Jessica in Australia

Jessica is a senior majoring in marketing in the Cox School of Business. During summer and fall 2011, Jessica is studying abroad with SMU-in-Australia. She’s eager to learn about new cultures, meet new people and experience life outside the United States.

Springtime in Perth

If you have never smelled the rich, luscious scent of a gardenia you must find a way! A gardenia is a beautiful white flower that grows on a decently hardy bush. It is nice to look at, but smell is what makes this flower incredible.

I grew up thinking it only grew in tropical islands. My mother’s love of Hawaii is why I discovered them. She stops dead in her tracks every time she comes across one. To my surprise, gardenias grow right in my back yard… literally (well, as literally as you could consider the grounds of my flat’s village a yard).

After a long rainy, cold winter (one of the worst in a long time according to the local news) spring is welcomed with open arms. The sun and warmth is beginning to come out every few days between the storms, and along with it are the flowers and blossoming trees. These are the things that somehow always make me seem to forget the hard winters and enjoy the beauty that is ahead.

In light of the springtime (and of course my birthday week) I decided to buy myself a bouquet of flowers at the market. Coming up with something to put them in was a bit of a challenge, but I got creative and managed. And of course I had to pick one of the gardenias to put in a glass of water in my room. It is the most beautiful smell I just couldn’t help but surround myself with it.

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Catch Up

I know it has been absolutely ages since you have heard from me, but I am getting back into the swing of things. To sum everything up, we had our tuition free week (aka spring break) where I met my parents and brother in Sydney. We spent half our week there then flew to the Gold Coast for the other half. My family flew back to Perth with me and spent the next week here exploring the city and seeing all that my life here is about. They left a few days ago, and now I’m drowning in all the work I put off while they were here. Oh well, it was entirely worth it! I will have to catch you up on all the details later.

On another note, I received the itinerary for the Asian study tour I am attending at the end of the semester! I’m off to get my visa for China tomorrow. Hope everything goes smoothly!

I’ll send more updates and details soon. (Clearly I’m way behind since I haven’t even finished everything about Bali! I’ll catch up at some point.)

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Finally Feeling Abroad

I think I just reached the moment where I feel abroad. Yes, I have been here officially for over 2 months now and haven’t felt like I’m in America, yet today it really hit me that I’m on the other side of the world.

No, a meteor didn’t fall out of the sky, or the toilets flush in the other direction. It was something that I didn’t think would make me think about culture as much as it already has. I woke up early to meet a group for a project we are working on together. We have only met really one other time outside of class, but while waiting for our third group member I talked with the other girl in our group. I found out she is from China and is here on exchange as well.

Her English is wonderful. Just the fact that she is able to take class in English impresses me, but she gets embarrassed when she messes up or when I can’t understand her. She taught me a few words/ phrases in Chinese. The only one I remember is Hello ~ 您好 Which sounds like “knee how”. She also told me how she would love to study in America but needs to improve on her English first. 

Today was our second group meeting. We all worked on our project for quite a while and when it was time to pack up and part our ways the same girl asked me what year I was born. She had to take out her translation dictionary to explain that she was asking so she could find out what my Chinese zodiac sign was. I think she was expecting me to be her age, but I’m a few years older. She then pulled out a charm bracelet with (I think she said) a goat on it. She said even though it isn’t my sign she wanted to give it to me. The bracelet is red, which she told me is the color of China and also the color of luck, and gives me the bracelet to wish me the best of luck.

This absolutely made my day. It was so sincere and meaningful. It makes you realize how such a simple gesture can make someone feel so nice.

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Bali

Ok, I finally have some time to tell you about my adventure to Bali!

To the people who live in Perth, Bali is a nice weekend getaway. Sounds strange, I know. To most Americans Bali is this exotic island about as far away as imaginable… Eat, Pray, Love style.

Early in August, my 5 closest girlfriends here and I decided we wanted in on this vacation destination, so we booked flights for the earliest weekend we could get. By weekend I mean long weekend… as in 5 nights in Bali weekend! It is winter here so it’s the perfect time to go north to the islands.

The time came, and we were off to Bali, only less than a four hour flight away! (That is closer than flying across the United States). Of course our excitement faded when we found out our plane was delayed by a few hours. At least there was plenty of time to shop in duty free for a new camera. Finally the time came and we were off the ground. Bali here we come!

As soon as I stepped off the plane I could smell the Bali smell… Asian spices and incense in the air. We breezed though customs and made our way to the taxi stand where we had our first bargaining experience…well there wasn’t much bargaining, but we managed to hire 2 cabs to take us to our hotel for less than $10. Our first discovery of how cheap most things would be in this country. After check in we headed to our new rooms, and did, of course… if you know me well enough you should guess… we ordered room service. After a long travel, food is the perfect end to the night.

 

We woke up early the next morning to all meet at the hotel’s buffet breakfast. We then made our first adventure out to the shops and got our first real taste of cheap Bali knock-off products and some professional bargainers. After a lunch break and some more shopping, we headed back to our hotel for an afternoon on the beach. Much like Mexico, you can barely settle in before people come up to you selling just about anything you can think of. Before we knew it, it was time to get ready for our night out on the town.

Deirdre’s birthday began at midnight so we were ready for a big night ahead. Of course being with 3 other SMU girls, we spend our first night at a Mexican restaurant. It was so much better than the Mexican food we found in Perth. We have all been deprived. We spend an entertaining night out on the town and crashed hard when we got back home.

Again, another early morning, but there were lots of adventures ahead to celebrate Deirdre’s birthday. We hired a driver and made our way to the most southern part of the island to see a temple by the sea. We paid a small fee to enter, and there were the monkeys… oh the mischievous monkeys. We made our way over to the temple, taking pictures and enjoying the scenery and history when all of a sudden we could see the ocean in the distance. We made our way closer and all of a sudden the view opened up to the most spectacular sight I have ever seen. Absolutely breathtaking.

We took plenty of pictures enjoying the scenery, then we decided to walk around the rest of the temple. This is where I discovered my fear of monkeys. They were so cute and innocent when they were playing with each other. They were even funny when they stole a man’s hat. As we were laughing at the monkey with the man’s hat, all of a sudden we heard a scream from Deirdre… a monkey had jumped from a tree onto her head trying to steal her sunglasses. We all looked in terror as she shooed the monkey off of her head and it climbed down her backpack and ran away. This was only the beginning. The monkeys now had control. There were so many of them running around stealing people’s water bottles and flip flops, but they would give everything back as soon as they were handed food.

We decided to get out of there and go to the other side of the cliffs. The monkeys were terrifying to walk by again, but we finally were away from their territory walking along the cliffs. It was gorgeous and hot and sunny. Just what we all needed after the rainy month we just had. We spent some time walking around enjoying the view and taking pictures. Before we left the area, of course we stopped at the few shops near the entrance and had a nice cold drink and an ice cream before we headed back to the hotel.

We cleaned up and took a cab to a delicious Italian restaurant for a three-course meal. It still surprises me how cheap thing were. We shopped around a bit then headed back to the hotel before going out. The hotel had delivered a cake for Deirdre’s birthday so we had another little celebration before heading out on the town. There happened to be a group of American boys we knew from Perth who were in Bali the same weekend, so we met up with them for the night.

After the long night out an early morning was pretty rough. We decided to have a pool/beach morning and another shopping afternoon. We were professional bargainers by then. We later went to dinner at Ku De Ta, a nice restaurant that overlooked the beach and ocean. We had a nice mellow night and early to bed.

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Australian Slang

Fringe = bangs
to skull a drink means to chug
vege = short for vegetable
bathers = swimsuit
keen= as in you are keen to go somewhere, which means you like the idea
brekkie= breakfast
cab sav= cabernet sauvignon wine
chewie= chewing gum
to wag school means to ditch/ play hooky
sunnies = sunglasses
Maccas = Mackers = McDonalds
lollies = candies
footy= australian rules football

I’m not sure if I mentioned this before but this one is my favorite. When Australians talk about someone who is an incredible, wonderful person they say that person is gorgeous, but by saying this they don’t mean physically they mean gorgeous on the inside.

and yes… I am procrastinating from doing schoolwork.

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Midterm

I feel like it has been ages since my last post. I’m sorry to disappoint but this is going to be a short one. Unfortunately it is midterm time, and this week and next are going to be crazy! A bit different from SMU’s midterms, which consist of many exams. Curtin Uni is busy with homework, papers and group projects due.

Just a brief update:
I am back from Bali, alive and well. I am lacking a bit on sleep and motivation, but so excited to see my parents and brother in less than two weeks now in Sydney for my spring break. And I have reached the halfway point in my semester. Time has already flown by. Don’t get too excited for me to come home… I still have the Asian study tour once the semester ends. You can’t get me to come back that easily.

I will try to post a nice long description of my time in Bali soon, but for now I will be spending most of my time in the library. (Good thing it isn’t open 24/7 like Fondren library at SMU).

Miss and love you all!

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Brooke’s Visit

This has been one of the most fun weekends I’ve had since I’ve been here! My friend Brooke from Colorado flew in on Friday night for the week. Friday was just mellow, time to settle in and catch up. We made an awesome dinner, and decided this week will be spent teaching me how to cook. Probably a skill I should have learned before I arrived here.

Oh, I forgot to add that during the day on Friday a few of us went back to Cottosloe beach. It was still pretty cool, but we sucked it up and stripped down to our bathers (swimsuits) for only a bit. It was nice to enjoy the sound of the waves and the beauty of the ocean.

We woke up early on Saturday and made the long trek to the Cohunu Koala Wildlife Park all the way in Armadale. It was about as boring of a town as you could possibly imagine. Of course, since it was Saturday the bus we wanted to take there barely ran, so we had to wait ages for a cab to come around. To add onto the difficulties we had 5 people, so we had to take 2 cabs. So much difficulty, but once we arrived it was all worth it! We splurged and spent the extra $25 per person to hold a koala and take pictures. Australia dream come true! Oh and of course to add to this day my camera decided it wanted to break the night before… bad timing.

 

The koala was so cute and fuzzy. Softer than you would expect even. His keeper constantly replenished the branch of eucalyptus leaves in his hand to keep him happy and occupied. Wow did that Koala eat a lot, and when he ran out of leaves (or at least the good leaves) he would reach for his keeper who would replace the branch. When I happened to be holding him the keeper had to go into the other room and when the Koala ran out of leaves he decided he would crawl over my shoulder. Hello scratches! If you ever get the opportunity, you have to check out the claws on Koalas. They are insanely long and quite sharp! In the next few minutes of struggling with my newfound koala friend, I managed to get him some fresh leaves and came away with scratches all over my shoulder, one on my face, and some hilarious photographs. (I also came away with a sore bicep from holding him, but that is a bit embarrassing admitting to how weak my arm muscles are).

When koala holding time was over we decided to explore the rest of the wildlife park. Unfortunately we didn’t have much time since it took us ages to get there in the first place. We saw just about everything though! Beautiful peacocks, llamas, miniature ponies, emus, ostrich, kangaroo, wallaby, deer, exotic birds and others that I don’t even know the names to. We had almost the entire park to ourselves so we were free to explore. We went into the kangaroo/wallaby/dear area and were able hand feed them.

They were so cute and much softer than I expected. We even saw some joeys in their pouches.

After a few pictures with the dinosaur sculptures, it was time to head back into the human world. We were hoping to get back in time to watch Kerri’s brother’s rugby game, but we missed it and decided food was our next priority. We stopped in Subiaco for our favorite Jus Burger. So delicious we just don’t get sick of that place. Kerri picked us up from there and took us to her house. Being the incredible hostess she is, she continued to feed us snacks even though we were all so stuffed, yet we couldn’t resist them. After a few hours of catching up, we all cabbed to the rugby club nearby. It was definitely an experience the typical Australia tourist doesn’t get to experience. The best I could compare it to would be an old classic yacht club, but with the majority of people male and young. It was quite the entertainment.

The next day we made our way to Leaderville for brunch at Sayres. Yum so delicious! It gets better each time we eat there. We came back to campus for the evening, and Brooke gave me my second cooking lesson.

Yesterday Brooke and I woke up early again to go on a vineyard tour in Swan Valley. We were out of the house before 9am and at our first wine tasting by 10:30. My first purchase was already made before noon. I would call that a successful morning. On our tour we went to 5 different vineyards, a brewery and a chocolate factory. It was quite windy and a bit rainy so it was the perfect thing to do all day. We tasted wines at each vineyard, and many were paired with either cheese or bread and oil/vinegar or chocolate covered coffee beans at one location. We had a nice lunch at the third vineyard as well. 

By the time we finally got back home it was time for cooking lesson number 3. Today’s lesson was overcoming my fear of raw chicken! We went to the store where we picked out our food for the night, and Brooke insisted on setting me up with a nice knife and spices. She said you just can’t cook properly without them. It was quite terrifying dealing with the raw chicken, but she insisted and I managed to cut, stuff and bread all 4 pieces! I was so proud of myself, but I have to admit I wouldn’t mind someone else doing it for me if I have the choice.

Today it was time to get back to reality and Uni was awaiting. Of course, instead of doing my studies I’m here writing to you all, but after this incredible weekend I just had, I had to spill all the details.

Remember to feel free to email me if you want. I can always go into more detail about any of my adventures.

To finish off I will leave you with a word of the day:
Bub
It is short for babe. Why you would ever need to shorten babe, I’m not quite sure.

Cheers!

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Settling In

 

Clearly things have been getting busier around here. I can’t believe it has taken me this long to post, and of course it is late at night… seems to be the only time I find free.

I had a nice mellow day just catching up on chores around the flat and starting some homework for the week. I think it is finally hitting me that school is back in session. I was very proud of myself though for starting an assignment today that isn’t due until Thursday! But I need to get ahead this week because my friend Brooke from home arrives here on Friday. I’m so excited to show her the city. My friends and I have already planned a night in Fremantle on Friday, and a long day Saturday to see Koalas and hopefully a Rugby game later in the day. Maybe we will be able to make it to the beach again on Sunday, or possibly the Subiaco farmer’s market that we missed this past weekend.

Speaking of the beach, we finally made it there on Friday. It was the first day that it didn’t rain in who knows how long! It was still a bit chilly, but my friends and I couldn’t resist and made a trek out to Cottesloe. We ate on the balcony at a delicious restaurant that overlooked the beach. It was so nice to sit outside and soak up the sun. Afterwards we just sat in the sand (bundles in our jeans and sweaters) and enjoyed the scenery. It was so beautiful and calming with my feet in the sand and the waves crashing in front of us.

When it began to cool off to much we headed up the hill a bit for some milkshakes… who drinks milkshakes in the cold? Crazy I know! We left just in time to catch a gorgeous sunset. The sun dropped right into the water, but still no green flash. After all the hundreds of ocean sunsets I’ve seen I’m still waiting for the green flash. I have to see it for myself to believe it actually exists. After a perfect sunset the chills set in and we headed to another beach restaurant, Indiana’s. It reminded me so much of a combination between a Geoffrey’s restaurant in Malibu and Longhi’s in Lahaina, Maui. Probably the perfect restaurant for my mom. We sat around for almost 2 hours just enjoying the end of the sunset with happy hour drinks and appetizers waiting for our friend Kerri to pick us up and head to a movie. It was a lovely day, and I can’t wait to do it all again.

I will do my best to stay more updated, but my eyes are drooping, which means time for sleep. Morning will come all too soon. Miss you all!

p.s. I keep learning all these new Australian slang words but I forget to share them with you! The word I learned today is “chook”. It was explained to me as in “chicken, chick, chook”. Then it was compared to the British who call their “mates” sausages. So apparently here in Australia you can call your friends “chook” as if you were to say chick. “Hey Chook”. Strange, I know, but I just can’t help but love it all!

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First Week of Uni

I wish you all could have seen me about 30 minutes ago… definition of a drowned rat. I swear, when I left for class this morning it was a beautiful sunny day. It was only slightly raining when I got out of class, but about halfway through my walk home the rain began to pour out of the clouds. By the time I got home I was dripping wet, literally! Unfortunately now that it is raining I no longer want to leave my bed. I should probably make it a “get ahead in school” day, but it may turn out to be a movie day. I was hoping to explore a new part of the city today. Maybe it will clear up in a few hours.

This has been quite a week. In the States we would say it is the first week of class, but here in Aussie land they say uni. They seem to use “uni” as both an abbreviation of university as well as saying they are going to class, “off to uni for a few hours”.

To back up a while, my week really began on Sunday. A few of my friends and I packed lunches and took a few busses to King’s Park. I think this may be my favorite place in the city. It is a beautiful, huge park up on the hill that overlooks downtown Perth as well as the river. We took a few hours to eat our lunches and walk around. We discovered the water gardens, which have a beautiful fountain at the top, and we noticed a brewery at the base of the hill… hopefully a future tour destination.

When the sun began to set, August and I took the train to Cottesloe, a beach town not too far away. Some family friends set up dinner for us with a couple who live in a beautiful house there. We arrived when it was dark so we couldn’t see the ocean, but I’m sure we’ll be back when the weather is nicer. Dinner was wonderful. We were welcomed right in and were given lots of advice of where to travel and what to do.

Classes have been fine so far. They are set up differently here. For each class there is a lecture and a tutorial. The lecture has a ton of students and this is where you learn your material, and the tutorial is in a smaller class where you do class presentations and whatnot. There are so many projects and presentations in all my classes! I’m so used to classes where 90-100 percent of your grade is based on exams, so I’m pretty nervous for this set up. None of my classes have exams until exam week at the end of the semester. Of course speaking in front of a class is one of my fears so we’ll see how I cope with it.

Wednesday nights are a big going-out night here. Of course it has to work out that I have my longest day on Thursdays, but I’ll make it work. This past Wednesday a few of us went to Subiaco to see one of our advisors sing at this restaurant/bar. She was so good and sang so many songs that I love. It reminded me so much of going to watch my friend Lyndsey Jones sing in Dallas (check her out on iTunes!). I’m sure we’ll be back there.

I look forward to see what the weekend, and this next week brings along!

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Camping

What an exciting past few days I’ve had. Gary and the other advisors took us “camping” at Hillary’s. Not camping with tents, (keep in mind it is the middle of winter here), but camping like when you were little with a bunch of bunk beds in one room. Obviously no five-star accommodation, but it worked out great for our big group of Americans and the advisors.

We arrived there in the afternoon and were given some time to settle in. I was in a room with Mattie, August and Ali and next thing we knew everyone had disappeared and we were the only ones left in the cabin. We decided to find our way to the beach and chose a path through the bush that looked like it was in the direction of the ocean. We ended up trekking all over the camp though the bushes and finally found a sign “to the beach”. What a relief! Everyone had already been there for a while and we found out that they just walked down the road there. Oh well, we had a fun adventure.

We all met back up at the cabins and took the bus to this graveyard called Pinnaroo, where wild kangaroos spend their time. If you’re lucky, you see them eating the flowers off of the graves, but by now people have begun laying out fake flowers instead. The area was really pretty, and we saw kangaroos right away. They were bigger than I expected, but we were told even bigger ones exist. I couldn’t get over how funny it was seeing them jump around. You have to be careful though, because if they feel threatened they will kick you, and they have some strong back legs. They were such funny looking animals, like a combination between a deer and a T-rex dinosaur. We saw a ton of them, all different shapes and sizes. We even saw a few joeys in their pouches. So cute!

After Pinnaroo, we went to dinner by the bay; my first time having fish and chips in Australia. It didn’t taste any different than in the States. It drives me crazy having to pay extra for sauce. $.40 for each pack of ketchup – really? We then made our way back to camp where we did “Australian Olympics”. No, these are not games that you will see on the Olympics, they were games that taught us about a few different Australian foods and whatnot. Our team had fun, but couldn’t seem to win anything.

Day 2 started out pretty mellow. Half of our group woke up early to surf, and the rest of us were taken to this park where we learned about the Aboriginal culture. We were given the opportunity to learn how to throw spears and boomerangs, and we saw koalas for the first time as well as more kangaroos. The koalas were so fuzzy and cuddly looking. Just adorable. I discovered I was not so good at throwing either spears or boomerangs, but traditionally those things were meant for the men anyway. I had a hard time believing that boomerangs actually did come back to you, but believed it after I saw it with my own eyes. They don’t come directly back into your hand, but they travel quite a distance and curve back around in your direction.

After our lessons we had lunch and headed back to camp where we participated in team extreme. I expected to be playing sports, but instead it was team building activities. I have to admit I’m not a huge fan of these activities, but it was entertaining. Afterwards we went on a bike ride along the coast. This was by far my favorite part of the day. I was worried about it because I hadn’t ridden a bike in years! I chose to stay at the back of the pack so I could take my time and enjoy the view of the coast. Surprisingly I did really well and loved it. We made our way to a lookout point which was just beautiful. We biked back just in time to walk to the beach and see the sun set into the water. It was so beautiful!

We had a great dinner that night, prepared by Gary and our advisors, then we set up a campfire. It was nice to just sit around and enjoy everyone’s company. The moon was almost full and incredibly stunning, and I learned how to locate the southern cross. I’m hoping to learn more about the astronomy on this side of the planet. Their moon is different here. At home it is bright and beautiful, but here it seems fluorescent. It is brighter than I ever thought it could be.

I woke up early the next morning to catch the bus to surfing. I was nervous about the temperature of the water. We arrived and pulled on our wetsuits. They are much harder to get on than you would expect. We had a brief lesson on how to catch a wave and stand up, then we jumped right in. It was surprisingly warm in the water, especially once you got moving and working your muscles. Right away I was able to paddle and catch a wave, but I couldn’t seem to get past my knees. I dominated at knee surfing, but I was determined to stand up. I was able to stand for a few seconds a few times but I would just fall right over.  After a few hours we were told to catch our last wave in. I went for it and stood up the entire way to the beach! It was so fun and such a feeling of success. After a few pictures we geared up to head back to campus.

What a few days! I thought the excitement was over until I heard word that everyone wanted to see the new Harry Potter movie. Of course I had to join! There were a ton of us who went. It was fun going to the movies with all my new friends, but I still can’t decide how I felt about the movie. The Harry Potter series is actually over, so weird.

Anyway, tonight is the start up party at The Tav, the on campus pub. It’s time to start getting prepared for the semester to start next week!

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