Fantastic opportunity, trip of a lifetime, unbelievable, graduate in December…those are some of the things that came to mind when I first found out about this study abroad. I applied, I got accepted, I qualified for a scholarship and BAM, just like that, I was planning to spend three weeks in Australia. What I didn’t know was that that was the easy part. The hard part was cramming what would have been 16 weeks into a summer semester that should be 5 weeks but was actually three weeks…times two classes! But that was my only way to graduate in December because these two classes aren’t taught online. So, I laced up my boot straps, got very little sleep and three weeks later boarded a plane for Australia.
Leaving Sunday June 4th meant studying until midnight, getting up at 3:30 am, arriving at RDU at 5:30 am, touring Los Angeles for 7 hours, leaving LA at 11:00 pm (west coast time), flying for 15 hours, skipping Monday altogether like it never existed, and arriving in Sydney at 6:30 am on Tuesday. We met our wonderful tour guide, Desirée, who took us on a bus tour all over Sydney, a delightful lunch cruise of Sydney Harbor, then gave us lots of suggestions of things to do in Sydney before dropping us at our hotel later that afternoon.
For 3 weeks every June, Sydney has this eclectic experience called Vivid. It’s a celebration of light, music, and ideas. Street performers of every type are out, music is playing in every direction, any type of food you could ever want is available and lights are projected on various buildings around Circular Quay (pronounced key). The atmosphere is electric. Fortunately, I was able to experience Vivid before it began raining for 3 days straight. Not just a little rain, pouring thunderstorm rain. The whole of Sydney sits in sandstone so buildings and sidewalks are either sandstone or granite. What happens to sandstone and granite when it gets wet? Its slick, like fall on your backside slick. A few interesting facts about Australia, many things are opposite from the US…they drive on the left, they pass on the right, they walk on the left, door locks turn left, water runs left (counter clockwise), and refrigerators open from the right.
Rain put the kabash on my plans to see Manley across the harbor during our free day on Wednesday so I toured the Opera House instead. What an incredible structure. Thursday’s visit to The Reserve Bank of Australia was interesting learning how they print their money in an attempt to curtail counterfeiters. Australia’s currency is made from 100% plastic polymer unlike most other countries who still use paper. Australia also prints money for several other countries including Singapore, Brunei, and Mexico. Friday’s trip to Parliament in Canberra was fascinating followed by an emotional visit to Australia’s War Memorial. Whew! That’s a lot crammed into four days. Leaving Sydney is bittersweet; it’s been a whirlwind full of new experiences.