Australian winter: tis the sea-sun

By Georgi Fogarty, University of Queensland

 

No matter where you are in the world, there will always be that short-lived sigh of relief between the last assignment and the start of exams. Fortunately for me, coming towards the end of my time in Australia motivated me to seize this fleeting moment devoid of academic stress and do something useful with it. So once my last few assignments were submitted and I had returned from Stradbroke island (which you can read about in another of my recent blog posts), I had decided that I am no longer a mainland person and started researching my next getaway. Having recently explored the second largest sand island in the world, I set my sights on the only thing better: the largest. Fraser island!

I quickly discovered that this wasn’t going to be the cheap and easy ride that Stradbroke was. The route to Fraser was much longer and far more expensive, involving 4 hours on trains up to the Sunshine coast, another hour and a half coach to a privately-owned ferry port and a ferry over to the island, which as it is privately owned costs $160 for one vehicle(!). The trip also includes other sky-high costs such as a national park fee, camping fee or accommodation costs and all the other necessary amenities like food, as supplies on the island are few and far between. Due to not having time to plan our trip too thoroughly, we decided to go with a tour group. These are extremely popular and there are several companies that promote similar routes; after a fairly short cost-benefit analysis we decided to stick to a 2 day 1 night whistle-stop tour.

35151312_10211767143159456_6636901164510085120_n

The beach adapted 4×4 hybrid coach picked us up from Noosa Heads on the Sunshine Coast at ridiculous o’clock in the morning on day 1 and took us further up the coast to the ferry port (a humble shack on the beach) where we crossed the surprisingly short distance to the island. Fraser island is what you’d expect from an island formed entirely from sand – almost nothing but beaches, trees and cliffs. Extremely natural and unspoilt, or so it felt in the dead of winter, anyway. Our tour guide later explained to us that during the summer periods when the island is at peak tourist season, each attraction you can stop at has between 500-600 people swarming around. We very luckily avoided this and had most attractions to ourselves within our tour group, which consisted of 11 people. Our tour guide was incredibly knowledgeable on the island’s history, geography and Aboriginal culture and told us extensively about each point we visited. When we first arrived, we were driven down 75 Mile Beach (yes, it’s huge!) to our first stop: Lake Birrabeen.

35239411_2196264813723928_5951523898460733440_n

The water was freezing but so blue, and we had a little splash about before being whisked off through the jungle to our second stop, an area in the woods called Central Station. It was named this during the height of the logging industry that operated on the island before it became a protected national park. Central Station now houses the remnants of this industry; all that’s left are some derelict houses and machinery amongst the redwoods. A little eerie, but still beautiful. Logging stopped on Fraser around 50 years ago and the recovery is slow but sure. As well as the hundreds of tree and plant species, it’s also home to native wildlife such as Dingoes and koalas. We unfortunately didn’t see any of these, however we did manage to catch a glimpse of sting rays, sharks, dolphins and whales from a lookout point called Indian Heads the next morning, which more than made up for it!

35067574_1006677372833820_1904258584875630592_n
Shark-watching from a (very) safe distance.

We spent the night at a relatively luscious resort somewhere along 75 Mile Beach, which was extensively fenced off to prevent any Dingoes wandering in and wreaking havoc. The stars were incredibly clear due to the complete lack of light pollution, which always makes a refreshing change after spending lots of time in a city. Our stops the next day included Indian Heads, a beautiful freshwater stream called Eli creek, and my personal favourite: a huge rusted shipwreck, which washed up on Fraser island in the 1960s. It was used as a hospital ship in WWI, and later for bombing practice by the Australian army after it was found beached on the island (uninhabited of course). By the afternoon of the second day we were absolutely not ready to say goodbye, but our time was up and we very unwillingly parted from Fraser and all its beauty and charm. I’m not prepared to accept that I’ll never visit Fraser Island again, and it’s given me even more motivation to revisit this area of the world again as soon as I can.

35151639_1006677452833812_1771883908946722816_n
Us with ‘The Maheno’

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.

dav
Brisbane city center from the Kurilpa bridge

Continue reading “Touching down in Oz: first things first”

Safely Arrived in Brisbane!

By Jude Wiggins, Geography, University of Queensland, Australia.

This weekend marked the 3 month anniversary of my arrival in Brisbane and I have no idea where the time has gone! (Also, sorry for the late post!) The first few weeks I was here I stayed in a hostel so that I could view houses, find somewhere to live and also sort out things like an Australian bank account and phone number. Staying in the hostel was really fun as there was always someone new to meet but it was relieving to find my own house and get properly settled into Brisbane. I managed to find a beautiful house with an amazing view of the city from the balcony- you would not get that in Fallowfield! I’m living in a share house with two Brits, two Chileans and one Australian. I did look into staying in University accommodation but it was quite expensive. Irregardless though I’m happy with my house and location.

View of Brisbane on water
View of Brisbane from the water

Continue reading “Safely Arrived in Brisbane!”

Semester 2 at UQ

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

By the start of semester 2, I was feeling much less of a tourist, and Brisbane felt more like home to me. I went into this semester feeling a lot more relaxed now that I already knew my way around, and it was a lot less scary than the start of semester 1. Time had flown so fast, I couldn’t believe that I only had four months left, so I tried to make the most of my remaining time down under. I scheduled my classes so that I was only in uni three days a week, which meant I could regularly go on trips for long weekends!

The first trip I went on was to Moreton Island. Although I had already been last semester I felt like I needed to go again since it was so much fun. We went with Quest (the International Society at UQ) and spent this weekend snorkelling round the shipwrecks, sandboarding, and visited the lakes.

My next adventure was my east coast trip! This is a must-do trip while you’re in Oz. We started by flying up to Townsville and then visited Magnetic Island for the day. Here they have wild wallabies all around the coast which are very friendly if you bring them food. Our next stop was Airlie Beach, which is a very popular place for backpackers and so there’s a lot more to do there. We took a kayaking trip from Airlie Beach and went around some of the Whitsunday Islands, where we also had the chance to snorkel on the amazing reefs. Then we took an overnight coach to Noosa, which is on the Sunshine Coast. Here I finally took some surfing lessons, and after about two hours of constantly falling off my surfboard, I finally caught a wave and managed to stand up! Noosa is also great for its walking trails and the views are spectacular. After Noosa we took a train back to Brissy, and after nearly two weeks of travelling hostel to hostel I was happy to see my bed again.

Regarding university, semester 2 was pretty similar to semester 1. I tried my best to choose modules that didn’t have clashing coursework deadlines, since I knew I was going to do a lot of travelling this semester. UQ is very similar to university in Manchester in the way that coursework and exams are carried out and marked. Each module has a tutorial group which is usually discussion-based, and all lectures are recorded and put on Blackboard.

Here are some photos of Moreton Island and my East Coast trip:

ect1 Kayaking around the Whitsundays  moreton 2 Moreton Island moreton Sandboarding – more scary than it looks!

magnetic island Baby wallaby (Magnetic island)

noosa Noosa Beach (Sunshine Coast)

🙂

 

Saying Goodbye to Manchester and Wales

By Jude Wiggins, Geography, University of Queensland, Australia

Even though my flight is tomorrow morning, it still doesn’t feel like I’m going to live in Australia for a year. Despite all the goodbyes, my booked flight, and my (overweight) packed suitcase I still can’t accept that I’m really leaving! I’m due to fly from Manchester to Abu Dhabi, and then onto Brisbane from there. In total it should take me just over twenty-four hours. For the first week I’m in Brisbane I’ll be staying in a hostel, just until I get onto Australian time and can find somewhere to live!

Continue reading “Saying Goodbye to Manchester and Wales”

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

DSC02354    DSC02423

My first semester at UQ

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

I wrote this blog just before Christmas but totally forgot to post it – sorry it’s late!

So it’s the end of my first semester here at UQ and it’s been amazing. Time has flown so fast I can’t believe I’m nearly half way through my year here. It’s summer now in Australia and temperatures have reached up to 40 degrees, which was quite unbearable. I’ve had such a busy few months, and have been lucky enough not to experience homesickness (thanks to Skype it’s so easy to get in touch with everyone back home!).

So here’s an update of everything I’ve done so far this semester:

QUEST trips: The International Society at UQ, QUEST is a great way to meet other exchange students, as well as local Aussies. They organise events, nights out, weekly pub visits and weekend trips away. In August, we went to Byron Bay, which is just a short coach ride away from Brisbane. It’s a beautiful place, but we were a bit unlucky with the weather as it pretty much rained the whole weekend. It’s a good place for surfing (but since it was winter here, the sea was just too cold for me!). Despite that, we managed to have a great time and went on a couple of nights out with our fellow Questies. The next trip we went on was to Morten Island, a beautiful sand island (third largest in the world) just off the coast of Brisbane. Here we went snorkelling around a shipwreck, and got to feed some fish. We also saw dolphins! The next day we went sandboarding which was a lot of fun.

Mid-semester break: We had a week off so me and 2 of my housemates decided we would take a trip to Sydney. It’s a much bigger and more touristy city than Brisbane and there’s loads to do there. In the first day we visited the opera house, Darling Harbour, the Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Tower Eye. Later in the week we went to see the Blue Mountains and the views were spectacular.

At the end of the semester when our exams were over, me and my housemates decided to go travelling around New Zealand. We visited Queenstown, which is in the south island of New Zealand and has some of the most breath-taking views I have ever seen. We only stayed for three nights, but managed to see some kiwis, go stargazing, and take a tour of Milford Sound. From Queenstown we then flew to the north island to visit Auckland. We then did a coach trip to Matamata, to see Hobbiton (the movie set of Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit). After New Zealand we flew straight to Fiji where we stayed on a small resort on Malolo Island for about a week. Despite having rain and storms almost every day, we managed to top up our tans and mostly just relaxed by the pool.

Next semester doesn’t start until March so I have some time to kill! My plan is to (hopefully) get a summer job so that I can save up for doing an east coast trip to visit Cairns, the Great Barrier Reef and the Whitsunday islands. I’ll keep you updated!

 

Fiji
Fiji
Hobbiton Movie Set, New Zealand
Hobbiton Movie Set, New Zealand
Opera House
Opera House
Queenstown, New Zealand
Queenstown, New Zealand
Queenstown, New Zealand
Queenstown, New Zealand

Australia 2014

By Kate Bowmar (University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia)

So, for one of my final blog posts I have made a video that summarizes what studying abroad in Australia and at the University of Queensland is like. Most of these pictures and videos were taken on field trips with the University and on five-week trip of the east coast.

I hope that this is helpful for anybody wondering about whether to go to UQ/Australia or not, and to anybody who is doubtful, please go! You will have the best time of your life!

Kate Bowmar

East Coast Road Trip (1)

By Kate Bowmar  (The University of Queensland, Australia)

My last five weeks in Australia have been spent doing the classic East Coast road trip. On this trip I travelled the whole length of the Australian East Coast from Cairns to Melbourne, stopping at about 10 places in between. In this first blog, I am going to tell you all about the first leg of my trip, from Cairns to Brisbane..

Cairns – Two days after my final exam at UQ, myself and a friend flew to Cairns to begin our road trip. Cairns is the most northern city in the state of Queensland and about a two hour flight from Brisbane. It has a sub-tropical climate and is most widely known for its easy access to the amazing northern Great Barrier Reef! Being a main tourist spot, Cairns has so much on offer and if you visit I’m sure you will never find yourself bored! Whilst in Cairns I did the world’s fastest jungle swing and dived in the Great Barrier Reef!1391997_10153418408024768_1511854224591684365_nMagnetic Island- Magnetic Island is a small island of the coast of Townsville. It’s a popular tourist destination for backpackers as it’s only twenty minutes from the city. On the island we stayed a the major hostel, which had very cute huts on the beach to sleep in! We also hired a car and drove around the island, exploring all the bays and beaches on offer.

Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays – The next stop was the famous Whitsunday Islands. These are a collection of many islands off the coast of Queensland that are known worldwide for the stunning views of the pure white silica sand. At the Whitsundays we did a two day and two night sailing trip in the Islands. On the trip we snorkelled, sunbathed on the boat, and visited the amazing Whitehaven Beach which is pictured below.10849743_10152669419389473_5461622811354460949_nAgnes Water/1770 – 1770 is a TINY village on the east coast that is famous for CASTAWAYS. If anybody has ever seen the TV show ‘Shipwrecked’, this is basically what ‘Castaways’ is. On the trip, which lasts for two days/three nights, you are stranded on a desert island with fifteen others, kayaks, snorkel gear and rubber dingies. It is basically a two day trip to completely relax and have fun with fifteen other backpackers. Although it is not well known, this trip was probably the favourite part of my whole five weeks away! (Mainly being due to the fact that the flight to the Island is a joy ride flight i.e. the pilot can fling the plane in any way he wants!)

1939814_969671019728949_1704716965014785107_n

 

 

 

Noosa – Noosa is a town about an hour north of Brisbane and is easily accessible by public transport. It’s mainly just a weekend away for locals, with its beautiful beach and surfing conditions.

Read my next blog for the next part of the trip!
Continue reading “East Coast Road Trip (1)”

UQ Examinations and the Final Month!

By Kate Bowmar (The University of Queensland, Australia)

Hey guys,

So, it’s been a while since my last post as I have been extremely busy finishing my Ozzie life, packing up and moving home! I thought I would backdate my posts and write about my final month at UQ.

After getting back from mid-semester break on Fraser Island and the Great Barrier Reef (which I wrote about in my last blog post), I only had one month left at UQ. Unfortunately, this final month was mostly spent cramming for the four finals I had in November! In contrast to Manchester, UQ lectures only finished one week before final examinations started, which for me meant one solid week of revision. However, it wasn’t all that bad as the final examinations are only worth a maximum of 50% of your final grade. The examinations at UQ for Life Sciences students are similar to those in Manchester, consisting of MCQ questions and short answer questions.

Thankfully, before all the boring revision started I was able to go on one final QUEST trip ( a society everybody going to UQ MUST join!) to Moreton Island. Moreton Island is only roughly an hour away from Brisbane by ferry and is absolute PARADISE. It is the worlds third largest sand island, meaning the only way you can get around is via 4×4 trucks (which is really fun). The QUEST trip is run every semester and is organised completely through the society at UQ, with about 100 tickets it means a weekend in paradise with 100 of your international besties!  We stayed at a camp site on the Island, which had hostellike dorm rooms of sixteen people. The weekend included sandboarding, snorkelling, sunbathing, games and just an amazingly fun time with so many great people. I definitely recommend this Island weekend for everybody going to UQ next semester. Below are some pictures from the weekend.

Moreton Island

QUESTIES!
QUESTIES!
Sandboarding on Moreton Island!
Sandboarding on Moreton Island!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another day trip in the final month at UQ was to Australia Zoo, the home of the famous Steve Erwin (i.e. the crocodile hunter). Australia Zoo places so much emphasis on the work of Steve Erwin and his contribution to the Zoo and conservation as a whole, it was amazing to see how his legacy has been carried on by the staff and the amount of care that is placed into looking after the animals. The best bit about the day was that it was arranged by the BIOL2001- Australias Terrestrial Environment course, and being a field trip, we were allowed backstage access and extra talks with the keepers and their animals!10659451_10205100318616676_4850337679542561270_n

How’s things now in Manchester?

By Karl Vikat (University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia)

It is time for the concluding entry of this blog, as reading week has arrived and it is time to assess how a reverse culture shock might have manifested itself, as well as how re-integrating into Manchester has evolved.

As winter is approaching, with every leaf that hits the ground I realise more and more that missing out on winter in Australia has had quite an impact on me. Probably, of all adjustments to Manchester, weather and the tempo changes have been the most pronounced.

In Australia, most of the activities occurred outdoors; in fact, the distinction outside/inside did not really dominate thinking that much. After all, I still managed to go camping and swim in the ocean in the middle of the winter in Noosa. Now this summer I found myself starting to plan a camping trip a couple of weeks into December in the Lake District. It was only after a bleak realisation that it does actually get quite cold that I put the idea to rest along with habits of hanging out on the grass, or barbecues in the park. In that sense, if there is a reverse culture shock, then climate and weather are at the core of it.

I noticed that I pay more attention to the sky and nature now than I did earlier, and really enjoy the blue skies over Manchester when the clouds clear out. I have found the cold, harsh winds and cloudy days to inherently create an atmosphere where reality is viewed as more bleak and rough, whereas the reflections of the sun in the Brisbane River and colourful birdlife made for a more idealistic, optimistic environment. It definitely constitutes a change in lifestyle. I doubt that anyone would expect the Aquatics Centre to have a permanent outdoors pool here.

Also, in terms of wildlife, the diversity of subtropical Brisbane and the antennaed, shelled, auburn cohabitants have given way to squirrels hoarding their goods, ravens, and the default city-creatures, doves.

These disparities manifest themselves in conversations with friends in Australia who tell of a kaleidoscopic spring dominated by purple-blue Jacaranda trees blooming, 40 degrees outside and sunshine in full effect.

The speed of life has similarly undergone a subtle change. Obviously, I am in my final year and have quite a few extracurricular obligations, yet I have noticed the Manchester environment, the city-space, contribute to a perception of it being further accelerated. The way I see it, the wide roads, large space, infinite blue sky, the distance of the campus from the hustle and bustle of the city, and the large green areas in the city and on the UQ campus all help approach life from a calmer viewpoint. However, the noisy, crowded Oxford Road corridor at the heart of the University in Manchester creates a restless urban background-scenery, a relentless space of busyness. Seated among the trees of Whitworth Park, one still can hear the buses spit out smoke with every take-off. At lunchtime at UQ, unsurprisingly, most people gathered at an amphitheatre shaped park to the sound of the water fountain and songbirds.

In terms of interactions with people, I feel that rather than undergoing a cultural shock, drops have been added to the culturally fluid state that makes up my identity, with roots and branches in a wide variety of spaces and connecting to a variety of persons. That also means that, whereas I definitely feel a changed person, the transition to Manchester has been seamless. Arguably, I even appreciate the opportunities that Manchester offers more now. In particular, I am referring to enhanced dedication to the basketball team, starting a society – Struggle for Recognition: Indigenous Peoples’ Rights, and working with refugees.
Thus, with only one year to stay in Manchester, I would not speak of a reverse culture shock, but of a cultural spark; especially in terms of me seeking out new experiences and trips in the Northwest as a consequence of the perceived freedom of movement in Australia, as well as in terms of transposing the energy, invigoration and motivation of Australia to a demanding year in Manchester.
I carry a part of Brisbane, Australia in me, like I do parts of Manchester, UK, wherever I go. All in all, life in Australia has further galvanised a spirit of exploration expressed in freely, capriciously firing cultural sparks that I have since built upon in Manchester.

MID-SEMESTER BREAK!

By Kate Bowmar (The University of Queensland, Australia)

So with only a month left at the University of Queensland, Australia, I thought I would update you guys on what I have been up to in the past month.

Firstly, I just wanted comment on how fast a semester abroad goes. For anybody wondering if they can manage 6 months away from home, YOU CAN! A semester abroad goes buy in a second and you will be wishing you were away for longer (trust me, I’m currently wishing I was in Oz for a year!). So my advice to anybody who just isn’t sure about whether to go abroad… please do! You will love every minute of it, no matter where you go.

MID-SEMESTER BREAK.

Heron Island

So in the mid-semester break I finally went to one of the reasons I came to Australia in the first place – The Great Barrier Reef. At UQ I take a class named MARS 2005, Australia’s Marine Environment; anybody from Life Sciences, I highly recommend you take this course! For 5 days we traveled to Heron Island (i.e. paradise) as a part of the course and spent the whole time snorkeling and sunbathing (with a little bit of work added in). Heron Island is located on the southern Great Barrier Reef and supports a wide variety of marine life. On my many snorkeling trips I saw animals such as sharks, turtles, rays (as shown below), plenty of fish, coral etc. Pictures of my trip are shown below.

Shipwreck on Heron Island - the perfect snorkeling site!
Shipwreck on Heron Island – the perfect snorkeling site!
DSCN0003 copy
Night Snorkeling!
Sting ray on shark bay, Heron Island
Stingray on shark bay, Heron Island

Fraser Island

So after arriving back from the first trip at 6 pm, I had a few hours to wash my clothes, get something to eat and then head back to Uni for 11pm to get the bus to Fraser Island! The second half of mid-semester break was spent on a field trip for a course named BIOL2001 – Australia’s Terrestrial Environment and, once again, for anyone from Life Sciences I highly recommend this course! The course covers all the aspects of Australia’s fauna and the diversity of the animals found. Fraser Island is the worlds largest sand island, found off the coast of Queensland. Each day on the trip we hiked through rainforests and sand dunes, went swimming in fresh water lakes, camped on the beach, and ate the most delicious food!

Lake McKenzie
Lake McKenzie
Sand Dunes!
Sand dunes!
Rainforest hike on Fraser!
Rainforest hike on Fraser!

The best part about these trips is that you get to spend 10 days with exchange students just like you, who want to have as much fun as possible while in Oz!

So now mid-semester break is over, I look forward to a months worth of exams and assessments! (Contrary to popular belief, we do actually have to do some work on exchange).

Kate