It’s been 12 days since I left Indiana already?!… So hard to believe! Here’s what I’ve been up to my friends:
So Long. Farewell. (Feb 14, 2013):
My amazing family and friends were kind enough and willing to give up their Valentine’s Day evening to come to a send-off dinner party at home last minute that my mom decided to plan! There was heaps of homemade lasagna made by mom (which no one could get enough of), Dairy Queen ice cream cake, cupcakes, and other good stuff that only my family could concoct. My best friend and my little sister both made unexpected surprise trips home from school to say goodbye, and I freaked when I saw them both. Best surprises ever! I had no clue they were coming! There was 20 of us in all and I couldn’t dream of spending my last moments in the states any other way! Family and friends mean the world to me ♥ I have many pictures and hilarious moments from that night to look back on. Goodbyes are hard, but good thing they don’t mean for very long!
Flights on Flights on Flights (Feb 15-17, 2013):
Around 11am Friday morning I woke up early after not being able to sleep the night before from excitement/anxiousness for my travels and 4.5 month trip ahead. My best friend was amazing and stayed the night so she could take my mom and I to the airport to catch our flights and then bring our vehicle back home. Grandma came along too! Some of the most important women in my life were coming to send me off, and I couldn’t have been more thankful. We all piled into the Hummer, luggage and all, and headed for Kalamazoo! As we drove through Middlebury I begged my mom to let me stop at McDonald’s for my first and last Shamrock Shake of the year before heading out of the states. Never has something tasted so good. Shams! It was lightly snowing out that morning as if to say goodbye, and I admired it as I wouldn’t see more snow again until next winter. An hour later we arrived at the airport and we shuffled inside, and quickly got my bags checked with ease. They didn’t even check the weight of my bags (which I’m almost 100% sure both were right on the border of 50lbs if not more) #win! After chilling a little in front of the terminal it was time for mom’s flight and to say goodbye. After a tear-jerking “see you soon”, she headed to her gate. I was sad to see her go. I had about an hour until I needed to be at my gate, so I sat and talked with Lauren and Grandma about life, which was what I needed to calm some of my nerves. Now it was my turn to go, and after two more emotional goodbyes and lots of hugs, I proceeded through security and boarded my plane. Sitting in my seat, I took some deep breaths to calm the nerves, and headed for Chicago. The second we took off I fell asleep, and after a much-needed nap, I woke up to the most beautiful view of the Chicago skyline I’ve ever seen. I lived in Chicago my entire freshman year, and I’ve never been as in awe of the city as I was in that moment. No matter how many times I see it, the view of the skyline will never get tiring. In the airport I grabbed some Dunkin’ D, and sat down to charge my phone and talk to some of my family. Next thing I knew it was time to jump on my plane to Los Angeles. On this flight I sat next to some of the funniest college kids I’ve ever met, one of which was experiencing his first time flying, and his posse and I enjoyed giving him a scare. Behind me was a college student who was also on her way to study in Australia for the semester, and we found out we had the same flight to Brisbane! So awesome! Needless to say it was a very entertaining 4 hours talking about what normal college kids talk about. Getting my bags and switching to another terminal at LAX was a fiasco, but after finally making it to check-in at Virgin Australia I dashed to the nearest fast food place I could, scarfed my food and found the closest available outlet to charge my phone and make last phone calls to family before I left the country. I happened to sit next to a Sydneysider who just finished his study abroad adventure in the states and was heading back home on my flight. I told him I was attending Notre Dame Sydney and he mistook it as me saying I was coming from Notre Dame in South Bend haha. After me correcting him, and some of his jokes about Manti Te’o, he wished me luck at UND Australia and I took the wish graciously. After what seemed like no layover at all we were called to board our plane. Nerves and anxiousness struck me as walked through the jetway onto what was literally the biggest plane I’ve ever seen. 3x3x3 seating and what felt like the length of 9 football fields. I had an aisle seat (#clutch) and sat next to this adorable and extremely nice older Asian couple. After settling in the captain told us our flight would be delayed a little (it was 2 hours…ugh) When it was finally time to take off on a 14 hour flight, and after I’d texted my final goodbyes to loved ones, I suddenly became overwhelmed with emotions. I was so excited and nervous and anxious and came to the realization that this was real, and not just my imagination, and that this was actually happening! The next time I landed I would be in AUSTRALIA! My dream was coming true! I started tearing up, and people probably wondered what the heck was wrong with me, getting watery-eyed on a plane, ha. I couldn’t help it. Next thing I knew it was 1am LA time, and were in the air. I dried my eyes, curled up with a blanket and pillow, and attempted to sleep. Throughout the night I was awakened for dinner (which was surprisingly really good), and the need to get up and walk about the plane. 8 hours in I was awake for good and turned to my tunes and the in-flight entertainment to keep myself busy, which consisted of a little Sean Kingston and my personal mixes, some Big Bang Theory episodes, The Dark Knight Rises, and of course Pitch Perfect. By the last stretch, with 3-4 hours to go, I was getting antsy. I kept looking at the map on the screen, hoping time would pass faster. We were given breakfast and not long after I finally landed in Brisbane, Australia! I caught myself halfways leaning over the woman next to me to look out the window at the scenery. The runway was completely surrounded by water. So beautiful! It was crazy to think I’d just jumped to the future and nearly skipped all of Feb 16th. After landing at about 8am Brisbane time on Feb. 17th, I had to go through customs and get my baggage which took FOREVER. Since my flight was late I had to book another one for later that morning. Next, it was time to head to Sydney! This flight was the longest hour and a half of my life, and by this time I was utterly exhausted, but seeing the Sydney Opera House appear in my window view made the 34 hours of traveling worth all of it and then some! I’ve been waiting to see that view my whole life. Sydney Harbour was beautiful with the water shining, and a beautiful baby blue sky above it. There was nothing quite like that view, and the feeling that I’d FINALLY made it to the place of my dreams, and my heart dropped with excitement. Getting my bags was the easy part, but waiting for my scheduled driver for 2 hours was a pain. When we finally met up I relaxed in the back seat, enjoyed the ride, (stared in amazement that Aussies drive on the right of the vehicle, and on the left side of the road), and enjoyed the cityscape that was thee Sydney. I’d made it, I was here, and I couldn’t believe it. Was this real life, was this really happening, how was I SO blesssed?
Dear Sydney, I have arrived ♥
Big City Livin’:
Anyways, after the fiasco with the scheduled driver, my delayed flights, and the 37 straight hours of traveling I’d done, I was pooped, exhausted, beat, to say the least. I stood outside Bar Broadway/Link2 (Link2 Student Living is the name of my flat) with my two giant suitcases stuffed to the gills with girly nonsense. A young bloke about my age was standing outside and offered to help a gal out with her ridiculously heavy luggage, and carry it upstairs for me. I showed my greatest gratitude and came to find out he was one of my many housemates. Yes, many. It turns out, I have TWELVE housemates, just in my flat. Though I haven’t met all of my roommates yet (who knows how long that will take), the ones that I have met are extremely friendly and open to any kind of conversation. So far I know I have housemates from Italy, Turkey, Spain, Taiwan, Australia, Singapore, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and a couple other places I’ve never even heard of or can’t pronounce. We all range in age from 18-29, and half girls, half guys… crazy! There’s actually 2 sisters living here in the same room which is pretty cool! I’d love to study abroad with my sister! The roommate I had for the first 5 days of living here was a 26-year-old Masters student from Turkey. I hardly ever saw her because she worked so much, but it was so nice conversing with her about random things. She was so sweet. It’s crazy to think that her study abroad journey just ended, and mine is just beginning! I got a new roommate 3 days ago! She’s 29 and from Italy. Hoping we can get along just the same!
Anywho, There’s 13 of us in just this 1 house. Ours and another house(also accommodating 13 people I’m assuming) take up an entire level above Bar Broadway. We all share a kitchen, a common area, a laundry room, and a bathroom. Each one of us share a bedroom with 1 other roommate with the exception of the girl from Spain who is lucky enough to afford the ensuite room to have to herself. The kitchen and rest of the house is fully furnished. The kitchen has pots, pans, cutlery, silverware, etc. It’s nice that I don’t have to worry about buying a single thing for this place. There’s 2 giant refrigerators to accommodate all our food. Inside the fridge I have a shelf that is strictly just for my food, and the same goes for my own cupboard, which is cool.The kitchen is very modern and we even have our own bar to sit and eat at. The living room has a HUGE couch where we can all chill and hang out (super comfy) along with a decent sized ‘tele’ to watch. They even gave us an iMac computer to use. Down the hall the bathroom has 2 toilets, 2 sinks, and 2 showers. It’s a really nice bathroom, and the showers are bigger than the one in my apartment at Purdue, which is a relief. It’s a huge plus not having to buy toilet paper or soap or anything. Downside to this is there’s only 1 washer and 1 dryer. It costs $4 AUD to wash and $4 AUD to dry, so needless to say I’m going to hold off on doing laundry as much as possible while I’m here, ha. This place is extremely accommodating in that they literally provide everything for you except for food. It’s $220 AUD a week, which from what I’ve heard from many other people, is very cheap for living in Sydney, and especially in our perfect location. I don’t have to pay for water, cable or electric, etc. (granted it’s probably included in the price) Not only that but someone comes and completely cleans the kitchen, the floors, our bedrooms, and the bathrooms 3 times a week! So great! I love living here already, and the fact that my roommates and I are from all over the world, and in the same boat trying to adjust to Sydney living makes things easier. They’re all so friendly and willing to carry conversation for days. My kind of people! I wish I had a beautiful window view, however. All I see when I look out my window is the outside wall of Iglu and an alley. As far as location goes, I’m in one of the best spots I could possibly be in for this adventure. I’m located just up the street from Central Station (trains, buses), and I’m on the second level of a great bar and restaurants. I’m a short 5-10 min walk, or 2 blocks away from Notre Dame, which is really convenient for getting to class! You can see Central Station when standing outside my building, so I’ll never have to worry about transportation. The beautiful University of Sydney isn’t far from me either. Victoria Park is beside Notre Dame as well. My building also sits on Broadway which is one of the main streets in Sydney (equivalent to Michigan Ave. in Chicago.) Anything and everything is on this road. I found out there’s a Target 2 blocks away from me… so awesome! (not good for my wallet) There’s also a 24-hr McDonald’s right across the street, also not good! restraint, restraint, restraint…
(Interesting Fact: Some McDonald’s in Australia are temporarily changing their name to “Macca’s” to fit the Aussie culture and slang. Since Aussies like to shorten everything, and since they call it Macca’s anyways, McD’s thought they’d jump the bandwagon too. Cute video!…..See here: http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/01/09/watch-australias-mcdonalds-gets-a-new-name/)
My First Week as a Sydneysider (Feb 17-24):
Though it’s been an adjustment, like any life change, I’ve pushed myself to go out and explore the city this week, and I have fallen in love. Sydney is love at first sight, really. The best explanation I can give you describing it’s beauty is that it’s the best of both worlds, in every sense. To me, it’s a wonderful mix between the California coast and the many old looking towns in Europe. Sure there’s the tall skyscrapers by the harbour, but just go outside those and I feel like I’m suddenly in Germany or something. Sydney lives the laid-back lifestyle, surrounded by beaches and surfers. People are very easy-going here. While Sydney is the most populous city of Australia, it certainly doesn’t feel that way. A lot of it is somewhat spread out, quaint, and vintage-looking, depending on what part you’re in of course. Unlike Chicago there’s landscaping and trees everywhere. It makes the city that more adorable. Personally adore the location I’m in due to the old buildings that surround me, and adorable little coffee shops. I really can’t describe it, and my pictures don’t do any of it justice. It’s something that can only be seen with the eyes and felt with the heart.
The second I got around and ready on Monday I decided to go find and explore my University. Notre Dame is only a couple blocks down the street. As I was walking and looking for it, I suddenly came to a bar on the corner of an intersection, and when I walked forward a little more, I was bestowed with one of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen. It was thee church I’d seen in pictures a thousand times, towering over the street, and beautiful trees and flowers, but this… seeing it right in front of me… took my breath away. Reading “University of Notre Dame Australia” and “St. Benedict’s Catholic Church” I knew I was in the right place. I instantly had a flash back to when I was choosing which school to study abroad at, and when I was overcome with excitement the second I received my acceptance letter from Notre Dame, and this view, was all worth it! My heart smiled. I took way too many pictures of Notre Dame for my own good that day. I got lost in its beauty and couldn’t help it. It’s the most beautiful metropolitan campus I’ve ever seen, and I wish everyone could see it in person. It’s elegant, peaceful, welcoming, stunning, homey, and feels just like a campus should. Ivy covers most of the walls and buildings on campus and everything has an archaic touch to it, especially the church. St. Benedict’s is one of the oldest churches in all of Australia, yet it looks flawless. So beautiful. The campus was empty then, and I took the opportunity to take it all in, and thank God for blessing me with this amazing opportunity to attend school in such a wonderful place.
My first few days were spent getting acquainted with the various roads around me and what I lived close to. The weather is beautiful here! It’s the end of summer here, so the temperature is ranging from 74-84 degrees, and almost always sunny, making it easy and more appealing to go on little adventures. As I said, I live right on Broadway, which is a good sized stretch of road with I have everything I could ever want and need. There’s a million coffee shops around here, any kind of food I crave I could find within a quarter mile, and of course, there’s the Broadway Shopping Center. The BSC is one of the biggest malls (besides Mall of America of course) I’ve ever seen. There’s 4 levels of fashion stores, grocery stores, convenience stores, flight agencies, restaurants, a movie theatre, gyms, and everything in between. Each level higher gets progressively more sophisticated and expensive. I quickly came to find out, however, that EVERYTHING in Sydney is expensive compared to back home. TWICE as expensive to be exact. For example: Subway footlong $11 AUD, Banana Smoothie $6, mini umbrella $12, towel $8, water bottle $4, movie ticket $22, etc…. My first shopping trip to Coles (the Australian version of Walmart) cost me $55.13 AUD just for basic things like eggs, bread, cheese, etc…. Let’s just say I’m hardcore missing the free homegrown chicken eggs and beef from my own farm. This shopping trip was interesting to say the least but I got excited when I found Vegemite! Felt like such a tourist taking pictures of food on the shelf, and everything else around me for that matter. I also found these things called Crumpets. I guess I remember hearing the name of them but I’ve never seen any before and they’re the weirdest looking things! For YOLO’s sake I decided to go back later in the week and buy some Vegemite and Crumpets to try later(Crumpets are my new favorite, so good!). Shopping in general has been exhausting with everything being so high priced. For some reason the only thing they believe should be cheap are shoes. It’s like Sydney knew I was coming… I have a shoe obsession, and quality high heels that I would normally pay $40 for, sell at $9-$13 here. This is NOT a good thing for me at all haha, but needless to say I will be coming home with a fuller suitcase this time. I’ve also had to buy a new straightener, hair dryer, and MacBook charger since some of my converters aren’t doing the trick and I fried half my appliances. ugh.
I’ve had to learn to constrain myself when shopping for things as to not go overboard. The people here are so trendy when they dress. Vintage/hipster and formal wear are both widely acceptable. I love taking note of what people are trekking in. Looking at this fashion makes me want to buy a new wardrobe. It’s a good thing the Australian dollar and the US dollar are pretty much equivalent so I can keep my spending in check, cause pretty sure I’d go back to the states flat broke if not. Speaking of money, Australian money is quite beautiful looking, in different colors, with some of it being transparent, and their coins have the Queen on them of course 🙂 My only complaint is I wish they had a $1 bill. I’d rather carry a bunch of dollar bills than a load of dollar and $2 coins.
Wednesday was “O-Day” at Notre Dame, in other words, orientation! It was actually a really fun day, despite the fact that I’ve done way too many college orientations in my day. The first thing we all did as new students was go to Mass at St. Benedict’s. As if the outside of the church wasn’t beautiful enough, the inside was stunning! It was one of the greatest services I’ve been to! Later I went to some lectures/sessions related to my major and I ended up getting to know these really great girls Kelsey, and Kate. We bonded first over how I didn’t know what the word “Uni” meant. I was at Uni, duh, Andi. It’s Aussie slang for University by the way. We ate our free “sausages” out on the courtyard together and they got great entertainment out of cracking up over my American ways and silly questions I asked about Aussie life. It was a blast comparing cultures! They got all excited that I was eating my first sausage and insisted I needed to take a picture of it to send to my mum. And apparently I’m supposed to try Vegemite as soon as possible and show them a picture of me doing it. I’ve heard most Americans want to chuck some vom when they try it and I’m not too eager, but hey, you gotta try everything at least once right? I’m a more than willing participant. Suddenly I felt like I was a clip of “Our Lips Are Sealed”, trying to fit in with everything the Aussies say and do. I giggled in my head. It’ll be fun adjusting to being a Sydneysider. Everyone on this day told me I had an accent, which is really cool to hear. Now the tables have turned and I’m the international one. Not gonna lie though, I’ve tried faking the whole Aussie accent here and there when I’m about and saying “thank you” and stuff like that. It’s kind of fun pretending, ha, but also really hard!!! I’ll just stick to my American accent. I wonder if the Aussies can tell by my accent that I’m from the Midwest. I’ll just leave that part out until they figure it out for themselves. Anyways, additionally at O-day there was courtyard games, a kiddie pool (who knows why), table signups for clubs, free gelato(YUM!), and campus tours. I found my favorite hangout spot already that day. Benito’s Cafe. A cute little coffee shop right next to the bookstore with a great view of Broadway and the adorable European-looking apartments across the street. Their banana smoothies… delish! It was a successful day for sure, and I also got my Notre Dame student ID. Feeling so official. *brushes shoulders off*.
Thursday was great as well! All 15 or so of the study abroad/international students from Notre Dame had a mandatory meeting to go over basically everything about life in Australia, and what it’s like going to school in another country. It was pretty much another orientation, but the day got better when we took a full campus tour, and then all ate lunch together, courtesy of the study abroad coordinators! Lunch was on the balcony of the Well Co. café. It was an adorable two story café; quaint and cute, alternative and inviting. It was truly wonderful, and the sun was shining, and the weather was beautiful. I couldn’t think of a better way to have lunch. We all got to know each other really well, and the food was great! The drinks were even served in miniature mason jars… my kind of place! Come to find out 10 of us are American and one of the students hails from Michigan State. It’s nice being able to talk Midwest with someone! We are all hoping to maybe plan a spring break trip to New Zealand or something together! One of our field trips for later in the semester is to visit the Blue Mountains as well, and I can’t wait! It’s one of the greatest and most visited National Parks in Australia, and I can’t wait to take a million pictures of the beautiful scenery!
Jet lag has really been the only negative part about the adjustments. That, and a little homesickness, but that goes away the second I step out into the city. Captures my heart♥ The first night I was here I went to bed at 6:30, and after that I only managed to push my bed time back an hour or so every night. On Friday I finally made it to midnight and as of now I’m well adjusted, thank goodness. Getting used to sleeping to the sounds of the city has been an adjustment as well.
My favorite part about Sydney and Australia so far: not ONCE have I come across an unfriendly, rude, or grumpy person… everyone here is so friendly, open and willing to spark a conversation about anything, all while wearing a big smile on their faces. Maybe it’s all the Vitamin D they get here, but whatever it is, I like it. I enjoy talking to the Aussies, and it seems they quite enjoy talking to a northern yank like me. The love is mutual. And I like talking their ears off for the sake of listening to their wonderful accents as well ;]
Oh YEAH! And this week the study abroad students were fed these irresistable things called Tim Tams. How could I forget. I’m officially obsessed and can’t get enough of them! They’re these little wafer-biscuit-like things with chocolate or caramel in the center, and then covered with more chocolate. My favorite are the caramel ones because they taste just like a Twix bar. They’re super expensive, but absolutely mouthwatering and worth every cent. The label even says “The most irresistible chocolate biscuit”, and I can’t deny it. So irresistible. There’s a million different kinds of them from double choc, to dark choc, to white choc, to caramel, and so on. Basically they’re all addicting. I fully intend on bringing at least half a suitcase full home of these things for fam and friends to have a go at. So delicious. Anyways, I’ve included pictures for your mouthwatering pleasure, so enjoy.
AUSSIE SLANG LIST:
“take away or stay in?” = “for here or to go?”
have a go = try it
Chicken and Mayo = McChicken
Coke = general name for any kind of Soda, or Pop
Yanks/Septics/Seppos = Americans
mobile = cell phone
Sydneysiders = born residents of sydney or someone who resides in Sydney long term
Steak & Kidney = nickname for Sydney
tele = television
beauty mate = that’s cool, great, awesome, good
rubbish = trash/garbage
everyone here says ‘cheers’. it’s so cute!
babe = what you call your friends, even of the opposite sex
trolley = shopping cart
trolley bay = cart corral
catch ya later, see you
avo = avocado
Tutes and Lecs = Tutorials(same as Recitations at Purdue) and Lectures
Cultural Differences Observations:
Drive on left
Aussies walk on left side of the sidewalk
There’s more respect for pedestrians
Everyone is so friendly and extremely helpful
Bachelor majors and their difficulties, ie: nursing is easier to get into than fashion and the arts, because they’re based on popularity
“Schoolies”-bigger than spring break in the US. a trip in the summer weeks after school is over (particularly graduates). Often lavish international trips. Thailand and New Zealand are hotspots for Schoolies.
Free-flying cockatoos in the city
They use military time
Minimum wage is $15 AUD an hour, even for waitresses, and no one tips
2 buttons to push down for flushing the toilet-One with half a bar, the other a full bar(I’m sure you can guess what for)
To turn on lights you flip the switch down instead of up, and vice versa
They will literally start piling every ingredient they can onto your sandwich at Subway until you firmly tell them to stop, instead of just asking you what you want
Tons of landscaping within the city
Celsius vs. Farenheit
Aussies have a thing with abbreviating every possible word they can, making words sound cooler, often adding o’s to things
Visit Sydney Opera House as soon as possibly possible
Book Spring Break
Go to Bondi Beach(or any beach for that matter)
Take a random train at Central Station and go anywhere it takes me
Visit the University of Sydney
Shop the local markets, which I hear are fantastic!
Hug a koala
Pet a Roo
Go to Vivid Sydney (annual lights festival, the Opera House is spectacularly painting with color, and other aussome things)
Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge
Trip it to Tasmania, New Zealand, AND Thailand
Hit up the Outback
They often say “Not all those who wander are lost”-J.R.R. Tolkien, and now I can understand this saying from a personal standpoint. I don’t feel lost in Australia in the slightest. I feel in fact, completely at home, like I am meant to be here, and that there’s something special waiting here for me. I feel like I’ve somehow been here my whole life, but only now am I just starting to really branch out. I couldn’t be happier with my decision to come to this city, live in this country, and attend this university. It’s still so surreal. I’m so blessed. By wandering I’m definitely not getting lost. I hope in these next 4 months to FIND myself, and enrich my entire meaning for life. Can’t wait to see what God has in store for me here!
Thanks for reading my ridiculously long post! No worries! Shorter and sweeter ones to come in the near future, I pinky swear! School started this week (Feb. 25) but more on that next time!
Cheers and God Bless,
Our Lips Are Sealed: Fitting In With the Aussies (Watch 0:40-6:00)
My Postal Address: (Any care packages are always greatly appreciated) 😉
Link2 Student Living
PO BOX 86
Manly, NSW 1655
Skype Name: andilynnk (Skype me anytime!)