Day 27: Farewell, Cairns.

Goodbye, Cairns.

My last day was spent pretty actively.

First the day began with a visit to the wildlife dome & a chance to play with the koalas.

I held a koala named Kiah and, I don’t know, I could die happy. She was beautiful and soft and cuddly and perfect and wonderful and I smelled like eucalyptus afterwards. It was most likely one of the best things I’ve done abroad.

Next we headed over to the ropes course & zip lining. It wasn’t as high as the Elks course we did at mini boot camp (an NJROTC thing), but definitely as tough. It was individual as opposed to with a team so you rely solely on your own. There were 3 zip lines throughout, one right above the crocodile! Definitely worth the money.

Afterwards I spent the afternoon finishing all my packing and just relaxing.

At night we had a study abroad goodbye dinner at one of the top rated restaurants in Cairns, Ochre. There we sampled true Australian cuisine, including kangaroo, wallaby, crocodile and bush feed, which is native plants and fruits. We also had pavlova and ice cream made from bush feed as well!

I’m a huge fan of kangaroo in more ways than I can describe. It’s prepared rare and is very similar to a lean steak. Yum!

I didn’t go to sleep last night, as I knew waking up at 2am to get ready for the airport would be rough. Now I’m downstairs, checked out of my last hotel in Australia and I can’t believe it’s all over and I’m sad and happy and excited and every feeling under the sun.

Study abroad has been the best experience of my life. I am so blessed to be here and to have this amazing opportunity in another country.

I will post more later, but for now, off to flight 1: Brisbane!

-EA

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Day 26: Packing up

I hate packing.

I love it going somewhere, but packing to go home just doesn’t seem right. I’ve spent a month in Australia and packing all my things physically hurts. I don’t want to leave.

So, I spent my last Sunday abroad packing.

I sorted through all the souvenirs I’ve acquired & wrote down everything for customs.

To those of you receiving a souvenir, YOU’RE WELCOME. My entire carry on is souvenirs for you. Feel loved.

I shoved everything not so neatly into my checked bag and used a separate bag for dirty clothes (sorry mom).

And don’t get me started on the Tim Tams. Let’s just say they could have their own bag.

My roommate and I chilled by the pool & did a bit more Cairns exploration. There really isn’t much here, considering it’s a beach town. And all the restaurants close at 3 and don’t reopen until around 6, which is a foreign concept to us.

It was a very lazy day, but necessary. Today I’m going zip lining & doing a ropes course, so yesterday was my last day to take stock of my time abroad.

Wish me luck, as my ROTC days lead me to believe I won’t be too good on the ropes course.

-EA

Day 25: Detox

My Saturday was spent exactly how I would spend a Saturday back home: by the pool. I laid out & enjoyed some beautiful vitamin D courtesy of Cairns, Australia. It was absolutely gorgeous out, with just enough breeze to keep you warm, but not burning up.

After we explored a local market down by the beach. It was similar to Paddington, but I forced myself to not shop since there really isn’t any space left in my suitcase…

We bought chicken & hot dogs and grilled by the pool for dinner, which ended up being an amazing idea. We each spent about $10 and had a delicious meal. It was so nice to eat food we made, as opposed to going out. Finally, a home cooked meal!

After that my roommate and I watched tv. Not an eventful night, but a great end to an exhausting day.

Today the packing commences, with a month’s worth of dirty & wrinkled clothes now needing to be packed ever so carefully into 2 bags. Oh God, this’ll be interesting…

Only 2 days until I’m on my way home. Australia, I’ll miss you!

-EA

Day 24-Exploration and Cairns at night

G’night, Mates!

I’m posting relatively early/late depending on your life because I’m actually awake at 3am.

Today began with our final day of classes (yay!).

Next a couple of us explored Cairns and did some more shopping (I am so sorry).

Cairns is a very beachy town. The streets are lined with surf shacks, fish and chips eateries or souvenir shops. It’s a great place to walk around & people watch, which is exactly what we did.

I ended up going out to a couple of bars with a large group of Gatorsk which ended up being a whole lot more fun than I imagined.

Now it’s time for bed, a day by the pool awaits me!

-EA

Day 23: Kuranda Rainforest

Oye oye oye!

G’day, mates! Another day down under is over.

Today we explored the Kuranda rainforest. We took a 45 minute gondola from Cairns all the way up the mountain to the heart of the rainforest. Up top there’s a little village with stores and local eateries.

If you enjoy the outdoors, I highly recommend it. But we were there for 5 hours and it basically only took an hour to explore.

We explored the town & shopped, and at this point we’re all pros at it. I bought an opal necklace, a shot glass and a tote bag.

I need to get into shopper’s anonymous, y’all.

Like for real.

It’s a problem.

We then took a scenic railway all the way down which took an hour and a half.

We got some really amazing views of the rainforest and beautiful waterfalls. But an hour and half is a long time and obvi I took a nap.

Today would have been tremendously better had I not been sick. My throat hurts and I’m absolutely exhausted. Hopefully this NyQuil kicks in soon!

Tomorrow will be an exploration day around Cairns!

Only 4 days until I head back to America!

-EA

Day 22: Study Abroad Games

Today was a very relaxed day. We had class and I laid by the pool for a few hours & soaked in the beautiful Cairns weather. It’s very similar to Daytona or Cocoa Beach, with small shops everywhere & a laid back attitude.

After that we had the Study Abroad Olympic Games. Basically, we were all split into teams based on last names & battled it out to the death. We had limbo, orange exchange (where you have to transfer an orange between necks), a T-shirt relay (you had to get the shirt off one person & on another while they held hands) and a water balloon toss. My team placed third!

After that I grabbed lunch with one of the girls on the trip. I was feeling pretty lousy, as I’m catching a cold 😦

I spent the rest of the night in, fighting an uphill battle with NyQuil.

Today we’re hitting up the rainforest!

-EA

Day 21: The Great Barrier Reef

GREAT BARRIER REEF.
That’s essentially all I need to say.

But I’ll give you great details because the Great Barrier Reef is great.

We left the hotel at 7am to walk over to the marina. I took two Dramamine because my motion sickness is a terribly crippling thing. It’s a two hour boat ride from the Cairns to our snorkel site, so I knew the trip would be hard.

AND IT WAS. OMG.

First of all, the water was so incredibly rough. The boat rocked back and forth and I swear throwing up was inevitable.

I didn’t, luckily.

Boom goes the dynamite.

We finally got out to the reef, snorkeled up and jumped in. I rented a wetsuit to stay warm and it was the best choice,

There isn’t much more to say except for the fact that it was the most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen. I’m so happy I brought an underwater disposable (pics later).

The water was so clear and warm. At some points the reef was literally 5 feet below you. I made friends with a turtle and some fish.

Yes, I found nemo. You’re welcome.

I wish I could say more but only photos will do justice.

The way back I slept. That’s it. Motion sickness is horrific.

Tomorrow we’ve got class and then the Study abroad Olympic Games!

-EA

Day 20- Hello, Cairns!

Welcome to Cairns, a tropical island of beauty & beaches.

This morning began with a 4:30am wake up to finish the last of my packing & to say goodbye to Sydney. 5:30am checkout and breakfast and we were out the doors and off to the airport by 7:00am.

I was so nostalgic as we drove through Sydney one last time. This place was like a home to me and I couldn’t image leaving it.
Our flight, scheduled to leave at 9:15 but “reevaluated” to leave at 9:30 was amazing. Each seat got an iPad complete with movies & tv. I watched “The Big Bang Theory” & dozed in and out of sleep. It was only a 3 hour flight but we were given a full breakfast!

Let me just say that Australia has the most relaxed security. TSA took 2 minutes and NO ONE checked my passport or ID. I could have been Joe Schmoe hopping on the plane. It was nice to not wait forever to be scanned though.

Our hotel is a quick drive from Cairns airport, and it is stunning. Unlike our other hotel, this one comes with a spa, gym and pool.

Another difference?

Wifi is only in the lobby, and damn it’s slow. I’ll let you know how long this post takes to upload.

We walked around today & explored a bit. They have a Target (yay!) and some stores I’m familiar with from Sydney. We grabbed lunch and enjoyed the warm weather for awhile.

I also had a delicious “sex on the beach” slushy. Yumm yumm yumm.

Tonight I’m relaxing, as tomorrow morning we leave bright and early for the Great Barrier Reef!

-EA

Sending Sydney off with some Vegemite

Vegemite, Vegemite, we eat Vegemite! Come and we’ll sail ya to Australia!

That song from my childhood has been playing in my head this entire trip. As a send off to Sydney, I decided to try it. The outcome was not good.

Vegemite is salty. But not good salty, like that chicken you ate one time with so much salt your lips purse. That salty.

I tried it though, and that’s all that matters.

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Day 19-Saying Goodbye to the town I love

Sydney, je t’aime. 

I guess that works more so if I was saying “Paris” but we’ll let it slide for now. 

Today was a beautiful goodbye to Sydney. We spent the morning at Paddy’s Market and The Rocks, seeing the Opera House for what I hope and pray won’t be the last time. The hotel put on a movie & dinner for us as a send off and I spent a good amount of time packing.

I can’t believe this is it. 

This is the last night I’ll spend in Sydney.

Tomorrow at 6:30am we fly out to Cairns, Australia. I am so excited to begin the next (and final) chapter of this trip, but I’ll miss Sydney. 

I’ve always thought that I would feel as though study abroad was a long vacation with some assignments thrown in. But it’s so much different than that. 

Not to be “that” study abroad girl, but it’s so much more than visiting Sydney. This isn’t a week long vacation with mom & dad or family where they pay for your meals and plan every moment of every day. This is living in Sydney, eating where the locals eat, learning how to work public transportation, studying culture, navigating the streets. I had to budget everything and live as an Australian. I visited their universities, sat in on their classes and really learned what being Australian was all about.

This trip was nowhere near the experience of those who study abroad for six weeks, a semester or a year. But it was something. I did this. I went to a brand new city where I knew no one and nothing and I did it. I navigated the train and city by myself the second day I was here. I set up meetings with professionals here. I didn’t sit idly by and go to the beach and be a tourist. I went where locals sent me, tried what they liked and didn’t become “that American.”

And I’m pretty proud of myself for it. 

The night before flying out, I got food poisoning and cried for a very long while. And here I am, only a week left, traveling to another city and braving it all. 

This experience is one I’ll absolutely never forget.

If you ever have the chance to go abroad, even if for a week, do it. Please. 

But try not to stay in the Red Light District as I did. It makes going out after 5pm a pretty daunting task. 

Tomorrow: Cairns!

Tuesday: Great Barrier Reef!

-EA