Sunday, 4 November 2012

Cairns: The Great Barrier Reef



I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to see The Great Barrier Reef while I was in Australia! I wasn’t sure if I would be able to make it there, but thanks to study week, I was able to fit it in! Andie, Jenny, Haley, Alexandra and I left Friday afternoon to head up to Cairns (pronounced Cans). We took trains planes and automobiles to get there. After arriving at our hostel, we got settled before going out to a nice dinner in town. We made sure to get back pretty early because we needed to get plenty of rest before the big day.

Saturday we were up at 6:30 a.m. getting ready for our snorkel adventure. We rented two underwater cameras to document our experience. We then got on a bus that took us to the marina. We boarded our Passions of Paradise boat that would take us out to the reef. I enjoyed coffee and muffins on the two hour ride to the reef. Everyone was prepped with stinger suits, masks, snorkels, and sun block (or zinc in my case). When we finally arrived, we had a briefing session on the proper way to snorkel, where we could go, what we could touch, etc. I think most of us were just ready to get in the water at this point!



We were all so excited and jumped right in! I saw so much beautiful sea life in the reef; coral, stingrays, rainbow fish, jellyfish. It was really relaxing and enjoyable. We took our time making our way to the beach, taking lots of pictures of course. We then rested on the beach while regaining our energy to continue snorkeling. Around 12 p.m. we got back on the boat and refueled with a delicious lunch. The boat then departed and took us to a second location.



We had perfect weather. The water was clear and it was all so beautiful and fascinating to see. We stayed there for another two hours before heading back the marina. I went up to talk to the captain of the boat for a while, and he let me drive for a few minutes! I’ve driven my dad’s boat many times, but this was still very exciting. The day went by so quickly. We were on the boat from 8 a.m.- 5 p.m. but it flew by. After walking around town, we returned to our hostel to shower and freshen up before dinner. It was a fun last night in Cairns and it was sad to say goodbye.


That was my final big adventure in Australia, and it was one of the best. I am so grateful for the many opportunities I’ve experienced during my time abroad. I feel so blessed to have been able to go on such wonderful adventures, and to be able to spend a semester abroad in such a magnificent country. I go home in 11 days, and even though I will be spending most of my time studying, I will still make the very best of every last second I have here. I am still hoping to make it to the beach at least once more before I have to go back to the winter weather in Ohio. The last four months have flown by, and I still can’t believe my semester is nearly over. I will miss the friends I’ve made here dearly, but I know we will all keep in touch. I am looking forward to going back to Elon and seeing everyone at the end of November. This has been a semester I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life, and I am so thankful for this experience!

Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi!
Tessa

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Hello Everyone!


Hello Everyone! I haven’t posted in a while, and it is currently raining on the Sunshine Coast, so I figured I’d write while I wait for the rain to lighten up! It is hard to believe I only have 16 more days in this beautiful country. I have loved my experience so far, and I am trying to savor ever minute of my last two weeks.

I’ve been doing some exciting things the past few weeks, in addition to going to class of course! One of my favorite activities I’ve done recently was Paddle boarding in a small town just North of us called Noosa. If you’ve never gone, you should definitely give it a go, but let me warn you, it’s not as easy as it looks! I didn’t think I’d have a problem, because I have pretty good balance, and I can ride a unicycle for goodness sake, but I was seriously mistaken. I think my friends would agree that I spent more time in the water, than on top of the board. Our instructor was also trying to teach us the newest trend in paddle boarding, which is paddleboard yoga. Basically you have to contort your body into these strange positions, while balancing on a small board. He said it was supposed to be relaxing, but most of us found it challenging yet entertaining!



Just last weekend a group of us went to Buderim Falls, which was just a quick bus ride away. We were under the impression it would be a full day of hiking and adventure that would lead us to a beautiful waterfall. There was a waterfall, and some hiking, but the majority of the hiking was from the bus stop to the trail. Once we were on the trail, it was a 5-10 minute walk to a small, yet beautiful waterfall. We were all pretty hot at that point, simply because it is almost summer here, and it is hot and humid everyday. We cooled off in the chilly water and just spent some time relaxing by the falls. It was still a fun day and it was nice to see some new scenery.



Today is Halloween, which I learned is not nearly as big a deal here as it is at home. When I run through the neighborhoods here, there are no decorations, no pumpkins and no hay bales! What?! It really is not as hyped up here, and children don’t typically dress up or go trick or treating. The grocery store has a small table of candy, and minimal decorations, but other than that, you wouldn’t know it was Halloween. The Americans that make up the majority of our housing complex are really excited about Halloween, and a few people are throwing a party tonight to celebrate. I am dressing up as Katniss from the Hunger Games, and I have my own homemade bow and arrow set ready to go! It should be fun to celebrate and get in the holiday spirit.

UPDATE: Pictures




This week is our last week of classes, which is so hard to believe! I just have 2 more classes left in the semester! Next week we have a “Study Week”, which we learned is designed for traveling and exploring Australia before finals. I am looking forward to going to Cairns to snorkel in The Great Barrier Reef this weekend! I originally didn’t think I would have an opportunity to see the reef while I was here, but thanks to study break, I will! When we get back from Cairns, we will have a week to study and then take finals. My last final is November 15th and I am on a flight home on November 16th! I love Australia, but I am looking forward to being home for Thanksgiving.

I will try to post one more time before I leave, updating y’all on Cairns! I miss everyone, and I look forward to seeing everyone when I get back! (PS I will be at Elon for the Luminaries at the end of November!)

Aussie Love,

Tessa

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Mid-Semester Break


After 8 weeks of classes it is finally time for our mid-semester break! We got two weeks off to travel, relax and explore different parts of Australia. Some of my friends ventured to New Zealand for a week, while others chose to explore various cities within Australia. I was fortunate enough to have Mom and Dad come over for the first week of break! I’ll break this post down in categories based on each city we visited. See map below to see where we went!
A- Sydney
B- Melbourne
C- Brisbane

Sydney:

September 16, 2012:
3:00 a.m. on Sunday morning I was awake and ready to catch my ride to Brisbane Airport. The shuttle came around 3:30 and I was off. The driver asked if I was flying out of the Domestic or International terminal, and I thought since I was just going to Sydney, it would be Domestic. After the hour or so ride, I get out at the Domestic terminal and try to check in. I am then informed that I am booked on the International flight to Sydney because I was meeting Mom and Dad who were flying from the States. I then had to catch the tram at 5:17 a.m. to the International terminal. I enjoyed an easy flight to Sydney, went through customs, and looked for my parents, who had landed an hour before me. After 15 minutes of looking, I got a phone call from Dad! They had taken the tram to the Domestic terminal to pick me up. They too, figured I would be there since I was just flying from Brisbane. Whoops. They then took the tram back to the International terminal, which is where we were finally reunited. I was so happy to see them!

The three of us took a taxi to our hotel and planned several activities with the hotel concierge upon arrival. That afternoon we took a beautiful Coffee Cruise of Sydney Harbour. We got a full view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House, which looked much smaller than I had expected. After the tour, we walked around downtown and did a bit of window-shopping before returning to the hotel. Mom and Dad were jetlagged and tired from traveling, so they were both in bed around 5 p.m. I ordered room service and had an early night too.


September 17, 2012:
My 21st Birthday! This birthday is definitely one to remember. I climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge with my dad, which was amazing. We did the express climb, which took just over two hours. The view was fantastic and we were able to see the entire harbour from the top. After that, we had lunch and explored more of Sydney before dinner. I was even treated to a wonderful massage and manicure for a special birthday treat. It was fantastic and incredibly relaxing!

The three of us celebrated my birthday dinner at a very nice restaurant called Café Sydney (don’t let the name fool you, it was not your typical cafe)! We had a table overlooking the harbour and the bridge. It was beautiful. I even got to enjoy my first legal drink as a 21-year-old, although I’ve been legal in Australia for two months! We went back to the hotel where I enjoyed my birthday brownie which included a birthday candle.

Melbourne:

September 18, 2012:
We left Sydney and flew to Melbourne, which is drastically different than Sydney. Melbourne has lots of contemporary architecture and is a very artsy city. We had lunch at a quaint café, and walked around the city. The first night there, we saw the musical South Pacific, which was fantastic!

September 19, 2012:
The highlight of my trip to Melbourne was the Penguin Parade. It wasn’t actually in Melbourne, but we took a bus about two hours South to a place called Phillip Island. For thousands of years, just after sunset, little penguins come from the sea back to their sand dune burrows on land. Phillip Island has one of the largest little penguin colonies in the world. We weren’t allowed to take any pictures of the penguins as it is harmful to their health, but seeing them come out of the water and waddle to shore was one of the cutest and most magnificent things I’ve ever seen!
September 20, 2012:
This day we took a city tour of Melbourne. We got to see the arena where the Australian Open is played every year. There was also a beautiful conservatory full of fragrant and colorful flowers. After the bus tour, we took a boat tour on the Yara River, which allowed us to see more of the unique buildings and bridges of Melbourne.


Brisbane/ Sunshine Coast:

September 21, 2012:
Mom’s Birthday! We left Melbourne and flew to Brisbane, which is two hours south from University of the Sunshine Coast. There is a lot of shopping in Brisbane, and a large open-air market that is open on the weekends. Many local vendors come and sell their goods. There are many different products such as homemade soaps, lotions, woodcarvings, jewelry, clothing, etc. We enjoyed some Kebabs for lunch by the river and spent time walking around the markets. We got to celebrate Mom’s birthday dinner at a nice restaurant called Aria, which overlooked the Brisbane River.




September 22, 2012:
Mom and Dad got to come up to the Sunshine Coast to see exactly where I go to school! Around 8 a.m. we took a train and a bus two hours North to the town of Sippy Downs. I gave them a tour of my campus, showed them my apartment, and took them to my favorite beach, Mooloolaba! We enjoyed a nice lunch followed by some gelato by the beach. Mom and Dad even took me to Woolworths, the grocery store by school, and restocked me with many delicious foods! We then took another walk around campus and saw some wild kangaroos. We then got on the bus and train again to begin our two-hour journey back to Brisbane. It was a busy, but great day.







September 23, 2012:
This was Mom and Dad’s last day in Australia. We slept in and decided to have an easy day. We had thought about cramming in a trip to the Australia Zoo, but it would have been too rushed since they had a flight to catch that afternoon. We spent the day walking around the large outdoor shopping center and spent time in a few bookstores. Before we knew it it was time to say goodbye. Mom and Dad had to catch a flight to Sydney, where they would spend a night before catching their flight back to the States.

The week went by so quickly, and we saw so much in so little time. I am so grateful they were able to come so far to spend a week exploring Australia with me. I am now back on campus with a few other people, and we are looking forward to relaxing, and maybe doing a little homework on this second week of break. It is hard to believe my time in Australia is more than halfway over! I will continue to savor every second of it.

Xoxoxoxoxo

Tessa

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Mojo Surf Camp and Byron Bay



I can honestly say I’ve had one of the most exciting and thrilling weekends of my life. If you read my last post, you will know that my skydiving experience was both terrifying and rewarding. As much as I had to say about that, there is another part of my weekend that I didn’t get to write about!

The whole reason I signed up for this weekend trip was to try my hand at surfing. We stayed two nights at the Mojo Surf resort called Spot X in Arrawarra, New South Wales. The three of us who went skydiving missed out on the first surfing lesson, so as soon as we returned to the surf camp we were told that we would receive additional help before the afternoon lesson that day.
A- University of the Sunshine Coast
B- Mojo Surf Camp in Arrawarra
C- Byron Bay    

I was slightly nervous about surfing because I wasn’t sure how difficult it would be to actually get up. I grew up on the water boating, tubing, and water skiing, so I hoped my past experiences on the water would assist me with surfing. I’m pleased to say I think they did! After riding in the first wave laying flat on the board, I was ready to stand, or try to at least! With one or two failed attempts, I finally got it (the surf instructors were extremely helpful and it was kind of impossible to fall when they were helping)! After getting the hang of it, we were on our own. I had such a great time, and I felt like I was the girl from Soul Surfer (minus the whole shark attack thing)! The two-hour lesson flew by, and I did not want to get out of the water! I looked forward to getting back out there the next morning.

Friday night the group enjoyed dinner and spending time by the bonfire. There was dancing and music, and some people even brought marshmallows to roast. There were a few people who had never heard of s'mores, so those of us who did know had to explain exactly how fantastic they are (although words don’t really do them justice)!



Saturday proved to be another successful day on the water, and one of the ex-pros brought his dogs out on the water to surf with us! Honestly, the two dogs were much better than any of us, and they have 5 years of surfing experience. It was just too funny to see two dogs riding the waves on a surfboard!
After our morning lesson, the group got back on the big bus and headed north 3 hours to Byron Bay. We stayed at this very cool hostel called the Arts Factory, and it was truly one of a kind! Each room was different and painted a certain theme. A group of 10 of us stayed in Space Room (looked like we were in outer space). Saturday night we had a delicious pizza dinner, and went out to two different bars, Woody’s and Cheeky Monkey’s. Cheeky Monkey’s was really neat because everyone is allowed, and encouraged, to dance on the tables. It was a fun night!

The next morning several of us went to the Cape Byron Lighthouse, which is, “Australia's most easterly light being situated on the most easterly point of the mainland.”  The view was beautiful and it really felt like a piece of paradise. Pictures, again, just don’t do it justice.

After seeing the lighthouse, we hiked down back down to the main part of town and got to do a little bit of shopping. It is definitely a hippie town. There were lots of different shops with incense, long skirts, and tie-dye. We walked around for an hour or two before heading back to school.
I can honestly say I had one of the best weekends of my life. I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone skydiving, and I thoroughly enjoyed surfing. I am so grateful for all of the opportunities I have while I am here. I continue to savor every moment of my time left. It is hard to believe a moth and a half have already gone by. I’m looking forward to seeing my Mom and Dad in a few short weeks when they come to visit over mid-semester break!

I miss you all, and I hope all of my Elon friends had a great first week of class!

xoxoxox,
tessa

Sunday, 26 August 2012

I Went Skydiving


 This weekend was one of the most exhilarating and memorable weekends of my life. From skydiving from 14,000 ft. to learning how to surf for the first time, I can definitely say I pushed my limits.

The weekend started Thursday at 1p.m. when 50 USC students boarded a bus heading to SpotX Surf Camp, which happened to be six hours away. The drive went by quickly and we all enjoyed a delicious dinner before hanging out around the campfire. We got a quick tour of the facility and saw where we would be gearing up for our surfing lessons the following days.

 Friday August 24th was the big day. I was planning on skydiving and learning how to surf, two things I had never done before. My two friends Haley and Sophia joined me for a 7a.m. breakfast before we caught our ride to go skydiving. We drove 30 minutes to the airport near Coffs Harbour.

We nervously geared up while the instructors checked the weather and wind levels. We got the low down and were told that only two of the three of us could go up at one time. I certainly didn’t want to go up alone (I am terrified of flying on a normal plane, and I would be scared out of my mind to jump out of one without someone else by my side!) Sophia was sweet enough to volunteer to make the journey by herself after us.

Haley and I got on a tiny tiny plane, big enough for five at most. There weren’t even seats! We sat on a cushioned floor as we took off. Our instructors each had handy-cams to record the whole experience. 

I had a minor nervous breakdown on the flight up to 14,000 ft. A million thoughts were running through my mind, and after a few tears, and a comforting tap on the foot (thanks, Haley) it was time to take a leap of faith. The old saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words” certainly applies in this situation. I was hesitant posting these first few shots of me jumping out of the plane, because, let’s just say, I don’t look my best. But they are here because they really express my feelings at the moment. See below.

If you have the time, I have also attached a video of the whole skydiving experience. It includes the interview before, during and after the jump. The first 30 seconds of the 60 second jump were petrifying. I finally accepted the fact that I was falling at 120mph and I decided to try to force a smile. It worked, and I even enjoyed myself the rest of the fall down. At 5,000 ft. Julian, my instructor counted down 3, 2, 1 and the parachute opened! I was SO relieved.

 Click here to view my Skydiving Video

The overall experience was completely worth all of the fear and nerves I had built up. I had such a great time, and although I am not dying to go back up and take another jump (umm Haley haha), I am so glad I did it. It was a wonderful way to start my weekend away from school. The following hours of that day were filled with surfing and more bonfire fun. I will write another post all about surfing in the next few days. Stay tuned!

Much Love,

Tessa
xoxoxoxo

Monday, 13 August 2012

Fraser Island



University of the Sunshine Coast offers several weekend trips throughout the semester. I signed up for two of the trips; one of them was to Fraser Island. It was a fantastic experience and I had non-stop fun and adventure for two days. We were given very little information prior to the trip. We got one email telling us to pack a warm jumper (sweatshirt) and our thongs (flip-flops). We were also told that the bus left the station at 5:45 am on Saturday morning, but that’s about it. I had no idea what we would be doing or seeing, but I enjoyed the surprise.

Around 5:30 am Saturday about 30 of us made our way to the bus stop. I knew a few of my fellow Elon students, but there were many new faces as well. We board the bus and head North. Many of us fell asleep for the 2.5 hr journey up to Hervey Bay. From there we board the ferry, which took us to Fraser Island.



We departed the ferry and met up with our tour guide, Craig who would be with us for the next two days. The group boarded a large bus and we were off. I was very surprised when we went from driving on smoothly paved roads to the sand rollercoaster, as they called it. We were off-roading in a 40-person van. Good thing Craig told us ahead of time that seatbelts were necessary, and he advised anyone who gets motion sick to sit towards the front. I made sure to get a seat at the very front of the bus, and I am so glad I did!

We knew immediately we were in for an adventure, and the excitement only continued when the bus lost its 4 wheel drive. Everyone had to get off the bus on the side of the sandy road and wait for a mechanic to come. While we were waiting, Craig asks the boys to help him push. They gave a good effort, but the bus didn’t budge. The mechanic came, and we were back on the road.




Day 1 was full of different activities. One of the first places we went was to Lake McKenzie, which was beautiful! The water was freezing, and some brave souls decided to go swimming. I was happy just dipping my toes in the icy water. The sand is also supposed to have great exfoliating properties, so many of us decided to rub it all over our arms and faces. I think it may have worked! From there we enjoyed a deli-style lunch with cookies and tea to follow. We then made our way to the rainforest where we could hike two separate trails. One of them took us to Eli Creek, which is a freshwater creek with a flow of 80 million liters/day. We were encouraged to take a drink from the creek, and it tasted like bottled water! Very refreshing. That was a cool experience, and that combined with my earthy outfit made me feel like I was really getting in touch with my inner nature mama!



I was exhausted by the end of that day. We went back to the resort and were given our room assignments. After that we enjoyed a great pizza and pasta dinner before heading to bed. 



This was the first time we got to fall asleep with a heater! Our dorms on campus don’t have heat or air-conditioning, so during the freezing night, we just have to bundle up in as many layers as possible.



The next day we were up by 6:30 getting ready for another full day of adventure. We got to go to the Maheno Shipwreck which was fascinating. I found some information online that better explains the shipwreck.

“The Maheno - is the most famous of Fraser Island's wrecks and has become a landmark attraction. Built in 1905, the SS Maheno was one of the first turbine-driven steamers. She plied a regular route between Sydney and Auckland until she was commissioned as a hospital ship in Europe during World War One. She also served in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. 

In 1935, she and her sister ship the Oonah were sold to Japan for scrap. The rudders of the boats were removed and they were being towed to Japan. When they reached Queensland Waters, a cyclonic storm snapped the tow chain and the Maheno drifted helplessly onto Fraser Island's ocean beach.”



The group then hiked to the top of Indian Head, a large landmark, which is also the most eastern point on the island. From the top, you can see for miles and overlook the bay below. When we were at the top, we got to see a humpback whale jump out of the water and turn on its side. It was so exciting!



There were a number of Dingo sightings throughout our two days on Fraser. For those of you who don’t know much about dingos, they appear to be friendly, average sized dogs, but they are actually extremely vicious and aggressive. Just a few weeks ago, a tourist who was camping on Fraser woke up to a number of dingos eating is leg and face. Craig said it was the tourist’s own fault because he was so drunk and passed out on the trail in the middle of the night. Yeah, maybe so.

Around 5 pm we caught the ferry back to the mainland. It was a quiet bus ride home. I had a wonderful time, and it was a thrilling and exhausting adventure!