Paris and Venice and Munich… Oh my

That was such a cheesy title. I’m so sorry. I’m tired from all the travel i’ve been doing #segway. So on the 14th I hopped on a bus and set off around Europe for a tour with this incredible group of people.

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So much happened over the next 11 days, I walked a lot, it rained a lot, I ate a lot of cheese, but mainly it was the most incredible experience that I would recommend to anybody.. heres how it went.

Paris

What can I even say? Paris was definitely the drawcard for any tour that I was doing. We got to do a city of lights tour, bike tour and had a picnic by the Eiffel Tower. One day was not enough, I barely got the chance to touch the list of things I wanted to do  and I was really glad that I had booked a hostel for 3 extra nights after my tour.

Highlight- taking this incredible photo11888108_10153174160175208_4109566296116291877_n( seriously.. do you know how well timed this is? have you ever tried to take a jump shot. It’s really hard).

Switzerland

Switzerland was just so incredibly beautiful. My favourite thing was learning about all the laws they have, for example it is illegal to make noise after 10pm. Like the cops can show up and arrest you. For making noise. At 10pm. Yeah. I got the train up to the top of Europe and I’m not going to lie I was a little disappointed, because of low cloud, we couldn’t see a thing. Here’s me.. not being able to see a thing. DSC01840

Having a great time looking at the sweet view–>

So all I really got was an expensive meal and altitude sickness. HOWEVER I’m sure it would have been beautiful on a nice day, but I wish I’d gone paragliding instead, NEXTIME.

Venice

Venice was probably my favourite stop on the trip. It was the majority of my group’s least favourite destination, probably due to the fact that it poured with rain and everyone got lost. But I was prepared for the rain, I had experienced squelchy shoes and soaking clothes in London, so I stayed pretty dry in my boots and very flattering poncho. I think it was my favourite stop just because it’s so different to anything else in the world. I just found it incredibly beautiful… and the gelato was the best

Highlight- Just walking around and taking in the beauty of the city.DSC02086

<– I’m flirting with danger by taking off my poncho for a photo.

Munich

Not going to lie, I didn’t really see much of Munich. It rained whilst we did our walking tour and we didn’t get in until about 5pm. BUT we were there the day I turned 21. I booked the tour not expecting to do anything on my birthday and I had celebrated with my family before I left. So the fact that my group made a big deal of it made it really special. Here’s me being terrified by an apple strudel covered by a wall of fire. At least thats what it felt like. Have you ever been sitting somewhere enjoying your authentic German meal and then suddenly 15 people start yelling at you in chorus and there is fire? I have. It was awesome.

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Highlight- Turning 21 in a foreign country!

Rhine Valley

The sun was incredible. The rhine valley was such a beautiful place, but Literally all I remember was that it was sunny. After days of horrible weather… it was the best.

Highlight- The sun came out. Did I mention the sun? It didn’t rain. It was super sunny. Also there was sun. Here’s me basking in the glorious sun

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Amsterdam

Amsterdam was an incredible way to finish off the trip! We got to cycle the streets and I discovered that the most dangerous thing about doing a cycling tour in a foreign country is not the pedestrians or the trams or the cars, because they all know what they are doing. No it’s the fact that you are in a pack of 20 tourists who have no clue what they are doing, including myself, which adds to the “adventure”.

Highlight- The boat cruise because it was one of the last things that we all did as a group.

To finish up I’m going to get real. I was super nervous about traveling alone and doing a tour by myself. Much to many people’s surprise I can be really shy and didn’t want to isolate myself.  My advice to anyone is that you don’t have to be nervous. Firstly everyone is in the same boat ( no really. we caught a ferry. HA) and most people are alone or only know one other person. Secondly it gives you a chance to meet a whole bunch of people, I didn’t have to be shy because i didn’t have anything to lose! Just do it. Seriously. Book a tour. Just make sure you pack a sturdy poncho.

Anyway! Next stop… Ireland! Uni starts Monday!

Keeping active abroad

Upon telling everyone I was going to the USA, the one comment I heard more than anything else was ‘you’re going to gain a lot of weight’. They even said it with extra emphasis when I told them I would be in the South. Rather than using these presumptions as an excuse to eat to my hearts contention, I am already on my way to becoming a changed women… For the better of course! Everyone who knew me before I came over knows I was ‘allergic to exercise’ to say the least.

I am in such a strong place of mind here. Since day 1 of starting classes I have been going to the gym every day with my suite mate, who is as much as an amazing person as an amazing motivator. Without her I may not even know where the gyms located, which would be a tremendous shame as Georgia College has done a truly incredible job with the gyms layout and facilities (my jaw dropped). I even went for a 5km run yesterday with a friend to an area in Milledgeville called the ‘Green way’ (the name suits the location perfectly). The friend also just so happened to be a personal trainer, and let’s just say the word ‘please’ had no effect on him. For a girl who does not sweat easily, I was REALLY sweating.

Even before I got to college and was traveling around the West Coast I was always on the move. Hiking the Grand Canyon was not a walk in the park, that’s for sure. Even walking the pier, up Lombard Street and hopelessly around San Francisco in general is a big deal for me! (I am even considering buying pre-workout ‘stuff’… who am I!?)

Changing countries does not mean you let yourself go, it is a chance to become someone even better. Someone you always knew you could be.

San Francisco, where do I even begin…

Here I did a lot of getting lost and a lot of getting found.
Google maps your killing me, I can not work out if you want me to go left or right!

By this stage in my travels I had been blindly following a tour guide and moving with my friends as a group, not paying attention to how, when or where I get from point A to point B. San Francisco was a whole new story.

For anyone who has not been to San Francisco, it is ridiculously expensive. Good cheap accommodation is almost impossible to find. I booked a place called The ‘Adelaide hostel’, and my first impression was how the heck am I meant to get my luggage up those stairs… It was a struggle, but I pulled through. But to be honest that is probably my only complaint, who doesn’t like complimentary breakfast and a place with a bit of character.

Before I forget, MY PLANE GOT DELAYED AGAIN! I had one hour sleep in Vegas before I had to leave for the airport, only to be stuck in the airport for an extra 5 hours. I was dying for a snooze on the plane, but of course that’s when you sit next to someone who wants to have a conversation with no pauses.

Back to San Fran,

My first morning in San Francisco consisted of a bike tour around the most stunning areas, and was enlightened about the strong hippy history that circulated the area. Shout out to the company I did this through, ‘SOSF’ your great. (Streets of San Francisco Bike Tour). The neighbourhoods I visited were Hayes Valley, Civic Center, Mission, Lower Haight, Golden Gate Park, Haight-Ashbury, Nopa, Alamo Square. https://sosfbiketours.com/tours/heart-of-the-city/

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I have decided that I am never booking anything in the morning ever again, trying to find where my tours started was a struggle and a half. I was so excited when I finally found the bus I needed to take only to find out that I needed to get on the one on the other side of the road…
I am actually pleasantly surprised about how I handed myself in these situations. I just took a deep breath and kept on trying, and finally I would succeed. If you know me, you would know that I have little patience at the best of time so this is a big deal!

I believe I got a little bit better at finding my way around on my second day… or just at paying people to walk me to the right bus (only happened once!). But either way I made it to Alcatraz on time, and I will own that. I am so surprised at how much I enjoyed visiting Alcatraz, I literally could have stayed there for another 2 hours if it wasn’t for getting hungry. Who would have thought you could get such an amazing view of the Golden Gate Bridge from a prison? certainly not me, but low and behold it does.
Dinner was had at Pier 39 at ‘Bubba Gump Shrimp’ and I was so ecstatic to be reunited with my long lost Contiki pals! I loved pier 39, and would definitely recommend a visit there.

Well that’s me for now 🙂

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Language training & Japan studies- Week one!

Hi all,

My first week in Japan was full on and when I say full on I mean full on! I arrived to my accommodation late Monday afternoon and Tuesday was straight into business. Tuesday morning I was met in the hotel lobby by all my my new classmates and the university buddies at 9am. We then travelled together to Ritsumeikan University on a Kyoto city bus (very packed that day)! On our first day we were allocated our classes (based on our writing abilities) and got a tour of the campus.

Ritsumeikan Daigaku (photo courtesy of Linda H)

Ritsumeikan Daigaku (photo courtesy of Linda H)

In the afternoon we also got a tour of Kyoto’s museum for world peace which was very interesting yet very sad. In the afternoon a group of my newly made friends and I went grocery shopping and we spent hours there! No one knew what anything was or even where to start but it was very interesting. Admittedly we had Mcdonald’s for dinner as shopping didn’t go as well as planned, BUT Mcdonald’s was very different than what I am used to in Australia and so it was a cultural experience in itself! In my defence, Monday night I did have my first ever bowl of Japanese ramen!

On Wednesday I had my first language class which was not what I was expecting at all. I thought that our teacher (sensei) would explain to us the phrases and sentence structure etc in English and then get us to practice them in Japanese, this wasn’t the case. Our sensei only spoke Japanese to us and it was difficult to ask questions in English as she didn’t always understand. In a way it was probably a good teaching method for the short amount of time that we were there but I am unsure whether I could learn that way full time as I am a slow learner most of the time. In total there were eleven people in my class (myself, Ayesha, Chester, Josephine, Chris, Cherry, Apple, Jade, Carl, Ruben & Wilson). There were also a number of other classes. After having lunch at the cafeteria, we broke into our Japan study groups and went to visit the Kinkakuji temple (Golden temple).

Kinkakuji Tera

Kinkakuji Tera

It was beautiful there and I ate the best shaved ice I have had in Japan so far. The temple was lovely and there were carp and turtle swimming around in the pond. We were told that the carp made the water murky and the reason they were placed in the water was so the emperor would know whether the water had been poisoned because if the carp died the water would go clear. After visiting the temple, we all went back to the university (daigaku) to have our opening ceremony where we got to eat lots of yummy Japanese foods.

Fan printing

Fan printing (my design)

On Thursday for Japan studies we got to do one of my favourite activities in the whole program: fan printing. After our language classes we we taken to Kiyomizu to print onto cloth to make into a traditional fan. We had many colours and patterns to choose from and no two looked the same. Afterwards, some of my new friends and I explored Kyoto Station, which is HUGE! There are so many places to eat and shops to look at, some very expensive while others cheaper. It was here that I had the nicest bowl of ramen I have had yet in Kyoto, although I don’t know how I feel about eating bamboo.

Carolina, Maritza, Ayesha, Sydney & I at Kyoto Station

Carolina, Maritza, Ayesha, Sydney & I at Kyoto Station

Pottery with Ayesha & Marvin

Pottery with Ayesha & Marvin

On Friday I got to go back to Kiyomizu for a pottery class as a part of Japan studies. During this class we got to create an piece of crockery that we desired and then got to choose the colour that we wished for it to be painted. As clay takes a long time in the kiln we were unable to paint it ourselves but were to be presented with our masterpiece at the farewell ceremony of our program along with the fan that we made. We then walked up the hill past all of there amazing food and gift stalls to get to the Kiyomizu-dera and participate in some of the activities within the temples. For example, the waterfall Otowa-no-taki is believed to bestow health, longevity and wisdom to those who drink from it; however, you are only allowed to drink from two as drinking from three would be greedy and hence none would have effect. At Jishu-jinja people try to ensure success in love by walking with their eyes closed between two stones which are 18 meters apart. If you miss the stones your desire for love won’t be fulfilled. I didn’t risk it! On the way back down the hill I ate so much food. There was this great crepe place- I’ll definitely be taking my mum there one day (she loves crepes)!

Kiyomizu-dera

Kiyomizu-dera

We had no classes on Saturdays or Sundays so most of us used that time to sightsee or have a rest. On Saturday Sydney, Maritza and I went to the Nishiki Market. This area was great and it’s still my favourite place to get flavoured bubble tea! The market itself is filled with food; however, the smell of fish may be a bit much to handle for some. Surrounding the fish markets are rows and rows of stalls- sweet stalls, gift stalls, you name it, it’s there. It’s here I went to my first Manga store and my first bookoff store. I bought plenty of reading material to practice my Japanese. On Sunday I had a restful day which included a visit to an Irish pub and some study in the common area of the hotel.

Crepes- Yummy!

Crepes- Yummy!

Souvenirs

Souvenirs

The New Colombo Plan Scholarship & an introduction to who I am

Hi everyone,

Me with my NCP certificate

Me with my NCP certificate

I thought I ought to make a post about who I am and what is motivating me to study in Japan. So I am 20 years old and studying abroad in Japan. During the university year I live in Albury, NSW and over Christmas I live with my Mum, Dad, brother and two sisters in Tumbarumba, NSW. I have never been overseas before and this year has meant big things for me. A year and a half ago I moved out of the small town I called home and ventured an hour and a half to go to university. This was a major turning point in my life and even though so close to home I felt so far away. Jumping ahead a little, now I am a nine hour flight away from home in a country I have never been before with people who speak a language I barely know and yet I LOVE IT! So far I have been here for six weeks and i have loved every moment of it and I can’t wait to share it all with you. But first let me tell you a bit about me…

I have lived in the small town of Tumbarumba for my entire life. During this time have been involved in various school and community activities. I was the School Captain at Tumbarumba High School in 2012, have taken the position of President, Vice President and Secretary of the Tumbarumba Youth Council and have been a member of the Tumbarumba Rotary Interact Club during my high school years. After graduating from Tumbarumba High School in 2012 I took a gap year and worked at a cafe/ nursery/ gift shop called Gone Barny in the small town of Rosewood, NSW. In 2014 I moved to Albury to undertake university studies at Charles Sturt University where I am studying a Bachelor of Environmental Science and Management. This is a four year course which I hope will lead me into a career working with native Australian threatened species with the National Parks and Wildlife Service. In July 2014 I was nominated by Charles Sturt University to apply for a prestigious New Colombo Plan Scholarship which is only awarded to a select few of Australia’s most dedicated university students each year. After an online application process I was selected by the Australian Government from the Australian university nominations to engage in an interview at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra. During this interview I was allocated 30 minutes and was given a list of questions to expect in the interview by a panel of five highly distinguished members of the Australian and Japanese communities. Due to my performance in the interview I was chosen as one of 69 New Colombo Plan Scholarship recipients for study in 2015.

My Family

My Family

The New Colombo Plan is an initiative by the Australian Government to increase knowledge of the Indo- Pacific region in Australia and strengthen the relationship Australia has with other countries in the Indo-Pacific region. The 2014 round of New Colombo Plan Scholarships (for study in 2015) were awarded to 69 Australian students including myself. The scholarship supports Australian students to study in a number of countries across the Asia Pacific region and is valued at $23,000. This scholarship entitles continual support from the Australian Government in the form of an allocated case manager, insurance cover, up to $1,000 for regional language training, up to $15,000 paid tuition fees at a foreign university, $2,500 travel allowance to cover the cost of flights, $2,500 establishment allowance upon arrival in my host location and a $2,500 monthly stipend to support me whilst overseas. Aided by the scholarship I will be residing in Japan for a total of eight months.

Upon my arrival to Japan’s cultural city of Kyoto, I participated in the Ritsumeikan Summer Japanese Program from the 7th of July until the 7th of August, 2015. This opportunity involved intensive language training, Japanese culture classes and fieldwork excursions. The classes provided a thorough introduction to the Japanese language whilst maintaining a balance between reading and writing. Afternoon classes focused on business, sociology, history and traditional culture in Japan as well as proactive activities such as making sushi, creating traditional fans and participating in taiko. On the 8th of August 2015, I relocated from my accommodation at the Palace Side Hotel in central Kyoto to the Avocado Share House on the outskirts of Kyoto where I am interacting with other international students and practicing my Japanese in a relaxed environment. On the 16th of September 2015, I will move to university residences in Beppu. Beppu is a small, mountainous town in Japan with only 122,000 people. It is highly regarded for its natural hot springs and beautiful scenery. Formal university studies will commence on the 21st of September 2015 and conclude on the 8th of February 2016.

Outside of the departure gates

Outside of the departure gates

The main reason that I chose to study in Japan is to bridge the gap between Australia and the Asia Pacific region and to gain an understanding of Japan’s approach to environmental issues. Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in Beppu offers an intensive language program and ongoing language training; a buddy system to ensure I settle into university life; subjects in both English and Japanese and; engages its students in a multicultural environment supported by a number of multicultural festivals. During October I will participate in the Tenku Campus Festival which is rich in cultural performances, tea ceremonies and international cuisine. This festival will allow me to settle into university life at Beppu and deepen my cultural connection with the area. From December to January I will also have the opportunity to participate in the Multicultural Weeks Festival.  This festival will expose me to vibrant cultures from all over the world. I will return to Australia on the 26th of February 2016 after a few weeks of sightseeing and travel throughout Japan. In March 2016 I will recommence my studies at Charles Sturt University in Albury.

I hope that was a bit of an introduction to who I am and the reasons I am studying abroad. In the next couple of days I will hopefully make some detailed posts about what I’ve been up to in the last six weeks so stay tuned!

To London and Beyond

My adventure has begun! I really enjoy the concept of travelling, but I always seem to forget about the part where I hurtle through the air with 800 other people for 20 hours. On my trip from Sydney to London, I discovered something worse than hurtling through the air with 800 strangers… being stuck on the tarmac for 3 hours with them. It’s frustrating because if you’re hurtling, at least you’re getting closer to your destination. A delay is just a little extra time for your butt to fall asleep and your legs to cramp up. But I am greatful that it did only end up being a 4 hour delay and that we didn’t have to stay in a hotel for a night, because that would have been incredibly frustrating. The best part about being stuck on the ground, was that they served us hotdogs! Not just regular hotdogs, these hotdogs were incredible! I think Qantas should put less time and funds into plane technology and more into ensuring that every flight has these incredible hotdogs. So we finally took off and thoughts such as this went through my head “we’re not moving fast enough to take off. We’re dead. Have the delicious hotdogs weighed us down? How dare they betray me”. Turns out the pilot actually knew what he was doing, and I actually have no knowledge of aerodynamics. Go figure. Anyway the rest of the flight is a blur of neck pillows and swelling feet and BOOM now I’m in London!

I spent most of the first day walking round like a zombie. I did a free walking tour which was actually incredible, it was really good to get orientated.  One thing I have noticed about London is that they don’t have the best street signs… I’ll never take the incredible Sydney street signs for granted again. Most of the times that I’ve gotten “lost”, I haven’t actually been lost, I’ve either been on or walked past the street I wanted, due to lack of adequate signage.

On my second day I bought one of those hop on hop off bus tickets and it was very over priced, but also actually really fun. Thats right, I rode about on a giant cliche double decker red bus. It was awesome. Here’s some shots of me in my natural element.

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My selfie game got so strong

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So I did one loop to work out what there was (Buckingham Palace, London Eye, Big ben, Tower of London ect) and then a second loop where I got off at the places I wanted. It also began to rain. Here’s some shots of me in a poncho.

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So yeah I’m having a great time so far. Also remember how I was nervous that 20kg of luggage wouldn’t be enough? Well I HATE it at the moment because my bag is so heavy and it’s so full that every time I want to take something out I have to repack the whole thing. I know I’ll enjoy having the extra stuff once I get to Ireland, but at the moment it’s a pain.

I cannot believe I have officially been in the USA for over 2 weeks, if this is how quick it is going to go I’ll be home before I know it.

I wish I could have given daily updates about what I have been experiencing but I literally have not stopped, not to mention the reception I receive through my phone provider over here T-Mobile is shocking (apparently Horizon is the one to go for).

There is so much I could write about but I will try to summaries my time so far as well as possible by listing 3 things about each place I have.

ME TRYING TO SUMMARIZE

LA – Explored downtown LA, I think it’s nicer than it is given credit for
– I made a friend just by walking across the road. The friendship led to me getting treated to the best tacos I have ever eaten, all a friendship needs right?
– Visited Venice Beach with a friend I met at the hostel ‘Stay on Main’ and received free spray tans!

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San Diego – First day traveling with Contiki (I couldn’t have asked for a better group to travel with)
– Watched my first game of baseball; Arizona vs. Miami (officially a San Diego supporter due to buying a hat…)
– Visited the San Diego Zoo, and oh my gosh it was exercise and a half. If your going to go wear runners, and also visit the panda first if you don’t appreciate 30minutes waits.
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Arizona – You know when you open up a hot oven, that is what Arizona felt like.
– Dealt with the heat in the best way possible by having a pool party
– Went to Sedona to do Jeep tour riding in the Wild West! (highly recommend visiting Sedona)

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Grand Canyon – Finally had a vegetable here and my body loved me for it! Never been so happy to see broccoli

– Went for a hike down, and more importantly back up the canyon. Vegetables and exercise, grand Canyon was looking good.

– Witness the most beautiful sight I have seen to date; the sun rising over the Grand Canyon. You cannot visit the Grand Canyon without doing this, trust me.

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Los Vegas – Loved the shopping here, and didn’t my wallet know it. Fell in love with the store ‘Banana Republic’ – found it similar to Witchery.
– I went to a club with an amazing roof top Terrance called Omnia. The price of drinks and even water ($11) gives you an indication of how nice this club was, worth a visit just to see the view from the top.
– My last night of Contiki will always be remembered. Who wouldn’t remember a limo ride in Vegas right?

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I think San Francisco deserves it’s own blog. It would be impossible for me to only write 3 things about my visit here. Let me know if you are planning to visit one of these places and want more information on it.

START COLLEGE TOMORROW!!!!