Rachel in Australia

Rachel is a junior majoring in management science in Lyle School of Engineering, with a minor in business administration in Cox School of Business. During spring 2013, she is studying in Perth with SMU-in-Australia and is looking forward to exploring the country.

Perth Roundup


It is the end of my semester at Curtin University. I haven’t updated my blog in a while, but a lot has happened.

I was able to go on a trip to The Outback with a group on campus called Curtin Volunteers.  Five of us flew to Laverton, Western Australia, and spent 5 days volunteering in the community. In the morning we helped shelve books at the new library for the elementary school and in the afternoon we helped out at the youth center.

During our free time we were able to explore The Outback a bit and go to a few look-out points.  We were also able to see a few of the closed mining sites with a local guide. Laverton is known as a mining town and has a population of 200 people. There is more red dirt than you could ever imagine. I wasn’t thinking and packed white sneakers for the weekend. They are now light red, but I am glad I was able to see The Outback while in Australia.


I also went on a day trip to Lancelin and the Pinnacles. Lancelin is known for sand dunes and beaches. I was able to go 4WD and sand boarding with a friend. Sand boarding is a lot harder than snowboarding. It is actually more like sledding. There was a contest for longest run, best scream, and best wipe out. I was able to win the longest run on the sand board.

Our next stop was the Pinnacles desert, which is made up of limestone rock formations. There is a mile-long path through the dessert you can walk through. It isn’t very well marked so it took us a bit longer to walk through than expected. The next stop was a lobster factory where they process and ship lobster to all over the world. I don’t like lobsters, but it was interesting to see. They sort the lobsters according to size and then ship them to different countries that prefer that size.

I have enjoyed my last five months in Perth, but I am looking forward to going back to America for the summer. I have been stocking up on souvenirs to bring home, and yesterday I stopped by the grocery store to get some Vegemite for my family to try. If you are considering studying abroad in Perth, I would highly recommend it!

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Sightseeing in Sydney


Last week we had another week off of school so I took a trip to Sydney with two friends. Thursday was a holiday called ANZAC Day; it is the equivalent of Memorial Day in the United States. There was a huge parade in the city, only a block away from our hotel.

Sydney is a bigger city than Perth, and I enjoyed being right downtown. While in Sydney we did all the tourist activities. We climbed the Harbour Bridge, toured the Sydney Opera House, hiked in the Blue Mountains and enjoyed Bondi Beach for a day. The Bridge climb was my favorite part; it took three hours to climb and we took plenty of breaks. It is 440 ft high at the top, and the view of the harbour is amazing. Sydney has many more American franchises than Perth; it was nice to go to places like Starbucks and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. We even took a dozen doughnuts back on the plane to Perth.

Now that I am back in Perth it is mid-terms week, so I have been doing a lot of studying. The grading system is a lot different in Australia. A 50 is considered passing, and for most of your classes your grade is determined by only three assignments.

This weekend I have a trip to Rottnest Island planned, which will be nice to relax after all these tests. However, it is the start of May now, and since the seasons are switched it is the beginning of winter here. It won’t get cold enough to snow, but it’s too cold to go swimming at the beach!

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Exploring Bali

DSC01839A lot has happened since my last blog. I went on a weekend trip to Swan Valley, which is well known in Western Australia for great wineries.  We stopped at a few wineries, and in the afternoon we went to Caversham Wildlife Park. Caversham was the highlight of the trip.  I was able to feed a kangaroo and see lots of other animals like koalas and dingoes.
For the Easter holiday Curtin gives everyone Good Friday off and no classes the following week. So, I took my time off to go on a nine-day trip to Bali, Indonesia, with two other Americans. The trip was fantastic! We stayed for six days in Kuta and another three in Ubud. While in Kuta, I learned a lot about bartering and even got a Dallas Mavericks jersey from one of the vendors. The Balinese food was great and very cheap compared to Australia. My favorite part about Kuta was the sunset. Definitely the best sunset I have ever seen. The only downside was that any time you are on the beach or in the streets, people are constantly trying to sell you things.
The last three days in Ubud were just what I needed to relax. Ubud is further inland on the island and is known for Balinese Art. There were many art galleries and yoga studios. When walking on the street in Ubud you were not hassled nearly as much as when in Kuta. The second day there we had arranged to go to an elephant park and ride on elephants. The elephant park was more like a country club for elephants. We got to feed them, go for a ride, and then watch a show. I would highly recommend it for anyone who wants to go to Bali. 
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Trip to the Valley of the Giants

DSC00706This weekend I went on a trip to Albany. My advisor had it all planned out, and we went to many nice tourist spots.

My favorite by far was the Tree Top Walk in The Valley of the Giants in Denmark, Australia. The Tree Top Walk lets you get great views of the forest while walking on a boardwalk that is 120 feet in the air. That height is nothing compared to the red tingle tree that can grow up to 230 feet. This boardwalk was made for tourists to walk on to protect the delicate roots of this tree. I was pretty excited to visit this tourist destination after reading about it in Bill Bryson’s book In a Sunburned Country, which I recommend reading if you plan to visit Australia.

A few other places we stopped include the Albany Museum, Middleton Beach, and the Australian Alpaca Centre. We headed back Sunday afternoon. The five-hour car ride was full of views of red dirt and trees. There wasn’t a lot going on between Perth and Albany, but it was nice to see the Outback.

I am taking four classes at Curtin University. The structure is a lot different from classes at SMU. At Curtin University a 50 is considered passing in most courses and your grade is usually determined by two tests and an assignment or just a few papers. Instead of meeting at a regular time, you meet once a week for a lecture and once a week for a tutorial. My Marketing lecture has 550 students in the class and an additional 500 students watching it online. Luckily the tutorial for each class only has about 30 students, but I was definitely a little overwhelmed my first day in class.

Well that is all for now, I am planning on a day trip to Swan Valley next Sunday so I’ll let you know how that goes in my next post!

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Getting settled in Australia

My first two weeks in Australia have been a blast! I was able to do a little traveling before classes start. The second day I was here I went on a trip to the Yanchep National Park with six other Americans and three Australians. We stayed for three days: got a surfing lesson, saw koalas, and learned to throw a boomerang. It was a great introduction to Australia.

Now I am starting to get settled into my apartment. I am right next to campus, and across the street from me there is a shopping center with everything that I need. The public transportation in Perth is excellent, and everyone uses it. I have already used it twice to go to the beach.

Also, part of our orientation was a scavenger hunt, and to get around you had to use the public transportation. The scavenger hunt was a lot of fun and quite competitive. It started at Curtin University and ended at Fremantle, a large port not too far from Perth.

For the semester I will be studying at Curtin University, which has 36,000 undergrad students and is located about 20 minutes from downtown Perth. Overall, I am looking forward to the semester and can’t wait to spend more time at the beach.

At Yanchep Beach

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