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Soaking It All In

Another weekend, another adventure!

So far, I have upheld my promise to myself about trying something new every day while I am here. Some things are obviously more exciting than others, but I can definitely say I’ve been keeping myself busy. After getting back to the Gold Coast from Melbourne I have really had to kick it into full gear with my school work. Midterms are right around the corner and I’m procrastinating writing both of my 2,000 word essays by blogging instead. You can’t blame me though considering all of the amazing opportunities I have been given since being here. It’s also pretty difficult to focus when its 90 degrees outside and the beach is a 2 minute walk away. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Anyways, Alex and I decided to watch the sunset on the beach one night and I can’t help but feel like I’m living in a dream. This country never ceases to amaze me.

On Friday, I ventured up to the city of Brisbane. It is only about an hour away from the Gold Coast, but when using public transportation it takes about 2 hours to get there. I ended up using Airbnb for the first time and stayed in the South Bank area with Ashley. South Bank is Brisbane’s premier lifestyle and cultural destination. It’s located along the Brisbane River and is home to endless restaurants, parklands, and cultural sites. Once we got to our apartment, we decided to walk around and explore. Our first stop was lunch at a cute Mexican restaurant called Cactus Republic. I haven’t had Mexican food in a while so I really enjoyed my chicken tacos! After we were full, we headed over to the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art where the same artist we saw in Melbourne, Yayoi Kusama, had an exhibit showcasing more of her art.

Then we headed over the river to the Queen Street Mall which has over 700 retailers. I was so overwhelmed with the amount of stores that I didn’t even buy anything (which is very unlike me). I’m pretty sure we only saw a tiny portion of it before we decided to go back to our apartment for a nap.

Later, we took a ferry to Hamilton, a suburb of Brisbane, for yet another night market. Before coming to Australia, I would’ve never expected these to be so popular but they are definitely a cheap and convenient way to try a bunch of local foods and hear local bands.  This night market was called Eat Street Northshore and it had 180 dining and entertainment options. Its no surprise I tried something sweet: donut fries! Let me attempt to paint a vivid image in your head… think little french fry-like sticks of doughnut batter fried to crispy, pillowy perfection and served up dusted with cinnamon and sugar paired with soft serve chocolate ice cream and chocolate, caramel sauce drizzled perfectly on top. Do you I have your mouth watering yet? It was that good.

The next morning we checked out of our Airbnb and made our way to Streets Beach which is also located in South Bank. My cousin, Alan, recommended we check it out and I’m so glad we did. It’s Australia’s only inner-city, man-made beach and its basically a sparkling lagoon surrounded by white, sandy beaches and tropical plants. We lounged around getting tan for the rest of the day before we decided to go back home.

I really liked Brisbane and hope to go back soon! We had great weather, great food, and a great experience…there’s nothing better than that. Once we got back to the Gold Coast, I was back to my regular routine: eat, pool or beach, eat again, sleep, then repeat.

This Sunday Alex turns 21!!! Stay tuned for whatever adventure this upcoming week brings!

 

 

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The Chicago of Australia

This past weekend Ashley and I made our way down to the city of Melbourne. I had a lot of expectations as it is known as the ‘Chicago of Australia’. Even though I am having an amazing time here in Australia, homesickness has definitely started to kick in. I figured that traveling to the city that resembles Chicago may help break up my weekly routine and give me a sense of home. I can’t say Melbourne did exactly that, but I can say it did exceed my expectations. From the museums to the views along the Great Ocean Road, I was blown away. With just 3 days to explore, I tried new restaurants, watched street performers, visited all the key tourist attractions and I now feel I have a good grasp on what Melbourne is all about.

For anyone who knows me, knows I am a planner. I thrive when things are organized and structured and I struggle when they’re not. Luckily, Ashley and I share this characteristic, so I knew we would be able to cram in as many activities as possible. We began our weekend on Friday afternoon by checking into our hostel and exploring the CBD (Central Business District) area of the city. Right down the street from our hostel was the Queen Victoria Market and we stopped by as it was closing. Melbourne is known as one of the most livable cities in the world because of their free public transportation, so we took advantage of it. We made our way to Hosier Lane and admired the street art that has made the Melbourne urban art scene known across the world. We were able to watch a graffiti artist in action and snap so many pictures of the cool art.

We then made our way across the Yarra River into the Southbank area and found a cute outdoor beer bar, Hopscotch. This place was so cute and a great place to see what the local nightlife was like. I ordered a ‘Boozy Iced Tea’ (I don’t even really like iced tea) and I must say it is probably one of my favorite drinks now. The bar also had free popcorn so you all know how that ended…two drinks and 13,674 bowls of popcorn later and I was satisfied. Ashley and I liked this place so much that we decided to go back Monday morning to watch the Super Bowl with other American football fans.

Saturday was filled with driving and… more driving. We booked a tour along the Great Ocean Road which is one of Australia’s most visited stretches of coastline, boasting an incredible amount of natural landmarks and magnificent sights. We stopped in a few cute little towns along the way for breakfast, lunch and of course at the major attractions. Our first stops were at Cape Patton, Otway’s Rainforest and Kennet River where we spotted a cute koala and a bunch of colorful birds along with beautiful views. We then made our way to the main attractions: The Twelve Apostles and the Loch Ard Gorge. These landscapes were unlike anything I’d ever seen and I don’t think anything can compare so I’ll just let the pictures do the talking.

This day was extremely exhausting and well worth it, so by the time we got back to our hostel, Ashley and I were ready for bed. We went to a cute Italian restaurant, Vons, for dinner which was having a special if you ordered pasta, you got a free glass of wine and garlic bread. This was the perfect way to end such a long day. Even though I was so tired, I was too excited to sleep in Sunday morning because I knew we had so much more to see! We started our day at the Screen Worlds exhibition at the ACMI Museum, ate some lunch, and then went to the Triennial exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria. This was by far the coolest museum I’ve ever been to. The exhibits were so uniquely designed and so visually pleasing. My favorite exhibit was Flower Obsession, where we as guests were able to contribute to the art by adding a flower to the apartment.

After the museum, I went on the Eureka Skydeck, the highest public vantage point in the Southern Hemisphere. It is very similar to the observation deck in the John Hancock or the Sears Tower skydeck. I was able to see 360 degree views of Melbourne and the Pacific Ocean. I found myself just sitting there in awe and it finally hit me that I am on the other side of the world. As I was looking at the never ending Pacific Ocean, it wasn’t until that moment that I realized how far away I am from home.

On to the next destination! Ashley and I took a tram to Brighton Beach, known for it’s cute bathing beach huts. We didn’t exactly know where we were going, but it ended up working in our favor because we came across a dog beach and it made me so happy. Once we made it the beach boxes, it was picture time. These little huts were lined up perfectly along the beach and all painted differently to create such cute photo opportunities. Here were a few of my favorite huts:

We traveled along the coastline a little more and ended up in St. Kilda. We walked down the pier to the breakwater to see a penguin colony. We only saw a few penguins, but they were so adorable and didn’t seem to mind the massive crowds of people trying to take their picture. It was too dark to get a clear photo and the penguins are stunned by flash so I wasn’t able to capture any, but honestly, it was so nice to just take it in and enjoy it without worrying about documenting everything I was doing.

Monday morning we packed up our belongings, went to Hopscotch to watch the Super Bowl and did some shopping before heading to the airport. Melbourne was the first weekend trip I’ve gone on so far and we planned it all on our own! I am so happy I got to see what it’s all about and I can now back up the statistic that it is one of the top 5 cities to live in!

I am planning on heading north to Brisbane for a night this upcoming weekend so stay tuned for my next adventure!

Saying ‘Yes’ to Adventure

G’day!

Each day is a new adventure here and I have committed to saying ‘yes’ to every opportunity that will allow me to experience all this amazing country has to offer. My goal is to try something new everyday and hope it challenges me to step outside my comfort zone. Whether it is something as small as trying local cuisine or booking a trip to New Zealand, this whole experience for me is about broadening my horizons and saying ‘yes’ to adventure. Although it sure feels like a vacation, and that it may be, I hope to gain so much more out of it and kickstart a change in my life towards the more confident, independent, and spontaneous young woman I strive to be.

Since I’m trying this new adventure thing, I might as well keep you all up-to-date with all of the adventures I’ve said ‘yes’ to. These past 2 weeks were filled with a variety of fun activities as well as getting accustomed to life both at Bond University and in the Gold Coast. I have fallen even more in love with Australia and developed a sense of belonging now that I have began school.

Here are a few of the highlights from the past 2 weeks:

AquaSplash

My friends Ashley, Alex, and I decided to bring out our inner child and what would do that better than a waterpark? The thing is this wasn’t just any waterpark – it was an inflatable waterpark in the Pacific Ocean! AquaSplash was 60 minutes of water trampolines, slides, swings, climbing walls, and obstacle courses that resulted in me ending up in the water unexpectedly one too many times. This was definitely a day full of laughs for all of us.

Burleigh Heads National Park

My friends and I have traveled about 20 minutes south of Broadbeach to a suburb called Burleigh Heads a few times. To say the beaches there are beautiful is an understatement. These beaches are home to Burleigh Head National Park – where the forest meets the sea. We followed the Ocean View Path and the views were spectacular. After following the path, we ended up at Tallebudgera Creek which is a calm and quiet sandbar that attracts many locals and tourists alike. This place seems like it will be a nice little getaway.

My First Gambling Experience

We got all dressed up and headed across the street from our hotel to the Star Casino. This was my first ever experience gambling and I will be the first to say that I had no idea what I was doing. I put $5 into a slot machine and was losing faster than I thought was even possible. I decided to switch machines and after switching a few times I ended up winning $3!!!! I was so excited; putting in $5 and ending with $8 was good enough for me. It’s safe to say that gambling is not my thing.

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Shrimp on the Barbie and Grilling

Ashley and I have been grilling in the Zen Garden of our hotel almost every night since we’ve gotten here. We have made chicken kebabs, stir fry, corn, and of course… shrimp on the barbie. I am surprised to say that I haven’t eaten a single meal out at restaurant yet. I’ve tried some smoothies and gelato but other than that, I find myself cooking and grilling – maybe it can become a new hobby of mine!

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Miami Marketta and Night Quarter Market

My friends and I also ventured out to two different night markets within the past two weeks. First, Ashley and I went to Miami Marketta, located just a few towns away. This place would have been a great date spot, but since Yarko is back in the U.S., I guess I had to settle for Ashley. We shared two different samplers: sweet potato fries and donuts. It may sound like an odd combination, but I can assure you it was delicious. I plan on going back to this market again before I leave.

The Night Quarter gave me a different vibe. It was much bigger than Miami Marketta and, in my opinion, less personal. There were at least 3x the amount of food vendors and merchants, but the food was still amazing. I went all out and got some cheese pizza and ice cream sandwiches. There was a variety of live music, but one that stood out to me was a 14-year old girl who is saving up to go to Nashville.

Classes

So, if you made it this far I’m impressed. This will probably be the most boring part of this post, but school is the reason I am here so, I should elaborate on it for the sake of my parents. Class load here is much different than in the U.S. I have found that each course I am taking only has about three assignments. And better yet, all I have to do is pass with a 50% for the University of Iowa to accept the credit. I really have been enjoying my Hospitality and Tourism class. Amery Burleigh, the General Manager for a Sofitel Hotel, spoke to our class about what it takes to climb the corporate ladder and what she spoke about was very insightful.

Well, that’s all for now!

Ashley and I have booked a trip to Melbourne for this weekend. I promise I’ll keep you updated with my new adventures!

Settling In As My Semester Abroad Begins

Hi all!

Just to update you all…I AM OFFICIALLY IN AUSTRALIA!!!! I have been here for almost two weeks now and I am loving every second of it.

A lot has happened since the last time I blogged. I have become introduced to the Australian culture, made friends from all over the U.S. that are studying within my program, and experienced first-hand why Australia is so amazing! I have been exposed to so many new things…I don’t even know where to begin explaining. All I can say is that I have already fallen in love with Australia, its culture, the landscape, and of course the whole reason why I am here: Bond University.

So time to explain my flights…

To be honest, the 15 hour flight from LAX to Sydney was not as bad as I expected and I basically just slept the whole time. I was served three meals throughout the flight and was able to watch unlimited movies so time seemed to move pretty fast. It also helped that Alex brought some melatonin gummy bears that helped me sleep for the first few hours of the flight. Once we landed in Sydney, we had to switch from the international terminal to the domestic terminal. We had little to no idea what we were doing or where to go so we decided to ask a local. This is was my first encounter with an Australian and she was so nice and gave us all the advice we needed. I knew from then on that it wouldn’t be hard to make some Australian friends.

From there we took a 10 minute bus ride to the domestic terminal and got on our flight to Cairns. Once we landed in Cairns, Alex and I took a taxi to the Hilton hotel where we would be staying for the next four days. I was more than exhausted by this time and tired was an understatement. I FaceTimed my mom and Rachel and then Yarko because I needed a sense of security. Being in a new place, on the other side of the world, was such a weird feeling. But, it took only about a day for me to look past it and realize how lucky I am to have this opportunity.

My TEAN Orientation

I began my Australian journey in Cairns, home to the Great Barrier Reef. TEAN organized an amazing orientation program for us that exposed us to so many unique activities. As I mentioned in the pervious post, my 4 days in Cairns were jam-packed with activities and excursions.

  • Day 1:
    • I arrived in Cairns around 1:45 and moved into the hotel room.
    • I attended a TEAN welcome dinner at the hotel that included an informational session to help us adjust to the new environment.
    • I went to bed by 8 p.m.
  • Day 2:
    • Reef Experience
      • I took a boat out to part of the Great Barrier Reef and learned introductory scuba diving lessons (Alex and I chickened out so we just snorkeled instead)
      • I snorkeled over two different parts of the reef and saw a turtle, some jellyfish, a baby shark, and eel and tons of fish and coral. This was probably one of the coolest things I have ever done!
      • I used my GoPro for the first time and captured some cool footage of the reef
  • Dinner and Drinks at the Woolshed
    • The Woolshed is a popular local bar where we were served dinner and got a free drink (my first ~legal~ drink!)
  • Day 3
    • Wildlife Habitat in Port Douglas
      • Here I was able to hold a Koala bear named Tia. She was a bit of a diva according to the zookeeper and I witnessed it first hand. I was the first to hold her and she was not happy about it.
      • I was able to feed both wallabies and kangaroos here also. They are so cute and friendly!
      • I also saw an Emu and many other types of birds (which scare me to death).
  • Daintree Rainforst
    • After the wildlife habitat, we went to the oldest rainforest in the world: The Daintree Rainforest. It was so extremely humid and I don’t think I have ever sweat more in my life than I did there.
    • In the rainforest we were given a tour by a Kuku Yalanji aboriginal. He welcomed us to country through a smoke ceremony and then showed us what his people did to survive in the rainforest. He taught us the meaning and importance of certain parts of the land and showed us how they express themselves through painting their bodies and playing instruments.
    • Within the rainforest was Mossman Gorge. This was one of the most breathtaking things I’ve ever seen. We were only there for a short period of time, but it was so gorgeous and no pictures will do it justice.
  • Day 4:
    • This was our free day. We had the option to book an excursion with a variety of options (skydiving, whitewater rafting, canyoning, bungee jumping, hot air ballooning, or an island day). I chose to go canyoning even though I had absolutely no idea what it was.
      • For those of you who are just like me and have no clue what it is, here’s the technical definition:
        • travelling in canyons using a variety of techniques that may include other outdoor activities such as walking, scrambling, climbing, jumping, abseiling, and swimming
    • Even though it was so terrifying, it was such a unique experience and the views were so amazing which made it worth it. My excursion included an 11 meter controlled descent beside a waterfall, a 30 meter abseil down a waterfall, 8 rappels, three cliff jumps (one of 30 feet!), two natural water slides and a zip line. It was extremely tiring and required a lot out of me physically considering we hiked up an 80 degree hill to get to the top of the waterfall just to begin the course. What I will never forget was the 30 foot cliff jump where my cheerleading instincts kicked in. I tucked my legs which ended up causing me to land parallel to the water giving the backs of my legs huge bruises. But what’s the saying? Pain is weakness leaving the body? I guess that was my motto for the day.
    • Dinner at the Aquarium
      • Our farewell dinner for TEAN orientation was at the Cairns Aquarium. It was a great way to end such an eventful week with everyone. I made some new friends and was able to go explore the nightlife in Cairns with many of them. We went to a bar named Gilligan’s and some Australians bought us a round of shots. It’s common here for Australians to say “I’ll shout you” which means I’ll buy you a round of drinks if you buy me one. I’ve found that everyone is super friendly and they love to dance to American music.

On to Gold Coast

After such an exhausting four days, I was on my way to my new home for the next four months! I had been looking forward to this day since I arrived in Australia.

As I am writing, I am now moved into my apartment on the beach – which still feels like I’m living in a dream by the way. I’ve visited campus, started my classes, participated in a bar crawl, and learned how to surf amongst other things. I’ve been to the beach and pool a few times. Someone please pinch me and remind I’m here for school and it’s not just a vacation because it sure feels like one!

Other than that, I am so excited for the rest of my semester down under and look forward to keeping you all updated! Here are a few pictures of my humble abode for the next four months (try not to get too jealous)!

Stay tuned for more!

Amanda

 

As I’m About to Go Down Under

Hi Friends and Family!

I am writing to you while sitting in the Los Angeles airport during my layover to fly to Sydney, Australia. I am filled with so many emotions right now that it is difficult to describe what’s racing through my mind. I am extremely nervous about leaving my family for 4 months and two weeks (according to Joe – 5 months), but I am also filled with so much anticipation for what is ahead. Once I arrive in Sydney, I will be flying to Cairns for my orientation. During this 5 day orientation I will:

  • Spend a day out on the Great Barrier Reef to learn more about preserving this special site and even going on an introductory scuba dive
  • Explore the ancient Daintree Rainforest at Mossman Gorge with a local Aboriginal guide
  • Hang out with iconic Australian wildlife, including kangaroos, at a nature park
  • Attend orientation sessions designed to prepare me for my life abroad
  • Attend a farewell dinner trying local Aussie cuisine

After orientation I will be flying to Brisbane and then heading to Gold Coast where my school is located. I am attending Bond University and I am enrolled in 3 classes for the semester. A general education class (Crime and Deviance in Australia), a business class (Organizational Behavior), and an event planning class (Contemporary Issues in Hospitality and Tourism). I will be living here for the next 4 months in a hotel with two of my best friends. It is because I am with them that I feel so much more confident about this experience. This experience will allow me to grow into a stronger, more confident young adult and I cannot thank my parents enough for making this dream of mine a reality. I know how much they have worked to make this possible for me and I will work hard to pass my classes haha (Dad, I promise I won’t fail).

Although this will be a tough transition, I know that I have so many people who care about me and are more than willing to help me through it. Studying through TEAN, The Education Abroad Network, I am more then prepared for what lies ahead. Please feel free to email me at anesczuk@gmail.com anytime because I will love talking to everyone at home. There’s no turning back. I am about to board a 15 hour flight and start a life-changing journey with two of my best friends!

I miss you all already, but I am only an email or phone call away!

Love always,

Amanda