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.


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.


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!

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.

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.

Brisbane city center from the Kurilpa bridge

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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”

New Zealand + Fiji!

By Chiara Davies (University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia).

During the summer holidays and over Christmas, I thought I’d make the most of my time on this side of the world… time to visit New Zealand AND Fiji!!!!

I’ve been lucky enough to visit some incredible places around Australia so far, but there’s so much to say about all of them that I’ll have to save those for a different post…


We flew to Queenstown, New Zealand, immediately after our end of semester exams to be greeted by the surprisingly cold sunshine – I had adapted to Australia’s heat a lot more than I thought I had! The temperature dropped more than ten degrees Celsius, from Australia’s forty degrees to New Zealand’s high twenties – it was no wonder we felt freezing. Thankfully, I brought a jumper and a pair of jeans which became my one and only outfit for the duration of my New Zealand trip.

Queenstown was absolutely beautiful. My favourite town in the world and I would love to retire there. It strangely felt homely to be in a colder, greener climate, even though I was completely on the other side of the world. It had a very ski chalet vibe throughout the town with its wooden log-cabin-esque style buildings. This is probably because it doubles as a ski town during the winter months, but it felt equally awesome in the summer. The scenery was amazing.

Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown

From Queenstown, we went stargazing at the top of one of the mountains and learned about the Southern Hemisphere’s astronomy. We also travelled to Milford Sound on a bus tour with more incredible scenery…

Mirror Lakes, the drive to Milford Sound
Under the waterfall at Milford Sound

Next stop: Auckland!

Auckland city

We stayed with one of my housemate’s school friends who had moved out there with her family. It was lovely to meet them and give us a local’s perspective of the city. From Auckland we visited Waiheke Island which was vastly different to Queenstown’s ski town as it was almost tropical and  complete with great weather, vineyards and beaches.

We then took a tour to Hobbiton, the movie set for the Lord of the Ring’s and Hobbit films! This was a LOT of fun and definitely worth visiting whilst in New Zealand!

Hobbiton Movie Set

We then took another flight to Fiji for a week of R’n’R. The sunsets were beautiful and the islands actually were like paradise.

Sunset in Fiji

An absolutely fantastic trip overall and I would recommend to anyone on this side of the world to check them out – especially New Zealand’s South Island (where Queenstown is). They’re worth saving up for!

East Coast Road Trip (2)

By Kate Bowmar  (The University of Queensland, Australia)

So, following on from my last blog post, I am continuing to tell you about my five week trip from Brisbane to Melbourne…

Surfers Paradise – Surfers Paradise is the main attraction of the Gold Coast region in Australia, just below Brisbane and once again easily accessible by public transport. It is known for its high skyscrapers, vast expanse of beaches and surfing!

BYRON BAY! – Byron Bay is one of the most famous spots along the East Coast, recently for being the location of the new ‘Inbetweeners’ film, but other than that it is a small hippie town in New South Wales – the most easterly point in Australia


Sydney –  After a grueling 12 hour overnight coach journey from Byron Bay to Sydney, we finally arrived in the most famous city in Australia. We stayed in the Kings Cross area of Sydney for five days, travelling to and from the city to see all the main sights such as the Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge, and also doing the SKYWALK on Sydney Eye Tower, which involves walking on the roof of Sydneys tallest tower. As well as the SKYWALK we spent an afternoon  on a cruise around the harbour,  stopping at all the main sights. As well as staying in the city, we visited the famous Bondi Beach and visited an old school friend who showed me all the nontouristy areas of Sydney, which was amazing!

Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach

Melbourne – After another overnight bus we sadly reached the final stop on our East Coast trip. With only one week left in Oz, Melbourne was my final place to visit and explore. It safe to say that if I’d not gone to study abroad in Brisbane, I would definitely loved to have lived in Melbourne! I see Melbourne as a bigger version of Brisbane, apart from the bad weather in Melbourne. Before I came to Australia, I was well warned that if I was coming to Oz for the weather, do not live in Melbourne. Unlike Brisbane, where it is almost a constant summer, you have to prepare for four seasons in one day in Melbourne, even in summer! Nevertheless, Melbourne is a great city for shopping, eating, exploring and is well known for the quirky street art  that changes daily.

The Great Ocean Road – The Great Ocean Road is an expanse of ocean road driving on the coast of Victoria, famous for its limestone rock sculptures along the whole coast. The trip was completed over two days, stopping off at multiple bays, beaches and visiting the famous Twelve Apostles at sunset.

The Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road

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.

Bye bye Brissy

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

As my time in Brisbane drew to its close, the speed of life kept gaining momentum. The last couple of months were particularly intense, filled with exams and essays, fitting in travelling, discovering the hitherto uncharted parts of Brisbane and spending a maximum amount of time with people I cherish and whom I knew I had to leave in the near future. I appreciated every single second. Bizarre realisations of living the moment, yet knowing its fugacity and its inescapable turn to memory emerged during more quiet moments.

No clichés here; studying in Brisbane was, hands-down, an incredible, thought-provoking, life-changing experience. The beautiful moments lived with great people provide ample material for further meditations.

From road tripping to doofs, to more conventional bus trips to some of the world’s most ancient rainforests; from Dingos on Fraser Island snooping around your sunset snack, to cassowary stories in the Daintree and wild kangaroos well over 2 metres peacefully nibbling on grass and greeting you on your way to the beach. The wide range of episodes and colourful people provide awesome memories.

beachside-mugsA short pre-exam trip to Byron Bay, that turned out to be quite a sleepy town during the week, introduced me fully to the intricacies of geocaching – a kind of real life GPS Easter egg hunt. Part of the ubiquitous marvels of nature that abound in that corner of Australia, was one of Australia’s top dive sites that lies just a couple hundred metres off the coast of Byron, at Julian Rocks. We were only too keen to get out there, and rightly so, as we were greeted by colonies of Wobbiegongs, a few loggerhead turtles and a kaleidoscope of fish.

I had two standard exams and one take-home exam that proved to be a great alternative to a more conventional exam configuration. It basically worked the same way an essay does. I received the questions on Monday, the deadline was on Thursday, as all the while exams were happening simultaneously.

Once exam time was behind me, I left Brisbane for camping at Noosa Heads. We managed to catch some sunshine, a few waves, and, once we set foot in the city, some great Malaysian food. It turned out that the nights get pretty cool come June-July, so we decided that our next stops after Fraser should be a few hundred miles further up north.

Camping out in the Heads

Red River on Fraser

Indian Heads on Fraser

We returned to Brisbane for a day, to re-pack and catch a flight to Cairns. On the day of the flight though, a couple of hours before, I took it upon myself to move out. I had no use for my room in Brisbane any longer, since I would leave Australia, coming straight off the east coast trip. So I brought all my stuff over to my girlfriend’s place after she had helped me clean the place and packed my stuff, with the always generous landlord’s wife driving. So, in a well-organised hurry, about 2 hours later we were on the plane on our way up north, towards the Reef and Cape Tribulation.

Considering the way politics has been going the last 30 something years, allowing for destruction of up to 40% of the reef, the priority the government gives to the expansion of pre-existing coal ports as opposed to reef protection, and the pressures exerted by climate change, I had conflicting thoughts of our visit to the Reef. It was bizarre to marvel at the splendour of its rich marine life and its diverse manifestations and colourful expressions, and know at the same time that this very spot might be dead bleach in a couple of years to come. The ecosystems obviously were very much alive and showing off their vitality with vigour, yet, we also heard from the crew that some places they had headed for in previous years would need some time and support for regeneration. Ostensibly though, boats and unexperienced divers kicking coral do not quite compare to the larger aforementioned threat.

Returning to the city, Cairns seemed a lot more like the countryside than Brisbane with its large roads, even larger cars and surrounded by mountains of untouched rainforest. This seemed to be the frontier, the stop before heading out on the dirt roads to Cape York. No passing through without a four-wheel drive, if you want to head up the track north of Port Douglas and Cape Tribulation.

Back from Cairns and Daintree, I spent one more night in Brisbane and headed for the airport the next day, spontaneously closing my bank account on my way. I had actually planned to pay the taxi driver with coins, yet he preferred the paper version and it turned out that over 100AUD in round metal pieces had accumulated in my ‘coin-bag’ over the time – a very welcome surprise.

Alas, I left Brisbane…

3Brisbane did not only invigorate me with a new-found love for markets with its Greek-themed fairs, noodle-markets, the West End market and colourful East-Street market, where I fully endorsed the indispensability of a poncho. I made friends from across the world, got some insights into new languages thanks to embracing the proximity to Asia, and, all in all, just got to live, see and learn about a previously unfamiliar land and its people.

It left me with a hunger for more and a motivation to study harder to keep rewarding myself with experiences of a lifetime. The intensity of the moments that I lived, created a desire to keep hold of my principles and philosophies that were moulded and developed also during my sojourn in Australia. Amongst others these included continuing saving material as well as non-material resources that can be made available for travelling. I feel like I learned so much. Also, the courses at UQ and the discussions with students were in many cases inspirational, helped me chart my future academic and career plans by defining my interests further, and offered me a wide range of new perspectives where to draw from and relate to.

It was an amazing, time that was energising to its core.

Arriving Down Under!

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

After all the waiting and anticipation I’m finally in Australia! I probably should have written this sooner but I’ve been so busy since I’ve been here, so here’s a recap of everything that’s happened so far.

My journey here consisted of 3 parts: Birmingham to Dubai, Dubai to Singapore, and Singapore to Brisbane. In total it took over 24 hours to get here and I am thankful that I won’t have to do this journey again for a whole year! It was very tiring and since I was travelling alone it seemed to last days. Luckily, the in-flight entertainment was pretty good so I was able to watch a few films to distract myself from the turbulence. For anyone who’s planning to visit Dubai airport: it is massive! I spent about 2 hours circling round the airport trying to find my departure gate, only to find out I actually had to get a train to the other side of the airport! On the last plane of my journey I happened to be sat next to two other exchange students so I made some friends before even arriving.

When I finally got to Brisbane airport, I had to wait another couple of hours because there was not enough room in the transfer bus for everyone to fit in. Luckily my mum had paid for me to stay in a hotel for my first two nights here so I had the chance to catch up on all the sleep I had missed. I then moved into a YHA hostel which was where a few other students from Manchester were staying. As far as hostels go it was pretty good – very clean, safe and the staff were extremely friendly and helpful. They even had a pool, although it was far too cold to use. I was sharing a room with 3 other girls, so it was quite hard to get some sleep (I’m pretty sure one of them was sleepwalking in the middle of the night!).

After meeting up with other UoM students, we went house hunting together. We loved the first house we viewed and moved in a couple days later. Unfortunately we had somehow failed to notice the various holes in the ceilings/walls and didn’t even acknowledge the fact that there was no oven! The house is in an ideal location, it’s a student area just minutes away from Indooroopilly shopping centre (I’m still unsure how to pronounce it- many of the towns in Brisbane originate from Australian Aboriginal language e.g. Toowong, Woolloongabba, Mount Coot-tha).

Once we had settled into our house, we decided to go to the Koala Sanctuary which isn’t far from where we live. I would definitely recommend going there; it had a wide range of animals, from lizards and snakes to wombats and kangaroos. I got to cuddle a koala and managed to get a selfie with a kangaroo!


We also visited Southbank, which is a beautiful place by the river, within walking distance from the city centre. There are various food and clothes markets there at  weekends and a great little man-made beach.

noodle market in Southbank
Noodle market in Southbank


Some advice for anyone planning to visit Australia: you will probably be warned about the ‘drop bears’. They look similar to koalas but are extremely dangerous and tend to attack by dropping down onto their victim from trees, targeting foreigners in particular. Don’t be as gullible as I was – they are completely fictitious and this is a common prank Australians play on tourists to scare them!

Surfers’ & Straddie

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

Lightly sparse news on the blog lately, times have been really busy, but I have been able to collect some notes and reminisce about the last month in the process, so that hopefully you’ll get a good feeling of what’s been going on.

The first weeks were loaded with socializing and meeting a great number of fellow exchange students and local Aussies. I spent the Sochi ice-hockey finals surrounded by a sea of red, joyous Canadians, celebrating a double threepeat with their women and men both winning gold to a tune of ‘O Canada’.

On the second weekend I finally got a look outside the city into close by Gold Coast, Surfer’s Paradise; WP_20140223_001Essentially the surfer’s hub, with a sand strip as far as the eye can see, reaching all the way to neighbouring Gold Coast (the city) and beyond. At Surfers’, we spent the day on the beach, rejoicing from the warm ocean waters and the surf breaking along the coastline.


In the afternoon, shortly before we were leaving, a triple rainbow over the Pacific Ocean emerged for a minute. WP_20140223_003Although imprinted in our memories, none of us had a lense wide enough to capture the mystical triad. Also, the cloud cover by then couldn’t do much to prevent the foreseeable consequence of not applying my sunscreen generously enough – yes, clearly I do understand now why Australians are so serious about it. In terms of our return; it is a quite convenient feature of trips into the well-connected area around Brisbane, that once you have done your daily bus trips to uni during the week, trips on the weekend are free.

In ‘O-week’ I had to sit through the standard introductory talks, however, since it’s Australia, they we’re spiced up with references to seriously deadly minuscule beings – spiders, jellyfish, frogs, snakes. Good to know that there is a jellyfish, the size of the thumbnail, whose sting will cause you two weeks of intense pain, that all the morphine in the world can’t soothe. Of course, we were also made aware of the red-yellow flag rule. Taking into account the considerable force the pull of the waves exert that I got to experience first-hand in Surfer’s Paradise, one might want to refrain from swimming out into the ocean with no lifeguard in sight. WP_20140228_021After all, these are some of the sweetest spots to work in that profession, so the competition should guarantee that your life is in good hands, as long as you mind the flags.

The week after, I headed out to North Stradbrooke Island, the second largest sand island in the world, located in Moreton Bay. Just a couple hours from Brisbane, we took the ferry over the bay to ‘Straddie’ and found ourselves a misty and humid sight, with the intense green of the rainforest shining over the island in a light drizzle. Its location off the coast and open to the winds of the ocean gives it a distinct climate, its refreshing morning coolness being particularly appreciated coming from still scorching Brisbane.


Whereas on arrival, Friday, we had to recharge our batteries by spending some time strolling and relaxing on the beach, recovering from the week behind us, the weekend was filled with veritable marches across the island.



Still, on Friday evening we headed out to Point Lookout, the northern tip of the island, where water has been lashing against rocks for millennia, carving out gorges and a coastline of smooth rocks.




In the surrounding forest, I first got to see kangaroos – we had previously mocked the seemingly misleading brochures at the hostel, picturing kangaroos and koalas, doubting we would see any on the island.  WP_20140228_050

Considering that if they have not been brought over here by humans, these families must have had innumerable ancestors living off the same land here for eons. It was great seeing them grazing, hopping and even boxing (!) in the wild, before encountering their lazy counterparts in the zoo.

On Saturday, we made our way up sandy hills and parts of forest that were draped in the black of charcoal due to bushfires that had ravaged the island in January, to a rather peculiar lake. Bummeira, or Brown Lake, is a freshwater lake whose water sports a particularly smooth quality and brown colour. Surrounded by tea trees, their leaves sicker through on to the ground, and paint the water a distinct bronze.


After a swim and an invigorating meal of our weekend staple, roasted bread, and luxurious barbeque chicken we decided to call it a day and make our way back to finish the day off at the beach. We saved about 2h30 of what would have been a strenuous return journey, had it not been for a helpful local, himself still jetlagged from a recent journey to the Czech Republic, giving us a lift to the city alongside his crossbreed whelp. The following morning, when hiking to Amity Point, the first (and originally failed) European settlement on the island on Sunday, we had less luck than previously with fauna sighting and came across a dead koala on our path, who, it seemed, had just recently held on to the wrong branch and suffered a fatal fall. His relative, well and alive, dubbed Stevie by a fellow hiker-group who had also set out from our hostel and spotted him, unfortunately remained out of our sight in the treetops.

Back on the mainland, the usual weekend breakdown of train services struck us, yet, for those of you who might plan to head to Brissy yourself, you should know that this isn’t a problem. The price is the highest per-capita carbon footprint in the world, but you get an express service taking about one third of the time you would spend in the train, by a good-spirited bus driver and in good company.

So, that’s the travel so far, in the next post you’re going to get the full academic update.


Oz Diaries 8: The Cold Return

By Olivia Dove (University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia).

And so, as was inevitable, I find myself back in good ol’ Manchester.

Sadly, this will be the last blog I write here and I would like to spend it giving you all a brief summary of certain aspects that I’ve had to cope with post-Australia.

The weather

This is a big issue for me. Whilst Manchester looks beautiful when sunny, it is fair to say that England on the whole is generally colder than Australia. I’m naturally a warm-climate kind of person (proved by the fact that my asthma and dermatitis cleared up completely in Oz…) so coming back to the land of coats and scarves wasn’t an exciting prospect.

The biggest shock was leaving the plane when I landed in London. I hurried to the car with my parents and huddled in the backseat, hiding from the chilly air. One of the first questions that friends ask upon my return: ‘Missing Australian weather?’ And the answer is yes, always yes. So much yes.

But it’s not all gloomy; I really do love wearing trackie bottoms and large jumpers, so there is a positive in this colder climate!


My accent

An Australian barman mistook me for an Australian student. My academic tutor said I had a ‘twang’ in my voice. More than one rugby fresher were confused when I said I was from England. It’s dimmed now, but for the first month of being back in England, everyone commented on my accent to the point where I had to put on an English accent at times. It provided entertainment to some, and confusion to the rest.

Curiously, when I skyped my Australian friends, they said I sounded ‘As beautifully English as ever’.

How confusing…

Rugby and playing sports in general

I missed rugby a lot during my semester abroad. I had hoped to play rugby or Aussie Rules out there, but I wasn’t in the country during the season, much to my disappointment. Returning to the sport and, more importantly, my team was absolutely wonderful. They’re a crazy bunch of girls and I would’ve felt homesick for them had I not known I was coming back.

Relating to the weather, playing sports in Australia is much nicer (more people go jogging there for a reason!), especially when you can get a nice tan during a match. Wind, rain and mud isn’t always glorious to play in, but I have to admit that the cold is refreshing at times.

All in all, I’d be much sadder about returning to Manchester if it wasn’t for my rugby girls!

Staying still

After leaving the University of Queensland, I spent two months living out of a suitcase. I travelled to the North and South islands of New Zealand and visited the following Australian cities: Sydney, Adelaide, Canberra, Melbourne, Cairns and Townsville. And I had time to visit my friends along the way. Safe to say, I have found it strange being in the same accommodation for more than a month. I went to Durham last weekend and have already started playing my summer holiday – I’m addicted to travelling! But it’s something that I am willingly addicted to as there’s no other pastime I would rather spend spare money or time on.

Feeling homesick

Now, this will sound crazy. But I feel homesick for Brisbane. Pretty badly, really. Which is strange considering it’s not my original home.

I miss my friends, the lifestyle, the buildings, the river, the university, the animals (especially the animals!) and the sun. I felt more at home living in Brisbane for only four months than I have anywhere else in my life.

I’ve never felt homesick before (as much as I love my parents, skype is always there) and so this new feeling has left me feeling quite glum. The high workload this semester has been warmly welcomed as a distraction.

But it’s not all sadness, as I have a volunteer placement secured in Brisbane post-graduation next year!

Studying abroad has made me realise what I want from life. And what I want is to live somewhere with crazy animals, plenty of sun, and the ability to walk around barefoot.

Brisbane, I’ll be back. See you soon.