Blue Mountain Adventures

The schedule for the students in Australia is packed full of interesting things to do.  This is one student’s recollection of one full day’s journey.

Today’s plan is to go to the Blue Mountains where it is an all day trip. Our driver just pointed out the local fish market where you can get seafood fresh and cheaper than any of the restaurants. Sounds like I have dinner plans for tonight. The first stop was to see the three sisters where the weather was the not the best but the view was amazing. I also bought a boomerang which was made by the aborigines. Next we took the scenic cableway down through the Blue Mountain rainforest that was almost straight down. When we got to the bottom we took a path down to the rainforest room which gave you a great view of the whole rainforest. On the way back up the mountain we took the railway up which is the steepest railway in the world. We just finished eating lunch at the Katoomba Country Club and I meet the head golf pro who was very nice, he let me putt on the practice green and took a picture of us with beautiful background of the golf course. The best place so far had to be the waterfall in the Blue Mountains.  We took a trail that was 225 steps down and 225 steps back up. It was quite a calf burning walk but it was well worth it. I thought that there was no way to beat the waterfall but I was wrong.  The zoo was amazing, as soon as we walked in there were kangaroos running around everywhere.  They were as friendly as dogs, and if you had food for them then you would have a new best friend. Next we came upon the koala’s just sitting in there tree’s living the good life. The whole time at the zoo I was thinking of how could I sneak a kangaroo out of here and take it back to the states with me. Right now it’s only 4:45 and it’s already getting dark which is quite weird because at home right now it doesn’t get dark until 9:00 in the evening. Winding down the trip to the Blue Mountains we went to see the Olympic Park where they held the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. There were so many different complexes where events were held, it was quite amazing. Right now we are taking a boat ride to Darling Harbor to watch the light show. The light show is held for 2 weeks every year.  Afterwards we ate at an amazing restaurant right on the water and had the best food so far on the trip. I got some fresh fish and it was the best fish that I have ever eaten in my life. The thing I love most about Australia is how nice the people are, they are so friendly and they go out of their way to help you out. Overall I had an amazing day and I look forward to trying to top today.

Thank you to Travis Sheets for sharing an exciting day’s worth of experiences.

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Aussie House Rules

During their stay in Australia, the students were able to go visit the Australian Parliament.  This is what one student took away from the tour.

The Australian Parliament House is the main working building for Australia’s federal parliament. It serves as the meeting place for many officials and members of the public. Australian parliament is much like that of the United States. The government has a Senate and a House of Representatives. Voting for parliament occurs every three years. Unlike United States citizens, Australians are legally required to vote. If they fail to do so then they receive a fine. This is something that I found to be extremely interesting. While the majority of the Australian society supports it, there is a group that opposes the law. One of the reasons that the government passed the law was to keep the officials from being liable for decisions made in parliament. After learning about this, I begin to think that the United States should adopt the voting enforcement law. Though politics will always involve criticism, if all citizens were required to vote I believe that there would be less hostility towards the government. Australian character is expressed extremely well through the specific law. By forcing its citizens to place their vote, the government shows that they value the opinions of the Australians. No matter what the ethnicity or income status, everyone is treated equally with the voting process. All citizens have the freedom to vote for the party of their choice which resembles the United States view on politics. If everyone in the U.S. was required to vote then all citizens are able to express their opinion. Though our voting system supports freedom of speech, enforcing a voting law would express to the public that their opinions matter. I feel that by doing so the public would become more supportive of its government. During the tour of the Parliament House it became evident that Australian officials value the ideas of their people. The Senate and House of Representatives are both open to the public. I believe that all governments with a similar system to that of Australia’s should do the same. If citizens are required to vote they should have the option to hear and see what is going on with their country. This provides people with the opportunity to hear about what important issues are occurring in their country. Also, both meeting rooms have a sound proof area so that student tour groups can watch and listen to sessions while listening to a tour guide. Another factor that showed how much the government values it’s people is the view from the parliament house. From the building you are able to see the Old Parliament House, followed by the Australian War Memorial. Both buildings can be seen clearly without any obstacles in the way. The purpose of being able to view the Old Parliament house is so that officials and the public are reminded of all that has been accomplished by their government in the past. The war memorial is in view so that officials can reflect on all of the lives that have been lost as well as the citizens that have fought for their country. This helps the officials to truly consider all options before making extreme decisions. The tour made it extremely evident that the Australian government truly values and appreciates their citizens. I believe that this contributes to the loyalty that Australians have to their country. If all countries valued their people as much as Australia, they would be a much happier place.

 

Thank you to Bethany Russ for sharing her experience learning about the inner workings of the Australian government.

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A Day in Brisbane

Even though the students in Australia have a tight schedule, they had some free time scheduled in to relax.  This is the free day of one of the students.

 

We had a free day today in Brisbane with the option of going to the Australia Zoo, but we did not want to go to another zoo since most of us had been to two already. Four of us stayed in Brisbane to tour the city and experience what it had to offer. The guys and a couple of girls went up to the Gold Coast which is a big surfer’s destination to see the sites and to go surfing themselves.

 

Brisbane is a gorgeous city with a lot to offer. The city is a lot more laid back and not as crowded asSydney. The hotel complex we are staying at is centrally located inBrisbane’s Central Banking District. We started the day by taking the ferry to the West End stop, which was recommended by one of the workers on the ferry. West End is right outside the city and is an up and coming area with new buildings, a lot shops, and cafes. We got lunch at a burger café in one ofWest End’s shopping and café areas. After we ate, we headed back toward the city. While walking back we walked through one of the many parks inBrisbane. The parks along the river provide great views of the city and the ferries traveling along it. While walking through one of the parks, we walked under a pathway that had a flower vine structure covering it. Brisbane is the skin cancer capital of the world, which I understand after today. I couldn’t tell you what the temperature was but I was wearing a v-neck shirt with a light 3 quarter inch cardigan with jeans and I was hot. A guy at the café said that it doesn’t get much colder than that in the winter. It’s my kind of place.

 

After everyone got back we headed to dinner at a nice seafood restaurant along the river. The views were amazing! Ferries were riding along the river and other boats were going by. The restaurant was Greek inspired and had many options on the menu for everyone to enjoy. Once we got back to the hotel, we all had a good time just hanging out and enjoying the view from the hotel room. It is on the 42nd floor in the middle of the city with panoramic views of downtown and the suburbs around the river. You can see the mountains in the background behind the suburbs.

 

Brisbane has gorgeous views of all different types of landscapes. You can admire the city, suburbs, river, and mountains all in one area.Australiais becoming a more multicultural nation, and it is evident inBrisbane. Just by walking along the streets, you can see the different nationalities and hear the different languages. People watching is taken to a different level when sitting in the mall area near our hotel. It is fun to see the different age groups and how they interact with each other. A couple of girls and I did just that last night after getting back from the restaurant. We sat outside in the mall and ate our ice cream and just watched the people walk by. It was entertaining to say the least. We saw a large group of bike riders and younger children walking by. Just seeing the difference between the groups really makes you think about where you came from and how you got to where you are today.

 

Thank you to Allison Johnson for sharing your free day in Australia with us.

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Students in Sydney

One student reflects on the similarities and differences between Australia and the US.

Arriving in Australia I experienced a culture shock. Australia is very similar to the United States but there are subtle differences, like driving on the left side of the road and using a surrogate name instead of a last name. It’s interesting to see a different perspective of everyday life. Australia is a very beautiful and clean country. It is filled with rich culture and amazing history. The people are friendly and great to talk to. They are very intelligent and are nice enough to answer any questions you may have as a visitor. I have met some very great people all throughout the city of Sydney. One thing I have noticed here is the laid back atmosphere. In big cities back home there is a hustle and bustle to everything but I haven’t noticed it in Sydney. Yesterday, I was excited to go to the opera house and see the magnificent architecture that went into its construction. When I finally saw it in person, I was in awe at its brilliance. I felt the individual tiles that made up the roof of the building, something that I will never forget. Looking over the nearby harbor bridge was an incredible sight to see. During our tour, we learned where Captain Cook, the first settlers, and the first fleet colonized, nearby at a place called The Rocks. Walking through The Rocks reminded me of Colonial Williamsburg back home in Virginia. I was fascinated with the old world buildings and the history that seemed to parallel the United States. I noticed that the architecture was influenced from early Great Britain at The Rocks as well in Colonial Williamsburg. It shows how we are direct descendants from the English. An interesting fact that our tour guide mentioned is that mostly everything is made from sandstone. Sandstone is formed over thousands of years of being compressed under water and you can see the water marks all throughout the city. It is truly a great accomplishment to build a city out of this type of rock. This trip has given me a great look at the world outside the United States and I’m happy to experience with a great group from ECU. All of us agree that it has been incredible. I’m happy to learn the history and culture of Sydney Australia and am looking forward to the rest of my stay here.

Thank you to Ben Spitzner for sharing your experiences arriving to Australia and in Sydney.

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A Down Under Experience

ECU student, Sampath Kumar Chinthapalli, shared his summer study abroad experience as he traveled through Brisbane, Sydney and Cairns.

After checking out from our accommodations, the Charlotte Oaks Apartments, the team decided to go to Kangaroo Point Cliffs. The remarkable view of the Brisbane skyline and water ways prompted us to taking a few pictures.

Upon arriving to Sydney I spent some time visiting different city neighborhoods and enjoying some spectacular views. I was soon sold on the city, largely due to its topography and the climate.  Although it was smaller, I found that Brisbane had more to offer than Sydney. For example, I spent some time searching for jobs relating to my skill set and I found over 400 open positions in the Brisbane area. In my opinion, that says a lot about the city’s economic outlook given the current state of the job market. Furthermore, I found that when it comes to real estate and cost of living, Brisbane has a lot more to offer to young families.

Our next destination was Cairns, a regional city in Far North Queensland. We arrived to the airport at 11:00AM, just in time to board our flight. We were excited to visit the city known for its thrifty markets, beautiful views and the Great Barrier Reef. The Cairns Airport itself foreshadowed the laid back atmosphere and great weather of the city. On the ride in to the city we were amazed by the serenity of the region and the breathtaking view of the mountains.

Our motel, Mantra Trilogy, offered accommodation standards that rivaled those of the larger cities of Sydney and Brisbane. After checking in and refreshing a bit, we hit the city markets to check out what is offered. Later on we visited what is known as the Night Market. Here we bargained with the locals on prices for souvenirs to bring back home to our friends and families. For dinner we ate at an Italian restaurant, where I got to try kangaroo and alligator dishes for the first time. Overall, Cairns did not disappoint.

After this summer trip, I am even more convinced to move to Australia. Wherever I went I noticed there was a high level of cultural diversity present. The availability of all kinds of different cuisines, such as Chinese, Indian, and Irish, says lot about Australians open-mindedness and cultural diversity.

Since I got mobile broad band wireless from Brisbane, I was able to use live video conferencing with my family back home every morning. My family enjoyed early morning sun rise views of Cairns, with lot of birds chirping in the background. I walked around the streets of Cairns doing a live feed back home giving glimpses of Cairns. Technology is amazing :)

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Australian War Memorial

During the study abroad program students get to visit many different attractions.  This is a personal experience of one of the students in Australia.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when first entering into the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, but I have to say it was all quite intriguing.  The first things I noticed when entering the large doors of the memorial were the statues of the two large lions.  I later learned that they represented a line in a town in Belgium that many people going to battle walked through, and would never make a return.  This was the start to the great deal of symbolism throughout the whole memorial.  Everything that was there represented something of the past and was there for a reason, which was my favorite part of the war memorial without a doubt.  Walking past the entrance there was a serene looking pool of water with a burning flame in the middle of it.  This burning flame represents an eternal flame and an expression of never ending appreciation that the Australian people have for the soldiers who lost their lives in World War I and World War II.  One of the few sets of numbers that stood out to me that our guide gave us was that Australia lost 60,000 soldiers in WWI, and 40,000 in WWII.  To Americans that may not seem like a lot but to a country with a much smaller population scale at the time, the loss of that many people was tremendous.  In memory of those lives lost there were big stone walls on both sides of the memorial, one representing each of the wars with names engraved all down them.  Also down the walls there were bright red poppies beside many of the names, but not all.  The poppies were placed by friends, family, or loved ones that knew of the person commemorated on the wall; they stay there forever or until they fade and get replaced with new ones.  The poppies have a special meaning; they are known to represent all the bloodshed in the wars and the thought of a sacred emblem of remembrance.  There was a huge mosaic tiled room representing all the different types of people involved in the war.  There was a picture of a nurse, a navy sailor, a pilot, and of a soldier, along with three beautiful stained glass windows the size of the full walls.  In the very middle of the room on the bottom floor was a tomb that read, “An unknown soldier killed in the war of 1914-1918,” representing not just one, but all of the unknown soldiers that fought and died in the war.  Inside the actual museum there were numerous displays explaining how the war actually took place and the struggles that they went through.  Actually seeing the memorabilia from lifetimes ago made the wars seem to come to life.  The war memorial hit close to home for me because I come from a military town and my dad was in two wars in my lifetime.  I have a special place in my heart for memorializing people lost in wars, and I think the Australian War Memorial does an awesome job of representing and respecting the people of the Australia who were lost.

 

Thank you to Alex Morrison for sharing this personal experience from Australia

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Cuddling Koalas: A Business Strategy

This summer, a group of students our visiting Australia with our Study Abroad program.  This is a quick blog post about one day in Australia through the eyes of one of the students.

So far, my journey in Australia has been so much more than I ever expected it to be.  Words and pictures cannot convey the great times and amazing sights that we have been able to experience as a group.  This particular day the group was able to get much more than just historical information or visiting a simple attraction we are accustomed to viewing.

After traveling to Brisbane one of our first adventures was to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, the first and largest in the world. It was established in 1927 with just two koalas but is now home to over 130 koala bears.  Lone Pine is a magnificent place full of animals native to Australia.  We were able to pet and feed kangaroos and wallabies, and even hold and cuddle with the koala bears.  There was much more to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary than the koalas that they promote through their attraction name.  There are crocodiles, birds, dingoes, Tasmanian devils, kangaroos, snakes, wallabies, and platypuses.  It was amazing to learn about all of the animals that contribute so greatly to the culture and lifestyles of the Australian people.  Some of the events that Lone Pine promotes are the hand feeding of over one hundred kangaroos, wallabies, and wild rainbow lorikeets among their naturally situated two acre reserve.  They allow you to get pictures taken with koalas, snakes, and baby crocodiles.  In addition they have wildlife shows and activities that each guest can take part in.  It truly is a unique place.

We were privileged enough to meet the General Deputy of Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and learn a bit about his business strategy.  The interesting and surprising thing about Lone Pine is that it is a non-profit organization.  Robert spoke to the group a little more about how the sanctuary has survived the many years of competition.  Their biggest competitor, the Australia Zoo, is one of Australia’s biggest attractions and it thrives with their many events and scheduled shows all connected to the well-known Steve Irwin.  Sadly, Australia has seen many places just like Lone Pine disappear over the years, while Lone Pine still triumphs.

So how does little Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, a non-profit organization, stay among the running of many great wildlife attractions?  A simple business strategy is at the source of it all.  The General Deputy, Robert, explained how sometimes you must not give into peer pressures and do what is best for your particular organization.  His example was to not surrender to corporate trends and be able to stick to what your organization has experienced to work successfully over the years.  Economic trends of the past and present of course have changed the way businesses like Lone Pine function.  In order to cut costs, Robert told us he focused more on aspects such as marketing and advertising where the animals or employees would not suffer.  This is simply due to his prominent use of word-of-mouth advertising.  Instead of spending almost $100,000 dollars in advertising, Lone Pine is now spending at a maximum $25,000.  He advised us to really change our ways of thinking and how we look at businesses, or our personal lives.  He mentioned that we should read the books The Art of War and Laozi, as well as look into research on “The Friendship Model” or other research that expands upon the interactions of people.  Robert uses Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and some Chinese social networking platforms in order to promote Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.  In addition, he has enabled WiFi capability throughout the sanctuary in order for people to connect with Lone Pine immediately.

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary alone is an amazing and exciting place, but after understanding the business strategy behind how it remains one of the best wildlife attractions in Australia we all felt much more connected to Lone Pine’s history and future endeavors.  It is definitely a place worth visiting, so spread the word!

 

Thanks to Chelsey Leffet for writing this post while in Australia!

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Password Safety

As you may or may not have heard, LinkedIn recently had a large number of passwords hacked.  If this is the first you are hearing of it and you have a LinkedIn account you can check to see if your password was hacked here.  I would like to point out that this is not LinkedIn’s fault, hackers are constantly trying out different sites and it just so happened that LinkedIn was the target this time.   I checked and had a mini freak out when I saw my password was one of the ones that was hacked.  If your password has been hacked, or if you just want to be on the safe side, then go change your password ASAP.  If you have used that password anywhere else I would also go change your password at those sites as well.  I did this and luckily no ill has come from the hacking thus far.  When creating a new password, there are some things to keep in mind.  Robert David Graham, CEO of Errata Security, tells us that

“each letter of a password has 100 possible combinations composed of either upper or lower case, digits or symbols. A five-character password would have 10 billion possible combinations and could be cracked in 5 seconds using a top-of-the-line Radeon HD 7970 graphics processor.

A six-character password would take a little over 500 seconds, but a seven-character password would take 13 hours, Graham wrote. Eight characters pushes the time up to 57 days, with a nine-character password taking up to 15 years.”

Popular web-comic xkcd has also lent some advice on making stronger passwords here.  The longer your password, the better.

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