Returning to Manchester

By Megan Hitchock (University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia)

I came back to the UK in the middle of August, and after 13 months away from the UK, it was so surreal being home. My last six weeks in Sydney seem like a blur. I spent the time nannying for a 9 month old baby and exploring more of one of the Australian cities I have come to love. By the time my time in Sydney came to an end, I was ready to come home knowing that it hopefully won’t be too long until I’m back on that side of the world. On my return I had a crazy month catching up with family and friends, and although in some ways it felt like I had never been away, in others it was really strange adjusting to being back. I was constantly asked ‘How was Australia?!’, and each time I tried to come up with a different way of trying to sum up such an incredible experience.

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Coming back to Manchester was equally surreal, catching a Magic Bus and being back on Oxford Road (even with the diversion!) really has felt so normal. I thought I would find moving back into a house strange, after a year of being in college and having all my meals provided, but in some ways it feels like I never left. I’ve now been back two weeks and had my first week of lectures, and am really starting to get my head around being in my final year of university. It was strange walking into lectures and only seeing a handful of faces that I recognised, as I am one of only six Psychology students who went abroad last year. However, us six have already bonded over sharing stories and it’s been fun sharing my experiences abroad with others in my new year group. It feels good to have my feet firmly back on the ground in Manchester and seeing what this year has to offer. This experience has definitely made me much more aware of the study abroad students who come to Manchester and what I can do to help aid their experience over here. Through the Global Friends scheme I have already met a few of them, and it’s really interesting hearing about Manchester from an exchange point of view. Even just helping them plan their travelling or where to find places around Manchester, I feel like I’m giving just a little bit back. Studying abroad was such an amazing experience for me, I’d really like to make sure incoming students to Manchester are getting the same experience that I had.

It’s crazy that this time three years ago, a girl stood up in one of our lectures and told us about the opportunity to study abroad, and immediately I knew it was something I wanted to do. At that point, I never realised how much studying abroad would shape my vision of what I want to do next or how much it would benefit me. I feel really ready to take on my final year at Manchester and I already have lots of ideas of what I’d like to do after university – but maybe I should just get through this year first!

The end of my time in Perth

By Megan Hitchock (University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia).

I’m on a flight out of Perth, and it’s not for a holiday, and I don’t have a return flight. This feels very weird. My exams finished last Thursday, and since then it’s been a rollercoaster of emotions. I was so happy that exams were over and I could finally enjoy being in Perth without the constant exam stress, but exams being over meant that my time in Perth was coming to an end. It’s so sad knowing that so many of the wonderful people I’ve met I’ll never see again, and so many I will see but not for a long, long time. Although I was told that these were not goodbyes, they were ‘see you laters’, they were still very hard. However, they came with lots of promises of visits to the UK and I had to promise that it wouldn’t be too long until I was back, so hopefully those promises will be kept!

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Although this isn’t the end of my time in Australia – I’ve still got six weeks to go – I just thought, while it was fresh, I’d reflect on my study abroad experience in Perth. I know I was the first study abroad student coming to Perth from Manchester and I hope I can encourage many more students to choose the University of Western Australia. I couldn’t have had a better Australian study abroad experience and I really feel I’ve gained so much from being here rather than on the east coast. I have spent a year living twenty minutes from the beach; ten minutes from Swan River and bus rides into town have been spent watching out for dolphins in the water – what a life. I have had the opportunity to see more of Australia than most of the people I know. The West Coast is honestly one of the most beautiful areas I have ever been to, and being able to say I’ve been to places like Esperance, Karijini National Park and Exmouth is something I will always treasure. Not many other places you visit you can say you’ve seen a family of emus on the side of the road, wild dingoes, wild horses, lizards, camels, sea turtles, and you can feed wild kangaroos on the beach! The fact that Perth is so isolated does not matter. It’s only made me more determined to travel. I have spent the year getting any jobs I can to be able to afford to do all the travelling I’ve wanted to do, and it’s made the whole experience so much more rewarding.

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Honestly, as cliché as it is, I’ve had the time of my life. I feel so privileged to have been able to spend a year studying at the University of Western Australia. Walking in each day to such a beautiful campus, right next to Swan River has been so special. I’ve learned so much about psychology and Australian culture. Psychology-wise, I feel like I’ve achieved what I set out to – I’ve explored so many different avenues, broadened my spectrum of psychology knowledge and risen to every challenge I’ve set myself. I really do feel ready for what final year has in store and to really work to get the degree I’m aiming for. I really feel that my year abroad has given me this drive and a new-found love for my subject.

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None of this experience would have been anywhere near as rewarding without Trinity College. I cannot recommend it enough to anyone considering studying abroad at UWA. The college environment is so supportive; the admin staff at Trinity have been a second family to me and the friends I have made there are second to none. I don’t think you can understand college environment coming from the English ‘halls’ system. Coming from 1500 people in Owens Park, and being just a number to being one of 350 in Trinity where the staff know everyone by name, always want to know what you’re up to, and will go out of their way to help you in whatever way they can, is a very special experience. They’ve even asked to be invited to my wedding, whenever that will be! It’s really helped in terms of feeling so settled in Perth; from day one I had people around me and felt so welcomed. Trinity really is a very special place.

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However, although my time in Perth has come to an end, my last chapter of my year abroad is only just starting. Sydney, see you in a couple of hours, and Perth – I’ll be back.

Manchester on the road, for real

By Megan Hitchcock (University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia).

This past week I have left Perth (yet again!) and taken myself to Melbourne and Canberra, managing to catch up with lots of the Manchester crew!

First stop was Melbourne, which was the last city I really wanted to tick off my bucket list for this year, and it definitely didn’t disappoint! I stayed with fellow psychologist at Manchester, Anna, and she was a great tour guide! I spent my few days seeing lots of the sights Melbourne has to offer and exploring all the little quirky shops and graffiti covered alleyways. I’ve even bumped into an old London friend. A definite highlight was seeing the penguins at St Kilda and spotting graffiti art by the well known artist ‘Rone’! Anna lives with two other Manchester study-abroaders so it was fun to get to know them, and this gave me lots more to look forward to on my return to Manchester in September. Another important factor of my trip to Melbourne was to catch up with another old Manchester exchanger, Ash, a girl who was on exchange from Melbourne in my first year. It was so lovely catching up with her and it really did show us that even after two and a half years of not seeing each other, nothing had changed at all and it felt just like it was yesterday that we were in halls together!

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The second half of my trip was to go to Canberra where I was lucky enough to go to a college ball over there. Even though it had nothing on my Trinity Ball last semester (sorry guys!), it was a very fun night! Any excuse to put on a dress and heels 🙂 There I bumped into fellow blogger, Will, who apparently through no fault of his own ended up in a suit like this! (Questionable I know…) After a few days there chilling in Canberra, I came back to Perth. It was a teary plane ride back, realising that this was the last time I would be flying back to Perth, as the next time I leave Perth, it’s for good! 😦

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Among other things, being back in Perth meant our last formal dinner at college. Formal dinners are a pretty big deal here, and I must have been to about ten across the year and this was the last one! The college had asked two of the year-long exchangers to make a speech about their experience at Trinity, which were very touching. They echoed what we were all thinking, which was that our year abroad would be nowhere near the experience it’s been without Trinity. This was followed by a slideshow, put together by one of the girls, of our exchange experience across the year. It was that moment, when all of us exchangers were standing in the middle of the room, watching the pictures and remembering every single moment, that the sentimental girl I am came out in me and I got very teary! The tears were greeted by the boys telling me to ‘man up’ and enjoy the night, so I soon cheered up, but it really did remind me how much I will miss this place.

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My last bit of fun before exams was going to my first AFL game yesterday (Aussie rules football) watching the West Coast Eagles v North Melbourne, which was an experience! After having just applied for whatever seats we could, we were very happy when we realised we were three rows from the pitch behind the goal! It was much more civilised than any football games I’ve been to at home, but also much more complicated! It has some very weird rules! However it was a great experience and definitely another important thing to tick off my bucket list 🙂

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Now with only three weeks left and exams looming I’m getting into study mode so I’m off to read through some notes but I’ll blog again soon 🙂

Update from my second semester in Perth

By Megan Hitchcock (University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia).

Well if I thought this semester was going to be any less crazy or busy than the last, then I was completely wrong! The semester started with pool parties, inter-college sporting events, and of course the essential beginning of the new semester’s college formal, and has just kept getting better! College-wise I feel so much more settled this semester, although a lot of my friends have left, for those of us that have stayed it really feels like home. I really feel part of a community and cannot even begin to explain how thankful I am that I was able to be part of Trinity – inter-college events definitely bring this pride out!

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Other than everything going on in Perth, I’ve also done some incredible trips this semester too. My first one was back to Sydney to see a famous art exhibition ‘The Biennale’, an exhibition across all of Sydney in many different locations including the famous Cockatoo Island. It was here actually that I got inspiration for one of my assignments this semester, looking into gendered space and how it is used – the notorious toilets on the island covered in racist graffiti provided me with a unique interpretation of our topic. That weekend I was also privileged enough to get to see a Sydney Dance performance, which I absolutely loved. Another period spent in Sydney really did show me just how much I love that city.

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Back in Perth and if I thought I’d be chilling around college for any long period of time I was most definitely wrong! A couple of friends and I decided to make the 8 hour drive down to Esperance for the weekend (south WA) to stay with one of our friends from college. WOW – what a weekend. We climbed Frenchman’s Peak and saw the incredible views, we drove a 4×4 down an incredible isolated beach, saw wild horses, saw some of the most incredible beaches I have ever seen in my life, and wait for it… FED KANGAROOS ON THE BEACH! Now that is a true Australian experience if ever I’ve heard one. Honestly words cannot even describe how surreal the weekend was. For me this just summed up what everyone is missing when they say they have ‘seen’ Australia when they just visit the east coast!

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Post Esperance I was able to put really my Global Ambassador hat on and represent Manchester at the Study Abroad Fair at UWA. I did my best to really sell Manchester to everyone, however was unable to do any kind of talk as the communication surrounding the fair hadn’t been especially clear, so no one turned up to any of the talks that were on!

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The Easter break for me meant yet another very rural Australia experience, packing up three cars with 14 people’s worth of stuff and a few tents and heading north from Perth for our next road trip. This consisted of swimming in gorges and hiking in Karajini National Park, snorkelling with turtles and beautiful beaches in Exmouth and watching dolphins being fed in Monkey Mia to name just a few things. Hours (and I mean HOURS) of driving became the norm, a standard driving day would be 6-10 hours in the car, along with having a spare petrol can in the back of the car and going for days with absolutely zero phone signal. This trip really did feel like outback Australia at it’s truest. A massive learning curve for all of us was working out that we had to fuel up at absolutely every petrol station we passed, even if we had half a tank left, as often petrol stations would be so few and far between that a full tank would only just get you to the next petrol station! Another lesson was learning how to dodge kangaroos, cows, emus and even dingoes on the roads – the most important thing we were told in terms of safety on the road was that you shouldn’t swerve around the kangaroo you should just attempt to slow down/stop – even if this means hitting the kangaroo! Our last lesson was never get too complacent with putting up tents! Having slept in a tent every night in the heat, we had got lazy putting up the outer tent, only to wake up at 4am on our last night soaking wet with the weather having taken a turn for the worse overnight! – Not ideal when we had a ten hour drive back to Perth that day! The sight of clean clothes not covered in red dirt and a decent shower was warmly welcomed when we got back to Perth, but truly the experience of seeing so much of the north of the west coast really was incredible. The fact that I can casually say I saw a dingo on the side of the road is crazy!

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Back in Perth meant the arrival of Anna (a fellow Manchester exchanger on exchange in Melbourne) and the chance to show her around Perth. We had a great time being reunited after ten months apart and got ourselves excited about being back in Manchester in September!

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Since then it’s been a break from all the fun and putting my head down to work on the various assignments I have due in the next few weeks and revising for my end of semester exams that aren’t too far away! So for the next bit I am off to Melbourne to do a return visit to see Anna and then exams so my next blog probably won’t be until after that, but will try and write again soon so the next one isn’t so long!

Roadtrippinnnng the East Coast

By Megan Hitchcock (University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia).

I quickly learnt that as long as you are by a beach, with a cool crowd of people and have drinks then you are set for Australia Day wherever you chose to spend it, and Byron Bay definitely ticked those boxes. An important part of Australia Day is Triple J’s top 100 – a popular radio station that counts down that years most popular 100 songs, so you need to make sure that’s on too. I had high expectations of my time in Byron and it definitely lived up to them – a cool, backpacker town with lots going on and lots of cool quirky places to hang out. Perfect for my Australia Day experience.

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The end of Australia Day only meant one thing – getting our house and transport for the next two and a half weeks – the beautiful ‘Wicked’ campervan. Myself and four crazy friends were beginning our east coast road trip from Byron up to Cairns in a 3×1.5 metre van. The first thing anyone asked us was how on earth do you sleep in that?! And the answer is OBVIOUSLY… two people lie on mattresses on the floor next to each other, the next on a mattress horizontal at their feet and the last two (me being one) in stretchers suspended on chains from the ceiling. Needless to say it was a tight squeeze! We got used to living on minimal sleep and being woken up at very points every night as if one person wanted to go to the toilet then everyone else knew about it.

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When leaving Byron our first stop was the Gold Coast for a day of theme parks and an evening of ‘cabaret’ at the well-renowned ‘Draculas’.

From there we went to Brisbane to tick off Queensland’s capital city and a pit stop at one of my friends who lives there for a comfy bed for the night and a decent shower before the next bit ahead. Heading north from Brisbane we had two nights in Noosa – probably my favourite place we visited. Cool surfer town with a kind of French vibe – tree lined street with lots of cute outdoor cafes and fruit bats in the trees!

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After Noosa, arriving in Bundaberg was very underwhelming – we arrived after the shops had closed and there definitely didn’t seem to be much going on in the town. However after bumping into a cute old man, who told us of a cute caravan park by the sea in the nearby town of Bargara, we ended up moving on from our planned destination and spent the night there. Rockhampton had a similar vibe to Bundaberg when we first arrived but after checking out the trusty Lonely Planet we found this random bar that summed up this supposed cowboy town in one – it had a rodeo and everything and the guy that owned it was genuinely walking around in his day to day clothes of a cowboy hat and cowboy boots – amazing.

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Having said that Noosa was probably my favourite place we visited, the day we had up next was probably the coolest day we had. Our first experience of Australian rainforest – yes it does rain in Australia! Our day was spent driving through incredible scenery, finding an old man in the middle of the rainforest that didn’t look like he had seen another human in a good few years and wading our way through flooded roads. However the day just got better and better – our campsite for the night was a secluded spot on top of a hill overlooking a whole valley. Needless to say the views were absolutely breathtaking and we genuinely felt like we were on top of the world.

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The next day we were back to tourist central, arriving at the one and only Airlie Beach, with a couple of nights there before heading out to the Whitsundays. We spent two days at a night at the Whitsundays, sleeping on the sailboat with about fifteen other people. Even though the weather was temperamental, the islands were still absolutely stunning and ending a few hours on the beach in glorious sunshine with running off it and hiding under a tree when the storm came only added to all the fun. The second day was spent snorkelling and seeing some amazing fish – the one that stands out is definitely the Maori Wrasse ‘Elvis’ – just look at the picture and you’ll understand why!

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Townsville came next, however we found you only really go to it if you’re going to Magnetic Island, as the town’s rather ordinary.  The next day was a day in Australia you’d only have road tripping the east coast in an old van in rainy season – flooded roads and no way of getting through. Without a 4×4 there was no way our poor van was getting through some of the roads – and especially when at some point there was over a metre of water! So our journey through the next national parks were pretty interesting, We just made the most of it – being English and as everyone keeps telling us, we can cope with the rain, we danced, ran and jumped through it, and had rainy swims in rivers. However one of the highlights was definitely going to ‘Frosty Mango’, a café that does all things mango, and having coffee with a mango muffin with mango jam, whilst eating a mango and with mango ice cream – yum.

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Arriving at our next destination Mission Beach, and finding that yet again we couldn’t do what we had planned due to the weather (we had wanted to go to Dunk Island), we cheered ourselves up with a croc burger (no joke) and a few drinks. Instead of heading to Dunk Island the next day we explored Mission Beach and the surrounds more. Crazy that next to rainforest-like walks, there was a rugged beach and even crazier that these beaches had saltwater crocodiles in them, so you couldn’t swim! – Just another confirmation that every animal in Australia, land or sea, big or small is out to get you!

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We had a brief stop off after that at the tiny town of Etty Beach before heading inland for the last bit of our road trip to Cairns, doing an ‘off the beaten track’ route through rainforest, lakes, mountains and eventually we made it to Cairns, still in one piece, still all speaking to one another, but in desperate need of a shower!

My time in Cairns was great, although I didn’t like Cairns itself – touristy, pretty trashy and not much culture to it in my eyes, all the trips you can do around Cairns are great. First and foremost – I snorkelled the Barrier Reef! – Wow, just wow, I genuinely felt like I was in Finding Nemo! Just being able to say I’ve seen the Barrier Reef which most people only dream of, to me, is just incredible. Another day was spent at the Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation north of Cairns, another completely different environment but equally as amazing. We managed to see mud crabs, snakes, blue tongue lizards, crocodiles and cassowaries all in a days work! Last but not least our last day trip from Cairns was to Port Douglas, a beautiful little seaside town north of Cairns, with a strip of cute little shops, restaurants, bars and cafes and that’s about it!

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I’m back in Perth now, and although I have no savings left, and only a couple of hundred dollars to my name I had the most incredible three months, definitely what study abroad years should be made of! However I’m really excited to be back at uni, I’m doing some really interesting units this semester and it feels nice to be back in one place, not living out of a rucksack and with my own bed!

Australian Summer Part Three

By Megan Hitchcock (University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia).

Well, Sydney for new year was definitely something I’ll remember forever. Dad and I joined some of my friends and found a spot on the beach appropriate for a good view of the fireworks. The new year was seen in sitting with a drink in knee high water watching the spectacular fireworks from the Harbour Bridge – wow.  I’d definitely recommend adding that to the bucket list if you haven’t already been there for yew year. Also Field Day on New Year’s Day – festival next to the harbour, another fun addition to my new Year.

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The rest of our few days was spent being ‘proper tourists’ and taking the classic photos – Opera House etc, and a day on a boat on the harbour, taking in all the views from the water – something else I’d definitely recommend doing! This felt like a good beginning to the father-daughter bonding holiday – five incredible days down, ten more to go.

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Next stop – Hawkes Bay, NZ. The next leg of my incredible summer holiday was to do the important family rounds. One of the reasons I wanted to study over this side of the world was to get a chance to see my family more often, and being with Dad seemed like the perfect opportunity. Flying into Napier I spotted my Uncle waiting to pick us up, and I knew I had arrived at my southern hemisphere home. Dad and I spent ten days making sure we saw every single member of my Mum’s (very large) family all at least once, without missing anyone out. It has been lovely to catch up with everyone again, and we even managed to get there in time to help my oldest Aunt see in her 70th birthday! We broke the time driving between Napier and Hastings by taking a trip down to Wellington to see some more of the family that live down there in NZ’s capital, the ‘windy city’. The ten days in NZ with Dad went by so quickly, and it was so sad to say bye to him – knowing this is the long stretch of not seeing anyone at home. However for me, this was only the beginning of my NZ adventure, as while Dad hopped on his flight to America, I flew down to Christchurch to stay with my friend – also called Megan – and then to do the ‘Kiwi Experience’, the bus around the South Island.

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Having had so many trips over the years to see Mum’s family in NZ, you’d think I’d know the country pretty well, however because of the extent of the family we have to see we haven’t had a chance to see much of the South Island as well. Along with catching up with family I really wanted to use my amazing opportunity of being ‘down under’ for an extended period of time to see some of what the South Island has to offer. The South Island adventure began by staying with another Megan, an old friend who I last saw aged 16. It was great to catch up with her, and also a great base for a good night’s sleep before ten days of hostels on the road! The beginning to my Kiwi Experience was definitely not the same as the ones others have recounted to me: I arrived at an empty bus stop, to get on a bus with one other girl, who I then found out was leaving the next day. We picked up some more people, and they were all leaving the next day too. It was quite a testing start to my solo travelling as I had to realise there was a chance I wouldn’t have a solid travelling group for my time in the South Island.

If my spirits were dampened, however, then what better way to pick them up than by the opportunity to swim with dolphins when reaching Kaikoura – one of my definite items on my bucket list! With my minor fear of open water, and no one I knew at all doing it, it was definitely very testing for me. However, I got my wetsuit and snorkel on and was in for every drop in the sea for the same length of time as everyone else! – Needless to say I’m very proud of myself (normally I’m an in-out snorkeler). Swimming with the dolphins was incredible – at each stop there was literally hundreds of dolphins swimming around, all so inquisitive and within touching distance! Definitely an experience I will never forget. If that wasn’t an incredible start to my trip it was only about to get better – a 16,500 ft skydive (the second highest skydive in NZ) over the Abel Tasman National Park.

After ticking off the water fear, the next one to test was my heights fear, however I coped pretty well. After harnessing and everything, the whole plane ride up I was so excited and it was only when the plane doors opened that the nerves started to kick in. It was probably the most incredible but surreal experience I have ever had and the views were out of this world. From this location you could see both the North and South island, the mountain range, a lake and the Tasman sea – just wow. I still found it pretty scary at points but the views and the adrenaline rush definitely took over! Just beginning to meet people that were doing the rest of the trip with me, it all stayed on a high. The jam-packed Kiwi experience meant that after a night in Kaiteriteri  at the national park, the next stop was rainy Westport with a spot of jetboating on the way. Here we experienced just how lovely NZers are, when walking through the rain to find the local supermarket and a random woman offering to give us a lift to it. Next stop Franz Josef and the Franz Josef glacier – we had a helicopter ride onto the glacier and then spent the main section of the day having a guided walk on it, which was amazing. It’s incredible that within just a few hours you can surf on a beach, sit by a lake in the sun and then be on a snow covered glacier all wrapped up! From Franz we went to Wanaka and checked out the lake, and then onto the adrenaline capital of the world, Queenstown – I absolutely fell in love with Queenstown. After deciding not to do a bungey, way too scary and to save some of my money after a very packed few days, Queenstown was surprisingly quiet on the activity front for me, but I loved it. Set next to the water, within the mountains, I felt like I was in paradise. The views from the top of the gondala were out of this world and it doesn’t do too badly on a night out either! Cocktails out of teapots made me think of home, haha! Probably the most important thing I did in Queenstown was eating a world-renowned Fergbuger. The hugest burger you’ll ever eat – a challenge for sure, especially if like me you picked a ½ lb burger by accident! The end of my time in Queenstown also meant leaving behind the three girls who I had spent the majority of my trip with as they were staying there to work, although the goodbyes were sad, hopefully they will come and visit me in Perth before they head home. Next it was just  a quick stop off at Lake Tekapo for a night before heading back into Christchurch again for a couple of days with Megan to conclude my time in NZ. Having said goodbye to Megan I’m now on the way back to Australia, to the east coast to begin my road trip from Byron Bay up to Cairns – next stop Byron Bay for Australia Day!

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Australian Summer Part Two

By Megan Hitchcock (University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia).

As I take off on yet another plane I thought I’d continue my tradition of using this time to update my blog. I went to see my friend PJ in Brisbane and had such a great time! I was welcomed by his lovely family who thanked me over and over for looking after him in Manchester – if only they knew it was often the other way round! Haha. I was there for ten days and managed to see Brisbane, some of the Sunshine Coast annnnnd the Gold Coast in that time! We spent a few days at the Gold Coast with a couple of my friends from Perth which was fun – and most importantly my two Perth friends (both American) and I had our first experience of ‘peeling prawns’ – a very useful skill to have in preparation for the upcoming Aussie Christmas!

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Another first I had whilst over in Queensland was I got to hold a koala – something I’ve wanted to ever since I arrived in Australia, and I did this at Steve Irwin’s famous Australia Zoo. This along with the various crocodile shows and feeding kangaroos made for a great day! However probably the thing that stands out most from my ten days there was how often the use of the expression ‘get around it’ is used over there – the translation is something along the lines of ‘get involved’.

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The end of my time in Brisbane welcomed the exciting arrival of my family in Perth – the long awaited reunion with my parents and my sister for Christmas which was so exciting!

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In the two and a half weeks that they were in Western Australia we spent time in Perth, down south in the Margaret River wine region and up north in the secluded Jurien Bay.

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Our time in Perth was in separate chunks between the two other trips, and spent showing them around college, university and all my favourite spots, and of course our first Aussie Christmas. Although not our first warm Christmas, as a couple of years ago we were in New Zealand with Mum’s family, it was our first ‘hot’ Christmas, spent in the 35 degree + heat and by the pool at a family friend’s house in Perth. No Aussie Christmas would be complete without it’s seafood and we were spoilt on that front! We welcomed in Christmas Day with a champagne and seafood breakfast in the glorious sunshine. The array of prawns (obviously!), crayfish, smoked salmon etc was remarkable and we felt truly spoilt to be able to eat such fresh seafood. We ended breakfast saying we could definitely get used to all of that, and we should definitely find space in the Hitchcock Christmas for a champagne breakfast of this kind – I guess it won’t have quite the same effect sitting next to a fire in the freezing cold! After having our Aussie Christmas input the rest of the day actually followed fairly similar to our Christmas at home. The friends, being British in origin have a ‘proper’ Christmas dinner – turkey, gravy and all the trimmings, which suited me very well – I’m not one to miss out on Christmas dinner. We had a great day and were very lucky being able to share the day with such a lovely family.

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Our trip down south allowed me to show my family an area outside of Perth that I had been to before. Our time was spent wine tasting, beer tasting, chocolate tasting and visiting some of WA’s finest beaches – life really is hard. Yallingup gave the others their first sightings of kangaroos – wild kangaroos can be spotted whilst driving around, and with my sister having only just turned 18 a week before her arrival in Perth, being an all adult family now we really did ‘get around’ the wine tasting.

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Not wanting to be travelling for too long outside of Perth, Jurien Bay seemed like the ideal place when going up north from Perth (only two hours drive), however on arrival didn’t turn out to be quite what we had planned. In booking to stay in the quiet seaside area, we had plans to do some watersports and a glass bottom boat trip, however we soon found out that in recent months these activities had been stopped by the appropriate governing body, so instead we spent some lovely time on (yet another) lovely beach and enjoyed getting to know the lovely family that owned the motel we stayed in, as well as a visit to the Pinnacles.

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The trip also included a visit to a National Park where the family were able to see their first koalas, and to the Pinnacles, an interesting rock formation.

Although today I said a teary goodbye to Mum and my sister for the long half of the year, I’ve held onto Dad, who being newly retired (ish) has decided to take an extended holiday. We are currently on a flight to Sydney to spend five days there visiting friends but most importantly to celebrate the new year in arguably one of the most spectacular ways, watching the fireworks on Sydney Harbour – excited is an understatement! After that we are heading to New Zealand to catch up with Mum’s family. With two and a half weeks together we definitely have some father-daughter bonding planned – watch this space and I’ll write again when I have some more news.

Australian Summer Part One

By Megan Hitchcock (University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia).

I’m a week and a half into my three month summer holiday and I’m already on my third flight of the holiday. I can’t even begin to explain how much fun I’ve had!

First stop Sydney – I spent nearly a week there and did so much! Sydney is definitely one of my favourite cities in the world and this week only emphasised that for me. I spent my first day there at Cockatoo Island, an industrial island just off Sydney with a really cool outdoor bar that plays live music for the classic Aussie ‘Sunday sesh’. After chilling there, we walked around the island only to happen to walk through an area of fake snow and lots of building work going on – we had accidently walked onto the film set of the new Angelina Jolie film ‘Unbroken’ due to come out soon!

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The rest of the week was spent chilling in the sun and enjoying the perks of not feeling obliged to eat college food! Sydney dining is definitely something worth experiencing! On Wednesday I caught up with a friend who I haven’t seen in five years who is now living and working in Sydney, which was lovely! However being the ‘foodie’ I am, I managed to get a photo of the food we ate together (firecracker prawn dumplings) but not one of us, silly me!

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Something definitely worth checking out if you ever get the chance to visit Sydney is Sydney’s hidden pubs and bars – there are so many hidden away that you only know about through word of mouth. A couple worth mentioning were one that from the outside looked like an old launderette and then inside was a really quirky cocktail bar – great if you’re a gin lover like me, as their takes on the standard g’n’t are definitely something worth trying! Another is behind the toilets of a very average looking bar, and then when you walk through you are suddenly in the 1920’s and feel like you are in an American Speakeasy – my first experience of a nitrogen cocktail there was also a great experience!

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Even though I have been to Sydney before I felt obliged to make the trip that is a must for every Sydney tourist, and made a trip to Bondi. Don’t worry the essential walk along the boardwalk and a decent sunbathe was included, whilst I also managed to fit in my first photo with the Manchester hat – he is travelling with my for these three months so hopefully there will be more of those to follow! Sydney was also my first sighting of Christmassy stuff in sunny Australia – such a weird concept!

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Although my delayed flight at the end of my trip to Sydney was slightly frustrating, the week was great and I can’t wait to be there with my Dad again to see the spectacular New Year that Sydney has to offer!

Next stop: Perth, for the weekend. This sounds crazy I know, but due to poor planning I then went back to Perth for the music festival Stereosonic. Although I have to say that it had nothing on Glastonbury earlier this year, is was a great weekend and lovely to see the Perth girls again! Being in Perth, and it not being completely sold out I managed to make it to the very front for lots of the acts – watching Armen van Buuren from the barriers was definitely something I won’t forget for a while! The atmosphere was electric – my first experience of an Aussie festival definitely lived up to all expectations!

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This seems to be where I write my blog posts at the moment, but I am currently on the plane on the way to Brisbane – this is to see a friend who I met when I moved into halls in my first year of Manchester as he was on exchange from Brisbane. After a semester together he sadly flew home, and two years later we are finally going to be reunited! In the next blog post I will let you know how it goes!

A holiday from a holiday

By Megan Hitchcock (University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia).

So since I last wrote I had to go to New Zealand unexpectedly, but other than that nothing too exciting has happened. As over here it’s the end of their academic year we had end of semester exams. I found it hard to get my head around the concept that I actually had to sit exams when it was 35 degrees + outside and the beach was calling!

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College suddenly became a lot quieter as people settled down to work and I found that revising wasn’t so bad after all! I’m doing aspects of psychology I really enjoy out here and am finding the content really interesting, which really helped when revising.  Some days I took my revision down to Matilda Bay, next to the famous Swan River in Perth, which was lovely – very different to revising in rainy Manchester! I found the exams easier than I expected, even though I’ve modules from faculties outside of psychology, so had to get used to a different style of writing.

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As a revision break, I signed up to do the Perth Neon Run – essentially a fun 5km run dressed in bright colours, with DJs playing and a party afterwards. For someone that never runs normally at all, I was impressed that I managed to get around the 5km, but for the friends I was with 5km was a walk in the park so I definitely had to make sure I kept up!

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As I was unlucky enough to have my last exam at the very end of exam period, the last week of revision had to be combined with packing up my room. As in college here it’s their big summer holiday so everyone (even internationals) have to move out of their rooms, even if (as I am), you are coming back next semester. Many would think that this would be a simple process as I’m an international student; I came on a plane so I can’t have that much stuff right? Wrong. Very wrong. After numerous hours of sorting through my stuff I managed to divide everything into three piles – one lot that I don’t want at all over the three month holiday which went into storage at college, another that I might want to access over the holiday whilst I’m in Perth, that went to my cousin’s who lives in Perth, and the third pile which is currently with me on the plane to Sydney. So after a LOT of sorting (I definitely do NOT know how to pack lightly!) I am beginning my three-month adventure with a trip to Sydney! It definitely feels like a holiday away from a holiday, but what I have in store for the next three months is definitely going to be pretty epic. First stop Sydney for a week, and I’ll keep you updated on what I get up to next!

Post Bali blues

By Megan Hitchcock (University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia).

Sorry for not writing for a while, the last few weeks have been pretty crazy. Having decided that I had to start acting like a true ‘Aussie’ I decided what better way to do that then do what all Aussies, well most Perth Aussies do anyway, and make the all important trip to Bali. I spent my mid semester break in Indonesia (incorporating Bali & the Gili Islands) just over a month ago now, and wow it genuinely was ten days in paradise! Just when I thought the study abroad experience was getting that little bit too hard, and I just HAD to have a break, the postcard-like beaches, the clear blue sea, the massages, cheap cocktails and snorkelling with sea turtles really did seem like the fitting break I deserved… haha. I went with 8 other friends, all also on exchange, and had a great time.

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If I thought getting back to Perth was going to be in any way disappointing, I was proved wrong. In the weeks since my return from paradise I have been very busy with lots more fun things including ‘girls night’ and my college ball, both of which are a big part of Australian college life. Girls (and boys) night is a night which involves the girls from college going to an ex-residents girls house and the boys doing the same separately and then meeting up at the end of the night. It involves lots of antics including games and challenges and is generally a lot of fun. The theme for us girls was ‘LBD’ – Little Black Dress, so finding the perfect LBD at a little shop in Bali worked perfectly! After that, the next event was the college ball, and weren’t we in for a treat! My my myyyy, Australian colleges really do know how to put on a ball! The night started with photos (of course) in our quad, with us all dressed up after hours of ‘ahhh what dress am I gonna wear?!’ and making sure no one was wearing the same dress and then we were off to the ‘secret location’. The location of this event was in no other than a restaurant on the 33rd floor of a skyscraper building in central Perth. With a 360 view across the whole of the beautiful city, and a revolving floor, it really was spectacular. The night consisted of a lot of champagne, an incredible 3 course meal, lots of dancing and lots of silly photos in the photo booth, before continuing the fun at an after party. I am still amazed at just how incredible the whole event was! To top off the frivolities for that week, the day after the ball was ‘recharge carnival’ at college – hot tubs, a bouncy castle and slush puppy machines, what a perfect way to recover! All in all if those few events were anything to go by – yes, college over here is pretty expensive but they do use every cent of money to make the whole experience worthwhile!

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Since then the fun has died down for a while, I’ve actually had a lot of uni work to do (which seems to surprise everyone at home) and so have had to focus on that. However, I have managed to have work breaks at the beach – life ain’t that bad! I have started a job babysitting for a local family two days a week, which I absolutely love. The kids are 3 months, 18 months and 3 years old, so definitely a handful but as the mum is around too, I’m just another pair of hands and someone new for the kids to play with! The 3 month old is just starting to recognise me, and now smiles when he sees me and starts to giggle – definitely a wonderful moment when that first happened. Other than that I’m just getting towards the end of semester and exams – scary stuff.

Will post again soon X

More news from Perth!

By Megan Hitchcock (University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia).

As I had trouble uploading my first post it went up a lot later than it was meant to, as I have now been in Perth two and a half weeks! I’ve had a week of uni here, but it already feels like I’ve been here forever! I already feel so settled and have met some amazing people, and even uni isn’t that bad! I’m already noticing the differences between Manchester and UWA in terms of uni. I have seminars and tutorials here for psychology, which I never had at home, and assessment is continuous – we even get marks for attendance! The campus here is beautiful – so big and green, but very confusing! A lot different than Manchester where pretty much everything is off one main road!

I moved into college – the best decision I made about coming to Australia, and instantly met some great people and was thrown into Aussie college life! We had a week when just the international students moved in, so all got to know each other then all the Aussies returned and the mayhem began! So far this has included quiz nights, toga parties, amazing formal dinners and inter-college netball just to name a few!   I’m slowly getting used to just how expensive Perth is – as supposedly the most expensive place to live in the Southern Hemisphere it is definitely living up to it’s title! However, I’m trying to let that take a backseat and taking in every part of my home for the next year. The best bit – I LIVE SO CLOSE TO THE BEACH! The photo below is taken on Cottesloe Beach – in the middle of winter! I am still getting to terms with the idea that 25 degrees is winter here and just how hot summer will be!   This first few weeks have been absolutely incredible, so I hope that the rest of the year follows in the same way! I am off now to play netball but will post again soon with my next update!

Megan

Trinity College – International Welcome Formal Dinner – Semester 2, 2013, Cottersloe Beach & Toga Party

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And the Australian adventure begins…

By Megan Hitchcock (University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia).

So I don’t even know where to begin… the last few weeks since finishing uni has been so crazy and now the day has finally arrived! It’s Wednesday 17th July and tonight my Australian adventure begins at Heathrow Terminal 5! As the last few weeks have been so busy, I’ve hardly had a chance to be worried, but I guess the only reservations I’ve had came at the weekend when I had to start saying my goodbyes. Although there were lots of tears and I realised how much I am going to miss everyone, coming through that has only made me realise just how much I want this. I woke up yesterday, my heart racing with excitement and today all I want is for 7.15pm to come and for my exciting journey to begin!
If you want any idea of how I’ve planned for this in the last few weeks this is pretty much what I’ve done:
– Made the most of every single second of UK summer that I’ve had – since finishing uni 4 weeks ago I’ve been on holiday with friends for a few days, gone to Glastonbury, had a friend visiting from Australia, worked for a week, had a 21st birthday party and so much more – I now feel like I have done everything I wanted to and am so ready for the next thing!
– Started packing early – it takes so much longer than you think planning to pack for a year and not just for a two week summer holiday! Not only deciding what to take but also fitting everything into the luggage restrictions has definitely been a major challenge!
– I’ve had a dentist appointment, a doctors appointment, been ‘shopping for the last time’ so many times as I keep missing things out and this morning I even had to run off to the bank to let them know I’m going to be away so that I can use my card out there – pretty important!
– Most importantly though, I’ve tried to make this as stress free as possible – I just want to enjoy every second of the experience!
Apart from the obvious worries about going to a new country – my luggage not making it, moving somewhere new and what it’s going to be like, I am just so excited, looking forward to a new challenge, meeting lots of new people and having so many new experiences! Bring on the next year!

Megan