Wednesday, November 30, 2011

One Year Ago...

The time has come! My exams are finished, my last assignment turned in, and the last days of my first year in Australia are in full swing. Stress free and in company of old and new friends; it's the perfect end to a near perfect year- but I'm skipping ahead a bit- let's rewind a few weeks...

To say this last semester has been a struggle would be an understatement. Classes and coursework continually challenged me and final exams were no exception. After 2 weeks of migraine filled studying and late nights of cramming, I completed my final exam on the 28th.Naturally drinks and celebrations were necessary (as I said- we will celebrate nearly anything) and went out to a backpackers bar in the city stuffed full of other uni students celebrating the end of a stressful year.

My friend from back home in the states, Nick, has been studying this past semester in Fiji. His semester ended on the 25th and decided before he made his trek home, he would swing by Sydney and wait to fly home with me. I went to pick him up at the airport last Friday and enjoyed a full hour of watching emotional airport arrivals at the international terminal. At one point tears were rolling down my face as a father ran to greet his 3 young sons- the pure love and emotion was undeniable. Naturally, Nick and I made quite a scene as I yelled and ran to meet him at the gate.

Our week has been filled with many typical Sydney tourist sights and late nights of getting caught up on the past year of our lives. Between showing him my favorite restaurants (pancakes on the rocks and max brenner, of course!) and getting lost in the city due to my awful sense of direction, we have covered nearly every part of the city. We spent a rather full day wandering around Darling Harbor, Circular Quay, the Opera House, and the Royal Botanical Gardens. We topped off the late arvo by taking a ferry to Manly and having a drink while enjoying the sights of the locals ( I think it was just me who enjoyed the surfers...)

The Botanical Gardens

Nick eating at the infamous Max Brenner

As promised- and I would never break a promise to my loyal blog followers, Nick and I successfully went skydiving. After getting up at 4 am, making an hour trek into the city, and another 2 hour trek to North Wollongong, we arrived at the skydive station, put on the most attractive skydiving suits I have ever seen, got fitted for harnesses and then......waited for an hour for our instructors to come back from their previous jump. We then received instructions which I incoherently listened to as I was so nervous and then jumped in a van to make the 15 minute drive to the airport. Literally the longest 15 minutes of my life. We then crammed 16 people into a plane the size of my bedroom and soared up to 14,000 feet over the ocean. The plane door opens, and next thing I know, I am being shoved out of the airplane, in a pure freefall. I honestly cannot describe the feeling or the thoughts that were going through my head- it's only something you can experience to know how it feels. After the free fall, the parachute is  let loss and for about a minute I was floating above the most amazing views I have ever seen. The crashing ocean, the skyline, and city skyscrapers all mashed into a panoramic view. The adrenaline, amazement, and delayed nerves all came rushing to me and I was in total awe of what I had just done. If it wasn't so expensive to skydive, I would hop in the plane tomorrow and do it again. Best experience yet.

North Wollongong

As I prepare to go home for the holidays- it is a bittersweet time. I am more than excited to see my loved ones, and I know that I will be back to Sydney in a short two months, but I know that when I get back, Marianne, my Norwegian flatmate, will have returned to Norway permanently. The bond I have formed with my flatmates during this past year is indescribable and she will truly be missed by all the girls in the house. But, the silver lining- I now have a legitimate excuse to visit Norway- and it will happen in the near future!

Well, this is my last blog post of 2011 and of my first year in Sydney. It has been a great year filled with amazing experiences and wonderful people. Can't wait to see what 2012 brings!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

21 Celebrations

It has reached the month of November- I would normally be snuggling under a blanket, drinking a cup of steaming coffee, pulling out the winter gear, and adding an extra 20 minutes to my morning routine to scrape off my car. But in Sydney it's all about shorts and tank tops, tanning, and having my fan on full blast 24/7. To say I miss air conditioning is an understatement- my room is literally the temperature of an inferno. I suppose I shouldn't whinge too much since I will be back to the cold in the near future...

My regular classes are finished and study mode has commenced. Once again, I'm the last to finish exams, but I can't complain as a celebratory party is in the works straight after I finish. Can't believe my first year is about to be finished- only 2 more to go! I unfortunately took a peek at what my schedule has in store for next year-first year is going to seem like a breeze- lots of required classes and straight into the research aspect of sociology.

My weekends have been filled with 21st birthday celebrations. To say people go all out for this milestone is an understatement. The all important 21st is a huge occasion not to be left un-celebrated. I find it a bit strange as turning 21 in the states entitles you to legally drink, and is much cause for celebration, but here that right is given when you turn 18- so turning 21 does not really change a lot of things. I suppose partying is the aussie way- so any cause to celebrate is necessary.

I'll spare you the details on many of the parties, but the one "classy" party I attended was for my roomie Cleo. Her parents flew in for the occasion and provided a massive spread of food at Blackbird Cafe- a gorgeous restaurant overlooking Darling Harbor. I've mentioned blackbird before because it provides a perfect atmosphere and amazing food. Once again, we were there on a Saturday night and got to see the free Sydney fireworks display.

The countdown is on until my friend Nick arrives in Sydney from Fiji- a little under two weeks! Hopefully I will be a pro tourguide and show him the best of the city. I am especially excited for our extreme adventure- skydiving! Yes, you read right- on November 30th we will be jumping out of a plane at 14,000 feet. I'm absolutely excited now, but as the date approaches, I'm sure I will be terrified! I promise to provide a blog about his visit and of course our extreme adventure!

In honor of all the 21st celebrations happening and the closing of a wonderful year in my life, I thought I would  list 21 things that I have learned/discovered this year...

1. Winter is Sydney is actually winter- not even a true Iowan could survive it without heat!
2. Australian accents do no rub off on me- sadly my accent has rubbed off on my aussie mates...
3. Avocado is not just for guacamole- it goes with nearly everything- absolutely love it now!
4. Sweatpants are acceptable at American universities- and not acceptable under any condition here
5. An umbrella should be in your bag at all times
6. Celsius is my mortal enemy- I don't think I will ever understand it
7. I can cook more than packet pasta
8. It is cheaper to buy shoes online from the US and have them shipped here than to buy a pair of shoes in oz
9. When paying for the bus, always have exact change- drivers are not too fond of 20 dollar notes
10. Simply telling someone you're American skews their view of you, however...
11. Being American gets you free drinks (if you're female that is)
12. Travelling opens your mind- and makes you want to see every corner of the world (Greece July 2012!)
13. Leaving those you love makes you love them even more
14. Skype makes everyone look unattractive- especially since all my Skype sessions occurred right after I had rolled out of bed
15. Napping is just not for old people- the younger generation needs a rest too
16. Flying domestic in Australia is the best- all the liquids you want in your carry on and not taking off my shoes- yes please!
17. Though pay in Australia is high, the cost of living is higher-hello employment!
18. Remember Old Navy flip flops and how perfect they were? Haviana flip flops- or thongs- are 10 times better
19. Living with 4 other girls is not a disaster when you have your own bathroom
20. When in doubt of correct aussie spelling- just add an unnecessary 'u' after any 'o'
21. The future always looks bright when you're in a place you love