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The Final Post – Home Sweet Home

Time July 11th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Unfortunately, this will be my final post about being abroad in Australia because I have returned back to the States. What a semester is has been and MAN! did it fly by. Everyone said that it would but it seriously seems like just yesterday that I was saying goodbye to my family at the Newark airport. Four and a half months later, here I am, sitting in my family room reflecting on my incredible experiences that will stay with me forever. I have learned so much about myself, about my culture, and about Australia’s culture. I have thoroughly enjoyed living on my own, cooking my own meals, and taking on new responsibilities in general. I loved trying new things including eating kangaroo pizza at a small cafe in The Rocks and going bungy-jumping in beautiful Cairns overlooking the horizon. They are memories that are simply unforgettable. I enjoyed every moment being abroad (even the stressful schoolwork ones), because they made me grow as a person and I can’t complain about that.

I also can’t complain about leaving such a lovely country because I received the warmest of welcomes when I walked through the Newark airport terminal on July 1st. My mom, being my mom, snapped a photo of me, and then preceded to give me a big hug. More hugs followed by my father, brother, and finally, my boyfriend. It was particularly nice to see each and every one of them after over 24 hours of travel, especially because they took my heavy bags from me that I was lugging around for what seemed like days. I felt like I was in a dream for a few moments, but then reality slowing started sinking in. I hadn’t seen these people (besides on a computer screen) for four and a half months! That’s a lot of time to be away from people you see regularly. The car ride home was filled with many questions and stories. When I walked through my garage door and stepped into my home, I saw red roses on the kitchen table (from my thoughtful boyfriend) and welcome balloons tied on the chairs (from my family). We celebrated my return with champagne and good ‘ol Tim Tams brought from Australia. It was a very late great night.

Now that I have been home for a little over a week, I definitely have gotten back into my typical summer routine, but I miss Sydney dearly. Nothing compares to that city. There’s always something fun to do and good people to meet. Long Valley (my home town), although it contains lovely people, seems pretty dull, especially after living in such a wonderful vibrant city. So here I am, sitting in my family room, reflecting on the great times that I had, starting to feel some reverse culture shock, but it’s okay because it all actually happened. It wasn’t all a dream. It was the trip of a lifetime and I am beyond grateful of my journey across the world.


A special thanks to my family for all the support that they have given to me and to my boyfriend who stuck by me and listened to all my Aussie stories every single day. I love all of you.


One Last Trip Before Going Back to the Unites States – New Zealand

Time July 8th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

After lots of contemplating of whether or not to visit NZ before I left Australia, I finally made the decision (with the help of my parents) to take one last trip to the South Island from Christchurch to Queenstown. My mom made a good point in saying that I probably won’t be on that side of the world ever again or if I do it will be in a very long time, so I might as well take advantage of being so close to such a breathtaking country. And so I did…and it was amazing (not that the word “amazing” can actually do my trip and all the scenery justice), but I’ll do my best to describe and show you what I so gratefully saw and did on my trip:

The first day of my New Zealand trip I boarded my plane to Christchurch at 8:55am. The flight went smoothly and when I landed I took a shuttle to the YHA hostel where I was planning on staying for the night. Turns out that I would be staying there two nights because there was road problems due to weather and the bus I was supposed to take couldn’t get through to Queenstown. With the extra day in Christchurch, my roommate Amy and I got a manicure at the local mall, went shopping around the few stores that were open, and went to the Canterbury museum which was located directly across from the hostel in which we were staying at. The museum was a pleasant surprise with artifacts from all over the world. I especially enjoyed the dinosaur skeletons, the preserved mummy, and the paua shell house. The house contained over 1,100 shells on the wall! It was quite the sight. Also, the old-school video that played to describe what we were looking at in the house within the museum gave us a good laugh. The couple who owned the house were quite interesting to say very least. To each his own, I guess. The shells aren’t within my style for my own home at all, but I certainly enjoyed looking at them for entertainment. We ended the night with homemade tacos and hot chocolate. Yum.

The next day we woke up early in hopes of catching the next bus to our first choice, Queenstown, or our second choice, Dunedin. We were in no luck to take the bus in which we had originally planned to either location. Luckily, after a lot of research and frustration, we found a bus that would at least take us to Dunedin at 2pm (we had been up since 6am trying to figure things out). We made our way to the bus stop and it was a utter relief when the bus actually pulled up to pick us up, unlike our planned company that we had booked through. We got on the bus and made our way to Dunedin, with a short stop to get food or drinks if we wanted them. Five hours later, we arrived! Knowing we had a new town to explore was a good feeling. I was ecstatic! Christchurch definitely had potential to be a cute town, but the earthquake two years ago definitely took a toll on it’s “cuteness”. It was certainly a shame.

When we arrived at the YHA in Dunedin at 8pm, we put our stuff into our room and headed to George St. for some Chinese take away and drinks. I got some spicy chicken and vegetable over rice and tried a New Zealand made beer and apple cider. We were tired after dinner, so we went to sleep shortly after.

The next day I woke up early, ate the complimentary brekkie at the hostel, got a butterscotch latte at McDonalds (yes, there are nice  cafes within some McDonalds in Australia and New Zealand). Pretty cool… and odd for Americans haha. After coffee, my roommate, my friend from my program, and I decided to make our way to Queenstown via taxi, the most time and money efficient way after having horrible trouble with our original bus company.

Driving up to Queenstown gave me a taste of what I expected from NZ. White snow capped mountains and beautiful lakes welcomed me. When I arrived in Queenstown, we took a look at Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountains right in the backyard of the hostel in which we were staying (YHA Queenstown Central). This was the moment I was waiting for. Words nor pictures can do the scenery justice. It was unreal. I even felt numb, but that may have been from the freezing cold haha. The cold didn’t matter though. The view had my full attention. It was like the most beautiful postcard on steroids. I wish everyone could experience it.

After taking photos and enjoying the view, we bought some groceries to make a big salad for dinner with a chips and salsa for an appetizer. Next we did a bit of shopping, relaxed in our room, and decided what we wanted to do for the next couple days. We decided we wanted to extend our stay in Queenstown and chop a day off of the end our Christchurch stay.

The next day we had to wake up at 5:30am to catch the bus for our wildness tour from Queenstown to Lake Wanaka to a beautiful national park with blue pools, waterfalls, and more views of the mountains and plains. I had never seen water that color before. It was very neat. Our last stop ended with jetboating on the Haast River. It was a fairly short ride, but the views were absolutely beautiful. After a long day of  bush walking (hiking) and jetboating, we made our way back to Queenstown. On the way back we made a stop at a fruit market where I tried my first persimmon and nashi pear. I liked them so much that I had to buy at least one of them. I decided on the pear. It was 80 cents NZ or 62 American cents.  It was the size of a large apple and was beyond juicy and flavorful. I decided that I would have to buy both fruits when I get back to the States (if I could find them). After making a quick stop to our rooms, we got in the short line but long wait for a nice juicy burger at Fergburger for a late dinner. I tried the “southern swine”, a NZ beef burger with bacon, lettuce, tomato, red onion, aioli, and tomato relish (they ran out of the avocado that was also supposed to be on it, but it was all good). Amy and I also shared a fries and I ordered extra sweet chili dipping sauce. It was my favorite meal thus far in NZ and one of the best burgers that I have ever had! I would recommend anyone to go there. It’s definitely worth the wait.

We called it yet another early night because we had been up so early. The next day would be jammed packed with activities once again and we wanted our rest! Photography of our surroundings, in-town shopping, and horseback riding to see some scenery from The Lord of the Rings awaited. I didn’t think that the previous day could be topped, but it certainly was.

Amy and I were picked up near our hostel to be driven to Dart Stables. With one quick stop to take some photos at a nearby reflective lake, we arrived at the stables to get our helmets and gumboots required to ride. We pet some of the horses and took some photos of them, with them, and the surroundings. Next, we took another short bus ride to our final destination of Paradise…literally. The town was actually named Paradise and man, did it own up to its  name. I felt like I was on a other planet.

Amy and I were assigned horses soon after we arrived. She was assigned Chester and I was assigned Sullivan. Sullivan was actually a personality star on a tv show at one point in his life and he was 21 years old just like me! He had three white socks and a long mane covering his eyes which made him look like he had emo hair. He was also HUGE–the largest horse of the bunch (and I wasn’t the largest person to be assigned a horse either). I thought he was perfect for me to ride though. I later found out that he had a very distinct personality and I fell in love with him. He was large and in charge but also a big teddy-bear.

Now, back to the scenery. Beautiful mountains with snow capped peaks, a braided river (the Dart River), mossy woods, and hills and valleys surrounded me. Horses filled the valleys, two of which were horses of Rohan (a Lord of the Rings reference). They looked even more majestic with the sun starting to slowly set behind the mountains. The ride lasted an hour and a half and kept getting better and better each turn or hill.

On a side note for The Lord of the Rings fans, I saw some scenery from some key scenes in The LOTR movies. I saw valleys of Isengard; where Gimli had been breathing heavy and was spotted by elves; where the dam between the mountains was created for Saruman’s tower and surrounding area was flooded; where Boromir was killed by four arrows; random shots of the scenery (specifically a beam of light that naturally casts upon a large tree in the movie); where uruk-hai ran down the hill in the woods to try to capture Frodo; and where Saruman’s tower stood at only four feet tall in reality. It was unreal to see the scenery from the movies in addition to seeing how Peter Jackson played with the landscape of beautiful Paradise.

The next day we headed back to Christchurch with beautiful scenery all along the way. We made quick stops to view our surroundings, my favorite stop being Lake Tekapo. This is where I decided to purchase an iced coffee, despite the snow-capped mountains, so I could stay awake to see what the rest of NZ’s South Island had to offer. The day ended with a delicious meal at a pub in Christchurch. Most interestingly, the pub contained postage stamp wallpaper and weird rabbit/bunny photographs framed on the wall, some with cat faces Photoshopped onto what would be their typical rabbit/bunny faces. On a more normal note, the pub was an old building, with small rooms, low ceilings, fireplaces, live music, lots of locals, and great food. I got a open steak sandwich and a hot hard cider to keep me warm. It was a perfect dinner to end my trip.

We left Christchurch horribly early the next morning to catch our 6:55am flight, where I slept and reflected on my wonderful experiences in New Zealand. I was so fortunate to be able to visit a country in which I will probably never come close to ever again. I would recommend visiting NZ to just about anyone (as long as you can handle the cold), especially Queenstown, Paradise, and Queenstown’s surrounding areas in general. Although the scenery and memories created are well-worth dealing with a little cold weather.


Perks of Sydney and IFSA-Butler

Time May 23rd, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

The school work continues and finals are just around the corner, but let me touch upon a few of the highlights of the last couple weeks in Sydney.

On May 4th, a few of my roommates and I took the train into the city to visit the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) and Circular Quay in general. I truly cannot get enough of Circular Quay’s atmosphere. There really isn’t anything like it. I bought some gelato, enjoyed some window shopping, listened to some street performers, and walked around the MCA. Here are some photos from on the way to and at the MCA:

On the way to the MCA Museum of Contemporary Arts Museum of Contemporary Arts MCA Spiderman!

On May 8th, my new IFSA-Butler advisor Fiona took all of the Macquarie University students including myself out to lunch at the nearby mall. We ordered drinks and many different kinds of pizza at Pizza Crust. I have noticed that pizzas are very elaborate in Australia compared to America. What is considered plain pizza often has a lot of extra spices on it. I definitely don’t have a problem with this though–I love my spices and toppings! My favorite pizza was the vegetable pizza which had an unidentifiable neon green sauce on it that tasted not far from a mixture of honey mustard dressing and pesto. After pizza, we all got gelato or coffee drinks for dessert. I ordered a blended iced coffee drink and it was AMAZING. I’m really missing my Keurig machine here in Australia. A lot of the coffee is instant and it’s simply not the same unless you order a coffee at a cute cafe or Pie Face (which are EVERYWHERE!). But paying $4+ for a good cup of coffee definitely adds up. It sounds so silly but I can’t wait to have a basic iced coffee from Dunkin Donuts when I get back to the States. As much as I enjoy the vanilla ice cream scoop that Australians put in their iced coffee, sometimes it is just too much and I just want ice cubes. Coffee with ice cream is delicious as a dessert, but not as a pick-me-up. Anyway, here’s a photo of the Macquarie University, IFSA-Butler students at Pizza Crust!

IFSA-Butler Lunch!

A few days later, my roommates and I, along with my neighbors ,went into the city for a night out in Sydney. We went to The Orient, where a bunch of the IFSA-Butler students and I had spent a few nights out during our IFSA-Butler orientation. Karaoke was available to all and a few of my friends decided to sign up and give it a try. There were thousands of songs to choose from and it was a blast to watch and listen to them. Some of my friends can sing!  I’d love to go back.

At the Orient After The Orient

The 15th of May, my roommates and I went to Paddy’s market again and I bought some delicious cheap trail mixes. My favorite one was a “pea mix” with wasabi peas, BBQ peas, and more. YUM! Afterwards, we went to the beautiful Chinese Gardens at Darling Harbour, which I was happy to find out only cost three Australian dollars. Pictures don’t really do it justice but here’s a bunch!

The last couple of days I have been planning a trip to New Zealand with one of my roommates from IFSA-Butler! We plan on traveling from Christchurch to Queenstown after we are done with finals! I absolutely cannot wait, especially for our Milford Sound day trip. I’m so lucky to have so many wonderful opportunities.


Mid-Semester Break – The Trip of a Lifetime

Time May 6th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Words cannot describe the amazing time that I had on my mid-semester break, so I decided to make a video slideshow to show my journey from Brisbane to Cairns. Here it is! Enjoy!




It’s time for a holiday.

Time April 12th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Studying abroad is not all fun and games when there are a million and one assignments to be done before my mid-semester break starting this coming Tuesday. But! That doesn’t mean homework can’t be fun. This past Thursday I attended the living sculpture performance art exhibition called 13 Rooms. It is an exhibition that will continue until the 21st of April and it is a must see if you’re in the area! The exhibition, which I was required to go to for my Curating Artistic Creativity course (and thank goodness for that), consisted of 13 different rooms, 12 of them containing living sculpture performances. The thirteen rooms, of all different sizes and shapes, were built specifically for each performance. There is even a circular room and a room that you need to crawl into if you choose to enter. Curators, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Klaus Biesenbach, curated this amazing project with twelve great artists, two of which were actually presenting the performance! I could ramble on for days about this exhibition, but it may just be easier for you to take a look at what it has to offer by going to the actual exhibition (if you are fortunate enough) or by clicking here. Enjoy!–I know I did. Also, here are some photographs that I took myself on the way to the exhibition and at the exhibition itself.

Sydney Harbor Bridge 13 Rooms Exhibition One of the 13 Rooms

I know I said I was stressed in my last blog but man! This week has been maybe my most stressful in all of college/uni; however, I have been taking all my assignments step by step to get everything done in time for my flight to Gold Coast this coming Wednesday! I know it will all get done but boy, do I have to crack down and focus. There are no fun activities allowed this weekend or upcoming beginning of the week. My last week here is going to be spent at the library. Of course, I know that it will be all worth it when I finally get to relax on my holiday. I am BEYOND excited about my mid-semester break. I am flying to Gold Coast, experiencing Gold Coast for a short bit, driving to Brisbane in a camper van with friends, and am partaking in Extreme Adventures’, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish – Tour 4, which ends in Cairns. The itinerary for this amazing opportunity is here. . . Can you see why I’m excited? I have a feeling that it could be the best vacation, or should I say holiday, of my life.


A Break from Reality: A Photo Essay

Time April 12th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I was required to create a photo essay, a clear narrative told through photographs, for my Photographic Cultures course and I figured I would share it with you all. The photo essay had to contain no more than ten photographs and had to have a piece of writing (500 words) to accompany the images. There were four topics to pick from for the photo essay but here is the assignment directions for the topic in which I chose:

Choose a suburb or a street of Sydney to observe. Produce a photo essay that tells a story about the rhythms of the urban space.

This was the final product:


A Break from Reality

The American Students’ Perspective from Bondi to Bronte: A Photo Essay
Laura Rhodes


Bondi 1

The journey started at Bondi Beach with the waves crashing up against the rocks and the strong smell of sea salt in the air. The destination was Bronte Beach, but there certainly was no rush to get there. This was going to be a day of relaxation and serenity−a break from the real world, an escape from all worries.

Bondi 2

The short dirt path with greenery was a nice change from the paved sidewalk. We did not know where the path led−all we knew was we wanted to go and there was nothing holding us back.

On the way to Bronte 3

We reached the top of the hill and felt on top of the world. At that moment in time, nothing could bring us down. The wind in our hair, we were invincible.

On the way to Bronte 4

We didn’t think that the view could get any better, but then we turned around. A family on the hill with their little dog was silhouetted by the intense summer sun. We were caught in awe and rudely could not stop staring. It was like we were in another world. I do not think that I have ever seen the sun shine so bright, especially not in The States. It was one of those moments that I will never forget. The sun lit up the sky and all it touched.

On the way to Bronte 5

After we experienced such a sight, it felt like we were flying, soaring through the sky. The seagulls mimicked our emotions. They took off from the nearby rocks and headed towards Bondi Beach’s main shores. They were flying backwards, but we were headed nowhere but forwards.

On the way to Bronte 6

She watched the seagulls fly by, winding blowing through her hair, sun blaring on her back, warming her already sun-kissed skin. Not a worry in the world was going through her mind. Even though the schoolwork was building up and chemistry had to be dealt with later that night, later was not now. This moment was hers and she wasn’t going to let any stressful matters get of the way of enjoying the beautiful site in front of her.

On the way to Bronte 7

We walked a little ways and then once again stopped to enjoy the views and take some photographs to document our journey. We noticed a courageous surfer out on the rocks. What was he thinking? Although I didn’t know from experience, the rocks looked slippery and dangerous. I gave him credit for going out there.

On the way to Bronte 8

After admiring the brave surfer, we trekked on singing some popular tunes. We were in our own little worlds, doing our own thing−loving what life had offered us on such a breathtaking day.

Bronte Beach 9

We had almost reached Bronte Beach when we saw this adorable couple enjoying the scenery, just as much as we were. Conversation and laughter were flowing and it was clear that they enjoyed each others’ company.

Bronte Beach

It was a sad moment when we had reached our destination of Bronte Beach. It meant that our adventure was over and it was time to catch the bus back to the uni. When we boarded the bus, we all sat quietly and reflected on our afternoon. It was a good one to say the least.


Paddy’s Market

Time April 1st, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This past school week was full of lots of homework and very little play. I had papers to do, chapters to read, and presentations to prepare for.  The highlight of my week was going to the Mac Centre (the nearby shopping mall) to get sushi with one of my roommates, Annikki. Other than that, I’ve been Miss StudyStudyStudy.

I was happy to know that Friday would kick off the long weekend with Good Friday and the Monday after Easter off. On Good Friday a few friends and I took a train to Central Station and went to Paddy’s Market, an incredible market in Sydney that has EVERYTHING from food to clothing to automobile parts. I entered the Haymarket entrance and was immediately overwhelmed with all the stands of goods to purchase. So many colors and textures surrounded me and I didn’t know where to even begin. My friends and I were all over the place hopping from one store to the other. There was way too many things to look at and buy! Surprisingly, I only bought one sweatshirt  out of everything that I easily could have. The sweatshirt is a light coral pink one that says “Bondi Australia.” I couldn’t refuse it when I found out it was only $12, and I regret not packing more than one sweatshirt for the nighttime, so it was perfect!

After Paddy’s Market, my friends and I went to a pub nearby to get something to eat and drink. I settled on steak, fries, and a hard apple cidar. The meal was only $10 with the purchase of a bar drink, which was a nice change from the $20+ meals that I’m used to out and about in the city. It was a fun day.


Who would’ve thunk?

Time March 25th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Who would have thought that I would be seeing an American famous comedian and talk show host in Australia! Any guesses who I saw?

It was Ellen DeGeneres!

On March 21st Ellen DeGeneres tweeted: “All right Sydneysiders, tomorrow’s on! Come to the Opera on the Harbour at the Fleet Steps. The fun starts at noon…If you’re planning on coming tomorrow, and I hope you are, Sydney, you can’t line up over night. The line starts at 6am!”

The next day, I woke at 3:30AM in order to get in the line for Ellen’s planned “fun” that she mentioned on her Twitter. I later found out that this “fun” was The Ellen Show. I took the train from Macquarie Uni to Circular Quay and walked to the Opera House by 6:00AM. By 6:30AM, the hundreds of people I was with and I were told we were in the wrong area to line up for the event. There was then a stampede of people running around the Botanical Gardens to the new destination of the line. My friends and I waited in line for about an hour until a few people from the staff came around to give us pink wristbands. These wristbands meant that we would get tickets for the show! About 1,000 people got tickets in total. A few hours later, we received our tickets and entered the venue.

There was lots of dancing, competitions, and games before the show even began. The “Gangnam Style” dance competition was probably the highlight of the preshow. The people in the competition got SO into it. It was hilarious.

I was extremely excited when Ellen finally appeared on the stage. She has such an energy about her. Portia, Russell Crowe, and Jessica Mauboy also made guest appearances on the show which was pretty cool. Russell Crowe tried showing Ellen how to use a whip. It was SO funny because Ellen wasn’t succeeding in the least.

After the show, a few friends and I walked through the Botanical Gardens to go get lunch near Circular Quay. I got a salmon sandwich and a side salad at a small bar called The Ship Inn. It was delicious. After lunch we went shopping for a short bit and then headed back to Mac Uni. Overall, it was a hectic but absolutely fabulous day. I wish I could experience it all again.

Here’s a video of Ellen dancing! Sorry for the shaking camera. . . I was dancing myself! :)

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I am in love with this city!

Time March 18th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Although classes have commenced I am still taking full advantage of the city around me. I am in love with this city! I cannot get enough and as many of my friends and I have decided, we are afraid we are not going to want to leave come July.

I have class every week day; however, I do not have class any later than 6:00PM on any given day. This means that I can spend my nights hanging out with friends, catching up on homework (this is the not so fun “study” part of “study abroad experience), go into the city, go shopping at the Mac Centre (the grocery shopping never ends!), and so much more!

One of my favorite nights has been a “Girls Night Out” to a Max Brenner Chocolate Bar. About ten of my girl friends walked to the Macquarie Shopping Centre where the chocolate bar is located. We decided we wanted to try multiple items on the menu so five of my friends and I shared three delicious items: the chocolate fondue for two, the Tutti-Frutti waffle, and the chocolate-banana pizza. The pizza was my favorite. It had melted chocolate on sweet dough with bananas, marshmallows, and caramelized pecans on top! Yum!

Chocolate-Banana Pizza Tutti-Frutti Waffle - Yum!

Another memorable day was the LGBT Mardi Gras in Sydney. When we arrived in the city, three of my friends and I went to Subway for a bite to eat. Next, we went to a bar across the street from Subway. Finally, we made our way over to where the parade was and it was packed! It was way too crowded to see anything over the mass of people, but it was great to see everyone showing so much pride and support. After deciding the parade was too crowded, a bunch of my friends and I decided to go to a club nearby. My friend, Tom had a connection, so we didn’t have to pay a cover charge which was obviously nice. It’s expensive in this city! Anyway, the music in the club was not what I am used to, but it was nice to experience something different than mainstream Top 100 tracks. After the club two of my friends and I decided to head back to the Mac Village and besides the taxi ride home costing my friends and me $70AU, it was a very nice night out.

Mardi Gras

IFSA-Butler also planned two great events, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The first was a concert at the Sydney Opera House. We saw “The Reef.” It was an incredible performance and I would have never thought that I would have been so fortunate to actually see a show in such an iconic building. He is a link for more information about the show. The second event that IFSA-Butler planned for us was a trip to Manly Beach to snorkel, hang out on the beach, and shop at the surrounding stores. We had instructors teach us a few things about snorkeling and then headed out into the ocean where I got to see about nine different types of beautiful fish and even dark purple sea urchins! It was so cool to see such creatures right off the shore. I would definitley love to do snorkeling again sometime soon.

Before Snorkeling

The “nightlife” here is great to say the least. Just to touch upon it a bit, you can basically party, club, or go to a bar at any time of day. I guess you can say it’s convenient if you’re in the mood to party. Here’s two photographs of me before a Toga party (which was unfortunately too packed to get in to, so my friends and I had our own party) and then a normal photograph from The Ranch (a bar close by to campus that everyone goes to on Wednesday nights). Both were great times.

Toga Party Attire Wednesday Night at The Ranch

It has sunk in … I am living the dream.

Time March 18th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

First of all, I’m sorry for neglecting you all for so long! These past 22 days have been jammed pack. School is in full swing and the activities available 24/7 have distracted me from documenting this important time in my life. However, I think I have fully realized just how special this experience is and how much I will truly gain from it. It is now all real to me. It has finally sunk in. All in all, I am one lucky girl–I’m living the dream.

I have done immense amounts of activities since my IFSA-Butler orientation. The first week at Macquarie University (Uni) consisted of O’Week activities organized by the Macquarie University Village in which I’m staying in a lovely house with five other girls all from the East Coast in the States. Here’s a brief overview of my amazingly fun O’Week:

Feb. 18th:

From 3:30PM to 7PM I took a tour with my Resident Assistants. However, this was not just any tour. I expected a tour around campus, so I could get a feel for my surroundings and figure out where my classes were. Instead I found myself bar hopping from The Ranch to Ubar (two of the close bars/clubs near and on campus that everyone in the Mac Village attends every Wednesday and Thursday night). Not that I was complaining, though. We received free drinks at both destinations and I got to meet some new people not in my IFSA-Butler program.

Feb. 19th:

The second day of O’Week consisted of the Mac Uni Village orientation. We got some information about where we are living for the next four and a half months and ended with an Aussie Spit Roast Dinner on the deck of the administration building. It was nice not to have to cook and I once again met some more people in which to be friends with.

Feb. 20th:

The OzParty Boat Cruise was my favorite night of O’Week. We took a bus into Sydney, boarded our cruise ship, ate a nice dinner, had some drinks at the cash bar, danced, and enjoyed the Sydney harbor views. The dance competitions that randomly commenced were hilarious and overall I had an absolute blast. It was quite the night to remember.

Feb 21st:

The beach barbeque that followed the OzParty Boat Cruise was perfect. We spent some time on Bondi beach, walked from Bondi beach to Bronte beach (my favorite beach thus far), enjoyed all the beautiful views from Bondi to Bronte, and then barbequed some sausages at Bronte. I was excited to find a pool right on Bronte beach in which I spent the majority of my time watching the waves crash into the walls of the pool and sometimes even over the walls into the pool! I was definitely sad to hear that the buses had arrived to take us home at 4:00PM. I didn’t want to leave!


The Blue Mountains Tour

Time February 25th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

A beautiful view of the incredible Blue Mountains.

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Where to begin…it’s been a beautiful whirlwind!

Time February 25th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I have landed in Australia and my past week has been nothing but amazing and surreal. But MAN! have I been a busy bee. Here’s a basic summary of everything I’ve done at IFSA-Butler’s amazingly planned orientation:
Institute for Study Abroad – Butler University

Semester 1, 2013 Orientation

Sydney Harbor YHA – The Rocks

February 13th:

  1. Arrive at the Sydney Harbor Youth Hostel (YHA)
  2. Welcome Presentation
  3. Lunch
  4. Received our IFSA-Butler mobile phones with a $10 credit.
  5. Got a mobile phone plan, in addition to the $10 credit, to text friends from IFSA-Butler’s program for FREE.
  6. Sydney Walking Tour – saw all the main sites near The Rocks, including the Opera House, Sydney Harbor Bridge,
  7. Botanical Gardens, Hyde Park shopping centres and more!
  8. Free time to freshen up and relax a bit (Yes, we still hadn’t showered since the 11th! YIKES!).
  9. 8. Burger and salad dinner at the YHA
  10. Travel Presentation for advice, recommendations, and tips!
  11. Relax and finally SLEEP! (Got through the day without any naps to fight the jetlag and it surely has paid off!).

February 14th:

  1. Breakfast or should I say “Brekkie” at the YHA – pancakes, yogurt, and fruit, YUM!
  2. Visited Featherdale Wildlife Park to get introduced to all of the Aussie animals! Pet some wallabies, kangaroos, koalas, and more!
  3. Lunch near the famous 3 Sisters and Echo Point. We were given a wrap, a piece of fruit, and an Australian candy bar to try! I had a spicy chicken wrap, a green apple, and an Aero bar. Everything was delicious!
  4. Bushwalked (hiked) down into the rainforests of the Blue Mountains (walked down over 1,000 steps!). Luckily, we didn’t have to walk back up. We took the Scenic World railway — the steepest in the southern hemisphere! The views were INCREDIBLE.
  5. Next, we went to a Aboriginal Culture center to paint some boomerangs (which tell stories through their symbols), learn about the Aboriginal culture in general, and watch some extremely entertaining performances through music and dance.
  6. After falling asleep on the bus home from the Blue Mountains from exhaustion the IFSA-Butler crew went to dinner at The Orient in The Rocks. Dinner options were great and I was able to try kangaroo for my first time. It was served with beetroot relish, rocket, tomato, mustard mayo on sourdough with fries. I would definitely get it again!
  7. After going back to the Sydney Harbor YHA to freshen up, a bunch of us decided to go back to The Orient for a few drinks, a live band, and a bit a dancing. It was a blast! And that is exactly why we went back again the following night for the same guaranteed good time!

February 15th:

  1. Day 3 of orientation consisted of compulsory information sessions. The sessions focused on academics, health and well-being, and university specific information (Macquarie Uni). I learned a lot and felt one step closer to being prepared for my upcoming semester in Sydney.
  2. From noon to 6:45PM we had free time to do whatever we wanted. A group of us decided to take the ferry to Manly beach from Wharf 3 at Circular Quay. I loved the town of Manly with all of the cafes, restaurants, boutiques, and shops. We decided to eat at a small cafe with a beautiful view of Manly beach. Next, we hit the beach and I touched Pacific waters for my very first time!
  3. We took the ferry back home and started getting ready for our Sydney Harbor Dinner Cruise in which we were offered chicken, ravioli, salads, and desserts buffet style. There was also a cash bar to buy some drinks. I decided on some white wine with one of my new mates.
  4. The cruise had beautiful views, some dancing,  and prize drawings. I won an “Australia” flip-flop (or as the Australians say “thong”) keychain!
  5. After the cruise, we made our way over to The Orient again for a similar night to the last. The Orient didn’t disappoint.

February 16th:

  1. Move-in day finally arrived and after a short bus ride to Marsfield, all of the IFSA-Butler students made their way to the Macquarie Village reception center to check in.
  2. After checking in and getting our room assignments, my new roommate Amy and I made our way up the hill to our apartment. We were lucky enough to get a little help with our multiple bags from a German international student.
  3. After we put our bags in our rooms, we headed back to reception for our IFSA-Butler advisor Joanna to lead the way to the Macquarie Centre. She showed us the Mac Centre so we could walk through part of campus and buy some things for our new living spaces. It was a bit of a walk (15-20 minutes), but I found everything I needed.
  4. Once getting back from the Macquarie Centre, I unpacked some of my things and had a BBQ with some of the IFSA-Butler students. It was a great way to kick off the semester!

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“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

Time December 20th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Traveling is not only fun, but there are many beneficial aspects to it. For example:

1. Traveling increases knowledge about the world around you.

2. Traveling increases perspective and makes you a more culturally diverse human-being.

3. Traveling increases insight about your own country, state, and/or town.

4. Most importantly, traveling increases insight about who you are.

Therefore, I am going to take every opportunity that I can to travel to increase my knowledge, perspective, and insight. I have traveled to Mexico, England, Bermuda, and within the United States. Australia is my next stop and I couldn’t be more excited.

About Me

Even though theses paragraphs will make me feel like I’m traveling back in time to my freshman year’s college orientation, I believe it is necessary. In addition, it could be good practice for the orientations in my future with IFSA-Butler and my host university, Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia.

Anyway, here’s a short introduction to who I am: My name is Laura. You could describe me as creative, passionate, strong-willed, and a romantic, but the people who know me best know that there is no one word to describe me, or even ten for that matter. I guess you could say that I’m a pretty complex person, but you are guaranteed to see the real me, and only me, when you’re around me. I am not afraid to be myself in the least. I have a million and one stories to share and I like to think of myself as the tie-dye crayon in the box.

I grew up in New Jersey where I have lived my entire life (No, living in New Jersey is not like being on the MTV show The Jersey Shore). I love my family and friends. I have been truly blessed with all of the wonderful people in my life and I do not know what I would do without them. Although I will miss my family and friends while abroad, I have no doubt that I will create new meaningful bonds and relationships while abroad too. I also know that my family and friends will be looking forward to seeing me when I return to the United States, as I will be excited to see them too.

I am a college junior in the process of obtaining a BS in Psychology and a minor in Photography at Susquehanna University in the small town of Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. Yes, this small town is in the middle of nowhere and yes, there isn’t much of anything to do there besides go to the mall, movies, or dine out. However, that being said, I absolutely adore my school. There is no place I’d rather get an education (besides Australia, of course). I have made lifelong friends at Susquehanna University and I wholeheartedly believe that Susquehanna has a family-like community that many campuses cannot offer. This is one of the many reasons I chose Macquarie University to study abroad at. I want to experience something completely different than what I am used to. I want to walk across the Macquarie University campus and not recognize 99% of the students I pass by like I do at Susquehanna. Macquarie has over 37,000 students enrolled, with over 12,000 international students (that will be me!) in which I will be surrounded by. I will be one of many at Macquarie University–and this is extremely exciting to me. It has been a dream of mine to travel to Australia, specifically Sydney, since I was a very little girl. I truly enjoy trying new things, experiencing new adventures, and challenging myself. I am thrilled to be attending a school that fulfills one of my lifelong dreams. Australia here I come!