Sierra in Asia

Sierra, a senior majoring in marketing and member of SMU’s Cross Country and Track and Field teams, is participating this summer in SMU-in-Australia-and-Asia. The group will spend three weeks traveling in China to cities including Shanghai and Beijing, and then will spend three weeks in Western Australia.

Introducing the SMU Travel Bug

I am headed to Europe on a 6-week backpacking excursion with two friends through a program I started called the SMU Travel Bug.

We will be documenting and recording the entire experience on this site and hope that you will follow us in this epic journey that awaits.

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My next goal: Global blogger

An update from SMU: I am applying to be the next STA World Traveler Intern to travel around the globe blogging, videoing and documenting every experience for the purpose of inspiring others to get out and travel … aka, an opportunity of a lifetime!

Check out my video application on YouTube, and let me know what you think!

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Goodbye, Australia

Crunch time

Most of our time leading up to our final departure was spent finalizing our proposal for the “Chinese Networking” program.

The purpose of our Australia project was to create a Chinese Networking program at Curtin University and than present our findings to Glen Hutchings, senior lecturer of accounting and leader of the student business organization BizQuest.

After meeting with several Chinese students and various other Chinese business leaders, we were better able to outline our goals and form a solid direction for our proposal. Our approach to this came at quite a few different angles.

Sierra-Rach%20and%20I%20measuring%20land%20for%20KPMGPark-sm.jpgAlong with our detailed layout for the program itself, we also came up with a design for a permanent structure to be built on campus that is meant to symbolize Chinese values. This physical structure, which we called the “KPMG Park,” would serve both as a means of gaining awareness about the Chinese community/networking program as well as provide a comfortable place to relax and reflect for the students at “Uni.”

Sierra-Me%20writing%20down%20measurements%20for%20KPMG%20Park-sm.jpg Considering we each knew nothing about architecture or landscaping, this was certainly a twist for each of us. The business side of our architectural venture was, of course, trying to account for the many expenses of this project – would it be feasible? Through much research, measuring and accounting for all our materials needed, we were able to finalize our expense report and present it to Glen our last day.

This was not only a great learning experience for me but also a very important one for the three of us to be involved in. So if in the future, our ideas are implemented not only with the networking program but also the KPMG Park, everyone will know who the brains were behind the show – haha, j/k ;-)

Sierrra-Saying%20Goodbye%20to%20Dan%20at%20the%20Tav-sm.jpg“Cheers, Mate”

After six weeks of living out of a backpack, country hopping, adventures, trials and an array of incredible experiences, my time abroad has come to a close. Our flight didn’t leave till midnight Friday, so we went to the “Tav” (the on-campus pub) in the evening to hang out with all our friends and also enjoy a reunion with our “Asia study tour clan” before we left.

After a good time of dancing and sharing memories with each other, we said our final goodbyes and Tash drove us to the airport. The flight back felt like a century long, but nevertheless we made it safely.

Sierra-Goodbye%20to%20friends%20at%20the%20Tav-sm.jpg Now it’s back to reality and catching up on lots of lost sleep. The first few nights back in the U.S, I couldn’t seem to sleep in past 4 am – thankfully, though, that has changed … and I also never thought I would be so excited to do laundry!

Recap and many, many thanks!

This has truly been a very rewarding life experience, not only academically but personally as well. I had to learn a lot of patience along the way. Having to overcome the hurdle of not having a computer for four weeks was an obstacle in itself but a blessing in disguise. Learning to step out of my own “comfort zone” and try new things gave me a renewed appreciation for adventure.

It was also fascinating to see how much more energy-efficient all these other countries are in relation to the U.S. I hope that I can implement these same high standards in my own lifestyle.

Every place I traveled comes with a special memory and a story to tell. If you ask me in person I might tell you a few of my favorites, but it is difficult to put into words everything that I was able to see and do in countries so different from my own.

I know this trip wouldn’t have been possible without the help of several key people, to whom I am most grateful. Since Ricky, Rach and I were the “Guinea pigs” of the A&A summer program, there were many unknowns leading up to this trip – one of which was whether or not it would even be possible. Thank you to Kelli Anderson for “putting up” with me coming to the International Center almost every day in my eager anticipation to see if it was even a go; and thank you to Sarah Hanan for always being so prompt in keeping my blog updated, and allowing me to clog up her inbox with so many pictures.

I must also thank the Chugach Heritage Foundation for their financial generosity. To my coaches especially, for their trust, and giving me the opportunity to make this a reality; it couldn’t have happened otherwise. Thank you to my Grandma Margaret for her always overwhelming financial support; and also to my parents for their support and encouragement; especially my mother for stimulating my interest in traveling in the first place, and giving me the privilege of seeing the world as I have.

Thank you of course to my “Partners in Crime” Ricky and Rachael and all our incredible memories together; it wouldn’t have been the same without you guys. Thank you, Ricky, for always looking out for us, whether it be immigration problems in Malaysia, credit card issues in Australia, getting sick in China, or late-night runs in Perth; thanks for being there – you can forgive me now for making you sick too ;)

And lastly, thank you to our Australian friends for showing us the ropes during our stay and helping us get around town those few weeks in Perth! I could go on foreve,r but many thanks to all of you!!!

Sierra-Goodbye%20Tash%20at%20airport-sm.jpgI am not sure where the path leads to next. I know that studying these different cultures is essential to doing business in our now very global economy. Wherever I end up, I know I will always be able to take with me the skills and life lessons I have learned through this voyage. Until then, thank you so much for keeping up with me and joining me on this unforgettable journey through Asia and Australia!

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Day at the beach

Sierra0P7220032-sm.jpgGetting to Scarborough Beach was a story in itself.

We were meeting a group of the other Americans there. I think the three of us spend more time going the wrong direction on trains and buses than we do the right way. After two weeks of this system, we still don???t seem to have it mastered. So of course this time we ended up getting on the wrong bus to end up exactly where we began our venture an hour earlier. So we spend a fair amount of time laughing at ourselves. On a bright note, though, I guess we got to see more of the city.

Sierra-surf_30400524_560.jpgScarborough Beach is known for being one of the best white sand surf beaches in the world. So it was quite tempting to go surfing; however, due to the “winter” weather conditions, some of us settled for relaxing on the beach and watching a couple of the guys make attempts at surfing while a few of the others got creative and played some shoe ball on the beach.

There was a great pathway that ran along the coast, so of course Rach and I grabbed our “joggers” and took off for run. After a little photo shoot action on this beautiful beach, Ricky, Rach and I went back to our hotel and ate out at a very popular pizza place called Il Padrino’s. Lucky for us, pizzas were half price that night!

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Aussie adventures

Hello, everyone! Sorry it’s been a while since my last update. I think technology has been working against me lately. I am still waiting on my computer to be fixed, my flash drive disappeared, and Internet is not easy. Regardless, though, it’s been an incredible couple weeks here in Aussie land.

In between some of our many excursions, we have been doing a lot of research for our project while also working with Chinese and Australian students. It’s hard to believe we only have a few more days left in Australia.

Being in Perth has been quite a change of pace for us. In Asia we were constantly traveling to different places, exploring the sites, and touring various companies. Here it’s been a very different dynamic but fun all the same.

I was surprised to find how expensive things are here, especially food. As of today their currency is slightly higher than ours, leaving us with an even worse exchange rate. The food is very good, though, and some of the more authentic favorites of mine consist of kebabs, kangaroo, steak sandwiches, and of course the seafood.

Aside from working on our project, and spending time with some of our local Aussie friends, we have also had fun hanging out with many of the Americans who just arrived for the semester.

A few of our Aussi highlights:

Birthday marathon

Ironically enough, Rach, Ricky, and I all have our birthdays within four days of each other, so we spent the weekend celebrating. To kick it off, Friday night at the welcome dinner, Ian surprised each of us with birthday cakes and everyone sang us Happy Birthday. Following the dinner we all went out to Waterford karaoke bar close to school to celebrate Rachael’s birthday. After our failed attempt to get her on stage, she compromised with getting sung to by the owner who was dressed as Elvis.

Sierra-Cicerellos-sm.jpgExploring Freemantle

Today we hung out with the other American bunch and took the train to Freemantle for the day. We ate at the famous Fish ‘n Chips place Cicerellos, located at the center of Australia’s largest fishing boat harbor. It’s been around for over 90 years and is well known for its abundance of freshly caught seafood.

Sierra-Beach-in-Freemantle-sm.jpg
Later on, after putting our feet in the Indian Ocean, walking along the beach and watching the beautiful sunset, we headed for Little Creatures brewery and celebrated July 13.

Research and then some

Today was pretty uneventful. We spent a lot of time at “Uni” in meetings and doing research. In the evening Ricky celebrated his 22nd with some of our Aussie and new
American friends in Northbridge – probably the only place where there is life after 8pm. Most of Perth literally shuts down here after five, but Northbridge is a pretty happening place in the evening. I finally had my “bubble tea” fix, too – a very popular drink here in Australia.

Surfing in Yanchep

Ricky, Rach and I, along with the 40 other “Americanos,” spent a couple days in Yanchep National Park about 1.5 hours outside of Perth. It is one of the oldest conservation zones in Western Australia. Unfortunately the first day we got there it was raining, although that didn’t seem to matter because we mostly hung out in the lodge.

Each school teamed up, and we were all quizzed with some Aussie trivia. It was a lot of fun … mostly because Team SMU dominated the other schools. The winners got “tin-tams” (popular chocolate wafer cookies here), while the losing team was forced to eat vegemite. I tried it just for fun and now I can see why it was punishment for losing. I almost wanted to gag. I am not a huge fan. From their perspective, though, it is equivalent to our peanut butter and jelly craze. They think that is disgusting.

Sierra-rach-catching-a-wave-sm.jpgThankfully the next day we had great weather for some surfing in the morning at Lancelin beach. At first sight, I think we were all a little intimidated by the size of these waves. It couldn’t have been better though.

Sierra-surf-board-sm.jpgWe spent all morning surfing, and I honestly didn’t want to leave; I was having way too much fun – not to say I was any good because I probably spent the majority of the time getting tossed around by the waves.

In the afternoon Tash and Cameron (both student advisers at Curtin) along with Stephen (another student at SMU) joined me for a run around the park. It was cool to be able to see the wildlife along the way as well as the many kangaroos in the park.

The following morning we got a little taste of the rich Aboriginal culture. We learned about how the “Nyoongar” people lived here in Western Australia. These natives are a very innovative people, always traveling and never in one place for more than two months at a time. We saw how they constructed their “Mia” shelters and learned about the ways they used local plants and animals for food, medicine, tools and shelter.

Sierra-throwing-a-spear-sm.jpgAfter some spear tossing, throwing boomerangs and using sticks to make fire, we were introduced to some aboriginal dancing. The girls had to perform a dance for the guys and then vice versa; the guys had to dance for us. Apparently the men do the dance to impress the ladies; however, I think we were more amused than anything else. Seeing the guys do this barbaric looking dance was quite hilarious, to say the least.

We also walked along the Koala boardwalk to observe how they live in their natural habitat. We were fortunate to be able to see a lot of them up close and actually awake. They are usually only awake for no more than an hour a day. Our guide also played the didgeridoo (a traditional musical instrument) for us. It’s incredible the amount of sounds that can be created from this long piece of hollow wood.

Sierra-rottnest-island-sm.jpgRottnest Island

Today we took the train to Freemantle and then caught the ferry to Rottnest Island. It’s a famous island just 19k off the coast of Perth. It was named Rottnest in 1696 by a Dutch Explorer who called it Rottnest, which means “rats nest,” mistaking the Quokkas for huge rats he saw on the island. We saw many Quokkas on the island, and they did look something like an oversized rat.

It was a bit chilly out there, but the sun was peeking through while we were there. Ricky and I rented a tandem bike and road around some of the island. It was so beautiful – too bad it wasn’t summer here because the water and beaches were so pristine looking.

Sierra-rottnest-island-running-sm.jpg Rach and I had an easy fix to the cold problem though – we just went for our long run, while Ricky put his feet up at a pub on the beach and watched the sunset. It was very picturesque.

The ferry ride back was an experience in itself. The sea was a bit rough. There was a huge swell, but I think we enjoyed the excitement of being tossed around a little.

Sierra-Footie-sm.jpgAustralian Rules Football!!!

All the Americans got free tickets to go see a “footie” game today. It was the Freemantle (“Freo”) Dockers vs. the Melbourne Demons. We had great seats because we were seated right in front of one of the goals, which also made us prime targets for footballs flying at us. It was a great game once the Freos started to gain momentum and came back in a huge lead over the Demons for the second half. Aussie football is a completely different sport and a lot of fun to watch. It is much more intense and faster paced, which makes it that much more exciting. Too bad we don’t have it in the U.S.

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Day at “Uni”

Today we didn’t do too much. The highlight of my day was finding someone to fix my computer. Chris was nice enough to take me to the computer store in the morning so that I could finally get my screen fixed. In the meantime, Ricky and Rach have been very generous to let me use their computers. On that note, I have found that everything is very expensive here. It’s quite a step up in prices, especially compared to everywhere we have been traveling.

We spent most of the day at the University finishing up our final assessment for Asia, and then got a stack of books from Ian to assist us in our next project while here in Australia. This section of our studies will be focused on leadership. Ricky, Rachael, and I will be consultants who will be responsible for creating a leadership program for future Chinese leaders. This program will be sponsored by KPMG. We will spend the next couple days studying this topic of leadership, and then combine our notes with one another to present to Ian on Monday. This afternoon we attended a presentation on the John Curtin Leadership program.

We got back to the hotel late, and Rach and I still had to run so we took off at about 7. Seeing that it’s their winter here, it gets dark much earlier. Fortunately we had Ricky to bike along with us because I am not sure we could have done it otherwise. Aside from that, he also helps keep us in check when we are running on the wrong side of the path – I’ve had a couple close calls; or when people are in front of us, he just rings his little bike bell, and everyone clears out of our way. Yeah, I’d say we have a pretty good system worked out.

Tomorrow, we will be meeting up with 40 other American students who will be attending Curtin for the fall semester.

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Hello, Australia!

heavy-bags-sm.jpgAfter three weeks of non-stop traveling, and very heavy bags to pack around, it felt good to finally catch up on much-needed rest this morning.

Ian picked us up around noon for lunch at a nearby cafe. Our hotel is centrally located, which makes getting anywhere really easy. Taxis are quite expensive, so we may end up just renting bikes for the next three weeks and using that as our primary means of transportation.

Cottsloe-Beach-sm.jpg After lunch Ian took us around Perth and Fremantle. We toured the city and saw different sites. We visited the memorial site where many Australian soldiers were honored for their effort during WWI. We drove around Swan river where we saw Yaught Club and on our way to Fremantle we saw John Curtin’s old home. He was the Australian Prime minister from 1931 to 1945. We stopped at Cottsloe beach (photo right) along the way.

Unfortunately it’s their winter here so no sun-bathing on the beach for us. The weather is pleasant, though, and very refreshing since coming from the extreme heat we experienced in Shanghai. We stopped at the “Little Creature’s” pub to try some homemade Australian brewed beer. Unfortunately for me though, it all tastes the same ;)

After that we drove to Curtin University, where we walked around some of the campus and met Ian’s wife at a cocktail party to commemorate her previous job position at the University.

This evening we ran to Kings Park to run around Swan River. Ricky, aka our “substitute coach,” rented a bike and came along with us, which was really cool. It was so refreshing to run in the cool air. After a long time of hot/humid weather, sneaking into hotels and dodging Tai-Chi’ers, we were ready for a change of pace.

It’s only been a day and I can seriously say I love it here. The people are so chill. When we went to the bike shop, the guy was so friendly and laid back that he hardly even took down any contact information from Ricky regarding the rental. He just told us stories and cracked some jokes. It’s a pretty relaxed atmosphere here.

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Revolving restaurant

Getting out of bed was a struggle this morning, but after my run and a quick breakfast, we checked out of our hotel and drove to the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia. It is considered the “think tank” of Malaysia. We spoke with some highly esteemed international officials about Malaysia’s current economic and political situation. They gave us a country profile and talked about the current GDP as well as the current issues the government is facing.

We ate lunch with a few of these researchers and analysts at the revolving KL tower restaurant. The restaurant was very nice, and the food was just as incredible. They offered a western style buffet as well as a Malaysian style buffet. The Malaysian food was great but a little too spicy for me. I tend to shrivel up if I get anything that spicy.

We went to the airport after, and thankfully we got there a couple hours before we had to board because we ran into trouble with our passports. Somehow we didn’t get visas so had to go to immigration to pay our way out of the dilemma. After a good 2 hours of waiting around trying to get that settled, we were released to race to our gate, where we just barely made it on time. Fortunately for us, the plane was practically empty, so we had lots of space to spread out for six hours.

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‘eXtreme’ adventures in Malaysia

Sierralooking%20at%20Twin%20Towers.jpgAfter an early morning run on the treadmill, I hurried to get breakfast before we left for the Petronas Twin towers, the tallest twin towers in the world. It was especially cool because we got to go to the 45th floor to walk the sky bridge, the longest double-decker sky bridge in the world. Not many people get to do this because apparently it is really difficult to get tickets. Our guide, Muhamed, was very helpful. He actually stood in line at 5:30am this morning waiting to get us a spot to go up. We were most grateful.

We then left and went back to the hotel, where we had a few hours of free time. So a few of us, Ricky, Dan, Tash, Rach, and I, all thought it would be fun to go “four- wheeling” at a park we heard about. So Muhamed took us to this “eXtreme” park, as they call it. After buying tickets to enter the park, we were directed to the four wheeling area.

On the way, we started wondering if we were at the right park because there were a million and one kids running around, and nothing we saw seemed too “extreme.” When we got to the area and saw what we had paid for, everything went downhill from there. First they had us put on hairnets to wear under our hardcore helmets, then we got on these little one-speed dirt bikes. On top of that we were given a guide we were told to follow.

After lining up in single file we trailed behind our guide as fast as we could go. Little did we know that we had signed up for the “scenic” ages 2 to 5 drive. The odd thing about this scenic drive was that there was no scenery. We literally drove in a circle of about 200meters 2x, which gave us a grand total of about 3 minutes max. Anytime we tried racing each other we would get yelled at.

So after follow the leader, we decided to go do some “eXtreme” paint balling. That was just about as “extreme” as the four wheeling experience. The objective was to hit a stick target 15 meters in front of you. Our thrill-seeking adventure was coming to a close, and we had another hour to burn before our guide picked us up. We were going to go rock climbing, but the wall was nearly shorter than Rachael – in other words, it’s about three foot tall.

The guys went on probably the only remotely cool thing in the park – a rickety old sling-shot bungee device. The guy actually had to give it a few kicks to get it started. Yeah, the park was nothing like we expected, and I think they should change the name so that “eXtreme” is not included.

That evening we went out to the open-air Sky Bar near our hotel for some cocktails and to celebrate our last night out in Malaysia. The view was incredible, and even more amazing was the view we had of the towers all lit up!

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Goodbye, China

I woke up and went for a morning run in the park for my last time in Shanghai. However, this morning was much hotter than normal. Tash ran with me to the park. While I ran around for about an hour, she participated in Tai Chi.

While running, I thought it was interesting to find groups of people practicing their English. Some were singing the alphabet, while others were counting with a funny tune. It was comical because the teacher had a stick in his hand as if he was directing a choir.

Also while I was running, Tash was being fought over by a couple of old men who took turns trying to dance with her. It was cute. So after running through wads of tai chi’ers, Tash and I finally headed back. I felt like I was getting dizzy spells, though, due to it being so hot. Little did I know, I had been running in 110 degree weather. Thankfully this was the last run in that climate.

For those of you who know what I am talking about, running in this heat was ten times worse than doing 1k repeats on the track when it’s 100 degrees outside. I had to take a 10-minute cold shower just to try to cool myself down; even then my face was still beat red.

Off to Malaysia
Rach and I walked around town for the last time. Then we took of for the airport. This time we traveled by train; not just any train, though. This was high speed, which reached almost 280 mi/hr. What would have taken us over an hour, got us there in only 15 minutes. Ya, I think we need more of those.

We arrived in Malaysia around midnight. After getting to the hotel, we went out for some food because we hadn’t eaten anything for a while. The nightlife is incredible here! The city was hopping! There were so many people walking around everywhere. Many people from India come to Malaysia for vacation, and apparently this was that time period. It was also different to find that so many people spoke English here; that made it easy getting around.

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