City without Charge

Submitted by Kayla Haynes on the 2024 Winter program in Australia…

When I first arrived in Australia, I expected to be most shocked by the time here being 16 hours ahead of the time in New York. I was not wrong in that assumption that it would be a shock. But it is not the thing that has made me most surprised. That honor belongs to the city’s free provisions for those within its streets. The tram system that runs throughout the city is like the New York Subway with different routes and stops, but it has one stark difference. Within Melbourne’s extremely busy Central Business District, the trams are free to use. Anyone in the district’s busy limits can simply get on and off, using the free transportation to get from place to place. When I learned that this system was used here, my native New Yorker brain immediately thought about how different the culture must be. Once I identified this difference, I began to see it everywhere. I saw a plethora of public bathrooms in the streets that were clean and clearly cared for, unlike many that I see walking through Manhattan. The city’s implemented systems have made me wish for more from my own home while also making me love this new one I get to stay in for the coming weeks.

Embracing Every Moment

Submitted by Stephanie Stapf on the 2023 summer program in New Zealand and Australia…

We are now at our final location, which is a town in Australia called Brisbane. We started off by attending a cultural tour where we learned about the Aboriginal people of the country. The tour guide provided us with extremely detailed and insightful information about indigenous practices, including those of her own tribe. I learned that the Aboriginal people were historically able to make use of the environment using knowledge equivalent to the present discoveries of scientists. Additionally, in Australia, the indigenous land is recognized in most public places, which is uncommon in the United States. I have realized how important and necessary this acknowledgment is, and am determined to educate myself on the historical and present indigenous cultures of my town.

Surfing in Gold Coast, Australia

The next day, we hopped onto a train and headed to the beaches of Gold Coast. When we arrived, the surfboards were out and ready for us. I was pretty nervous and did not think I would be able to come close to standing up on one. I ended up doing much better than I had anticipated, and rode a wave nearly all the way to shore! Surfing has never been an item on my bucket list, but I am so glad that this program pushed me outside of my comfort zone. Activities like this have made me so appreciative of this opportunity and all of the adventures I have been able to pursue. I do not think I would have signed up for a surfing lesson on my own before this, and now I can say that I am eager to surf again. 

As our final week approaches, I am trying my best to embrace every moment. I am looking forward to learning more about Brisbane, as well as more about myself. Every day has been a new adventure, and I am not quite done exploring Australia yet. 

Working through my Bucket List

Submitted by Stephanie Stapf on the 2023 summer program in New Zealand and Australia…

My final week in Australia was much more relaxed, but still allowed me to cross off numerous items on my bucket list. One of these items was snorkeling, which we did along a coral reef site on Moreton Island. I had no idea what to expect and was nervous about the logistics of being able to breathe. The experience ended up being less intense than I expected, and more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. I found it so amazing how clearly I could witness all of the sea life, including the vivid colors of the fish and the immaculate details of the coral reef. These sights felt like they could have come from a movie, and it is hard to believe that I was seeing such a beautiful display with my own eyes, in real-time. The experience was followed up with a presentation, during which we learned about the effects of global warming and what we could do to help protect these ecosystems. The instructor exhibited so much knowledge and passion, emphasizing how important and urgent these environmental concerns are.

Snorkeling along the coast of Moreton Island

Encompassing everything I have learned on this trip into a paragraph would be impossible. I have discovered so much about the world and myself. This was my first time traveling outside of the United States, so I did not have any clear expectations. These thirty days have been the most eventful in my life. The sights of my first foreign country during the 6 a.m. bus ride from Auckland Airport will be ingrained in my mind forever. I embarked on countless educational opportunities while also experiencing bucket-list sights and activities. I floated on a raft through a cave in New Zealand, climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge, pet a Kangaroo, and embarked on so many other once-in-a-lifetime experiences. New Zealand and Australia have a special place in my heart, and I am already planning my next trip back.

My Final Week Abroad

Submitted by Taylor Lynch on the 2023 summer program in New Zealand and Australia…

I can’t believe that my time on my study abroad trip is coming to an end. This has been an amazing trip, and I will definitely be leaving with lifelong memories as well as amazing friends. Going on a trip like this has been a truly unique experience, and I am very happy that I decided to go through with it and try something that was out of my comfort zone. The amazing people that I have met, as well as the new places and cultures that I was able to learn about and experience, made the long trip to Australia and New Zealand worth it. 

During the last week in Brisbane we went to Moreton Island to snorkel along the ship ruins there. When we got off the ferry and walked onto the island, I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. The water was so clear and blue, and the actual island itself was covered in trees, and lots of white sand. There is a line of about 15 ships that were purposefully sunk in the water that surrounds the island. We were able to snorkel around them to see the wrecks as well as the wildlife around them. When we got into the water, it was so crazy to see how many fish as well as coral were around the wreck. Looking around at all of the different types of fish around me was such a cool experience. It was also astonishing to see all of the different types of fish there and how they all got along and were able to co-exist. On the shipwrecks, there were also many different types of corals that were growing on them, and the wrecks also acted as shelter for the fish. It was amazing to see the huge ecosystem that was able to be created from these wrecks, and how a new community of sea life is able to flourish there. 

Walking off the ferry at Moreton Island

After snorkeling we were able to learn more about the history of the wrecks that we just saw. I was surprised to find out that the ships were purposefully sunk in that area. The Queensland Government purposefully sank fifteen ships over the course of a few years in order to create a place for boats to safely stop and anchor on the island. This was really interesting to learn about and something that I have never heard of or knew was an option. I always thought prior to this experience that shipwrecks would be harmful to the ocean and its ecosystems. However, seeing how all of the animals living at the wrecks were able to flourish, and that these ships were purposely sunk, it is apparent that it was a beneficial decision for both the people as well as the ocean wildlife. 

For our last excursion as a group, we went kayaking on the Brisbane River.  I have never been kayaking before so I was really excited to try it out. I was also looking forward to being able to see the city of Brisbane from a different angle. It was really cool to be able to kayak in the river and the views of the city from where we were was really pretty. The current of the river was going towards us, so it was a little hard to paddle down the river. On the way back, however, it was really easy since we had the help of the current. This was a fun last activity to do as a group, and I really am going to miss being able to experience new things in these amazing cities. 

Overall, I had a wonderful time in both New Zealand and Australia, and have learned so much during my time on this study abroad trip. Learning about the culture and native people of both New Zealand and Australia was definitely a highlight. I think it is very interesting to learn about the history of other countries and see how it differs from the US. It was also amazing to be able to experience a new culture and a way of living. This was a good reminder of how different people chose to live their lives, yet are still able to be connected to the world around them. This was definitely a great experience, and I would recommend it to anyone to study abroad if they are considering it. 

The Past Few Days in Brisbane

Submitted by Taylor Lynch on the 2023 summer program in New Zealand and Australia…

After spending the last 10 days in Sydney, Australia, we traveled to Brisbane, Australia for the last 10 days of the trip. It is crazy to think that my study abroad journey is coming to an end, but I have greatly enjoyed my time so far. Once we got to Brisbane, one thing that I noticed right away was the difference in the weather. It is very warm here and the sun feels a lot stronger. It is a nice change from the start of the trip when we were in New Zealand, and having warmer weather allows us to take more advantage of the beautiful beaches here. The city of Brisbane is also very beautiful but isn’t as built up as Sydney is. One thing that I have found really nice about living in a city is the public transportation system. We have been able to take the train or the tram to any place that we wish, and it has been really easy to hop on one and get to our destination. I have never lived in a city setting like this before, so it was a nice surprise to be able to see what having public transportation options is like. 

View from my seat at the Australia and France World Cup match

Since we are here partially for the World Cup, we were able to go to the Australia and France quarter-final game. I was really excited to be able to go to this game specifically because I would be able to see the host country’s team play. As expected, the majority of the stadium was filled with Australian fans, and the excitement and pride that they had for their team was definitely able to be felt. Whenever their team got the ball and was close to scoring, the stadium would erupt and it was so crazy to be in an environment like that. It was truly an amazing experience and just added to the love that I have for this sport. The game was also very close and ended in a tie even after extra time. As a result, the game was forced to go into penalties, which caused a tense feeling among all fans watching. The penalty kick round was back and forth for 10 rounds until the Australian team was finally able to pull out the win. The whole stadium went crazy, and their fans were even cheering for their team and the victory as we were walking back after the game. Being in that electric atmosphere is a truly crazy feeling, and being able to be there in person at these high-risk games is a lot different than watching it from home. 

Another fun activity that I have done when in Brisbane was going to the Australia Zoo. The Australia Zoo is run by the Irwin’s in memory of Steve Irwin. I have been a fan of the Irwins for a while, so I was really excited to be able to visit their zoo. They are really big advocates for animals and wildlife conservation efforts. They also ensure that each of the animals in the zoo have the proper enclosure, and are fully taken care of. I am at times weary of going to zoos because the animals sometimes may not live in not ideal living conditions. However, this was not the case at the Australia Zoo, and each of the animals there had a very large enclosure and seemed to be content. It was really amazing to see the native Australian animals like Dingos, Kangaroos, Koalas, and so many more amazing animals. A highlight from my time there was being able to feed and pet the kangaroos. They had this area there called Roo Heaven, where you are able to go into a large open field with kangaroos and go up to them to pet and feed them. The kangaroos were surprisingly calm and were fine with people going up to them. Everyone in there was very respectful of the kangaroos and was mindful of how they were going to interact with the kangaroos. This wasn’t something that I was expecting the zoo to have and I am really happy that I was able to have this experience with a type of animal that I have not seen or been near before. 

Visiting the kangaroos in “Roo Heaven”

Overall, I have had an amazing time in Brisbane so far and on this study abroad trip as a whole. It is sad to think that I have less than a week left in Australia but I am thankful for the amount of time that I had to be able to explore Sydney as well as Brisbane. I really enjoy being able to immerse myself in new cities and a new culture and being able to learn about a different way of life. Being on this trip has helped me find a love of traveling, and finding comfort in pushing myself out of my comfort zone and trying new things. I have done a lot of new activities while on this trip, so being able to let go of some of the control and put trust in others has been really important, and a skill that has grown in me. 

Touring the Sydney Opera House

Submitted by Taylor Lynch on the 2023 summer program in New Zealand and Australia…

The next stop on my study abroad trip is Australia. We are now currently staying in Sydney, Australia and one of the excursions that we were able to go on was touring the Sydney Opera House. I was very excited to be able to go and see the Opera House because I feel like it is one of the most iconic symbols seen in Australia. The architecture of the building is also so interesting and unique, so I couldn’t wait to be able to see it in person.

It was really interesting to be able to learn about the history of the building’s construction and all of the small details that went into making it. One piece that was really cool to me was that they used certain types of wood in the theaters in order to make the sound quality better. The wood that is used on the wall and the stage is meant to project sound so that no form of volume enhancement, like a microphone, needs to be used during performances. The wood used in the seats, on the other hand, is able to absorb sound so that the sound the audience makes doesn’t disrupt the performance. This is one of the many cool details that were added to the opera house that most people wouldn’t notice or think about at first glance. 

The land that the Opera House is on is also so pretty since it is right on the harbor. The original architect of the building wanted there to be a lot of windows ensuring that there could be a view of the harbor no matter where you were in the Opera House. The construction of the Opera House took a lot more time and money than first estimated, and the Australian government officials at that time were very upset by this. They eventually forced the original architect out of the project and brought in three new ones to finish the interior design in a fast manner. 

View from inside the Opera House

It was very interesting and eye-opening to learn about the structure and history of this iconic landmark. The effort that went into making it was very crazy and more intense than I would’ve expected. From this trip, I was able to gain a new appreciation for architecture and learn about all of the little details that go into making buildings this scale. Each aspect put into it has a purpose and isn’t picked at random. Everything down to the type of wood and the types of tile put onto the roof has a specific purpose.  

Overall, I have been enjoying being able to see these landmarks that you see in the media and see what they look like in person. At every place we have visited so far, there has also been an acknowledgment at the beginning of the tour of the indigenous people and how these landmarks, and where we are standing, are on their land. It is very important to be able to have that recognition of the native people because it was originally their land, and it was sadly taken from them. Having that acknowledgment helps to slowly build back their trust in others outside of their culture, and give them the honor that was taken away. The US should take note of countries that are doing this and provide more respect and consideration to the Native American populations. 

Experiencing the USWNT Opening Game at the World Cup

Submitted by Taylor Lynch on the 2023 summer program in New Zealand and Australia…

The Women’s World Cup is currently happening with games taking place in New Zealand and Australia. I have always enjoyed watching the World Cup on TV whether it was the men’s or women’s, and have always been a fan of the women’s national soccer team. I have played soccer since I was about five, so I have a strong connection to the sport. I have always wanted to go see the US women’s team play in person but have never gotten the chance, so I was very excited to be able to get this opportunity to see them play in person at the World Cup. 

When we arrived at Eden Stadium in New Zealand, you could feel the excitement from fans from both the US as well as Vietnam. There were so many people all dressed up in their team’s colors and jerseys, and it was really fun to see what everyone was wearing. My favorite fan outfit that I saw was probably the people dressed as the Statue of Liberty. The energy in the stadium also was amazing, and all of the fans were very loud and proud to be there for their teams. 

It was really amazing to see how much of an effect a sporting event can have on people. There were over 40,000 people in attendance at the stadium meaning that there were many people that probably had a long journey to get to New Zealand just so they were able to cheer on their team in person. The dedication of the fans is really crazy to see and it is truly eye-opening to be in that environment and see the different emotions of the people around you as the game goes on. Both US and Vietnam fans were proudly cheering on their team the whole game, and were heavily invested in what was happening. Sports have a way of bringing a big group of people together and providing a sense of pride as well as competitiveness for the individuals who enjoy watching.  

I will be going to two other World Cup games in the following weeks, and I am excited to see how fans from other countries will act for their team. It will be exciting to see the other matches with new countries playing in them, to see whether or not the dynamic changes. The atmosphere created for this type of elite sport is really amazing to witness in person, and I am so thankful for this experience. I remember watching the women’s World Cup four years ago at home on TV and hoping that I would get the chance one day to watch my team play in person. Now being able to have that opportunity and actually go to the game was really amazing, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of my trip in New Zealand and Australia have to hold. 

Exploring Rotorua, New Zealand

Submitted by Stepfanie Stapf on the 2023 summer session program in New Zealand and Australia…

Walking along a bridge during a zip-lining Canopy Tour in Rotorua, NZ

Hamilton, New Zealand has been my home for the last week. Every day has consisted of a new experience, and I am happy to say that new friendships have arisen as well. The time change was definitely apparent, as New Zealand is 16 hours ahead of the United States!

Due to the reversal of the seasons, the weather here has been a bit chilly, but this has not stopped us from being outside. One of the most memorable activities so far has been black water rafting through Waitomo cave. I had never been rafting before, so this was quite the first experience. We had to jump off of running waterfalls and float through complete darkness. I was terrified in the beginning, but the confidence of the tour guides and the closeness of our group allowed me to put full trust into the process. When we entered the deepest part of the cave, we looked up and saw thousands of glowworms luminating all that was above. I do not think that I would have embarked on this activity on my own, and I am so fortunate to have done so with the new friends I have made during this trip.

Although our excursions have granted me with the adventure and excitement I was looking for, they have also introduced me to a wealth of knowledge. We visited Te Puia, which is a historical site that houses an institute dedicated to indigenous art and history. There is also a Kiwi bird conservation and a beautiful array of geysers that can only be seen through entry into the institute. These natural attractions have encouraged visitors like us to come and learn about indigenous culture, as well as fund their efforts. Later in the week, we went zip-lining, and learned that our funds for this activity also contributed immensely to rainforest conservation efforts. Previously, I always had a slight feeling of guilt for being a tourist. However, knowing that my presence in these facilities was actually helping them stay open and thrive reminded me of the importance in supporting these remarkable organizations. When I return to the United States, I want to take the extra step of ensuring that the activities I do benefit the greater good, and aren’t just for fun – because plenty that offer both do exist! (Submitted on July 27, 2023)

Australia: Sunrise on the Harbour

Submitted by Olivia Szefer on the 2020 spring semester study abroad program in Sydney, Australia…

The iconic sites of Sydney are of course the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge which can be seen from every angle of the Harbour. After two months of living and studying in Sydney, I had plenty of time to admire them at different times of day and at different angles throughout the Harbour. However, I have never had a view from them on the actual water even though I had taken ferries before to Barangaroo. A major catalyst in finding a unique way to experience the two Australian landmarks was that my sister was visiting from Texas A&M on her spring break and I wanted to have a memorable time with her. After searching the web, I finally found the perfect adventure for us: Sydney by Kayak.

This program takes individuals and groups out into the harbour on kayaks to learn about the waterway, but also to witness the glorious sunrise come up upon the bridge and opera house. We were both able to appreciate where we were in the world and how lucky we both were to be in such a beautiful place as the colors appeared across the sky. Once we took some posed photos, we journeyed on around Lavender Bay then we kayaked to various wharfs. Throughout this experience, we learned about the origins of Luna Park, how ferries use their horns and about various convicts from the beginning of the colony. I am thankful to have seen the beautiful sunrise and to have hadquality time with my sister whom I don’t get to see often.

Australia: A Night at the Taronga Zoo

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

This past Monday, I traveled to the Taronga Zoo to participate in their roar & snore overnight event. I had the opportunity to stay overnight at the zoo and experience the nightlife of all the animals and participate in the morning duties that the staff go through. We watched as possums climbed into trees and penguins nestled their eggs. Our guides allowed us to touch numerous animals, including a Children’s Python, bearded dragon, and a possum that was only just recently welcomed to the zoo. During the cool of the night, many animals that are not usually out and about were exploring their enclosures. One such creature was the Bongo, which typically confines itself to a corner of its enclosure during the daytime. We saw this animal grazing on the various foods around it and scratching its back with its large horns. It was truly amazing to watch, especially given that there are only about 80 more of these creatures in the world. Back at our tents, there was an incredible view. We could see the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Sydney Opera House, and the rest of the city.

In the morning, we were treated to a few behind the scenes events throughout the zoo. The most notable was when we traveled to see the giraffes. We were given the rare opportunity to feed the two giraffes lettuce. I held out my hand with the lettuce and each of the giraffes bent their long necks down and used their tongues to grab it. We learned more about the giraffe, including how the brown patches on their fur help to keep them warm during the cool nights, whereas the white stripes around their bodies travel along their blood vessels to keep their blood cool during the extreme heat. This was such a surreal experience, and an extremely unique opportunity given that the Taronga Zoo is home to many animals that are not seen anywhere else, either in the wild or in other zoos. I have seen so many new and fascinating animals since I’ve been in Australia and I’ve had an extraordinary time.

Two giraffes at the Taronga Zoo in Sydney