Arrival at “fin del mundo”

December 16, 2014- Tuesday (Buenos Aires- El Calafate- Ushuaia)

By 4:45AM I was awake and packing up my things; I must have checked the room about six times to make sure that I had everything. The hotel provided breakfast which consisted of pastries, orange juice, coffee and tea. The breakfast is quite different from the typical American breakfast; it was much lighter and the pastries served seemed more like something that would be eaten as a dessert in the states. Around 5:30AM we departed for the airport, arriving around 6AM…but it was the wrong terminal, so we had to get back on the bus and go over to the domestic terminal where we checked our bags and headed for the gate. The security in the domestic terminal was very lenient, we were allowed to bring water, weren’t required to take out liquids or remove our shoes, much different from any security in the states. It was kind of nerve wracking for some other students to see such relaxed security, but while discussing it we figured it is likely this way because Argentina doesn’t have many reasons to be as uptight about airport security, especially with domestic flights. The terminal was very small, much smaller than any airport I had ever been in, which was very different from the international terminal in the same airport, which we passed through last night, which was huge. While waiting for the flight myself and some other students formed a little circle where we started to get to know each other better and begin to connect, which made me feel much more comfortable.002We began boarding the plane around 7:50AM and took off around 8:15AM for a 3 hour flight to El Calafate, where we stopped for about 20 minuets while other peopole got off and others boarded. The scenery in El Calafate was beautiful, much like a desert and drastically different than the scenery in Buenos Aires, which made me wish i had a window seat on the plane. The water was so blue, almost turquoise in colour which was a stark contrast to the reddish brown sandy and rock surrounding the water. Around 12PM we took off again and started on our way to Ushuaia.

The airport in Ushuaia was quite small and looked much like a ski lodge. It was a bit cooler that it had been in Buenos Aires, where it was about 80 degrees. When we stepped out of the airport there was the most beautiful mountains (The Southern Andes) right in front of us. They were like nothing i had ever seen before, i instantly took out my camera and continued to take pictures until we arrived at the hostel. The hostel was not what i had imagined,005 it was actually quite nice. There were 4-6 people to each room; each room had three sets of bunk beds. After arriving we had a quick meeting with the professors joining us on the trip, and then we were free to go and explore Ushuaia.

 

Week 3 – Adventures on The Great Ocean Road

Hi everyone!!!

The second week of Uni is underway here at Victoria University. Today is Monday – and I am trying to recuperate from the insane weekend that I just had. On Friday after classes – I set off on my journey to spend the weekend in Warrnambool via the famous Great Ocean Road.  The first day of driving was encompassed around actually getting to Great Ocean Road. Toward the late afternoon, we began winding up and down – left and right on the amazing endless coast line. We got out to stretch our legs a few times at some really stunning surf beaches where I was able to search for shells and beautiful little creatures, like starfish, in the withered rock beds near to shore. I collected some small shells and rocks with the intention of making some homemade souvenirs out of them for friends and family back home. I think that those types of gifts- with a story, location, and sentiment are better than any gift shop ball cap with an embroidered Kangaroo. We stopped at our half way point in Apollo Bay Friday night where I had Shark for dinner!! It was so good! It kind of blew my mind, even though its very common, and not unheard of. Before bed – I went for a really long walk on the beach while the sun set and the waves crashed. I can feel myself falling in love with the Ocean every time I am near it. Though I have loved my time here so far, it has become a bit overwhelming at times to be in a new place where the culture is different, and you dont know anyone really. That single walk on the beach in Apollo Bay seemed to put everything into perspective for me, I was able to gather my thoughts, clear my head, and breath. We ended up staying for the night in this pretty decent and cheap youth hostel. Bunk beds, a living room, and people from around the world you do not know. It was a cool experience.

Day two – On the road againnnn. The stops we made were to some really amazing village market type gatherings – with amazing handmade things, cool music, and good people. We also stopped off G.O.R to this massive amazing rain forest where we did a hike around a few trails and saw some cool things. The highlight of Great Ocean Road – was finally reaching the Twelve Apostles – as well as the other breathtaking coastlines near it. We stopped off in every spot we could – I took about 1,000 photos – not exaggerating. The blue of the ocean. That was what made each spot so mind blowing to me. The contrasts of the water and the rocks that had been withered away to stand on their own. The enormity of them…It was a day full of things I could not believe I was seeing with my own two eyes. A day full of awe, and pure joy – that I decided to take this step and study abroad. My time here is going by quickly..

Once in Warrnambool – we went to some cool restaurants – and also hiked a volcano – and a beautiful gorge, before driving the 5 hours back to Melbourne.

I could talk endlessly about this experience – and the words would not actually compare. Just as these amazing beautiful photos – incredibly do the reality no justice.

This weekend I have tickets for Cirque Du Solei.. so excited

I dont even know if anyone reads these… But its cool to share.IMG_0967 SAM_1499 SAM_1489 SAM_1486  SAM_1445SAM_1460

 

Goodbye USA

During my last week at home before I left for New Zealand there was a lot I had to do. Since it was my last week I had to enjoy the food offered here that I is not in New Zealand. This included eating at my favorite restaurants, such as Subway, Panera’s, Chipotle, and my local Jamaican restaurant. I was not sure if this type of food in New Zealand, but I was excited about trying new food with going to New Zealand. I believe that if you are not willing to try new food, then you are missing out a lot of opportunities to do something exciting (sorry picky eaters). Since I will be away from my family for awhile my mother  made my favorite meals of Moroccan stew and chicken soup with dumplings. It was low key but I enjoyed it a lot.
To prepare for my stay in New Zealand I have made a list of things I want to do. What I want to do most is visit my family that lives in New Zealand. My grandmother was born in New Zealand, so there is a rich family history there that I’m excited to learn about. My family was also very excited for me to explore my roots. They had lived together in New Zealand for five years before moving back to the United States. My mom was very excited and she kept helping with ideas to enjoy New Zealand, and also helped me improve my cooking since I am not relying on my parents in New Zealand. My sisters gave me tips on how to get adjusted based off their experiences studying abroad in Venice and Trinidad. My cat though did not seem excited that I was leaving. In this picture she was resting in one of my bags, which is something she likes to do when she sees a suitcase, luckily there was no cat hair in my bag. 10994946_1775983652627800_2941727022195500077_n

Week 2

Week 2 was very relaxed. I was getting my ducks in a row most of the week for the first day of classes (today the 23rd of Feb.) I read two entire books while I relaxed around the house that week. And I tried to go for a good hike in a different spot each night. The wildlife is something has has stuck with me undeniably while I have been here so far. In New York – sure there are animals and birds etc. But here it is so wild… I have no better way to describe it. I am simply at a loss for words there. I have never really been a bird person like my grandma who can just sit and watch, listen, and name the birds around – but here I am in complete awe of them. I have seemed to make really great friends with one Magpie at my house that I unofficially call Maggie. She lives in the tree outside my bedroom window and I feed her little pieces of meat here and there – so she loves me. We are buds. In this second week – I also did a few dry runs on the public trains and buses on the route to my Uni so I could ensure I would not be lost or late when classes did come.

In this second week – I also made my first trip ever to both IKEA as well as the Ocean (Surf Beach). The first day at the Ocean I did not have the proper clothes to swim which was really upsetting considering the outstanding beauty of the water as well as the 100 degree F temperature that day. BECAUSE OF THAT – the following day which was also around the 100’s we took a day trip and went to the amazing Phillip Island. Some of the sights I saw are featured in the photo I have attached here – but all in all – my reaction to this place [The Nobbies] was something I could never form into words. Everything I saw was just one more thing I could not believe I was seeing with my own eyes. My brain was on over drive convincing myself that I was not seeing some digital image on the desktop wallpaper of a new PC.

This is currently the first week of classes [week 3 in oz] and this upcoming weekend I will be traveling down the famous Great Ocean Road and then to Warrnambool to sight see and hike around for the remainder of the weekend. Things keep getting better and better here, and I know the time will fly by from now until June when I leave. I am already anticipating another trip in the not so distant future.

Week 1 in Oz

Week 1 

From what I understand – my first week here in Australia was very different than they were for other study abroad students. This may be because I am not living in the student housing provided by the Uni I am studying at down here. I had previous arrangements set up to live off campus with some Australian friends I had met online about a year prior to my application to study abroad.

Within my first week here I had dealt with some serious jet lag, and homesickness (first day jitters), traveled the distance to my new college and explored around the campus, opened a bank account here so I was not sucked dry by exchange rates by using my American debit card, bought a prepaid cell phone to use while I am here as my personal cell is not international, signed up for a public transit card,  attended Uni Orientation, almost walked straight into a massive and I mean massive spider as it spun its web, (didnt leave the house for at least a day after that) traveled up to Sherbrooke Forest in the Dandenong Ranges and had the privilege of not only seeing the amazing sights – but being completely covered in cockatoos as they fought over the seed I held, completely oblivious that I was even a human. Their claws left quite the impression. That moment, although my skin was being pierced all over the place, was the first moment I realized how cool this place is – and how much fun I was in for during my precious time here. Little did I know – the following day (the last day of my first week) we traveled to Healesville to visit the Healesville Animal Sanctuary where I entered a massive Australian animal enclosure and was free to walk among the animals in their habitats. It was as if I was the one that was caged – in their natural homes, instead of them being caged and me walking by peering in. The entire experience was amazing, to say the least. Again – little did I know that this would not compare to my experiences to come.

 

Departure

January 30th

“I depart a week from tomorrow. Lots of feelings running around. I guess I should start packing.”

February 5th

“The days are dwindling. And the hours are sluggish. I don’t want to start my goodbyes. I guess it’s time. I am beyond excited that I get to have this experience. Everything here will be exactly the same when I get back. I just hope my brothers don’t grow up too much while I’m gone”

Feb 6th [A day before my departure]

“Well..what can I even say. I know I likely will not have time to post in the morning before I go.. It has been hard to pinpoint how I have felt the last couple of days. Its a feeling I am unfamiliar with – but one I will grow to know well. A feeling encompassed by growth, and accomplishment. Dreams. I just wanted to take a second to thank everyone for being so supportive and excited for me. Not only did you provide me with tips for my journey – but confidence and reassurance of where I came from, and how it has thus far, and will continue to benefit me. Doing some last minute preparations and then going to TRY to sleep. Big day tomorrow… a big one. Watch out for the first check-in from JFK – and then an utter blow up when I get to LAX. The City of Angels, man. Can’t believe it.”

I flew out from the nearest airport in my hometown area – in Syracuse New York, to JFK in New York City. Where I had a 6 hour layover until my flight to LAX in Los Angeles. Though flight from JFK to LAX was 6 hours long, I had been much too excited to sleep. The moment we flew over LA the windows of the plane were lit up. The lights were amazing. I remember feeling in complete awe. I felt baffled even, that I was travelling to this insanely distant land when I had never even left New York before. I had never even seen the Ocean. None of it really sunk in until LA.

February 8th

“I write this from the plane to post later. NY to LA – prior to boarding, all of the aircraft’s crew left to stretch their legs and use the facilities. And as I was eager to complete my 6 hour wait at JFK and Board, their accents and my people watching made the wait tolerable. When I boarded I just wanted to sleep. And thankfully the couple I was sitting with moved after we ascended so I could lean on the window. I have not thought too much about culture shock considering the plethora of similarities that Australia has with the U.S. – but that was clearly naive of me. I’m merely aboard their aircraft still in US air and noticing cool little things. How is this happening.”

February 9th

“[wrote on plane] The time I spent admiring LA from afar and above seems like so long ago now. I’ve been on this plane to Melbourne for what seems like an eternity. I sat with an awesome aussie couple the entire way though. I always get lucky like that. I touch down in 10 mins. We are driving downward to the land. My first observation – brown. Just brown.”

Overall – the flight was exhausting, as expected, and I vomited twice in a LAX trash can while I waited to board. I went back in time 3 hours to LA – then forward 16 hours to Melbourne. I was jet lagged for a few solid days. The very fist thing I did when I left the airport was go to the beach and see the Ocean. Wow.

Catching Up

Hello!! I am playing a bit of catch up on this blog – but thankfully, I anticipated I would gain access to it eventually so I have been typing some entries on my own for later posting. Some back-round on me before I get to the trip, is that I am from a really small town in Upstate New York that is known for having some of the highest recorded snow fall in the entire country. Moving away from my family and our small town to try and further my education was a big deal. Something I had always planned to do, but something I, nor anyone else in my family could have prepared me for. Before moving to New Paltz I had never left home for any length of time ever, and it was really hard for me at first, like it is for a lot of freshman. My past experiences regarding that alone had pushed the idea that I might be eligible to study abroad right out of my head. I never considered that it could possibly be an option for me, because I knew my family did not have the income to support a dream that big, and I surely did not either. Little did I know at this time, that I had merely just began to turn the handle to the freedoms that were available to me if I was willing to put the work in. 

Being accepted into the Study Abroad program was a milestone in my life. One that I will look back on in a few months and laugh at – compared to what I have accomplished since that moment. I arrived in Melbourne, Australia on February 9th, 2015 and though I have not been here long, if I had to pack up and leave right at this moment – my time here would still be the most memorable time of my life so far. In just over 2 weeks. I cannot wait to find out what the next 5 months has in store for me.

In my next post I will bounce back two weeks to right before I was leaving the US and try to express in words my mindset as well as my endlessly restless travel here to Melbourne. Cheers!

 

 

The Trilogy Experience

Shortly after arriving at Stafford UniLodge, I found it easy to make friends with other exchange students. There were quiet a few events just for International students to gather both through VUW and Staffford. Before I knew it, I had a friend group consisting of other students from all over the world. We planned a trip to explore some of the North Island together by renting a car and purchasing tickets for “The Trilogy Experience”. This experience involved two cave tours (one was a glow worm cave!), a tour of Hobbiton, a tour of a natural geothermal park, and a Maori welcoming ceremony. We all had an amazing time and I’m so glad I was able to see these cool places and learn more about the Maori culture. I highly suggest looking into taking “The Trilogy Experience” as a weekend trip with friends while in New Zealand!

Sydney

The next morning, we drove about 2 ish hours to Sydney. We checked into our hotel room and left the room at around 3 to explore the city. We walked around the city to Darling Harbor (the suggestion from the previous hotel owners). It was beautiful. It was just a little harbor with people sitting on the steps around it, some boats docked in and the glare of the descending sun on the water was magnificent. We ate a late lunch of Subway, very Australian I know. As we ate lunch we had a spectacular view of the harbor. There were many seagulls near us, staring at us, waiting for us to drop some food, which we didn’t. Dad and i decided to stare back at them examining their thin legs and the fact that they have no eyelids (we are normal, I know :P). One had no foot and it was limping, very sad 🙁 Another one was fat as my dad said, so he didn’t want to feed it. After lunch, we walked more along the harbor. After a bit, we turned around and went to a walking bridge to see the sunset. The sunset was disappointing that night because there were no pretty colors, but it was nice to see the sun reflecting off the water from another angle. Since dad was all walked out, we went back to the hotel to relax before dinner. Surprise Surprise, Dad fell asleep within 10 minutes of lying/sitting down. So I laid on the bed watching TV and I fell asleep too. I guess the jet-lag was still affecting us. I woke up around midnight and thought to myself, I guess we missed dinner. I got into y PJ’s and fell back asleep.

We woke up a little later than I wanted that morning, and we decided to go to the Blue Mountains, since it would be a little cooler the next day. We left the hotel around 11:30 AM and drove about an hour to the Blue Mountains. We stopped in an information building and a lovely man gave us his five favorite spots within the blue Mountains, we took his highlighted map and started to drive to our 1st destination, Wentworth Falls. We saw the Jamison lookout and walked a bit to the Princes Rock lookout. The steps were steep, but it was a nice lookout onto the mountains. The waterfall was a little wimpy and small, but still nice. We then went to the Conservation Hut to eat (near Wentworth Falls and actually in that town), Dad and I shared a steak sandwich and a Greek salad without purple lettuce and olives. So the waitress called it a not do Greek salad. She was a nice waitress and a bit funny. We were unsure of how we tip the waitress, it seems to be less common here than at home. After lunch we made out way over to the town of Katoomba to see the three sisters and the giant stairway. From the tree sisters lookout, it was hard to see all three sister stones/rocks, we could only see one of the sisters, the other two were hiding behind the first one. We walked part of the giant stairway down to the tree sisters, instead of just the lookout. The stairway was really steep and took a lot of balance and holding on to the railing. But it was cool to go down and touch one of the three sisters. It was exciting. There was also Echo Point lookout in Katoomba where we could see all three sisters next to each other, it was a beautiful view. Next, we drove to Blackheath, where we went to Govetts Leap lookout. To Dad’s disappointment, it wan’t named after Govett who leaped off the edge because of a woman, it was named after Mr. Govett because he was the first to discover the beautiful lookout onto the Blue Mountains that Dad and I got the privilege of seeing. Next, we drove to Mt. Tomah, where we drove past the botanical gardens because of the ext days planned activities. We then drove back to Sydney some weird way, but we winded up finding the correct road we were supposed to be on to make our way back to Sydney. We drove to dinner that night and ate at this interesting Italian Restaurant. Each customer got a card and walked up to the counter, to a chef, who cooked your food in front of you, kind of like Oscars in New Paltz, and added the price to the card which you paid for at the end. It was like cafeteria style. The chef I went to was really friendly, striking up a conversation with me until my food was don’t, the food was very tasty, as mom would say is Alec’s favorite word. We went back to the hotel and I relaxed and watched a movie, the Blind Side,, as Dad took his long wanted bath and we went to sleep.

I forgot to mention the first day we were in Sydney we went to a mini market to get some milk and juice. When we went to the cash register and started a conversation with the person behind the counter, we mentioned we were from New York, USA. He then asked, “Ohhh the rich part?” We responded with, “Not quite!” That was a very interesting stereotype to me.

The next day was a busy day in Sydney. Since it was our last day, we wanted to hit all the attractions. Dad and I got a late start, nothing new there, and we got a cab a few blocks from our hotel. The cab driver didn’t know where our destination was, I felt proud teaching him something faraway from my neck of the woods. We started out at the mint, only coins. We walked past a hospital, which had amazing architecture, you would have never known it was a hospital, besides the signs of course. Next we took a mini self tour of the parliament house with a booklet they had available. Dad took a bunch of little booklets to give to Alec as his Australia gift. We ate at a small cafe place, we both had some kind of chicken sandwich. Dad and I then walked to the botanical gardens, it was beautiful! We took a stroll through the most of the gardens. We saw some interesting looking trees with a lot of branches. I was a bit disappointed though, the garden wasn’t as colorful as I expected. Dad did remind me that it was the winter there, so it made sense. As we came closer to the end, we stumbled upon one of the best sights of the trip so far. There was a little harbor with cute boats in it. And on the other side of the harbor you could see the city skyline as well as the Sydney Harbour bridge and the Sydney opera house. The best and most touristy attractions were right in front of out faces. I couldn’t get over how the sun was shinning/reflecting on the calm of the harbor water with the skyline. After we took a million pictures there, Dad and I walked fast through the rest of the gardens to catch a tour of the Sydney Opera House, we could walk through the Sydney conservatorium of music and the government house. Unfortunately the conservatory didn’t have tours running on that day. The government house was also closed to go inside, but we walked around the building. We then went to the opera house. While waiting for our 4:30 tour to start, Dad and I sat outside enjoying the scenery of the opera house in front of us and the harbor bridge behind us. The guide gave us some headphones so we could still hear her if we ended up in the back of the group. We got to see into a few of the theaters as well as get a history lesson on how the design was chosen and how they executed it so well. The building of the Sydney Opera House costs over double their anticipated price and took over twice as long as they originally thought. The design was so hard to build that the contest winner eventually gave up on building it and went to another country. Other architects eventually figured out a way to build the tree domeish shapes by just connecting a bunch of small pieces together. It was designed so every nook and cranny was there for some purpose. The opera house doesn’t only hold operas, it holds plays, musicals, ballets, circus, acrobatics, dirt bike tricks, and many many more. The biggest theater had three rings coming down from the ceiling, they move up and down depending on the performance. The stage and chairs move as well. We witnessed workers setting up for the next show in that theater. After going to the place where they store all the equipment, we went up to the 2nd balcony. I looked up to see the reflection of the bridge on the glass. Another unforgettable sight was seeing the sun setting behind the bridge. The Sydney harbor Bridge looked gold from the suns’ rays (the pictures I took didn’t do the in-person view justice). It was absolutely breathtaking to see the sunset from a high point in the city in the Opera House. You could see the reflection of the sunset on the glass that covered part of the opera house. After the tour was over, we bought some souvenir pictures and history about the opera house and went outside. We took in the view of the city skyline, the bridge, and the opera house at night, lit up. (I forgot to mention the winning design architect didn’t see the finished product of his design and work yet.) We then took a taxi back to the hotel where we relaxed for a bit. I kept begging Dad for dinner because I was really hungry. But, he ignored me, kept pushing it off and milking the time just to annoy me. So when he finally decided that he was hungry, we went to china town, where dad suggested we eat. We ended up picking an authentic Chinese Restaurant. The food was surprisingly not that good. Neither of us finished our dishes because we didn’t like it that much. We are used to Americanized Chinese food, so the authentic food tasted weird to s. We walked around china town for a few minutes as we were heading back to the car. We then went back to the hotel to pack and get ready for the flight in the morning. But I decided to take a relaxing bath before I packed. (The first bath for me in over 7 years!) Then it was sleepy time zzzzzzz.

 

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<3 <3 Stay Awesome!! <3 <3

INSTAGRAM

I have created and instagram account JUST FOR THIS STUDY ABROAD SEMESTER! See more videos and pictures of this study experience on your computer or on the go.
If you have an instagram account, you can follow me @studylikeakiwi
If you don’t have an account but would still like fast easy access to tons of pictures and videos of New Zealand and life in Wellington, check out my account at http://instagram.com/studylikeakiwi
Thank you, and enjoy! 🙂Monkey Creek, NZWellington!

I highly recommend using juicy tours. Good prices, good humor, and whole lot of fun!

This is the very sweet cat that lives at Victoria Univeristy. The vic cat can be found right on the walk up to Uni!

This is the very sweet cat that lives at Victoria Univeristy. The Vic cat can be found right on the walk up to Uni!