Australia: Blue Mountains National Park

Submitted by Harrison Crum on the 2020 spring semester study abroad program in Sydney, Australia…

Australia is known for its unique landscapes and wildlife that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. This week, my program had the opportunity to travel to the Blue Mountains National Park here in the state of New South Wales. About an hour drive outside the city of Sydney, we hiked in the Katoomba area, home of the iconic Three Sisters rock formation. We made our way down to one of the sisters as well as down the rest of the mountain. Although the heat was unusually high even for Australian standards, the views were absolutely amazing and we were able to see some of the wildlife. Australia is certainly unique when it comes to its wildlife, as it is home to many unusually large, as well as venomous animals, including the most venomous spider in the world: the funnel-web spider. As we hiked down the mountain, our tour guide pointed out the home of a female funnel-web spider just along the side of the trail. As someone with strong arachnophobia, coming within inches of this nest was both frightening and exhilarating. I’ve been told that studying abroad is a time of trying new things and challenging yourself to step outside your comfort zone. For me, there was no better way to do so than by approaching the home of the creature that strikes the most fear in me. Nowhere else in the world would I be able to do this. These spiders are nocturnal, so I was not able to see her. Yet, I am still incredibly thankful for this experience as even coming close to a sleeping spider is a step outside my comfort zone. Australia holds countless opportunities to explore both geographically and personally, both of which I intend to do over the next ten weeks of my program.

The view of the Three Sisters Rock formation at the Blue Mountains National Park
The funnel-web spider nest we saw during our hike.


Australia: Finally in Sydney

Submitted by a student on the 2020 winter session program in Australia and Thailand sponsored by the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics…

This week we arrived in Sydney, the place I’ve always wanted to visit. It’s so beautiful here and we got to do so many cool things. I climbed the Sydney Harbor Bridge and saw the amazing view of all of Sydney from up top. It was really cool to do some of my own exploring here, too. I visited the harbor a lot for cute places to eat and I went to a pretty friendship garden. I really like Sydney so far and I can totally picture myself wanting to live here.

Australia: Bonding Experience

Submitted by Elizabeth Dallara on the 2020 winter session program in Australia and Thailand sponsored by the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics…

In Sydney, Australia, my study abroad group climbed the Sydney Harbor Bridge. This was a strenuous experience, however, it was well worth the effort. We started the bridge climb during sunset and got an amazing view of the sky. As we traveled upwards along the bridge, the sun descended, and the city lights sparkled all around us. We were able to see the Sydney Opera House, skyscrapers, and the surrounding harbor. At the summit, we were at 134 meters above sea level. It was amazing to be this high up and get a 360-degree view of the whole city. Additionally, it was a good bonding experience to be with my classmates and to be able to cheer each other on as we climbed to the top. I was happy to be able to climb the bridge and conquer my nerves.


Australia: I Can’t Wait to Go Back!

Submitted by a student on the 2020 winter session program in Australia and Thailand sponsored by the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics…

As my program comes to an end, I am sad to leave. I made once in a lifetime memories here and I will never forget them. The highlight of my week was getting to pet kangaroos and a koala. It was so cool getting to experience all parts of Australia, including the wildlife. I also went to the beaches a lot, which were beautiful and full of life. We went to the most famous beach, Bondi, and explored other smaller beaches that weren’t as touristy. I can definitely say I will be back in Australia one day and I can’t wait for it!

Australia: Taking Time to Talk

Submitted by Michael Davis on the 2020 spring semester study abroad program in Sydney, Australia sponsored by the Department of Behavioral Health and Nutrition…

Since I have been in Sydney, a lot of small things have really stood out during my time here. Maybe it is because it sometimes feels like it is the opposite of what I am used to. It started out by noticing how everyone went out of the way to say thank you for every little deed. Saying thank you to the bus driver, to people who hold the door open, etc. It’s not like people in America don’t say thank you, but sometimes they are so busy that they forget. However, no one is upset if you forget to say thank you. In Australia, it does not matter how busy you are, you stop and say thank you. It’s something that I have enjoyed since being here. It makes you stop and appreciate the little things, even when your life is hectic.

I also noticed that people like to have conversations with others, even if you have never met them. I have had several conversations while waiting for the bus or sitting on a bench, and none of them felt awkward.

In the United States, I have worked in small offices where I have never spoken to or known half the people that work there. Everyone seems content at doing their own thing. However, at my current internship, I have had 30-minute conversations with everyone from facilities to the head of research. Throughout the day, you can hear people having conversations not related to work, and it really takes the pressure off the work environment. Everyone is friendly and enjoys chatting and learning about others. Hopefully, it is something I can continue when I get back.



Australia: The Aborigines and Native Animals

Submitted by Kenneth Schnabele on the 2020 winter session study abroad program in Sydney, Australia sponsored by the Department of  Business Administration…

During my time in Sydney, Australia, I went to a wildlife park called “walkabout park”. There,  I learned a lot about the Australian wildlife as well as the Australian native people called the Aborigines. At the walkabout park, I was able to pet kangaroos, wallabies and emus. The best part was holding a snake and getting a picture with and petting a koala bear. The snake holding was a unique experience as the snake was very strong.  The snake felt like a long muscle wrapping around my arm. It was a little scary because the snake was slowly moving up my arm trying to get to my neck which was a very weird feeling. The koala bear I pet, sleeps about 20 hours a day and their fur may look soft, but it is rough. A big surprise I found out when I went to the park was that the bush fires almost impeded our trip to the walkabout park. The fires were very close to this sanctuary and they almost had to evacuate the park due to the fires. This just shows how bad the fires have been over here, but thanks to the recent rain a lot of the fires have been extinguished. I have learned that the Aborigines have actual been on the Australian continent for about 50,000 years if not more. They were a very advanced culture that created natural Neosporin, as well as advanced communications with cave drawings. This was by far one of the best experiences of the program. Understanding another native culture as well as learning about the other animals was neat.

Thailand: Chiang Mai

Submitted by a student on the 2020 winter session program in Australia and Thailand sponsored by the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics…

This week, we arrived in Chiang Mai. It’s completely different from Bangkok and was more of a culture shock to me, but I liked it. I finally felt like I was really abroad and in a foreign place. Here, we visited an elephant sanctuary and it was such a cool experience. I got to play with and feed the elephants, which were really cute. The city is also filled with cute markets and shops and was much more peaceful than Bangkok. Overall, it was nice for things to slow down and not be in a busy city anymore.


Australia Day 2020

Submitted by Sydney Berkey on the 2020 winter session study abroad program in Australia sponsored by the Department of English…

“Like you, I have watched in anguish and horror as fires lay waste to precious Ewen land, taking everything with it. Lives. Homes. Animals. Trees. But to the first nation’s peoples, it is also burning up our memories, sacred places, all the things that make us which is ours. It is a particular grief to lose forever what connects you to a place in the landscape,” recounted Margaret Beazley, governor of New South Wales during the Morning Smoke Ceremony.

The WugulOra Morning Smoke Ceremony is an Aboriginal custom in which native plants are burned with the intent of healing, cleansing, and warding off bad spirits. The embers produced from this particular ceremony then traveled to the Yabun Festival, Tallawoldah, and Circular Qauy throughout the day to continue to smoke and cleanse the crowds throughout Sydney.

“The devastating bushfires has drastically changed the ceremony,” voiced Harry Tumero, a WugulOra Ceremony onlooker. “Normally, government officials come and apologize to our past, present, and emerging communities. But this year, the catastrophic impact of the fires was a main point. The governor said it herself, the fires are sadly overshadowing everything at the moment.”

During the Australia Day ceremony, there was reflection of Aboriginal practices that sustained the land and how their knowledge is currently being used to better protect the environment and communities. The bravery of the first, all Aboriginal fire squadron was also mentioned due to their excellence in protecting their sacred sites, caring for their country, and fighting fires.

“There has been less focus on whether it’s Australia Day or Invasion Day,” proclaimed Marissa Wilkson, a descendant of the Gadi community. She mentioned that grief normally overwhelms her throughout the day because of her outlook on the true meaning behind Australia Day; however, Marissa explained this year’s grief was completely different. “I was overwhelmed, some but not mainly because of the horrors that occurred after this day many years ago to my ancestors, but because our country is becoming a wasteland. Since, our fires have been so bad, we’ve had no choice but to push our differences under the rug and deal with our huge environmental problem.”

Australia Day 2020 was drastically different; even Australia Day events focusing on the celebration, not the healing process, commented on coming to terms with the impact of the fires. The bushfires forced all Australians, Aboriginal and non- Aboriginal, to come together and to push away some of the political meaning of this controversial day to fight a common enemy for their land, lives, and homes.

Australia: Cooking Class with Chef Julie Goodwin

Submitted by Mia DeRicco on the 2020 winter session study abroad program in Australia and New Zealand sponsored by the Department of Hospitality Business Management…

I can now say I took a cooking class alongside a famous Australian Chef Julie Goodwin. This experience is one I will never forget. It not only taught me more about Australian cuisine, but also made me more confident in my abilities to cook and bake! Part of the program I am on is all about learning about the cuisine of Australia and there is no better way than to learn hands on!

Julie first taught us how to make Pavlova, which is a white cake that is hard on the outside and spongy on the inside similar to the texture of a marshmallow. This dish is famous in Australia and when topped with fruit is absolutely delicious! Seeing how simple the recipe was makes me eager to share this Australian tradition with my friends and family back at home! The main course we made was seafood risotto. Throughout my time in Australia, I have seen firsthand how popular seafood is within Australian culture. Since Australia is surrounded by water and has access to fresh seafood, it is understandable why it is so popular and tastes extremely fresh! Julie Goodwin also prepared a lamb for us to eat along with the two dishes we prepared. I got to smell different Australian spices that are used on many dishes and that she seasoned the lamb with. I felt immersed in Australian cuisine and it aided my knowledge on what makes Australian cuisine and culture different from ours back at home.

Pavlova topped with fruit
Seafood Risotto with Squid, Salmon, and Shrimp

Australia: Out of My Comfort Zone

Submitted by Cassidy Pieper on the 2020 winter session program in Australia and Thailand sponsored by the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics…

This week, we traveled to Sydney, Australia, the final city of our time abroad. We started our week filled with fun adventures on Monday. We toured the Sydney Opera House. We learned about all of the architectural pieces, the history of how the design was chosen, and the challenges that were faced when building the iconic building. Later that evening, we did the Sydney Harbor Bridge climb. This was my favorite cultural excursion of the week! It was the most enjoyable for me because it was both mentally challenging as well as an adrenaline rush. I would have never done that on my own, but it was beneficial for me to get out of my comfort zone and try something new. Our tour guide, Catie, taught us the history and facts about the bridge and how difficult it was to make. It was also a bonding experience for my small group of eleven who climbed together. Some of us were more comfortable than others during the climb and each of us supporting one another was a special moment for me. A couple of days later, we explored a wildlife park where we learned more about the history of the Aboriginal people. We were able to see actual artifacts in caves and paintings on cement form by them. At the park, we also were able to hang out with animals such as pythons, kangaroos, and koalas.

Throughout the week, we also went on multiple company visits. My favorite of the week was a presentation from Merlin Luck, the Vice President at Salesforce. He not only told us about how Salesforce continues innovating and how they became a pioneer in the industry, but he also gave us career advice and told us how to become successful. The personal messages he gave really resonated with me and I will remember them as I choose my path after college.

Almost to the top of the bridge!
Sydney Harbor Bridge climb
After our tour of the opera house, looking at the bridge we were to climb later that evening. Sydney Opera House


Meeting the animals in the Walkabout Park!