a friend from high school who was visiting from Melbourne, so it was wonderful to see her and be able to show her a little bit of Sydney.  Hopefully she’ll return the favor if I end up making it to Melbourne on a free weekend!


Finally Here!

Time March 2nd, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This is officially my 6th day here in Sydney, and it could not be more amazing!  There is so much to tell.  Although it was a long and exhausting travel day on the way to Sydney, it was a surprisingly easy flight.  After my 6 hour flight to LA and a 5 hour layover, I was about ready to pass out on my 1am flight to Sydney!  Luckily I slept through the majority of the flight.

Once we landed in Australia, we were greeted by IFSA-Butler staff who helped us pack our luggage and board the bus to depart to our hostel for orientation.  First thing, we took a 3 hour walking tour of Sydney, and although we were all exhausted, it was impossible to miss the incredible scenery.  Although Sydney is a major city, we saw trees, botanical gardens, castle-like buildings, ferries, fountains and learned a little history as we walked.  We ended our tour at the harbor where we made a quick stop at the Sydney Opera House which I hope to be back for to see a real show.  After some resting and getting to know each other, we all went out to a pizza dinner where some brave people got their first taste of kangaroo!
The next day was an all day adventure.  We started out at the zoo where we got to play with and pet koalas and kangaroos!  Definitely a highlight of orientation.  After that we went Echo Point where we got to see the Three Sisters, a beautiful and famous rock formation in Sydney.  After a long hike, we then re-boarded the bus and headed to an Aboriginal center where we got to paint our faces, decorate our own boomerangs and watch some traditional aboriginal dances accompanied by the digeridoo, an instrument unlike anything I’ve ever heard or seen!  Finally after a long day, we drove back to our hostel and got to watch a little Summer Heights High on the bus.  That night, we all ate dinner in Chinatown and were semi-able to navigate our way back to the hostel by ourselves after getting only a tiny bit lost… Which is pretty impressive because none of us have our iphones or google maps!
On our final full day of orientation, we essentially had the whole day to explore on our own.  For most of us, this meant a trip to Manly Beach, which was only about a 40 minute ferry ride away.  Here we got to lay in some long-awaited sun and buy our first (but definitely not last) gelato of the semester!  Afterwards, we returned to our hostel to got ready for our goodbye dinner boat cruise in Sydney Harbor.
We are now all moved into our rooms at Sydney Uni (what they call University of Sydney), and I am definitely enjoying my own bathroom and big bed!  Unfortunately we have no air conditioning, but there is a ceiling fan, so we are all trying to stay cool.  The only problem is that there are no screens on the windows, and we’ve been warned about cockroaches and spiders, so I am doing everything possible to avoid those!  We’ve now had two days of international orientation, and tomorrow is the official start of O-Week (orientation) for freshers (freshman)!  There’s so much to look forward to in the weeks to come!

Two Weeks and Counting!

Time February 9th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Australia is finally less than two weeks away and I could not be more excited.  I’ve seen my friends head off one by one for their semesters abroad and now it’s time to start my own adventure!  At this time in two weeks… well… I’ll probably still be on an insanely long plane ride, but I’ll be on a group flight of students all ready to spend 4 months in Sydney.

There are still so many unknowns about the trip ahead.  I know I’ll be partaking in some sort of internship, so I’ve ranked my top three choices and now I’ll have to wait for interviews in Australia to get my assignment.  I just found out I’ll have a single room in Sydney University Village, a primarily international dorm that is walking distance from campus.  I’ll have my own double bed and my own bathroom, which is more than I’ve ever had at Brandeis or home in DC!

Although I’m nervous about navigating a new city, meeting new people and taking classes at a new university, these are also some of the things I’m looking forward to the most.  One of the reasons I chose IFSA Butler was to get a chance to immerse myself in Australian life by taking classes at the University of Sydney.  While a few other programs only allow you to take classes with other American program participants, I’m hoping this opportunity will allow me to meet and hang out with Australians.

Our program starts with a four day IFSA orientation that looks incredible!  The tentative itinerary includes a walking tour of Sydney, Australian trivia night, a Blue Mountains hiking trip (where we are supposed to meet kangaroos and koalas!), a dinner boat cruise, a beach trip and a Quarantine Station tour.  And what’s great about going in the spring is that it is the beginning of the year in Australia and we’ll get to participate in ‘O-Week’, the University of Sydney’s own student orientation.

While I’m going to miss everyone back at home, I’m not too upset about trading in the cold Boston winter for summertime, a beautiful new city and plenty of opportunities to travel.  Sitting by my window, staring out at the rainy 40-degree weather outside, all I can do is keep counting down the days until Australia!