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!


(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.


(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)


(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).


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.



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.


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!


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.

img_9961Getting Ready to Take Off

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).


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!)


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)

A Couple of Days Here and There


It’s time for another update in the day in the life of Jess!

As the days come to finals days, the final trips have approached, one could definitely say too quickly.

One exchange student can simply not just attend classes and stay at home on the weekend, that is why I planned on meeting my dear German friend Nina in Barcelona for the weekend. I met Nina when she was on exchange in Wagga Wagga in 2011 and we have managed to see each other every day year since somewhere around the world. Nina is currently studying Spanish in Barcelona. As you could imagine my weekend was wonderful, a new city with an old friend, did i mention she has a job in Barcelona as a tour guide. Thus making me very lucky to have my own personal tour guide. Knowing all the tourist places to visit and the local hide outs. The city shocked me in terms of the people and languages I was surrounded by. In Madrid it is rather rare to hear English spoken in a Shop whereas in Barcelona that’s all I heard. There are several reasons for this, the first being Spanish isn’t the first spoken language around the Barcelona area whereas in Madrid it is but also Barcelona welcomes foreigners and also find it easier to speak english rather than Spanish sometimes. It is hard to comprehend but it works, and is definitely an advantage for an English speaker tourist or not.

Exploring the city was filled with endless pieces of art and beauty, located right on the beach, one could describe it as “the whole package”. You hear off a lot of people that live in Spain and tourists that you either like Barcelona or Madrid, and regardless of how wonderful it was, Madrid has won my heart.

It is rather to think of Madrid having my heart, but even if i’m using it as a home base it has given me an open door to the rest of the world and for that i’ll be forever grateful. When I look around my class rooms I see some of the best people from all around the world, all different, from different lives and studying different things but here we are in Spain together – our one common ground.

The travel bug has continued and as I took off on Swiss Air with my American’s for our last adventure away I had tears in my eyes. It is hard on exchange to take it all in, reflect but not get stuck in the moment as the new is already in front of you and if you don’t capture that moment, it will slip away. Unfortunately that is one thing I am constantly reminded- Time doesn’t wait for anyone.  With the watery eyes clearing quickly, I looked around and smiled as we soon landed in Zurich, Switzerland.

Four quick days around the neutral land, we saw everything. Used three different languages when attempting to order coffee ( German, Spanish and English) It went a little like this.. Ein Kaffee con leche please mit sugar, Gracias. We played in the snow, we tested our winter jackets for the first time, drank a lot of hot drinks and visited some traditional Christmas markets. Despite the cold temperatures, sight restricting fogg, we still managed to see the Swiss beauty and also noticed how it is one of the most experience cities in the world.

A drive through the Alps took our breath away and especially our view from Mt Pilatus, with a great lunch with great height above the sea and clouds along with great people, it was a pretty magical moment. It is these moments where I feel like the luckiest girl in the world and thankful that I could get to this moment. The drive ended us in the city of Geneva. The city where you don’t if you can speak French or German or English. Unfortunately Geneva resulted in a couple of sick chickens and had two visit the doctor. Travel is exhausting no matter where or how long, it is difficult to rest but it is really important to look after yourself and even though we didn’t see a lot of the city, it is a sacrifice that was needed. My tip for anyone who is sick while travelling, is not to be angry or push yourself more, but take that day or two for your body to recover and then go again.

None of our trips ever ran as smoothly as wished but that’s what made them the best, it is the unknown events, places and people that create the memories that will forever stay with you. As I reach my last group travel, I want to thank everyone who travelled with my over the past 4 and a half months! You have all helped me create memories that will last a life time.  Open your heart to the world and the world will come rushing in.

My next week will be filled with my final exams and the final goodbye to Spain.


Jess xx


Where Did I Go?

Guess who finally had a weekend in Spain? I did. This was our first official trip booked and what a trip it was. 35 euros round trip flights with our wonderful friend Ryan air and we were off. We went to Mallorca, another part of Spanish paradise. It was an interesting island as it’s the off peak season since it has cooled down a lot over this side of the world. This made it a great time to go but even then you could tell it was a very tourist island. I had heard of this island before because of German friends, a lot of them holiday there every year. It was a beautiful Island, but again you had to question where we were as every sign was in 4 language and you don’t know what language to actually talk in the shops as the menus are in different languages as well. The next level of unknown about this island is that you think everyone is a tourist but they are actually locals from all around the world.

We spent the first day going around the main city where we stayed, Palma, surrounded by the beautiful beach. We could still sit on the beach and get sunburnt, although the wind did make it very fresh when the sun went behind the clouds. With endless delish food, none of us wanted to return back to Madrid. I think it is safe to say Mallorca was the least expected trip. When travel every weekend, you have this degree of excitement constantly building up throughout the week prior to arrival. It is kind of sad but for me this was my least exciting trip. I didn’t know what to expect but I just didn’t think it would be as magical, but of course once again the world of travelling won again and it was wonderful!

Our second day we decided to do a tour that allowed us to travel to the very northern point of the island, which we traveled by bus, train, tram and boat to reach this point. A day of meeting locals and seeing the different beauties of Spain opened our eyes and heart even more for this island but also Spain. As we went past endless olive trees and local vineyards, seeing just saw how content the locals were showed the other side of living with not too much just enough to make a living.

The weekend after Mallorca resulted in an 8 hour bus ride down to the bottom of Spain, to then jump on a ferry to end up no where else but AFRICA! Well Tangier, Morocco to be precise.

Our first day and night was spent in the town of Tangier. With special escorts around the city, our first sights and feelings of Africa were very interesting and once again beyond eye opening. Once off the ferry we went through security that was like a normal security entry like in an airport- bag on a belt, you walk through a machine. Only thing with this there only one man standing in the corner not actually reading the computer showing what was in our bag and the detector going off as every person walked through, again no one checked and no one cared. – Welcome to morocco!

This city was what everyone told us to prepare for: smelly, dirty and lots of men – Unfortunately this warning correct. Along the beach front and close to the port is where the foreign money is and it is clearly set up for tourists. With nice hotels and restaurants – it was the cleanest part of the city. As you start to head inland into the city and particularly the markets it’s a little bit of different story. Despite many dirty streets and seedy shopkeepers there is this unexpected beauty.

As our local tour guide led us through the lost streets, no one could concentrate on where we were but just what was in front of us. Stalls everywhere – filled with everything. A guy selling old Nokia phones, another selling chicken – cutting the heads off in front of you and to the other side of you is a fresh fruit and nut store with endless olives and dates although with so many bugs all over them. The shopkeepers would tell in many languages “you want, you need, come here“ and then smile with a lot missing teeth. As we kept weaving our way through the stalls we stopped at a natural medicine shop where they had a cure for everything with herbs all from Morocco. I ended up buying some soap made of olive oil and argon oil, which is meant to clear your pores and restrict pimples. Still to actually see if it works. We then headed further in and went to a stall where they made the most beautiful fabric items. Many of us watched them make blankets and scarfs, after hearing it takes over 5 hours to make a basic scarf – we all did our part and bought several. The scary reality of it all, is you are expect to barter with each shopkeeper, but we were already paying under 10 euros (15 dollars) a scarf. If you do the maths you start to question the wages and wonder how one can live off such a small wage yet they do.

Our final moments of daylight included a camel ride on the beach and visiting the caves of Hercules. The camel riding was fun and a little bit frightening, I now have a wish to ride in the desert for a day or two somewhere in the world. The caves had the most interesting opening to the sea; if you looked carefully enough it was shaped like Africa.

Day two we headed to the north west part of Morocco to the blue city or otherwise known as Chefchaouen or Chaouen. There is a reason why it is called the blue city, everything is a shade of blue and it is beautiful. (Blue is my favourite colour, so I found my paradise). We were told on our tour that it was to keep out the mozzies, but there are many other theories, one being that Jews introduced the blue when they took refuge from Hitler in the 1930s. The city was the most unique and even though it is a very popular tourist destination I felt completely safe and like there was our tour and another and the locals. It was like the complete opposite to Tangier. By the end of the day we almost missed the bus, but I could secretly admit I wish we missed it and could of stayed longer. Everyone was so welcoming and the bartering became a constant game. The stalls were full of very unique local produced or made goods. One of my favourite moments was sitting on the edge of town watching all these kids kicking around the soccer ball on this dirt field. It reminds you the beauty of life can come from the simplist things. Just around the corner was this man just sitting there, painting with all different shades of blue, he captured me. He painted all the wonderful sights of the Blue city, my friends and I of course had to buy a couple of paintings. He sold them for absolutely nothing; you couldn’t even buy the plain canvas in Australia for the price we paid. Seeing him smile and paint away, it made my heart bleed a little. How can someone be so happy with sitting on a corner painting all-day and lucky to make $20.

Visiting a country like Morocco opens your heart and eyes, exposing you to the other part of the world we live that we all try and ignore. There is so many places in the world to visit and we are so fortunate that we lived in the best country in the world, but one day if you feel that your life wont be compromised I encourage you to take a trip to where they are less fortunate.


Jess xx




A bit of Jetlag and Shock

Last weekend I was in Lisbon and now I’m on a plane back to Madrid from Sydney.

Lisbon was one of our very first trips booked on exchange, for many of us it was the forgotten trip, but not necessarily purposely forgotten but rather put aside as it was our last trip with all of. It’s hard to come to terms that exchange is almost over and everywhere we have been able to go to and all the incredible things we have seen.

We headed off rather early and boarded our Easy Jet flight, which was all ready to depart until they couldn’t shut the front door, leaving us to disembark the aircraft and wait an extra hour or so to leave Madrid. Luckily with the hour time difference we didn’t miss out on too much in Lisbon. Two things you need to know about Lisbon is: Firstly it is the capital city of Portugal and the second thing you need to know is that it is built on hills. Another fun fact is this is my second time to Portugal this year and guess what? It was raining again!

What to expect? Crazy cab drivers that make you feel like you’re on a non-stop rollercoaster ride however cheap fares. (Unsure if it has something to do with the fact they make you feel motion sick every ride). Hills everywhere, so unless you want an endless leg day and huffing and puffing would highly recommend, getting a daily public transport ticket, a hop on/ hop off ticket or cab everywhere. Sea food everywhere, the greatest custard tarts (their famous dessert) Would definitely recommend searching for a chocolate flavoured one – they still make my mouth water just thinking about them. Lisbon is known for it’s cork and has some wonderful gifts for the family. In terms of the streets they have a certain beauty that makes you constantly question where actually in the world are you. You can see the poverty of the country yet you are surround by people from all around the world who actually have residence in Lisbon. The old buildings are similar to Spain although are covered by gorgeous different tiles. There are definitely areas that feel safer to others, but Lisbon is a big city with a lot to be done and seen, one could definitely easily spend a weekend there.

Unfortunately not long into our trip, in fact early Saturday morning I received a phone call from Australia. My Pop had passed away that day. Without any doubt I rang my insurance company and then booked flights home. My insurance company doesn’t pay for them up front but I should be able to receive the money back once my application is cleared. This is a good note for any traveler, I had only briefly looked into these terms of my insurance papers but make sure you are aware. As flights home are a huge unexpected cost, especially if you want to return home and then back to your exchange/holiday. With flights booked, support and love from my incredible American friends, we all returned back to Madrid Sunday afternoon. We quickly packed my bag and returned to the airport within the hour.

As you could imagine the 26 hours flying home is a long trip but especially when you’re not prepared to go home and to face the situation. With a lot of tears and tissues I managed to make it home. I wont go into much detail but I arrived Tuesday morning and then flew out again Sunday evening. I didn’t actually feel like I was home until Saturday so it made it harder than I thought to actually get back on the plane. Although sitting here now I know I made the right decision, even though it still feels so unreal, It was the right thing to go home and say goodbye but also not allow too much time at home.

I have decided to return to Madrid as I only travel the world today because of my Pop and I know I need to finish what I have started. Losing someone you love will never be easy regardless where in the world you are, but life keeps happening whether you want it to or not.

Jess xx