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Future Unlimited

Check out my entry into the Future Unlimited video contest!

 

Reflection on a Plane

Apologies for the length (I had a few hours), but a reflection on the past semester that I wrote on the plane when flying from Melbourne to Perth:

As I sit in a plane thousands of feet above land, I struggle to decide how I should start with my reflection on the past semester. What can I say? I’ve just left Melbourne, where I spent the last few days hanging out with my friends from JCU, Dev, Natasha, Rekha and Saz. While the weather could have been better, it didn’t stop me from having an incredible few days. Before then, I had been in Sydney, staying with my friend Bav and exploring the city and the Blue Mountains.

One thing that has struck me on this post-examinations trip is that I am no longer intimidated by the idea of travelling alone. When I was first coming to Australia, I was travelling from Washington, D.C. to Townsville by myself. I remember how I felt when my flight from L.A. to Townsville was cancelled: nervous, frustrated, and wishing my parents could be there with me because I didn’t want to deal with it on my own. I called my parents the second I learned that my flight was cancelled, exhausted from my already long flight from D.C. to L.A., asking them what I should do. Fast forward a little over four months, and I sit on my third flight in a week, and I’m travelling alone. I have spent the last week with friends from JCU, but also a lot of time exploring the city alone. This time, I’m off to Perth.

When I first got to Sydney, I spent the first night at Base Backpackers. I got to my hostel around 8 in the evening, checked in, and went off to find a place to eat. It was already dark, but I was hungry and decided to find Darling Harbour. Naturally, I was a little nervous about walking around a new city on my own in the dark. Before I left Base, however, I double-checked with the employees if walking to the Harbour at that hour was safe, and which way I should go. The guy gave me directions, and off I went.

Darling Harbour

Four months earlier, I would not have been at all comfortable with this. I spent my first few days in Townsville living in a hotel, returning to my room before it got too dark. My semester in Australia, however, has provided me with many opportunities to become more independent and grow as a person. I’ve also become very good with maps and fitting cities into no time at all.

Sydney I did in about 12 hours, yet I’m amazed at how much I managed to fit in during that day. I woke up early and was out of my hostel by 8 a.m., leaving my suitcase in a storage locker for the day. My first stop was finding breakfast, so I went back to Darling Harbour, where I knew I would have a variety of choices for breakfast.

I ended up deciding on an Italian restaurant, as I have a bit of a coffee addiction, and knew that my chance of finding a delicious cappuccino there was high. Indeed, the cappuccino that I ordered was one of the best I had ever had. While I ate breakfast, I studied my map of Sydney that I had picked up from the airport and tried to figure out what I wanted to do next.

I decided to first walk further up Darling Harbour, eventually running into the aquarium. As I love animals, I decided to spend some time there. I got in line, bought my ticket, and went in. I had decided to give myself about an hour and a half, wanting to be on the move again by 11 a.m. I walked around the aquarium, seeing the dugong, penguins, sharks, and other marine animals. I especially loved seeing the dugong. It was such a beautiful animal and made me really want to do something one day to help with the conservation efforts for this species as well as others.

Queen Victoria Building

After the aquarium, I decided that I wanted to go to the observation deck. I didn’t use a map to find it, however, and instead decided to just walk towards the building, as I could easily see it, assuming I would eventually find it. On the way, I passed the Town Hall and Queen Victoria Building. I decided to go into the Queen Victoria Building and was amazed at how beautiful it was inside. I walked around for a bit, window-shopping at the various boutiques that were found there, before deciding to continue my search for the observation deck.

I finally found the building that contained the observation deck, but I discovered that it was a large shopping mall and didn’t exactly know where to go to get to the deck. A few minutes later, however, I found the information desk. I bought my ticket (the lady convinced me to do the SkyWalk instead of just the observation deck) and headed upstairs. My timing could not have been more perfect, as 5 minutes later the next SkyWalk started.

There were four people in my group: a woman from Holland, a man from Ireland, and another man from the U.S.. It wasn’t until our guide asked me where I was from and I answered Rockville, M.D. that the man from L.A. turned to me and asked what part of Rockville. As it turned out, he had grown up in my area and graduated from a high school in Bethesda, about 15 minutes from my house.

One thing that I have discovered on my trip is what an incredibly small world it is. There may be billions of people in the world, yet throughout the semester there have been many instances when the world has actually seemed like a very small place. I can only imagine what it would have been like had I studied abroad as a junior. By studying abroad as a sophomore, while most people are juniors, there wasn’t as much opportunity to have the “DO YOU KNOW…?” moments, as I know a majority of sophomores (but there were still a few).

Another thing that has changed since I came to Australia is my fear of heights. I used to be uncomfortable even being at the top of a tall building, and looking down at the ground would make me feel light-headed. Throughout my semester, however, I’ve been forced to confront my fear on various occasions, two of which occurred in Sydney. Now, as long as I feel safe, height doesn’t bother me. This does not, however, mean that the next chance that I have I’m going to jump out of a plane and go skydiving, nor am I going to be comfortable standing on a cliff.

After the SkyWalk, I decided to head over to the Sydney Opera House. On the way, I first visited Hyde Park and the Royal Botanical Gardens, before finally making it to the Opera House, where I met up with my friend Jigar. After the Opera House, Jigar and I went to a small Italian restaurant where I grabbed a bite to eat before heading to the Harbour Bridge for our climb.

The bridge climb was incredible. I highly recommend it. Jigar and I had signed up for the night climb, so we started our climb around 5p.m.. We got very lucky, however, as the sun was setting at the start of our climb, something that people usually pay an extra 60 bucks to experience. As we were climbing, the Sydney Opera House was on our right, with the gradient blue-purple-pink sky in the background. It was too picture perfect. Unfortunately, no cameras were allowed on the bridge.

As it got darker, the weather continued to be ideal (except for maybe the wind). There was not a cloud in the sky, so the star visibility that night was unreal. Our guide told us that he couldn’t remember ever being on a tour of such great visibility. There must have been over a hundred stars visible in the sky, with the city lights surrounding us at every side. We also managed to see the reflection of the Harbour Bridge lights in the sky, something very rare, according to our guide.

Basically, if someone is scared of heights, he or she should not allow that fear to prevent them from doing the bridge climb. I felt very safe during the climb, and it also wasn’t a very strenuous climb. Except for one point when you have to climb up and down maybe 6 or 8 steep ladders, the rest of the climb is relatively gradual. The bridge climb was one of the best experiences in Australia, by far.

After the climb, Jigar and I went to find some dinner. Then it was time for us to say goodbye because I was going to stay at my friend Bav’s house, which was about an hour outside of the city. I caught a ferry to Darling Harbour and walked back to my hostel, not allowing myself to waste a second by taking more pictures on the walk back, and picked up the rest of my luggage. Timing was on my side when I was trying to catch my train, despite having to find another entrance into the station and climb many steps with a suitcase, backpack, and bag.

I had no idea how to get to the station where my friend was picking me up, and since it was late, there were no people working at the ticket booths. I bought the ticket at the machine, however, and hurried into the station. I didn’t know if I had to switch trains or which one I was supposed to catch. I just knew the final destination.

I tried to find a worker to ask for directions but was unsuccessful, so I just started walking in a random direction of a platform. As I neared it, I spotted my friend’s station’s name on the sign, so I hurried down to the platform.

When I was a few steps from the bottom, the train pulled up, so I hurried onto it, not 100% sure that I was on the right train. In those few seconds, however, I had decided that I had rather risk being on the wrong train than miss the right one and have to wait at the station for another hour. Although at first I thought I might have gotten on the wrong train, I remembered the map that I had grabbed at the airport the day before and checked the train stations on it. I established that I was, in fact, on the right train. At that point, I relaxed, listening to music and allowing my feet to rest after running around the city for 12 or so hours.

My friend Bav met me at the station and we drove to her place. By the time we got to her house, it was pretty late, so we finalized the plans for the next morning and crashed.

The next morning I woke up early. Bav and I were catching a train to the Blue Mountains. I didn’t have any winter clothes, so I borrowed one of Bav’s jackets and we were off. There was some delay at the station where we had to switch trains, as none of the boards were showing any train information, and we were given different information from each person that we spoke to. Three hours later, however, we made it to Katoomba, our link to the Blue Mountains.

Things didn’t go as smoothly as planned, however, as on that day Katoomba was having its winter festival. Many of the streets were closed, and we had trouble finding the bus stop for the “Hop on, Hop off” bus, which would take us around the Blue Mountains.

After grabbing a pizza for lunch, we started to make our way to what we thought was the second stop. That one, too, was blocked by the festival. We asked one of the security people where the bus stop had been moved, but they couldn’t give us clear directions. Eventually, Bav and I found it, just in time for the last tour of the day, meaning that we couldn’t actually step off of the bus. Five minutes after the bus had been supposed to arrive (yet hadn’t), we were ready to give up and head back to the station. As we were leaving, however, the bus showed up, so we hopped on.

Although the trip didn’t quite go as planned, it was still a lot of fun. We still got to see a decent amount of the Blue Mountains, even if we didn’t get to go hiking through them, from the bus. We spent the train ride back listening to music, during which I introduced Bav to some of my favorite artists.

Blue Mountains

If I had had more time in the Sydney area, I would have loved to have gone back to the Blue Mountains, but I was flying out the next morning to Melbourne. I crashed not too long after we got back, and the next morning I got up at 6:30 to get ready for my flight. Her family drove me to the airport, and after goodbyes, it was time for Melbourne.

I was staying with my friend Dev in Melbourne. When I flew in, I had to catch the skybus and metro to a station near her house. The station that the skybus dropped us off at was very large and intimidating, but I managed to find the correct platform and catch the metro without problems. Once on the metro, I had my family call me because I had about 45 minutes on the train, and I hadn’t spoken to them since leaving for Sydney.

Me, Natasha and Dev

After Dev picked me up from the station, we went to her house so I could freshen up a bit, and then we were off to Chadies (aka Chadstone) to hang out with some other JCU friends. My friend says that it has the biggest circumference of a shopping center in the southern hemisphere, and I have no trouble believing it. The place was massive.

After some shopping, we went back to Dev’s house, where we got ready to go to Crown Casino. I went with Dev, Natasha, and Trish that night, and we spent the night wandering around the area, exploring. By the end of the night I couldn’t walk anymore and was relieved to sit down in the car when we were heading back.

The next day I caught the metro into the city, only knowing that I would be getting off at Flinders but lacking any sort of plan in terms of what I was going to see that day. Unfortunately, this is how I tend to travel when I visit cities, but it’s worked out so far… I found a café first thing and again studied a map to figure out what sorts of things I wanted to see while in Melbourne.

Once I left the café, I walked through an alleyway that was covered in graffiti. It was quite cool. When I reached the main street, I happened to walk out by a tour bus stop as one was boarding. Until that point, I hadn’t realized that Melbourne had a free bus for tourists that went around the city to all the different tourist attractions. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect thing, however, as I still hadn’t completely decided on what I wanted to see, so I jumped on at the last second.

I caught the bus to the cricket stadium, where I got off and walked around. I eventually found my way to Melbourne Park, where I stopped for a tour of James Cook’s cabin, which had been brought from England nearly 100 years ago and placed in the Melbourne Park. It was incredible, really. Here was this cabin, of which everything except the floor was exactly as it had been in England.

After the cabin, I continued walking towards the Royal Gardens. I passed the cathedral and Parliament building on the way, but decided that I didn’t have time to go inside. I finally reached the Royal Exhibition Building, planning on going inside, only to discover that exams were occurring at the time. The Exhibition Building was next to the Melbourne Museum, and until that moment I had forgotten that the Tutankhamen exhibit was currently being held there. I couldn’t miss out on the opportunity, so I went in and bought a ticket for the exhibit. I walked around the museum for a bit before my entrance time, but at 2 o’clock it was time to see the exhibit.

It was an incredible exhibit. It’s amazing that all those things were 3200 years old, yet still in such great shape. I was very glad that I managed to see the exhibit while I was in Melbourne, especially since I easily could have chosen to walk around the other side of the city and missed out on the exhibit.

After the exhibit, I met my friends at Melbourne Central. Initially, I had planned on finding a tram and catching it there, but I ended up walking to meet them instead. I prefer walking around the city to taking a tram or bus, even if my feet are killing me by the end, because that way if I see something I’m interested in, I can easily stop. Especially when the time in a city is so short, I believe that I get a lot more out of the trip if I walk around and become familiar with the city as a local would.

At Melbourne Central, we ate at a chocolate café, where I got myself a smoothie and chocolate Belgian waffles. It was incredibly filling, and not the healthiest of meals. We then hurried to catch the metro back. My friends made me grab a copy of the Mx, a Melbourne based paper, which I will admit was very good, particularly for a long metro ride home. I loved that it had a number of really short articles about what was happening in the world

That night, Dev’s mom made us dinner. Despite it being only spiced with pepper (and therefore not at all spicy, in the words of Dev and her sister Daniella), I ended up getting an accumulation of pepper in my throat and got teary eyed. Dev’s family loved it, and I just found it hilarious that I couldn’t even handle pepper. I proved to them the next night at dinner that it was, in fact, just poor luck that I got a more-than-usual-y spiced piece of chicken and that I could handle my spices.

The next day Dev’s dad took her and me to Rekha and Saz’s house, from where we were all going to the metro station and heading again to the city. Our first stop on the agenda was the Queen Victoria Market, which was very large. I would have loved to have spent more time looking at the different booths, but that afternoon I had one mission: find the polish deli. I eventually did find it and bought some polish sweets and kabanosy (a type of polish sausage).

After that, we caught a tram to the southern part of the city, where I went to the Eureka Tower. Unfortunately, on our walk to the building the weather started to take a turn for the worse, and by the time I reached the top floor it was starting to drizzle. Visibility was still pretty good at that point, however, so I got a ticket for the Edge, which is this glass cube that extends 3 meters from the building.

I got in the cube with a few other people, and once it extended out of the building and the windows turned transparent, confusion overcame us, because visibility was suddenly horrible. In the minute that we had spent setting up and moving out in the cube, the weather had become miserable. At first, we couldn’t figure out if the glass had just fogged up or if it really was raining. One look at the road directly below us gave us our answer, however, as they were all suddenly wet.

As luck would have it, it just so happened that the thirty minutes I was up in the tower was when the weather was worst. Once I was back on the ground and we were off to catch the tour bus, the weather had turned around. The next stop was the Shrine of Remembrance, which I went into and looked around.

After that, we were off to the DFO for some shopping. Luckily for my wallet, I didn’t find the stores I really liked until we passed them as we were leaving to catch the metro.

Once we got back, we went to Rekha and Saz’s house and watched TV for a bit before heading to an Indian restaurant for dinner. It was me, Dev’s family, Rekha and Saz’s family, and two of their family friends. They ordered me a special mild dish, but I decided to try everything to prove to myself that I could handle the spices. The food was delicious, and by the end of the dinner we were all stuffed and exhausted from a long day.

The next day we were supposed to go to the city and then Phillip Island, but one of my friends woke up feeling ill. Luckily, Rekha knew of a day tour that went to Phillip Island for the penguin march, which was what I had really wanted to do while in the Melbourne area. Dev’s dad made a phone call, and it turned out that the bus could stop on its way to Phillip Island at a nearby location to pick me up.

I had just wanted to go see the penguins, yet I ended up doing a lot more during the tour. The first stop was the Phillip Island Chocolate Factory (the tour bus played the oompaloompa song as we were pulling into the factory).  I made myself a chocolate bar with strawberry and coke. I’m not really sure how it’ll taste, but I’ve decided to save it so that I can share it with my family.

After that, we went to the Koala Sanctuary for a bit, where we spotted a number of koalas sleeping in the eucalyptus trees. With the gloomy weather that we had that day, no one could blame the koalas for sleeping all day.

Following the sanctuary, we went to a wine tasting (my first!), where we got to try various wines and cheeses.

After that, we drove to a lookout point that made me think of Ireland. We even found a few penguins hiding under the boardwalk. The weather wasn’t ideal, however. While it wasn’t extremely cold, per se, the wind was incredibly strong. During the walk back to the bus, rain started getting thrown at us by the wind. By the time I made it back to the bus, my hair wasn’t recognizable. After some coffee and biscuits, we were finally off to see the penguins. 

The penguin march was another one of my favorite things that I’ve seen in Australia. After sunset, the little penguins return from the ocean to the land, and people can watch as the smallest species of penguins in the world waddles back to their home. They came in groups, sometimes of more than twenty penguins, and they were too precious. My only wish is that I could have taken a video of it to show my family and friends, but unfortunately no sort of photography was allowed.

Once back on the bus, we headed back to Melbourne. The tour guide was very kind and dropped me off at the same location as before, where Dev’s family picked me up. That night, Dev, Natasha, Rekha, Saz and I decided to go to the movies to hang out one last time, and we brought Daniella and Rekha and Saz’s brother and friend. We saw what may be the worst movie released in years, but at least we had the opportunity to all hang out one last time. I said goodbye, and we headed back to Dev’s.

The next morning, I woke up and started packing, only then realizing just how much I had accumulated during my few days in the area. I managed to fit everything (somehow), however. Dev and I said goodbye early because she had to go to a meeting, and then Dev’s dad took me to Rekha and Saz’s house because they were driving me to the airport.

Both families took great care of me during my stay in Melbourne, and I couldn’t be more thankful for having made such incredible friends during my semester abroad: not just my friends from Melbourne, but my friends from other parts of Australia, as well as the world.

The hardest thing about studying abroad is definitely having to say goodbye to all the amazing friends that you make during your time abroad. The American friends are easier to say goodbye to because the chances of seeing them again soon are much greater. It has been very difficult saying bye to my Australian friends, however, because the next time that we see each other is so uncertain. While I am trying to get my friends to visit me during their summer, there is always the issue of costs, which is why I decided that the best way (and most cost effective in terms of the plane ticket) to experience Australia would be to study abroad. Luckily, however, there are many ways to keep in touch with people these days, making the goodbyes somewhat easier.

 


I will never forget the last semester: the people I met, the things I learned, and the places I saw. This was the semester of a lifetime, and everyone should try to go abroad, but specifically come to Australia. The country has so much to offer, the people are great, and (in my case, at least) the culture shock is fairly non-existent, compared to some other places.

Without a doubt, the semester has been an expensive one. All I want to do when I get home is find a job and work nonstop until I go back to school to somehow pay for it. One thing that I realized as I travelled to the big cities these last few weeks, however, is that my decision to go study in Townsville as opposed to a big city such as Sydney or Melbourne was, financially, a very wise one. While I still found certain things to be expensive in Townsville, in comparison to the tourist trap cities, it was significantly cheaper. I still managed to see a number of the main cities during my time in Australia, but by not studying in one I managed to save a lot of money. Therefore, if finances are a factor in one’s decision to study abroad, I definitely recommend avoiding the main cities and considering studying at a university in a smaller city.

In deciding where one should go to study, however, it is also important to decide what it is that one wants to study. While some of my friends went abroad and used it as an opportunity to take non-major classes, I used the semester as an opportunity to take a number of biology classes. JCU was ideally located on the Great Barrier Reef, in the tropical part of Queensland, with large rainforests located just an hour drive north. I therefore had the opportunity to actually see the things I was learning about in person, something that would not have been as possible in the U.S.

As we near the location of our start of descending to Perth, I will end with this. Everyone should try to go abroad, without a doubt. But studying abroad in Australia is an incredible experience, and I would recommend it to any undergraduate who wishes to visit and learn more about Australia.

Keeping in Touch

My time in Australia is quickly coming to an end. I’ve finished three of my four classes already, with my last exam early next week. Shortly after, I leave Townsville to explore Australia some more before finally returning home. I have been away from my family for four months…the longest that I have ever been away from home. Yet, I’ll be completely honest: I haven’t experienced homesickness much. Sure, there have been plenty of moments, particularly while I’ve been travelling, when I wished my family could be with me. But a major difference with studying abroad today versus twenty years ago is the technology that makes it incredibly easy to keep in touch with family and friends while abroad.

Facebook is great, especially for sharing pictures. I used Skype this past semester to talk to my family and friends from home all the time. Really, it’s not too different from a semester back in the U.S. when you just don’t have time to go home. Skype made it really easy to not get homesick, though. Video chatting made it almost seem like we were all in the same room, talking like we would at home. I would say the worst is with family pets…

Bottom line… if you’re anxious about going abroad because you won’t be seeing your family and friends for many months, don’t worry about it too much. There are plenty of ways to keep in touch that will make it seem like you aren’t really thousands of miles away from them all.

And as much as it saddens me to leave my new friends, I know we’ll keep in touch with the help of good ol’ technology.

Study Vacation

So this week is study vacation at JCU. This means that no classes are held, and instead the time is meant to be spent studying. Many international students take advantage of the week by travelling to see some more of Australia. For many, their time in Australia is running out. A few of my friends are flying home as soon as exams are over, so study vacation is the last chance for them to see something else in Australia.

In my case, I decided to go to the Brisbane area with my friend Cheyenne for a few days. We flew down on Saturday afternoon and got back to Townsville today. We stayed in Base Backpackers at Brisbane, but we did day trips from Sunday until Tuesday up and down the coast. As I do not have much time to write about my trip, I’m going to mostly post pictures from the last few days.

What I can say is that it was a lot of fun. It was particularly great because each day was spent with animals, at least to some extent. I fed wild dolphins and an elephant this weekend, saw humpback whales off the Gold Coast and went to Dracula’s Cabaret Restaurant. For such a short trip, I’m really happy with the number of things that we managed to fit in.

I have some videos that I’ll eventually upload to YouTube, but that will probably wait until after I finish with exams. For now, however, here are a few of the pictures I took during my trip!

Brisbane:

Tangalooma Island Resort, Moreton Island:

Hiking up to go sand tobogganing!

Shipwreck!

Wild dolphin feeding!

Australia Zoo:

One of my favorite pictures of the day, when the tiger jumped against the glass and into the water when trying to grab a toy.

Gold Coast:

Went on a whale watching cruise and saw humpback whales!

That’s all, folks! I hope you enjoyed the pictures. Now it’s time for me to nerd it out and study. 

Trying New Things

This past weekend was my friend Megan’s birthday dinner. I had gone out with the intention of having a salad because I wasn’t that hungry. However, when I saw that Outback Jack’s had an appetizer which consisted of crocodile and kangaroo meat, I figured, “What better time to try these two meats?”

I got the meal and, naturally, got a picture taken with it.

I tried the crocodile first. My thoughts? It had the consistency of fish, yet it tasted like chicken. I was surprised to discover that I actually liked it quite a bit. I was very disappointed to discover that each progressive stick had one less piece of crocodile meat on it. Honestly, I felt kinda cheated that I didn’t get my 9 pieces of crocodile.

The kangaroo I wasn’t as a big a fan of, mostly because the meat was a lot tougher. It was still pretty good, though.

The sauce that came with the meats tasted delicious. There’s a chance that if the kangaroo had been prepared differently, I would have liked it a lot more. Likewise, had I gotten the crocodile elsewhere, I could have hated it. It definitely depends how the meat is prepared.

Overall, the crocodile and kangaroo meat eating experience was a good one. I had been beginning to worry that I would run out of time and not have a chance to try these two “Aussie” meats before I leave the country. However, it should be noted that most of my Australian friend have never actually tried these meats…it’s more of an Aussie tourist thing to do.

I’m dividing this blog post into three parts, since I have three things to talk about and don’t want to make a separate blog post for each of them.

Money:

A few days ago, some U.S. change spilled out of my backpack so I stuck it on my desk. I had forgotten about it until two of my Australian friends came over to my room and found it. I ended up showing them all the U.S. money that I had on me (two 1 dollar bills and various coins) and they loved it.

Tamika and Sam!

They couldn’t believe how crumpled my dollar bills were (Australian banknotes are pretty much tear-proof and don’t crease that easily) and that they were actually paper! Australian banknotes are made of plastic, so basically, you can wash them as much as you want and they’ll still be fine. They also couldn’t believe that our dollar bill is in banknote form, as Australian currency has the dollar (and two dollars) in coin form. Australian money is also a lot prettier, in my opinion:

Planets:

On Saturday morning I woke up at 5 am to go planet watching with some friends. Four of the planets aligned and were visible along the horizon. Jupiter, Mercury, Venus and Mars were all visible together, something that apparently only happens every 50 to 100 years. It was incredible, particularly when they were still close to the horizon (and therefore difficult to take a picture of because of the many trees). It was definitely worth waking up early, though, to see it:

Parasailing:

Townsville recently had an addition to the things that can be done here: parasailing! A new company opened up not too long ago, so my friend Megan and I decided that it would be fun to try it out since we both wanted to parasail while in Australia. We caught a bus into town and walked over to the dock, where we got onto the boat and joined the three other people that would be parasailing with us.

I should note that I am usually terrified of heights. For some reason, however, when we were up in the air I didn’t feel any fear, even with the boat being very small from that height.

It was a lot of fun though. At one point they dipped us in the water (I was worried that something would go wrong and we wouldn’t be able to get back up) and we got soaked.

It was also a lot more chill than I thought it would be. I thought we’d be going really fast, but in fact it was almost like lounging on a chair…just over the ocean. And the ‘seat’ wasn’t particularly comfortable. I slipped out of it towards the end, so I was more standing (and therefore working my ab muscles like never before). It was a relief to step back on the boat…

Once we got back to land, Megan and I went to Gelatissimo for a gelato and latte before heading back. Belgian chocolate gelato with hot nutella drizzled on top…absolutely delicious. They also have the best lattes…they actually taste like something you would buy in Italy.

On that note, I must get back to work. There are only two more weeks of class! I have a number of assignments due in the next two weeks, though, so I need to buckle down and get things done. Ideally, time would slow down a bit so that my last few weeks here don’t go so fast…

A Uni Difference

Most of my Australian friends from JCU are either studying law, pharmacy, physiotherapy, medicine or veterinary medicine. They are not, however, in their mid-twenties, as many of them would be had they been studying these subjects in the United States.

A major difference between the universities in Australia and universities in the United States is that here, students can apply to such professional schools directly out of high school. Bachelor of Law, for example, is a four year program at JCU. Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery is a 6 year program and Bachelor of Veterinary Science is 5 years. I have met a few international students that have come to JCU for their full degree and are currently studying with one of these professional programs.

I have wanted to be a veterinarian for most of my life, yet as a student in the United States I have to complete my undergraduate degree before I can apply to veterinary school. Ideally, I will be 22 when I enter veterinary school. Some of my friends here, however, started veterinary school at 17 and will therefore be graduating at 22. I will not lie: I am very jealous of my friends here who are around my age, yet already in their first or second year of veterinary school.

What this means is simply that the professional programs here are structured differently from those in the United States. Specifically, the first year tends to be intensive learning of the equivalent of pre-requisites that would be required in the United States, and the latter years are spent learning much of the same things that would be learned in the equivalent professional program in the United States. To learn more about the structure of these programs, you can visit the JCU website.

This does not mean that Australian students must choose a specific program directly out of high school. For example, University of Melbourne has a veterinary program that is strictly for students who already have a bachelors degree of some sort.

Australian students therefore have a choice: if they know early on what they want to study out of high school, they can apply directly to the program of their choice.  If, however, they are not yet sure if they want to go into a particular field, they can get a general degree first and then apply to graduate programs.

I see advantages to both the Australian system and the U.S. system. While I would have loved to have gone into veterinary medicine immediately out of high school, I’m also really glad that I chose to get an undergraduate degree first. After all, had I not done so, I would not be here in Australia today as my schedule would probably not be flexible enough to allow me to study abroad. At the same time, though, graduating with a professional degree in the early-twenties rather than late-twenties is very tempting. Furthermore, I am not looking forward to the stress that I will be feeling when the time comes for me to apply to veterinary school a few years down the road.

I still have a little over a year, though…

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