Valpo Voyager

Student Stories from Around the World

Category: Newcastle (page 1 of 3)

Trip to the Blue Mountains

Author: Sarah Buckman

Location: Newcastle, Australia

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

One of the many trips I have been blessed to go on during my semester abroad, was a weekend spent in the Blue Mountains. This was an excursion organized through the student exchange club on campus here in Australia. Over 100 students traveled across the country by many trains and buses to experience some of the beautiful nature Australia has to offer.

The student exchange group at Three Sisters.

We spent one full day in the Blue Mountains, which included a jam-packed itinerary. After a quick train ride to the mountains from our hostel, our long day began. Upon arriving everyone split into smaller groups to make hiking on the narrow paths easier. The goal of the hike was to see the beautiful waterfalls at the bottom of the mountain, but the day turned out different than expected. My group of friends and I made it about halfway, stopping every so often to take pictures, when Jamie and I got separated from the group. Me, being very directionally challenged, was nervous for how we would find our way; but through this trip I ended up learning a lot. Thanks to my optimistic friend, we turned our situation into an adventure. We decided to look at our situation as an opportunity to experience the most of our hiking trip. A mixture of taking frequent stops to enjoy the view, and going down any trail we wanted, led us to an amazing lookout point of the whole mountain we would have never gotten to see if we stayed with the group! We were truly in awe of Australia’s natural beauty.

Sara, Alexis, Jamie, Teleia, Sam and I making our way to the waterfalls.

Jamie and I enjoying the view at the top of the mountains.

Finally, after admiring the mountain’s horizon for long enough, Jamie and I focused on making it down the mountain to see the waterfalls. When our group leaders told us it was going to be a full day of hiking, they definitely meant it! It took Jamie and I about two hours to make our way to the bottom of the mountain- there were a ton of stairs! Once we made it to the bottom it was so beyond worth it! The waterfalls were soaring hundreds of feet above us, with gallons of water falling over them causing rainbows to be seen everywhere. To say it was gorgeous, would be an understatement. What’s one thing I never expected to happen while going hiking in the mountains? Getting soaked! So beyond thankful I packed an extra pair of clothes! Then of course, Jamie and I spent another hour or two just enjoying the waterfalls and taking it all in.

Getting soaked at the waterfalls felt so good after a full day of hiking!

After spending most of the day in the mountains, the last thing on the itinerary to hit was Three Sisters at Echo Point. On the walk over, my friends and I made up stories about why it was called Three Sisters and we never actually understood until we got to our destination. Once we saw the rock formation, sticking out of the mountain side, it made perfect sense how it got its name. The whole group stayed until the sun went down, to take in the beauty of the mountains for as long as we possibly could.

Laughing because my friends and I finally understood why it was called Three Sisters.

Overall this trip was an incredible experience and taught me some important things. First of all, I had no idea Australia even had mountains in the first place! Researching more in depth before studying abroad is a great thing to do, so you do not miss out on experiences like this! Next it taught me how taking things at your own pace and going off the main path for awhile has its payoffs! The more you try to squeeze into life, the more you will get out of it! Lastly, it taught me that on any good adventure you may go on while you study abroad- to always bring an extra pair of clothes! You never know when you’ll need them!

Reasons To Study Abroad

Author: Maria Clemens

Location: Newcastle, Australia

  Studying abroad has been one of the greatest decisions I have made in my life. I loved the time I spent in Australia and it honestly broke my heart to leave. Although it was very exciting to get home and see family and friends, I made countless friendships and memories in Australia. These experiences I had abroad are ones that I cannot wait to share and want to use to inspire other Valpo students to do a semester abroad.

  The first reason I think any applicable student should study abroad is because of the travel opportunities. I was able to pick a country to study in that I had never visited before and did not think I would have the opportunity visit. While I was in Newcastle, I was able to explore the city and try new kinds of foods and meet people who grew up in a different culture. My absolute favorite thing about Newcastle was that it was located on the coast and had beautiful views like the one below. Not only did I get to explore the city I lived in, but I also got to travel around the country. My orientation for CIS was in Cairns where we visited the rain forest and Great Barrier Reef. I also was located about 2 hours north of Sydney and the Blue Mountains.

  Another reason I highly recommend studying abroad is because of the types of people you can meet. I lived in a six-share apartment where I was able to get to know some local Australians very well. I also met other friends from all over the world in the international student organization. The friends I made here heightened my experience so much. By meeting and becoming close with people from the area, I was able to meet their families and spend time at their homes and local communities. Not only did I get to have family experiences, but my friends also showed me around the area and gave me tours of the city that I never could have gotten otherwise. The friendships I made abroad I learned loads from and I hold very close to my heart.

  Lastly, I would recommend studying abroad to any student because of the independence and abilities I gained. Travelling to a new place and not having the friendships and support system that most students have at Valpo can be a massive challenge. At first this was difficult for me, but it drove me to meet more people and gain more friends and find more things to do. It got me out of my room and planning trips. I took everyday with a new enthusiasm and drive to new things since I knew my time was limited in Newcastle. I hope that any student who goes abroad has this kind of attitude. At the start of every week I planned out new things I wanted to try or see. In the beginning, these were solo trips since I did not know a lot of other students yet. I had to learn to navigate on my own and have fun without a lot of other people around me. This brought me new abilities and self confidence that I did not have before. Pretty soon, I had a friend or two to explore with and before I knew it, they had introduced me to more people and I had a whole group to discover Newcastle with.

  It’s these kinds of experiences that I want more fellow Valpo students to have and learn from. I know that I am a better and brighter person because of my time abroad and I am excited to bring back this newfound attitude to my home. I am forever changed because of the friendships that I made by taking some time away from my lovely home university. I have new appreciation for my home campus but am beyond thankful for the opportunities I have had this past semester.

Campus Life

Author: Maria Clemens

Location: Newcastle, Australia

   Life at the University of Newcastle is quite different than life at Valpo. Not only are the class sizes different, but the classes themselves have a different style. Also, student life has a different twist to it here because of the culture difference. Living at the University of Newcastle has not only been an exciting, but eye-opening experience for me.

   As I said before, the classes are quite different here than at Valpo. For example, there are over 30,000 students at this university compared to the smaller size of a few thousand back home. This means that the class sizes are massive. I attended a lecture that contained over 200 students, however, the university has combated this challenge of size in several ways. First, most of the lectures are recorded online so if there are any distractions or students learn better alone, they can listen to the lectures at home. Second, not only are there lectures, but some classes also offer tutorials as well which are smaller classes of about 20 to 30 students that meet weekly in a discussion-based manner to go over the materials covered. The classes are also structured quite differently. There are significantly fewer exams and assignments than at Valpo. However, the assignments given by lecturers require more time to complete and are graded on a much harsher scale. Therefore, despite having less class time and assignments, the courses at Newcastle still presents a challenge and generates learning.

   Student life is also very different at the University of Newcastle. First of all, students choose whether to live on or off campus. That means that dorms and apartments on campus are a mix of freshmen and upperclassmen. The on campus living itself is also different. I lived in South Residence Tower which has a mix of six, two, and one-person apartments. I lived in a six-person shared apartment where I was the oldest student. Everyone in the apartment had their own bedroom but shared bathrooms, a kitchen, and the living room. The tower itself had a different culture than the residence halls back home. For example, since the sports teams of the university are not as well known and supported as they are in the US, the residence halls have created sports teams that compete each week. These get quite competitive and generate a lot of spirit for the residence halls. However, there are some similarities to living on campus at Valpo. Each residence hall has an elected student association that plans events for the building throughout the year. These events are usually well attended and exciting. At the beginning of the year, the association plans a big event called Commencement which includes dinner and a dance. Its quite similar to a formal planned by a sorority or fraternity. Similarities like these make living in Australia feel like home.

   Overall, despite being in a whole new country with different academic expectations, there are still enough similarities to make living here feel like home. The differences I have found in student life and classes have been a challenge to overcome but have made me a much more adaptable person. I have learned a lot about living with people who are not only a different age than me but come from a different culture. These differences have made me more aware of how different the world is outside of our lovely Valparaiso Campus and have caused me to have greater appreciation for home.

Visiting Melbourne

Author: Maria Clemens

Location: Newcastle, Australia

During my mid semester break, I had the opportunity to take a trip to Melbourne, Australia. This was by far one of the coolest cities I’ve ever been to. As a person who generally prefers the outdoors and parks to urban areas, I still really enjoyed my time spent there. I went with a few other friends who are studying abroad from Valpo and we stayed in a hostel called The Nunnery. This was a very unique hostel because it was a building that used to be a convent but had been redone to host travelers. The layout of the building was somewhat maze-like and quite interesting. There was an adorable little courtyard and the rooms were small but quaint. The sign over the entrance is in the picture below.

We only spent a few days in Melbourne, but they were pretty packed. Our first day we made our way towards the Botanical Gardens downtown. Along the way we passed by the coolest alley that was full of graffiti street art. It was so amazing to see the culture of the city in such an artistic way. The coolest thing about the alley was that new graffiti was added all the time.

As we continued along our way we also stopped at the Shrine of Remembrance. This was a cool experience because the shrine was similar to some of the monuments in Washington D.C. but specific to Australia’s soldiers and veterans. The building held a lot of history and emotion which could be seen in the displays and the people that were there visiting.

Finally, we reached the botanical gardens. This was by far the most amazing park I’ve been to in a city. The diversity of the plants was phenomenal. It took us a full two hours to walk around the entire park! We saw so many beautiful flowers and trees. One of the coolest aspects of the park was the fern alley. This was a small trail in the middle of the park that had vegetation from New Zealand. It was so green and lush it was incredible. I never would have thought it was possible to see so much plant life in the middle of such a booming city.

Next, we journeyed on to the National Gallery of Victoria. This museum is known as one of the best art galleries in all of Australia and it definitely lived up to the hype. There were so many unique art pieces in the museum. One of my personal favorites was an interactive exhibit by Yayoi Kusama entitled Flower Obsession. There was a small apartment recreated and furnished in the museum and filled with red flowers. Everyone that walked through it was given a red flower sticker and asked to apply it somewhere in the exhibit. This resulted in rooms covered in red flowers. I’ve attached a picture of myself sitting in one of the rooms below.

After leaving the museum, we headed back home quite exhausted from the long day. The rest of our time was spent touring around the city and enjoying the lovely Australian weather.

 

 

 

Exploring Newcastle

Author: Maria Clemens

Location: Newcastle, Australia

My first week in Newcastle was overwhelming at first, but I quickly began to absorb the culture and feel at home. I arrived at the university after dark and was greeted by the friendly residential staff, and unfortunately a fire alarm. At first, I struggled to figure out how to make my way around this new campus which was a huge culture shock, but as I began to get to know the other students and my floormates, I began to feel a lot more comfortable and eventually reached a level of tranquility captured in the photo below.

Since classes haven’t gotten into full swing yet, I have had plenty of time to explore and get to know Newcastle. I have gone to all of the beaches here in Newcastle as well as the Bogey Hole and Sea baths. For those who do not know, a sea bath is a pool that is located next to the ocean and if currents are strong enough, waves can lap up over the edge and into the pool. These were created for children, weak swimmers, and days where the ocean is too rough to swim in.  The Bogey Hole is a very old sea bath that has been overtaken by the natural elements and has transformed into a beautiful spot to enjoy a swim.

In addition to the beaches, I have gone to a few markets. At the markets, there are loads of local vendors selling art, food, and clothing. These markets are a great way to spend an afternoon. The food is amazing and there’s plenty of opportunity to sit down with a smoothie and enjoy live music and the surrounding art.

As for the food in Newcastle, it is phenomenal. Down pretty much every street are lovely restaurants and cafés where you can enjoy a delicious meal. One of my favorites so far is Antojito’s. It is one of the few places in Newcastle with an all Mexican menu. The outdoor seating there is a bit shabby, but overall quaint and sets an amazing mood for a quality meal.

I’ve only spent a few weeks in this wonderful city, but I can’t wait to spend more time here and share more of my adventures.

 

Cairns

Author: Maria Clemens 

Location: Newcastle, Australia

My study abroad travels began with a CISabroad orientation in Cairns, Australia. This is a city much farther north than my current home of Newcastle. Cairns is a beautiful city is nestled on the coast between rainforests and the Great Barrier Reef. Of course this was an amazing place to start my Australian journey.

An overview of the City of Cairns and the Pacific Ocean.

My first full day in this country was spent snorkeling and scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef. Being an environmental science major, I was living out my dream of seeing one of the great wonders of the world. There was a great deal of noticeable damage done to the reef, which was unfortunate to see, but it was reassuring to know that efforts are being made to rehabilitate this natural phenomenon.

After a long day spent rocking away on the deck of the boat and gazing through goggles at anemones and sea cucumbers, my fellow world travelers and I retired to an evening of relaxation and kebabs. For those who do not know, kebabs are about as common in Australia as a burrito bowl from Chipotle in America. A kebab is essentially a tortilla with chicken or pork with other toppings like lettuce and sauces. Like pretty much every meal I’ve had here so far, the kebab is delicious.

Forwarding to the next day, we took a bus up into the mountains and spent the afternoon in the rainforest. The other CIS students and I were given the opportunity to try kangaroo meat. Not having the strength myself to try the meat since I would be petting and feeding the cute little creatures later that day, I heard that the kangaroo tasted similarly to steak. That being said, the day was filled with fun activities such as throwing boomerangs, listening to the tunes of the digeridoo, and taking tours into the rainforest itself.

A picture taken in the Rainforest inland of Cairns.

The following day I headed back to the airport for my flight down to Newcastle where I will be doing my studies for the semester. My time spent in Cairns was brief, but incredibly memorable and a great way to be introduced to this country’s wonderful nature and history.

Chase Your Dreams

Author: Abigail Little

Location: Newcastle, Australia

G’day. I apologise for my absence. I will be the first to admit that I have not been the best with any means of communication since I have been in Australia (it’s almost been a year since I’ve been here..crazy!) .. I do not have an excuse. I am simply living. I love sharing my adventures and I am blessed with the opportunity to do so through Valpo Voyager, but to have things to write about, I must first live them out. Which is exactly what I have been doing!

I want to dedicate this blog to anyone who has, at any point in time, did not believe in themselves. If you are reading this and you have felt that you are not enough –YOU ARE. You CAN do things that you never imagined. I PROMISE. I am in my third semester studying at the University of Newcastle, Australia. I am living in the most beautiful country (in my opinion) in this world. I never in my wildest dreams imagined I would be where I’m at in this world today. Maybe that is why sometimes I struggle to find the words to describe my experiences abroad –because I am still so amazed that this is my life.

The purpose of this blog, or any blog I share really, is to inspire anyone and everyone else to chase their dreams (all of which I assume include going abroad if you are here reading this). I want to share my stories of spending Christmas in Australia, of working for an Australian company, of falling in love in a foreign country, etc. And I promise I will share those stories eventually. But for now, I feel compelled to encourage you to live your best life.

I want you to think about this: one definition of the word ‘follow,’ is “move or travel behind” … the definition of the word ‘chase’ is “pursue in order to catch or catch up with.” I point this is out is because it is necessary to chase our dreams first if we intend to then follow them. It is up to you to go out there and pursue your dreams. They are waiting to come alive!

Through studying abroad, I have been fortunate enough to travel further and more often than I have in my lifetime. Since last February, I have lived in two different countries, boarded 15 separate aircrafts, and visited 8 states worldwide. I went below the surface of the Pacific and swam amongst the life in the Great Barrier Reef. I have been able to do amazing things, that is undeniable. Each time I reflect on that, I remind myself of how I almost did not follow through with my impulsive decision to study abroad. Wow, that would have been a horrible mistake! Each experience is unique, of course. That is true for everything in life, but I find it to be quite peculiar when it comes to experiences such as studying abroad. I embarked on this journey to get away. I was on a hunt for myself because I was stuck amid insecurities and unhappiness. I would have done just about anything to get out. Not only have I found myself on this beautiful journey abroad, but I have found love and a support system as well. The daily relationships I have now are ones that I have made on Australian soil.

 

You may be sitting there thinking, “but it’s so expensive.. I can never afford it.. all these people going abroad must be rich!” I am here to tell you I once thought that. I am here to tell you that if you are thinking that, we were both wrong. If you are thinking that, I want you to do two things: (1) Accept that you are wrong, and then (2) fill out your application to go abroad. I come from nothing. Yet here I am, entering my third semester of study in Australia. I may be deep in student debt, but I am rich in experience. I am rich in resilience. I am rich in love. I am rich in determination. I am rich in inspiration. I am rich in understanding. I am rich in life.

Through plates of grief served to me since being abroad, I have found my way to serenity. Through facing adversities, I have been humbled with a deeper sense of gratitude. Through the formation of significant relationships, my heart has swelled with appreciation, allowing me to love more genuinely. I have spent too much of the past 23 years in the back seat of my own life, but I have finally found my ground to take control of my direction in this fascinating world.

Several times a week, I am faced with the question, “when do you have to go back to America?” And each time, I am speechless. I have become so immersed in to the Aussie lifestyle that the thought of going back to live amongst the American society is not an option. I want to stay here forever. That is my dream. It’s time for me to go chase that now. I hope you do the same.

 

Cheers x

 

What You Need to Know When Studying at University of Newcastle!

Author: Jessica Hanson

Location: Newcastle, Australia

Well it seems to be getting to that time in the semester where many of my fellow Valpo students are trying to decide where they want to study abroad or, if they’ve already chosen their program of choice, are getting anxious to see what all the hype is about! For any of you considering University of Newcastle (UoN) here in New South Wales, Australia, I figured I’d give you some tips and tricks to make your transition into the Aussie lifestyle as smooth as possible!

First, I thought it would be helpful to orient you to Australia as a continent and where we are in relation to, well, everything else! Fun fact- Australia is the world’s largest island as well as the world’s smallest continent. Australia is the about the same size geographically as the United States, yet has less than 10% of our population! The name ‘Australia’ comes from Latin Terra Australis meaning ‘land of the south.’ It is also lovingly referred to as the Land Down Under, or even, the Land of Oz (which, may or may not have anything to do with Dorothy, but that is for you to find out!) It consists of 6 states and 2 territories. Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria are the three states along the East Coast of Australia and contain about 3/4 of the population, which totals just over 24 million. Sydney (NSW), Melbourne (VIC), and Brisbane (QLD) are the three largest cities- if you like the city life, Sydney is about 3 hours south by train and you can get round-trip flights to Brisbane or Melbourne for a weekend get away for around $100-$150- I would definitely recommend taking the time to check these out if you get the chance. You will also notice while you’re over here that many cities have some pretty odd names thanks to the Aboriginal culture- Wollongong, Wagga Wagga, Katoomba, Toowoomba to name a few!

(Travel tip: while everyone is immediately going to recognise your American accent, you can save yourself some embarrassment by knowing the correct pronunciation of the city names. They don’t have a hard ‘r’ sound like we do in America, so you might want to practice these a few times before coming over: Melbourne–> mel-bin, likewise Brisbane–> briz-bin, Cairns–> cans (yes, like the soda!) I probably butcher the Aboriginal names as much as you would but they seem pretty phonetic to me, so good luck!)

As far as where you’ll be living, University of Newcastle is often shortened to UoN or referred to simply as Newy! Where you will be living and going to classes is the Callaghan campus, although there is also the city campus with the NeW Space (an architecturally abstract building that opened this fall- definitely check it out!) where many of the business and law classes take place. If the program is still the same, you will most likely be assigned a single studio apartment in one of the really nice new residence towers- you get your own kitchenette and bathroom, which means, unfortunately, you’re responsible for buying your own groceries, cooking your own food, and doing your own dishes. Thankfully, you get a weekly bathroom cleaning courtesy of the lovely cleaning ladies in the building. The campus is much bigger than our small Valpo home- say goodbye to rolling out of bed 10 minutes before class and making it on time! However, most professors are also pretty lax so making it to class a few minutes late won’t hurt. Make sure you take the time to do some exploring when you get here but it only took me a few days- once you find the Shortland building in the centre of campus, you’ll figure out the rest from there 🙂 Night life on campus is also a little different than what we’re used to in the states- most of the buildings/dining on campus close around 5 and any activities are going to be over in the city. Make friends in your building fast so you’ll have people that know the good places to go out if you’re looking for something fun to do!

The Aboriginal, or Indigenous, people and culture is also something you might want to do some research on before coming over. It is very complicated and a dark part of Australia’s rather-recent past. The Aboriginal Australians are thought to be the oldest tribes in the world and most of their population was wiped out due to violence or disease during the British colonisation of Australia during the late 18th century (you will find many parallels with British treatment of the Native Americans during our colonial history, although the issues have continued up through the 1970s and  is still a very sensitive subject in the culture.) The good news is that Australia is in the progress of amending some of this dark past, such as working with some Aboriginal tribes to give them control and ownership of their original lands. One thing that I find very touching is that often when people stand up to talk in front of crowds, perhaps for class or giving presentations, they will pay respects to the Aboriginal peoples by saying something along the lines of: “I would like to acknowledge that this meeting is being held on the traditional lands of the [insert local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Island Nation]. I pay respect to Elders past, present and emerging.”

Finally, thanks to our lovely US standard system, it will take some time to get used to the metric system! I wrote down a key for reference before coming but you won’t reeeally need it, especially thanks to phones that have automatic conversion apps. However, I still am not used to seeing 100 on speed limit signs- 100 kilometers per hour that is, which is akin to our 65 mph limit. It is also important to remember that since Australia is in the southern hemisphere, the seasons are flip-flopped and they use Celsius as well. If you are planning to study here next semester, you will be leaving snowy cold Valpo and arriving in the lovely hot Australian summer (unfortunately, I get to do the opposite transition…) It will be around the 80s/90s, or around 25-30 degrees Celsius, so pack your summer gear, but be prepared for temperatures to drop to ‘chilly’ fall temperatures around 50F (10C) by the end of the semester. Also, they aren’t kidding when they tell you to be prepared with a LOT of sunscreen- especially coming in the summer since Australia is positioned right underneath the hole in the ozone layer- sun blisters are NOT something you want to deal with!

Alright, I think that’s enough of my rambling, but I am going to leave you with some Australian lingo that it will be helpful to be familiar with! Thanks for tuning in, and good luck if you’re off to Australia next semester!

Food!
Kebabs– an Australian staple, kebab shops are fun places to grab a bite!
Capsicums– their odd word for bell peppers
Avo– avocado! Australians love shortening their words, but they might like avocados here even more! They’re a tad expensive, but oh so delicious.
Vegemite– another Australian staple, but one that is extremely foreign to the American food palate- you definitely much try it (its a spread for putting on toast), but make sure an Aussie prepares it for you, otherwise you’ll likely end up spreading it on thick like nutella, which is a terrible idea.
Lemonade– sprite. The word sprite? Also sprite. Our idea of lemonade does not exist over here, but you can find some fizzy lemon-flavoured sodas that are pretty close. Also, if you love rootbeer like me, I’m sorry to say it will be very difficult to come by 🙁
Soft Drink– soda or pop or sodapop, however you call it! If you’re at a restaurant and want to know what ‘sodas’ they have, you should ask them for their soft drink menu instead.
Wooly’s– short for Woolworth’s, your go-to for all your grocery shopping needs.
Hungry Jack’s– the same thing as Burger King, just called differently. They also have Domino’s and Pizza Hut if you’re craving some American fast food.
Macca’s- a country wouldn’t be complete with out a McDonald’s right? Aussies lovingly shorten it simply to Macca’s, and I’m sure you’ll be at peace knowing you can get your late night chicken nugget or McFlurry cravings taken care of!

Clothing
Op Shop– short for opportunity shop, these are the lovely Australian thrift stores- Vinnie’s (St. Vincent de Paul) and Salvos (Salvation Army) are the most common!
Thongs– yes, they will probably laugh at you if you forget and call them flip flops anyway.
Runners- tennis shoes
Swimmers– swimsuit….makes me feel like I’m in the 60s but I guess you just roll with it!
Jumper– sweater
Sunnies– sunglasses

Other Lingo
Dodgy– sketchy
Rubbish– trash/garbage
Footpath– side walk
Carpark– parking lot
Trolley– shopping cart
Life– elevator
Revision– review
Mozzies– mosquitos (The word is definitely cuter than the thing itself)
Timetable– class schedule
Concession– student prices- always ask if there are concession prices for events/tickets!
Power point– NOT the Microsoft Word program, power points are little orange lights on the power switches letting you know if it is on or off
Boot and Bonnet– the trunk and hood of a car
Aluminium– notice the extra ‘i’, it might take a while to get used to saying this metal element the way it is actually written on the periodic table…
Bubbler– for all of my Indiana friends who make fun of us Wisconsinites who use bubbler, guess what- so do the Australians! This was definitely a win for team Wisconsin <3

Alright, that’s all I have for today, hopefully this helps alleviate some of the frustration before you get here, and best of luck figuring out Australia!

Cheers,
Jessica

P.S. Make sure to finish all your favourite binge-worthy Netflix shows before you get here! Australian Netflix has a different selection, and unless you’re really skilled at figuring out VPNs (Netflix recognized my preliminary attempts and I gave up after that), you’ll have to live without a few American shows for a couple months!

Halfway Gone and Off I go

Author:  Jessica Hanson

Location: Newcastle, Australia

Hey friends!

So so sorry I haven’t posted in what, at least to me, seems like forever! I had intended to post an update during this last week, but a philosophy essay kicked my butt and I didn’t get around to it. For anyone who wants to talk about informed consent ethical issues, I’ve got you covered!

Many of you may be surprised to hear that my semester is already half way over! We just finished week 8 of classes (out of 13, with 3 weeks of finals) and it is officially my 2-week semester (spring) break here! Woo-hoo!! I am heading off to Sydney later this afternoon so I can fly out at 7AM Monday morning for a week adventure down in Tasmania! I’ll be travelling solo and staying in hostels for the whole thing, so I’m hoping it will be a wonderful experience! For those of you who are not familiar with Australian geography, Tasmania is one of Australia’s 6 states and is a little island off the southeastern corner of the mainland. I’m pretty sure it’s like 75% national park- and yes, you can find Tasmanian Devils there!
Image result for tasmania
(this is a Tasmanian Devil)
Following my adventure in Tazzie, I will be heading up to Melbourne for the second week to explore what I have heard is a beautiful city. I’ll be on the lookout for the street-art-filled alleyways that seem to be a rather famous aesthetic and likely spending a good amount of time in lovely coffee shops to warm up from the colder weather. Otherwise, I haven’t planned anything else in the city yet except booking a ballroom lesson while I’m there, which I couldn’t be more excited about! Shout out to all of my ballroom loves back home- I miss you guys! <3

Before I (potentially) go MIA for two weeks, I wanted to give everyone a little update of my semester now that the half way point has officially passed. The first month here I was definitely feeling nostalgic for my Wisconsin/Indiana family, friends, and routines! It wasn’t particularly difficult getting adjusted to schoolwork over here or other ways of Aussie life in general, but it was weird that nothing was familiar- people, city, shopping etc. Even worse, I quickly realised how I definitely take my car for granted at home- being at the liberty of public transportation can be frustrating, but I’m glad I’ve learned how to use public bus systems to make my way around! I also was able to rent a bike while I’m here that allows me to make it to the nearest shops and back really easily- thank goodness I can fulfill those late-night ice cream cravings! 😉 Anyway, the past few weeks I’ve finally found my groove- I’ve been meeting a lot of amazing and lovely people, and I’m starting to be sad that I have to go back to the states now…if I didn’t have obligations at home, there’s a chance I might have chosen to stick around! ;P Either way, I am definitely enjoying my time here and will make sure to take full advantage of the time I have left with the lovely people I have met- it is shaping up to be quite a lovely semester 🙂

As for classes, they are definitely different than what I am used to…Instead of having class MWF or TR like they do in Valpo, I have each class only once or twice a week. I have a one- or two-hour lecture and then a few of my classes have what is called tutorials- what is similar to what I believe is called recitation at other universities in the states? It’s a small group class that typically has discussions/time for presentations, therefore not interfering with the lecture time! So, here’s what my schedule looks like:
Monday- 9AM Lecture (Sustainable Society) w/ 11AM Tutorial; 2-4 pm Lecture (Innovation/Entrepreneurship)
Tuesday- No class!
Wednesday- No class!
Thursday- 8AM Lecture (Ethical Debates); 12-2 PM Lecture (Biology)
Friday- 10AM Tutorial (Ethical Debates); 2-4PM Lecture (Biology)

The best part is that if you miss a lecture, such as the dreaded 8 am, all of the lectures here are recorded and posted on Blackboard! This may or may not minimise my motivation to go to some of my classes…but I make sure I am caught up and do the work I need to! The grading system here is also different. First of all, instead of letter grades, they use HD (High Distinction, 85%+), D (Distinction), C (Credit), P (Pass), FF (Fail, <50%)….and sadly, many Aussies seem to be content with simply aiming for a P in their classes, which makes me definitely feel like a try-hard with my American-bred school motivation! Additionally, my total number of assignments (for all my classes) is only: 1 group presentation, a total of about 6 essays, weekly quizzes in biology, a handful of quizzes in innovation, and two finals- and that’s it! It definitely allows plenty of time for exploring, or as I’ve started to do, personal time for doing things I don’t normally get time to do, such as practice guitar and piano again, listen to podcasts, watch documentaries, or even go for the occasional (very occasional) run!

Alright, well I’m going to be late for my train if I keep rambling about my adventures! Last weekend I did hike to the bottom of a waterfall in the Blue Mountains, and yesterday I went to the horse races with a bunch of lovely ladies (they even had the fancy hats, called Fascinators!!) but I will have to update you on those when I get back to campus in a few weeks! I will try to post all my pictures as soon as possible- I take way too many, but with a broken laptop, I forget to upload them when I’m in the library, so will get around to it eventually.

Here’s a sneak peek of the blue mountains!
PC: Cole Wesselman

I will try to post an update post-Tazzie adventures, but that of course will depend on my access to Wi-Fi in the hostels…until then, enjoy the fall weather back home and I will see you in a few weeks <3

Love,
Jessica

Some Things Are Universal

Author: Abbey Little 

Location: Newcastle, Australia

My second semester studying abroad has commenced and I have found a deeper sense of gratitude in my opportunity to study at the University of Newcastle for the entire year.  The first semester truly, and unexpectedly, put my character to the test.  I faced several hardships from 9,205 miles away—some that were anticipated but most that were not.  I knew the education system was different, but I wasn’t aware to what extent.  I knew I would make new friends, but never imagined how difficult it would be to say goodbye to some of them after one semester.  I knew my parents were going to get divorced, but I did not think their court date would be rescheduled three times.  I knew life would go on back home, but I did not prepare for death.  I knew studying abroad would be a life-changing experience, but I was not anticipating it to change my character as much as it has.

The majority of my first semester was spent alongside an irreplaceable group of fellow Americans.  Together, we learned the ropes of a foreign education system—standard 2-hour lectures once a week, along with a 2-hour lab or tutorial and a whole month dedicated to final exams.  We formed a family through supporting one another during individual struggles and embracing Australian culture together.  Saying good-bye to all of them was agonizing, but I am forever thankful for the bond that was formed between us.

One aspect of being half way across the world that I am yet to truly acclimate to the considerable time difference.  As of now, I am 15 hours ahead of the Central Time Zone –(this will change when we experience the next Daylights Savings, where Australia will jump ahead an hour and America will fall back an hour).  Considering this, I must admit that I have not been the best at communicating with family back in America.  Corresponding to my parents’ messages throughout the process of their divorce was tough—they would send a message during their day while I was asleep, and I would respond when they were headed to bed.  I got news of my uncle’s passing in midday while I was studying for an exam I had the following day.  It isn’t that any of this was inconsiderate on behalf of either parties—it is just that communicating from across the world comes with difficulty.

I have had the great privilege of establishing a support system via my Australian friends, whom I never want to leave.  I have created a happier life for myself amidst a foreign culture that I have positively delved in.  I can only imagine what my time here has  prepared me for.

I travelled across the world for a reason—for exceptional reason.  I’ve learned that no matter how far I run though, I cannot escape reality. So much of who we are is where we’ve been.  So much of where we go is who we’ve come to know.  I’ve lived under many different roofs, but I found my favourite home 9,205 miles away from what I’ve always known.  I have an endless love for this remarkable country—Newcastle especially—and for all the people I’ve encountered along the way who make each day the next best.

 

Cheers! xx

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