My first week in Australia has been utterly amazing. I have seen the most beautiful landscapes and met the greatest friends. At least once a day I am setback and humbled by the thought that I am actually in Australia. I am truly lucky to have this experience.
I spent my first three days in Sydney, the fourth at the Sydney airport and am now writing from Gold Coast, the home of Griffith “Uni” – where I will be for the next 4 months. The days in Sydney were planned by IFSA-Butler, our exchange program, and were packed with true Australian experiences. This is also where I became fast friends with some great people from the states.
On our first day we went on a walking tour of Sydney. This was a great experience, but mind you we had just gotten off of a 14-hour flight and were not allowed to sleep- so it was a struggle as well. Our hostel in downtown Sydney offered an incredible view of the Sydney harbor, bridge and opera house- which was photographed many times. That night a couple of new friends and I forced ourselves to go out and experience Sydney nightlife. We were somewhat unsuccessful and headed home after a few hours for a much-anticipated night of sleep.
The following morning (Thursday), we woke very early and boarded a bus to Featherdale Wildlife Park and got to see native Australian animals- yes including Koalas, Dingos, Kangaroos, and Tasmanian Devils. I did not see a Kangaroo with a Joey in its pouch but I did get to see both a Kangaroo and a Kangaroo Joey separately. Some animals were loose in one section of the park and so we were able to feed them and pose with them up close.
We then boarded the bus again and headed to the Blue Mountains. Here we saw amazing views and took a guided tour down the side of a mountain and learned all about the history of the area. We then were thankfully given a train ride up the steep slope. Following this we went to an authentic Aboriginal presentation, where we made our own Boomerangs, learned how to play a Didgeridoo and listened tales through native song and dance. We took a long ride home and went to a very nice dinner in downtown Sydney, VIP section and all.
The next day we attended some administrative meetings, but were then given the afternoon to ourselves. Some friends and I decided to wander Sydney, and ended up finding some of the finest shopping I have ever seen. I bough a hat from a very nice lady with her own shop, and a friend bought an expensive tailored shirt from an incredible boutique next door. That evening we all dressed up and boarded a dinner cruise that took us around the harbor and saw the nighttime skyline. Most of us then headed to a club downtown and danced the night away to American music- although not necessarily current music, as Thriller was played more than once.
Exhausted, the next morning we headed to the airport and said goodbye to half of our group who are attending the University of Queensland in Brisbane, about an hour north. Our Gold Coast group then spent a thrilling day in the airport as our flight got canceled, rebooked and we had to collect our bags, re-check in and go through security again in under an hour. After this horrible struggle we found our gate had moved, and then been delayed 2 hours. It was a trying day spent uncomfortably on the airport floor but we all made it and are happy to finally arrive in Gold Coast at our village.
After racing to a store to get some basic necessities for a first night in our flats before stores closed at 5pm, we then arrived at the village and anxiously received our room assignments. To our surprise, and contrary to what we had been told, all students from our program had been placed together. My apartment houses 3 other girls and 1 boy, all from our study abroad program. It was a relief to know our roommates already but we agreed that we were all a little sad we wouldn’t be living with any natives. However, we are sure that we will have a million chances to get to know some Australians from our residential village. Today, Monday, begins orientation, or O-Week, which is rumored to be absolutely crazy-fun, or “mental” as the say here. So off we go!
The journey continues.