Monday, 21 March 2011

The Recap Will Finish Today. It's Happening.

Alright, no more procrastinating, I am going to isolate myself until I finish updating this blog! Last time I posted, I had just arrived in Brisbane, which at this point was a good two and a half weeks ago. So we're going to go into turbo recap mode!

2/14: The IFSA people staying at Urbanest split from those staying at Emmanuel College and St. John's College, two of the residential colleges directly on campus at the Uni. There were about 23 of us on the bus from the airport, and it was pretty overwhelming seeing the Urbanest building as the bus pulled up to it. All in all, Urbanest is a 13-floor building with 159 apartments, divided into two blocks. My apartment is #153, located on the 12th floor of block two. The view from the 12th floor is absolutely amazing. My apartment has 5 singles (each with an individual bathroom!), a common room, and a kitchen. Pretty nice digs! It certainly exceeded my expectations- I thought we were just getting some shoddy apartment building. Though management wasn't ready for us when we arrived, we were still in high spirits- we just wanted to move all of our crap in! A few of us walked around the town a little bit to a grocery store (Coles- I've seen them in every single mall I've been to- interesting) to pick up some basic supplies (i.e. toilet paper, which we weren't supplied with...). After that, I was pretty tired, so I just called it an early night.

2/15: I went out in the morning to find a department store, and after a little bit of wandering around via bus-stops (a brief interruption to offer many thanks to my high school friend Woody, who was here last semester and let me burn what was left on his TransLink Go Card [aka Brisbane's MetroCard] before needing to get my own- it helped heaps!), I found a Target! Awesome. Good to know. I picked up some stuff from there, wandered around the mall a little, then took the bus to the University of Queensland for the first time. I was blown away by the enormity of the campus- it makes Gettysburg College look like a schoolhouse. I don't know if I've ever had to walk so far on a campus to get to buildings before- guess those are the spoils of going to school in a place as small as Gettysburg. A friend and I wandered for a little bit looking for the place to pick up our school IDs before an Australian named Paul noticed that we looked lost and led us in the right direction- thank God Aussies are so friendly! I got my ID, which I fortunately did not look absolutely atrocious in- bullet dodged. Then the skies opened up as we walked back to the bus stop after walking around campus for a bit. I guess I'll just have to get used the Brissy weather's unpredictability.

2/16: WEDNESDAY! IFSA-Butler hosted a welcome event today- kayaking down the Brisbane River! While incredibly scummy and disgusting to fall into, we got some pretty great views of the city. After kayaking to a certain point, we stopped and got in a kayak circle to play a bizarre game. Pairs of people were assigned the same number, and when our number was called, we had to walk around the kayak circle to get to the spot vacated by the other person! Needless to say, many people (including uncoordinated people such as myself) were unable to do so and went splash. It was still a fun experience, and afterwards we took some nice pictures of the city. Below is a favorite of mine, even though my pasty whiteness kind of blinds the shot.

2/17-2/18: TO THE GOLD COAST! Today, we took our first trip to the Gold Coast! The name of the place we went to was Surfers Paradise, so you can imagine how nice that must have been. It was absolutely beautiful to be on the beach again. I didn't get burned the first day, but I wasn't so lucky the second. You can only go so long in the intense Australian sun without getting burned, especially if you're as pale as I am. We stayed at a hostel called "The Sleeping Inn." It wasn't too bad, especially for only $27. We also got all-you-can-eat Domino's for just $6 extra, which was absolutely delicious. It'd been awhile since we'd had pizza, so even Domino's tasted great. Though some of us were tired, a few of us went out to check out the nightlife of Surfers Paradise. Not so bad, though we didn't even bother buying drinks at a bar- we knew it'd be too expensive, sadly (like everything is in Australia). After getting roasted on the second day, we headed back to campus, ready to find the nearest Aloe container and apply liberally.

2/19: I did very little today, hiding from the sun to protect my burns. Oh Aloe, how I love you so.

2/20: A friend of mine was interested in checking out some churches in the area, so I decided to accompany him to an early service to see what it was like. The name of the place was Unichurch, and it met right on campus. The people there were really nice and even invited us to lunch at their place after the service! We're definitely not the type to refuse free food, so we happily went with them to their home and had lunch with them (which was great). Later in the day, some of the guys at Urbanest wanted to check out this restaurant called "The Fox" where they had steaks for $2. I got the meal that came with sauce, a salad, and chips ("Australian" for fries) for $5- delicious. Hooray.

Okay now we have a month to go, so I'm going to sum up the next few weeks (note: Australian weeks are Monday-Sunday) in a few paragraphs. (PS- I lied about finishing the post "today." That was March 6th... it is now March 21st. Fail.)

2/21-2/27: While the students staying at the college went through Orientation Week, those at Urbanest still enjoyed a pretty relaxed schedule. Probably the highlight of O-week for us was Market Day, when all the campus clubs gave everyone free stuff to entice them to join them... I signed up for UQ Ultimate, but that unfortunately did not end up lasting after the first two free weeks because it cost $70 to join. What would we be paying for? Tournaments? (No.) T-shirts and/or any apparel? (No.) So yeah. I did join two groups- Law Society, which we got the "L Card" from to get discounts at many places and QUEST, which is an international/exchange student organization. They sponsor some pretty cool trips so I'll probably join them at some point or another. I also finalized my class schedule. It's a very different style than what I'm used to at Gettysburg so that'll be interesting- for example, there are separate tutorials which they often take attendance at rather than the actual classes, which are huge. The tutorials are more hands-on and most are taught by Ph.D candidates rather than the course professor.

Math 2400 (Math Analysis)- Monday 10-10:50, Tuesday 9-9:50, Wednesday 12-12:50, Tutorial Thursday 3-3:50
Math 3090 (Financial Math)- Monday 4-6:50, Tutorial Monday 3-3:50
HIST 2407 (Germany from Bismarck to Hitler)- Wednesday 10-11:50, Tutorial Wednesday 2-2:50
AUST 2000 (Australian Popular Culture)- Tuesday 10-10:50, Tutorial Tuesday 5-5:50, Film Screening Tuesday 12-1:50

The Aussie Pop Culture course looks particularly interesting because we get to watch Aussie films every week! One we watched was called "Priscilla: Queen of the Desert," which is about three drag queens traveling from Sydney to Alice Springs in a camper through the Outback... I never thought I'd see Hugo Weaving in drag. Here's a picture of the Forgan-Smith building on the UQ campus to close out the week.

PS- I totally forgot about this somehow. On the weekend, we took a train to Coolongatta on the Gold Coast to check out the Quiksilver Pro Surf Competition! I DID NOT GET BURNED! huzzah. It was a pretty fun time on the beach and checking out the city at night (even though the clubs all required entry fees so we didn't bother going in). A few of us also got up early on Sunday morning to watch the sunrise... amazing!

2/28-3/6: First week of the classes! Not too much to write about since I gave my class schedule and a brief take on them. It's a little intense dealing with mathematical analysis four days a week but I suppose I'll get used to it. It's also pretty great that I was able to manipulate my schedule such that I have no class on Friday (what a jerk I must be then! ...since I have no class... TERRIBLE JOKE HOORAY!) There are a few weird periods when I'm just on campus with nothing to do for hours at a time so that can get to be kind of a drag but I can usually motivate myself to do some homework in that time. I also have to bring lunch to campus Monday-Wednesday... pretty much PB&J. On the weekend, we celebrated my Boston friend (yes, I have one! call me a heretic if you'd like.) Catherine's 21st birthday. It was great seeing the city at night, it looks so nice- especially when the moonlight is shining on the Brisbane River (as filthy as it is). Whenever I get a picture of it at night, I'll be sure to add it here.

3/7-3/13: Getting used to classes now! Starting to figure out a routine. Writing in sentence fragments. I booked my flight to Melbourne on Tuesday! I'll be visiting my brother-in-law's family for a few days of my Spring Break, from April 26th-30th (tentatively), definitely something I'll look forward to! The plan for the rest of break is somewhere to be determined in New Zealand! But I'm getting ahead of myself, this was a pretty fun week! On Friday, a few of us went to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary to do the most touristy thing possible in Australia, but something that must be done: feed kangaroos and hold koalas! So many exclamation points this week! We're going to need multiple pictures for this one:

The koala's name was "Rundle" and he was two years old! Sweet.

Following the awesome day at the Koala Sanctuary, the IFSA-Butler people had a stellar day at Moreton Island, the third sandiest island in the world (incidentally, the sandiest is Fraser Island, which I plan on visiting soon!). We took a bus to a ferry, and the ferry took us to the island, where we snorkeled and sandboarded most of the day. Snorkeling was interesting, to say the least. I probably would have had a better time if my goggles didn't keep fogging up and I didn't keep breathing in salt water. Still, it's hard to complain about something fun like snorkeling when other people have work and assignments to do haha. The sandboarding was 50 times better. A bunch of us packed ourselves into a 4x4 and rumbled (no exaggeration) up some unpaved roads to get to some hills of sand dunes. Sandboarding is basically like the Olympic sport luge, except on sand instead of snow. Here's a picture of the shenanigans I got myself into:
It got pretty fast going down those slopes. Being that I love downhill slopes on roller coasters, it shouldn't be very surprising that I loved this. The walk back up was tortuous, but worth it to go down two times more. This has definitely been my favorite program activity so far.

3/14-3/20: It's pretty easy to pick out highlights of this week, too. After the short week of classes (which included handing in my first analysis assignment on Wednesday... we'll see how that goes haha), it was St. Patrick's Day on Thursday! I was fortunate enough to pick up a green polo for just $2.85 at a Target, which I was shocked about. Everything in Australia is normally so expensive that I'm flabbergasted when I find deals (yep, we're using THAT word, that's how awesome it is). Though a bunch of people were going to a concert that night, a few of us were able to go out to The Fox at night, which was a pretty good time. The next night was even better though- we went to a Queensland Reds rugby match! I pretty much had no idea what was going on, but that's okay. The home team absolutely destroyed the Melbourne Rebels by a final score of 53-3. I definitely loved the fast pace of rugby though! It was over almost exactly two hours after it started, and that included a ~15-minute halftime. 80 minutes of craziness. Don't mind the random guy on the left in this next picture...

I FINISHED! YEAH! Hopefully it will be easier to update this blog from now on.