**This is going to be a long post**
Today was my first day of classes at the "Uni" as the Aussies call it here. For this semester, I am attending the University of Newcastle in Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia. I had already pre-registered for classes before I arrived in Australia, and I chose classes that will transfer back over to my college in the States. Since I am now a junior in college (what the heck), all of the classes I take from here on will either go towards my Psychology major or my English (Writing) minor.
Here at the Uni, I'm currently enrolled in three courses. Each class in Australia is worth 4 US credits through my university at home, so I'm technically only taking 12 credits this semester. I usually take 16-18 credits every semester, but taking 4 short is fine for me because I'm already ahead with my course load. But if you are going abroad, and are not sure about your progress towards graduating on time; talk to your advisor and figure it out ASAP or it can get super stressful. I could have taken a full 16-credit load, but I figured I'd give myself a break while in Australia. I'm taking Biological Psychology, Personality and Social Psychology, and Indigenous Australian Literature. The two Psych classes go towards my required Psych electives back at High Point, and the Australian Lit fulfills my second lit requirement for my Writing minor. We also were required to take a class that was based on Australian culture, so this lit class double dipped for both of those requirements.
In Australia, classes only meet once a week. Which is incredible. Since they meet once a week and can have anywhere from 50-350+ students in one class, they have these separate classes called "tutorials," where the big lecture class is divided up into smaller sections that meet on a different day for discussions and group work. Since my classes are Psychology courses; instead of tutorials, we have lab sessions. On Mondays, I have my two Psych labs, 2 hours each, from 9-11am and then 1-3pm. Labs aren't every week either, so some weeks I will have off Mondays, which will be really nice. I have off Tuesdays & Thursdays also, which I looooooove. Wednesdays I have my two Psych lectures from 1-3, and then 3-5; which is what I had today. Fridays, I have my English course in the morning and that's it. Not too shabby.
As I'm writing this, it's Wednesday night & I just had my first day of classes. I was super nervous about it because there are 150 people in each of my lectures and I'm used to having 8-30 people in a lecture. I was excited, but also super anxious. We have to take the public bus to the Uni (which I'm still getting used to), and it's a 35 minute ride on a good day. We also have to walk 15 minutes to the bus stop and then walk to our classes from where the bus drops us off at the Uni. So we basically leave our house an hour and a half to two hours before our class actually starts.
Today, I had no idea what to expect. I was prepared for a long day ahead of me, so I dressed semi-nicely, and ate a big breakfast; avocado & egg on an english muffin, an apple, yogurt & some tea. I packed some healthy snacks in my bag and headed to the bus stop with Jonah. The bus ride was not long at all. Both of my classes were super interesting and it was also a lot easier for me to pay attention in a bigger classroom environment for some reason. Maybe it was because my professors have an Aussie accent?? I'm not sure. Everyone was super nice and the campus is beautiful. I'm super excited for the rest of the semester and my time here at the University of Newcastle.
Sorry for babbling 💋
A LITTLE INSPIRATION . . .
This morning, I was inspired. I've been struggling for the past few days with a bad cold from the climate change and the cold temperatures here in Australia. Luckily, my classes don't start until tomorrow (Wednesday), so I've had Monday and today to rest up and get better before they do. But instead of completely resting, I decided to go on my 5 mile run to Nobby's Lighthouse. It was tough, because I have the sniffles, a runny nose and a bad cough, but I did it anyway. Some people may call me crazy for doing it instead of resting in bed; but the best way to get over a cold is to sweat it out, to exercise, and to breathe in some fresh air. It was so refreshing to get out of the apartment, and to witness all of the beautiful things that I did.
For whatever specific reason it was about today, I viewed things in a different perspective. Maybe it was because I was alone, or maybe it was because I am sick. But I observed so many great things about life, and it inspired me to want to get home and write about it. I was upset about feeling down in the dumps, and missing the big Blacklight/Welcome party that's being thrown tomorrow night at my school, but after my run today I had a change of heart.
While running, I spotted three quotes written in blue paint on the rocks along the shore. They were uplifting, and helped me to view all the great things in life around me. I was listening to great music, breathing in fresh air, and jogging at my own pace with a clear head. Life is absolutely amazing. I stopped to watch the 20+ dogs that were all with their owners, running in and out of the ocean to fetch bones and sticks. I stopped and smiled at each person that walked or ran past me, and they all smiled back. I saw an old, old man walking his newborn black Pitbull puppy. And we all know I have a soft spot for Pitbulls because of my baby, Cali. There was another old man who was pushing his wife in her wheelchair along the lighthouse, and they were both smiling and holding hands while doing it. Another younger woman was walking with four men in wheelchairs, who all either had a missing arm or leg. Even the happy couple who was pushing their newborn baby in a stroller, made me smile. All of these things made my run that much more enjoyable, and helped me to step back and realize life is great. It is filled with happy things. You just have to keep your eyes open for them.
Picture 1: "Yes, and it was not darkness that fell from the air, it was brightness."
Picture 2: "My hands will forever hold you. My feet will forever walk beside you."
Picture 3: "When nothing goes right, go left."
OH & we just booked our FIRST trip for mid August...
Great Barrier Reef here we come!!!
I am so thankful to have such an amazing and diverse group of 12 people here on this trip with me. We are all very different, but together we make up a great group of friends that produce endless laughs and fun times everytime we're together. I am also very grateful that this group is an athletic bunch. They motivate me to want to exercise daily, and choose a healthier lifestyle rather than a lazy one. The two boys in the group, Jonah & Ryan, like to run. So a few of us girls decided to tag along yesterday and it was one of the best decisions I've made in a long time. We ran 2.5 miles to this lighthouse, and 2.5 miles back. I had seen the lighthouse in the distance before, but never actually gotten close to it. The lighthouse is on Nobby's Beach and is a popular beach destination for the locals once it gets warmer, and even now for joggers.
Even though I'm trying to stay healthy and exercise daily, it's hard. I am definitely not at the same running pace as everyone else, but luckily one of my roommates is right there with me. Deanna and I ran/walked to Dobby's Lighthouse, and even though we did it at a slower pace, we made it. There and back, doing a total of 5 miles. I was really proud of us, and it was even more amazing that the reward was this amazing view, which I can't wait to see everyday. Running there daily is going to be my new goal; and hopefully by the end of the semester, I'll be able to run the entire 5 miles!
Even though we walked a total of 5 miles to the lighthouse, the adventuring wasn't over yet. Around 4:00pm, the High Point bunch decided to walk a mile to Bar Beach to watch the sunset and explore. The sun sets at 5:00pm here, which is pretty weird, but it's easy to get used to. We brought a picnic blanket and our GoPros to capture some great photos. It was absolutely breathtaking, but we didn't get to catch the sunset like we had wanted to because it was too cloudy. It started to rain while we were there, but we were still able to get some amazing shots and bond together for a few hours. At the end of the day, my iPhone said I walked a total of 8.48 miles altogether. We also had walked to a club the night before, 30 minutes there and 30 minutes back. Walking is becoming a part of my everyday lifestyle, and I can't really complain about it at all. It makes me feel better about myself, and I also get to know the area I'm living in a lot better!
Today, we visited the University of Newcastle; Oriumbah campus for a free lunch with the rest of the international students before we headed to the Australian Reptile Park in Somersby. We got mini dutch pancakes and some of us played laser tag before we headed to play with the koala bears and kangaroos.
Kangaroos on the Loose..
We got to visit a Reptile park where they keep some of Australia's most common animals such as kangaroos, koalas, crocodiles, wallabies, spiders, snakes, dingoes, turtles, and birds of all sorts. It was a very interesting park, but places like this always make me kind of sad because the animals aren't in their natural habitat. Buuuuut, it was really cool. We got to feed kangaroos, take pictures with Koala bears (we can't hold them because it's illegal in the state of New South Wales), see man-eating Python snakes, 9-foot long crocodiles, and spiders that can kill you with one bite.
Australia has some of the most deadliest and most poisonous animals in the world, all within the country. We learned a little about history, and what to avoid during our stay here. The koalas were so cute, and the kangaroos were very feisty. They grabbed the bag of food right out of my hand and started ripping it to shreds. The coolest part was seeing a python that is the only man-eating snake in the world, (pictured below), can eat a child or a small adult, but is very rare that that happens.
It was a really fun day for all of us, but when we go to Queensland, we will actually be able to hold the Koala bear there and take a picture with it because it is legal. And there are places where kangaroos run free, and we will most likely see some wild ones during our stay here. I can't wait until that happens, but this was a great start to introduce us to these creatures!
First Weekend: Successful
Alcohol is super expensive in Australia. Bottles of cheap liquor such as Pinnacle or Smirnoff are usually $15-20 in America, but here they are $35-45. Drinks at the club barely have alcohol in them and are $10-12. It's SO hard to not to want to buy drinks all the time, but living here has already helped me become more frugal with my spending. And has also helped me to realize that sometimes it's just not worth it. The biggest thing is eating out vs. buying groceries and making meals at home. It's so much easier to just go buy food and have a yummy meal with a nice glass of wine, but in the long run; do you want that meal or do you want that $20 to go towards snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef? It's all about spending SMART. My friend and I wrote out our budgets and have recorded every single transaction we've made since being here, and will continue to do that. When you write things down and stay organized with your money, then you know where it's actually going, can visually see areas that you need to spend less in and areas that you should start to save more for.
So I know that it's illegal for me to drink in the United States (only by a year), but here in Australia, we are two years past the legal drinking age; so it's totally acceptable for us to be out at bars and clubs or to order a drink with dinner. It's a great thing, but also a bad thing for my budget. We went to a few different bars, restaurants and dance clubs over the weekend and had a BLAST. Not only did we have fun with each other, but we met so many Aussies. It is actually incredible how nice the people are here. My roommate, Megan and I were in the bathroom and a girl recognized our American accents and insisted she take us out and show us around town one day to let us know where all the best places were. Last night, our whole study abroad group sat with a couple of Australian guys who bought us a few bottles of wine and were telling us about life in Newcastle. I am just stunned by how many nice people we have met so far, and can only imagine how many more people there are just like them that we have yet to meet.
We have decided that we want to keep track of places we've been to, mainly bars, restaurants and stores by taking their business cards and drink coasters. Many of the restaurants and bars have cute coasters, and although it might? be frowned upon, we take their coasters for memory purposes. So far, we have 4 and plan to get at least 100+ over our trip. Doing things like this help to memorize the trip more vividly!
So our Study Abroad advisor, Rayna, who is also like our mother, took us around Newcastle today to help get us familiar with the area. She showed us the places to shop, the bars to go to, the popular beaches, and she even took us to go grocery shopping (which was so hard to do by the way). But she took us to the prettiest beach called Bar Beach, which is a 10 minute walk from our apartment where the surfers surf all-year-round. There were surfers in wet suits on their surf boards out on the waves in the middle of winter. It wasn't just one surfer either, there were TONS of surfers all along the coast. I'm learning so much about the culture and the slang everyday; aka Hotel means bar. So these places are called "Finnagan's Hotel" but it's really a bar??? But anyway this beach was breathtaking and I can't wait to watch the sunset and sunrise here all the time once it gets warmer!!
The only downside is that there's no heat or air conditioning. It's brutal now because it's in the middle of winter. The landlord came by and brought us scarves, hats and jackets. This is the coldest winter that NSW has had in 40+ years. Our luck, right? But it's okay because a colder winter means a hotter summer.
Our apartments are SO cute. So much cuter than I thought they would be. It is me and two other girls living together in an apartment in Newcastle, along with our other friends who are from our University and universities across the States. We all live in the same building, and there are 6 rooms altogether. It's cute because each room has a theme. There is a safari themed room, a China themed room, beach theme, etc. Ours is the "modern-themed" room. There are pictures of big-named cities around our apartment, and it is mostly black and white.
We ate at the cutest restaurant that was also a bar and lounge, called Zinc. It was our first gathering and the menu was totally affordable and the food was absolutely amazing. I'm so glad we found this on our first day cause we'll definitely be returning here.
After a 4 hour flight to Dallas, a 5 hour layover in Dallas and a 17 hour flight to Sydney, and then a 3 hour drive to our apartment... we finally arrived in Newcastle!!! It's very, very cold here. Way colder than I expected it to be. It's currently 45 degrees outside and rainy, and I had to go out and buy more sweaters because I didn't pack enough. But anyways, the flight was not as half bad as I thought it would be. I slept for 11 out of the 17 hours on the plane (shoutout to Nyquil PM). I highly recommend taking something to help you sleep, or else it may be miserable. There were great movies, games, TV shows and USB plugs to charge our phones for the flight, thank goodness. The real struggle was getting all 4 of my suitcases off of the baggage claim and then pushing the cart through the airport. It's pretty weird that we are a day ahead of everyone in the States, and that it's currently winter; but the people in Australia are SO friendly, and I am so excited to be living here for the next 4.5 months.
Stay tuned for more adventures coming soon :)