Ohhhh Caaanadaaa!

First and foremost, Happy Canada Day to my Canadian pals!

There are so many wonderful things about what is often described as the cold version of Australia. The people are unbelievably welcoming, the night-life is unlike anywhere else, the air is super fresh and the food (namely poutine) is amazing!

In order to celebrate, I thought I’d put together some of my favourite pics from my travels to the Great North over the past couple of years.

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Quebec City, QC ’14

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Qualicum Bay, BC ’14

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Montreal, QC ’11

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We ❤ Canada! Vancouver, BC ’14

 

To Stay or Not to Stay

Staycation /steɪˈkeɪʃ(ə)n/ noun: A vacation that is spent at one’s home enjoying all that home and one’s home environs have to offer.

 

When I first learned that there were people who actually took time out of their lives to stay at home and do nothing, I thought they were all mad. Why wouldn’t you go out and explore?! – Utilise your spare time experiencing something new. The idea of a stay-cation had never really appealed to me. Any time that I got off was spent going somewhere new and experiencing life and the world with a new set of eyes.

Oh how things change.

Fast-forward some time, to a time where the unfathomable “real world” has made itself uncomfortably comfortable in my every life and has so perceptibly changed the ways in which I view so many things. This year has seen the introduction of the mundane 9-5 slog, which combined with other life-happenings leaves me with little time to myself at the end of each week. So by the time the weekend rolls around, my body feels like it enters a non-conforming state to my active, wanting-to-wander mind. Typically, the mind trumps the body, but for the first time in my life EVER, I let my body win the battle this past weekend. And boy did it feel good!

Everyone has that list of things that they want to get done, but never finds the time (or makes the time) to do it. Enter the stay-cation. Whilst it may seem like the most Nanna-activity ever, once you’ve made the decision to let lazy win, you won’t be disappointed! I put my gallivanting mind to rest for one weekend and had a blast! My first day of freedom was spent doing things around the house that I had never had time to do. I went to a yoga class, potted some succulents and moved the TV into the bedroom (just for the weekend – I swear!) and binged on chick flicks. Day two of the stay-cation was a little more active and saw me head out to my favourite local markets, explore the greenery at Minnamurra Rainforest and indulge in some hot chips at my favourite diner in cute seaside town Kiama.

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Held on the 4th Sunday of every month, the Coledale Markets are a great day that everyone can enjoy. How could you not with this as a backdrop and the ocean at the forefront?!

 

Nature in all its glory at Minnamurra rainforest

 

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Lunch with a view – Little Blow Hole, Kiama

 

Whilst past me would be horrified to hear of present me’s actions (or lack thereof) this past weekend, it did make me realise how important it is to put aside some time for a little TLC every now and then. If you’ve been contemplating taking some time out, telling all your friends you’re busy and doing sweet FA, I’d advise you to do it! Bask in the gloriousness that is contempt laziness in this fast, routine world! If my little revelation hasn’t convinced you, let these 5 points ice the cake for you:

5 reasons why taking time out for a stay-cation is great

 

  1. Been eyeing off a cute pair of pj’s at the shops lately, or just been hanging out to wear your favourite onesie again? This is the perfect opportunity! When disembarking on a stay-cation, remaining in your pj’s is like the number 1 unbreakable rule.
  2.  Drinking wine in bed, eating chocolates and watching endless chick flicks is ok – Hoorah!
  3. Perfect op to research the crap out of where your next big adventure will be …. After you’ve rested up that is.
  4. You’re only going to be at home all weekend, so any reason for wearing make-up, showering or even getting out of bed is diminished.
  5. Remember that time, before life got busy when you actually had hobbies? Now’s the perfect time to rekindle that love for crocheting you forgot you had.

 

 

 

 

Finding Hope

If there’s one thing that we can always be sure of, it’s that the sun will always rise and set. No matter where you are, who you are or what you’re doing, the sun will rise everyday and set every day.

The last couple of weeks have been tough. I’ve had to say goodbye to someone who inspired me from a very young age. The world can be a cruel place sometimes, but dwelling on this doesn’t get anyone anywhere. Somewhere along the way, I managed to find some stability, a streak of hope. The sun will always rise and present itself with a new day.

If anything, this past month has reinforced just how grateful I am for my health. Without it, I couldn’t continue to do what I love to do the most – travel. As corny and clichéd as it is, make sure you live every day to the absolute fullest. Live without regrets and love endlessly.

xx

A New Day

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Wollongong, NSW Australia

 

 

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Byron Bay, NSW Australia

 

 

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Sanur, Bali Indonesia

Nature Photo Challenge

A little over a week ago, I was nominated by a friend to participate in the Nature Photo Challenge – a challenge that sees nominated people share their favourite nature photographs over 7 days. Ultimately, my love of nature directly syncs up with my love of travel, the desire to constantly be outside, exploring what unseen things are out there. I thought it’d be nice to share my favourite nature pics with you guys, so here goes:

 

Day 1: Belmore Basin, Wollongong, NSW AustraliaIMG_3764.JPG
The first picture I chose to share as part of the Nature Photo Challenge, is a picture I took a little over a year ago. I had just started learning how to actually use a digital SLR and had an assignment looming, so after much deliberation I chose to go down to the harbour one morning and attempt to capture the sunrise. Having been studying Ansel Adams and his association with the f/64, I was keen to take photographs keeping his legacy in mind. Luckily Mother Nature put on a spectacular show, allowing me to capture this (untouched) moment.

 

Day 2: Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
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This picture was taken whilst on a family road trip holiday around Europe in January 2015. We were driving down Germany’s Romantic Route from Munich to Bavaria. We were staying in a sweet town called Hopfen Am See, just 10 minutes out of Füssen. I took this photo on the highway, just as the Bavarian Alps were coming into view.

 

Day 3: Seal Rock Beach, OR, USA
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It’s funny how you sometimes find yourself in places that you know you’ve visited before. This was the case with Seal Rock Beach in mid 2014. Henry and I were riding around North America on a motorcycle and at this point were mid-way through driving down the 101 in Oregon. As we walked along this beach, I got the strong sense that I had been there before. The feeling gnawed at me for a while. The next time I called home, it was confirmed, I had been playing on this same beach some 15 years earlier as a little girl.

 

Day 4: Camp Zuiderzee, Victoria Island, BC, Canada
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Another picture from the motorcycle trip. This time a little further north in Canada. On a whim, Henry and I decided that we’d spend two weeks riding around British Columbia’s Victoria Island. Without so much as planning where we were even going, we had boarded the ferry over. By some stroke of luck, we found this wonderful campground. Every evening the lake would mirror all the trees around it. That combined with the laughter of young children splashing about will always bring a smile and fond memories.

 

Day 5: Thirroul, NSW, Australia

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Ever feel like you’re lacking in creativity and are unsure of how to retrieve it? This is how I was feeling a few weeks ago. I’d just landed my first career, 9-5 job and was feeling overwhelmed and tired. One evening, after realising how long it’d been since I’d taken a photo, I grabbed my SLR and headed down to the beach to watch the sunset. The colours that evening were amazing, and the crashing sounds of the waves were exactly what I needed.

 

Day 6: Lake Ohrid, Macadonia
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This was one of the first pictures I’d ever taken whilst abroad. Dad was always the photography man on our family holidays. During a trip we did around Europe and America in 2007, I asked if he could show me how to take a decent photo. Whenever I saw something I liked, Dad would point me in the right direction. This picture was taken on an evidently windy morning at Lake Ohrid in Macedonia – a beautiful part of the world that I will always recommend you visit!

 

Day 7 : Lake Phewa, Pokhara, Nepal

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I feel like Nepal has got to be the mecca for nature lovers. In 2011, I spent 5 weeks volunteering in this gorgeous country. On my final week in the country, my Mum came over to visit. We took the 8 hour bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara and were blown away. It’s crazy how much beauty there is in one country!

 

Picking just 7 photos was not an easy task. Although, I did have fun rummaging through my archives to find pictures that evoked happy, precious memories for me. I hope you enjoyed looking at my top nature pictures, selected over the course of a week. I’d love to see your favourite nature photos too! Comment your blog links below so that we can all share in the greatness that nature provides us with! xx

Bucket list

This blog post is kind of going to steer away from the typical travel blog posts that fill the archives of Kachina’s Nomaddiction. If you follow my blog, I’m sure you’ve noticed the big gaps in between posts of late. Whilst typically that has meant I’ve been busy creating something fresh and exciting, this time my absence has simply been because life got in the way. A series of events and the commencement of new employment (yay!) have made what spare time I now have fairly limited, very precious, and for a short while, quite dull creatively. Somewhere amongst the busyness that life became, my creative beam of light flickered out, and I was left feeling lacklustre and uninspired.
I’m sure for those of you reading whose passions lie within the creative arts realm, you’ll know how disheartening this feeling can be. My spark had escaped me and no matter how hard I looked, or tried, I just couldn’t re-acquaint myself with the fleeting vigour that is creativity.

Having recently read Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest book ‘Big Magic’, I thought that the notion of creativity she describes in her book explained my current situation; I hadn’t grabbed that creativity streak when it reached out to me. Having realised this, I knew that the only way I could re-establish my relationship with creativity was to continue about my every day, and have faith in knowing that creativity hadn’t abandoned me and that it would return.

And what do you know? It did just that. Not subtly either or in an expected location. In fact, it happened whilst I was on the train, on the way to Sydney to watch a film documentary at the IMAX. I was feasting my eyes to an old issue of the Collective magazine when I came across an article about a guy named Sebastian Terry, who after losing a close friend realised that life was too precious and short to not at least try and accomplish everything you can. So he wrote a 100-item bucket list and has started working towards ticking each item off. His story had reeled me in and I could feel something within me that I hadn’t felt in a long time – the beginnings of an idea.

Terry’s story had forged a path in my mind, and I wasn’t going to let whatever ideas came to me escape. By the end of the train trip, I had started thinking about what I would add to my bucket list now, and tried to remember what was on the bucket list I had written about ten years ago as an early teenager (sidenote: think things like, see Green Day, see the Spice Girls etc, etc). I let these thoughts continue to float around in my mind as I sat down and watched America Wild – a film documentary that is currently showing at IMAX theatres around the world that I highly recommend seeing! Not even ten seconds into the film and the thoughts of my bucket list stilled. America Wild had caught my attention. I was in a state of awe as images of America’s native parks were being flashed in front of me. These images were not only sparking vivid memories in my mind, by also reminded me of how beautiful the world that we live in is – if only we put ourselves in the way of it. My heart became instantly very happy and I felt like I wanted to cry. Not because I was sad, but because of all of the beauty that is being lost on so many people.

I left the cinema on a natural high. I had ideas and affirmations flowing around in my head, and I knew that this time, I wasn’t going to let them go. So what ideas did this particular day inspire? It reinstated my love for writing, travel and nature. And got me thinking about bucket lists, what was on mine and how could I tick every one off whilst maintaining a deeper understanding from within. So I started writing out my bucket list. Here it is:

 

  1. Work on animal conservation in the Galapagos
  2. Finish learning French
  3. Live in a French speaking country
  4. Do the Annapurna trek in Nepal
  5. Trek the Inca Trail
  6. Go surfing in El Salvador
  7. See the Mayan ruins at Tikal, Guatemala
  8. Travel through Central and South America
  9. Hang glide
  10. Canyoning
  11. Visit a hidden beach
  12. Drive down route 66
  13. Buy a hippie van and road trip around Australia and New Zealand
  14. Sleep in an Igloo
  15. Go to Burning Man
  16. Go to Rainbow Serpent
  17. Sleep in a hammock by the sea
  18. Learn how to salsa
  19. And then dance the night away
  20. See Orca’s in the wild
  21. See the Northern lights
  22. Participate in a triathlon
  23. Go to Russia
  24. Explore the ancient ruins at Egypt and Jordan
  25. Create a motorbike/travel web series with Henry
  26. Never stop helping people
  27. Publish a book
  28. Learn how to SUP
  29. Learn to ski
  30. Take photography classes
  31. Get my diving license
  32. Get my motorbike license
  33. Swim with humpback whales
  34. Swim with dolphins in the wild
  35. Learn how to play the mandolin
  36. Participate in a musical
  37. Be on TV
  38. Go to a nude yoga class
  39. Get my yoga teacher certificate in India
  40. Make art
  41. Fly first class
  42. Go to circus school
  43. Participate in the Mardi Gras parade
  44. Get a market stall up and running
  45. Be more selfless and more giving
  46. Continue to create awareness and work towards change for HIV/AIDS
  47. Grow out my armpit hair
  48. Learn how to fly a plane
  49. Make sure that everyone I love knows it, every day.
  50. Do everything on this list for a different charity/cause.

 

 

Since putting this list together, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what charities and causes I could link each activity with, and the ideas I already have make the excited butterflies flutter in my stomach. Of course, the goal is to share each of these adventures with you all online. So for now, lets say cheers; to a happy, safe and spontaneous future!

Whenever you find yourself in a rut, like the one I found myself in, put yourself in the way of beauty and take in the moment without the technology. Let the moment be a special one between you and the world.

Happy Travels,
Kachina.

 

PS: I’d love to know what’s on your bucket list! Let’s share, pop them in the comments 🙂

 

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Camilla – Hendrix College, AR

Who: Camilla from Denmark
Website: http://Cammi.dk
When: Spring semester, 2013
Where: Hendrix College, Conway, AR, USA – At my home university I was studying Modern English and International Business Communication. In the US I took classes in American History, Sociology, Anthropology, and Asian Religions.

 

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What made you decide that you wanted to participate in a student exchange?

For as long as I can remember I’ve been wanting to live in the US at one point in my life. My granddad lived in Houston, Texas, and for every time that I went to see him I would fall more in love with the country. On the fourth semester of my bachelor degree we could choose to stay home and write a project, or to spend the semester at a university abroad. I of course decided to spend the semester abroad and fulfil the lifelong dream of mine to live in the US.

 

How did you choose where you wanted to spend your semester/time abroad?

Most people from my class decided to go to San Diego or London, but I wanted to try something different and go to somewhere new. I’ve always loved the South, so after browsing through the different college profiles in my programme, I decided on applying for Hendrix College in Arkansas. Honestly, I had never heard anything about Arkansas, but that was exactly what made me choose to study in that state. I wanted to do something unique where I wouldn’t just be one out of thousands of other exchange students.

 

Before leaving, what were your expectations for this experience?

I was pretty excited. I had just ended a 5-year-long relationship, so I was ready for some change. I honestly didn’t expect much from this experience. I was just hoping that it would make me grow as a person and that I would make some memories worth remembering.

 

What were your first thoughts upon arrival at your new campus?

When I arrived to my new campus it was raining, and I was all alone as most students weren’t gonna return from their Christmas break until the day after. So I felt very lonely and I really just wanted to go back home immediately. Luckily this changed the next day.

 

What were some hurdles that you had to overcome/how did you do it?

After the first week I definitely realized that if I wanted to make the most of my semester, I would have to stop holding back and start being more chatty. Being an introvert, this was definitely difficult overcoming, but after a while I just realized that I needed to let go if I wanted to make the semester a good experience.

 

Did you notice any major differences between studying at your home country and your host country?

Definitely! In Denmark we usually spend 8 weeks in class, and the rest of the semester we work on our exams which are usually major essays and oral exams. In the US we only had one week of finals, and these were mainly multiple choice tests. Along with that, we would also take tests and hand in essays several times throughout the semester. It was definitely difficult to get used to this.

 

What are some of your favourite memories from your time abroad?

Honestly, the whole semester has been one big and great memory. Hendrix College is a small liberal arts college of about 1,300 students in the middle of nowhere. Since there was not much going on in town, we lived in something that we called the Hendrix Bubble, where we wouldn’t notice anything going on off-campus. I loved this! You would get really close with everybody, and there was always something going on on campus, from theme parties, to concerts, excursions, literally every day there was an event worth attending. My favorites were probably the Macklemore concert, Holi Festival, International Week, Toga Party, German Immersion weekend, and the monthly theme days in the cafeteria.

 

Has this experience at all changed the way in which you view yourself/other cultures?

I don’t think that the experience has changed the way I view other cultures. But it did teach me to make the most of everything that I do and to be open to anything that may be new and different to me.

 

Did you travel much whilst you were abroad?

I didn’t travel much during my semester abroad. I spent my spring break in Panama City Beach, and did a roadtrip with my family after the semester.

 

How did this experience change you?

This may sound cheesy, but I definitely believe that my study abroad experience has changed my life. Before I was super shy and kinda miserable. Living in the US I learned to let go and just live life. On top of that I also happened to meet a girl who today, three years later, still is my best friend, and I met a French boy who today is my boyfriend and this summer we’re gonna move in together in Amsterdam. So yes, I definitely think that this experience has changed me and my life!

 

Would you recommend other people participate in a student exchange?

Absolutely!

 

If so, what is your top reason for why people should study abroad?

You’ll get a unique chance to immerse yourself with the culture of a new country. Along with that, you might make some new friendships that will last a lifetime.

 

To read about more of Camilla’s travel adventures, be sure to check out her blog on the following accounts:
www.instagram.com/cammi_dk
www.twitter.com/cammidk

Cass – University of Nantes

Who: Cass from London UK (originally Calgary Canada)
Website: www.casstravels.com
When: Jan – June 2007
Where: – Attended Villanova university in Philly normally
– Abroad at IES abroad and university of Nantes in Nantes, France
– Mostly studying French!

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What made you decide that you wanted to participate in a student exchange?

When I was in high school I went abroad alone for the first time when I had the opportunity to spend a summer in France, learning French and exploring the south of France, and I was immediately hooked. Having grown up in Canada, I had been learning French since kindergarten, and my exchange program gave me the perfect opportunity to come back to Europe and really improve my language skills and travel!

 

How did you choose where you wanted to spend your semester/time abroad?

For me, this was one of the easier choices. Given my past experiences and language, I knew I wanted to be in France. And I knew that I wanted to be in a smaller town rather than Paris, where I’d be forced to use my French and have less of an ‘out’ to stick with English. From there, it was a pretty short list of programs.

 

Before leaving, what were your expectations for this experience?

I was lucky in that I’d had a previous experience abroad, so I felt fairly prepared. I just remember being excited and thinking about how great my French would be by the end of the trip!

 

What were your first thoughts upon arrival at your new campus?

This is a school?! The program I was doing was held partially in an IES facility and partially at the local university, and the IES class space was STUNNING. It must have been a grand apartment once upon a time, and was just really visually interesting and cool. It was a very clear moment of I don’t think we’re in Kansas (or in my case, Pennsylvania) anymore.

 

What were some hurdles that you had to overcome/how did you do it?

For me there were a few things that were tough.

  1. Language Barrier – this one sort of resolved itself over time, but transitioning to living in a different language (in which you are not fluent) is a challenge.
  2. Host Family Living – I was living in a homestay, which was an amazing way to get integrated into the local culture, but you also need to adjust to the family’s customs all while learning a new language. My family was lovely, but there were definitely a few awkward moments to start.
  3. Distance – while it was amazing and wonderful, it also puts you very far from home and from family and friends. I studied abroad before Whatsapp existed, and even facebook was still in its early stages. Communicating and keeping in touch wasn’t easy, and there were definitely moments of homesickness.

 

Did you notice any major differences between studying at your home country and your host country?

Absolutely. I was attending a small, private University where my largest class size was 30 people, and I walked into a lecture hall of 200 French students. It was a bit intimidating at first. But most of my courses were through IES directly and focused more on French, so that was a bit closer to what I was expecting. The grading scale is completely different as well, and people don’t receive the same sort of high marks I was used to, so that was a bit of a shocker as well (if only to my ego!)

 

What are some of your favourite memories from your time abroad?

I have so many – from dancing in the streets all night at Carnivale in Barcelona, to quiet Sunday mornings where a friend and I would meet for Crepes, to the first time I started to think and dream in French. I have extremely fond memories of the whole trip.

 

Did you travel much whilst you were abroad?

One of the joys of being in France, is that you’ve got loads of breaks, so I did a pretty good amount of traveling. Over the semester I went to Paris, London, attended Carnivale in Barcelona, as well as Lisbon, Madrid, Malta, Florence, Milan and Venice, along with exploring the region of France I was in: Bordeaux, the Chateaus in Tours, Normandy and more.

 

If so, did this travel enhance your experience? Why/why not?

The travel definitely enhanced my experience – it was the first time I’d seen many of those places and brought an exciting element to the trip.

 

How did this experience change you?

The experience was transformative in a few huge ways – it drastically improved my language skills which opened all sorts of doors, but it also cemented my love for Europe. It took a few years to get back, but I now live in London, and I’m not sure that would be the case if it weren’t for my experience abroad.

 

Would you recommend other people participate in a student exchange?

Absolutely. Some of my favorite memories are from University, and hugely impactful for me. It forces you out of your comfort zone, and you get the chance to experience something completely different from home.

 

If so, what is your top reason for why people should study abroad?

I think simply, that everyone should experience a different culture at least once in their life. It gives you such an amazing perspective and allows you to look at things a bit differently. Plus, it’s great fun!

 

To read about more of Cass’ overseas adventures, be sure to check out her blog on the following sites:

www.facebook.com/casstravels
www.instagram.com/casstravels
www.twitter.com/casstravels

 

Michelle -University of Sydney

 

Who: Michelle from Atlanta, GA, USA 
Website: http://mishvoinmotion.com
When: July-December 2010
Where: University of Sydney, NSW, Australia -Psychology.

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What made you decide that you wanted to participate in a student exchange?

I was feeling ready to leave behind some things I was struggling with at home (moving on from an ex, family struggles etc.). I also just wanted to travel!

 

How did you choose where you wanted to spend your semester/time abroad?

I don’t speak any second languages so I needed a university with classes all in English. I ended up choosing between England and Australia, and I picked Australia because the weather was better.

 

Before leaving, what were your expectations for this experience?

I literally had no idea. Kangaroos? Surfers?

 

What were your first thoughts upon arrival at your new campus?

The Asian food is super yummy, the ibis birds are hilariously awkward, and being able to drink alcohol legally is a pretty neat thing.

 

What were some hurdles that you had to overcome/how did you do it?

There were very few hurdles honestly. I had a great group of friends, Sydney was a blast, and I rarely went to class, which, worked out fine since all I needed, to do was pass (my credits transferred over as pass/fail). Probably the biggest challenge was that everything was so wildly expensive! To overcome this, I picked up work as a babysitter and as a server in a café.

 

Did you notice any major differences between studying at your home country and your host country?

I was actually pretty disappointed with the Sydney uni quality of education I encountered. My grade for each class was derived from maybe one paper and two tests – there wasn’t a lot of room to improve over the course of the semester. Even though each assignment/assessment was weighted heavily, the opportunity to succeed or stand out was limited by the fact that getting the highest grade possible (a “high distinction”) was nearly impossible. Why try when you can’t succeed? Furthermore, I felt there was a campus-wide lack of enthusiasm for learning. Many of my lecturers would either bore students to tears or dump a completely unreasonable amount of information on us, which we would discuss only once and be expected to know for the final exam six weeks later. The most frustrating thing was that everything closed at 6pm, including the library. Where in the world was I supposed to go to study??

 

What are some of your favourite memories from your time abroad?

Eating gelato with my Italian friend, Rebecca, (who now lives in DC and I still hang out with!!) on Glebe Point Road; cliff jumping in Bondi with my Australian friend, Jordan; walking along the cliffs from Bondi to Coogee; making international potluck dinners with my 10 housemates; eating dumplings in Chinatown; walking to the Opera House at night…

 

Has this experience at all changed the way in which you view yourself/other cultures?

It empowered me. I proved to myself that I could successfully show up in a country alone and make a life for myself.

 

Did you travel much whilst you were abroad?

I went to Cairns, Brisbane, Melbourne, and on a 10 day campervan trip around New Zealand.

 

If so, did this travel enhance your experience? Why/why not?

Absolutely. I got to swim in waterfalls and dive the Great Barrier Reef, which was definitely a bucket list item. The New Zealand trip was incredible of course. And I got to see Melbourne which is important so I can actually have a position on the Sydney versus Melbourne debate (definitely Sydney, no doubt about it ;).

 

How did this experience change you?

I actually think it heightened my expectations about what travel abroad would be like. When I moved to Thailand to teach English a couple years later, it was much more difficult to navigate life in general because I didn’t speak the language of course. And what’s this whole “teaching thing” – I have to actually work while I’m here?? Yeah…

But it also empowered me to travel solo later on and that has been really important for me spiritually. Oh and it was the birth of my blog of course! Back then it was called “Wallaby Way – Fish are friends, not food!”

 

Would you recommend other people participate in a student exchange?

Yes but don’t go on one of those programs where you pay a flat fee and everything is organised for you, and you travel with students from your home school. If you’re going to go on exchange, put yourself out there.

 

If so, what is your top reason for why people should study abroad?

I’ll quote myself here circa 2010:

“Sydney itself deserves credit for the most amazing five months of my life only insomuch as I would not have met the people I did if I had gone anywhere else. My Sydney friends showed me how to indulge – in music, in new experiences, in food…I learned how to feed my own happiness. To do things that thrilled me, challenged me, and made me feel alive.”

To paraphrase an old friend from Sydney, go because you will feel rich inside.

 

 

To read more about Michelle’s travel experiences be sure to check out her blog on the following sites:

http://facebook.com/mishvoinmotion

http://twitter.com/mishvo

http://instagram.com/mishvo

 

To read about more Study abroad stories, make sure you check out the Student Abroad Series!

 

Ivana – Universidad de Granada, Spain

Who: Ivana; Alberta, Canada
Website:  http://www.ivanaabroad.com
When: January-May 2015
Where: Universidad de Granada, Spain – Studying Spanish language and culture

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What made you decide that you wanted to participate in a student exchange?

Learning Spanish in junior high, high school, and university was a great starting point, but I knew I had to make an extra effort in order to achieve the level of proficiency I was after. This meant immersing myself in the language as well as the culture. I was sold the minute I heard about the Granada exchange program.

How did you choose where you wanted to spend your semester/time abroad?

The only choices I really had which would allow for credit transfer to my home university were Guadalajara, Mexico or Granada, Spain. I had been to Spain before and loved it. A quick Google search revealed that Granada was exactly the kind of place I wanted to be: full of history, tailored to the student lifestyle, and an international airport relatively close by to make travel within Europe a breeze.

Before leaving, what were your expectations for this experience?

I expected, above all, that my Spanish would improve in leaps and bounds. I hoped to befriend locals as well as other international students. I expected that this experience – my first living on my own – would foster my independence.

What were your first thoughts upon arrival at your new campus?

Wow, there are a LOT of Americans here. Friends back home who’d done the program told me that my classes would be full of Americans. Nevertheless, I expected to see a little more variety, but there were only a few Europeans in my classes and the only Canadians were two other girls from my university. Also, the Americans already all seemed to know each other. Turns out their universities were a lot more organized than mine. These people had met before classes even started. I felt like a little bit of an outsider, to be honest, but making friends was effortless.

Also, the Centro de Lenguas Modernas campus of the Universidad de Granada is suuuuuuper small. Like, 20 classrooms and a courtyard small. I’m used to a seeing thousands of unfamiliar faces everyday and booking it across campus to make it to class on time.

What were some hurdles that you had to overcome/how did you do it?

I actually experienced a traveller’s worst nightmare abroad. I had to have a minor surgery near the start of my trip. I chose to stay in Spain and pay for it out of pocket rather than go back home as my insurance company suggested because I knew that I wouldn’t be able to come back to Spain once it was done. This was absolutely the right call. I would have missed out on the best five months of my life had I chosen to save the thousand euros that the surgery cost me and go home. Recovery was a bit of a pain, but I don’t regret the decision at all.

Another minor hurdle was that my confidence took a major hit during my first two weeks in Granada. I thought I knew Spanish pretty well. Little did I know that the andaluz accent would throw me for a loop. It took time to train my ear to this strange new dialect, but I soon learned to understand it and even grew fond of the characteristic dropped “s”.

Did you notice any major differences between studying at your home country and your host country?

In terms of workload, my classes in Spain required maybe an hour a day of studying/completing assignments. The exams were very straightforward and there was only one major assignment in each class, if that. I like to think that going out for tapas and socialising with locals was my homework – it helped my Spanish more than sitting in class did!

What are some of your favourite memories from your time abroad?

Anytime the language barrier made us laugh. One night, my friend Raquel and I went out for tapas with my now boyfriend, Joaquín. I had just been to Paris so I was raving about the macarons, but I wasn’t exactly sure how to say “macarons” in Spanish, so I went with “macarones”. Long story short, Raquel and I go on and on about all the different flavours of macarons we’ve tried – strawberry, blueberry, Earl Grey – while Joaquín just stares at us, mortified. Turns out “macarrones” is the Spanish word for macaroni. He thought we were talking about pasta!

Our questionable dietary choices when we were on weekend trips is something that never fails to make me wonder, “What were we thinking?!” We had no problem spending money on plane tickets, but when we got to wherever we were going, our poor college student meals consisted of baked beans and fried eggs. Everyday. Sometimes multiple times a day. (Still worth it.)

Has this experience at all changed the way in which you view yourself/other cultures?

I like to think I’ve always been very accepting of other cultures being an immigrant myself and having lived in a very diverse city, so I wouldn’t say it changed the way I viewed other cultures. That said, I did learn to be patient when confronted with cultural practices I wasn’t used to.

Did you travel much whilst you were abroad?

Yes! I visited about seven different countries in six months.

If so, did this travel enhance your experience? Why/why not?

Yes and no. Living in western Canada is fantastic in many ways, but it sucks for travel. Being able to travel two hours by plane and land in a completely different culture was incredible. I’m glad I saw places that I’ve always wanted to see like Paris and Rome, but I wish I would’ve spent more time in Spain. My experience of the country wasn’t as comprehensive as it could have been.

How did this experience change you?

Before my exchange, I always thought I could comfortably spend my whole life in my hometown. I probably still could. But I don’t want to. I’m now certain that I want to spend many more years in Spain and abroad. Before Granada, I was fairly sure of my plans after university. Now, several other doors have opened up for me and I don’t know which path to take. I used to have this mental timeline that dictated when I should be accomplishing certain life goals. I’ve since scrapped that idea, aware that my 20s are a time for exploring my independence and the opportunities that come with it. As cliché as it sounds, I’m focusing more on the journey than the destination.

Would you recommend other people participate in a student exchange?

Yes. It’s the absolute best thing you could possibly do to make four challenging years a lot more enjoyable.

If so, what is your top reason for why people should study abroad?

Living abroad, though you might not realise it at the time, will make you an independent person. You might think you’re pretty independent now, but your skills will be tested when you and your friend get separated at the Paris metro station in the wee hours of the night and neither of you speak French, or when you’re stuck in a hotel for a week because it’s holiday season and you can’t find a place to live, and when you do finally find a place your landlord speaks a mile a minute and doesn’t know a word of English, or when you can’t for the life of you find a jar of peanut butter in the entire city. After facing all that and much more, any challenges you confront back home seem much more surmountable. You’re prepared to take on whatever the world might throw at you.

 

Social Media:
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To view other Student Abroad stories like Ivana’s be sure to check out the Student Abroad Series.

Emilie – Università degli Studi di Roma

Who: Emilie from Belgium
Website: http://www.travelwithemilie.com
When: March- July 2008
Where: Università degli Studi di Roma “La Sapienza” , Rome – Sociology

 

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What made you decide that you wanted to participate in a student exchange?

One year before leaving, I visited a friend doing an Erasmus (European exchange programme) in Barcelona. After a couple of hours with her and her Erasmus friends, it was completely obvious to me that I wanted to study abroad too. I have parents from many different origins (UK, Poland, Russia) and I felt so well in this group of students from all over Europe discussing and laughing together in a very approximate Spanglish!

How did you choose where you wanted to spend your semester/time abroad?

My university in Brussels gave me a list of universities they had agreement with. Most of the other students in Sociology were going to Spain, to learn a language that is widely spoken. However, my attention was directly attracted by Rome, a city with so much amazing history in a country which so much good food!

Before leaving, what were your expectations for this experience?

I expected to discover the Italian way of life but also to interact with fun people from all over the world. It was also my first time living without my parents and a good way to proof to then (and to me!) that I would not starve to death after one week!

What were your first thoughts upon arrival at your new campus?

It was sooo messy! It was nearly impossible to find where I had to go! I finally found the coordinator of all exchange programmes and… I did not speak any English! Thanks for the Italian organisation guys!

What were some hurdles that you had to overcome/how did you do it?

I arrived about 3 weeks after the majority of the other exchange students. They had all met in the language classes but it was too late for me to join them. So I was a bit worried that it would be complicated to integrate among these groups. On the second day at uni I forced myself to be a bit less shy than usual and speak to a Polish girl and it was a great idea! She was organising a pre-party at her house that night. I went although I did not know anyone but I have no regrets: the first girl I spoke to become my best friend during my whole stay in Rome… and we continue seeing each other as often as we can even if we live in different cities now!

And to learn Italian quickly without any language classes, I decided to live with Italian people only. They did not speak a word of English so my Italian skills improve extremely rapidly and after a month, my gesticulating stopped and I started to think and dream in Italian!

Did you notice any major differences between studying at your home country and your host country?

There were many interesting differences that struck me:

  • Italian students just go out of the room when they receive a phone call and then come back in afterwards. A phone ringing can get you out of the classroom at uni in Belgium!
  • Students can choose between being interrogated at the exams on the content of the classes or on some designated books. They can also choose between several dates to take the exam but even more surprisingly, they can refuse their note if they are not happy with it and choose to come back at a later date to try again!
  • Italian students don’t dress up for oral exams whereas guys come in shirts and suits in Belgium. Teachers were so surprised to see me well-dressed that one complimented my shoes and another one asked me if I was going dancing afterwards!


What are some of your favourite memories from your time abroad?

There are just so many… Let’s see: the four-day trip to Sicily organised by the Erasmus association of my uni was just awesome. We were 200 students from all over the world discovering the beautiful Greek temples in Agrigento, climbing up the Etna, partying in Catania and on the beach of our camping, admiring Taormina…

But the great souvenir is a tradition for Erasmus people in Rome at the end of the year: we all jumped at night in the Trevi Fountain! We got out purchased by the police as we stopped a movie. Well not really purchased… one of the policemen actually asked me to go out for a coffee!

Has this experience at all changed the way in which you view yourself/other cultures?

I was already very open towards other cultures due to my multiple origins. So I cannot really say it changed my way of viewed other cultures but it confirmed the fact that I liked interacting with people from different backgrounds and countries.

Did you travel much whilst you were abroad?

I went on some organised trips to the Cinque Terre, Genoa and Sicily. And I went with friends to the Gardens of Tivoli, Naples, Pompeii and many beaches around Rome.

If so, did this travel enhance your experience? Why/why not?

I’m not really sure because we stayed among Erasmus students so we did not especially meet a lot of locals or did local stuff.

How did this experience change you?

I can definitely say that my experience abroad was actually the reason why I started to travel so much. I could not stand staying in my country for long periods of time. I think that since then I’ve made at least 6-7 trips a year.

Furthermore, when I got back from Rome, I also decided to get involved in the local Erasmus association to stay in contact with foreign students. Later on, I decided I wanted to work for the European Union and this is actually what I’m doing right now: I’m working in communications for European institutions in a company with nationals from more than 20 countries! Although in Brussels, I work in English and I hear Italian and Spanish every day!

Would you recommend other people participate in a student exchange?

Of course!!!

If so, what is your top reason for why people should study abroad?

This will be the time of your life! You will make friends from all over the world, you will taste food from everywhere, you will learn to say the same insult in 10 different languages… The only down side is that you will not be able to say still afterwards!

Social Media
https://www.facebook.com/travelwithemilie
https://www.instagram.com/travel_with_emilie
https://twitter.com/TravelWithEmi

 

To read more stories about Studying Abroad like Emilie’s, check out the Student Abroad Series.

Lotte – Universitat de Barcelona

 

Who: Lotte from the Netherlands
Website:  www.phenomenalglobe.com
When: February – July 2008
Where: Universitat de Barcelona – Facultad de Economía y Empresa

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What made you decide that you wanted to participate in a student exchange?


As long as I can remember, I have wanted to go abroad. I actually choose my Bachelor International Economics and Business because going abroad was a mandatory part of the curriculum! I just really wanted to experience another culture than my own. I wanted to build a life in a country that wasn’t mine. I wanted to meet people from all around the world. And I wanted to learn another language!

How did you choose where you wanted to spend your semester/time abroad?

That was actually pretty easy, I wanted to learn Spanish so that already greatly reduced the number of options. I thought about going to South America but both my boyfriend (now husband) as well as my parents were not too happy about that so I choose Spain instead. Having visited Barcelona in high school, and having fallen in love with the city during that brief trip, I choose la Barça for my student exchange. Despite the fact that they actually speak Catalan (Castellano too, but Catalan is the first language)…

Before leaving, what were your expectations for this experience?

I didn’t really know what to expect actually! I was hoping I would learn to speak Spanish properly and make some new friends. Most of all, I wanted to prove to myself that I could build up a live for myself in an unknown country, that I could be independent and manage on my own.

What were your first thoughts upon arrival at your new campus?

Haha, that is was just as ugly as the Economics and Business faculty as the one in Groningen, where I was doing my Bachelor. The pretty building ‘Universitat de Barcelona’, located in the city centre just around the corner from Plaza Catalunya was unfortunately not the building where I had my classes…

What were some hurdles that you had to overcome/how did you do it?

Following classes in Spanish was kind of hard at the beginning… I had studied Spanish before I left, but I was nowhere near fluent. In my first month, I really struggled to understand the teachers. It got a little bit easier each day and it was certainly one of the best and fastest way to learn a language.

 The hardest was missing my boyfriend for such a long time… We had been together for 5 years when I went on my student exchange to Barcelona and had not been apart for more than a month up until then. We skyped a lot and he visited me in Barcelona, it was awesome to show him around my new ‘home’. We are happily married for more than 6 years now, and have been together for 13 years so we managed, even though missing each other so much was certainly hard at times.  

Did you notice any major differences between studying at your home country and your host country?

Definitely! For starters, university in the Netherlands doesn’t have siesta. They should, it’s great! In Barcelona, I didn’t have any classes between 12 and 2pm, so I could take a walk, enjoy the sun or have lunch. Which reminds me, another awesome thing about university in Spain was that the canteen in Barcelona served proper meals during siesta. At my Dutch university I could only get sandwiches and soup. But then again, we Dutch people only eat one hot meal once a day… Silly us.

What are some of your favourite memories from your time abroad?

Making an exam in Spanish, I was so proud of myself! Having a home cooked Italian dinner at 11pm with all the Italian friends I made (and eating waaaay to much because everything was delicious) Mostly, walking around and exploring a city that I gradually made my own.

Has this experience at all changed the way in which you view yourself/other cultures?

It taught me that the ways I do or see things, it not necessarily the one true way things are. People from different cultures have different opinions and different ways of seeing things. And that’s okay! Respect different viewpoint and don’t force your opinion upon anyone, different cultures are what make the world such an interesting place!

Did you travel much whilst you were abroad?

I traveled around a bit while I was studying abroad, taking day trips to Sitges and Tarragona (villages south of Barcelona) and visiting Montserrat, a mountain where you can find a beautiful Benedictine abbey. I ended my semester abroad with an awesome 3 week road trip with friends, visiting Madrid, Toledo and other spots in Spain.

If so, did this travel enhance your experience? Why/why not?

It was nice to get out of the big bustling city every once in a while. Barcelona is awesome, but it is a busy city. And I love being in nature as well, so places like Montserrat were a nice change. Also, I enjoyed seeing more of the country and meeting people from other areas in Spain, turns out there is quite a difference between the different regions!

How did this experience change you?

It made me want to explore more and more of our phenomenal globe…

Would you recommend other people participate in a student exchange?

Absolutely, you’ll learn a lot about yourself, you’ll make lots of new (international) friends and learn about cultures different from your own. Yeah, it’s a great experience, go for it!

If so, what is your top reason for why people should study abroad?

It will make you grow as a person and force you out of your comfort zone.

 

 

Social media

https://www.pinterest.com/phenomenalglobe/

https://instagram.com/phenomenalglobe

https://www.facebook.com/phenomenalglobe/

https://twitter.com/PhenomenalGlobe

To read more Study Abroad stories like Lotte’s, be sure to check out the Student Abroad Series.

Hikes around Sydney – Wodi Wodi Track

For those of you who don’t know, I currently live and have grown up around the city of Sydney, Australia. For a very long time, I took my local landscape and all it has to offer for granted. In fact, a couple of years ago, I had convinced myself into believing that I detested Sydney and that I didn’t belong in Australia; I was meant to be American. A very naïve concept created by teenage-me. However, since travelling extensively alone and with friends over the past 5 years, I have grown to really appreciate my home country and city. Australia is such a vast and unique country with so much to offer!

Like most people do at the end of year, I sat down and reflected upon 2015 and was not happy with how I had utilised the time I had granted to me. It felt as if I’d spent the year in hiding, rather then going out and being the spontaneous, happy-go-lucky girl that I’m known to be. So, whilst I’m not usually a fan of New Years Resolutions, after being disappointed with my 2015 reflections, I decided that 2016 would be the year I get out more. Let my hair down and stop taking everything so seriously! Who cares what people think; who cares if I haven’t started on my career yet – 2016 will be the year that I put myself first. After all ….. YOLO!

So as to get my New Years Resolution into motion, I want to combine my getting out more with the premier of the Tourist in my own City series. TIMOC is going to be a showcase on the great city of Sydney and its surrounds and all that it has to offer. It’ll include things like my favourite markets, beaches, hikes, café’s, bars and much, much more. If there’s anything that you’d like to know about, please let me know!

Drumroll please …… so, for the first post in the Tourist in my own City series, I want to share with you guys one of the many hikes that there on offer around Sydney – the Wodi Wodi Track in Stanwell Park.

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The starting point of the Wodi Wodi Track at Coalcliff, NSW.

Stanwell Park is just over an hour south of Sydney. The super quaint main street is filled with several little café’s and boutique stores. There are a few starting points for the Wodi Wodi. You can either start at the Stanwell Park train station, or if you are heading up from the South, just past Coalcliff station on the left side of the road is a little pull-in where you can park your car and start hiking. I started from Coalcliff. I’d done some research and knew that the hike that goes around the escarpment would take about three hours. Henry and I packed a bag with some snacks (granola bars, dried apricots etc) and filled a 3L water backpack. First note: 3L of water to share between 2 people and a few snacks aren’t enough. If you’re considering doing this hike, learn from my mistakes and pack at least 3L of water per person and a lot more than 2 tiny snacking items.

The Wodi Wodi track is a really great hike if you’re not afraid of going off of the beaten track! You become part of the rainforest-like escarpment in this hike, with the only form of a footpath to follow being flattened grass from previous walkers. Or when it gets a bit confusing, look out for the red ribbons and yellow arrows – they will save your life!

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However, that being said, if you come across a fork near the train line, take the beaten looking path; the nice looking one will lead you to someone’s horse pasture – woops. Also, about half way through the hike, there is one yellow arrow that points downwards, towards rubble. When you see the huge slide of debris, don’t be like Henry and I and try to slay your way through the bush. You will get ticks and leeches (trust me). Instead, be smart. When you see the arrow pointing in a strange direction, and the thought ‘well that seems odd’ pops into your head, listen to it! Look around and you will see another yellow arrow to your right pointing you in the direction of a bush path.

Having survived (just) three months riding a motorbike and camping around North America, I would’ve liked to think that Henry and I had better senses of direction. Although, the several misadventures on this hike would probably lead one to believe that we were a lost cause. (Just for the record, I’m going to put in here that Henry was in charge of direction :p )

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Water! We were so happy to find this little pool and the waterfall that was nearby. We dunked our heads in and it felt so good!

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A nice spot to eat our snacks 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whilst we did get lost a few times, and the Australian summer heat became unbearable at some points, the views looking out onto the ocean from on top of the escarpment were amazing and made the sweat, leeches and ticks well worth it!

 

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Trying to look excited having just finished hiking for three hours. I was exhausted! But pumped! – We did it!