The Sun is Finally Shining in Kamloops!

 

It’s officially spring now here in Kamloops, and all the snow has melted (which I honestly was beginning to believe would never happen!). You would not believe how fast the grass had changed to a bright emerald green, and how completely different the landscape looks, now that is not hidden my 2 meters of powder. So what have I been up to now that the weather’s warm?

 

Hunting Down the Rest of the Snow at McConnell Lake

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Snow shoeing across McConnell Lake

Okay, so I found some more snow. Early in spring I went on a camping trip with the “adventure club” of my exchange university (who host some absolutely awesome activities- I also went skiing with them!). We drove a few hours out of Kamloops to where the trees still held a layer of snow- to stay overnight at a cute little place called McConnell Lake Cabin. The cabin was about an hour’s walk from the road, so we all donned our snowshoes and backpacks, and walked across the middle of the frozen lake to get there.

 

When we arrived we ate a lot of food and chocolate (to keep us warm, or course) and spent the day learning to chop wood like a true Canadian Lumberjack, build fires and cook “Bannock” (which wasn’t all to different from damper). And of course, we had a lot of wild snow fights.

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The cabin (and the never-ending snow fight)

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All snuggled up and “warm” inside a quinzhee.

 

We also spent a long part of the day building a quinzhee, which is much like a less sophisticated igloo, where you build a large mound of compounded snow, and then dig out the middle to create a house. After reassurances from the guides that quinzhees were a warm, insulated place to sleep at night, two friends and I vowed to sleep there that night, instead of the heated cabins provided. I definitely regretted that. The quinzhees were as cold as you would expect a mound of snow to be, and one by one each of us snuck out to sleep in the warm cabin with everyone else.

Hikes, Hikes, and More Hikes.

So the sun is finally shining in Kamloops and it’s time to take advantage of all of the mountains and hiking trails we had around us. I’ve been spending a lot of my weekends now going on long day hikes, and they all manage to end in breathtaking views of Kamloops and the rivers around it.

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I swear, climbing on top of this rock felt much scarier than it looks.

Roadtrip to Squamish!

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It’s not a Canadian road trip without Tim Horton’s!

A weekend or two ago,  4 friends and I head off on the notorious Coquihalla (the highway between Vancouver and Kamloops that stars on “highway Through Hell”) to a tiny town just north of Vancouver called Squamish. It was a beautiful drive, and we all spent it with our faces glued to the windows in awe of how the sharp mountains rise straight out of the ocean- something I’d never seen before. It was lucky I spent so much time taking in the view on the way there, because the icy drive home at 2am had me so terrified my eyes were glued shut the whole time.

 

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While in Squamish we went on a famous “Sea to Summit” hike up to a mountain peak, which was the most intense workout I’ve ever had. My athletic friend spent the whole time encouraging me that the millions of steep stairs “will be worth it when you see the view from the top”. And the view from the peak of the mountain was just like heaven. No, not because it was so beautiful- but because we were faced by an impenetrable wall of white. Ironically, we had picked a very cloudy day to do the hike and could not see a single thing from the top. The hike was still fantastic, and on the way down we all took some time to appreciate the forest and the waterfall that followed us alongside the trail.

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Our view from the peak

Some Familiar Faces

 

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Wells Gray National Park with my parents.

Over the last weekend my parents flew in to Canada to see me. It was absolutely fantastic getting to see them, and we spent the weekend at the animal wild life centre, and walking through a nearby national park.
The wildlife centre was awesome to see, as it had all the native grizzly bears, coyotes and cougars that we definitely didn’t want to see on our hikes. We also found out (to our surprise) that porcupines are actually nothing like echidnas. As the weekend ended, it was sad to say goodbye to them, but I’m still getting updates and photos from them as they tour around Canada.

 

Best wishes,

Sarah xx

Alpaca my…. oh….

So I guess I was probably asking for trouble when I called this trip ‘Operation Alpaca’…

Having already made a comment in the previous post about the frequency of my required repacks, I (of course) would be the one whose backpack decided to go on a merry jaunt across New Zealand without her. Lucky chook. I arrived on the Gold Coast after my week in NZ, only to wait at the baggage carousel watching the same forgotten suitcases rotate around and around, until I finally made peace with the fact that I was destined to head to a Japanese late winter with only the Queensland weather suited clothes off my back, a bag full of electronics that required chargers I didn’t put in my carry on and a toothbrush and jumper that my friend would graciously lend me that night.  I spoke with the Virgin people who were very helpful but had no idea where the bag was so it was therefore quite obvious that I wouldn’t be getting my belongings in time for my 0900 flight to Tokyo the next morning. ‘We will find it though’, they kept saying optimistically. At this point I had visions that somewhere a suspicious international customs agent would be pulling apart my big purple rucksack to find a vast array of sweaters, chargers and 7kg of books about risk management, accidents and terrorism. Needless to say I was not as optimistic as the Virgin girls were.

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* Yes Virgin, I am very sorry too… 

Thankfully, with the promise of a cold beer awaiting for me at my friend’s place, I was quite able to remain philosophical about the whole thing, surmising that it was the probably the universe’s way of giving my spine a break from carrying 23kg around bustling Tokyo. And, as my Uncle would later point out to me, it would never have fit in my capsule hotel anyway.

But I am getting a little ahead of myself. It wasn’t all bad news at this stage as I had just got back from what can only be described as a week of epic educational awesomeness. NZ Massey Summer Institute Emergency Management Course, oh you were a blast! I was so fortunate to be exposed to a variety of amazing speakers to learn from, a large group of knowledgable peers from a multitude of emergency management industries and I also had the great pleasure to become acquainted with what will from now on be my ‘Disaster Family’.

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*  The Disaster Fam do Taco & Tequila Tuesday… 

As a distance student, it is difficult sometimes to feel part of an educational community due to the lack of face to face interaction with social groups and class peers. However, put a bunch of distance students together on a study tour and add a few dinners, a ‘name that cow’ pub quiz, and a late night Jenga tournament or two and you have yourself a community.  The great conversations, study advice, job stories, laughs, jokes and support that we shared as a group during that week was definitely a highlight for me and one I will not forget.

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*Taking risk assessment to a whole new level… 

I could go on and on about how much of a good time I had but since blog brevity is not my strength and this would no doubt run to a length that would make Tolstoy blush, I will instead offer up five of the many highlights from the week;

  • Two minutes into the course commencement and a siren starts ringing. Since we hadn’t even got to the building safety brief at this stage, we all shuffle in a confused fashion outside in time to see the fire trucks turn up. Thankfully, it was just that someone had burned toast somewhere. Still, it was a good introduction to New Zealand Emergency procedures and an impromptu way of getting to know our fellow classmates as we huddled together in a penguin like fashion against the.. uh.. tropical New Zealand elements.

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Firemen first thing on a Monday is never a bad thing… 

  • On Tuesday, we headed out to the NZ National Crisis Management Centre and got to play in their operations room, planning emergency evacuations for a hypothetical storm threatening Auckland. It was a real ‘future career goals’ moment and also very educational in the variety of ideas proposed from different industries. It’s amazing what other people think of that you would never have even considered. I like to think that thanks to us, Auckland has lived to rival Wellington another day! Saying that, Justin Bieber was due to play a concert there later that week. If we had known, perhaps things may have turned out very different…

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* The team outside NCMC having just saved Auckland #theavengersgotnothingonus

  • Massey’s Joint Research Centre for Disasters (our hosts for the week) turned ten before we arrived so our awesome coordinator David arranged a birthday BBQ in order for for us to join the celebrations and network. It was a great afternoon of chatting and laughing over some good tucker. That night, the team carried on the party in downtown Wellington. Needless to say, there were a few heavy heads for the Friday morning lectures.

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* The team head out to continue the birthday celebrations #squadgoals 

  • On Thursday, we got taken on a field trip with the legendary Russ from GNS. He has actually discovered a fault line? How cool is that?! He seemed to think it was pretty funny that we were so impressed, but bearing in mind the last thing I discovered was that you shouldn’t wash pink beach towels with white t-shirts, I definitely think it was worth our awe. David and he showed us the tsunami lines suggested by the community to alert and remind people of the height level of a required evacuation. We also got to visit the GNS HQ and have a picnic on the Wellington fault itself. It was a pretty fab way to spend the day.

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When everyone else is there for the view but all your team want to see are fault lines…

  • On Friday, we went to visit a Marae, a Maori meeting place, specifically built to provide assistance to the community in the event of a disaster. It was a really interesting insight into their cultures and traditions, and we also got to learn how to do the Hongi (the traditional Maori greeting) properly. Cue much embarrassed giggling but we eventually got the hang of it and it was a really nice introduction to some authentic Maori customs. Plus we got fed and it was deliciiiicccioouusss!!! Unfortunately unable to take pictures of the Marae so here is one from a few hours later!

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* The squad take on St Patrick’s Day in Wellington…

So that’s five of the best – hard to pick as there were so many good times during that short week. My final remark on it would be that I have not laughed as hard as I have over the last five days in a long time, and I have come away with a clearer sense of my journey moving forward, a lot more subject knowledge and some really great new friends. For that, I will always be grateful to this trip.

I have probably over-rambled again so I will leave it here. Next stop on this quest is Tokyo! Will I survive 12 hours on the Gold Coast? Will my backpack arrive in time for my next flight? Will my textbooks make it through border security?

Find out next week in another blog update from “I won’t name this trip anything as I have learned my lesson and I do not wish to jinx myself further!”

Xo

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Break and Weekend Getaways

Having finally settled into Kamloops, I’ve been able to get out more on more weekend trips and explore what’s around.

Wells Grey National Park

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On the road to Wells Grey National Park

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to land a seat with a few friends on a trip to Wells Grey National Park- just a few hours out of Kamloops. So off we went in the rental car on a treacherously snowy road past mountains and rivers, for a weekend of snow shoeing and waterfalls. I had never snow shoed before, so the first hike we went on was a fantastic experience (and thank god we had snow shoes or we would have been waist deep in snow). The hike went through a few hours of untouched landscape until we finally found the frozen waterfall at the end- and it was absolutely stunning.

Throughout the rest of the weekend we checked out plenty more sights in the park. My favourite was Spahats Falls because you could see the water rushing down inside a clear tube of ice. Such a cool thing to see!

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Spahats Falls

On the last day of our trip we drove a few more hours out to Jasper, and did a 6-hour snow-shoe hike up a mountain there. After a few hours of climbing uphill in cold and wet shoes I discovered my enthusiasm for snowshoeing had absolutely faded, and by the time we got back to the car in the evening, I took off my snow-shoes and swore to never put them on again. Although I must admit, the views from the mountain were absolutely worth it.

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The absolutely-worth-it view of Jasper from the top of the mountain

Spring Break in Seattle

After a week full of midterm exams and assessments, we were all blessed with a week off. With friends going to New York, California and Banff I decided to take my own holiday and head off to Seattle (mostly because it’s super cheap to get there- only a $15 bus trip from Vancouver!).

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Just a tiny part of the gum wall

My week there was absolutely amazing, and while I promised myself to get at least some study done each day, my time was absolutely full with museums, markets, art galleries and famous sights (and needless to say, no study was achieved). My favourite part of Seattle was the Pike Street Markets, a popular farmers market where the original Starbucks café was launched (and believe me, I drank my fair share of coffee there). The markets also have a famous gum wall- where people come from all over the world to chew some gum and stick it on top of what looks like the underside of a high school desk.

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Poutine for days (literally)

After a week of travels, I was excited to return back to Kamloops and find out how all my friends’ weeks were. We all caught up at a friend’s house, over an excessive amount of poutine for dinner (a Canadian staple which is basically chips and gravy with the added magic of melted cheese).

Curling

Curling is a popular sport in Canada, which looks a lot like lawn balls on an ice rink. One person essentially pushes a rock down the rink, while the rest of the team sweeps in front of it with a panicked expression on their face. I find it absolutely hilarious to watch on TV, simply because the competitors’ faces look so intense, while they watch a stone slowly slide down a rink (it’s a bit odd).

The last weekend I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to give curling a go with a group of my friends. While you feel a bit silly sweeping so vigorously in front of a slowly sliding stone, I had an absolute blast and think I’ve found my new favourite sport!

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My first try at curling!

For the rest of my time I’ve just been catching up with friends, studying, drinking excessive amounts of Tim Hortons coffee and yes, still eating too much sushi. Hopefully I’ll have some more adventures to catch you up on soon!

Best wishes,

Sarah xx

Adventure is calling… alpaca my bags!

Well good morning! Or should I say konichiwa!

Yes, that’s right, I am going on exchange at APU Japan! Yippee!!

Wow that was a lot of exclamation marks but you must excuse me, I have been up since 03:50 this morning and I am running on the power of two very decent sized coffees already. Ahhh coffee.. supporter of early flights, sponsor of university degrees; it has been getting me up to adult since 2002. True story: Coffee loves you for the wonderful person you can be. Decaf hates you and wants you to die sleepy.

At the time of writing, it’s 5am and I’m in the departures lounge at Newcastle Airport, drinking a giant cappuccino that I accidentally stole from a fellow passenger when I picked up the wrong sized beverage off the counter. Given that less than five hours ago, I was dancing to eighties disco in my AirBnB, I probably need the larger cup more than him. Sorry my friend, it’s a dog drink coffee world out there.

Anyhoo, I should probably introduce myself. At the risk of sounding like an AA member…Hi I’m Sian, I’m a distance-ed student of Emergency Management and based in Melbourne. I’m twenty-eight so I guess you could call me a ‘mature student’. Gosh that makes me sound so… mature? Yikes, not sure I’m ready for that title yet. I already felt old this morning when I saw that Buffy the Vampire Slayer started twenty years ago today. I actually used the sentence “back in the day” last weekend without a tinge of irony. The horror! Okay so I’m joking… well kind of. I’m in my second year of my bachelor but I actually study part time which means I have spent the majority of this degree moving from text book to work desk to coffee cup and back, thoroughly confused about what time it is, what I’ve done already and what I am supposed to be doing right at that moment. This exchange is the first time I will be studying full time and also the first time I will be living in student accommodation. As a fairly seasoned traveller, I suspect this will probably be where my own personal challenges lie but I am looking forward to making some new friends and experiencing university life in a brand new way.

 

So the trip! Or as I am now referring to it ‘Operation Alpaca’ (as in Alpaca my bags.. Yes… thank you thank you, I’m here all week…) on the basis that I have to keep rejigging my backpack and hand luggage for the differing airline weight allowances. Always great when half your carry-on is made up of books about terrorism and air crashes. Yeah.. airport security really loved that. Anyways, I started off in Newcastle three days ago. My little brother has just completed his rifleman training at Singleton so the family and I flew up from Melbourne to see him march out. Since he is being stationed in Darwin, I am unsure when we will next all be together so the weekend was the perfect opportunity to have a good old family send off for both of us departing Taylor kids… and boy did we celebrate!

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(My poor mother’s ongoing attempt to get a nice picture of us)

Now I am on my way to Wellington, New Zealand to take part in the Massey University Emergency Management Summer Institute Program through CSU Global for a week. On completion, I will fly back to the GC overnight and then straight on to Tokyo. After two nights in a extremely Japanese capsule hotel, I’m flying down to Oita to make my way to the APU student exchange house in Beppu where I will be living for the next five months.

The fab thing about this process so far, besides how great you become filling in forms (trust me, Australian Immigration was a cakewalk in comparison!), is all the amazing people I have connected with so far just in the planning process. APU have a really great online community that you can get involved and meet people through even before you arrive. I am also looking forward to a few beers with the NZ crew tonight thanks to CSU connecting us on a Facebook group. Locally, I have made new friends through people I know who have been so happy to share advice about the country they love. I also joined a Japanese language class and was lucky to meet a lovely bunch of people who loved mumbling their way through suspect Japanese phrases over an Asahi as much as I did. I can’t recommend enough that you start connecting early. It really wets your appetite for the journey ahead and makes you feel so much more supported from the get go.

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(My new friend Ai-Chan who is giving me Japan advice and some Jagua ink over lunch. The right wrist says Tabibito (traveller) and the left says Sian)

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(The Japaneasy language class taking lessons on the road for some post-class beers and delicious Japanese food in Melbourne.)

Right well, I better leave it there for now. I have rambled at you enough for one day. We are about to board and I am planning on spending the next three hours crammed in a fetal position, learning how to type an assignment with the arm movement range of a T-Rex. You have to love domestic air travel. At least I have a cold beer with some new friends waiting on the other side. As Yazz once sang on the year of my birth (aaaaall those years ago), the only way is up!

 

 

Getting the Best of Winter!

I’ve been in Kamloops for over a month now, so I thought it was about time for a new update! For the most part I’ve been going to classes, studying, and doing small things with friends like going out for dinner. All-you-can-eat sushi is big here, so I’ve definitely consumed my fair share of sushi (alongside deep fried pickles, which are surprisingly addictive).

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getting my fill of never-ending sushi

It’s still cold! Minus 21°C today and always snowing, which gives me a great opportunity to do all the snow sports I’ve been wanting to try. The university organises a lot of activities for all the international students, such as skiing, ice-skating and snowshoeing. These are either free or incredibly cheap, which makes trying new things very easy.

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Ice-skating

Little Weekend Endeavours

I went out ice-skating this weekend with a bunch of friends, and had a fantastic time. We used one of the indoor arenas for this skating trip, but hopefully  we’ll soon be skating on the frozen lakes.

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The view of Thompson Rivers and Kamloops after a very snowy hike

 

The hikes are also awesome in Kamloops, as they have so many mountains that you can climb up for a stunning
view of the city. I’ve been going on hikes on Sundays with my host family, and it’s a great way to work off all
that sushi I’ve been eating…

 

Sun Peaks Ski Trip

I finally made it to Sun Peaks Ski Resort to go skiing, which I was over the moon about as I could finally justify dragging my skis all the way to Canada. The resort was absolutely huge and the snow was awesome, so I had a blast. The only downside was the mountains here are so much taller/steeper than the ones we have in Australia, so what we would call a black diamond, Canada calls a blue run. Not so good for my ego, but a great workout for my calves!

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Finally Skiing!

 

Apart from that I’ve just being enjoying the town, and putting together plans for spring break and my end of semester holidays. I can’t wait to write all about it!

Best wishes,

Sarah xx

Arriving in Canada

Hello everyone!

As this is my first blog post, I’ll introduce myself: my name is Sarah, I’m 21 and study a bachelor of psychology at CSU in Wagga Wagga. I absolutely love travelling and this isn’t my first time in North America- I got back from a year in the USA in 2015, so this might be a familiar experience for me.

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Before I left to go to Canada, I got to spend Christmas with my family at the Gold Coast, which I really treasured. Not only was I saying goodbye to my family, but also the summer. It would be the last time for a while that I could hang out at the pool
or sun bake!

Just after Christmas, my brother drove me back to Sydney and I caught my morning flight out. For the most part, my flight went without any problems. I missed my connecting flight from Seoul to Vancouver, but I definitely won’t complain as the airline put me up in a 5-star hotel, fed me, and I got to see a bit of South Korea.

 

A Few Days in Vancouver

By the time I landed in Vancouver I was exhausted and in great need of a shower. In Australia, I had the great idea while packing to bring my skis- but this didn’t feel like such a great idea when I was dragging around 60 kilograms of luggage and a huge pair of skis while trying to navigate the public transport in Vancouver!

Luckily there were lots of friendly Canadians who helped me out! One lady even carried my skis onto a bus and paid my fare for me. So I’ll have to pay that forward somehow. I will say that one of my favourite part of Canada so far is how friendly the people here have been- they were always offering to help me out, and you definitely can’t stand at a bus stop for more than 2 minutes without getting into a friendly chit chat with the stranger next to you.

I spent new year’s eve in Vancouver before catching a bus to Kamloops, a small town in British Columbia where I would be studying at Thompson Rivers University.

 

Finally in Kamloops!

After living in the self-catered part of campus in Wagga, I discovered that cooking my own meals was not at all a skill I possess, so I decided to live in a homestay while on exchange. I was nervous to meet the family I would be living with for 4 months, but they were very friendly and I am excited to get to know them more! On my first Friday here, they took me to see a local ice hockey game, which was very exciting (although it still shocks me how aggressive ice hockey players are- it’s normal for many fights to break out in a game).

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The view outside my window

I started orientation week on my first day of arrival in Kamloops, and the cold definitely shocked me. Minus 20 degrees is much colder than the 40-degree heat I came from in Australia. But all of the town is coated in snow, which is absolutely beautiful. The university had about 200 new international students starting at the same time as me, from all over the world, so there were plenty of people to complain about the cold with and it was very easy to make new friends. I’ve also had the chance to try tubing already, and hopefully will be trying some other snow sports soon (snow-shoeing; curling; ice-skating on frozen lakes; and of course I’ll have to ski!)

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Tubing at Harper Mountain

Well that’s it for this week, but hopefully I’ll be able to update you all on some new adventures soon!

Best wishes,

Sarah xx

 

 

Wrapping It Up

So, it’s almost over!

In a few days I will have done my final exam for my exchange period and I will be on my way. This is both a happy and a sad time for me because as you could rightly assume I’m missing my family and friends and pets and especially the weather. It’s been just over 8 months away from home and now the temperature is averaging -6 during the day and -14 on a good night. I didn’t think my body could handle the temperatures but shows what I know because low and behold I have survived!  (Knock on wood)

Since my last post I’ve undertaken a subject on international marketing. Which was interesting but odd. The oddness I refer to is that the subjects are so different to Aus! The course went for 5 weeks; there was a presentation each week in which you created, ran and internationalised a company with a group of 8 (YES 8!) people, a weekly seminar on course material, no textbook and different lecturers each week. Hard to wrap your head around at first but extremely easy to rock if you’re like me – like all Aussie’s I presume – and are loud, organised and outgoing with leadership qualities. I think our upbringing makes us perfect for presentation senario’s!

I think it’s actually not fair that out overseas marks don’t count – its a pass/fail thing – because i’m doing better in these overseas business courses than ones I do back in Australia but what can you do. It’s a nice safety net if all you want to do is travel… which I did.

Unlike Aus it’s winter here – DUH – so they don’t have a big summer holidays break like we do. They do however have at least 2 weeks off around Christmas and New Years so students can go home and see their families etc. Since the course I was doing was only 5 weeks I got a 4 week break and what did I use that time for. Not studying!

FYI – you DO NOT have anywhere near the workload you have whilst studying in Australia. There is only 1 subject that takes all your time, if you write your notes up after your lectures and take notes on the articles for each weeks lecture that’s all the revision you need to look at for exams. AND mine was an at home exam too so even less pressure. I had done all my required notes so I had 4 ‘free weeks’. With that time I thoroughly explored Germany.

With a 60 Euro flight I was off; Berlin, Dresden, Nuremberg, Cologne, Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, Osnabruck and finally ‘home to Vehlage’. I explored Germany and her christmas markets for a few weeks before settling in with my grandfathers sisters family for christmas! I learnt heaps about my family, and the way normal people live in Europe – something you as a backpacker and student never know unless you do a home stay or something of the such. I found it so interesting and would recommend potentially doing your exchange in a host family if it’s possible! There wont be as much partying or freedom but you will definitely learn a language and find out what it’s like to really be a local.

It was an amazing experience learning more about my family! I then spent NYE with friends from Uni in Hamburg letting off fireworks because in Germany it’s LEGAL! Too cool! I wish it were possible in Aus but I’m sure we are not responsible enough…

Anywho’s I have less than a week left and I am surely going to miss it! All my new international friends and relying totally only on myself and the relationships I’ve made to live in a not only a new situation but a totally different country! BUT ONE HUNDRED MILLION PERCENT I am more than excited to go home and see my family and friends and my pets! I miss the smell of Aus and all those little things you take for granted when you live somewhere! LIKE FOR EXAMPLE THE HEAT!! I cannot wait to not have to wear 4 layers to go outside and not feel like I’m succumbing to frostbite!

…But, before hometime I’ve still got a month before my flight so to make the ABSOLUTE most of it I’ll be flying to ROME and backpacking around Italy, Switzerland and The Netherlands before my flight home. Almost a month in Italy! Too keen. Next time I exchange it’ll be there. Italy blew my mind!

Only regrets I have about exchange;

  • Falling in love. Now we will literally be on other sides of the planet and probably never see each other again – at least not for a few years 😦
  • Exchanging to Sweden. I had a basic knowledge of the German language and if I had exchanged there I would probably know another language by now..

Otherwise this was really an amazing experience and I learnt so much about myself, traveled the world, made amazing friends, experienced crazy things like DISNEYLAND ON MY 21st BIRTHDAY #highlight and I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone and everyone! (just gotta save up a little bit first… about 20 grand will do it and don’t be afraid to ask for scholarships! Very important)