Sunday, February 27, 2011

Why Australia?

Back in the States, family and friends would ask me why I decided to study abroad in Australia. Here's the more in-depth answer than 'How amazing would it be!':

In the beginning of my study abroad search, I was debating between somewhere in Europe or Australia. Both areas have so many opportunities for college students like me. Australia ultimately won out and so far in these first two weeks abroad I know I made the right choice.
My argument for heading to the Land Down Under was the timing. When else am I going to be able to spend this much time exploring a country halfway around the world? With Europe, I felt it was more accessible a destination from the United States-some place I could go to in the future.
Australia has the perfect combination of adventure and leisure that I was looking for. In preparation for my semester in New South Wales, I became scuba certified. Just the thought of my upcoming trip to the Great Barrier Reef is giving me chills. Swimming around with creatures that call the largest nature wonder their home is something I wouldn’t be able to experience anywhere else on Earth.
Not only does Australia have gorgeous beaches, but it has a rich cultural history. The Aboriginal people are one of the oldest cultures still in existence. I can’t wait to learn more about them in my Aboriginal Studies class I am taking at Uni.
Another must do on my list is a walkabout through the Outback. You can’t studying in Australia and not see kangaroos and koala bears in their natural habitat or visit the famous Uluru Rock. Although there is an Australian wildlife rehabilitation center not far from campus that I plan on visiting for a day trip.  
From the sea to the Outback, Australia has a wide range of activities for any study abroad student. Also everyone I’ve meet so far has been extremely pleasant and genuine. Being able to communicate is important in a new environment. It’s so fun to find out the different Australian words and pick up on the lingo. All in all, I can’t wait to continue exploring the great country of Australia.

Cheers for now,

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Lonely Planet names Newcastle a Top 10 City in its 'Best in Travel 2011' guide

Yay Newcastle! A list that includes cities like New York and Delhi, Newcastle ranked ninth on the list of 2011's hottest cities.

Lonely Planet has this to say about the city I'm studying in: 
Newcastle flies under the radar of Aussies and international travellers in part because it’s overshadowed by its bigger, bolder and better-known sibling, Sydney, 150km south. But, at around one-tenth the size, Australia’s second-oldest city has Sydney-like assets: surf beaches, a sun-drenched subtropical climate, and diverse dining, nightlife and arts. Not only is Newcastle ideally located just two hours by road or rail or 30 minutes by plane from Sydney, it’s less than an hour’s drive west to the Hunter Valley wineries, south to sailboat-filled Lake Macquarie, north to whale-watching and sharkfeeding at Port Stephens and to sandboarding at Stockton Beach.

Also here's some more tibits of information:
Newcastle was settled in 1801 as a colony for the worst-behaved convicts. The city is so laid-back that it’s one of the few places in the developed world where you can grocery shop barefoot and no one blinks an eye (which I've personally witnessed!).

Here's some places I've already been to in Newcastle:
The Obelisk
A prominent feature on Newcastle's skyline that was once used as a guiding landmark for ships approaching the port of Newcastle.

Nobbys Beach and LighthouseI've been here during the day and night-beautiful sights both times.

Places I'm planning on visiting:
Bogey Hole
A convict-made ocean swimming pool built around 1820.
Christchurch Cathedral
Beautiful grounds and views surround the city's 'Castle'.
 Plus many more!

Cheers for now,

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Hello Sunday Morning

During the craziness of Orientation Week, Newcastle Uni students had a speaker talk to us about the Australian drinking culture. Chris Raine shared his experiences about overcoming the pressures of drinking just to get drunk and the organization he founded called Hello Sunday Morning.

In this excerpt from the website, Raine describes the origin of HSM:
It all started with a hangover. In 2008 Chris Raine, a 22 year-old from Brisbane, woke up after a night of heavy drinking and read that Australia’s national binge drinking culture (a culture that he was very much a part of) cost the country over $15 billion and was responsible for the death of over 260 young Australians, each year.

Raine gave up drinking for the entire year of 2009-an amazing acomplishment. What Raine is doing shows that you don't have to be swept up in the binge drinking stigma that Australia has.

Cheers for now,

Monday, February 21, 2011

Money, Money, Money

To the tune of "For the Love of Money" by the O'Jays.

As part of an effort to become a student bloger for Study in Australia, I am having an educational post once a week for prospective study abroad applicants. This week I am talking about the all important subject of the Benjamin's.
At the moment the exchange rate for the American dollar and the Australian dollar is about 1:1. I've already picked up a couple of pointers that I would like to pass on:

1. Order money from your local bank before you head to the Land Down Under. Your bank will be kinder with exchange fees than the airport. It cost me $30 to exchange my money at the Sydney airport!
2. Most banks offer free bank accounts for students. I set one up the first week I was at Newcastle and the bank tellers were super helpful. I'm now a proud member of Commonwealth Bank. Plus having an Australian bank account means that you don't have to pay ATM charges. Bonus!
3. Alert your local bank that you will be abroad for an extended amount of time so they don't put a hold on your account.
Currency: The Notes
Australia was the first country in the world to have a complete system of bank notes made from plastic. These notes provide much greater security against counterfeiting. They also last four times as long as conventional paper notes.

The $5 note features Parliament House in Canberra, the national capital. The $10 note features poet Dame Mary Gilmore.The $50 note features Aboriginal writer and inventor David Unaipon.

Currency: The Coins 
Australia doesn't have one dollar bills but instead has a one dollar and two dollar coin. Also they have coins for 10, 20 and 50 cents. The 50 cent coin is the size of a gold dollar and carries Australia’s coat of arms: the six state badges on a central shield supported by a kangaroo and an emu, with a background of Mitchell grass.

Cheers for now,

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Dolphin Sightings at Nelson Bay

Waking up at the crack of dawn (OK eight in the morning) is definitely worth it when you are going to see dolphins.
Gorgeous view of the bay
This morning, 200 of my new closest friends traveled 45 minutes by bus to Nelson Bay, the major holiday and resort area of Port Stephens. There we went on a two hour dolphin cruise around the harbour. The dolphins were so graceful and so close. When one would pop its head or fin above water, everyone would freak out. By luck, my group was on the bow of the boat. A pair of dolphin were swimming right along side the boat, but they were a little too quick for my camera skill.
It was a gorgeous day but hot day. Even with sunscreen on, I still managed to get a little burnt on my shoulders and nose. After the cruise and the catered buffet lunch, some friends and I went to the mini harbour beach and stuck our feet in. Wow it felt good. We were heaps keen on heading to one of the main Newcastle beaches when we got back, but we were all exhausted and burnt.
Katie and I take on Nelson Bay
Nelson Bay also has a couple of dive spots. One of my Aussie friends Max actually got certified here. I've meet a lot of people who are scuba certified; I hoping that we can set up a couple of weekend diving adventures.

Marina flag
Cheers for now,

Friday, February 18, 2011

Cheers I'm here!

It has been a long week since arriving in Newcastle on Monday, but I've finally unpacked all my stuff and am settling in. I'm staying on campus at the Uni in Evatt House.
There are eight blocks with ten students upstairs and downstairs. They refer to the blocks in terms of ground and first so I'm living in D-First. Also there is common rec room in the middle of the quad that is called the Caddy. Everyone here is heaps keen (Aussie for very excited; basically they say heaps anything) on making new friends. I can't wait to get involved in all the Evatt House and Block D bonding that is planned for the semester.

Cheers for now,

P.S. After over 24 hours of traveling, I was exhausted and pushing around my 130+ pounds (or about 60 kilograms) of luggage really was taking it out of me. I had to put on my game face in order to make it :)