Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Australia Part Three

This is the third in a series of blogs from our intern Kali who is a student at UW-Madison. She has been studying abroad during the spring semester on the eastern coast of Australia and has composed several blogs about her experiences there...

 Australia Part Three

I am now in my sixth week in Sydney and let me say first, I am loving every minute of this trip, and I still have so much to do and learn. One thing I realized while reading through my previous blogs was that I haven’t said anything about the college I am attending! I am studying at Macquarie University in Marsfield, and it is an absolutely beautiful campus. I am having a great time at this university and the courses are interesting, professors are laid back and funny, and the hours dedicated to school work still give me just enough time to spend traveling and relaxing at the beaches on weekends. I have yet to learn what the grading system is like here, but I feel like I am learning so much more at this university than I have at any other. Another bit of exciting news, this university is great at helping you find internships, which I have two of! I am a psychology major, and I am working with one program to help design games for a program working with people with schizophrenia and helping them improve their social skills and their cognitive skills in social situations. I also help with the research involved. The other is a program that does research with children and aims to learn more about their reading and learning skills and to figure out more effective ways of improving these skills for children. I am beyond excited about these opportunities and I am learning so much. This university also offers a broad range of marketing internships, and a few others.

Another thing I realized while looking over my previous blogs is that you know nothing about the actual person writing this and telling you all of these amazing things that you really should do! To show you a little bit about who I am and to make reading this much more interesting, I posted a picture of myself above! Yes, I am a short, 20 year old, female leprechaun. Well I was on that day, which was a twenty dollar open bar cruise for international students with the theme of “HATS HATS HATS!” So about me; I am student working on a psychology degree at the University of Madison Wisconsin, and studying abroad at Macquarie for one semester. This is the first time I have traveled anywhere but America and Canada, and I absolutely love traveling and experiencing new and different places. I have a wonderful family and boyfriend back home, as well as an adorable but cranky pet hedgehog. My favorite color is blue, I am horrible at cooking, and I like to do pencil drawings and shading.

Now on to the fun, and some of my favorite things I have done so far; snorkeling, surfing, and a trip to the Taronga Zoo. A few weekends ago I took a trip to Manly beach and was able to take some free surf lessons! It was a hilarious sight for everyone else watching me bail over and over off my surf board. Before I had done this I was pretty afraid of the ocean waves, but I had to try surfing and so I forced myself out into the water and jumped on my board and went for it. It was a ton of fun. I rode on the knees for a few waves, did a few nose dives but got back up again, and was not able to stand up on the board until about fifteen tries later, but when I finally stood up I was hooked. I love surfing. It is a blast and it is a must do at some time in every person’s life. I will need to practice some more and move on from the baby waves to the real waves.

Let me tell you, I have been conquering fear after fear while in Australia, and it feels great. My fear of the ocean was further conquered when I went snorkeling around Shelly and Manly beach! These beaches are fun for snorkeling; however there are others that are far more beautiful (which I will be scuba diving at in a month or so). Snorkeling is great and cheap. I went with a friend, bought a mask and a snorkel, and we swam out on our own to see the underwater plant and animal life. We saw some bright neon looking fish, as well as an enormous fish that was almost my own size (I am 5 foot 1 and 110 pounds). It was huge! I also saw an eel hiding between some rocks which was exciting but also scary. I had a blast snorkeling and I am so excited to go scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef in May.

Another place that is a must see is the Taronga Zoo. It is about 44 Australian dollars for adults, but completely worth it. They have numerous exotic and fun animals that live are in great living conditions and are so different from any animals I have seen at the zoos in America. Of course I saw the kangaroos, finally my first one! You are able to walk into the area where the wallabies are kept and pet them if they are willing, there is also a giant emu hanging around with them. One of my favorites was the koala; they are so incredibly adorable I could not contain myself. This zoo has so many animals, including some of the deadliest spiders, snakes and others, along with monkeys, giraffes, crocodiles, wombats, a giant komodo dragon, a snow leopard, lions, tigers, elephants, leopard seals, penguins and so many others. They also have giant spiders hanging in their webs above the paths; not something I enjoyed much at all considering they were not behind glass or anything at all!

There are a few new Australian cuisines I have discovered while roaming the vibrant streets of Sydney; one is a MUST DO: Pancakes on the Rocks. The entire area is called the rocks and this specific restaurant has the absolute best pancakes I have ever tasted; and I am a huge pancake fan. These pancakes are served with delicious toppings and of course, ice cream. Every aussie I’ve met on my campus loves the place and it is tradition for us to go eat there every few weeks or so.  Another interesting place I went to was a “secret bar”; you have to actually know about the place to find it, and it is behind a door that looks like a wall. The place is very nice and looks as if it were set in the 1930’s. Drinks are expensive with the cheapest being 16 dollars, but it is a fun atmosphere and I loved watching the bartenders make these extremely fancy drinks.

Now onto the not so great food tasting experience I had; marinated octopus. I do not regret trying it, I believe it is always good to try new and different things, but that was absolutely disgusting. The taste was fine, but I could not handle that texture. Just look at the picture above and you will understand. I do suggest that people try it though, because you may like it! I am glad I did it; and next I will have to try some vegemite and kangaroo meat.

These are all fun things that you can do right in Sydney, and there is so much more. I am eagerly awaiting my weeks of travel to other areas of Australia, including Byron Bay in Brisbane and the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns. I have been here in Sydney for over a month, and I am starting to get very used to the aussie lifestyle. At times it can feel like I am at home and I start wanting more adventure and more fun and different experiences. However I do have a limited amount of money I cannot do all of the things I would love to do here or anywhere around Australia. One thing I would highly suggest to anyone traveling to Australia; bring a decent amount of money and overestimate the costs of everything! Cost of living is high and don’t think that you can get away with what you spend on things back in the states; it won’t work. Also, bring money for traveling and travel cheap and smart. Stay in hostels and be organized and careful with your spending. The less you spend doing one thing, the more you can travel and do other things. Coming to Australia from America you lose a large chunk of money converting it to the Australian dollar, and you spend more on almost everything you do and buy. Traveling around Australia is worth every penny. The area is absolutely beautiful and full of wildlife, fun activities, and friendly people. I am having a wonderful time and am looking forward to another three months down under.

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