Great Barrier Reef

This weekend was one of the most incredible weekends of my life, seriously. I took a trip to the Great Barrier Reef with 6 of my friends (Jenna, Wade, Jared, Kelli, Jordan, and Sarah). We left Bond Uni at 6AM on Friday and drove north to the Town of 1770, a small beach town in Queensland. After seeing the Queensland countryside and taking a few pit stops, we arrived at our hostel at 3PM. Our tour guide for the weekend, Harry, was an upbeat guy from Brisbane who really made sure we had the best vacation possible. He was our bus driver, cook, and comedian.

Friday afternoon consisted of a relaxing trip to the beach, a short 300 meters from our hostel. After spending the afternoon catching some rays and taking pictures, we drove into town to watch the sunset. This was a sight to behold, as 1770 is one of only two locations on the East coast where the sun sets over the water. On our sunset tour we were also fortunate enough to see a wild kangaroo skipping around his natural habitat, which is always a plus. That night Harry cooked up a delicious chicken curry, which we all scarfed down, followed by a fun evening on the beach.

Saturday was the big day, needless to say, as we embarked on a journey to Lady Musgrave Island in the Great Barrier Reef. After a breakfast consisting of fresh fruit and toast, we were ready to rock and roll. The Spirit of 1770 set sail at 8:30AM and arrived two hours later at Lady Musgrave Island. Since we were all in group 1, we went on the island tour first. It was neat to walk around and enjoy the reef from several different viewpoints. There were also thousands of birds that nest on Lady Musgrave, which was neat to see. Following the island tour, we headed back to the boat for lunch.

After lunch, a few of us did the submarine tour around the reef, which allowed us to see the sea creatures from a unique vantage point. But the best part was strapping on our goggles and flippers and jumping in the ocean to swim right along with the sea creatures. There were tons of beautiful fish and coral that took my breath away, literally, since I still haven’t grown gills. All cheesy puns aside, the reef was miraculous. My favorite part of the diving experience was swimming with a sea turtle. Wade and I were lucky enough to spot a turtle coming up for some air, and naturally we swam towards it. Luckily, the turtle was by no means afraid of us, and allowed us to join him for a swim. We were able to touch and swim side by side with this beautiful animal in some of the clearest water in the world in the Great Barrier Reef. Yeah, I’d say that is pretty awesome.

The day ended when we sailed back to the Australian shore in time for what would be the best dinner I have had in Australia. Harry set out a delicious and massive spread, which preceded the even better main course barbeque. You all know how much we American’s like to eat, and we did not hold back after a long and exhausting day at the GBR.

Sunday was the final day of our trip and we wanted to end it with a bang. We decided to try our luck at surfing. Having never surfed, I was excited to give it go, although I knew it would not be easy. It wasn’t. It took me a lot of hard falls to finally get my feet under me and ride a wave to shore. Our instructor, JD, was the quintessential Aussie surfer dude and he clearly loved surfing. He was a great teacher and made sure that each of us had a great time and that we all got up on our board before the day ended. I will say, although I never thought surfing was easy, I never knew how hard it really was. After our surf lesson we headed back to Bond. I am so glad I had the opportunity to do all these incredible things this weekend, and I can’t wait for the next adventure (Hint: they take their opera seriously).

PS: Check out this video I made about the trip. Enjoy!

Great Barrier Reef Video

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1 Down 3 To Go!

G’day Mate! As my first month studying abroad in Australia comes to an end, I have plenty to be thankful for. If my time in Queensland were to end today, I could not complain, as this month has been incredible. Luckily, I still have 3 more months remaining.

Classes have certainly picked up, and there are several large assignments on the horizon. At Bond, professors enjoy putting all of their major assignments around the same time. Unlike High Point, most Bond classes consist of a midterm test or project and a final (which I know is not rare in universities, but it’s not what I’m accustomed to). These 2 assessments make up roughly 80% of each class. That being said, I have especially enjoyed my Australian Sport in the Modern Era course (shocking I know) and Australian media. I find it fascinating to see how Australia differs from the US in both sport and media.

Speaking of sports, Res Wars began this past week. Res Wars is a semester long competition between each of the 5 on campus dorms. My dorm, A-Block, also referred to as the dungeon or prison by our jealous rivals, left the dodge ball battlefield victorious in week one. Preseason favorites, AC Red Devils, left the court disappointed with their subpar performance and will surely respond strongly in weeks to come. A-Block’s dominating Grand Final match, against rival B-Block, sent an intense shock wave through campus.

Saturday, I attended the annual Brisbane festival with Sarah, Jared, and Wade. We spent the day walking around the city and taking in the atmosphere. There were several vendors at the festival, including the consensus favorite, Divine Doughnuts. Along with our doughnut consumption, we also consumed a bit of historical knowledge at the local museum. There was also a Chinese lantern exhibit outside along the river, which I enjoyed. But the neatest part of the day for me was the fighter jet fly over, followed by a 20 minute firework display.

Brisbane is a 1hr 15min train ride from the Gold Coast, which is quite convenient for Uni students without cars. Unfortunately, public transportation after a massive event has its cons, pun intended, especially when no security is present. There was a group of 4 men in their 30s, along with a dozen or so teenagers and 5 tweens who were sitting in the several rows behind us on our return trip. To make a very long story short, these men all clearly had troubled pasts and were “mentoring” these other 17 or so kids on their ways. It was extremely difficult to witness, especially after hearing the assumed ringleader giving advice to the 5 youngest boys. He was explaining to them about different illegal acts he had committed and so on. The most disturbing moment came when I heard him say these exact words to the young boys, “You’re the future of us.” Implying that these kids, no older than 13 would be the next street criminals. This was hard to swallow and it made me really appreciate my upbringing in a loving Christian home.

The train ride got worse when a man, sitting across the aisle from me, decided to make snarky remarks towards the group. Lets just say things escalated very quickly. The whole thing ended with a couple of punches landed and a plethora of harsh words delivered. This was about a 2-hour ordeal, so you can imagine how intense it was. Mind you, there were a couple of young children with their families that had to deal with this too. There are a lot more details I cannot share on this blog, but it was possibly the most surreal 2 hours of my life. At one point Wade asked me if this was one long dream we were all experiencing together. In the end, everyone left the train in one piece, which is always good. This was a very eye-opening experience for me and like I said earlier, it made me very grateful that I am not in the same situation as those kids.

On a lighter and more upbeat note, the last couple of weeks have been fantastic. I have spent time with friends in Surfers Paradise, the beach, and of course trivia nights, among other things. Public transportation doesn’t seem to like us though, as we have missed the last bus of the day on 3 different occasions. I have been attending Hope Church here in Robina, which has been great. It is a little bit different from churches I am used to, which can be uncomfortable, but refreshing at the same time. Wade and I purchased our tickets to the Mumford and Sons concert in Gold Coast on Halloween, which we are both stoked for. Sorry for the long report, I guess 2 weeks is too long to write in one blog post. But hey, if you made it this far I guess it wasn’t too terribly boring. Cheers!  

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Highlights Thus Far 9/16

When I left you last week, I was on my way to our formal residence dinner. It was a very entertaining night that consisted of handling snakes (Yes Nana I held a large snake, but dont worry it was safe), crocodiles, and water dragons. I also got to try kangaroo and croc for the first time. Kangaroo is a very tough meat that tastes sort of like sausage and the crocodile I tried was quite bland. I also learned to not volunteer for something before I know what will be required of me. I volunteered to partake in a chicken wing eating contest before dinner. It was not a pretty sight. I ate 12 wings by the time the winner ate all 30 of his. Luckily I still had some room left for the actual dinner: steak, mahi mahi, veggies, and bread. This has by far been my favorite meal in Australia. This was a great event to meet other on-campus international students.

One of the big highlights (there have been several) of my time down under so far was a trip to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. Here I got the opportunity to see some wildlife unique to this part of the world. Currumbin has wallabies, Tasmanian devils, dingos, kangaroos (which I got to hang out with), and several other interesting animals. Wade, Jared, and I also took on the black ropes course/zip-line that is on site. Needless to say, we conquered it, but not without a few slip ups and struggles.

The day after my visit to Currumbin, reality kicked in. Classes began. Each class consists of a 2 hour lecture class period followed by a 1 hour tutorial, which takes place sometime that week after the lecture. Classes got off to a good start, but lets be real, its school. Who wouldn’t rather be at the beach or hopping around with kangaroos? So I will no longer bore you with such uninteresting information. Dont worry Mom and Dad, I do occasionally study and attend my classes.

Now I will say I have been educating myself outside of the classroom as well. There are multiple trivia nights in Market Square which have brought out my competitive side. Team Quiztopher Columbus (Lauren, Shauna, Jared, Alice, Lara, Wade, and myself) has had  consecutive 4th place finishes, which is respectable considering we have gotten 0% of the Aussie questions correct. Our ultimate goal is to finish atop the trivia rankings, even if it’s just for one night. In case you were curious: If you rearrange the word “Oceanic” you can spell the word “Cocaine.” We earned a whopping 5-points for this worthless piece of knowledge.

Last night, Team Quiztopher Columbus, along with several other Bond students, attended a rugby match between The Quantas Wallabies (Australia) and Los Pumas (Argentina). Being the sports fanatic that I am, attending my first rugby match was an exciting event. The Wallabies won 23-19 in a dramatic 10-point comeback. Rugby is a much more exciting and entertaining sport than I originally gave it credit for. Although it still does not compare to American Football, I will say I got into the game more than I expected.

Along with the previously mentioned activities, I have been playing a good amount of beach volleyball. Although my volleyball skills are not at the level I would like them, my height does partially compensate for my white-boy-ups. I have also tested my two-handed bowling form on the Aussie lanes, losing by a single pin to my arch-rival and suite-mate, Wade Rothrock. Congrats mate!

I hope everyone back in the states is doing well. I would love to hear from each of you and find out about what is going on, on your side of the world. I miss you all, but I can’t say that I’m ready to come home quite yet.

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Bond & Bondi

Greetings from the Gold Coast! As I have spent more time in the Gold Coast, I find myself liking it more and more. I have met people from Canada, Finland, China, Germany, England, Australia and everywhere in between. Bond University (The Uni) is a very diverse and culturally rich school as the majority of students come from outside Australia. I am still attempting to pick up on some of the slang here, which can be more difficult than you might think. Although I have caught on to a few, and have even begun using some of the native terms. For example: Swimmers = Bathing Suit.

I am very happy to be living on campus for several reasons: classes are close, dinning rooms are convenient, single room, and free wifi and cable. Channel One on the tv is mostly random American broadcasting, with some Aussie shows scattered in. This is the go to time waster for myself and my fellow American corridor mates. We have been able to watch Get Smart, Modern Family and even the NFL. Although those are fun to watch, what Jared, Wade and myself look forward to at 4pm each day is, Bondi Rescue. This is an Australian show about a lifeguard crew on Bondi Beach. Bondi Rescue can be hilarious when you see a man stealing people’s valuables on the beach and pissing himself after getting caught. But it can turn to high intensity entertainment when they begin to save a drowning person caught in a bad rip-tide. Needless to say, Channel One is clutch.

Some things are not as clutch though. A few nights ago I decided to plug my mini fan in before I fell asleep… bad idea. Apparently the amount of Watts that the outlets work on did not match up to my fan. Not realizing this, I plugged my fan into the wall and turned off my lights to sleep. Only seconds later did my room light up after my fan exploded, bringing along a horrible stench. Luckily Wade’s RA instincts kicked in and he opened the window and told me to wave a shirt to prevent the fire alarm from going off. And I am sure glad he did, because we found out yesterday that if you trigger a smoke detector it is a hefty $1,070 fine.

I have also had the chance to enjoy the Gold Coast beaches as spring has just begun. It is great to be able to hop on the bus and spend a day at the beach. Along with enjoying the beach, I have spent a good amount of time at Market Square, located 2 blocks from my dorm. I had not discovered Market Square when I last blogged, and I have since found some cheap and delicious food options. Market Square is a great place to hang out and grab some sushi, pizza, breakfast rolls or a frozen coke. But the highlight of Market Square is the lake, which it runs along. There is a path that circles the lake and it is a neat place to relax.

Tonight is a formal dinner for all new students that live on-campus, which I am excited about. We have been informed that kangaroo is on the menu tonight along with other Aussie specialties. It should be a good ole time!

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Hello Australia!

At 4:45am on Sunday September 2 I landed at Brisbane International Airport to begin an exciting new journey. So far, the journey has been an incredible one and I absolutely love the Gold Coast.  Along with its obvious visual beauty, the culture and people are just as enjoyable. Everyone here seems to genuinely enjoy life and they are much more laid back and easy going than our fast-paced American life style. Im sure it helps that minimum wage here is $16 (roughly $17 US). That being said, everything is far more expensive than I am used to. For example, a small box of Pop Tarts is $13 and wireless internet at a hotel is $30 per day. Luckily Bond has free wifi on campus.

One thing Bond does not have though, is buffet style cafeterias. The American all-you-can-eat, stuff your face like its Thanksgiving every meal concept does not exist here. Everything is a la carte. No soda fountains, no refills, no meal swipes. This is not a bad thing, just something that I will have to get used to as I am a big fan of 2nd’s and 3rd’s. Oh, and when you order BBQ pork at the cafe, don’t expect a big juicy pork sandwich dripping in tomato based BBQ sauce. No, you can expect a small piece of pork floating in a bowl of chicken broth filled with noodles. I learned the hard way.

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I have met many different people from across the world in my 2 days here. The school has over 50% international students from what I hear, 250 of them being in the same study exchange program as me. The only people on campus currently are the incoming students partaking in Orientation week. I live in a single room and share a bathroom, common room and kitchen with 4 other people including fellow HPU mate, Wade Rothrock.

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Before I arrived on campus today, I spent my first day in Australia in Surfers Paradise with several other High Point students. We walked around the city and had a blast. The Gold Coast reminds me a lot of a city like Miami, but it has its own unique character at the same time. This will come as a shock to most of you… I also caught a little bit of the Wake Forest football game online. Some things I have trouble giving up.

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So far its been awesome. I am really looking forward to the rest of O-week and meeting new people. Classes start next Monday so I have plenty of time to really settle in and get some sleep after a long trip and a fast paced couple of days.

Overview

I will be spending the fall semester (Sep 1-Dec 22) in Robina Queensland, Australia, studying at Bond University. I will be taking 4 courses at Bond: Communication Research, Digital Media & Society, The Australian Media, and Australian Sport in the Modern Era. I also intend to spend some time traveling around Australia… and hopefully New Zealand. I am ecstatic to spend four months in Australia, and I will be sharing some of my experiences through this blog. Check back starting in September for more posts.