Thursday, 24 February 2011

Continuing the recap!- IFSA Orientation

Alright! I have free time again, so I will continue where I left off recapping the last two weeks. Katherine and I got off the plane in Sydney at about 7 or so in the morning on February 11th, skipping the 10th altogether. We were quite tired, though I had recently been energized a bit by watching "Slumdog Millionaire" on Qantas's movie list (I also watched "The Social Network" at the beginning of the flight and caught some episodes of  "30 Rock"... they do in-flight entertainment quite well). It felt SO GOOD to finally get off the plane! We got through customs, waited in the merry-go-round for our checked baggage, I lost about $30 of American money exchanging it for Australian money (always fun!), and was able to find some dodgy Internet connection to contact home! Soon enough we were on a bus from Sydney to the Sydney Academy of Sport in Narabeen, where we were staying for our program orientation. Orientation got all the more interesting when we realized that this place did not have Internet and that we were pretty much on our own... this was a strange feeling. The first optional activity we had was not long after we left- it was advertised a pretty simple bushwalk around the perimeter. Our little group of friends didn't really see this as too intimidating, so we decided to do it. It was pretty fun, the only problem was that it was uphill nearly the ENTIRE time. At least we got a good workout out of it and I snapped some pretty pictures!

The next day was a bit more adventurous. In the morning, we boarded a bus bound for Sydney- we were going to the Taronga Zoo! In addition to your regular run-of-the-mill zoo animals like giraffes, elephants, and gorillas, we saw some awesome Australia animals- kangaroos, wallabies, cassowaries, wombats, platypus, and of course koalas! We were not allowed to take pictures holding the koalas, but we know of a place where we can at some point =P. We also rode the skyline over the zoo, which gave us some pretty awesome shots of the city as well as the zoo. After the zoo, we took a ferry across the harbour to the city and were let loose to explore Sydney on our own for a few hours. We walked to the Sydney Opera House and attempted to check out the Botanical Gardens before relaxing for awhile. Later that night back in Narabeen, we got to try out bushdancing, which was basically the Australian equivalent of squaredancing... it was quite ridiculous needless to say. Very fun though!

The next day was the last of our short program orientation. We drove to Manly Beach and took surfing lessons! It was HARD, especially since I'm not very coordinated haha. Definitely harder than surfers make it seem to be. The waves were intense, and the Pacific tide was much stronger than the Atlantic tides I'm used to. I was better at boogieboarding, which we also did and was easier. After this, we did paddleboarding, which is what I believe the instructor said "wimp celebrities like Jennifer Aniston do." I certainly understand his feelings on this- it was also not really difficult. Still an awesome time though! When we got back to Narabeen, we were treated to an indigenous dance performance, which was just great. They were really into what they were doing and even got audience members (such as... oh, I don't know, ME) to participate in it! Can't say that I've ever imitated an emu before in my life. I definitely loved the didgeridoo player's awesomeness the best though. He told us stories while playing it (which they call the "Yidaki"), so that was very cool.

The next day, we took an early bus to the Sydney Airport and soon we were in the air again! Fortunately, this flight was not long at all, and we were in Brisbane before we could blink. That's where I've been for the majority of the past week and a half! I'll write about my experiences here a little more at a later time. Until then, g'day!

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Attempting to recap the previous two weeks...

Wow, it's been a pretty crazy week and a half since arriving in Australia. Internet connection was hard to come by until recently so I haven't had a chance to create this and post on it yet! If you're reading this, you probably know who I am, but I'll introduce myself anyway. My name is Andrew Mearns, and I'm a junior at Gettysburg College double majoring in Math & History (or, in Australian, Maths & History!). I'm studying abroad at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, which is located about halfway up the eastern coast of Australia.

The semester doesn't officially begin until February 28th, so I did some temping at the Party City corporate headquarters about an hour from my home in Neshanic Station, NJ. I t was a pretty eventful break, as my sister got married on January 8th to a bloke from around Melbourne, Australia, and I had to say goodbye to my girlfriend Megan on January 11th as she was leaving to study abroad in Vienna, Austria. It was quite the rollercoaster of emotions, but I'm confident that we'll make it through these five and a half months apart stronger than ever. Fortunately Skype will be there to make things a little bit easier!

Anyway, after saying goodbye to friends and family in early February, I got to the airport in Newark, NJ at around 6:30 AM East Coast time on February 9th to meet my friend Katherine, who also goes to Gettysburg and is studying abroad at UQ this semester. We waited a couple hours for our flight, buying expensive airport food and killing time by taking pictures of random things, and by 9:30, we were in the air on an American Airlines flight to Dallas. It wasn't very remarkable and we only got a couple refreshments on the three and a half hour flight, but we made it safe and sound, so that's got to count for something right? The layover in Dallas was not long at all, and we were boarding our AA flight to Los Angeles about half an hour after we landed and bought crappy expensive airport sandwiches for lunch (noticing a trend here?). This flight was very similar to the previous one, and it was not very long, only about three hours. We landed in LA around 3:30 West Coast time. From there, we had a lonnnnng wait before our 10:15 flight to Sydney, Australia. Fortunately, Katherine and I met a few people from St. Joseph's University who were also in our program studying abroad, so we hung out with them in the time that followed. Though the wait seemed to take forever, we finally took off on our Qantas flight to Sydney! The flight was of course also long because you can't just apparate in Australia in a matter of seconds (though it'd be wonderful to do so). It was 15 hours, but Qantas did an excellent job providing mid-flight entertainment- we each had a little TV screen in front of our seats and headphones were provided by the airline. We could watch some of their movies, TV shows, and even catch glimpses of the plane in the air through a camera on the tail! We were also given pretty good food, so that was also a plus.
We landed in Sydney, Australia on February 11th- we skipped February 10th entirely because time zones are just cool like that haha. It was so great to get off the plane after being couped up for so long. I was able to find some sketchy free but slow Internet at the airport while we were waiting to be bussed over to our orientation location, so I was able to let people know I was alive, which is always good. We were staying at the Sydney Academy of Sport in Narrabeen, which didn't have Wifi, so the next few days were going to be interesting... I'll cover that and the rest of the past two weeks in a later post, promise! Until then, SHE'LL BE RIGHT, MATE!