I have done a number of trips with tour company REAL Australia. All of them have had some memorable moments but honestly none have lived up to the amazingness of the orientation trip. PLEASE if you end up studying at Victoria University DO the orientation trip. I cannot stress this enough. REAL Australia as a concept is cool because it is small group trips (8-15 people) led by real Australians! They do trips to Torquay, Healesville Sanctuary and the Mornington peninsula. While they all have some breathtaking sights if I could do it again I would skip Healesville and instead go to Ballarat Wildlife park.
Regardless Phillips Island was cool. I saw a pelican feeding which was pretty cool. There were about 15 pelicans all fighting for food. We also had lunch which was chicken parm or as it is said here chicken parma (the Australians shorten everything). In fact it is interesting to note that chicken parma here is not done with pasta but instead always with chips (American Fries). The penguin parade was honestly disappointing as it is dark and cold and no guarantee the penguins will go near your viewing area. You are also not allowed to take photos. While I do recommend going to Phillips island I think one might be better off skipping the parade. Either way Real Australia provides some pretty cool trips which are definitely worth checking out!
When I first chose to study abroad in Australia over a year ago I had a list of places I HAD to visit.
The Great Barrier Reef
Sure I have done so much more since being here but these were the two super Australian things I could not leave the country without doing. When I arrived back in February I was heartbroken to see that flights from Melbourne to Uluru were about 500-600 AU return. Extremely expensive and I thought I wouldn’t be able to go. That is until last week when one of my acquaintances found a round trip flight for $100! We pretty much immediately booked the flight and decided to rent a car since there Is not Uber in the outback. However, I would miss two days of class including an exam. Thankfully my professors are pretty chill and allowed me to reschedule it!
Anyways fast forward a week and a three hour flight later and there I am the Australian outback. Seeing it with my own eyes was unreal. The incredibly red sand and miles of bushland. I was surprised to see a lot of vegetation. The internet makes it seem like the Outback is lifeless but surprisingly it wasn’t.
I met some aboriginals who were making art for the local gift shop (you could not take photos in gift shop). Also did a hike to Uluru of course and ended the trip with a camel ride. I never realized how much I wanted to do a camel ride until I did it. Camel ride during sunrise at Uluru is definitely something I won’t ever forget. I definitely recommend planning trips in advance so you are not stressed last minute… however sometimes the spur of the moment trips end up being the most amazing and most memorable.
P.S if you go to the outback a flynet is essential!
(Written from 25th April, just past halfway point in time in Oz)
You look around and see the great nothingness surrounding you. There is no land, only water. But despite what appears to be emptiness, below you is perhaps among the greatest flourishing of life this world has to offer. Thousands of miles of coral reef wrap around the northeast coast of Australia, the largest living organism on the planet, and unlike the Great Wall of China (unfortunately for the Chinese) can be seen from space orbit. With such diversity, this is the epitome of a strange and unfamiliar world, and unfortunately, a dying world. This must be the work of God himself: the reef, its abundance of life, the mere thought of you having travelled all the way out here to a sight few back home will ever see. You see the first of the snorkelers headed out into the waters. And here you are, about to do something no one back will ever experience. You realize once again how choppy the waves are and how terrible dinner was last night. You’re about to hurl into the Great Freaking Barrier Reef.
Planning this trip was one of the first things I wanted to do. Up there amongst the Serengeti plains and Amazon rainforest, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the most iconic parts of nature, with such an incredible amount of life found in one spot. As I mentioned earlier, it can be seen from space. And as sad as it is, it may not last forever. If I don’t do this now, I may never get to see it. But combined with a turbulent flight the day before, a bad pizza that kept me up sick a good chunk of the night (shout out to the Domino’s in Cairns), I was really not feeling it when I woke up in the morning. I almost didn’t even go, but again, if I didn’t now, when would I? After some serious questioning and Joseph persuading me, I decided I really couldn’t miss out. And so, I got on the boat, embarking on the incredibly long and rough boat ride to one of the outer parts of the reef. You can’t see much from the surface, but there are occasional fish that come near enough to spot them, and even the occasional turtle if you have a keen eye. I was still feeling sick, so when everyone else went to scuba dive I stayed on board. If I was going to do this, I needed food first.
Lunch wasn’t much, but it was enough to get me going and ready for the afternoon. Though I didn’t get to snorkel, I decided instead I would try my hand at scuba diving. I’d never done it and it was something I’ve always wanted to do. There’s that moment of hesitation on the side of the boat holding you back. The oxygen tank is heavy, the flippers awkward, and you’ve never relied on a regulator for breathing. Not to mention that you’re in the middle of nowhere. No matter how good you think you may be at swimming (I’m not) it’s an incredibly daunting feeling. Then you go under… and it’s breathtaking. So much so that it really is hard to describe in words. You’re surrounded by fish of all kinds and colors, getting up close and personal with creatures you’d only ever dreamed of. There’s an indescribable feeling of awe and admiration that swallows your entire body. Every corner of your eye is capturing something incredible, each new sight more and more magnificent. I didn’t see anything big like a turtle, shark, or stingray (maybe that was for the better), but it was an experience that will literally be impossible to forget.
The next day was sort of secondary to the reef at first glance, merely an extra part of the travel package and something to fill up an extra day. I’m proud to say it was probably one of my favorite days in Australia so far, definitely top three or even top two. We spent the day touring the Daintree Rainforest, the oldest in the world, with a small group reminiscent of the Great Ocean Road I previously embarked on in Victoria. The driver, Wyllie, was easily the best part of the trip: the most true-blue Aussie I’ve met with an uncanny resemblance to Steve Irwin (he doesn’t really look or sound like him, it might just be the fact that I’m not from here). Very entertaining, friendly, funny, informative, and outgoing in every sense, this bloke easily was the best tour guide there could be. We hiked in the rainforest searching for cassowaries (not too much unlike Russel searching for a snipe in the movie UP), spent time exploring incredible beaches, went crocodile sightseeing, and even went swimming in a rainforest pool (not the same place as the crocs)! Just as much as being at the reef, being in a rainforest is absolutely different and unique from anything I’ve experienced back home. Moments like this make you realize just how special it really is to be in this new world.
We had one more day in Cairns (pronounced ‘cans’, hence the title), and with the city being so small we didn’t have much of any plans at first. After some research, we saw a ferry that could take us to Fitzroy Island, and decided we might as well see what was what. Presented with the opportunity to scuba dive once more on the reef (actually some combination of scuba and snorkeling- snuba, they call it), I jumped at the chance. After all, this time was cheaper and longer, and I wasn’t sick. I somehow managed to convince Joseph to go too, who could not swim at all, and upon arrival we quickly suited up. Once again, the experience was astonishing. I’d say it was better than the first time even, largely due to not being sick and actually getting my money’s worth this time. On shore again, Joseph and I made quick friends of the couple who’d snuba-ed with us, having lunch while taking about life. Then was a quick trip to the beach to try snorkeling, but because I was pretty terrible at it I didn’t stay long. I went instead on the hardest hike I’ve ever attempted (even harder than the Figure Eight Pools in Sydney). This mountain was only 375m high (1200 feet roughly) but had to be climbed at a 60 or 70 degree angle most of the time (fair dinkum). I’m great at hikes, but this was a challenge for me. So much so that I actually had to stop for a few minutes. Not for pictures of admiring the view. I had to catch my breath. Twice. If you know me, this is not something Jon Kline does.
All in all Queensland was a life changing experience, and something I will always remember. I did so many new and cool things that I’d once only dreamed of: exploring a rainforest, scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef, stopping a hike due to exhaustion… the list goes on. It also opened my eye up to how precious life on this planet really is. I’ve always loved nature, and always been an advocate for preserving it as best possible, but being there in person gives you a whole new eye. Hearing about the destruction of the oceans, the chopping down of the Daintree rainforest, seeing in person bleached coral reefs, is heartbreaking. When the Great Barrier Reef has a shorter life expectancy than you do, it’s a sad day for nature. I may be the only one back home to ever come here, to experience this kind of natural beauty such as the reef or rainforest. But I don’t want to know that I’ll ever be the only one. That my kids may not have the same chance as me to scuba dive in the Great Barrier Reef or hike in the oldest rainforest this world has to offer.
So, what can I do? In a sense, nothing. But in another, everything.
It doesn’t exist. Yep. I’m disappointed too. It wasn’t like the whole reason I CAME to Australia was to find P. Sherman 42 Wallaby Way. But while the legendary dentist’s office from Finding Nemo may not exist, there’s so much more in Sydney to experience than I could imagine, and it almost makes up for the fact that Pixar lied to me. I knew from the get go Sydney was THE city to go to in Australia. As a fact, I originally wanted to go to Sydney over Melbourne (don’t worry, the cost of Sydney soon made me realize I made the right choice). There was of course the Opera House, the famous Harbor Bridge, the beach, the Opera House, the actual harbor, the Opera House… maybe a cool restaurant… the Opera House… Yeah, I didn’t really know how much there was until I got there.
Sydney is slightly more populated than Melbourne, with about 4.5 million residents and a decent amount of tourists every year (I didn’t look up exact numbers), but is a lot more spread out overall. Size wise, everything is bigger: the trains are double deck, the city is massive, there’s that huge bridge, and of course, the giant Opera House. I arrived with Joseph and Lily around 9:30 at night, meeting up with Julia who got here earlier and decided to explore a bit on her own. The suburb we stayed in was fairly close to the main city; you could easily get to the train station or even walk, and the town was certainly active for a Friday night. Despite that, we didn’t go out (except myself to get milk), and our holiday officially started the next morning with a trip to Bondi Beach. Taking a train early in the morning we made it to the breakfast by 11, and I spent a whopping $6 on a single slice of toast. This was my first inclination that eating out in Sydney was a bad idea.
The beach, when we got to it, was fairly busy, but because the main season was over it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Plopping our stuff onto the sand, we eventually headed out into the water, which was a little chilly due to the season but not nearly as bad as I’m used to in the freezing waters in Maine. The water was wavy, a lot more so than expected, but it was perfect for surfers further down the beach. After some time, we went back and laid on the sand. But, the kid I am, I got bored pretty quick and decided to take a walk. Craving ice cream and something more substantial for my stomach than the toast, I spotted a cart and prepared to order. But before I did, I noticed very cleverly the trick they used to make tourists pay. The $1 ice cream I thought I would order was actually SEVEN. I was smart enough to turn the other way and find another venue, which was only four dollars but tasted absolutely terrible.
We all met off the beach again around 2:30 to grab pizza, which my stomach loved and much needed but my wallet frowned upon. At the apartment, we all changed, showered, and prepared to head to Circular Quay, the home of the Opera House and the Bridge, the most iconic tourist spot in Australia alongside Uluru. Me being casual and slow paced Jon, I ended up taking a lot longer than anticipated, and by the time I was ready everyone was anxious that we wouldn’t make it in time for the sunset. Having made it at just the right time, I stood in awe of the great Opera House. Then I realized, it not just one building. There’s a few, actually, and you really only notice in person that they aren’t connected. Again, I was lied to, by Google Images this time. Time for a photo shoot, we all ended up taking pictures of ourselves and the house. Determined to get the best picture I could, I ended up jogging all the way to the other end of the harbor, exhausting and stranding myself. I think it was worth it, but it took a good half hour to meet the others again, and by then it was dark.
We wandered around until we found a bar to hang out at (I’m of age here?) and claimed a table. Still starving, there was only one thing on the menu that could cure my hunger: chicken parmesan. And it was TWENTY-THREE DOLLARS! Whoever is reading this, if you by any chance happen to go to Sydney and plan on eating, you’re gonna need a substantial amount of money, or a lot of snacks. We had fun, talking about life and making jokes and just enjoying being in a bar in Sydney (only two of us actually drank anything alcoholic, and one was by accident). Getting back late at night, we realized we needed to plan out a trip for tomorrow before going to bed, so we all mutually agreed to stay up and work to figure something out. Well, the other three did at least. It took much persuasion to convince me to contribute, and by midnight we had a plan to go to the Figure Eight Pools.
The Figure Eight Pool hike can be summarized as such: a treacherous hike down steep cliffs, across a long beach, over many unstable rocks, to reach a pool that, surrounded by a very rough and raging sea, is only accessible at low tide. Getting there was the first issue: we had take a train to the nearest town, then an Uber to the isolated car park where the 3km hike officially starts in a deep, downhill forest. Throughout the hike I there were many times I stayed far back to take pictures and ended up separated from the group. In case you haven’t realized by now, I am TERRIBLE to travel with. I really am a bloody child and I am seriously glad my friends decided not to kill me (I’m not entirely convinced they didn’t want to at least a little). The forest cleared way to a beautiful lookout over the beach and mountain, but the pools were still not in sight. We had to make our way down the mountain, then across the beach to get the rocks. I love rock climbing, and naturally now I’m far AHEAD of my colleagues. Finally we get there, and I see it: a tiny pool or two surrounded by hundred of tourists, with winds literally strong enough to blow you back to land. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the hike, but it felt like an otherwise great movie with a horrible ending that pretty much ruined it. And now, with the tide eventually to close in on us, we had to do the entire 3km again… but in reverse. I don’t even want to talk about how long it took to get an Uber to find us.
Monday we decided to split up and go different ways. At least, I decided to. The others wanted to go to Bondi again, but I’d already been and seen everything. I might only be here once, so I might as well do stuff I hadn’t done and experienced things I really wanted to. I made my own plan to explore the city’s landmarks, which I’d now become familiar with. First was a stop to Queen Victoria’s Market for breakfast and to admire the old architecture and the great shopping center. Then to the Darling Harbor, a nice little walk to see all the boats and people gathered around for a morning jog, bike ride, walk with friends… It’s weird to think, and something I never thought about before… you’re one of near a thousand people that crosses this bridge while I was there, one of five million in Sydney, and you’re doing something completely different from everyone else, with a different reason for being here and a different view from everyone else. At the same time it’s eye-opening to how big it is in this world and how personal it is to you.
After wandering through some of the older style parts of the city, I make my way back to Circular Quay, planning to take a ferry to my next destination. The ferry is short, only about 15 minutes, but being on the water is something I almost always enjoy. Landing, I make my way to the gate of Taronga Zoo. I’ve always loved the zoo, and I’m told this is one of the best in the world. With so much to see, it certainly didn’t let me down, and although I could’ve gone to a zoo anywhere, there’s nothing quite like seeing giraffes with the Sydney Harbor Bridge in the background. I spend the day watching elephants, penguins, chimps, and all kinds of creature. By sunset, I meet back with my friends at Circular Quay, taking a ferry back to my original side (why couldn’t I just stay on my side and you come to me?) for the chance of a lifetime: to walk across the Sydney Harbor Bridge. It’s dark, but the view is incredible. Everything is so beautiful. The view of Sydney at night, the miles upon miles of wilderness experienced on that crazy hike, the baby elephant snuggling up to its mother. The sand at Bondi and the sails on the harbor.
But it’s not just Sydney. It’s life. And when you realize just how beautiful life is, you experience it like never before.
Ahhh break. Ten magnificent days out of school, with no worries whatsoever. I have the chance to see so much more of the world, so much more of this great country. Heading to explore the next great cities of Australia: Perth, Adelaide, Sydney, every site and building more magnificent than the last. Trekking west into the desert, admiring the great stars of the Outback at night, with a campfire to warm me and bush tucker to keep my stomach filled. Or perhaps north, to Queensland, exploring remote islands, at the merging point of the oldest rainforest in the world and the only natural site you can see from space. Tasmania to the south also appeals: I have several friends going already, and while I’m at it, might as well go to New Zealand. It’s right over there.
It sounds magnificent, doesn’t it? Having money? Now my position is not as precarious as it could be; I have money, and it should be more than enough to get me through the rest of my time in Oz, and then some. But there’s a difference between having money and being able to spend it freely, and spending money on expensive flights during break when I still have a fair amount of time here I decided was against my best interest. I’ll have nearly a month of free time at the end of my travels, and if I play my cards right I may still be able to make some of these big trips. I already do have two trips planned: one in Sydney for a long weekend, and another in Cairns right afterward. But in the meantime, I’m stuck in Melbourne, trying to do Spring Break on a budget.
The first thing to do in planning a break is planning who to spend it with. Seeing as two out three members of my immediate family don’t even have passports (cough cough Dad and Shelby), there’s no chance of spending my break with them as I usually would. Luckily (though maybe not so much for him), my mate Joseph was in a similar position as mine, so we decided we’d try and do what we could over the week together, seeing parts of Melbourne yet to be seen. On a budget, we wanted as many as possible of our excursions to be cheap, and surprisingly there’s a lot to do in Melbourne that is either cheap or offers student discounts.
That started with a trip to the Melbourne Aquarium, one of the few places we ended up going that came with a price tag. I’ve been to the aquarium in Boston several times, as well as the one in Mystic, Connecticut, and in Baltimore, so I had an idea of what to expect and thought it would be very similar. I mean, fish are fish, and even if I love going to the zoo and aquarium, well, fish are fish. Fortunately, the aquarium didn’t disappoint. Starting off by going on a glass bottom boat tour was lots of fun, if not slightly terrifying seeing reef sharks, sawfish, and giant stingrays (two meters long!!) up close. After disembarking to walk through more of the aquarium, I got to see a wide variety of fish, turtles, and even penguins I’d never seen before. I’ve loved this sort of thing since I was a kid, and I was as thrilled to watch the marine life swim about in the waters as my five year old self would be.
The next days were used to explore various sights around Melbourne we hadn’t yet seen (although many of which, I had and just decided to go again. It’s free so why not). The Shrine of Remembrance, a relatively easy trip from the Melbourne CBD was a beautiful sight, modeled after great Greco-Roman architecture which is something I very much love. Commemorating the soldiers who fought and died for Australia, the building really is larger than life, and somehow we managed to spend several hours out there taking pictures and watching as the sun set over Melbourne. Building off of my love for history and cool looking buildings was a trip to Parliament, exploring the building which only two weeks earlier I stumbled into on accident, somehow breaching security and causing a LOT of apprehension (maybe you should try locking the gate and making your directional signs a little clearer). On a welcomed visit, however, the building was nice, and I gained a slight insight into how Australian politics works (extremely slight, mind you. I don’t think they know what they’re doing, much less a foreigner). The Old Treasury Building was another neat sight, though I was disappointed in the lack of real gold on display, though probably for good reason.
I saw various museums and exhibits foreign to me, and there was a lot of eye candy all around. The Melbourne Museum was arguably the best, with massive sections divided into science, Australian history, fashion, the human body, and even Aboriginal culture and art. The latter was perhaps the most intriguing, being genuinely foreign to me and knowing next to nothing about it (though fashion is a close second, at least in a personal sense). Of course, in general I spent much less time staring at paintings than I did staring at cool dinosaur skeletons, but I mean, someone is always painting something, and dinosaurs aren’t likely to make a comeback anytime soon. Still, I really was overwhelmed by how much there was to see no matter where I went: always something to discover, learn about, enjoy.
One of the last days of break was a trip down to Williamstown Beach, by far the best beach I’ve ever been to. The town is small and beautiful, and contains one of the best gelato shops I’ve ever experienced. Sitting on the grass by the harbor I reflected on how four years I was in a very similar situation with my friends in Salem for senior trip. For years I always wanted to go back to those days in high school, but for the first time in my life, I’m actually content where I am. I realize that while the memories were great, I can still make more now. Soon after I head towards the main beach, only to make a wrong turn. I’m at the water, but there’s rocks across the ground presenting a maze toward the ocean. Naturally, instead of turning right toward the beach I climb the rocks instead, like any five-year-old. Managing to get into the water to take a dip, I leave for the actual beach. There, I walk across the shoreline with the warm Pacific water against my feet and met with the softest sand I’ve ever set foot upon.
I may not be in Tasmania, or the Outback, or on some other grandiose adventure across the continent. But as I said, there’s always something more to discover, to learn about and enjoy. Something greater always around the corner no matter where you are. You just have to look in the right places, and you’ll find there’s so much more to life than you ever thought. Already I’m doing something most of my friends back home, family, or indeed most of the people I’ll meet have done or ever will do. In fact, no one will ever live their life exactly like mine. No one will ever see what I see or feel what I feel. Best to make it count.
Australia. The great adventure. I came to Australia with many places in mind to visit. From iconic Sydney, to Uluru, to tropical Queensland and the Great barrier reef there is a lot Australia has on offer. What I didn’t expect however was how much there is to see in Victoria alone. From the moment I decided to study abroad in Australia (about a year ago) I knew I wanted to experience the nature in Australia. I would focus more on wildlife and natural scenery than I would the city.
Yesterday I accomplished one of my life goals and one of the reasons I chose to come here. I wanted to experience something completely unique to Australia… Kangaroos! It was just as amazing as I envisioned. I am sure that for natives of Australia they are not all that exciting but for a tourist like me they are incredible. I started the day by taking a 2 hr train ride to Ballarat. From there I took a bus and eventually arrived at Ballarat Wildlife Park. What I really loved about this place is that unlike some places where you pay to pet kangaroos within an enclosure all the kangaroos here were roaming free!
Over the past week I have seen some beautiful parts of Australia I never thought I would be able to see. I spend the first half of the last week in Sydney! I stood in a nice neighborhood called Surry Hills (Airbnb is the way to go). It was absolutely incredible. Finally seeing the Opera house in person was unreal. I walked the harbor bridge where just a few months ago they had the most amazing firework show I have ever seen… needless to say it was surreal. If you plan on traveling while abroad (which you should!) I recommend you plan things in advance because it will save you tons of money. While in Sydney a few friends and I hiked for about 2 hrs to go see the Figure 8 pools (picture below). Sydney was by far the closest to New York City I have gotten since getting here and I could honestly see myself living there. If you do make it out to Sydney do yourself a favor and go to Bondi Beach!
Later that same week I had the trip of a lifetime… the reason I chose Australia over every other program. I went up to Cairns and scuba dived in the Great Barrier Reef! It was incredible! As a child I always knew I wanted to see the reef in person but never ever thought it would be possible. When I decided to go to Australia I knew I would have to visit Cairns which is about 3.5 hours north of Melbourne. It was worth every penny and again the earlier you plan the better! I planned my trip to Cairns about a month and a half before hand. I have been making it a point to do things differently here than I do back home.. to be adventurous. This trip was by far the highlight of my experience. I got there Wednesday night and on Thursday morning took a ferry 2 hours out to sea until we arrived at our first dive spot. Keep in mind I cannot swim (AT ALL) but I had come to far to not try it. I jumped in the water and while scary at first it turned out to be one of the best decisions I have made. Facing that fear in such a beautiful place was amazing. I saw fish swimming all around me and did my best to get some footage (see below).
The next morning I headed out on a trip to the Daintree Rainforest and had a 12 hour day in the rainforest. It was so much fun and I got to see some crazy Australian wildlife such as the spider pictured below. Our tour guide was as Australian as they get and i truly felt at times as if I was in the movie ‘Crocodile Dundee”.This trip is by far the most exciting thing I have done and I recommend it if you are ever in Australia. I have added photos below:).
(Writing from 28th Mar, 1 day until break and week 5 of classes)
I wake up to my roommate’s alarm at six in the morning. I pretend to stay asleep, indeed I wish I were asleep myself. Six is WAY too earlier to arise. He goes to get ready for his job distributing flyers, and leaves around 6:30 or so. I close my eyes to sleep once again, only to wake up to the alarm at 7:45. The Circle of Life blasts from my phone jumping me awake, as well as likely half of Footscray. I’m really not that heavy of a sleeper, but I need motivation to wake up. I don’t have it at quarter to eight on a Wednesday. Nevertheless, I have to get up, and by eight, I do. Opening my box of Froot Loops is a disappointment, they’re not as fun and colorful as they are back home and cost a hell of a lot more. The milkaholic I am, I chug down about half a liter of milk; telling myself I need to limit. It really has become a problem, not so much for my body but for my wallet.
It only takes ten minutes tops to actually get ready: wash my hair, put a shirt on, and brush. But like a blossom opening up in the sunlight, I need time to warm up. I listen to encouraging music, making me feel strong and ready for the day, and pray for my family back home, as well as the chance to brighten the world. By 8:50, I leave my room with my backpack for the dreaded class: Irish History. Not being Irish myself, I don’t exactly care much for the class, nor do I enjoy the long lectures. I still learn, today about emigration (seems the Irish didn’t care for Ireland either), and a good part of is somewhat interesting.
My phone accidently goes off in class, which I quickly silence. Morning is the best time for reaching home, and my sister texts me either some joke she finds funny or some problem she needs my help with. Surprisingly, I miss a lot less from home than I thought I would. The food and cheap prices mostly, but most everything can be compromised by something else here. But if there’s one thing I do truly and genuinely miss, it’s my sister. We’re best friends, and it really does suck being so far away from someone you love so much. She finished up her senior acting troupe show over the weekend, White Christmas, which I desperately wish I could have seen. Of course, I also want to see her get her driver’s license, decide where to go to college, go to prom, and graduate high school in June. But in the same way this trip is making me more independent and ready to take on the world, I have to believe is happening to her as well. I love it here, but I cannot wait to see the woman she’s become in June, and be able to share all our stories and adventures once again.
With class FINALLY over at 10:00 (can an hour really pass so slowly?) I have two hours free. The room is open and empty, so I head there. I grab my laptop and start editing some pictures I took from Saturday. I went with some mates out to Ballarat Wildlife Sanctuary, a long trip away but one well worth it. They had a good enough amount of animals to go and view, something which I love to do, but the main attraction is the free ranging kangaroos that come up to people for food and attention. We spent hours upon hours with them, feeding, petting, and cuddling the roos like you would dogs (stay away from the koalas, I’m told they carry STD’s). On paper, it’s not something that sounds overly exciting or thrilling, but it really is quite the quintessential Aussie moment that I’ll definitely carry forever.
Lunch was next on the priority list, and I heated up some left-over Mac and Cheese from the night before. I’d cooked dinner for myself and the other mates, and although this was my first time cooking it, it turned out surprisingly well. Being here has taught me a lot about how much goes into making food: having to buy it, prepare it, clean it up, and constantly repeating the process. I’ve also learned quite a bit about cleaning, which is that things need to be cleaned, often. And while I had to clean at home as well, it was not nearly on the scale of a whole apartment room (which in these moments seem much bigger than upon first arrival). Though I’m not a neat freak, it’s clear that I took the relative cleanliness, or at least organization, of home for granted, and that here I have to be more consistent and dedicate some effort to the task. Unfortunately, while I received this ground breaking revelation, it has yet to hit my roommate.
Class was to start again at noon, and after cleaning up lunch I made my way back to campus. This class, The World Before 1700, is probably my favorite: I like the professor, the content, delivery, and time frame. We learn about the Romans, a point of history that always fascinated me. The lecture goes on for longer than Irish History does, but I don’t mind. After this class, I head down to the river, finding a nice spot on the grass to spend the hour long intermission I have. I have no agenda, no plans other than be back at three. It’s special to sit here along the river, listening to and watching all the strange Australian birds that I’ve come to love. They’re much different than the ones at home, parrots and magpies instead of robins and mourning doves. I sit here reflecting on how special it really is for me to be here, in Australia. There’s more to explore over the mid semester break, which for me starts tomorrow with the aquarium. I certainly still have a tourist mindset, but I genuinely love it here. I feel new and transformed, like I have a new and special life here. I don’t know that I want to leave.
Of course, I must at some point. I head to class again, a continuation of the last one as a tutorial rather than lecture. I sit next to Matt, one of the Americans I came to Australia with and a good friend. Class is decent, although the quiz he’s given us appears to require a bit more effort than I’d care for. Discovering it easier to do the quizzes after class, Matt and I team up and head back to his place to knock it out before break. His suite is much bigger than my room, though not as ‘clean’ (clean being extremely relative). The quiz takes about 20 minutes, and afterward I decide to hang around a little and watch some TV and eat some cake. I get to talk to some of his mates, who although I don’t know well are all good guys, if a little crazy, and with a good sense of humor. But, overtime the introvert in me calls, and I make my way back to my room for dinner. I try to avoid spending much time in my room, there’s not much to do there anyway and I can easily do that at home. The oven is in the kitchen in the common area, so I head there with a pizza to warm up. I run into Joseph, another close New Paltz mate, and briefly discuss our plans for the aquarium tomorrow and break overall. While other friends of ours are doing adventurous trips to Tasmania or Queensland for break, due to our regard for our budget we ended up stuck in Melbourne (being responsible sucks!). But, I cannot complain, as there’s still much to see and I’m sure to have a rip snorter (great time).
In the evening, I sit on the terrace on the fourth floor (really the fifth, Australians number their floors weird). With pizza in my belly and a day full of excitement, I find inspiration to write part of my book, something I had been able to do less of at New Paltz but have been trying to pick up again coming here. The tales of glory such as that of Rome, of adventurous trips across the world, of calm moments on the water and laughs with friends molding into a beautiful piece which I can only hope one day I manage to finish and publish. I look as the sun sets across the beautiful Australian sky. It’s beautiful so far, but I still believe in more. I may not yet know where it will take me, or where it will end, but I am assured that this will be a damn good story. And I’m glad to be living it, watching it unfold before my eyes one small piece at a time.
Australia has been amazing so far! From seeing Kangaroos, to crazy spiders, to exploring Melbourne my experience has been great. However, that does not mean there have not been down sides. During my time here I’ve noticed that many Americans who study abroad do so with tight budgets while many Europeans and people from other places spend money a lot more freely. I have often found my self jealous of my friends who are skydiving in New Zealand, or sailing the Whitsunday isles. Now you may or may not feel this way when you study abroad but if you do just remember it is a blessing to be abroad and you are one of very few students who take the opportunity to do so. Embrace it. Embrace your local area, embrace the culture, and honestly just take it all in.
Now heres how I did spring break on a budget. First I looked at all the stuff within Melbourne that I had wanted to do while I was here and then I crammed it into one week. I went to the Melbourne Sealife Aquarium and did a glass bottom boat tour from the top of the tank! I went to the shrine of remembrance (one of the best sites to see the sunset). I went to the Marvels Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N in anticipation of the new avengers movie! I checked out the royal botanical gardens where I heard some strange birds. I went to the National gallery of Victoria and the Bunjilka museum where I learned about aboriginal culture. I did a tour of the parliament building and got to sit in the seats within the lower chamber! To top it all off I saw my favorite artist in person got her autograph and she called me her love. Needless to say my life is complete. While I didn’t get to do anything necessarily exotic I still visited many things unique to Melbourne and actually managed to have a great week!
I started out this trip with 144 days worth of time in Australia. Suddenly I am down to 92. Time really does fly. Next thing I know I will be on a flight back home and I intend on making every second count until then.
(Written from 18 March, 1 month after arrival)
When I was a senior in high school, I remember stressing about leaving home to go to college. I wasn’t ready to leave home. I was still weak and hurting after only a year prior losing my mom to cancer. I couldn’t possibly do it, go out on my own and experience a new life, my life. I only barely found myself able to find the strength to leave high school for community college. I was still at home, still safe, still secure. Only, there were small things pushing me ever slowly toward independence and life in the adult world. Finding a job of my own free will rather than forced by my family. Slowly exploring the world around me with my new driver’s license and experiencing both the freedoms and chains that come with having a car. Spending time alone, even for an introvert like myself more than I would have liked, but discovering myself and the strength I had inside but until now never believed in.
Naturally, when 2 years of community college ended, I was a different man, changed and more able to take on the world. Of course, I still had my fear, my doubts of old when it came to truly be leaving home. But I had persevered then, why not at New Paltz? As it turned out, I was even more excited to spend the semester away and grow than I had thought. Not only was I ready for leaving the nest, I was flourishing in this new life. So it came as a shock, even to me, that I was now planning to take such a big risk as travelling to Australia. What I had at New Paltz I loved and was comfortable with. And now, for the first time since losing my mother, for the first time in years I had been genuinely happy and at peace, I was about to throw everything away for the unknown. This was too much, wasn’t it?
It now occurs to me that in a mere four weeks I have accomplished more than in four years of grief. Not to say I haven’t made great strides then: four jobs, a driver’s license, a high school and then associate’s degree. Even half a book written (one day, look for my name on the best seller’s list!) But I have proven to myself over these years, and especially over this single month, that I can accomplish so much more than I once thought I could. Here, I’ve discovered a new world and have learned how to craft it into something personal. Things as simple as learning what foods I do and don’t like, or how make a train ride or the walk home more enjoyable. I’ve found my favorite spots to write my book, times and routes to walk and explore, things to do with new found friends. I’ve learned that I not only can I survive away from home, ten thousand miles away from everything I knew, but that I can, in a way, make this a home.
In a month, I took my first commercial flight (to the other side of the world, mind you), and ended up in an undiscovered world but making my own. I found out I’m actually a decent cook (too bad I don’t eat more!) and learned how to budget and prioritize my money reasonably well along the way. Through trial and error I mastered how to navigate the city and public transportation, and on several trips realized why you can never be too safe on the Australian beach (jellies, rip tides, sunburn… ‘thankfully’ I’ve only experienced the latter). I’ve surfed, hiked in the bush, booked trips to Sydney and the Great Barrier Reef for April, survived being lost in the city at night, gone to horse races, made dinner for friends… All things that may not seem like much, but all things I never thought I could do before, until this trip.
And I continue to grow, as my mom would wish, discovering what it means to be Jon Kline and how my future lies ahead of me. I can only imagine, if the success I’ve had in this amount of time is so great, what more is to come from this? Maybe nothing. But I have to believe that my destiny lies ahead, and that slowly, I may be finally discovering it and unleashing my true potential.
(Written 9 March, 2 weeks into class and 3 weeks since arrival)
There’s a dreadful moment in every student’s life when they realize that break is over, and class is soon to become a defining factor in their schedule for the next several months. It’s a fear that intensifies with age and progress throughout the years in school: while first graders might not mind so much, middle schoolers are disheartened, and high schoolers generally appalled. But, despite negative connotations, the structure of school has benefits to organization and preparation for life in the future, as well as other unexpected perks, or so I’ve been told. This moment of realization happened shortly after my triumph at the Twelve Apostles, on the way back from a wonderful orientation weekend, and knowing that the next day, I’d have to settle into a new structure in which school once again dominates all aspects. Further, I wasn’t certain if staying in touch with everyone was as certain as I’d assured myself, and that perhaps the ‘friendships’ I formed were only temporary.
My first class started at 4:00 on Monday afternoon, leaving me plenty of time to sulk and complain before heading to campus. The campus is actually very pretty, despite the fact that good chunks of it, and the area surrounding UniLodge, are always under construction (not too different from upstate NY in that regard, especially Albany). It’s not too difficult to find your way around, with every building and class clearly labeled, so I ended up making it to my first lecture about 15 minutes early. I walked in the door to a big theatre style room, which would soon become dotted with about 40 students. Scanning the room you could see no one was dressed sloppily, which was somewhat (much) different from New Paltz, and a wide range of students from different backgrounds and ages. The professor soon entered, set up her presentation, and began. And by began, I mean, began. There was, of course, and introduction to the course, but within half an hour we were on to class material and learning. Another strange concept, being used to at least a week if not more of basic orientation.
That was over at 5, and I was quickly on my way to my next class: a tutorial. Each unit, in general, consists of both a lecture and a tutorial, with the lectures being used mainly to cover content as a big group, and the tutorial to apply it in a more personalized manner. So this class, serving as one of the tutorials for the previous lecture, was only half the size of the previous, with the professor more personal and giving us time to introduce both ourselves and the concepts of the class. Within the hour, we were done, and I was on my way back to the lodge. Two classes down, six to go. Tuesday’s and Thursday’s being my free days, my next day of class of Wednesday, at 9:00 in the morning, and naturally, it was the class I already knew I didn’t really want to take but had to because of a lack of alternatives. After the dreary lecture, a long but somewhat well split up day letting me go home whenever I didn’t have class for an hour or two, and ending altogether at 4:00. Friday would follow a similar schedule, with minor differences but still a 9-4 day.
Overall, classes seem easier than at New Paltz, but there’s a lot less that goes into the grade itself. Whereas at NP, the grades are split between several different factors, here there are only three or four, which means you have to focus heavily on those parts (usually a final exam, essay, presentation, and something else). In general, I find the lectures are more informative but more boring, and the tutorials more entertaining but somehow less useful personally. Taking mostly history classes, the style is very easy to get used to across the board, and the way the classes are designed means that you only need to focus on one section at a time, which works well. My favorite class is probably either The World Before 1700, a history class spanning most of earlier history, and Impossible Worlds, my one elective in creative writing and something I really want to get in to more. Least favorite is definitely Irish History: I didn’t really want to take the class, and I’m not at all Irish or connected to the Irish (that said, I’m learning a lot and some parts are somewhat interesting).
Although a certain amount of effort has to be put toward school, I still find plenty of opportunities to do things, and with my schedule now well divided it’s easier to prioritize and plan what do when. Instead of just wandering the streets of Melbourne aimlessly (which don’t get me wrong, is definitely something to do), I now actually have to plan where to go and when, giving the overall experience more structure. Last Saturday I went with a few friends through the school to a wildlife sanctuary, and loved seeing all the cute Australian animals (as well as some scarier ones!) Another ‘welcome to Australia’ moment, seeing all the local wildlife is something I certainly enjoyed, and the koalas are even cuter in person! I’m still able to go into the city on non-class days if I like, or even after class, and one thing I especially enjoy is heading down to the river as a nice respite from a long day of classes. Tomorrow, I’m planning on going to the horse races for the day, and after that, who knows?
Unfortunately, as I had anticipated, some of the bonds I made over orientation trip were indeed temporary. While there are many I’d like to keep in touch with and hang out with, due to both a result of smaller more exclusive groups being formed as well as different schedules and plans for the semester (and also a good part due to me not being overly outgoing), the vast number of new acquaintances turned out to be just that. That said, everyone I met is still a friendly face, and as it turns out, I began to fall into my own smaller group of friends as well. Each of them I’ve gotten to know more and more, and we actively try to spend time with each other and do things. It really is strange: one month ago I hadn’t met most of these people, and suddenly we’ve become close friends. But, that’s part of the weird transformation you go through when you study abroad. And honestly, if I come home having made just one or two friendships that’s close and meaningful and lasts post-Australia, I’m happy.