Welcome Home

Those that read my last blog will know how much I wasn’t really looking forward to going back to the U.K. The sting of going back home was dimmed a little, as i undertook a 2 and half week venture into Canada, starting in Vancouver and ending in Toronto. During this time I met up with some friends i met on my exchange abroad and family members that i haven’t seen in years. I was taken paddle boarding round Vancouver city, to Whistler for Canada day and to the Calgary stampede (one of the biggest Rodeos in the world). Its fair to say i had a great time.

Now I’m back, I really want to be in Australia again. I’m actually getting jealous of friends that have graduated and are making there way over to Australia to begin there journey, even though I had the chance to live there for a year.

I was however greeted with some fantastic weather, with temperature reaching upwards of 30 degrees. This made me feel slightly better when I received a video of an Australian friend, showing the hail and rain that was ensuing in Perth. Some of the first people I met up with were actually, a group of Australians, I lived with that were travelling round Europe for the summer, which was nice for me and they were enjoying the sun.

Seeing family and friends was nice, although I find myself bored already, it actually didn’t take long for my mother to recognise this. Im trying to keep myself busy seeing friends, training and sorting out dissertation work, but i think i really need to get back to Manchester to get into the swing of things again. I need to have that routine back in order to keep myself occupied and not think too much about the year I’ve just had and left behind.

This was only a short blog just to give an insight of how things are back home. I will update you all further when i actually get back at Manchester and back into my 4th and final year!

This is not a goodbye Australia, but a see you later.

When I was told that I would have to write a series of blogs for the global ambassador programme, I had assumed that my final blog would be about how I was looking forward to going home and seeing my family. Where this in part is true, my biggest fear right now is leaving Australia and going back to life as I knew it before. The truth is Australia has become my home now and the thought of going back to Manchester actually scares me a little.

There is a blog circulating around social media talking about the things people don’t tell you when you go on a year abroad and reading it I couldn’t help but feel that this was going to be me upon my return home (link below). Yes I am excited to go home and see may family and friends, to see how much my nephews have grown, and to see what has changed since I’ve been gone, but a large part of me just isn’t ready to go back yet.  I know for a fact for the first few weeks seeing everyone and catching up with them will be great, but once that stops ill find myself yearning to be back in this Magnificent country.

I have always thought of my self an an independent person, but coming on this year abroad has just proven it to me further. I value friends and family, but I also value the opportunities you get in life to travel, explore and push your own emotion and physical boundaries and this has year has done just that.

I often sit back, look at my bank account and think; Geez its been an expensive year, but then i remember all the travelling I’ve done, the memories I created and the people I’ve met and I wouldn’t change any of it. All the experiences I’ve had have created a fire that wants to continue to create more memories, experience new culture and meet new and interesting people from all over the world. If anyone asks me how much Ive spent, ill happily tell them, but i will also follow with how I’ve spent it. I like to think i have made the most of my year abroad and would urge anyone else going on a year abroad is to grab the experience with both hands. The opportunities you get when your away may never happen again. If the local residents invite you into there homes, take it. If they invite you to go away for the weekend, accept it. It is often to local people that can give you the best opportunities whilst your away, as they know all the best spots.

It hasn’t always been an easy ride out here, there has been many occasion where I’ve felt guilty that I haven’t gone home due to the death or illness of a relative and when I ended up in hospital myself over Christmas I began to feel what it must be like for my family back home. However despite this, my parents have never urged me to go home and part of me thanks them for that as I’ve been able to experience some incredible things out here.

I’m coming out of this experience a better person, with a wider friendship group, with some of the funniest and nicest people I’ve met and can see that longtime friendships have been formed. We all arrived as slightly lost exchange students and we’ve all grown together. Independence, confidence, self motivation and courage are all character traits that’s have only progressed and improved since being here.

I have spoken to the fellow Manchester students about there thoughts on going  ‘home’, none of us are ready and in fact at least four of us have said we will be returning as soon as is possible. Personally I have plans to try and locate a job out here within the environmental science field.

To put this in to perspective I’m writing this blog at three in the morning, the day before i leave, as I lay awake contemplating what my next move is going to be. Right now I’m not ready to go home. My advice now is to anyone thinking of going on a year abroad, is do it. You will have your reservations and doubts and you may hesitate to make a decision, which is normal, but from me to you, you will not regret that decision to go, initially it will be hard to say goodbye, but the people you met, the experiences you have make it all worth while. And if you are anything like I am right now, I’m having a hard time saying goodbye to Australia, so I’m not going to. Plans to return are already underway and I’m hoping to be back very soon.

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Down by the Blue Boat House.

So I’ll catch ya later Perth!

Rachael Harrison

Linked blog:

Under African Skies: THE HARDEST PART OF TRAVELLING THAT NO ONE TALKS ABOUT

<https://london2cape.com/adventure-travel/the-hardest-part-of-travelling/>

Culture in Western Australia

*Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to offend or accuse anyone, the views written here are based on personal experience and observation*

This is a blog I’ve been meaning to right for a while. Australian culture is not too different to that of the UK, they have a similar education system, speak english and even drive on the same side of the road. The main difference is the sun; there is a lot more of it. This lends itself, to an increased interest in outdoor activities, from running, surfing, paddle boarding and many other physical activities, also leading to an increased promotion of  a ‘healthy lifestyle’. There are increased trend towards begin vegetarian or vegan, become gluten and lactose free and many shops and cafes are targeting this particular niche market, which doesn’t surprised given the active nature of the people.

With the good weather, come increased exercise and this is not a bad thing. People can go and be social outside in parks, at the beach, by the bays, meaning you quite easily gain a network of friends. The nightlife culture focusses more of bars than it does clubs, with many of them closing around 12 or 1am. This was actually refreshing sometimes, as you could still go out and have a good time, but be in bed by 12 and get a decent night sleep.

Academic life differs in its approach to study. More emphasis is put on study, with many units opting for a more coursework heavy approach, meaning that more work is required throughout the semester, unlike Manchester (and other English universities), where exams form the core of the unit. There is also more freedom within the course structure, particularly at the University of Western Australia, where there are many broadening units that a student must undertake in order to be able to graduate. I wrote a similar piece on this back in November.

University sports has a completely different structure to that in the UK, especially in Western Australia. With the city being so isolated, and only around 5 other university in the surrounding area, the sports network is nowhere near as vast as the UK. Every year there is a big tournament, the UNIGAMES, held in the Gold Coast, where thousands of trained athletes compete to bring home the title. They do however has many social leagues, like in Manchester, were you can play anything from Netball to ultimate frisky, which is fun but also taken quite seriously.

However on the flip side, upon my arrival within Australia, it has been noted that aboriginal culture, whilst celebrated in minor part, has generally been overlooked and misrepresented, especially here in Western Australia. Merely observing my surroundings walking around Perth city, you note the number of homeless aboriginal people in comparison to ‘white’ Australians.

To me, it seems that aboriginal people are targeted, especially by local authorities as being a ‘menace’ and a ‘nuisance’, with many on the streets being stopped and searched for stolen goods. Whilst yes some are found guilty of shop lifting, not all are out to cause trouble. Police patrol the streets of Perth city daily, making sure there is no trouble and you often see groups of officers approaching groups of aboriginal people. Im not saying that the police are being discriminatory to indigenous people purposefully, these are merely observation that i have witnessed during my time in Perth.

I have friends here that are studying law and politics and they tell me that, there is so little academic literature regarding the treatment of indigenous people within the country, that they struggled to right essays that were focussing upon indigenous culture. What saddens me is that the UK and British rule is in some part to blame. Early settlers to the country were captains and solders, bound on ships towards the Western Coast, invaded indigenous lands. The tribes values and morals have been in some part forgotten, and many indigenous people have been forced out of there native lands.

Discrimination towards Aboriginal culture comes in all forms. There have been many recent articles  over the Australian love of ‘Blackface’; The use of makeup, typically in a white person to represent that of black person.  I intended to partake in a Indigenous studies unit this semester, however due to timetable clashes it was not possible, but it is definitely something i would love to look into more.

Drugs have become an issue within this community of people, with Crystal Meth use becoming a major concern. But it is also a country wide concern. Drug and alcohol abuse is one of the biggest killers in Australia and cost the health turn millions each year. Many TV campaigns are actively trying to reduce the number of underage people turning to drugs and alcohol in order to try and contain the situation. Other drug related problems are linked to increased steroid use. As mentioned previously Australians as a nation, i would consider to be much more active and with this comes steroid abuse, as a way of gaining muscle to look as physically fit as possible. There is still a long way to go however, as the problem has become so widespread, its going to take a while.

Despite this, my experience in Perth was not dampened, discrimination happens in every country unfortunately, however efforts are being attempted to reduced the severity of the discrimination.

Trans-Tasman Travelling Part II

After a short stop over back in Perth, it was time to fly to Auckland, to begin my dream travelling New Zealand. This trip is something I’ve been waiting for, for a long time and it finally arrived.

Whilst it was exciting to arrive in New Zealand, I was left a little underwhelmed by Auckland itself. The city i found to be rather small, with not much going on, however I’m sure those that were studying there themselves would tell me otherwise (sorry guys!).

But it wasn’t long till once again we were on our way. This time we had our trusty Wicked camper car which was to be our home for the next month. Anytime I’ve had to describe this car I get some seriously funny looks, its essentially a car with a tent attached to the top. So for the sake of this blog I’m going to attach a photo!

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Yes that is a car with a tent on top!

The first part of the month saw us travelling around the North island. Stop one took us North  to the Bay of islands. Again I found myself on another boat, coasting around the wonders of Otehei bay.

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Gateway to Otehei bay

We made our way down the North Island, stopping in Tauranga, to climb Mt. Maunganui and visit some relatives of one of the girls, who kindly took us out kayaking and provided us with some cheese and wine for the evening. This short stopover allowed us to rejuvenate from camping, so some washing and get a shower before moving on to visit the attraction Hobbiton. Hobbiton, as some may know is the movie set for the movies The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Below are some of the pictures of this beautiful area, with its surrounded mountains and rolling hills.

Rotorua treated us to a Maori experience, in which the day involved the local tribe teaching and showing us the traditional lifestyles, artwork, dances and food (Hangi). We also had a bit of fun Zorbing beforehand –  Rolling down a big hill in a blow up ball.

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Traditional Maori Tribe dress and dance

As my friends 21st birthday was fast approaching, she decided that she would like to had a crack black water rafting. This experience took us tubing through Waitomo’s cave systems, through small rapids and down small waterfalls, in almost complete darkness, to allow us to witness the beauty of the glow worms that reside inside. The next day saw venturing into Taupo, to take on the Tongaririo Crossing, a 8 hour, 19.4km hike through rocky volcanic terrain, with sulphur lakes and surrounding mountains. After an early start, we finished the walk around 6 hours later, a lot quicker than was originally anticipated. The one problem we found with freedom camping was after strenuous activities, it was hard to find showers to clean off. However this time we found ourself at a local swimming pool, enjoying a gentle swim and having a shower before moving on.

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Glimpse of the Sulphur lakes on the Tongariro Crossing.

Wellington was our final stop on the North island before, making our way across the cook strait onto the South island.  There was an excitement within the city, when we quickly realised that it was the HSBC rugby 7’s series being played that weekend. Walking along the seafront, there were crowds of people in fancy dress and we even managed to bag ourselves some free ice cream, unfortunately due to time scales we didn’t actually get to attend.

Our trip South started off with some excitement. Our first stop was to Kaikoura, where we did a spot of whale watching. Normally you would only see 1 or 2 sperm whales whilst out on the water, but we got lucky and managed to get a glimpse of 4!

After a brief but thrilling stop over in Kaikoura, we thought it was only right that we experienced some of New Zealand finest wines, in the Marlborough region, before heading North to the Abel Tasman. We ventured to about 4 or 5 wineries, tasting a range of wines, grown and produced, as well as trying a few cheeky liquor shots. This was a chance to get into some nice clothing instead of our usual, walking and adventure gear.

The Abel Tasman was peaceful and allowed us to get out of the car and go for a walk around the bays that occupy the North of the South island. Here the sun was shining and people were out kayaking and trekking similar trails to the ones we were. We had a relaxing day walking, and at the end we even got to relaxing in some of the secluded bays situated here, with pristine sands and clear blue waters. Leaving such a beautiful area wasn’t favourable, but we had to move onto to the next place….. Queenstown.

Queenstown is where the action is happening. Hundreds of backpackers find themselves here, testing there own limits, bungy jumping and whitewater rafting, whilst hitting up the nightlife in the evening. Its easy to spend a small fortune here getting stuck into all that NZ has to offer. It was here we tried our hand at an unusual activity of river surfing. This essentially is like whitewater rafting, but the raft is replaced with a body board, where you travel down a stretch of the Kawarau river and through the rapid systems, with a cliff jump at the end. Whilst were were here we booked onto a Milford Sound cruise, the next destination on our trip.

Describing the Fiordlands of Milford sounds, is hard so for the sake of the blog I’m just going to upload a photo. All i can say is that it is stunning and so peaceful.

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Milford Sound 

After a short visit to Milford sound, we made the journey to Dunedin, where there was only one place we could visit; Cadbury’s world. So much chocolate to be tried and tested, we even got free goody bag on the way. Before long we were onto Christchurch, the final stop on our 4 week journey. We experienced more than we hoped for in our visit to Christchurch. There was a mixed reception from the group regarding the city. The devastation of the 2011 earthquakes is still very much apparent. Many of the streets are still just rubble and the whole city looks like a construction ground. It was here however that again we all had our first experience of an earthquake. On February 13th Christchurch was hit with a 5.7 magnitude earthquake. This was slightly scary as, the earthquake that caused so much devastation in 2011, was not much smaller than this. Once you’ve visited the city, you being to understand why not much construction is happening. There are still aftershocks occurring everyday, making building hard to undertake and regulate.

Lets just say New Zealand didn’t disappoint. I have already decided I will be returning to this stunning country, in the very near future, with the hope for one day moving over there. It is a truly magical country, in more ways than one. As I’m not much of a photographer, Im going to share and link my friend Neil’s site at the end. He hitchhiked the country and captured new Zealand in all its glory, and his pictures truly show off the country the way it should be.

There is never enough time to visit a county and see it all in it entirety. I could have stayed here for much longer than 4 weeks but I unfortunately had to make my way back to Perth.

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Montage of all the some of the beautiful landscapes New Zealand has to offer.

The travelling didn’t quite end there. My flight back to Perth, saw me have another 4 day break in Melbourne, Just enough time for me to travel the Great Ocean Road, a 243km stretch of road along the south-eastern coast of Australia between the Victorian cities of Torquay and Allansford.

So several plane, boat and car journeys later, now the sad time has come for me start back studying; these soils aren’t going to dig themselves.

Note: As part of my Geography placement, I had to make a video of all the trips and excursion taken on this trip. The video can be found here: https://youtu.be/KmNsRUhSRSc

Link to Neal’s website: http://www.distantpixels.com/#home

Trans-Tasman Travelling Part I

Im going to apologise now as I’m about to spam you all with the blogs i have missed during this busy six months i have had.

So this semester has been a hectic one and so this blog was a little neglected. My return back to Perth to begin the semester again came after a fun fuelled and hectic summer, road tripping the Australian east coast and New Zealand.

It all started on the 27th November with the first flight to Cairns to begin my six weeks road trip down the East Coast of Australia.  I always thought of Australia being so far away from home, but in reality the world is so connected now that its wasn’t long until I ended up meeting some people I knew from my home town, completely coincidentally in my hostel room. Its a small world!

There I was joined by three other travelling buddies and we hired a car to begin our 22 day road trip trip to Byron bay.

Our first major stop was Port Douglas, where our Great Barrier Reef tour commenced. As a place I’ve studied and learnt about throughout various years of senior school, university and you watch documentaries and read news about the reefs, its sometimes hard to believe that now i have actually experienced it. I opted for the snorkelling option, due to a tight budget, that was to last me until February. Whilst diving, some would say would be the preferred option, snorkelling was just as much of an experience, to swim around the reefs and corals is a magical experience.

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The fun and games didn’t stop there. After a week of travelling down the Eastern coast, we found ourselves upon a cruise ship, cruising around the Whitsunday islands. White sands and blue seas, it looks like the cover of a magazine, right now you feel like your in paradise. This all came before a mammoth 12 hour drive down to Hervey bay where island hopping seems to be a common theme this trip, ending up on Fraser Island, the worlds largest sand island, stretching around 120km in length. The tour brought us to Lake Mckenzie, a uniquely located closed lake system, one of a few in the world.

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The pituresque Lake McKenzie

In true Australian Style I knew i needed to try my hand at some surfing. My first surfing experience, saw me failing absolutely miserably to even stay on a board in Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast. After many attempts, i admitted defeat and stuck to the body board, where catching waves was no problem and gave me hours of fun. After hitting the Queensland beaches for the last , it was time to enter New South Wales.

Nimbin, how do i describe you? Whilst those who have heard about the place will know exactly what I’m about to say about it, but for though who don’t, here goes. Nimbin is notorious for its Cannabis culture and has a very free living environment, with a significant hippie look and feel. It has become known for being the ‘drug capital in Australia’ and its not every day you have the Hemp embassy next door to the police station. After exploring this region, we made our way down to Byron Bay.

Byron bay was where the fun really started. As we waved goodbye to two of our fellow traveling companions, it was me and Alice left. As many can imagine there is a typical sense of people coming to Byron bay to ‘find themselves’. The place is full of British and European backpackers coming to live the ‘Australian dream’. Unfortunately it wasn’t all fun and games, as I ended up with severely tonsillitis spanning the whole of the Christmas period, which left me unable to eat and eventually in hospital, where a minor surgery had to take place. Christmas day also happened to be the wettest day on record for Byron, in over 30 years! Just our luck!  Not all was bad though, the evening of the 25th eventually brightened up and so a trip to the beach was on the cards. Santa hats and secret santa gifts in tow, we had a lovely evening, with some drinks and classic beach games, to take us into the night.

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Christmas day Sunset on Byron Bay

From Byron we took short flight to Sydney, to prepare ourselves for our New years celebrations. We hit pot luck and managed to hire an apartment that had some spectacular views of Sydney harbour and a perfect viewing platform for the Fireworks that were to take place. With a group of around 9 of us, all UK exchange students, from various universities, it was a lovely way to bring in the new year, with a few drinks and a BBQ in the park, overlooking the Opera house and Harbour bridge.

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Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House

After 42 days, my journey ended in Melbourne. Of all the Australian cities, this has to be my favourite. Personally, It has a vibe similar to that of many english cities, such as London and has a very welcoming feel, something that Sydney lacked. This period of time was a respite for me to prepare myself for my New Zealand adventure that was fast approaching.

Academic Expectations at UWA

By Rachael Harrison, University of Western Australia

This is my second post in a very short space of time. But I’ve finally finished, my first semester here at UWA. I’ve had a total of fourteen assignments and 3 exams, which actually means I’ve done more work then I would have in Manchester! Apparently there is a ruling here that exams can only be weighted a certain percentage, so my exams were only 40% which is at least 20% less than back home, plus in some you don’t even need to pass the exam to pass the unit. However, Australian universities seem to look their assignments and particular group ones! The system over here works on a continual assessment basis, hence why I had so many. This has led me to have mixed responses to the units I have partaken in this term, in which I took all Earth science units.

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1 Car, 7 girls, 10 days, 3200km

By Rachael Harrison, University of Western Australia

So it’s been a while since I last posted, but Australia is keeping me very busy. This blog post is seriously long overdue but I hope you’ll all still be interested, but it will probably also be very long, I apologise!

The mid semester break saw us travelling in excess of 3000km North along the beautiful Western Australian coast, for a total of 10 days. Day one saw seven very excitable girls, trying strategically pack all belongings into one very small boot. We had a one backpack limit for each person, but obviously there were some people who did stick to this, which meant it was time for a game of Tetris. We left on a Thursday afternoon and out first stop was at the Breeze inn lodge in Dongara, a very small time with not much to offer. This was only a overnight pit stop before we headed to explore the town of Geraldton, for the afternoon before driving another two hours to Kalbarri. This was to be our home for the next two days.

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Continue reading “1 Car, 7 girls, 10 days, 3200km”

Where is the time going?

By Rachael Harrison (University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia)

Its been nearly two months now since I arrived in Perth, so this blog is long overdue. Since my arrival here, its been non stop fun and games, that even includes the uni work! So many new people and faces to learn, from your home of residence to the multitude of different units undertaken. Living in Trinity college was probably the best decision I’ve made. For me being a fairly social character, the chit chat is endless, I have to force myself to go and do some work otherwise i would literally spend my days socializing on the college grounds. It doesn’t help that Anni (resident mum) has just bought a new puppy….. she’s so small and cute.

I can’t believe how quickly the time is going. In a few days time i will have been here 2 months, thats the longest amount of time I’ve every spent out of my home country. Ill tell you what though, its probably its definitely the life for me. Everybody is so relaxed and easy to get along with and everybody wants to know how your doing and what you’ve been up to since you’ve been here.

The only downside to my experience is that the workload is weighted very differently here then back in Manchester. With Perth (and Australia generally) I thought that the universities may follow similar workloads, but this is not true. Here there is much more focus on assignments. In first semester alone I have 12 assignments most weighted at around 30% or more. Group work is also much more prevalent here. From speaking to other internationals and exchangers, they agree, with a lot more of there marks being participation marks. Another thing I’ve had to adjust to… 8am lectures! However despite this, the campus is so beautiful and full of life. It over looks Swan River and Matilda Bay, where dolphins can be seen (if you get you early enough). This softens those 8 am lectures and makes it more worth while.

Swan river

Boat house

(Photo 1: Swan river, Photo 2: Blue Boat house)

Despite the workloads I’m still finding the time to explore Australia. I recently attended an event called STUMPS. Nobody really knows what it stands for but it involves a car, your passengers and of course fancy dress. You basically have a series of challenges to complete around Perth and then your final challenge is to find the Party for the end of the night. My car decided to go as old people, and we pulled it off that well some people actually thought that we were from a residential home and were lost on the campus…. no joke! And if I’m honest I agree I thought we looked fabulous.

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One thing, I’ve learnt since living here is that the opportunities I’ve had to travel to different countries across the world is priceless. Many people here would die for the chance to travel across Europe, even to southern Asia, that realistically isn’t that far from Australia in comparison. Even though Perth is considered one of the richest cities in the world, the wealth is disproportionately distributed and so many people just simply cannot afford it. You can see the excitement on their faces when you tell them where you’ve been, and many people aspire to many live in the UK one day, or travel through Europe for a fraction of the cost here.

Anyway that’s me done for now. Ill try and post more regularly.

Purple Love

Rachael

5..4..3..2..1…TAKEOFF!

By Rachael Harrison (University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia)

Since uni ended the countdown to Australia began. The excitement braced me everyday. Everyone who knew I was off on this year long adventure asked the same question, ‘Are you excited?’, ‘Aren’t you lucky to be going on this adventure?’; I could only simply answer yes, with a beaming smile. I knew I was very lucky to have been given this opportunity to study abroad, all thanks to The University of Manchester.

The night before the departure was tough saying bye to my parents, brother and nephews, knowing that when I returned the youngest one would have changed so much, but thankfully we can still Facetime and Skype. There was a lot of last-minute packing involved, deliberating over whether I really needed that extra jumper or pair of trousers and then the worrying if my bag was overweight. I used various methods to attempt to weigh the bag on a set of old school bathroom scales, which gave a different reading every time!

My journey started at Manchester International Airport, where the excitement become all too real, I was actually going to Australia. I was flying with Qatar Airways going from Manchester to Doha, Doha to Perth with an overall flight time of just under 19 hours. Saying goodbye to my friends and family was sad, but I knew that the journey ahead of me was going to be worth it. I checked in (suitcase underweight), said goodbye to my family and then I was off – this was it!

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Continue reading “5..4..3..2..1…TAKEOFF!”