Monday, March 27, 2017

My New Home Down Under

I arrived at The University of Newcastle on the Thursday before Orientation Week (O Week). My sister stayed for a couple of days to help me settle in, buy and carry everything I would need for my 4 months here. Times like these were when I missed my car most... RIP arms.

I live on campus in the New Residence, "New Res," East Tower in a 6 share apartment. It is a very new and modern building. We all have our own bedrooms, share 2 bathrooms, a kitchen, living room, and a balcony. I have 3 guy roommates and 2 other girl roommates, all Aussies. I was really surprised to hear they had co-ed on campus accommodation, but it's been great and they all are very nice and fun to be around. Also, my tower constantly has social events going on, which keeps things exciting!

I use the kitchen in our apartment to make all of my meals, but there are other on-campus accommodation options that are catered and offer meal plans. Although, I have heard from people living in those apartments that the meal plans are quite expensive, and not very good. Unlike Iowa State's endless buffet options, they only offer a couple of main meals and at specific times of the day. Getting to the grocery store from campus is really easy, and it is only about a mile and a half away. There is a free shuttle that goes weekly on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday for a few hours, the city bus that runs all day for about $5, or you can tag along with an Aussie who has a car.

The campus is beautiful here. It is covered in trees with pathways, and buildings that have an indoor and outdoor feel to them. There are quite a few coffee, snack, and food places on campus also. My favorites are Cafe Diem for a coffee and some banana bread, Boost for an afternoon smoothie, The Bake House for a meat pie (an Australian classic... I will explain more in a later post), and The Bar on the Hill for a burger, chips, and a beer. Yes, you can drink on campus. We actually have two bars right on central campus!
Time between class? Take a nap in a hammock!

Central campus where Bar on the Hill is located, food trucks, a basketball court, occasional events including live music & fun seating!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Arriving in Sydney, Australia

The time had come to venture to the country I would be spending the next 4 months! As amazing as New Zealand was, I was ready for some warmer weather and beach days. I had an afternoon flight to Sydney, where I spent the next couple of days exploring. Sydney is only a short 3 hour train ride away from Newcastle, and I had a few days to spare before orientation week.

My sister tagged along and we stayed in the 57 Hotel, down the street from Central Station. By the time we arrived, we were exhausted and spent the night relaxing in our hotel room with Thai food we had delivered (yum!). The next morning we woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready to explore the city. Well, that is after some coffee, of course! We first walked to the Harbour, where we saw the Sydney Bridge and Opera House. We ate on the Harbour by the water and then caught a train, followed by a bus to Bondi Beach (like I said, we needed some beach time). Bondi Beach was nice, it was filled with people soaking up the beautiful weather just like us.

The next day, we were off on the train to Newcastle so I could finally embark on my semester abroad!

What better time to try my first oyster! SO fresh
Bondi Beach and Bondi Iceberg Pools

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Adventures of Queenstown

Our final destination in New Zealand was Queenstown. Queenstown is known as the adventure hotspot for tourists. They have everything from paragliding, nevis swings, sky diving, zip lining, jet boating, and my personal favorite bungy jumping. If you like things that get your adrenaline pumping, this is the place for you.

We had to leave Caitlins early in order to arrive in time for my scheduled bungy jump. I signed up for it months ago when we were planning our trip, and I couldn't have been more excited! However, taking the gondola up and seeing the ledge in real life... Made. Me. Terrified. I had watched several of the videos the company posted, but seeing it firsthand knowing that was about to be me made me want to catch the next gondola down the mountain. That being said, I also knew I would hate myself if I came to Queenstown and didn't follow through with it. So I nervously went and checked in, and just like that I was out on the ledge getting strapped in!

Just a glimpse of the INCREDIBLE views on the drive to Queenstown.
The AJ Hackett Ledge Bungy and all its glory 
"Look sis, I made it!"

After purchasing the pictures and video from my jump (highly recommend, they are the pics above) and shakily signing my name on my certificate, it was time to really enjoy the views and warm up with a snack. There is a restaurant at the top of the gondola that serves several delicious items. I got a banana, nutella crepe and a flat white. Perfection!

The weather was not the greatest our first day in Queenstown. During my bungy jump it was only sprinkling, but when I finished it began to down pour. Due to that we ended up getting a gondola refund and luge tickets for the next day. We finished off the night by going out for some drinks, and ended up meeting several people backpacking through New Zealand.

My sister and I stayed in a hostel called Absoloot Value Accommodation. It was across from the water (pics below) therefore had great views. It was new and very nice, and I would definitely stay again.

Hello, donuts!

Queenstown has an awesome luge that you can take the gondola, followed by chair lifts up to. Super fun with more views!

Anddddd that's a wrap! New Zealand was such an incredible, picturesque country! I had the best time exploring and I will most definitely be back in the future.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Catlins and The Stops Along The Way

The next morning we packed up and headed out of Dunedin, but not before grabbing a delicious pancake breakfast! The drive to Catlins was only about an hour and a half. We had a full schedule planned of things to see for the day, as we would have to leave early the next morning to head to Queenstown.

First on the list of to-do's was a stop at Nugget Point to hike up to the lighthouse and see the amazing views it has to offer. Next, we visited the Purakaunui Falls, and finally a walk by Surat Bay in the hopes of a Sea Lion spotting! We booked another holiday park right next to the beach that surrounds the bay.

          The Nugget Point Lighthouse


Purakaunui Falls, a three-tiered waterfall on the river

Our accommodation at this holiday
park was nice and quaint, with only 5 buildings of rooms and owned by two wonderful ladies. They had movies to chose from, a chess board on the lawn, grills for use, and a garden of herbs to help yourself to. What Rachel and I enjoyed most about our stay here was the short walk to the bay where we saw two Sea Lions! Although, my sister and I didn't realize how eco-friendly this place was until the next morning. They use rainwater as their main source of water (cheers to them), but it was an additional cost to shower and it started as soon as you placed the coins in, stopping at approximately 5 minutes... lol.

P.S. stay at least 10 meters away from a wild Sea Lion because if angry they will try to come after you. We learned this after the left one growled and scurried towards us shortly after this picture...and then we spent the rest of the night googling Sea Lion attacks. *lesson learned*