Monday, March 16, 2009

Just Settling In...

I've officially been in Australia for one month!  I'm finally getting settled into some sort of a routine, which is comforting after a month of traveling and exploring a completely new place.

I started school on March 2nd, and it was funny how familiar my first day at Griffith University felt to my very first day at Mizzou.  I didn't know a soul, had no idea where my classes were, and was nervous for what the teacher and other students would be like!  We're now into Week 3 of classes, and I'm happy with my schedule and the variety of things I'll be studying.  I'm taking Popular Music and Cultural Context (analyzing music and its effects on individuals, taking into account cultural and personal preferences), Introduction to American Politics (exactly as the name states, but from the viewpoint of Australians...), Love, Sex, and Truth (a philosophy class examining the interpersonal relationships between humans), and Epidemiology and Population Health (the study of the spread and prevention of disease within populations).  It's quite the conglomeration of classes, and I'm so excited to be able to be studying such a variety of interesting topics!

Disclaimer on the photo from campus: I wanted to wait to get pictures while it was sunny out... because it's almost always sunny here, and it would make my campus look that much more beautiful!  However, we had a cyclone come through last week, and it was cloudy and windy for a whole WEEK!  (yeah, miserable... I know :-P)  

This last weekend, a group of us headed up to Brisbane for a rugby match!  It's only about a 45 minute train ride, and when you buy a ticket to the game, your train ticket is free.  It was great to be able to get out of Gold Coast and explore a new city... Brisbane has a population of about 1.9 million people, so there are tons of things to explore!  Rugby is quite a bit different than American football, so the poor guys sitting next to me in the stands spent a large part of the game explaining the rules to me.  It was a really fun atmosphere, though, and we're definitely going to be headed back up there a couple more times to go to the games and explore the nightlife a bit more.

Although I'm loving it here in Australia, there are a few things I miss from home.  March Madness is now in full swing, and two of my favorite basketball teams, Mizzou and Northern Iowa, have made it into the tournament!  I actually "watched" the Big 12 Championship game between Mizzou and Baylor via's score and commentary updates every 30 seconds.  It most definitely wasn't an optimal situation, but it gave me a chance to cheer on my Tigers from across the ocean!  I also got a package from home this last week, and it was jam packed with my favorite American candy, pictures of family, suncreen, and items that reminded me of home. Thanks Mum and Dad!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Down by the Bay!

This weekend, a group of us went down to Byron Bay, a cool hippie town along the coast in northern New South Wales.  We started off the weekend with a trip to a wildlife sanctuary where we saw everything from an absolutely MASSIVE crocodile to dingoes to endangered cockatoos to extremely poisonous snakes.  We learned a lot more about Australian wildlife, which was really cool.  For instance, something like 9 out of the 10 most venomous snakes live in Australia... eek!  (Don't worry Mom, they also told us what to do if we ever see one!)

After the wildlife park, we arrived at our hostel in Byron Bay and then went for a long walk along the absolutely breathtaking coast.  The walk took us up to the Byron Bay lighthouse, which sits on the most easterly point of Australia.  It was a tough walk, but we got some beautiful views and spotted a pod of dolphins, so it was definitely worth it!  After the walk, the group went for dinner and out on the town to mingle with locals... a fun-filled day and night!

On Saturday, we got up early and went to the beach for surfing lessons.  (You could definitely tell I was from the Midwest with no access to the ocean...)  Although I kind of maybe  sort of got up a few times (okay... only once), it was fun to be able to spend the morning in the water trying something completely new and challenging.  In the afternoon, we went sea kayaking... what a workout!  The wind was blowing toward the shore, so it was really hard work.  However, once we were out there, it was pretty intense to be able to feel the strength of such an immense and powerful body of water.

On Sunday, we had a free day to explore Byron Bay a bit more.  On the first Sunday of every month, they have this huge market featuring clothing, jewelry, glassware, soaps, food, and artwork from local residents.  I feel so fortunate that our trip was timed perfectly to be able to catch it... it was so cool to be able to peruse the vendors and admire the artistry of the merchandise.  For lunch, a friend and I went to a cool sushi restaurant and then hit the beach for a nap and a dip in the ocean before we left for home.  (You could tell we all had had an exciting weekend... everybody was passed out for the entirety of the bus ride!)