Touching down in Oz: first things first

By Georgi Fogarty (University of Queensland, Australia)

It’s obvious that when you move to the other side of the world, there are going to be some big changes. Jetlag, time differences, climatic, academic and cultural disparities had all been weighing heavily on my mind in the last few weeks approaching my 25-hour flight from Manchester to Brisbane.  But strangely, what took me by surprise the most upon landing was the amount of time it took for me to adjust to the fact I was in Australia and no longer in England.

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Brisbane city center from the Kurilpa bridge

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Sydney: The Final Sunsets

Bethan Rowsby, Geography, University of Sydney.

As I am about to fly to Asia, for a final trip before heading home, I have been reflecting on my year away from home and in my opinion there is no greater opportunity for reflecting than at sunset.

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Mid Semester break on Fraser Island!

by Jude Wiggins, University of Queensland, Australia, Geography

Over the Mid-Semester break I was lucky enough to go to Fraser Island with my friends, Sophie and David. Fraser Island is the World’s Largest Sand Dune. The island is a massive collection of sand that gets dragged in by the Pacific Ocean currents and stretches about 120 km long but only about 24 kms wide. Fraser is a World Heritage site so there are no roads, only sand tracks that can be accessed by 4WD. Whilst we were on Fraser our tour guide told us that if the island did not exist, all the sand that gathers there would have traveled further North and completely covered the Great Barrier Reef, meaning that we might not know about it’s existence.

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Fray-yay Island at 6am

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Summer Holidays Down Under

By Serena Graham (University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia)

P.S. … This blog post is about my summer holidays in Oz (December 2014 – March 2015). I’ve been extremely busy in the past couple of months so I haven’t had the chance to upload it until now!

As the semesters in Australia start in March and July, I’ve had to do semester 2 first and then semester 1, which means I had a three month gap in between semesters. During this time, it was really hot and at times got to around 40 degrees. I seriously regretted choosing a house without air conditioning!

Over the holidays I did a bit of travelling. My parents visited me in Australia and we travelled up to Port Douglas, which is a really cute little town not far from Cairns. Port Douglas has lots of little shops, restaurants and bars that are all really nice and is also close to the Great Barrier Reef. So on Christmas day we decided to go on a snorkelling trip on the Reef, and got to see some turtles and an incredible variety of fish (a few people on the trip were lucky enough to see a couple of sharks). In Port Douglas there is also a wildlife sanctuary where you can see some kangaroos, wallabies, koalas and parrots. Unfortunately, during the summer months on the east coast of Australia it’s jellyfish season so you have to swim within the jellyfish nets and even then some jellyfish can slip through so you need to be careful (or wear a wetsuit). After spending about a week in Port Douglas we returned back to Brisbane and I spent a few days showing my parents around the city. As this was around Christmas time, there were various events on in the city centre such as parades, live music and shows.

After my parents left Australia I decided I needed to get a part-time job if I wanted to continue travelling. After over two months job-hunting I was finally able to get a weekend job in a Chinese restaurant in a nearby suburb. This job kept me busy for the rest of the holidays, and thanks to the generous minimum wage in Australia, I was able to book a few more trips over semester 2 – I’ll talk about these in my next blog!

Here are some pics I took over the summer holidays:

Port Douglas

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My ten do’s and don’ts of studying abroad

By Jamie Chapman (The University of Sydney, Australia)

Now that my time over here in Sydney is coming to an end, I thought it would be a good idea to reflect on what I think the most important aspects of the study abroad experience are. I’ve made a little list of ten do’s and don’ts, based off of some of the experiences I’ve had during my time in Australia. If you’re in a position like I was, and still deliberating about whether studying abroad is a good idea/nervous about going, hopefully this’ll help!

DON’T

Plan too much
It’s so easy with something like studying abroad to dive right into planning every meticulous detail – where you’re going to live, the places you’re going to visit, the things you’re going to do – before you know it, your entire trip is laid out before you on a few sheets of A4. The reality is, if too many plans are made, too many flights booked, you’ll find yourself set in a structure that doesn’t let you really take in the amazing places you’ve ended up in. There’s a certain merit to ‘doing it live’ – appreciate the experiences that are thrown at you; they may never happen again.

Leave everything to the last minute
This is something I learnt the hard way, early on into my trip – I didn’t book my flight out of the UK until around three weeks beforehand, and ended up paying around twice as much for the privilege as I could have done a month prior. Once you arrive, you’ll want to get your feet on the ground as soon as possible – fight through the jet lag, get a bank account and phone number, find somewhere to live that isn’t a hostel full of travellers. There really isn’t that much to do, and if you arrive with around two weeks before classes start, then you’ll have more than enough time to do everything, but don’t be like me and leave finding long-term accommodation until you’ve got only three days left to do so – without a doubt, the most stressful aspect of my time here. Luckily, everything worked out perfectly, but looking back, it could have gone oh, so wrong.

Forget you’re still studying
This is a big one! Wherever you go in the world, you’ll undoubtedly want to explore, meet new people, do some amazing things with your time here. Don’t forget though, it’s called study abroad for a reason – you’ll still have work to do. This isn’t a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination – as a Music student, I’ve had some of the most rewarding experiences at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, and I’ve met some of the most amazing people along the way. Embrace the new things that studying in a new country can bring to you, and you’ll appreciate your time abroad so much more.

Bring too much stuff
One of the biggest regrets of anyone who travels is that they bring way too much stuff with them. Think that you’re going to need that heavy winter coat? You’ll regret it when you’re lugging a 30kg suitcase through the middle of the city, jet-lagged and searching for the nearest coffee shop. Think about where you’re going, too – if you leave the UK in January and travel to Australia, like I did, you’ll leave the country in the middle of winter and arrive to 30-degrees of beautiful Australian summer heat, which won’t be so beautiful if you step off the plane wearing three layers, a beanie and scarf. That stuff won’t be seeing daylight for a long time! Also, you’ll undoubtedly buy a ton of stuff to take back home, be it clothes, gifts, or a pet koala (if only!). Top tip, buy a cheap duffel bag once you’re out here, fill it with stuff, and pay the extra bit of cash to check another piece of luggage for your flight home.

Be careless when it comes to accommodation
Without a doubt, this has been the most stressful aspect of my time here. You’re going to be travelling countless hours to a far-flung country that, odds are, you’ve never been to before. Throw into the mix not having a concrete living situation, and it’s bound to be stressful. You’ll want to get something sorted out as soon as possible – it’s going to be expensive, time consuming, and you’ll need to do a fair bit of research into the best things to look for. Speak to existing students at your host university, students that have returned from a previous semester/year abroad, and visit the university’s accommodation office once you arrive to see if they’ve got any tips for you. I got quite lucky in that I met up with some other exchange students from around the world once I arrived, who knew the best places to look for and we managed to find somewhere quickly that was perfect. Don’t jump into it, though – make sure you check out all your options if you’re going to look for private accommodation. This is where student housing options do really shine – yes, they’re a fair bit more expensive than you could pay otherwise, but it’ll be such a stress-free experience to arrive with a guaranteed place to stay.

DO

Travel
It’s an obvious one, but it’s absolutely the number one thing to do with your time abroad – travel! In fact, I’m writing this blog post aboard a flight to Melbourne right now. Doing something like studying abroad will completely change your outlook on travel, and you’ll want to spend every waking minute of your free time on an adventure to someplace new. Travelling to somewhere like Australia is perfect, too, where domestic flights are as common (and nearly as cheap) as Megabuses, and where there are so many incredible places to visit right up the coast. You’ll realise how closeted most Brits seem to be about travel, too, something which I totally hold my hands up to – the fact that I’ve never visited Scotland, for example, when it’s (relatively) right at my doorstep, is crazy. The travel bug will find its way to you, whether you like it or not. This time next week, I’ll be back at the airport, waiting for a flight to Japan to start my three-week solo trip through the country. Now I just need to hope that my bank balance can handle it…

Meet new people
It’s no lie that one of the biggest things that scares people away from studying abroad is that, most likely, you won’t know anyone. Maybe you have family, or a friend overseas, but for the majority of us, we’ll arrive all on our own. Of course, this is pretty terrifying, but pretty much every other international student will be in exactly the same situation. Most universities have some sort of exchange student society, and will throw a ton of events throughout the semester – hundreds of students from all over the world that are just as keen as you are to meet new people and travel all over the place. Some of my closest friends after this semester are not only from Sydney, but as far away as South Korea, and as close to home as Oxford. I’ve met such an amazing, diverse crowd of friends, who have paved the way for some incredible adventures in the future.

Be proactive
This is important right from the start of the entire study abroad process – getting all the paperwork done, applying for a visa, booking flights, etc. Get on top of everything from the start, and all the things you have to do to set yourself up will seem like a piece of cake. Push yourself to just go and do something all the time. Go and explore the city, meet new people, see new things. At the end of the day, your time abroad can’t last forever, so the more time you spend being active and just doing something, the better your experience will be.

Embrace the unexpected
As with anything in life, things are never going to go entirely to plan. You’ll end up in situations that you never envisioned in the first place, and frankly, the only thing to do is to go with the flow. Some of the best moments I’ve had out here have been totally and utterly unexpected. I’ve slept in a tent in an Australian countryside hostel with the resident kangaroo asleep just outside; I’ve sailed a yacht under the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the middle of a torrential storm; I’ve been faced with a collapsed bridge over a 40ft-wide river in the middle of a hike, only to be ferried across by two fishermen and their dog that just happened to be passing by in their boat. The same thing applies academically, too – you’ll probably go abroad with a good idea of the exact classes you’ll want to take, but in reality you’ll have to change them. Maybe there’s a timetable clash, maybe they’ve filled up, or like in my case, maybe the class doesn’t exist at all. Be open-minded, and savour the experiences you’re offered academically. The classes I originally didn’t want have let me have some of my music performed at the huge Vivid Sydney Festival last month, and I’ve also been able to meet some of the most incredible Australian musicians that are around today.

Say yes
Without trying too hard to sound like a cheesy motivational speaker, this is probably the best way to summarise my advice when it comes to studying abroad. Be open to whatever the experience throws at you. If I hadn’t said yes at that one meeting, way back near the start of first year in Manchester, I can’t even imagine what it would have been like to miss out on this. Studying abroad has been without a doubt the single best experience of my time at university, and I’ll be so sad for it to be over. Saying ‘yes’ means that I’ve swam with turtles at the Great Barrier Reef. It means that I’ve been surfing at world-famous Bondi Beach. It means that I’ve met the most incredible people that I’m humbled to call my friends. It means that I’m going to be travelling to parts of the world that I could never have imagined a year ago, and soon, it’ll mean that I arrive back in beautiful, rainy Manchester with countless stories of the best six months of my life.

5. Reflection on my time at Australian National University (ANU)

By Jellaby Lai (Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)

Ummm, I have no idea where to start. It has been a crazy, joyful and adventurous six months. So much has been learnt and so many bonds have been made.

From the moment I landed in this wonderful, sunny land to the time I had to start packing and say farewell to my friends and the animals (spiders not included) around my hall, not even one second did I halt and think. Now, sitting in front of my laptop (equivalent to a smartwatch in this generation), memories start to sink in and I can’t help but giggle. Reflecting on my study abroad journey helps me think critically about what I have done and why, and learn self-evaluation.

Academic:

I studied abroad in the second semester of my second year. Because of the complexity of course matching, I had to take two second year and two third year courses at ANU. The third year courses were demanding and I had underestimated them at the start of semester. I would have put more time in studying to prevent pulling endless all-nighters. It is important to experience life as much as possible. But in the end,  a good work-life balance will lead to success.

Non-academic:

I was fortunate to be allocated in one of the most inclusive, welcoming and fun halls on campus. Sharing a big kitchen with other four hundred something residents gave me opportunities to social with so many different people. We spent day and night in there, laughing and cooking together. There were all kind of activities organised by the hall committee. I had tried out new sports and went to basketball training (no fear being the shortest player in the team). Everyone was very supportive and I had acquired some new skills and explored a different side of myself. More importantly, I have made some life-long friends.

I would definitely study abroad again if there is a chance!

4. End of Semester Trip

By Jellaby Lai (Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)

Together with another five exchange students, we went camping along the Great Ocean Road and the outback. Looking at the photos, I can’t help but  start planning my next camping trip!

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Great Ocean Road

 

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Our camper van (car)

Great Ocean Road and Outback

 

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Koala spotting
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Great Ocean Road. Heaven is opening.
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Big John, our camper van
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West MacDonnell Range
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Manchester ‘On the road’
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West MacDonnell Range
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West Macdonnell Range
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Campsite. About to start a fire

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3. Academic Difference (ANU vs. UoM)

By Jellaby Lai (Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)

Studying abroad is all about LEARNING: new culture, new knowledge, new skills, new people and new stories. Today let’s talk about the academic differences between Australian National University in Canberra and The University of Manchester. Talking from experience, I found it extremely helpful to know the differences before starting my semester abroad. (For those who haven’t read my introduction, I did Actuarial Science and Mathematics so the differences I am about to talk about may vary from other courses.)

Academic Differences The University of Manchester(UoM) Australian National University (ANU)
Course units per semester(Full credit) 6 4
Lecture style In lecture hall or theatre Same
Lecture Recording Some lectures are recorded, some are not. All of them are recorded
Assignment Weekly assignments are not marked after first year The weekly assignments marks make up part of the final grade for many courses
Tutorial Weekly tutorial Same
Exam 2 hours exam 3 hours exam(One of the Statistics exam I had is an open book exam which I have never had in UoM)

Personally I am not a big fan of 3-hour exam, it is very draining and one of the papers I did was worth 180 marks. The pressure was no joke. However it has turned me into a much more flexible and adaptable learner. It is vital that you know the assessment method of your chosen modules. Figure out what learning style best suits you and pick the modules with your preferred assessment method. Like The University of Manchester, Australian National University offers a wide variety of different units and the learning environment and facilities at ANU are excellent.

O-Week and first week of lectures

By Tom Collins (Australian National University, Canberra, Australia).

SAM_6423On my first morning at Burton and Garran Hall, I’m not gonna lie, I was scared to leave my room. It was the first time I realised I was actually on the other side of the world and had no one. When I finally did leave my room, I  went over to the main block and we were all divided into groups of about fifteen and were taken on a tour of the city centre, which they call ‘civic’ in the same way we’d call it ‘town’. Each group bought food and cooked together and everyone shared the food. It’s a really good idea and it was from this that I started to make friends. It was so easy in the end!

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Purple Haze

During the week there were loads of events including a drag night (knocking on a random girl’s room and asking if I could borrow a dress was something I didn’t expect to do). There was also a toga party, a murder mystery night and finally a music festival, a bit like ANU’s version of Pangea. I only knew one of the acts, but the Australians seemed to know who the others were and it was really good! Of course these nights always ended up with us going out. Canberra’s nightlife, unsurprisingly, has nothing on Manchester.

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Market Day (Freshers fair)

The biggest difference between O week and freshers’, however, was the amount of events that occurred in the day as opposed to just at night. There was a freshers’ fair just like in Manchester, but throughout the week there was also a trip to the local swimming pool, a water fight with another hall and lots of BBQ’S! The best thing about B & G is that you get fed during O week so there’s no need to buy your own food.

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Purple Haze

My advice would be to get involved as much as you can. No one here has any desire to be cool, and therefore everyone gets involved and judges a lot less. This all creates a really good ‘college spirit’, which is really nice to be part of as it is so different to back home. I probably met more people in my first week at B & G than I did in my whole first year in Manchester. The University of Manchester and all universities in the UK could learn a lot from the college system here at the ANU.

The following week was the first week of lectures. In this week I sat in on several different courses to get a feel for them. I went to two lectures which were at least third year subjects, and I knew straight away they were too difficult for me. I then met with the exchange advisor at ANU and finalised my choices. I ended up taking Foundations of Australian Law, Australian Public Law, Corporations Law and Succession Law. I’d definitely recommend sitting in on a few courses before committing yourself, it really is the only way you can properly understand whether they are suitable.

My first impressions were that the lectures were very similar to back home. One difference was that our timetable is not generated for us like in Manchester. You have to go onto a timetable builder and click on your courses to build it yourself. I also had to get used to using Wattle, which is the ANU’s equivalent of MyManchester. It is very similar however and was not a problem. Academic differences are something I’ll talk about more when I’m more familiar with the system.

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An Aussie, a Brit and a Canadian (met on the first day).

Overall, O-week was amazing. If you are going on exchange I can say with almost certainty that you’ll make friends, so there’s nothing to worry about on that front. That’s speaking from my experience at the ANU anyway!
Get involved, or as Aussies would say, ‘get around it’!

My time abroad so far!

By Grace Griffiths (Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)

So as well as my video blog (which is my main blog so check that out if you haven’t!) I just wanted to write a little something something – mainly because it gives me a further reason to procrastinate from work, but also because I forgot to mention some stuff in the video.

Firstly, the name of the tour guide to the Blue Mountains was Rod. He was great – your stereotypical outgoing, sarcastic, says-it-as-it-is Ozzie. I’ve noticed that a lot since being here.  Australians keep it real, their humour tends to be quite honest and deadpan and I love it. Also, apologies for being the worst Drama student in the world because I completely forgot to mention the Sydney Opera House! Even if you don’t like that kind of thing, the Opera House is extremely impressive! Louby and I got up early one morning in a rare spout of motivation to see dawn, and were lucky enough to see the sun rise over it which was insane – the picture doesn’t even do it justice.

Blue Mountains, NSW
Blue Mountains, New South Wales
Sun Rise over Opera House, Sydney
Sun Rise over Opera House, Sydney

Secondly, just to clarify the housing situation, I ended up finding somewhere with three other students, so it’s not impossible to get a decent place off-campus, but I stand by what I said about it making settling in harder. I’d highly recommend applying to halls if you are going on exchange to ANU next year. There are benefits of living off-campus as well, of course: it’s probably slightly nicer than halls, usually cheaper, and a by-product of house hunting was that I got to see areas of Canberra that I probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise. It made me realise how nice Canberra is. The streets look very suburban, they look like they could’ve been modelled on Desperate Housewives.  It’s the weirdest capital though.  It was designed because the officials couldn’t agree on whether to make Sydney the capital, or Melbourne, so they decided to create somewhere half-way between the two.  As a result everything in Canberra was designed with a purpose in mind, which has resulted in some really cool architecture.  However, it is as if they designed it with the intent of filling it with far more people than are actually here – everything is huge and spaced out as you would imagine them to be in the capital city, but it’s really quiet and empty.  Which is why it’s criticised by lots of Australians – even people who are from here! It’s known as a cold and boring place, but this is definitely not the case if you are a student who’s used to English weather! It’s quite funny though, you soon get used to people’s reaction to you telling them that you’re studying in Canberra to be: “Unlucky mate”.  It is true that compared to somewhere like Sydney or Melbourne, there’s not as much to do, and if I were to move somewhere permanently, I think I’d prefer a bigger city, but as a student there’s always plenty going on, and locationwise it’s pretty ideal – only a short bus ride (in terms of Australian geography) from Sydney and the east coast.

Views from Mount Ainslie, Canberra
Views from Mount Ainslie, Canberra
ANU campus
ANU campus

Thirdly, I mentioned the Purple Haze Party that was at the end of O-week. It was there that I discovered SAFIA. They’re a trio from Canberra who describe themselves as electro-indie, and I now listen to them loads. They’re great if you’re into that kind of thing so check them out!

Fourthly, I completely forgot to mention the towns in New Zealand, especially Queenstown. So as well as all the crazy beautiful sights that were so nice they didn’t seem real, (this is something I get a lot on this side of the world. I’ll see something and won’t believe it’s actually there – I’ll feel like I’m looking at a picture online. I got it a lot in Sydney as well. I guess that’s a result of being a 21st century kid!) the towns in New Zealand were awesome!

Breathtaking views in Queenstown
Breathtaking views in Queenstown
Glaciers in New Zealand
Glaciers in New Zealand
Glaciers reflection, New Zealand
Glaciers reflection, New Zealand

A lot of them were really quirky and edgy… kind of like the Northern Quarter in Manchester. They had a really chilled out feel, and there was some really good artwork and a lot of live music.

Street Art in Greymouth, New Zealand
Street Art in Greymouth, New Zealand
Street Art in Christchurch
Street Art in Christchurch

One of the towns was famous for all its art deco, and there was another town called Bull that was filled with really bad puns.  The kind of jokes dads make. I loved it! A shop described its food as ‘unbeliev-a-bull’, the police station had a sign saying ‘Const-a-bull’ and there were pictures of bulls dressed in cop outfits, the bin was shaped like a carton of milk and had a sign saying ‘Response-a-bull’, the toilets were listed as ‘Relieve-a-bull’.  It was everywhere, and it was brilliant.

The rubbish bin in the funny punny town.
The rubbish bin in the funny punny town.

There’s actually so much more I can say about New Zealand – we definitely packed it in. We did caving in the North Island, where we saw glow worms, and we also went to Hobbiton where The Lord of the Rings was set.

Hobbiton, New Zealand
Hobbiton, New Zealand
Caving with glow worms!
Caving with glow worms!
Lugeing in Queenstown
Lugeing in Queenstown

We also stayed the night in a Mauri village.  The Mauri people are the indigenous people of New Zealand, and they invited us to their village and put on a cultural show and experience for us.  It was really interesting. The Mauri tradition involves a lot of music, art work, tribal dance and warriorhood. We had to select someone from our bus as ‘chief’ to represent our tribe, and they performed an initiation ceremony to make sure we were not a threat, and to welcome us to their village.

Mauri Village Experience
Mauri Village Experience

So to wrap up, I’m having an amazing time, meeting some amazing people and being introduced to some amazing things. I’m very happy that I chose to study abroad, and I’m really looking forward to what’s still to come!  I’m going to try and blog more often but sometimes life just gets in the way… you know how it is!

My 3rd blog post

By Moses Chun (The University of Sydney, Australia)

My semester break was amazing as I travelled to the Gold Coast and it was a fabulous and relaxing trip! As I touched down at the Gold Coast airport after a short, one hour flight, I instantly felt in holiday mood as everything there suggested nothing but a great holiday. The weather was perfect and since it is already late summer, the temperature was not too hot and the sky was clear.

The Gold Coast was amazing but it was time to go back to University. It has been two weeks since the semester break and it’s getting busy as my timetable is filled with assessments. Having just finished two midterm exams, there are still three essays and one tutorial presentation to come. Course assessments in Sydney are quite different from what we have in Manchester as there are more components to them. All of my four courses include at least four assessments, each spread throughout the semester so there will be at least one assessment per week in the second half of my semester.

As I read my earlier blog posts, I find the way I wrote about my time abroad isn’t the most interesting, a bit like James May driving a Ferrari. Therefore I think the best way to tell you about my experience abroad and especially, how amazing it was at the Gold Coast, is to post some pictures and I hope you won’t be too jealous 😛
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It is 6:30am on the 25th of April while I am writing this blog post, after attending the ANZAC Day dawn service at the Garden of Remembrance nearby. It was a special experience and good reason to wake up before dawn.  Hopefully I can update the blog soon. It is time to get back to work.