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

Parasailing!





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.' :)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Moments of wonderful are better than a lifetime of nothing special

These past couple days have been fun filled and relaxing. Friday I do not have class so I got up and had breakfast and took a nice walk with Olivia up to North Head. It is so awesome up there and although I have been up there so many times and have numerous pictures of it nothing can compare to just standing there and taking in the incredible view. That view has to be one of my favorite places in Manly. After showering, eating some fish and chips for lunch, we packed up and headed down to Manly Beach for the day. It was a great sunny and beautiful day. Kaleigh, Steph, Olivia and I had a nice relaxing couples hours in the sun and swimming in the ocean. I took a nice little nap at one point and also had a chance to read some of my book. We then walked around the Corso and some stores for a little while and I purchased some souvenirs for my family. We decided as a group after Steph had looked at the dinner menu at ICMS, that our best bet was to eat something in Manly. There is a great little local pizza place called La Casa, that reminded me of Albion :) so we ordered some pizza and headed over to the small beach area by the Manly wharf and had a picnic. It was such a great time and so much fun to just sit and chat with some friends and eat yummy pizza. After dinner we got some ice cream walked around Manly for a little while and walked by the beach before heading back up the hill to school. At the beach we spotted a man in a speedo doing some kind of karate/kung fu fighting dancing skill workout, we stopped and watched for a little bit and found ourselves quite entertained by his talent and his passion for what he was doing. It just completely added to the already pleasant and successful day. If you can you should check out the video that I have posted on my facebook page, I tried to add it here but it was not working, to say the least he was quite entertaining :)

Today was yet again a beautiful day here in Manly. It was 80's and sunny almost all day. After a walk this morning and some brunch, Heather and I packed up for the beach. We headed down to Manly Beach to find it, like most Saturdays packed full of people all across the beach. With people of all ages laying out, playing games, swimming, surfing, and so much more, Manly is an extremely popular place for locals and tourists especially on the weekends. Heather and I found a nice spot, sat down and just appreciated where we were. We talked for a while and just took in our surroundings and had a nice time people watching and observing the diversity of Manly Beach. Yet again, took a little nap, listened to some music and met up with Olivia and Laura at some point during the day. After laying out for a little while Heather and I were quite warm and ready for a swim. We got about waist deep into the water before the lifeguard and surf rescue staff was running up and down the beach whistling and yelling at people to get out of the water. There had been a shark siting and everyone needed to get out of the water immediately. We were in pretty shallow water and I was not scared of the shark but the whole experience was pretty intense, thrilling, and a little exciting. They called in the surf rescue helicopter along with a boat to search the area and check on people to make sure everyone was ok. We had to wait a good twenty or thirty minutes and then they were considering letting us go back in, and then the shark was spotted again. They sound off a siren and make an announcement on the p.a. when the shark is sited and it startled many people on the beach. About an hour after the first siting people were allowed back in the water but the staff was continually patrolling the beach, water, and air as we left later in the day. It was an exciting experience and also very comforting to know that they take it very seriously and do everything they can to keep the people at Manly Beach safe.

After the eventful afternoon at the beach, we kept up the excitement into our evening. Heather, Jessie, Olivia, Laura, Ashley, Steph, Ashley, and I went out to dinner at the 4 Pines Brewing Company and had a great time. It was a really awesome girls night out filled with talking and some shared stories. We ordered some pasta and burgers and each tried some of the local beer. I had some of their specialty cider which was very delicious. Overall, the past two days have just been very relaxing and I have had so much fun hanging out with my awesome new friends here in Australia. I am so thankful for this experience and am grateful that I am spending my time abroad in such a spectacular place like Manly :) Up early tomorrow and off to the Blue Mountains all day, so excited and I am sure will have more to say about that soon.



Thursday, March 18, 2010

Speechless.





I'm back again and I know I haven't written in a while but there really wasn't too much going on. The past couple weeks have been really picking up with classes and I have been very busy working on a 2,000 word minimum and 4,000 word maximum report on a sports team for my sport management class. Despite the fact that the report took me quite a bit a time, I enjoyed learning more about the Detroit Red Wings. After the hard work and lots or research and writing, along with some help from my Daddy and friend Joe Marino, who I interviewed for the report, I finally turned it in this past Wednesday. 3,600 words later, 25 pages, and a sense of accomplishment. It has been really nice the past couple days not having to worry too much about school. I have two papers due in the next couple weeks so I have started to working on those but after completing the big paper I have taken some time for myself. The weather has been pretty great, sunny and warm so the beach has definitely been my second home. Its so great to go to class, learn, challenge my mind, and then head down less than ten minutes away to Manly Beach and just hang out with my friends and enjoy this amazing place.

So not too much was going on the past couple weeks but now I have something pretty exciting to write about. On Wednesday, St.Patrick's Day, Olivia, Steph, Kaleigh, Chelsea, Jessa and I went to the Lady Gaga concert!!! We got dressed up, took the ferry across the ferry, got Subway for dinner and then walked on over to the Sydney Entertainment Center for the big show. Before heading inside Olivia, Steph, and I were just hanging out waiting to go in and find our seats when we were approached by a local radio station and asked to be interviewed. It was a very exciting and fun experience. We told the guy we had traveled all the way from the US to come see Gaga in concert and he was very intrigued to hear what we had to say :)

After out moment of fame, we headed inside to find Gaga fans of all types. Many people were dressed up in wigs, and fun and crazy outfits. We watched the opening act, Semi Precious Weapons, who were very eccentric to say the least and probaly a great fit to open for Lady Gaga. The lead male singer in the band was even wearing high heels and a dress. They were quite entertaining and full of energy which got me even more excited for the show to begin.

And then Lady Gaga, with all of her flashing lights, crazy costumes, and theatrical tendences appeared. The entertainment center was rocking. I think every person in the arena was on their feet, jumping and screaming. It was extremely high energy throughout the performance. I have been blessed and lucky to have attended several really good concerts in my lifetime but nothing like a Lady Gaga concert. In my words to try and describe it, it really is more than just a concert. I have had a great time at Little Big Town, Big and Rich, Michael Buble', Third Eye Blind, and more but for the most part those concerts were just performing songs. Gaga performs beyond just her song. She incorporates props, her costume, other dancers, and so much more. It really was an unforgettable experience and honestly so hard to explain to someone who was not there. I am so glad that I got the chance to go and had a great time with the girls I went with. Lady Gaga is not only a talented singer but also quite the performer. My favorite part was when she sang Speechless and played the piano. Speechless is one of my favorite songs of hers right now and she played with such passion. During the song fire started coming out of the end of the piano which also added to the performance. There were so many elements that factored into the overall experience but the bottom line is, it was great, amazing, and I am so glad that I went.

After the concert, Olivia, Steph and I were filled with adrenaline and excitement from the concert experience. We stopped by McDonalds for a snack and then headed back to the ferry raving about the concert the whole time. We shared different thoughts and ideas of what we had observed but concluded that we loved it! Overall extremely successful night! :) Upcoming plans and things to look forward to include a day at the beach tomorrow, Sunday we are going to the Blue Mountains, next week I am having a lunch date with Olivia at the Sydney Tower, and so much more, but I do not want to give it all away. Australia has been such a blessing and I am so happy that I am here having the experience of a lifetime :)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Mardi Gras in Sydney!


This past weekend me and a group of girlfriends headed into Sydney on Friday evening to experience the city as it was alive with spirit and celebrating Mardi Gras. Specifically we headed in to town for Saturday's huge Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade and celebration which is the 2nd largest in the world! It was an amazing experience to say the least. People of all different backgrounds coming together to celebrate. Friday we just hung out with our friend Jake from Albion and some of his friends at the University of Sydney.

Saturday we got up, had breakfast, and headed over to Darling Harbor. Steph and I had the awesome chance to meet up with Lisa Dorr, our soccer teammate and Delta Gamma sister who graduated from Albion a couple years ago. After the great visit with her we met back up with our group to board the boat. We had signed up for a Harbor Cruise to take us around the Harbor to celebrate Mardi Gras with lots of people. It was such a beautiful ride, with a great party atmosphere as we listened to music and hung out with friends.

After the Harbor cruise we headed over to the main streets where the parade was held and packed full of people. The streets were lined much farther than you could see with at least four or five people deep to the front line to the parade. We stood behind a group and reached up on our tip toes to catch the colorful entries of the parade as they walked or rode by. It was such a cool experience and quite the display of culture. I randomly and quite fatefully ran into my Delta Gamma sister Mekayla! It was so awesome, we just made eye contact walking down the street as we passed each other, screamed, jump into each others arms and celebrated! It was so great to see her and have a chance to talk to her for a little while.

We continued on with the evening walking around the city and later meeting up with some more friends. Sunday we packed up and headed back on the ferry after a very eventful and awesome weekend spent in Sydney!

Back to classes on Monday and Tuesday with some pretty cloudy and rainy weather. Classes are going good, still very interesting and fun just getting a little busier as the first big deadlines of most of my classes are slowly approaching. The past couple days of not the best weather has really helped me focus and crack down and work on school work. Today I had two morning classes, ate lunch, and headed to the beach for a little time in the sun. It was nice and sunny for the first time in a couple days so I had to embrace it. Overall things are going great. I am having a blast and learning so much about so much, if that makes sense :) I miss my friends and family a lot but I appreciate their constant communication via skype, email, and of course facebook. :)


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Above and Beyond

It's been far too long since my last blog. I have been keeping plenty busy with my surroundings and my computer has really not been a priority lately therefore the lack of blog updates. But here I am back in action again to tell you what I have been up to.

I have to first start off by saying that I have loved it here thus far and things just keep getting better. I definitely had high expectations for coming here and have enjoyed myself. But I have to admit everything is continuing to amaze me. Whether it is the different places I have visited, the people I have met, or simply the feelings that I have while here, almost everything has been, for lack of a better term, "above and beyond," what I was expecting. :)

Classes are going well, I am still enjoying the material and learning new and different aspects of classes like these that I have never had before. I have met so many new and awesome people and feel so blessed for this experience. Much of my time lately has been spent exploring. My friends and I have been walking all over Manly finding all kinds of places to take pictures and learn more about our surroundings. A large group of us recently took a walk up to North Head after dinner to watch the sunset. North Head is a national park that overlooks all of the Sydney Harbor and much more. It is an absolutely breathtaking view and although I took many pictures, the picture really does not do it justice. I have realized this on numerous occasions that while taking so many wonderful pictures to capture my time here and remember things, the feelings, experience, and personality of the people I have met thus far is not describable with just a picture.

After realizing North Heads amazing beauty, Olivia, Beattie, and I decided to go up there again and walk around for several hours to the various look out points to take more pictures. We had a great walk, took lots of pictures, and bonded. As the time is passing here, quite quickly since we are already in Week 3 of classes, I am getting to know all of my new friends and classmates better and really appreciating it. There is a variety of ages here at ICMS and people from all over the world, and here we are in Manly coming together for an education. We are learning so much in class and from the people around us and from ourselves. It really is unique and amazing experience I am having here that I would highly recommend to anyone who ever gets the chance to.

Yesterday was a big day, I took my first ferry ride into Sydney! It was so spectacular. I took tons and tons of pictures and just had such a great day. I woke up and had brunch here at school then seven of us walked down to the ferry. The ferry ride alone was so great, getting to experience all of the amazing views I saw from North Head but this time much closer. I of course took more pictures and had a great day with my friends. We arrived in Sydney and some of our group was craving Starbucks so we headed their first. I personally am not much of a coffee drinker so I stopped at a small fruit stand on the street and had a nice chat with a local Australian man. I bought a peach and a water and sat on a bench in this quaint little park area and waited for the rest of the group. We walked around the markets for a while and stopped to see a variety of items on sale. Our group took a little break to stop and have corn on the cob and a drink from a local vendor, and it was delicious. Next we headed over to Darling Harbor and the Aquarium. We continued to have a great time as we looked at the large variety of fish, coral, sharks, sting rays and plenty more underwater life. After the Aquarium we had dinner at a cafe' restaurant called Blackbird. We had some fish and chips and pizza and sat on a balcony overlooking Darling Harbor and the boats. It was a beautiful day to be in Sydney. It was hot and sunny and lots of people were out and about. We headed back on the ferry and headed down to Collins Beach to have a little Beach Bonfire with some friends. Overall, I was a little blown away by my first day in "the city" because it exceeded my expectations and I am looking forward to returning there this weekend to celebrate Mardi Gras with some friends.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Knowledge is Power

So my first day of classes here in Australia was yesterday and it was eye opening and exciting. For most of my life I have enjoyed school and learning, every now and then there are classes that are not my favorite subject but overall I have really enjoyed school. I had a great time during my years at the Elk Rapids Schools and I have loved my experiences academic and non at Albion College and now here at the International College of Management I have a brand new opportunity.

Yesterday my first Australian College class was Introduction to Events Industry and my professor was great. A nice older man who is extremely enthusiastic about his job and events. He opened up with telling us a little about himself and talking about the course. He continued on informing us about how fun events can be and how balloons are great at events. He passed out balloons to everyone in the class, had us blow them up, write our names on the balloons, and then tape them to our desk so that he could easily see our names and start to get to know us. It was a very exciting and interesting first task in my new school.

My second class was Sports Management, which was the class I was most looking forward to since I am really hoping to go into Sports Advertising and Marketing someday. My professor was extremely outgoing, enthusiastic, and got me so excited about the sports field. She talked more about the class and all of the things that we will be covering and how it will be benefiting you in the future.

My third and last class of yesterday was Contemporary Health Issues and again an enthusiastic and very cool professor. She is a nutritionist, educated women, and a mother of three. She is not here at the castle too much during the week but she sounds extremely knowledgeable and explained the class in a way that sounds extremely appealing and exciting. The grading scale here in Australia is quite different then at home and so is the way the grading is split up. Also, each class only meets two times a week; one for lecture and one for tutorial. My 'timetable' has worked out quite nicely so that I have three classes on Monday, one on Tuesday, two on Wednesday, two on Thursday, and no class Friday. The differences make it very intriguing and exciting for a new challenge in this new school.

Today I had my fourth and final class which was Business Communications. My professor was yet again so nice, enthusiastic, and intrigued my interest in the field. I am majoring in Communications back at Albion, as many of you know, and this class especially made me so excited to attend classes for the next twelve weeks. I felt as though my professor was speaking almost directly to me, she started the lecture today with talking about what communication is and what it means. She specifically emphasized and addressed the fact that communication is simple in some ways but should also be extremely valued at the same time. For my close friends and my family who know me well, and maybe too well will especially appreciate this... My professor also talked about how miscommunications occur because people make assumptions (which reminded me of the four agreements that I am reading right now) and she also said that people, women especially, have a tendency to overthink things. For those of you who do not know me as well, I tend to be an overthinker, so as my professor explained this specific point, I smiled to myself and felt quite at home in my new school.

ICMS is not only an extremely beautiful castle but also an extremely prestigious and honorable institute. I am proud to be a new member at this school and have the opportunity to get to know my fellow students and learn under such great professors. At this point in time I am very excited that my time here is really getting into the "study" part of my "study abroad" experience because ultimately that is one of the key reasons I am here. I am well aware that I will learn much more outside the classroom but I am also very anxious and curious to the knowledge that I will be gaining as a new student here at ICMS. G'night readers! Thanks for keeping up with the long posts :)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Mojo Surf Trip

G'day readers :) I just recently returned to ICMS from an awesome weekend spent at Crescent Head learning how to surf! We left here around 5pm on Friday and had a nice five hour bus ride to the camp place and our home for the weekend. Saturday morning started off early, with breakfast at 7 and then a short walk to the beach at 8. The beach was awesome. Big rocks, tall grasses, almost no people at all, it was like our own private beach. The waves were good size, for beginners. We had an introduction lesson that lasted only about 10-15 minutes and then we were set loose into the ocean. We had three different instructors out there with a group of about twenty helping us get the hang of things. Surfing is intense and hard but also really fun and I am so glad I had the opportunity to learn how to do it. The morning session that lasted about two hours was a little tricky getting the hang of it and I actually only got up one time. I kept catching waves and making it to my knees but was not succeeding in standing up on the board. Towards the end of our session it started raining and the bluebottles got blown into shore and on their way there they decided to sting most of our group. Bluebottles are small jellyfish that have one pretty long tentacle that can wrap around you and sting you. The pain does not last too long but you need to try and remove it quickly. Well once got my right thigh but did not hurt me too bad and then one got wrapped around my left thigh and then one held on tightly. I tried to pull it off but could not get it at first and had to find an instructor for some help. I still have a little mark on my leg today but the pain was not too bad.

Our group headed back to the camp site area and had some lunch around noon. And then hit the waves again for a couple hours in the afternoon. This block of time was much more successful for most of the group. We had gotten a hang of things a little bit and the waves were steady and good size. I was successful in standing up numerous times and overall our group had a lot of fun and were all really getting into it. The instructors and Mojo Surf staff were great and very helpful in the process and the entire weekend. After the afternoon session, we headed back to camp, showered up and ate some dinner. Saturday evening we were going to have a big bonfire on the beach but it was too rainy for that so instead we all hung out at the camp site and celebrated our success in our first day of surfing :)

Sunday brought another early morning with breakfast and then back to the beach. Many of us were sore and tired from the previous day but also excited and anxious to get back out there and surf more. I was tired and sore but as soon as Olivia, my surfing buddy and I carried our two boards down to the beach and saw the waves, I was filled with excitement. I did not know what kind of expectations I should have for my first time surfing but after getting up numerous times in the afternoon session I really felt like I was figuring it out. My Sunday morning session was successful in numerous ways. First off, do you know the short segments that America's Funniest Home Videos shows that is numerous short clips in a row showing people getting hurt or falling? Well, lets just say that America's Funniest could have made a whole segment on just me falling off my surf board today. I made sure to utilize my last two hours of surfing today by trying to get up on as many waves as I could, which resulted in me falling, tripping, slipping, and more painful and accidental acts that could have won me some money. I was at some points also successful in standing up and catching some good waves. After surfing one last time we caught lunch back at camp before loading up the bus to drive back to ICMS. Overall the weekend was quite fabulous and such an awesome new experience to learn how to surf.

I have my first day of classes tomorrow and I am quite excited. A little sore and tired from the weekend but as the Australian's say "no worries." :)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Hogwarts Castle!

Since arriving in Manly on Sunday a lot of things have happened. First off, I haven't been keeping up on my blog, so for my readers I apologize, although I have a feeling there aren't too many of you, the ones I have are oh so special, so I apologize.

The bus picked us up at the airport and drove us to Manly and our new home, the International College of Management Sydney, ICMS, also known as the Hogwarts castle :) haha, well maybe only to me but it really is great, so beautiful and looks straight out of a fairytale. After checking in, unpacking, touring the college, and having dinner, our Orientation week here at ICMS began. Each day this week has started nice and early, with breakfast around 7; and even if you would like to sleep in a little you cannot because the beautiful beaming sun shines into your dorm window, plus the loud and energetic birds make way too much noise in the morning to sleep in very late :)

Monday- We did not have too much scheduled on this day so a group of us walked down to Manly Beach, toured some of the shops and spent a good chunk of our day laying out in the sun on the beach. Manly Beach is so awesome. Its very long and most of the time quite busy. Lots of people of all ages, playing, surfing, or just laying out, there is almost always a lot going on. It is a lot of fun. At dinner on Monday we had a live band play for us, made up of 14 and 15 year old boys and they were awesome! Very talented young group and very entertaining. We eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, in the Court Yard Cafe', also known as the CYC. It is all open and outside with a bunch of tables and an area for entertainment which we have had at lunch and dinner throughout the week.

Tuesday- Early breakfast and then a Study Abroad meeting with our director Amy to answer questions and talk about how we are doing and see if we need anything. We also got fitted for our uniforms, which are nice business suits. They are a dark grey and consist of a medium length skirt, white button up, blazer, scarf, panty hose, and professional black shoes. So basically the women are dressed kind of like flight attendants :) They are pretty nice and despite the warmth of them in this beautiful weather, I think I will appreciate the fact that when I get up in the morning for class during this semester I won't have to worry about what I am going to wear. Tuesday evening was jam packed and exciting. We had a college welcome ceremony in the chapel, which is a gorgeous building, and as many of the staff remind us of here, it is the chapel where Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman got married. The Dean of the college along with the administrator gave speeches to welcome all of the students. They also listed off every country that is represented here and informed us that everyone countries flag is hung out front of the college, which is pretty darn cool if you ask me. It really is an international place with so much opportunity to meet people and learn a lot about other cultures. The ceremony was followed by a cocktail party out front of the castle. Everyone was dressed in their best and mingled with the several hundreds who came to celebrate the start of this new school year. They had champagne, wine, beer, and delicious hor' dourves. It was a beautiful setting and quite a magical moment with so many people who came together to celebrate this school.

Wednesday- was a bit busier with a learning strategies meeting, and final enrollment. Another yummy lunch and then a group of us walked down to Shelley Beach to see how it compares to Manly Beach. Shelley is also beautiful and not a far walk from Manly Beach. It is tucked over in the corner of the beach area with rocks shielding the wind and has almost no waves so its a nice place to chill in the water. We hung out there for a while and then headed back up to the castle. Later we found out that Manly Beach was closed to swimming because the waves were so big so it worked out for the best that we had gone to Shelley Beach. Wednesday concluded with dinner, and of course more entertaining musical entertainment and then a floor meeting to go over some basic housing rules.

Thursday- The morning started with a session called 'the college and local community' to go over some key aspects of the college and better adjust to this new school. Following this informational session was a more hands on session as we headed down to Shelley Beach and got a nice thorough course on surf safety. We also got to break up into teams and practice surf paddling, and running into the water and moving right into paddling. It was a great introduction to surf basics and got me very excited and anxious for this weekend, which is our surf trip! We had lunch and then went outside with a pretty big group to do team building activities and games. There was a blow up obstacle course, a volleyball game with a huge blow up ball, and tug of war. The tug of war immediately reminded me of home and Greek week and all of my beloved Delta Gamma sisters, and how I miss you all! I used my skills and my knowledge of our success back home to help my team strategize :) It was a lot of fun. We showered up and ate dinner and headed down to the 'Sandbar' (the bar and game area in the basement of my dorm building) to have an Australian Party. There was music, balloons, flags, and lots of people. We played some Australian trivia and then had a special guest. A guy brought in a bunch of different types of animals, mostly reptiles and gave us a Native Wildlife Show. It was so cool; he brought spiders, snakes, lizards, and an small alligator. As he took each one out of their boxes he would talk about them and then ask for a volunteer to come up and hold it and carry it around the room for others to see. I volunteered and got to hold a blue tongued lizard, it was sweet. Overall it was extremely informative and really fun.

And now Friday- here we are, and finally I am caught up on the busier first week at ICMS. Early breakfast and some time on the internet catching up with my family, and setting up some skype dates. I had a meeting with Amy and the functions department so that I can get involved and work some events while here at school. There is also opportunities to volunteer at this place called "Bear Village." It is such a good cause; families and their children who are terminally ill come and spend time together in this beautiful place. I am definitely hoping to get a chance to volunteer there later this semester.

I am having a blast and really appreciate this opportunity. I am definitely missing my family and friends back home but I know they love me and support me, and every time I look out the window and see the gorgeous view, I know I am here for a reason. And that reason is to learn, grow, discover, and return home a better and stronger person :)

I will be off to lunch soon, then we have a professional development program from 1-4 ish and then we will be packing up and heading to our surf trip around 5pm today and returning Sunday night. I am very excited for the travel opportunity, to spend time with my new friends, meet more people, learn how to surf, and get away for the weekend. And then classes start Monday, and although the time thus far without actual school has been so awesome, I am excited to start classes. Its such a great opportunity to be here and to take classes that are unlike anything offered at Albion. I received my "timetable" (as they call their class schedules here) and I do have two 8am classes but I got the four classes I wanted and my timetable is pretty good. I will be taking Intro to Tourism, Intro to the Events Industry, Business Communication, and Intro to Sports Management. So for now I am excited and eager to learn more.
Sorry for the very long update but thanks for reading. :)

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Koalas, kangaroos, and the Great Barrier Reef oh my!

Hey Everyone! Sorry I haven't written since I have arrived in Australia but I am here safe and having an absolute blast! This past week was spent in Cairns. On Wednesday we went to the Rain forestation Center and walked around and viewed the amazing rain forest. We had an opportunity to fed the kangaroos and also hold a koala. We also watched an aboriginal dance show and learned how to throw a boomerang. There are ants in Australia that have green butts that if you lick the behind of it its tastes kind of like a warhead, so I had to try that out too. We also had the great opportunity of getting a tour through the rain forest on an army duck. The experience was pretty overwhelming and simply amazing. Wednesday afternoon we met up in the park across the street from the hotel and learned how to play cricket. Our Australearn faculty helped explain it to us and we had the opportunity to put our skills, or lack of into action. It was really interesting and fun trying to learn and play a new sport.
On Thursday we had our free day where we had the opportunity to sign up for a tour of some sort or just relax. A group of about 15 or so of my new friends and I decided to take a bus to Palm Cove and go hang out at the beach for the day. The bus ride wasn't too long and the beach was so beautiful and not busy at all. It was a bit overcast at first but quickly cleared up. We played in the ocean, took pictures, and enjoyed our day of relaxation. I made sure to put sunscreen on throughout the day but still managed to head back to the hotel with a sunburn. Thursday evening we met up with the group for dinner at Shannigans and I had a kangaroo burger. It was tasty but hard to describe, similar maybe to beef but not as dense and the meat broke apart a little easier but overall a yummy meal.
Friday was our community day. We traveled to the Kuranda Center and helped plant trees that will produce food for the Cassowary bird. It was so great to have the opportunity to give back to the community and help make a difference. We got a tour around the center including the extensive worm farm. Friday evening was our own time to relax and hang out with our group. We had a little birthday dinner celebration for one of my new friends and then I spent time playing cards. Cards turned into about ten competitive players trying new games. I helped explain Froggy to some of the group and made my family proud with pretty much dominating most of the game with my partner.
Saturday was quite an adventure and definitely unforgettable. We woke up and had a nice breakfast at the hotel, walked a block or so to the marina and loaded up on a boat to go out scuba diving and snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef. I had been anxiously anticipating and looking forward to this day all week. I have not tried scuba diving yet and was hoping to on this special day. After loading up the boat, having an introduction and welcome session with the crew and going over some safety tips we were free to move around the boat. We had about a two hour drive out to the reef so most of our group headed to the front of the boat. The waves were quite large and the brave select few, including myself, decided to sit in the netting at the front of the boat. As we held on for dear life it was like an intense roller coaster after every waves. Bouncing up and down and getting your body thrown around. It was a bit scary but also really fun and exhilarating. As we traveled farther and farther away from the shore the worse and worse the weather was getting. Overcast turned into to dark grey angry skies, the rain started as a sprinkle and quickly turned into sidways sleeting rain, and the waves, although fun quite large to start and got even bigger. We were driving through a cyclone and the weather was quite ridiculous. Despite the weather we fought through and got our blue power suits on to protect ourselves from getting stung by a blue bottle, which is a somewhat harmful small jelly fish. We did eventually have a chance to go out and snorkel for a little bit but the visibility wasn't very good because of the storm. They canceled scuba diving which was a big bummer because I was very excited to try that out. Although the weather was a bit crazy, our group really just took the experience for what it was, unforgettable for sure :)
Sunday, we loaded everything up and were off to the airport again. We had to say bye to our friends we had made that are going to different universities. A pretty short flight landed us in Sydney! On our way to our school, we drove by the Opera House and over the Sydney Bridge and it was just like the pictures and movies, but ten times better! The rest of the bus ride and once we arrived on campus, I was just in total shock and awe and amazement. ICMS (International College of Management of Sydney) is so wonderful and totally reminds me of harry potter. Overall I am doing great and honestly living the dream :) More to come now that I am here and getting settled in, Orientation meetings and stuff this week.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Roots and Wings.

I am sitting here in Chicago on Jenn and Kaitlyn's "couch" as we have called it but rather it is just an air mattress and my bed for tonight and I am soaking it all in. It is my last night in the United States. I will not be back until May 15th. The excitement and overwhelming feelings are really getting to me now. I anxiously laid in bed last night trying to remind myself of all the fun and amazing memories I will make, while at the same time realizing that my friends and family will be missing from my life for the next four months. It seems quite unreal to imagine my life without the people who have made it so complete for as long as I can remember. The whole studying abroad experience especially now is bittersweet. I am out of my mind excited and words really cannot explain exactly how happy I am that I am doing this and how appreciative I am for being given this amazing opportunity. But at the same time, as the days draw to an end before I leave, I have realized just how much I love the amazing people in my life. I have been so blessed with the friends and family in my life. Friends who have enriched my days and given me memories that will last forever. These supportive people continue to amaze me and I am really happy that I got a chance to say good bye to many of them. I am at a loss for words to explain just how much my family means to me and how much I will miss them in the next couple months. They are all amazing individuals who have helped shape who I am today. Although it will feel like a small part of me is missing I know that with their love, support, and luckily skype :) that I will not only enjoy my time in Australia, I will make sure to live my experience to the fullest and keep my family close to my heart at all times.

My mom has said to us that she hopes to give us "both roots and wings" throughout our lives. I think my parents have done just that. I feel like my roots have helped stabilize me in my surroundings and given me strength, hope, and deep faith and love within my family and friends. I feel rooted and strong in who I have become and I give so much credit of that to my family. And now with my wings I am ready to spread them and explore the next phase of my life. I have strength, courage, and confidence to embark on this adventure with Steph Beattie and Michael Hall at my side. In less than a day now I will be boarding an airplane with my carry one and luggage but also my roots and wings.

- Hodding Carter -

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The time is now... well almost

After a restless night of sleep, I lay in bed this morning and realized that tonight would be the last night that I sleep in my comfy cozy bed with my baby blanket surrounded by reminders and memories of my childhood and life for the next four months. Its overwhelming and honestly just crazy that the time is pretty much here. Like a lot of big moments and events in your life it seems like you plan and organize, and worry and work, and then its here.

For example, I remember in high school when I had the interesting yet rewarding opportunity to help plan junior year prom. As Amy Wall's right hand man, we started in the fall visiting possible locations and then making phone calls and organizing every last detail. Some of the staff, teachers, and specifically our advisors did help us with some things but so much of it was our time and effort that it really felt like 'our baby.' And then prom rolls around and in just a couple hours all the work and anticipation built up is here and then gone.

Although my upcoming adventure to Australia can be relatable to my prom experience in some ways, I am very pleased to say that while the anticipation and work built up was comparable the trip will not be. Australia will not only be life changing and an experience of a lifetime lucky for me it will last more than just a couple of hours.

So as I sit here in my bedroom, realizing that my time left here at home is short, I am eagerly anticipating this next step in my life that is sure to be an adventure. I have lots to do today, with final packing, and organizing to finish up my time here in Elk Rapids but I think I will sleep soundly tonight in my comfy cozy bed at home.

Rusted Root- Send Me On My Way

"I would like to reach out my hand
I may see you, I may tell you to run
You know what they say about the young
Well pick me up with golden hands
Oh may see you, Oh may tell you to run
You know what they say about the young

Well I would like to hold my little, hand
How we will run We will. How we will crawl we will.
I would like to hold my little, hand.
How we will run we will. How we will crawl.

Send me on my way, on my way"