A journey worth taking

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, blokes and sheilas, I have successfully completed my academic career at Bond University. That’s right, I am no longer a student at Bond Uni, as I will be returning to High Point in January. I am very excited to return back to my home university, but at the same time I will miss a lot about Australia. My time living in Queensland has truly been a journey that was simply “worth it.” I find it funny to think that at this time in 2011, I was finishing up my exams at HPU with no idea that I would not be taking any fall semester exams. Rather, I would be completing my second consecutive spring semester, with a third one upcoming.

As I recall, it was around Christmas time last year that I began to seriously entertaining the idea of studying in Australia. Since I was in high school, I knew that I wanted to study outside of the United States for a semester. I had seen both of my older brothers travel to the likes of Chile, Haiti, and Argentina, and I was pretty confident that I would follow in their footsteps. I do not mean that I wanted to study in any of those countries, but I knew a semester abroad was a life changing adventure I would almost certainly embark on. But where? Well, due to my 6 years of failure in an attempt to grasp the Spanish language, or any other foreign language for that matter, that certainly steered me away from a great number of countries. I am also admittedly very impatient when it comes to learning a new language. You are probably thinking that I am missing part of the study abroad uncertainty and adventure aspects that are often involved. And you might be right.

Although I did entertain the idea of studying in South Africa, which has tons of English speakers, I was pretty set on Australia from the start. It is a place that I had dreamed of visiting for my entire childhood, and this was my change to make it a reality. Although I did have lots of questions about what my time here would be like, I was ready to hop on the plane in April, when I got accepted. It’s funny how the 15 weeks leading up seemed twice as long as the 15 weeks I have been fortunate enough to spend in Oz.

Now that my time here is coming to an end, it is easy to say that I made a great decision to move down under. To be cliché, I will cherish the memories and friendships I have made here. A few events stand out to me as my favorite moments in the past 3.5 months, and shockingly none of them took place in a classroom or the library. Having the opportunity to vacation to the Great Barrier Reef and swim with amazing animals in some of the clearest and most beautiful water on the planet will certainly be a lasting memory. Also, my trip to Sydney was an amazing few days filled with some of my favorite memories (show in the Opera House, Harbour tour, Bondi Beach, etc…).

With all of this being said, I would be remiss if I did not thank the people who made this possible for me. They would be my incredible parents! Thank you Mom and Dad for your complete support of my moving to Australia. Although I’m sure it is not easy to send your child to another country for such a long time (although Ryan and Chris gave you 2 trial runs each), I thank you for allowing me to live this dream. I hope that you guys get the chance to visit Australia one day, and if so, that you bring me along.

Well, this brings us to the end. It is a bittersweet farewell, as I will dearly miss many of the things that reside in the place I have called home since September. That being said, I am certainly ready to get back to mainland living as I have spent the last 6 months living on two different islands. Thank you to everyone who has kept up with my blog, I hope I was able to deliver you some interesting stuff about my time in Australia. I have really enjoyed my first official blogging experience and I plan on starting a full time blog in the near future.

I will leave you with a few things that I have learned about this crazy place the locals call ‘Straya.

1-Bats here are not little fruit bats, they are more like birds of prey

2-The Aussie countryside and national parks are immaculate

3-The Great Barrier Reef is a mini slice of heaven

4-It is possible to survive without ESPN, although it never hurts to have it

5-Everyone should have the pleasure of visiting the Sydney Harbour

6-The sun is hotter here, something to do with the ozone layer

7-Kobe is the athlete of choice for Gold Coast residents

8-Kangaroos do in fact exist

9-There are 10 million more people in the greater Tokyo area than there are in all of Oz

10-Trivia is easier with a culturally diverse team

11-Don’t order the BBQ Pork… just don’t

12-You can survive on public transportation, although it takes some planning ahead

13-Music is truly the ultimate cross-culture language

14-You learn a lot about what you actually believe when you get out of your little bubble

15-I want go to New Zealand before I die

16-The way we do things in America is not always the best or right way to do things, although we tend to think so.

17-“Good on ya” is a sarcastic term

18-Everyone says mate, not just a stereotype

Here is a compilation of some of my favorite pictures from my time in ‘Straya.

Cheers!

Joel

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The end is near

Alright, a lot has happened in the last couple of weeks so I will do my best to fill y’all in. First off, classes finished up last Thursday and I successfully turned in all of my assignments, on time, and even knocked out my first exam of four. My next 3 exams are in the coming week, and I cannot wait to be completely finished with my semester, well educationally at least. Insert random thought, I am craving an Arnold Palmer like crazy at this exact moment. I digress, it is extremely difficult to even think about studying, not to mention actually picking up my notes and stuffing all sorts of facts in my brain for a 2-hour test.

As far as the fun and adventurous stuff is concerned, there has been plenty of that since I last posted. In fact, there has been so much going on that I’m sure I will forget something. 2 weekends ago a group of us went on a rainforest/countryside/wildlife tour to get a glimpse of the “real” Australia. Our first stop was Lamington Nation Park, which is southwest from the Gold Coast. Here I had the chance to sit inside a tree, walk on a swinging bridge and climb some sweet trees. There were a lot of wild birds, including some that enjoyed eating out of your hand. We enjoyed some morning tea and snacks before heading on a drive through the countryside.

On this drive, we saw several kangaroos, wallabies, mountains, cliffs, and other beautiful parts of this incredible island. We enjoyed some off road 4-wheel driving as well which is always a good time. I got to take in some breathtaking views and see what a traditional Aussie farm really is. The other main stop that we took was at Springbrook National Park, the set for Spielberg’s TV show Terra Nova. Sprignbrook is one of my favorite places in Australia. On this tour we only spent about an hour at Springbrook, as we saw the Natural Arch, home to many glow worms, which has a waterfall running through the middle of it. The Natural Arch was certainly a sight to behold.

A few days later, six of us rented a car and set off for the Currumbin Rock Pools. Here you can relax beside the water and jump off of some boulders that hang over the stream. This is a popular place to get your blood pumping by jumping off the rocks, and that’s exactly what I did. From there, we drove to another section of Springbrook Nation Park and found a few more swimming holes. This section of Springbrook quickly became my favorite natural area in Australia. There is a swimming hole, a little bigger than a hot tub, in between two waterfalls that you can kick it in. Or, that you can slide into. I decided to do both. Check out this video of my first attempt (I moved up higher on the rock after the first run went well). The waterfall that feeds into the swimming area goes down a slick rock, which makes for a perfect slide. For lack of better words, it was freaking awesome.

The last few days were spent in Byron Bay, New South Wales. This was a great chance to get away from Bond Uni and just relax, because life on campus is so stressful. Wade, Jared, Lauren, Alice, Lara, Shauna, and I rented a villa in Byron and we had a blast. We made several homemade meals, played trivial pursuit, watched Shark Week, and soaked up the sun. Did I mention that there was a pool in the back yard? Yeah, there was. Oh and the Pacific Ocean just across the street and a short walk through a National Forest away. The majority of the time spent in Byron consisted of relaxing, swimming, and eating. But what might have been the highlight for me came on Monday, when Jared and I teed it up on the links at Byron Bay Golf Club. I can now say that I played golf in Australia, which is dream come true for me. And considering my 3-month break from the game, I played quite well which was a bonus. A close second was hiking from the lighthouse to the most easterly point in Australia. I also knocked out some more gift purchasing, along with picking up a few toys for myself. I really hope I can get everything back home with me on the airplane, but I’m sure I’ll find a way.

I want to give a few shout outs to some people. First and most importantly, my little sisters, Sarah Grace and Hannah, to let you girls know how much I miss you. I put both of your pictures in my wallet and I smile every time I open it. You two truly are a blessing in my life and I love you very much! Can’t wait to see you on December 22, hopefully at the airport if Mommy and Daddy will let you stay up a little later than normal. Another shout out to all of my friends at HPU, I hope that you all do well on exams this week and have a fantastic Christmas break. Can’t wait to see you guys in January. Lastly, my man Evan who is studying in Finland and won’t be home for Christmas. But don’t feel too bad for him, he just got to see the Northern lights, dogsled, snowboard, and ride snow mobiles.

This semester has been such an incredible experience and something that I will remember for a long time to come. I have still yet to hear a Christmas song, see a snowflake, or wear a jacket this December. But getting a little sunburned, that I have experienced this December. I hope everyone is staying warm, although I heard it has been a bit warmer in NC the last few days.

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