Monday, July 27, 2009

Well I haven't done much over the last week that is worth writing about except start class! I am taking 4 classes here at UC and am still in the midst of making sure everything is all good with UT. I am meeting with my abroad adviser this afternoon to make sure everything I am taking is ok, and hopefully I will hear back from UT tomorrow with the same news.

Classes here are way different than back at home. For instance, I have no finals and am technically done with classes at the end of October. I am not complaining at all about this! My grades are determined by a combination of essays, participation in tutorials (like labs) and a few presentations. No exams! I think I like being a pass/fail only student. I am giving my first presentation in 2 weeks for my political communication class about "The CNN effect and communication in advanced technological times." I feel like I have the upper hand on this one and have already began work on it. And for it being my senior(ish) year, working on something that far ahead is a huge deal!

My days are basic and consisting of class in the mornings, meeting friends for a run around the lake an sometimes lunch at an on-campus cafe and then some sort of social activity in the evenings. I'm not a huge fan of being out late-especially since it is cold, so I have spent several nights in mine or Ayla's room watching 30 Rock and Entourage:) We went out for sushi last night with some girls from her floor who have a car!

The girls and I also took a bus into Civic last Saturday and walked to the Botanical Gardens, which were breathtaking. We had a little picnic by the waterfall and spent the afternoon walking on paths through the "Australian temperate rainforest." We also went briefly to the Australian National Museum. It was nearly closing time when we got there, so a return trip is definitley in order soon. I love museums...and especially free ones!

My 3 favorite things about Canberra:
-being able to walk to almost everything
-living on campus again is glorious and I can wake up 30 minutes before class
-breakfast and coffee at Lighthouse...omelettes, mmmmm!

3 things I do NOT like:
-the shower in my dorm. Strongly dislike.
-there is trash everywhere
-smoking everywhere. The smoking ban really got me spoiled

That's all for now. I am having great fun and am going to surf camp this weekend! I will be sure and write all about it when I get back on Sunday!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

pictures from abroad!

Well, I haven't been on any major photo-worthy trips yet, but I set up a photo album with pictures of friends, campus and my room in Old Res!

If you would like to see, click here!

More pictures to come! I am being a major foreigner and taking lots :)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

don't use the glossary in the travel books

Hello again from Canberra! We have a high of 55 today, which is nicer than it has been, so I might be able to leave a few layers behind!

Oh, and as for the title of this post-there is a story. Yesterday afternoon, Ayla and I took our travel guidebooks over to the Lighthouse, a restaurant near campus to sit outside and plan weekend trips. We ended up going through coffee and chips (fries) and spending almost 4 hours talking, planning and enjoying the day. When it got colder, we moved inside and set up shop on a table. After 2 people stopping to ask if we were already studying, one Australian asked if he could see our books. He looked through the glossary and proceeded to inform us that if we used about 80% of the words and expressions in the book we would sound like old rednecks. Thanks, Lonely Planet. Crikey!

I have been here just over a week and am in MUCH better shape than I was a week ago. I have made a great group of friends to run around and travel with, I am learning where things are and how to use the busses and have not been sick to my stomach, woken up at 3am or felt like I wanted to cry for probably 3 days!

I just want to take the time now so say this: whatever picture of Australia you have in your head as you are reading this, ERASE IT. Because almost guaranteed, unless you have been here, you are picturing the wrong Australia because I don't go to school in the Outback, by the Opera House or on the beach. Canberra is inland in the Australia Capital Territory (ACT) state, right next to New South Wales (NSW) in southeast Australia. Until the end of August/beginning of September it is WINTER! Although there are kangaroos that come onto campus, I haven't seen one yet because it still is pretty chilly in the daytime. The only other animals I have seen are a bunch or very loud, very colorful birds and a HUGE possum that looked like a cat.

That being said, campus is really nice. There are trees and greenery everywhere and it feels a bit like going to school in a jungle. The school buildings are numbered-which I like-and it is considerably easier to navigate than UTK. Lake Grinderra is right off campus, near the mall and restaurants, and it is really pretty (although not for swimming)! There is a path circling the lake which is about 8-9 miles and is a great run.

Annnnnd running leads me to say that myself, Ayla, Bridget and Amanda are running in the City 2 Surf run in Sydney on August 9! It's a 14k run that starts at Hyde Park in Sydney and ends on Bondi Beach! We are all really excited and got matching neon-colored tank tops, kneesocks and fake, colored hair! Apparently people get pretty into it so we wanted to fit in! We got a super cheap bus ticket there and are going to stay in the city on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and the race is on Sunday!

Sooner than that is surf camp on the 31st! It is going to be pretty chilly, but I'm thinking that the experience of a bunch of novice exchange students learning how to surf will be so worth it!

I have met so many friendly and helpful people since being here. I think that once I get into a routine of class on during the week and maybe working, and traveling on the weekends that the time will absolutley fly by. Classes begin today, but I don't have class on Mondays or Fridays! I can't wait to start heading off after classes on Thursdays and having great, Australian adventures with my friends!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Oops! Here's my address!

I forgot to include this, but I set up a mailbox yesterday!

My address is:

LPO BOx 5455
University of Canberra
Bruce, ACT 2617

Feel free to fill it up with lots of mail!

hey how ya going?

Whew, since I wrote the other day I have made some friends! I have a great group of girls in the exchange group that I have been running around with, as well as Bek from my floor. Ayla and Emma are from Canada and Erin, Bridget and Amanda are from the US! We have all signed up to go to surf camp here in a few weeks! I am excited to go with my best mates:)

We had an adventure at the grocery store the other day that involved all of us trying to push a shopping cart all the way back to our dorm. The front left wheel did NOT want to turn and it was digging into the ground, making it impossible to maneuver. For anyone watching I can imagine we looked ridiculous. We also set up pre-paid phones, which was insane. There are waaaaay too many options! But I now have a phone and a super long phone number I can't remember! I have had such a great time already getting to know these girls and hear their stories from home.

Since being here, I was sick on the plane, I burned my arm on my iron (which actually happens a lot), broke into hives from being so hot (while pushing the shopping cart) and slammed my right hand in the G-Bot kitchen door. My friends have taken to calling me Bubble Girl, in jest, because I seem to be the one who keeps tripping and being spastic! It's kind of funny because friends in the States notice the same things about me.

I went to see Harry Potter last night with Bek and Cody from my floor. We bought some snack food I had never seen before for the movie, called Shapes-which were reallllly good barbeque flavored crackers. We ate a whole box. I rode with Bek and she said she is going to send me home with a great Aussie accent! Some of my favorite expressions are: How ya going? (how are you doing?), Heaps (used as lots or tons would be used) I'll give you a bell (a call) and Bogan (a person who is redneck, dirty or just generally uncouth). I have been saying "heaps cool" for things I like, but without the accent it sounds silly.

I also feel like since coming down here I sound more Southern than I ever have in my whole life. I'm around girls from Canada, New York and San Diego most of the time and they all love the way I talk, and have introduced me to people with "She has the best accent!" It is so funny how we all sound so different, but Bek says that all American accents sound the same to her.

I am really loving the campus here and the general Aussie atmosphere and attitude when it comes to, well, everything!

Here is an example:
When registering for classes, I noticed on my timetable that there was an overlap of 2 classes. I went to my exchange adviser about this and she told me it was "okay because some students choose to leave early or go every other week." Would this ever happen at UT? Uh, no. Also, when I did finally successfully register for classes-I got everything I wanted the first time. No waiting on CPO at 11:45 the night before, no add forms, no going the first day and begging to be let in-it is a nice change of pace.

And everyone I have met here is so friendly! When people hear me talking they will come up and ask where I'm from. A nice lady in the grocery store struck up a conversation with me on the cereal aisle. It really is no worries down here.

I really like my room too, even though it is pretty old and pretty bare. I'm not especially picky so the old-ish nature of Old Res is fine with me. I do, however, miss my pillows and big, soft beds in general because mine is kind of like a glorified cot. Oh well, I'm hardly ever in this room and it's not forever!

I have also mended my one HUGE hiccup of this trip which was forgetting my PIN numbers to one of my debit cards than can actually be used here. I have been emailing, skyping and calling people as soon as I got here and last night I finally worked it out. I did have to stay up til 1:30 here to be able to talk to someone at Bank of America, but it is finally resolved now, whew!

This afternoon we are going on a tour of the city of Canberra, via bus, so that we can learn our way around and learn to love the public transportation! I am also having dinner next Monday with Kara from Young Life Australia! I had emailed her before I left that I was an American exchange student and that I had been a YL leader. I am really excited to meet her!

I know September is over a month away, but I am already starting to plan my Mid Break trip to Northern Territory to see some real Australia!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

I come from a land down under

Hi friends and family! After the longest trip of my life I am in Canberra, Australia! It is 8:45pm on Sunday July the 12th and a complete miracle that I am still awake! This is probably going to be pretty long to get my trip up to speed!

It started out a little bumpy from Knoxville to Atlanta, but the 14 hours from LA to Sydney wasn't nearly as bad as I thought. Yes it was pretty painfully long, but I took some Drammamine and slept for almost 9 hours off and on (including through takeoff)! Ps: thanks mom for the eye mask! It has probably been my favorite thing to have along! I sat beside nice people on all 3 flights, including a mom and dad who were sending their daughter off to Sydney for school!

Arriving in Sydney at 6:30 am was a bit overwhelming with customs lines, exchanging money and realizing that I was in a foreign city all by myself. After a call to let mom and dad know I had arrived I set off to find my hostel! I waited 30 minutes and decided the shuttle I was supposed to ride was not coming, and so I proceeded to get ripped off by a cab. Nice!

I wasn't supposed to be able to check in until noon, but I was able to go ahead and go to my room when I got there! I shared a dorm-style room with 5 other girls from around the world who each had a fun, unique story of how they came to be in Sydney. And somehow in the first maybe 20 minutes of me being there, I lost my swipe card to my room. I must have looked pretty sleepy and pathetic because the reception desk gave me a new one at no charge. A new kind of Southern hospitality!

A nap and a shower later I walked all the way down Pitt Street to the Sydney Harbour! Even though I have seen hundreds of photos, the Opera House really is fantastic. I am glad I had a day to see that all by myself in case I don't get to spend a lot of time on the waterfront later. I walked all around Cicular Quay (that's Key!), found a cupcake bakery, listened to some digeridoos, and talked with some people in the Sydney Centre Mall who asked me if I was from Canada. (eh?) That's a new one.

Funnies part of my day in Sydney: literally laughing out loud when I went into a Lolly (candy) Shop and saw the selection of "US Candy." There were things on display including Reese's peanut butter, Hershey's strawberry syrup , a 3-pound tub of Crisco for $23 and a box of PopTarts for (get ready, Bethany) 15 bucks!

I ended up going to bed at 7:30 because I could not make myself walk around any longer, and I had an 8:15am flight to Canberra. Because of this, I woke up this morning at 3 am, dang body clock! The flight to Canberra from Sydney this morning was horrific; LOTS of headwind and turbulence. I can't even think about it without getting nauseous. I felt terrible for the nice people who received me from UC at the airport because they waited an hour for me to feel better.

Arriving on campus was pretty anticlimactic, mainly because current students are still on break for another week and the place was deserted. I also felt pretty bad for the guy who checked me into my room. He was so helpful and accomodating to questions but I was so out of it and all I could think about was lying down. After he left was when I began to feel some of the expected shock. I tried and tried to get in touch with my parents, but my room phone is crazy and I didn't feel like going to find a pay phone. I was kind of a mess for a few hours before deciding to leave my grouchy mood behind and go check out the Belconnen Mall in the City Centre!

It's about a 10-ish minute walk from Old Ressie (my dorm!) so I took my backpack and a tote bag to bring back anything I bought. I really wish I could have been on the outside looking in on me try to navigate around this mall with a gimpy trolley (shopping cart) and staring up at all these stores I have never seen before. I had been forewarned about things being expensive, but I could not believe how outrageous essentials were. I really only needed sheets. a towel, a pillow and some food to get me through this week, but this task somehow took me about 2 hours to complete. Yeesh. Getting it all back to my room was pretty funny; I felt so homeless carrying all my bags down the sidewalk and out of the car park (parking garage).

After tossing my new sheets and towel in the laundry I started running into people outside! Human contact-hooray! I met Joel, who is a first year and lives on my floor who introduced me to Ayla, an exchange student from Toronto! My first friend! He then intoduced me to Bek, who also lives on G-Bot (that's the bottom floor of Block G). She has absolutley turned my day around. First, she lets me borrow a pot to make my soup in, and we sat and ate together and talked for almost 2 hours! She asked me so many questions about America, like why do we exactly celebrate Thanksgiving? And let me tell you, when you are explaining it to someone who doesn't celebrate the turkey holiday it sounds a bit weird. We talked about American tv and sang the songs from the Australian series Summer Heights High. Sometime this week after Orientation stuff she is going to take me on a drive around the city and into Civic! She also works at a cafe nearby and says I may be able to work there with her, win!

For today starting out so horribly it has turned itself around quite nicely and I'm not asking myself what the heck am I doing here (for now). And I made a friend or two!!!!! No worries mate!

I'm going to try and make it at least another hour so I can have sort of start to get on schedule, but we'll see...? Uni orientation begins in the morning! Very excited to meet all the other exchange students, so I don't feel like such a foreign kid:)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

the Far Side of the World

Bethany has been telling me to update this for quite awhile now, and since I am leaving for Australia in 14 hours (coincidentally also the length of my flight to Sydney) I thought it was probably time!

Well mates, I will be heading out for the far side of the world at 4:05 from Knoxville and then go to Atlanta, LA and then Sydney! I am staying in Sydney on Saturday and then flying to Canberra on Sunday morning. I begin Orientation stuff on Monday and begin class the following Monday, the 20th. Between getting settled, figuring out campus and learning my way around-which will be a grand task in itself-I am expecting (and hoping) for not a lot of downtime.

I have never before had a problem being away from home. Starting in 1995 at age 8 when I started going to church camp, then Girl Scout camp, several cheerleading camps (suppress laughter, please) class trips, sleepovers, Girl's State in high school, living in the dorm-I can count on one hand the number of times I have gotten homesick. I have no problem at all doing things by myself: eating, driving, sitting, studying, watching movies, get the idea, so what is it about this particular trip that has me all anxious and being a crybaby?

I think it's the fact that even though is after midnight and technically the day I leave-it STILL doesn't seem real. This is something I have been playing up in my mind since last fall and now it is upon me! I've got my passport, visa, flight, toothbrush...I'm good to go!

I'll update often as soon as I get moved in and everything set up!

14 hours on a plane, good thing I have crosswords and SuDoKus