30 days left

Today marks my final day of classes here in Australia as well as the one month marker before I head back to the states. This weekend we have a trip planned down to a place called Lakes Entrance for about 3 days. I hope to get in some more adventures before it is time to go – but I have to study for my last 2 finals as well. My status here is basically the same – hanging out and doing fun things or just relaxing at home. The days are going by incredibly fast and slow at the same time. Though I do not feel homesick, I do feel conflicted that I am ready to go back home – and conflicted that once I am home I will be ready to come back here.

I will do my best to update soon with some fun photos from this weekend!

Days go By.

I haven’t had time to blog in quite some time it seems like – since Easter. As of today I have only 50 days left in Australia..

This reality is one I do not know how I feel about. Of course I am excited to see my family and friends again, and get back to New Paltz. But its a weird feeling to think about leaving this place. I feel like I have made a life here, and in 50 days time I will be up and leaving it. I have a routine, I am used to the door handles being higher, and the toilet water spinning the opposite way. When I wake up in the middle of the night I do not wonder where I am. I do not have any stress here. Classes are easier, people are more easy going. Life is better. The best way I can think of coping with my leaving is by taking it all with me. For instance, when I leave for New Paltz after each summer, and then I go back home to my close minded conservative town – I always initially feel completely lost as they just do not get it. That there is a life out there, not far from home. That there is so much more. By the end of the summers I usually feel like I have fallen back into suit with how I had always grown up there. Accepted peoples idiocies, while they spoke mindless babble. With that being said, I wont do that this time. Considering I feel different returning to my hometown after just being in New Paltz, returning after an experience like this will be extreme to say the least. I will not let myself forget what I felt like to be here, out in the world. I will keep this all with me. -> which is regrettably why I have bought an obscene amount of souvenirs that I will have to buy an extra suitcase for.

So yes. Of course I am excited to go home. I will remain excited to go home until I see everyone for a little while, and see nothing has changed, because it never does. Once the excitement dies down, there comes the feeling that I will undeniably regret having left here – the feeling that I will want to come back – and the feeling that I might not be able to in any reasonable time span. Australia is not exactly a location that you can just fly to for a weekend to visit, and maybe thats the hardest thing. My experiences here have unforgettable to say the least. I have already started trying to convince my Mom to save up and come here for a family vacation in a few years.

APART from the sobby stuff..classes are over in two more weeks. Which is so exciting. I am really content with complaining about the one paper I have to write versus the 5 + 3 massive Art Projects I would have during this time at New Paltz. Academically my time has been smooth here. I’ve gotten A’s on nearly every assignment and test besides some math ones…because face it, it is not my strong suit. I hope I do not jinx my finals by saying that – but I am anticipating a good outcome.

APART from academics – I’ve been trying to travel around once a week to a haunted location to check it out. Just because thats too fun. Last week or two weeks ago? I visited a mental asylum that had been abandoned and completely and utterly vandalized and gutted. However – it was really creepy still. There was beautiful graffiti art blanketing the walls in every corner of the building, floor boards missing, no lights apart from what poured in through the busted out windows. It was a truly amazing time. Besides that – as you can see from my photo above, I played with some Kangaroo. And yes, they were as amazing as you probably think they would be. Probably twice that. Plus – who actually gets a selfie like that one. I did not expect it to come out that way. What a photogenic and cooperative Roo he was. Here is one photo from the asylum which is particularly creeptastic – Enjoy. Laurundel

I guess that is about all I have to share right about now..

50 days.

-Mariah

 

Easter on the Great Barrier Reef

Greetings!

This mid semester break was well spent up in Queensland! I did various amazing things during my 5 night stay in Cairns but the most amazing and memorable thing was my day trip to Green Island where I spent Easter Sunday in the water snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef. This experience was one I will hold with me forever. The amazing marine life had me completely speechless. The best way I could describe it to my family was that I hungout with the cast of “Finding Nemo” all day on Easter. I was fortunate enough to see thousands of fish, a green sea turtle, a reef shark, a sting ray, giant sea clams, and of course Nemo himself. I had become infatuated with the wildlife very quickly and spent practically the entire day laying on the top of the ocean as these creatures casually went about their daily routines and allowed me to spectate.

The oceans in Cairns had signs all over warning people about the dangerous Irukandji that may be present in the waters. These are really small jellyfish (aka “stingers”) – about the size of the red tip on a match – and they are deadly. Thankfully even if there were any in the part I was swimming in – my wet suit protected me from any possible stings.

Nothing I saw in the water particularly scared me – as I saw no Crocodiles (aka “Salties”) or anything else particularly aggressive. I did have a momentary second of ‘holy crap’ when I saw a bit of crocodile shaped coral a few meters away from me. Whew. Close to the end of my day on Green Island I was paddling into shore through the reef when I saw a really long something in the sand on the bottom. I finally got to the head and saw that it was a snake. My first actual wild snake sighting so far in Australia. I am not particularly scared of snakes – but I was not hanging around to examine this huge mean looking guy. I kicked pretty hard to shore after that – someone told me later on that the snakes are not commonly seen in the reef where people are usually populating the water to snorkle – and it was a good thing I got out of there because they are generally not the most harmless guys.

About a block from my hotel were these incredible mango trees – and as if that wasnt cool enough – in the trees lived THOUSANDS, not exaggerating, THOUSANDS, of flying foxes. Each evening around 6:30 pm they would all leave the mango trees in search for some dinner. They would absolutely swarm the skies above and it was an unfathomable thing to watch happen each night.

I have seemed to develop a bit of a souvenir addiction while I have been travelling around. I see really cool native Australian things or hand made goods and I cant help myself. I have spent an unreasonable amount of money on souvenirs. I am grounding myself officially from souvenir shopping for the rest of my time. I am ridiculous.

I am back to Melbourne as of today. I have a few more days of break before classes begin again. Midterm week. Im not too stressed. I have reached my halfway marker here I believe. I dont know how I feel about that.

Thats all for now!! Thanks.

 

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!