Asia-Pacific Study Abroad- Australia

Part 1 of 4:

Australia Travels:

As part of my month long Asia-Pacific Study Abroad program as a student at Ball State University, I was lucky enough to go to Sydney, Australia. We spent 4 days there in 2011, and still to date, it’s easily one of the top 5 experiences of my life. During this trip, we didn’t have any classes or assignments until the very end, and as a result, we were able to be fully immersed in the cultures every day in each country we visited.
We left from Indianapolis late on July 20th, 2011 and landed in Singapore on July 22nd. I’ll share events from my Singapore visit in a different post, so be on the lookout! After spending a few days in Singapore, we flew to Sydney, arriving there on July 25th.
Everything about Australia was perfect. Absolutely perfect.
 Summer in Louisville is winter time in Sydney since it’s in the Southern Hemisphere. It was around 50 degrees the whole time we were there and we only needed a light jacket in the mornings and evenings. Coming from the humid and scorching Ohio Valley summer, this type of weather was too perfect.
We landed in Sydney and after getting over the panic of being separated from the rest of the students at the airport, we all caught the tram to check in at The Great Southern Hotel in downtown Sydney. Being lost in a foreign country by yourself is not pleasant but the hotel was beautiful!
As you could imagine, the days were packed with activities.
On the first day, we took the city bus to a ferry ride that would eventually take us to Manly Wharf. The ferry took us through the Sydney Harbor, giving us our first look at the Sydney Opera House. Once we got to Manly Wharf, I was able to take my shoes off and stand in the Pacific Ocean. How cool is it that my first time in the Pacific was in Australia? I’ve never even been to Cali! We visited several shops for souvenirs and got the best gelato I’ve ever had for lunch. There’s something about the chocolate in Australia- it’s SO much better than it is in America so we had to get plenty to bring home with us!
Before we even arrived, our instructor was raving over these delicious homemade noodles we had to get at this little restaurant two blocks from our hotel. We went for dinner on the first night and our group filled the restaurant. And it was absolutely delicious! Just simple noodles with veggies and a soy sauce based dressing made for the perfect end to our first day.
The second day was the winery day- my favorite! We visited two wineries and one pub after driving through true Australian countryside. Seeing kangaroos in the wild was incredible! I literally never thought I would ever be able to experience that in real life! We visited Tempus Two Cellars and Hunter Valley Winery, making sure to bring home a few bottles of wine from each place. Australian wineries are probably what got me started on my love of wine, to be honest. The grounds were so beautiful & the wine was even better. This was day five of being out of America and the day I made so many new friends. There were 20 people on the trip, 16 of us being girls, and to this day, these are still some of the best people I’ve ever known.
Once we got back to the hotel, our instructor went to bed and we all decided to go out for a night on the town. I will never forget using my passport to get my into a club! The drinking age was 18 in Sydney so we all went out and had the most fun! Let me tell you, this was awesome for a bunch of 20 year old kids. 
The next morning was an early one as we got up to hike through the Blue Mountains. We took a cable car up to the highest peaks to see the Three Sisters. It was foggy and cold on the way up, but worth every shiver. The Three Sisters are a strange mountain formation, named after three Aboriginal sisters, who were allegedly turned to stone in order to protect them from harm after falling in love with three men from a different Aboriginal tribe. Have any of you visited the Blue Mountains or Three Sisters? Is there more you can tell me behind the story about them?
The Three Sisters, Blue Mountains
We took a steep train back down the mountains, where I felt like I had to hold on with both hands the whole way down. From the mountains, our group went to a wildlife center where we were able to feed kangaroos and pet koalas. This was definitely an experience I’ll never forget. Ever since my aunt visited Australia when I was very young, I always wanted to visit there and bring home memories of koalas like she had. I’ll never forget the little koala she brought home that she still keeps in the chair in her bedroom. Memories like she still has make me so thankful I was able to create my own.
Later that evening, we visited Olympic Stadium and the Opera House before calling it a night after an extremely long, but definitely fun filled day.
On our final full day in Sydney, we walked to the aquarium downtown from our hotel. This aquarium was my first experience with black tip and white tip reef sharks, which are still my favorite species. Ya’ll know how much I love sharks so being able to experience them up close & personal was a dream. We had lunch in Chinatown that day and spent the afternoon shopping at Paddy’s Market, where I found some pretty pearl earrings that I’m still in love with.
On the streets, you can find Aboriginal Australians, people indigenous to the area, who play music on their handmade instruments. We were lucky enough to talk to this man for a while and he was kind enough to play us a song from his tribe. He was extremely friendly and absolutely thrilled to teach us about his family.
Aboriginese. 
 We went out to the bars one last time before saying goodbye to Sydney and we made it well worth it. I have never met so many consistently kind and welcoming people. Everywhere we went, from the moment we landed to the second we took off back to Singapore, everyone welcomed us with open arms and warm smiles. I never wanted to leave!
If you haven’t been to Sydney or Australia in general, please put it on your list. It is stunning, the people are amazing, and the experience is one you’ll never forget.
How many of you guys have been to Australia, and what part did you visit? Help me decide where I should go when I go back!! I want to hear your stories!
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Bucket List!

It’s no secret that I LOVE to travel. I truly want to go everywhere. To every single country on Earth if I could. To be real though, there are a few places that I would definitely say I have to go before I die. I still haven’t figured out if I’m a mountains or beach kind of girl because when I visited Denver in May 2016, I was instantly in love. Before that, however, I was all about walking down the beach and spending my vacations lounging in the sand. The culture of each city in each country around the world is the most intriguing thing to me. To visit these places would be a dream come true. So here is my ultimate bucket list!

  1. Italy. All of it.

I truly am obsessed with the Italian culture. Everything about it is just absolutely beautiful. The scenery, the food, the people, the art- literally all of it. Ever since I read Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert for the first time, I’ve had visions of myself living in a tiny apartment for a month at a time in each of the cities I want to visit most. I have yet to travel abroad completely solo, but I know it would be so liberating & I will most definitely visit this country on my own. The Amalfi Coast, Rome, The Vatican City, Sicily, Venice, Naples. All of them. Giada de Laurentis is one of the most beautiful women and the fact that she’s from Italy makes me love it so much more. I love watching her show and watching her put her own spin on all of her Italian favorites.

I took a seven week beginners Italian for travelers language course where I was the youngest in the class by at least 25 years. I didn’t feel awkward or intimidated for even a second. It was so beautiful to hear the instructor speak & to teach us not just about the language, but about her experience living in the country I want to visit most. I’ve had many friends travel to Italy & their reports definitely confirm the beauty that I believe lives there. I would love to take an Italian cooking class that would allow me to learn even more about the flavors and country specialties! Is there a better way to experience a culture than by eating all the food? I seriously doubt it. And I definitely will make it a priority to visit wineries along the way! Prosecco is my drink of choice!

How many of you guys have been to Italy? Where did you go? Who did you travel with? What some things I have to see when I finally decide to make it there? All advice & recommendations are appreciated!

  1. Cape Town, South Africa.

Cage diving with the great white sharks is probably the number one thing on my bucket list of life. I am the girl who has watched Shark Week on the Discovery Channel since I was in 4th grade. Every single year, my best friend and I would rush home from school, turn on Discovery Channel, and call one another to talk about the show of the afternoon & night. Our fascination with all sharks is likely strange to some, but for many years I thought I wanted to become a marine biologist when I grew up! I mean really, a lot of me still really wants to be!

Great white sharks are known to breach in Cape Town more than any other place in the world. While cage diving here is my top reason for wanting to visit, I’m also so intrigued by the South African culture. Every country has it’s own story- of the people, the language, the food. I sincerely want to experience it all.

Has anyone been cage diving?

  1. The Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia.

When I visited Australia in 2011 on a study abroad trip, it was a short four days & we stayed mostly in Sydney. Sydney is absolutely incredible! Unfortunately there wasn’t time to make the trip up to The Great Barrier Reef for snorkeling excursions, though. I’m honestly worried about the bleaching of the coral & the condition of the marine wildlife in the Reef in the meantime because I don’t know when I’ll be able to make it back! I think I’m really just waiting for the right time to travel to the area because I think I might just stay. It goes back to my love for marine life & wanting to help the environment in all the ways that I possibly can. I fully realize one person can’t stop the bleaching, but I know there are so many people who are passionate about the beauty that is being destroyed every single day.

Each time I see the news, I hear more about how a majority of the Reef is dead and will never recover. I’m afraid I may have missed my chance to see one of the most beautiful sights on Earth.

  1. Paris, France.

Is there really anyone that doesn’t want to go to Paris? Doubtful. At least I really hope not. The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the language, the food, the shopping. Plus, it’s the most romantic place a girl could think of!

I definitely want to hear all about any trips to Paris you’ve taken. When did you visit and how long do you recommend to go?

  1. Napa Valley, California.

Where would be better for this wine loving girl than to visit America’s Wine Country? My goal is to spend a week there visiting several wineries each day and getting to experience the best wines California has to offer. I’m also a lover of beautiful scenery so I can’t even imagine how much I would enjoy seeing the miles and miles of grapes.

How fun would it be to take a girls trip? Definitely going to put this one on the top of the list!

Favorite kinds of wine? Where should we stay and which wineries are an absolute must to visit?

It’s definitely obvious I don’t know as much about the last two as I do about the first three places I listed. I guess that means there’s that much more to discover and experience in those places? It also means I’m so open to all of the advice and recommendations you all have for me! I would really appreciate any help I can get!