Stephen in Australia

Stephen is a junior majoring in finance and political science. In Australia, he will be studying at Curtin University of Technology in Perth, where he will work on an international community service project in addition to taking courses.

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My last blog

The dawn approaches over the Pacific Ocean as I sit on my second-to-last plane ride on this remarkable journey. This is my 10th flight over the last 22 days, and in that same amount of time I have been in five countries (Australia, Malaysia, China, Singapore, and soon the United States of America) and six if you count our two-hour layover in Taiwan. Travelling to Perth seemed to take forever and a day; however, after leaving Malaysia at 10 am this morning, it will take only an hour and a half to arrive in LA at 11:35 am the same day.

Kuala Lumpur
Anyway, I’ll give a quick recap of the last few days. We arrived at our hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, late Tuesday night, I believe. Wednesday we set out for a good day of sight-seeing. We visited the outside of the king’s residence/palace, saw a mosque (Islam is the main religion of Malaysia), and visited a Chinese temple palace.

We grabbed lunch in the mall at the base of the famous and most recognizable landmark in KL, the Petronas twin towers, which were formerly the tallest buildings in the world.

Afterward we travelled to the Batu Caves, which were my favourite stop of the day. While passing playful monkeys on the way up (reminiscent of Bali), we climbed a long, steep staircase to the entrance of a cave, where a man greeted us with a large snake around his neck asking us if we wanted to take our picture with it – we declined. The cave was a sort of Hindu temple and was absolutely huge. I was very impressed with it.

After those sights, we went back to the hotel, and I took a nice long nap before going out to an Indian place for dinner. The food was good enough, but after seeing a rat on the floor toward the end of the meal, I quickly lost my appetite.

After dinner, we went to a foot massage place. They have these huge fish tanks where you can put your feet in the tank and the fish come to suck off the dead skin and it’s supposed to be quite good for you. I tried it for a few minutes, and they tickled like crazy! So much so, that I couldn’t keep my feet in the tank and had to settle for a half-hour foot massage for around $5USD.

Later that night, we went out to the coolest bar I have ever been to. It was 30 floors up on the balcony of a hotel, with comfortable lounge chairs surrounding a lit-up pool that looked directly across at the twin towers, which were lit up beautifully. This night we also met up with our friends who do not go to SMU, but were other Americans studying abroad in Perth with us. They had gone on a study tour around Malaysia. It was really good to see them one last time and to swap stories from our experiences.

We were able to sleep in and have the following morning to ourselves. Since I had seen most of KL, I did some reading and caught up on a few emails before we headed out that afternoon for one last meeting on the Asia Pacific region at an institute.

That night, we had our final meal together – and what a special evening it was. We ate at the revolving restaurant on top of the sky tower where we were treated to amazing views and an all-you-can-eat buffet. Our group leader, Dr. Jim Elliot, made some closing remarks about our time together and had a funny, memorable comment to make about each one of us on the tour. We all appreciated having him as our group leader; he treated us like adults, sent email updates to our parents, had fun with us, and ensured everything went smoothly and according to plan.

Singapore
With the study tour officially over, we had a full free day on December 12, and we decided to pay $50 for a round-trip 50-minute flight to Singapore. We woke up bright and early, and were met by my Singaporean flat-mate from Australia who graciously agreed to show us around for the day.

Singapore is such a unique place. It’s a small island off the coast of Malaysia that is both a city and a country covering 600 square kilometres (roughly half the size of the Hawaiian island of Kauai) with a population of 4 million people. The humidity and ethnical make-up is similar to Malaysia, but other than that, Singapore is distinctly Western with clean everything (it is illegal to sell gum and there are hefty fines for littering), developed infrastructure, English as the official language, its own stock exchange, and other “luxuries” that are consistent with developed nations across the globe.

Upon arrival we took the train/subway into the main portion of the city to walk amidst the abounding Christmas decorations. Next, we travelled to a Singapore opera house-type place with a perfect spot for viewing the waterfront and the main downtown buildings. Following lunch, we proceeded to briefly explore little India before resting for a bit at a famous hotel/bar place. Stewart and I then proceeded to walk around the city for a while before meeting back up with the group to return to the airport. During this time we found a nice park, discovered a river walk area, and encountered another SMU (Singapore Management University). We arrived back in KL at around 10 pm, which was exactly 12 hours before our flight back home to the US in the morning!

Home!
After reflecting back on all my experiences studying abroad, I still cannot believe all that has occurred in the last five months. I have seen countless new sights (including six new countries), eaten many new foods (such as jellyfish, a bit of chicken liver, peacock, bullfrog and ox-penis wine), made many new friends, had a ton of fun, and experienced much personal growth.

Besides the amazing memories, silly souvenirs, and countless pictures, I come back home a changed person. I am much more aware of the global world and the accompanying issues faced in addition to the differences in lives of those across the earth. In short, I have learned to expand the intake of my eyes and ears to occurrences outside the borders of the United States.

Personally, I come back home with a greater desire for simplicity. This last semester took me out of the busyness of life and away from the crazy schedule that I took upon myself while at school. I want to slow down, appreciate life more, and concentrate on what I have found truly matters in life – relationships.

Lastly, I have also grown in my personal relationship with God this semester through the extra time spent reading the Bible and through being removed from my “Christian comfort zone” back at school. I have truly been able to experience the beauty of His creation.

As I have returned home these last few days, it seems I cannot get away from Australia :) My flight home flew through LA, so some friends of mine flew down to meet me and go to Disneyland for two days. Two Australians were in the shuttle bus on the way to the motel with us, more Australians pointed out my Aussie rules football jersey while waiting in line, and the magazine on Alaska Airlines featured a whole article on Perth, which included descriptions of Fremantle, Rottnest Island, and Margaret River! I am excited to see how the memories and experiences there will continue to follow and shape me.

Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Stephen

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