Monday, May 12, 2008

Girraween- the last Outdoor Ed Trip

Hello, I hope things are going well with you!
This last week I went on a trip to the Girraween National Park, just on the border of Queensland and New South Wales (two australian states). It was the Outdoor Education class' last trip- a four day, three night hike over 26km. We were in groups of 6-7 for food, camping, and any off-track navigation, and groups of 12-14 when walking on four-wheel drive tracks (which were most common). It was a great time. The most amazing views were possible for sundowns and sunrises, on high peaks, giant boulders. And on one of the days, you get to go climbing through the rocks on top of Mt. Norman, a tall summit. The best is getting to lay out under the stars each night- you'd be suprised to find out how great it is to look at an all new view of the stars because of where you are on the planet.
Right now I am preparing to go to Cairns- which I am going to this Tuesday through Sunday. Because we are going during off-peak times, we got cheap flights and I get to go scuba diving for only $40! I can't wait to get back into the water and see some amazing fish and coral. They were my favorite in Fiji, and now I am going to Great Barrier Reef!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Anzac Day and Sydney

Sorry for the late delay for a post, but not too much goes on between trips other than class and a little drinking during the week. In case you are curious, Aussies tend to drink a lot in the beginning of semester, but tail off until mostly Thursday night (big Unibar night- the on-campus bar), and Saturday night. Some of the other nights the international students drink, though. There are as many international students living in the dorms as Australians. Americans from Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Boston mostly, but also students from Canada and parts of Asia.

Everyone drinks on some days, like this last friday- Anzac day. Anzac day is Australia's day for Veterans, specifically referencing a particular battle against Turkey in which many Australians died in battle. On that day, a game the soldiers played is made legal for that day only. A game called Two-up, where three coins are placed on a piece of wood resembling a paintstick. Everyone bets whether more heads or more tails come up after the toss. People bet anywhere from $5 to $100 with anyone willing to take the bet. To make a bet, you shout your bet ('5 bucks on heads!) and either patting the cash on your head for heads or waving the money behind your butt for tails. I made about $80.

The last trip I went on was down to Sydney, though. An Aussie friend I made decided to withdraw from school to manage his friends band- a good choice, I think. He came up and stayed in an extra room in my flat for a week, then drove two other Americans and I down to stay at his house for a few days. It was about a half hour from Sydney, so we took the train in when we went in. It was really cool, but I think 3-4 days seemed like enough. The Botanical gardens were cool (for a garden at least), and I heard the Chinese gardens were cool too but I didn't make it there. The opera house and pier are fun to walk through as well, and the bridge is awesome. I went over the bridge at night, and I think it might have been better that way. The coolest thing in my opinion was Center Point, a space-needle like tower that you go up and see an excellent view of the whole city. The nightlife was crazy. Seriously. Going to Kings Cross to drink was an experience in itself. I also saw a Rugby League Match live, the Sydney Roosters vs. the Newcastle Knights. Its big here- their football. But rubgy is like cricket- just something you have to learn when you get here. To leave, I took a train back to Lismore, which created some trouble. There was not one running when advertised so we were stuck an extra night, forcing me to miss some classes. Either way, a great trip overall.
Bringing me to my final point! I would have pictures, but in an unfortunate turn my camera broke on the trip to Sydney. So, no pics yet, I have to go and get them off of other peoples' cameras.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

New Zealand pt. 2 and School

My trip to New Zealand is now done, and by far it was the best trip of my life. Very fun, with a lot of adventure, ups and downs to be sure, but looking back everything was worth it!
I tried to add pictures, but the blog isn't letting me... there are no icons to allow and other media to be added like there was before. I will try and figure it out.

When I returned, I was faced with the start of school again- a bummer for sure. But, to give you a gist of what school is like here, here are my classes and what is required:

Outdoor Ed: I meet for a lecture (~100ppl) for one hour, Monday from 1-2, and a tutorial (27 ppl), from 4-6 on Monday as well. There are two field trips, one to a ropes course for 3 days and one to a national park for 4. There are reflections for both, but less than a page. One test on all theory, about two thirds of the way through the semester. One larger paper as well, maybe 8-10 pages.

International Management: I meet on Tuesdays from 9-11am, but only for 10wks in the semester. Just lecture, and there is the option of writing two papers (4 and 8 pages I believe) and taking a test, or just the test. I picked just the test.

Consultation and Participation: I meet from 10-1, Mondays, and it is a discussion based lecture. There are two papers, one 6pgs, the other 8pgs, and a small participation grade because it is the focus of the class.

The papers usually require an average number of sources (somewhere between 3 and 8, depending on length).

So, I only have class til Tuesday, and there are only a few things due in the semester- but, just so you know, each class does assign readings that you really have to keep up with.

Friday, March 21, 2008

New Zealand

Right now I am blogging from the base of the Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand! 7 others along with myself are in the middle of an 11 day trip that we planned ourselves. The travel agent helped a bit (booking of flights, a couple of events), but we pretty much did the most of it ourselves by looking through guidebooks and brochures and then booking on the company's website. We have rented two wicked campers (old vans that have been converted into campers that sleep 3, with a stove and sink) and a mid size car. It fits us all comfortably (if you don't mind sleeping in a car a couple nights). So far, I have been on a cruise in the Akoroa harbor (where I saw dolphins and seals), on a gondola over Christchurch and a tram through it (it is a very beautiful city), and have explored a cave with glowworms in Greymouth (my favorite so far). Right now my mates are going up the glacier, but I had to stay back because I hurt my back awhile ago- but no worries, I was just doing it as a precation. I still got to see the glacier, just not hike on it. I wanted to be sure that I could do the rest of the stuff on the trip. Tomorrow we head down to Queenstown for a couple days to sky dive, bungy jump, and whitewater raft. Then we go down to Milford Sound for an overnight cruise, where we can take kayaks out into the sound. Then back to Queenstown for a canyon swing bungy, followed by a drive to Dunedin, a scottish town, for a couple tours and the finish of our trip. It is amazing here, the people are absolutely great, and the scenery is more amazing than anything you could imagine.
For incoming students, when planning trips, do as much as you can before you come. People will jump in with you if your trip is cool, plus you can get your plane tickets when you get here and it will be much cheaper (they went up for us almost $30-60 a day). We planned our own trip, but a lot of people took one through the travel agent- it all depends on how much adventure you are looking for. It has been a little crazy, but we have handled it all fine and it makes it that much more fun to be doing it for yourself. Do a lot of preplanning, and print out city maps. I really like the wicked campers, but there are other brands out there. The wickeds are just good because you can ding them up with no cost.
The trip is costly, in total a little over $2000- but so worth it!
To give people an idea, the plane ticket was about $500-600, the campers at $70 a day. The car was about $35 a day, but it was the cheapest I could find with a lot of searching. Add in insurance, and all the events you want to do, and it adds up- but the experience is the best I have ever had.
Gotta go~

Monday, March 10, 2008

Outdoor Education

So, for the past three days, I have been hiking and doing ropes courses in Meebun-bia. It was absolutely exhausting, but also absolutely fun. I won't give too much away for those going in the next semesters, but here is what I can tell you. I am not in shape, and I was able to do it. Was it probably a little unsafe? Yes. I pushed myself harder than I ever have, almost fainting a couple times from the hard uphill hikes. It was also hard on everyone else; by the third day everyone was exhausted. I was also glad to have my own hiking backpack. The university ones are not in good condition, and I was able to pack my stuff before I left to know how much to bring. Bring some light gloves, if you can- a few people got blisters, and everyones hand hurts from all the ropes course stuff. It is a lot of fun, though, and you really get close to the 20-28 people in your tut (which stands for tutorial). You get to do a lot of cool ropes course things, some good navigations excersizes (where I got to see a lot of cool wildlife), and heaps and heaps of hiking. Try not to be picky with your meals, and you should be fine! Unfortunately, the one thing I forgot on this trip is my camera.... a real bummer.
Other than that, Australia is pretty awesome. I have already made some great friends here, and the Aussies are really nice about giving rides and such, so with a little planning you are able to get what you need. I know I have been able to.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Advice, etc...

Room pictures: Kitchen-->
Kitchen is connected to small living room. There is a hallway running down between bedrooms and open bathroom, with separate small rooms for toilet and shower. Bedrooms look like this, with a wardrobe that contains a three-compartment dresser.

Hello friends! I know it has been a bit since my last post, but things have been pretty crazy here! Before I get into a lot, I figure I should put down some advice for the people coming in upcoming semesters.
1) Don't bother with a hiking backpack. It doesn't carry as much as usual luggage, can't be used for a carryon, and they provide them for outdoor ed. Plus, a normal backpack is way better for school... obviously.
2) Prep your classes before coming. You can search for preferable class times under the Lismore search engine under timetables link on the top of the MySCU page. This way, you can know your schedule, enrol easier, and get into the tutorials you want. The system for enrolment is really bad here, and if you put it off you run the risk of not getting into the good tutorials, having classes late in the week, and having to really badger people to get you in to the right classes.
3) Along with that, count on your enrolment screwing up. Don't get that upset, it happens to over half the people here.
4) Spend the first week meeting people. That is really what O-week is for. Aussie connections are key, and try to find someone with a car. Most of you will have a roommate with one, but it really helps to know a few people who do.
5) Don't worry about fitting in. Only half the people living on campus are Australian. The other half are international, with a majority from the U.S. Essentially, everyone is different- not just you.
6) Get used to drinking, or at least being around drunk people. Aussies start drinking as early as 1-2 in the afternoon, and there are always people drinking. Every night.
7) Split the stuff you need with the people in your flat, and wait til your Aussie roomies to show up before getting anything big. The flats come with a microwave, in case you were curious. I will load pictures of the flat, too, so you can get an idea.
8) Classes are way different here. Much more relaxed, much less assignments, and very friendly profs.
9) Go to Fiji, or the like. It is by far the best way to meet the people you will have to depend on for the next 4 months, along with a few other internationals. Beachcomber was cool, but I have heard there are better, less 'touristy' places.
10) Start planning trips before you come. I am planning a trip to New Zealand over first break, and the plane tickets would have been a lot less if I would have done it earlier. Even if you want to wait to meet people, be ready to see the Travel Agent on campus the first week you are here.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Fiji and Arrival in Lismore

Hey everybody! I just arrived in Lismore yesterday. The only internet access in Fiji was expensive, so I didn't bother going on. But it was gorgeous. In Fiji I did a lot, and it didn't cost too much. We went to Beachcomber, which is an island and a resort. The only things I had to pay for were alcohol (unless you sneakily drink the stuff you bought in the duty free shop before your last flight, which I did) and special stuff like tubing, parasailing, scuba diving, wakeboarding, etc... I went parasailing, which was cool, and tubing. I also went fish feeding and snorkling for free, and snorkling was the coolest out of everything because I was one of only about 4-5 people who were snorkling when the fish were fed. There were so many schools of fish right around me that I couldn't move- so cool! Big, small, colorful, all types! Most of us got burns, and thank god that somebody brought a first aid kit with athletic tape because a lot of us got cut on coral and shells in the sand. Travel was a bit rough, but it turned out okay. The earplanes worked out great, and by the end using those along with popping my ears every once and awhile I had no problems. For those ever traveling later, make sure you check your luggage size, because my hiking backpack had to be in checked luggage on most flights. Luckily I didn't get charged for it! Other than that, though, no troubles- just a bunch of waits. I would also say go on the Fiji trip because I made sooo many friends on it, including some from Aussie that offered to let me and couple others come to their towns and stay nights and show us around. I promise to get some picks up today or tomorrow depending on internet usage allowance, I am transfering them to my laptop now. Aussie is great too, and the weather is pretty decent! A lot better than 20 below, thats for sure!