Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened…

It is 8:30am on Thursday May 6th and it is officially my last day here. I cannot believe it, it really is surreal and definitely bittersweet. I am so excited to go home and see my family and friends but it is going to be so hard to leave behind some of the most amazing people and friends I have ever had. I have had one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I have traveled and seen so much and am so grateful for this opportunity I have had. ICMS has had its positives and negatives like most schools but overall it was awesome. More than anything the people here have made the experience what it is. The friends that have touched my life and my heart who I will keep in touch with for many years to come. And also to all of the people along the way who added to my experience, whether it was a fellow classmate, a soccer buddy, a neighbor, a teacher, a local, and more.

People and relationships is really what makes life awesome. It is the people who we meet and the opportunities we have to learn from them and share our own life lessons. I really am at a loss for words of the awesome experience I have had here and the people who have changed my life. I am doing my very best to appreciate everything about the end of my time here, and focusing on finishing my last exam has helped me stay distracted and keeps me from realizing how much I am going to miss being here. One of the only constants in our lives is change, and I am definitely about to experience that. I have loved it here and learned so much! I am excited to be home and share my experience with my loved ones. Overall, its been awesome and I could not have asked for more out of this study abroad experience that has changed my life!!!

I have my last exam in a couple hours, then I'll be getting ready for our dinner cruise going away party tonight. My bags are packed and with just about 24 hours left here, I am going to live it up and spend time with the amazing people I have met here! Thank you Australia for everything you have given me, it has been an amazing experience and I am so glad that we could share it together :)

Monday, April 26, 2010

As Free As The Breeze

Today was a good day. I woke up this morning around 7:30am had a muffin for breakfast, got dressed and ready to go with Steph on yet another adventure. Today's adventure was that Steph and I took the Manly Scenic Walkway to the Spit Bridge which is about 10km (6miles) and took us about 3.5 hours to walk. This time did include stopping numerous times at different breath-taking scenic spots to take lots of pictures and also included a stop about halfway through for some ice cream :) It was an absolutely gorgeous day out for a nice long walk. It wasn't too hot with beautiful blue skies scattered with several puffy white clouds here and there. The Manly Scenic Walkway wraps around the Manly Cove and continues winding back and forth along the water and then dips in towards the land creating a really great experience. I had so much fun on this scenic walk spending time with one of my best friends and getting to see the Manly and Sydney area like I have never seen it before. Even after living here for the past 3 months this area that I currently call my home continues to astonish and amaze me. Its beauty is unbelievable and almost impossible to capture exactly what I see in a simple photograph but at least it will remind me of all the amazing memories I am making and give me a chance to share this experience with my family and friends at home. After our awesome long walk Steph and I caught the bus back to Manly and had lunch at the Creperie. It was a delicious meal and great company as we sat and recapped our morning adventure. After eating we walked around the corso for a little bit before heading back up to the castle. Overall it was a very enjoyable day and another great experience to add to the list. I have loved my time in Australia so far and cannot believe that I will be back home in just 11 days ...

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Off to the Races at Royal Randwick

Well I am getting down to about the last two weeks now of my time here in Australia and I cannot believe it. Looking back I have done so much, seen a ton, experienced and learned more than I ever thought I would and even in these last two weeks I am fitting in new, fun, and exciting things.

For example yesterday me and about twelve other friends got dressed up, ate some brunch here at the college, caught the ferry and headed over to Royal Randwick for the horse races. It was so much fun and like nothing I have ever experienced before. It is like attending a sporting event of some sort but at the same time a totally different culture. Everyone was dressed up and looking snazzy walking around the beautiful grounds eating, drinking, and betting on the different races that took place throughout the afternoon. It reminded me of Pretty Woman when the go to the horse races and Julia Roberts is dressed in that adorable polka dot dressed with her big hat, and looking around at the people at the horse races they would fit in perfectly with that scene. It was so much fun to be all dressed up and take part in this culture and exciting event. There were eight total races that happened yesterday one of which was the Sydney Cup, which is apparently a pretty big deal. My friends and I lucked out and got spots right up against the front of the fence line right next to the track. It was quite exhilarating as you watched the horses round the corner and felt the thunder of the ground as the raced by you. We were, like I previously mentioned, right up in front so we got to see the last 100 meters of about every race which was perfect. Some races you could tell the winning horse and jockey because they were so far ahead but sometimes in the last 100 meters the lead horse could get passed and in one particular race we saw one of the underdog horses grab the win. It was very exciting and definitely another awesome experience to add to the long list since I have been here :)

The bittersweet phase of not wanting to leave and being exciting to go home is definitely setting in. I do miss my family and friends a lot and am pumped for the moment I can hug my loved ones again, but at the same time Australia has been fabulous. I have learned so much and seen more than I ever thought I would. It has been an unforgettable and life changing experience for sure that I am excited to share with others. My friends here have without a doubt made my time here what it is. Whether it has just been a classmate, someone who lives down my hall, or for many of the life long friends that I have spent so much of my time here with that I will never forget, who have changed my life :)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Only 3 more weeks ...

Alrighty, so I am back, and sorry again it has been a while but I have just been busy and still having a blast and learning so much on this experience of a lifetime!

Last I wrote was Friday of Easter weekend when I went Parasailing and that was incredible. So Saturday of Easter weekend I spent some relaxing time at the beach during the day and then went into Sydney for an all night adventure. Steph, Mike and I caught the 9:45pm ferry and met up with our friends Ashley and Pete at a place called Bar Century. We hung out for a while and then make a quick stop at McDonalds before heading over to Jacksons on George to go dancing for a while. Around 4am we headed over to the famous and delicious Pancakes on the Rocks restaurant for some breakfast. Steph, Mike and I then proceeded to walk up and across the Sydney Harbor Bridge just in time to catch the sunrise. It was one of my favorite sights I have seen since I have been here. An absolutely gorgeous sunrise, a beautiful setting of Sydney, and my dear friends Mike and Steph as my great company ... it was an excellent start to Easter morning. After watching the beauty of the sunrise we stopped by starbucks for a drink and then caught the 7:15am ferry back to Manly. We slowly climbed the hill and then sleep for several hours during the middle of the day. Easter evening was dinner at ICMS and then Steph, Kaleigh and I went to church at St.Marys in Manly. Overall it was a nice, relaxing and enjoyable Easter weekend.

No class on Easter Monday and then back to classes on Tuesday. Wednesday was class in the morning and then the Wow Factor that night. The Wow Factor is a talent show and dinner where the money raised from the event goes to Bear Cottage. The theme this year was Mad Hatter and was held in the Great Hall. The event was put on and run by students here at the college and they did a very nice job. It was nicely decorated, had a delicious three course meal, and provided a very entertaining talent show for the guests. I sat at a table with eight of my close girlfriends and had a great time!

And the fun did not stop there ... Thursday Steph and I went to Wicked in Sydney! After lunch here at ICMS, we got dressed up and caught the ferry into the city. We walked around and did some window shopping before making our way to the Three Monkeys Bar and Grill. We had a very delicious dinner and sat and chatted for a long time, it was great bonding time for us. And then the big show began. I have so fortunately and luckily been able to see Wicked in Chicago twice. It was fabulous both times and I fell in love with the show and the music. I was so pumped when I found out that it was playing and Sydney and even more excited when Steph said she would go with me to see it. It was again a fabulous show with amazing music, props, setting, and was held in a incredible theatre called Capitol Theatre. Overall, another amazing and fabulous experience to add to my time here in Australia.

Friday had come before I knew it and Steph, Mike and I had made plans to meet up with a friend of ours Matt in the city that night. We went and visited him at his hotel room, hung out watched tv, got something to eat, and ended the night by going out and dancing in Sydney. It was a lot of fun, another great bonding experience for me and my Albion buds :) and it was really great to see and hang out with our friend Matt.

Saturday and Sunday were not too eventful, just some more time spent at the beach and enjoying the beautiful place we live in. I worked on schoolwork over the weekend including my last couple of major assignments and a group project. My classes are still very enjoyable and have taught me a lot. Different assignments have challenged me in areas I have already covered but in a different way, or in areas that I have never worked with before. My ICMS academic experience thus far has been pretty positive and extremely beneficial to who I am.

And just like that another weekend past and we were back to Monday classes. This past week of school flew by as our "week 10" of classes has ended. We only have one more week of official classes and then our exams are held in week 12 and 13 depending on your class schedule. This past week was not too busy, my time was mostly consumed with finalizing some school work and spending time with my fabulous new friends. I am so amazed and happy with the special bonds I have made here with my friends. It is pretty crazy to know that I have not known them for very long but I have developed such a deep connection and love for many of them. I will greatly miss them because of not only who they are, but also for what they have made this experience for me :)

Friday of this past week our school and some of the hospitality students put on an Asian fair in the CYC area. They had different booths, decorations, food, and games. Some of my friends and I headed down to check it out, got some dinner, and then watched the karaoke competition that wrapped up the event. The karaoke show was awesome! There were several very talented acts, some not as talented singers but great entertainers but overall very enthusiastic and outgoing people who put themselves out their to raise money for a good cause and have a good time. Another fun and memorable experience at ICMS!

And now, after the long summary and wrap up of the past couple weeks I have finally made it to today. This morning I woke up early and was dressed and ready to go for the day by 7:15am. About 35 other students and I meet downstairs and loaded up on the bus for a day trip to Hunter Valley for a wine tour. It was about a two hour drive there and then we reached the first winery. Now I have to admit, I am from Northern Michigan as many of you already know, but I have been pretty spoiled with the beauty of the area especially in the Traverse City areas where the wineries are. So I had a great time today and found the area and the wineries to be beautiful but not quite like home. It was such a awesome opportunity to compare the different experiences I have had. The first winery we went to, our group sat in a back room and had two guys explain wines to us and then serve us about six different ones for our tasting session. After our first wine tasting experience we had a "sausage sizzle" bbq outside and had some lunch. The next stop the Blue Tongue Brewery which had beer and wine. My friend Jackie and I shared a beer sampler and also had a chance to try some of their wines too. Next stop we had another back room private session with some of the workers. Throughout the day we got to try different sparking wines, white wines, red wines, and some beer. At our third stop we also had a cheese tasting with some interesting cheese. Some of it looked funky and smelled weird but I convinced myself to give all of it a try and to my surprise liked most of it. Our final stop was the Golden Grape Estate with some different flavored wines and liquor's. Some of them were very sweet but the final tasting we had was called Dragon's Breath and it was hot, spicy and extremely flavorful hence the name "Dragon's Breath." It was a gorgeous day, sunny, blue skies, and so much fun. I had a great time hanging out with my friends and getting to experience a part of Australia's culture as we drank, ate, and meet and talked to different people from the area. I am so glad that I am taking advantage of this experience to the best of my ability and I am still in shock that I only have three weeks left ... In some ways I feels as though I just got here, and others it seems like it has been 'forever' since I have been home. Leaving Australia, Manly and ICMS will be an extremely bittersweet experience. I am very excited to see my family and be home again, but I have loved almost every single minute I have been here and I cannot imagine leaving it all behind. Well enough of that talk about leaving for now, I still have lots planned for my last three weeks. Not too many big events or trips but rather just taking the time to spend with my friends, enjoy the area, and appreciate the experience as a whole as I wonder to myself ... is it the truth when they say "all good things come to an end?"

Sunday, April 4, 2010


I have always wanted to try parasailing so when my friend Steph and I found out that we could do it in the Manly-Sydney Harbor area we called and signed up. I was extremely excited and anxious to go and I felt like when we first booked it, it was so far away. And then before you know it Easter Weekend was here and so was parasailing.

A bunch of our friends left for Easter Weekend to go traveling to different places but Mike, Steph, Ashley, Kaleigh, Kaylen, me and some of my other friends decided to stay here and do some activities around Sydney. Thursday after classes I went to the beach for some relaxing time in the sun to start off the weekend. Ate dinner back at school with some friends and then Mike, Steph, Ashley and our new friend Corbin had a game night filled with card games, talking, and lots of laughter. It was so relaxing and fun to just spend some time with friends.

Friday morning woke up and had breakfast/brunch here at the school and then headed down the hill into Manly for parasailing! Ashley was a great friend and offered to come with us and take pictures! So the beautiful documentation that is shown above is courtesy of Ashley's picure taking skills. Thanks Ashley! We arrive about 15 minutes early and watched as the boat filled with people who had just parasailed pulled in.

As some of the younger guys were getting off, the one young gentleman turned to his friend or brother and said "Wow that was the scariest thing I have ever done." Steph and I knew he was kidding but it definitely got our adrenaline going. We drove out in the harbor area a short ways and the other couple that was on the boat went up first. I was getting very excited! The other couple came in and it was our turn! We got strapped into our harnesses, put our lifejackets on, and then got strapped to the sail and main cord. Instead of having us ride side to side we actually rode in front and behind each other. I was in the back because I am taller and then Beattie right in front of me. We got strapped in and slowly lifted up into the air. It was beautiful blue sky day that was perfect. It was quite windy and the waves were pretty good size so before we went up the guy on the boat just warned us that given the winds we would probaly rise and drop quickly and more often and we would also probaly get up very high at some points. They let out the main cable and we shot up into the air.

It was SO COOL!!!! Gorgeous sights and scenery. We could see all of Manly including our school, it would have made for some great pictures but we did not want out cameras to get wet. You can choose when you parasail to get "wet" or not, which means periodically during the sailing they slow down the boat so you slowly fall towards the water, and they let you drop until you are just touching the water, and then gun the boat so you get dunked into the water, get wet, and then shoot back up into the air. We watched the previous couple do it and decided why not. They only got dunked 2 times in their 8 minute ride so we figured it would be fun to try. We had a really great time up in the air together talking about Manly and school and how much we love it here and have enjoyed our experience. We were up in the air for about 12 minutes and got dunked 4 times! We guessed that the guys on the boat realized we were younger and could handle all the intense dunking :) haha. The first time we were dunked Beattie and I were both nervous and we slowly dropped towards the water and then the boat gunned it but only our legs got wet and the rest of us just kind of splashed. But the 2nd time.... they let us drop so that almost our whole bodies were in the water and then gunned the boat again and we turned and both got hit in the face with some of the straps ;) haha, it was quite funny and also very unexpected. Quite an intense dunk and then they proceeded to dunk us two more times, which we really ended up enjoying :)

Overall it was such a blast and I had always wanted to parasail and what better place to do it than in Australia for Easter Weekend. And that was just a start to a great weekend!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Words can not explain... but I will try.

Today was an extremely eventful day to say the least. My alarm went off at about 6:30am and as I laid and bed and looked out the window I wondered to myself, why on earth am I getting up before the sun is even out? And then I remembered, I had an big day planned ahead. Remembering this exciting thought I got up, showered, dressed and got ready to go. I joined Olivia downstairs at the CYC for some breakfast and by 8am Mike and Steph also joined us. The four of us headed down the hill and got to Manly Wharf just in time to catch the 8:15am ferry.

We arrived in Circular Quay and started our adventure. The first stop was the infamous Sydney Opera House. Every trip that we have made into Sydney has given us the opportunity to see the Opera House from a short distance but before today I had not actually walked over to it and taken the time to check it out. The Sydney Opera House to some is considered to be a wonder of the world and I would have to agree. The architectural structure is pretty unbelievable and ten times better in person than in a picture. We walked all around it, observing its different angles and also had a nice view of the Sydney Harbor Bridge. I had a chance to go in and use the bathrooms in the Opera House which were very modern and nicely designed and also took a quick look around the gift shop. Many pictures later our group moved on to our next stop, the Botanical Gardens.

We lucked out and had perfect weather for our Sydney adventures day. It got up to about 85 or so and was sunny all day with almost no clouds in the sky. It made for quite a warm walk through the Botanical Gardens but it was gorgeous. There are so many different pathways that lead you by the water or through different areas of the park. Filled with different species of flowers, trees, bushes, and more, the Gardens are very entertaining. I had such a great time walking around with my friends taking pictures of the beautiful scenery. Other than just the plants, there were also some statues and animals that we had a chance to see. I even got a bird to bite onto a stick I was holding and hold onto it while I lifted it into the air. It was quite an eventful walk through the Gardens that we enjoyed for about 3 and a half hours. Our next stop caused the group to split up but it was okay because Steph and Mike had already gone where we were going, so it was Olivia's and I turn to experience the magic of the Sydney Tower Restaurant.

The Sydney Tower is really where the title of my blog comes into play. I will promise to do my very best to describe what I experienced but honestly its so hard to put into words the amazing experience. Olivia and I had scheduled our lunch date at the Tower at 1:30pm and anxiously showed up at the reservation desk a little after 1pm. The woman was extremely welcoming, checked us in, we got our picture taken by the professional photographer, walked through security and were escorted to our own elevator for the climb. 80 floors later we arrived at the top of the Sydney Tower. As the doors slowly opened at the restaurant a very nice woman greeted us, took us to our 2 person table right by the window and explained the details to us. The Sydney Tower Restaurant is a buffet self service restaurant filled with delicious food. And as you sit and enjoy the food, the restaurant rotates very slowly so that you get a chance to see all of Sydney. Buildings of all sizes, the Bridge, the Opera House, the Gardens, and so much more. We also called Mike and Steph when we were there and spotted them in Hyde Park from where we were sitting and I even zoomed in on my camera and got a picture of their teeny tiny bodies from our view. I had a great lunch date with Olivia and ate way more than I needed to but I could not help it. They had so much to offer from spring rolls, potatoes, green beans, salads, pasta, kangaroo, lamb, fresh fruit salad, and very yummy desserts. Olivia and I both left stuffed full and very satisfied with our spectacular experience of the magic of the Sydney Tower. I took lots of pictures while at lunch, but as I previously mentioned pictures really do not do the experience justice but some things are just hard to put into words, or in this case pictures.

After lunch we met back up with Steph and Mike in Hyde Park, walked around, took some pictures at the reflection pool and then headed over to Chinatown. It was a nice walk especially after feeling so full of food so it was great to get out and walk around for a while. We arrived at Chinatown and headed to Market City and walked around to the variety of souvenir vendors. It was great checking out the Market area and I actually found some great gifts for some of my friends and family. Shopping around Market City eventually came to an end so the four of us headed back to the ferry. After a very long, exciting, exhausting and fun filled day we made a quick stop at Starbucks before getting onto the ferry. At first we were a little bummed for missing the 6pm ferry and had to wait till 6:30pm for the next one but were quickly realized that it could not have worked on any better, because as we were pulling out of the Sydney Harbor the sun was just started to set. We ended up getting some of the most amazing pictures as the sun was setting with unbelievable colors right behind the Opera House and Harbor Bridge. Yet again, words cannot quite explain it but in this case the pictures might help.

The ferry went by pretty quickly since I spent most of my time marveling at the sunset and before I knew it I was back at ICMS. Overall, it was a fabulous day and although I am very tired right now that I am laying in bed, it was completely worth it! I got to see so much, take hundreds of pictures, and experience Sydney like I had never imagined it before. This entire experience has been amazing and today was just another great day. It is really hard to put all of it into words but I think this blog and my pictures may help capture some of the greatness :)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

1,000 meters above sea level - The Blue Mountains

Today was an incredible day to say the least. I went on a day trip through our school up to the Blue Mountains. I woke up early and excited and met down in the CYC at 7:30am. Although the bus arrived a little late the bus driver made up for it with his enthusiasm and excitement which he quickly spread to the rest of us. We drove for about an hour before stopping at the Featherdale Wildlife Park. At the entrance we were given a small paper 'passport' which we could take around and get different animal stamps as we saw the different exhibits. The park has an extensive collection of over 200 native birds and 30 species of mammals displayed in a compact layout where you can get hands on and pet and feed many of the animals. I got to see dingos, wombats, Tasmanian devils, penguins, kangaroos, koalas and more. During our time there we also got to catch a short show put on about crocodiles. I had the chance to feed the kangaroos, pet the koalas, hold a snake, and play with the emus. I was very amused by the emus and I figured out if I held out long blades of grass for them to eat they would take bites off of the piece of grass right out of my hand. It was quite entertaining and then they started to follow me around a little and my friend Ashley took a video of it for me. The Featherdale Park was really nice and a fun start to the day.

Next we drove about an hour and stopped for lunch. We were on our own for lunch and some of the group and I went to a little take away restaurant. Olivia and I shared some honey chicken and rice and it was quite delicious. We just ordered food and sat in the grass and ate and then loaded back onto the bus. About 14 minutes later we were at our next stop, the Blue Mountains. Our first stop was the Echo Point which is the home to the famous rock formations the Three Sisters. We had about thirty minutes or so to take pictures walk around and enjoy the scenery. The view of the Blue Mountains is, again like many amazing places I have been to so far in Australia, quite indescribable. The Blue Mountains are named the blue mountains because of the eucalyptus trees that make the forests and mountains appear to have a blue tint to them from the eucalyptus leaves. The view at the first stop and for the rest of the day was so gorgeous. The mountains and valleys are so lush and dense with different shades of green and blue as far as you can see. It was quite a magical experience, not to sound too cliche, but it was really awesome. :)

After stopping at Echo Point and the Three Sisters we got back onto the bus and drove farther up the mountains to the Scenic World station where the Blue Mountains souvenir shop and the Katoomba Scenic Railway is located. We walked down the trail for a while and had different opportunities to take more pictures. It was a great walk and of course more gorgeous scenery. We made it to the bottom of the trail where the Katoomba mine is and our bus driver/tour guide told us some stories, legends, and history of the Blue Mountains. After our nice hike down the mountain we took the Katoomba Scenic Railway back up to the top which is the "steepest incline railway in the world." I rode up next to Ashley who was quite frightened of the entire experience but I found it to be quite thrilling and awesome. We were sitting in this railway car with bars and fencing to keep us from falling out as we are traveling backwards up the side of a mountain, pretty cool if you ask me.

After the railway we browsed around the souvenir shop, some of the group found worthy purchases while others of us simply looked around. We loaded back on the bus and headed to our next and final stop for the day, Wentworth Falls. We stopped, unloaded the bus and hiked down the short 10 minute trail or so to the Princess Rock lookout and a view of the falls. Yet again a beautiful and incredible site. The amber colored rocks, with lush green and blue surrounding it and the waterfalls trickling down the rocks. A great place for more pictures including group shots, Delta Gamma pics, an Albion group shot, some artistic attempts, and me trying to take a fun picture by climbing into a rock hole and sticking my head out of the top of it. The falls was our final stop so we loaded up the bus one last time. Our bus driver and tour guide who had been very nice and helpful all day, summarized our day and passed out some small koalas as a little gift for our group. The bus ride back went by pretty quick because I took a little nap and then the bus driver dropped us off in Manly so we could get some dinner. Some of the girls and I walked over to Subway, ate and talked about our wonderful day. We hiked back up the hill and now I have spent the rest of my evening uploading and editing pictures and working on other things on my computer. Back at it for classes tomorrow and I have had an absolutely wonderful weekend. Classes are not too busy this week but I have some stuff due next week so plenty to work on and then Friday Olivia and I have a little date planned for going in to 'the city.' :)