Me Irish Mates & My Pen Pal

Hey All:

So now that I am out of my residence, I am officially travelling and doing a little couch surfing. My twin sister, Kelly, joined me last week and we spent our first few days together in Brissie at my Irish mates’ house (Ciaran & Darragh). Together we showed Kelly Brisbane’s highlights, including the Botanical gardens and Southbank Parklands, where we had a good old-fashion Aussie BBQ.

Darragh & Kelly on route to the BBQ station

The Canadians showing the Aussies our BBQing skillz

After Kelly’s first few days in Brisbane, we headed south to Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. We planned to tour the Great Ocean Road on our first full day there. It ended up being a beautiful day and gorgeous tour. We traveled out to the famous 12 apostles and spent some time lounging in a pretty gorge.

My Travel pig in front of three of the 12 Apostles

In front of the Loch Ard Gorge

After our day touring the Great Ocean Road, we met up with my Australian pen pal, Rebecca, from my grade school days.  When I was in grades four through seven, I had a pen pal that I was assigned through my girl guide troop. While we stopped writing to each other after grade school, we kept in touch, in frequently, through email and facebook.  I always thought it would be great to meet her, and it was incredibly surreal finally meeting her this past week.

Rebecca and I on Brighton Beach in Melbourne

Rebecca picked us up on our third day in Melbourne and took us around the city. We saw the beaches, the markets and a skyview of the city.  Afterwards we went out for dinner with her friends and had a few drinks together.  It was crazy hanging around with someone whom I knew fairly well, but had never actually met.

Rebecca, Kelly & I on route to Phillip Island

On our final day in Melbourne, Rebecca took us out to Phillip Island, around 1.5 hours from Melbourne.  This island is famous for the penguin walk that occurs every night at dusk.  Despite the non-stop rain on the island, Kelly, Rebecca, her boyfriend and I suited up in rain gear and watched the cutest parade I’ve ever seen.  Hundreds of one-foot high penguins left the sea at dusk and walked towards the land and their evening homes.  They walked less than a few feet past us, so we had many incredibly close encounters with the penguins.

We couldn't take pictures of the Penguins, so hopefully this hilarious sign will do.

All in all, this past week down under has been tons of fun and incredibly surreal!

Up Next: The Hamp. joins the Krafchick twins!

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International Education Week

This past week was International Education Week, which is essentially a week  to celebrate travel and the exchange of ideas all over the world. I’ve been asked to write a quick blog about what International Education Week means to me. It’s a pretty perfect time to reflect this week. As my the semester as officially ended at UQ and I am leaving my residential college this afternoon, I’m already in a reflective mood.

If I could sum up my international education in one word, it would be “opportunity”.  This exchange has brought me an overwhelming amount of opportunities. From travelling all over the Beautiful countries of Australia and New Zealand, to meeting lots of amazing people, to learning in a completely new environment, I am so grateful to have had this opportunity. The most important thing these experiences have brought me is the opportunity to learn about myself.

I’ve learned that I can leave my friends and family on the other side of the planet, yet never feel too far.  I’ve learned that there are wonderful people all over the world, who I might only get to know for a short time, but are more than worth getting to know even for that small time frame. I’ve learned that I probably will get lost many times along the way, but I will always manage to get to where I need to be.

My international education was more than just a classroom experience.  While I found it very interesting to discover how the legal systems functions in Australia, I really enjoyed meeting my classmates and participating in our social and club events most.

I feel so incredibly lucky to have had this international experience and will cherish the memories and life lessons forever!

As a final note, while the formal education part of my exchange has ended, I now have the opportunity to do a little more traveling before I head back to reality (and Christmas!). I’ve posted a view pictures below, from my most recent little trip to Cairns, North Queensland. I spent lots of time “under the sea” checking out the beautiful ocean life that Australia has to offer. I also did a little overnight trip to the Cape Tribulation Rain Forest. Both locations were amazing!

Enjoy.

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School’s Out for the Summer!

Hey All!

Today I had my only exam in the official exam period. I think it went well. It was more challenging than usual because it was a closed-booked exam. Since all of my Western exams are open book, I definitely had to study quite differently for this exam than I am used to.  At any rate, the good news is, I am done my semester!

All in all I would say I really liked the University of Queensland. It’s a beautiful campus, the students and profs were all very friendly and the classes were interesting.  I really couldn’t have asked for more out of my uni experience.

One of the best things that I would say that UQ had to offer, was the social life.  In particular, the wide array of student clubs. I would definitely recommend getting involved with at least one club while on exchange. It’s a great way to meet other exchange students as well as local Aussies.  It’s also a good way to find affordable entertainment. Australia, while amazing, isn’t the most cost-efficient place to travel, and getting involved with the uni clubs is a great way to cut those costs.

Mount Barney National Park

I did an overnight trip a little while ago with the UQ Mountain Climbing Club, to Mountain Barney National Park (1.5 hours south-west of Brisbane).  I would have never checked out this location, but for the fact that the local climbing club members recommended and set up this trip. It was also super-cheap since we all car-pooled there and camped with borrowed equipment.

Beginning our Bush Walk

The main plan for this adventure was to bush-walk through the forest and climb the mountains up to the top of the Mount Barney summit.  This was the most insane trek I have ever done. I’m used to hiking back home, but this Aussie-style bush walk was much, much more intense.

For starters, we weren’t really on any trail at all.  We made our own paths between the bushes, trees and random spiders.  I now completely understand why the Australian’s use the term “bush walk” rather than “hike”.  My legs are still covered in the scratches and cuts I received from the many prickly trees and bushes.

On top of the second peak we climbed, looking at the first peak we climbed.

When we weren’t bush walking, we were scrambling up the various mountains in the Mount Blarney National Park. The climbs got pretty challenging, and more frightening the higher we climbed.  The views, however, were amazing! We happened upon a rare Rock Wallabie, who just stood by a rock posing for us as we snapped it’s picture.

The Rock Wallabie

The wildlife on this adventure were my favourite. We drove past a half-dozen kangaroos and wallabies on our way to and from Mount Barney.  And, also came across an extremely poisonous Brown snake. I quickly ran in the opposite direction of the snake! It was a really, authentic Australian experience. I’m glad I joined the UQ Mountain Climbing Club and had the opportunity to experience the craziness at Mount Barney.

A creek near the end of the hike.

After the Climbing trip, I was more than ready for a little beach vacation. So, two days after the trip, I headed two hours south of Brisbane to Byron Bay. It’s a quiet, little hippie town with beautiful beaches and plenty of pretty hikes, which were nothing like the Mount Barney bush walk!

Byron Bay Lighthouse

I also had the opportunity to take an actual surf lesson. It was so much nicer having something telling me what to do, rather than guessing how to manage this sport on my own.  Bryon Bay is also great place to learn to surf. This beach trip was so appreciated after the exhausting mountain climb!

After Hanging Ten in the Bryon Surf

All in all, it’s been a great week. I can’t believe my semester at UQ is already over, but I’m looking forward to a few final weeks of travel in Oz.

Cheers!

Island Travels

Hey all!

I finished up my final week of classes on Friday and now I’m on my week-long study break (aka SWOTVAC) before exams start this Saturday. Throughout the last couple weeks, I was pretty busy with schoolwork since I don’t have exams for most of my classes. In lieu of these exams I had a few large papers and one take-home exam, which were all handed in last Friday.  So essentially, since Friday, I’ve been pretty relaxed and can’t complain about school at all!

Since I now only have one exam to worry about before the end of the semester, I decided to have a little fun during my study week.  A few friends and I headed out to Fraser Island, four hours north of Brissie, to go camping and four wheel driving along the 75km beach.

Touring the Fraser Shoreline

Fraser Island is a world heritage listed island because it’s the only place in the world where you’ll find a gigantic rain forest growing from the sand. It’s a pretty incredible place.  You can only get to the island by ferry.  And you must have a 4WD vehicle to access the island since there aren’t really any roads.

Clear Blue Lake McKenzie Water

In addition to the rain forest, the island has a number of fresh water lakes and creeks. We visited several of these areas. The tour started with a trip into the middle of the island to Lake McKenzie.  Here we lazed around the lake and swam in the beautiful, blue water.

Lake McKenzie

Afterwards, we spent some time touring part of the rain forest.  It was pretty nice. Unfortunately (and fortunately), we didn’t see any of the dingoes that live throughout this area.

After the rain forest trek and some more 4 wheel driving through the rain forest and along the beach, we headed to our camp for the night.  I was incredibly excited to finally have a campfire in Oz.  Given the tough fire restrictions in Australia, they are not permitted in a lot of locations throughout the country.  We sat around the fire and under the stars for a few hours while my friend entertained us with his musical abilities. It was a nice, relaxing evening.

Me & my mates sitting fireside

On day two we set out for another lake, Lake Wabby, which was a quick hike inland from the coastline of the island.  We had to hike about 30 minutes to get to the lake.  At the end of this hike we happened upon a large sand dune surrounded by the rain forest and ocean.  It was absolutely beautiful.

Clearing at the end of the hike.

We had to scale this large dune to get to Lake Wabby.  As soon as we saw the lake, we pretty much ran as fast as we could down the dune and into the catfish-filled Lake! It was such a nice, hot day that the lake was incredibly refreshing.  It was also really nice to be swimming in freshwater again.  I love the ocean, but seeing as I normally live in central Canada, I feel much more at home in a lake!

Me & Lake Wabby

After our hike into and around Lake Wabby, we headed to a fresh water creek.  It was probably the most beautiful creek I’ve ever run through.  The water was about knee-deep so we did about a half hour stroll through the clear waters.  We also filled our water bottles at the top of the stream, since the water in this area is as clear and clean as a Swiss Iceberg, (or so we were told!).

Strolling through the creek

Our final stop after the lakes and creek, was at the Maheno Shipwreck. It’s a former luxury cruise boat (from before 1912) that was being toed for scrap metal by a Japanese liner.  The Japanese boat got caught in a hurricane and lost the Maheno Ship. It washed up on Fraser Island and was impossible to move.  It was very cool to check out.  Despite the fact that it wasn’t one of the natural wonders on the island.

Maheno Shipwreck

All in all, the camping trip was an excellent study break!