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. :)