The end is near…

My pledge sisters and me after we had become Active Sisters!

My pledge sisters and me after we had become Active Sisters!

Last Friday I was initiated into Theta Phi Alpha!!  This is when you go from being a new member to a fully fledged sister of the fraternity.  It’s so special to know that I am a part of something, even when I go back home.  This group of girls have been like my American family – picking me up from airports, taking me shopping and just looking out for me in general.  Joining a sorority is probably the best thing I’ve done while in America.  It’s given me an experience that I could never have in Australia, and a large group of friends to always stay in contact with.  I’ve also learnt a lot about the American culture and that movies and the news do not always depict exactly what happens!

Me and Hannah at the Highland Cavalier table.

Me and Hannah at the Highland Cavalier table.

On Saturday morning I went to 360, which is when potential new students visit the campus for a day and learn about accommodation, catering and organisations they can join.  It’s basically an a campus preview day.  There were a lot of nervous looking high school students with overly eager parents – reminded me of when I went to open days at home. I was at the Theta Phi Alpha table, but also stopped by the Highland Cavalier table as well.

On Saturday one of the fraternities on campus, Pi Kappa Phi had their formal, Rose Ball.  I got invited to go and had a great time.  The formal was held at The Inn at Wise and everyone loved dressing up for the occasion.  The night had a great buffet (in comparison to the cafeteria!) and speeches and awards.  I learnt a lot about the impact that alumnae have in Pi Kap and how their brotherhood continues after finishing college.

Taylor, Madison, Me and Ashlyn at Rose Ball.

Taylor, Madison, Me and Ashlyn at Rose Ball.

On Tuesday in my Public Speaking class we had a group of potential students from a local high school come and listen to our speeches about why they should come to college, particularly UVa-Wise.  Of course, once I started talking they all just listened to my accent and thought it was pretty cool (I still can’t hear it!).  On Thursday I presented a persuasive speech on ‘Why student exchange should be a part of every college degree’.  I accompanied it with photos of everywhere I have been in America, which prompted many questions about my favourite places I’ve been.

In the Highland Cavalier this week I wrote a short list about the things I’ve learnt while I’ve been living in the South, particularly in Wise.  I’ve enjoyed volunteer writing for the student newspaper, as it’s given me something ‘communication-ish’ to do, seeing as most of my courses here are business subjects.  I never think that writing about Australia and my travels is news, but everyone always wants to know things about them, so I’m glad I can teach a lot of people about Australia and the beauties of America!

My list in the Highland Cavalier this week.

My list in the Highland Cavalier this week.

The ANZAC bikkies we made!

The ANZAC bikkies we made!

Yesterday, Friday, I made ANZAC biscuits with my Big and taught everyone what ANZAC Day was.  We had a bit of a hard time finding all the right ingredients.  Turns out that golden syrup is not popular in America and neither is desiccated coconut!  We substituted these for a mixture of molasses and maple syrup and shredded coconut.  It seemed to work out okay.  I watched the dawn services in Sydney and Canberra via the Sunrise live stream and it was so nice to still participate in ANZAC Day, even though I’m halfway around the world.

Today is White Rose, which is my sorority’s formal.  Next week is our last week of classes, before a week of finals/exams and then I have a month left before heading back to Oz!

Greek Week

Theta Phi's softball players after our defeat!

Theta Phi’s softball players after our defeat! Photo from UVa-Wise Greek Life

This week at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise was Greek Week.  This is a week where all the Fraternities and Sororities dress up, participate in activities and earn points to compete against each other.  It’s also my last week as a Theta Phi Alpha new member and after this week I will be a full sister!  Greek Week was a great way to end my process and bond with my sisters-to-be even more.

Sunday

Me, Kelsey and Ashleigh dressed up for Monday's Toga Day.

Me, Kelsey and Ashleigh dressed up for Monday’s Toga Day.

On Sunday we all competed in some sports.  First, we played Wallyball against Alpha Sigma Tau, which is indoor volleyball where you are allowed to use the wall.  I had no idea what this sport was, so I was put on the bench for that one!  We then played softball against Phi Sigma Sigma where I got the important position of catcher (the equivalent of the wicketkeeper in cricket).  I (thankfully) managed to hit the ball but got caught out both times! The boys ‘supporting’ us kept reminding me that it wasn’t cricket!  We unfortunately lost, but we had fun and I enjoyed playing a sport with my sisters-to-be.

All the Greeks before the Paint Fight on Monday.

All the Greeks before the Paint Fight on Monday.

Monday

The overall theme of Greek Week was ‘Ancient Greeks’, so Monday’s dress-up theme was Toga’s.  We gained points if half our organization dressed in the theme.  During the day, we started a three day long competition called Penny Wars.  This was when each organization collects pennies (1cent coins) for charity.  We supported the Wise, Virginia Food Bank.  However, if any other coin or note was put in your organization’s jar, then that was a minus – for example, a $1 note minuses 100 pennies. On Monday afternoon we had a paint fight, where each organization got a different colour of water balloons and we threw them at everyone else.  The idea was that the organization with the most paint on everyone won.  We were equal winners with Sigma Alpha Omega, another sorority.

Me at lunch, all dressed up for American Pride day on Tuesday.

Me at lunch, all dressed up for American Pride day on Tuesday.

Tuesday

On Tuesday our dress-up theme was American Pride or Military Pride.  We could wear blue/white/red or military colors/uniforms.  On Tuesday night we went to watch a movie, The Wedding Ringer, before having a ‘Shack-a-thon’ all night.  Each organization was required to build a shack and stay in it all night.  There was points for tallest shack, most durable shack, best interior design etc.  I helped built our shack from 11.30 to 12.30 and then I had my ‘shift’ from 12.30 to 1.30.  Building our shack was a very bonding experience, having to work together to build something, with lots of different opinions about what to do.  It was fun checking out the competition as well – there were a lot of movies and video-games played that night.

Wednesday

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Me and some of my sisters-to-be at the entrance to UVa-Wise on Wednesday’s 80’s Day!

On Wednesday, our dress-up theme was 80’s.  Let me tell you, that studying in the library in an 80’s exercise get-up, you tend to get a lot of weird looks!  This was the last day of the Penny Wars and everyone got very competitive.  On that day alone, we raised over $700 and all together the Greek’s raised over $1000 for the Food Bank.  That night we all participated in Blacklight Putt Putt Golf, which I was particularly awful at!

Thursday

Thursday was probably my favourite day of Greek Week.  Thursday was ‘Chapter Pride Day’, when we all wear our letters, or in Theta Phi Alpha’s case, we got some pretty awesome matching shirts!

Megan and Ashleigh on our raft, paddling for dear life in the bacteria filled lake, at the Greek Games on Thrusday.

Megan and Ashleigh on our raft, paddling for dear life in the bacteria filled lake, at the Greek Games on Thrusday.

On Thursday night we had the Greek Games.  We competed in events to earn points.  I was part of the obstacle course, where I had to run with a spoon in my mouth that held a ping-pong ball.  There was also a tug-a-war and a three legged race.  Theta Phi won the egg throwing contest which was very exciting and earned us 100 points.  The highlight was the raft race, across the bacteria filled lake/pond on campus here.  While our raft successfully did not sink (which is always a good thing!) we were not the fastest across (as in we came last!).  Due to some complications, the face was done twice and the poor girls that were rowing were exhausted and pretty much grossed out.

Friday

Today, Friday, we all wore our Greek Week shirts and had a Cookout (a barbie without a BBQ…) and found out which organisation won.  Theta Phi came 3rd which we were all very happy about.  Congrats to Alpha Sigma Tau and Kappa Sigma who came second and first respectively.

Me with my Big, Madison and twin, Taylor, on Friday at the Greek Week Cookout.

Me with my Big, Madison and twin, Taylor, on Friday at the Greek Week Cookout.

Easter and Day of Service

So I’m back in Wise again, with no planned trips (until semester finishes anyway) coming up!

Last weekend was Easter.  Differently to Australia, public university’s are not allowed to take public holidays off due to religious days so therefore Good Friday and Monday were spent at school.  It seemed no one had heard that you weren’t meant to eat meat on Good Friday but I tried my hardest not to eat fried chicken that day so Mum could be proud!

The waterfall at Little Stony.

The waterfall at Little Stony with Madison waving from near the top left.

On Easter Saturday Sidal and myself were shown some local sights by our friend Harley.  We basically saw Jefferson National Park from different angles and places.  We first went to High Knob, where you are able to see Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee (not that I knew where they all were!).  We then went to Pound Lake, a lovely lake not far from Wise that when it gets hot enough (I don’t think it ever will!) everyone goes swimming out.  It was so clean compared to all the lakes I’ve ever seen – compared to Lake Hume anyway.  We then met up with Madison and did a hike at Little Stony which is a waterfall and creek.  We had a great time and I think I got a week of exercise in on one day.

On Easter Sunday Madison invited me to spend dinner with her family.  It was so nice, and a lovely way to spend Easter if I couldn’t be with my own family.  I even liked the sweet potato casserole for a change! I think this American food is finally growing on me now that I’m about to leave!

Me, Sidal, Harley and Madison hiking on Easter Saturday.

Me, Sidal, Harley and Madison hiking on Easter Saturday.

The week went by fairly uneventfully.  We had laser tag Tuesday.  It was fun, but I thought,  I was doing

My front page story about travelling in the Highland Cavalier

My front page story about travelling in the Highland Cavalier

awesome but in the end I came 2nd last!  On Wednesday the Highland Cavalier student newspaper came out, with my story on the front page!  My story was basically free publicity for Contiki – I can’t help being a public relations student!  Since it’s come out, people keep asking me about my travels (it feels so long ago!).

Today (Saturday 11th) was UVa-Wise’s Day of Service.  It’s a day when volutneers for the students, staff and community come together to do community service and ‘beautification’. We all met up for a free breakfast this morning before getting separated into teams that did different things.  Activities included picking up rubbish on the side of the road, in public areas, on railway tracks and walking tracks; gardenning on campus and in the town; making dog blankets for the dog shelter; and helping at the cancer centre.  Teams and organisations of the Uni are encouraged to participate, including sporting teams and greek organisations.  Theta Phi Alpha first went to the Fairgrounds to pick up rubbish but discovered there was no rubbish to pick up there!  We then went back to the Uni and make dog blankets for the dog shelter.  This was pretty fun but I discovered that my blanket making abilities were a bit lacking – lucky the dogs won’t be too picky!

My pledge sister Anna and me with our dog blankets made at UVa-Wise's Day of Service

My pledge sister Anna and me with our dog blankets made at UVa-Wise’s Day of Service

Next week is Greek Week.  This is when all the Greek organisations dress up each day and participate in events/activities to earn points so that we can WIN! I think it’s just winning bragging rights but that’s enough to create some pretty competitive people!

Shuckabuck

Hello again everyone!

So it has been quite a while since my last post which, with the glass half full gives me lots to update you all on.

Our latest adventure took us Vancouver Island to the city of Victoria and right up to the peak of the Island to a small town called Tofino. Victoria had a great parliament building to show us that the locals call the castle. I’ve thrown in picture below. We had some great sea food and then moved on all the way to the top to Tofino. Its a great little beach town that reminds of Byron Bay in a lot of ways. We even met someone working in pub there who was from Byron Bay! The beaches here although very beautiful do give an appreciation for Australian beaches. We duly do have the best in the world and the most amazing sand that I haven’t been able to find anywhere else in the parts of the world that I have explored.

The weather in Tofino was definitely something to write home about. We experienced 4 seasons in one day with heavy rain pouring on us one minute and then sunshine beaming down the next. We explored some of the docks and beaches but it was definitely too cold to jump in the water, although there were some die hard surfers who were braving the weather for their passion.

We got to have this great little holiday during the Easter break from uni and it was great to experience that part of Canada. My time at TRU has almost come to a close now however. I have 1 lecture left and 1 exam to go. All my results have been really good so I am looking forward to getting my international transcript. I have made a lot more friends here though than I thought I would so I am not so keen to leave just yet even though I don’t really have a choice. I am excited however to start some more traveling which is going to take me to some very exciting places such as Montréal, New York and Los Angels. I feel that have grown a lot for doing this exchange and I believe for the better. I honestly hope I get the chance to do this again before I finish my degree. I am looking forward though to seeing my friends and family again and I know Kody is as well.

Anyway as promised here are some happy snaps from our latest adventures. Enjoy!

IMG_0261 IMG_0257Beautiful Old Trees at The Cathedral Forest IMG_0256 IMG_0254 IMG_0252 IMG_0250 IMG_0251 IMG_0225 IMG_0226

As you can see we also went though quite an amazing forest. The moss all over the tress was quite a sight. I also visited a beer brewery in Tofino and picked up some great beer that enjoyed a lot =) Heres a few more pics!

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We took our hire car on a ferry to get to the Island. That was great experience as well. The ship went through a bunch of really small Islands just off of the Vancouver Island that people had built houses on and small towns and stuff. One day it would be great to go to one of them to have a look. There’s a picture with a mural of some First Nations on a wall above. We went through a town where loads of the buildings had these murals all over them. The town is actually quite famous for them. To explain the coffee a bit better, we visited a market that claimed they had goats hanging out on their roof. Kody really wanted to check it out so we went but our disappointment no goats. There was a lot of grass on the roofs though so there was the potential for goats. They had memorabilia that had goats on a roof taking a dump so we thought that was at least funny =)

Anyway that’s all I got for now guys. Don’t worry though, this isn’t my last post. I will at least make a few more on our travels on the other side of Canada and through the USA. So please stay tuned, more to come =D

Bye for now!

New York City

Sonya and Me on the Ferry, with the Statue of Liberty in the background

Sonya and Me on the Ferry, with the Statue of Liberty in the background

This past weekend I went to New York with my childhood friend Sonya.  This was Sonya’s first trip to America and her first stop on a two week trip.  We stayed in Manhattan in a little studio above an Irish Pub.

Friday was our first day in New York together.  We decided that we would purchase Big Bus Tours tickets – the 2 day pass got us unlimited bus tours (with tour guides), a night tour and a ferry ride out to see the Statue of Liberty.  This ended up being one of the best things we did, as it was a great way to see a lot of the city and learn about it as well.  Especially those important things like where Lady GaGa lives and where Taylor Swift goes to the gym!  We also decided to brave the subway.  Even by using the subway all the time we were still rather fit after all our walking and ended each day exhausted with sore feet!

Me at the 9/11 Memorial

Me at the 9/11 Memorial

So on Friday we did a bus tour on the Downtown route.  This took us through Times Square and through a lot of the touristy places of NYC.  We got off the bus and basically ran to catch the ferry.  It was freezing and very windy but the view was awesome.  Liberty looked gorgeous and Ellis Island was interesting to see.

When we got back on land, we decided to walk through Wall Street and go to the 9/11 memorials and museum.  This was actually one of the best things we did, in my opinion.  The memorials are so well done, and the park-like area was full of people paying their respects.  The museum included a lot of artifacts, but most significantly, a massive timeline of events from that day in 2001.  We learnt a lot of things that we hadn’t heard before and as being someone who can still remember that day, watching the towers collapse from Australia, it made it all more heart-wrenching and real.

The New York Knicks vs. Atlanta Hawks Basketball game

The New York Knicks vs. Atlanta Hawks Basketball game

That night we went to a basketball game – the New York Knicks and Atlanta Hawks.  It was a pretty close match, even though the Knicks are the bottom team and the Hawks are the top.  Of course, the time out entertainment was exciting and we discovered that Reece’s Pieces taste absolutely delicious paired with salty popcorn.

On Saturday morning we found a healthy-ish looking place to have breakfast – this turned into our favourite eatery!  We didn’t even realise that La Pain Quotidien (http://www.lepainquotidien.com/) was a franchise until our last day in New York.  We were just excited to find somewhere that had eggs for breakfast.  We worked out that we had to go to the organic places because otherwise the eggs weren’t the same as what we’re used to in Australia.  We really are lucky to eat some pretty good food in Oz!  We then took the Uptown Big Bus Tour to the Natural History Museum (the one that ‘Night at the Museum’ is set at).  We went to a star show at the planetarium, which made us feel significantly insignificant.  After a few hours at the museum we went for a little walk to find Magnolia Bakery.  This was on Sonya’s ‘Sex and the City’ List but I had never heard of it.  The little café was so cute and the delicious cupcake and hot chocolate we had made our day.

The lights of NYC

The lights of NYC

That night we went on the Big Bus Night Tour to see the city’s lights and some new areas we hadn’t been to yet.  This was also Earth Hour night, so we had to do a fairly early tour that was half during the daylight, but by the time we finished it was dark.  We were exhausted by the time we got home at 9pm.

On Sunday morning we ventured to touristy Times Square where we stood in line to get cheap tickets for a Broadway show.  We then just walked up the down the street, stopping at shops and Starbucks (we drank a ridiculous amount of hot chocolate over the weekend!  We saw Chicago in the matinee session and it was Sonya’s first musical experience, so it made it all the more exciting.  The musical was pretty impressive, especially the guy who was a cross dresser (which I didn’t even realize was a guy until the end!).

Sonya and Me in Times Square

Shake Shack!

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Me and Sonya in Times Square

That night we had dinner at the famous Shake Shack (it was definitely as good as all the raves) and tried to get into Rockefeller Tower, but all the tickets had already been sold for that day.  Instead we had a relatively early night before getting up early on Monday morning to go to The Rock at 8am.  The view was pretty amazing but the wild interrupted our selfie-taking! We then had a walk about 5th avenue and made our way back to our apartment before heading our separate ways.

In all, I had a great time in New York, although I did find the people not as friendly as in the south where I am at Uni and a fair bit dirtier than any other place I  have been in the United States.  It was probably the first place in the States that I felt unsafe at times.

Me and Sonya on Top of the Rock, looking out at the Empire State Building

Me and Sonya on Top of the Rock, looking out at the Empire State Building

I also want to say thanks to Taylor and Jacob who graciously took me to the airport, and to Madyson and Michelle who picked me up, even after my first flight got delayed and I got put on a later second flight!