Was that a dream?

Traveling back home was bearable, thanks to Brenna! I was so blessed to have her with me all the way to LA. After we made it to the Perth airport, I didn’t cry the entire way home. I was still gloomy, but having Brenna by my side kept me strong. Still, it was the longest, hardest plane ride I’d ever experienced.

Coming home was one of the strangest feelings. Everything seemed exactly the same as when I left. I felt as if I had fallen asleep for a nap, and woken up after a perfect dream. I was thrilled to see my parents again, and looked forward to catching up with all of my friends. Still, I was unsure of how to handle myself in America again.

My first day back, I got in my kayak to paddle around the lake for a bit. As I was starting out into the water, I realized that I could hear voices from across the lake – the sound carrying across the water. It made me look back on my semester and my newfound best friends, and realize that even though so much water and so many miles separate us, I will still be able to hear their voices and feel their impact on my life.

A few of these people I’m talking about deserve some recognition for all that they did for me this semester:

Margaret Keener

We arrived on the same flight, and I immediately knew that you were one legit girl. No matter the situation, you always made it brighter. You hold a special place in so many hearts, as you always put other’s desires before your own. Thanks for always being my go-to girl to listen to all of my troubles and secrets – I truly don’t know how I’m going to get by without running up to flat 4 daily to give you the newest updates on my life. I’ll never forget the great times we had almost each and every day, and on our expeditions to Bunbury, the Outback, and Rotto. I feel like I’ve found a new sister, and can’t wait for all of the fun and footy pics we’re going to have in the Carolinas! I love you!

Annie Hulkower

If there was a chance for fun, you always made it happen. I’ll never forget your openness and your ability to love unconditionally. Some of my best times include our adventures: the Engine Room in Bali, cooking hamburgers on the NW Trip, and (of course!) the last Wednesday night Newport bus ride. (: Thanks for showing me how to live every moment to the fullest!

Eric Johnsson

First of all, thanks for showing me that there is so much more to life than worrying about grades and exams. You really allowed me to take a step back, enjoy the Australian life, and have “no worries.” You’re definitely one of the sweetest, most amazing people I’ve ever met, and I wouldn’t trade our times together for anything. I’ll never forget our MMA training sessions, our Scarborough and Rotto adventures, or the itsy bitsy spider in Swedish. Miss you!

Malcolm Mitchell

How will life ever be the same?! I really don’t know if a single person has ever made me laugh so much. You put your all into each of your friendships, and I’m so glad that I was one of the lucky people who received your love! You definitely win the award for the strangest birthday party I’ve ever attended – I will forever be your Janet. Thanks for continuing to make my day with your facebook messages. If I don’t go crazy with missing you, it’ll be a miracle. Hopefully I can hold out until it’s time for our adventures to being in the USA! Love you so much!

James Abraham

I’ll forever be in your dept for making Australia feel like home from the beginning. From leading our team to victory in Bunbury as our captain, to helping me find a job, you were always so willing to put others before yourself! Thanks for everything captain.

Samantha Strom

Girl, I will never forget you, simply because I almost am you! I’m so glad that I found someone who shared my ambitious character. Our Bali adventures in the rice field and waterfalls with Eva were once in a lifetime. Also, I truly appreciated the wonderful meals you shared with the crew! Look out for what’s going down in the South once we get together!

Brenna and Eva

I’m so glad that I got to know your amazing personalities throughout the semester, and especially during our adventures in Melbourne. Even though we’re way too far apart right now, at least we’re in the same country. Looking forward to some epic reunions. Love you!!

Ashleigh Roddick

ROOMIE! You win the award for the coolest Australian girl I know. I loved living with you, running with you, and getting to know you! Thanks for trusting me to drive your car on the wrong side of the road! Hope you’re enjoying your cheerleading T-shirt!

Ben, Brandon, AJ, and Zach

You guys succeeded in becoming the closest thing I’ve ever had to brothers. Thanks for always looking out for us, and making every experience together that much better! Ben’s dance moves, Brandon’s smile, AJ’s bursts of random singing, and Zach’s Jewish references were icons of everyone’s time in Australia.

EVERYONE I met in Australia made such a difference in my time there. I’m so thankful for every relationship formed and every laugh shared. I don’t think I could have wished for a more perfect group of people to make my semester abroad the best semester of my life. I miss you all and look forward to the day when we’re together again!

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After Thanksgiving was over, I was no longer very thankful. I had only Friday and Saturday to say my goodbyes and try to enjoy the last moments I would have with the people that meant so much to me. In addition to this, I had to finish cleaning and packing. Praise Jesus that Eric and Laura helped me clean our disgusting kitchen!

My last trip into Freo was with Margs on Friday morning. We went to a renowned café called Moore and Moore, which has an art gallery as well as some delicious food! We acted as much like tourists as we pleased while we took some last minute pictures of some of our favorite places – for example, the infamous Newport.

Friday night we had big plans for our last night. We had tickets to a party on campus, and to the Newport pirate party. Surprisingly, we managed to make it to both, AND I got a kebab before getting on the bus back to the village. If it weren’t for the random outbursts of tears on the dance floor by many of my friends and myself, the night would have been all fun. Nevertheless, it was still one of the best of the semester. On the way back we all had the plan for a late-night dip in the village pool. Unfortunately, the security guards are psychic and were guarding the gates. After hanging out in the new village for a while, I went to find Margaret and shared some leftover Brussels sprouts. We had made it almost all of the way through the night together without sleeping, but I did manage about 2 hours before waking up to tell Margs, Sam, and Ben to have safe New Zealand travels at 7 am the next morning. I wasn’t very tired at all, considering I was running off of some serious emotions.

That goodbye wasn’t too hard, as I knew I’d see them again. Margaret and Sam are only one state away from me! But going to Paul’s office one last time on Saturday did me in. I was a complete wreck and was incapable of even having a casual conversation. I am overly grateful for all that he and Kate have done for me this semester, and truly do not know how I would have made it without them. They are both so kind, open, and generous, and I am blessed to have gotten to know them. Hopefully one day my journeys will bring me back to Perth and to this family that took us in for four months!

I had some help finishing off packing and checking out, which only led to more and more crying. Eric, Brenna, and I took one last dip in the pool, before I showered and headed to the pool deck at 6 to say goodbye to everyone. I had already gone through almost a whole roll of toilet paper saying goodbye to Eric’s flatmates, but the tears continued to fall as there was a huge group meeting me to say goodbye. I was quite surprised, but very humbled that so many people had come out for one more hug.

This last week taught me the dynamics of goodbyes. You have those that you say with a smile. Yes, you may have had some great times with these people, and you will miss them, but mostly just when you reminisce about their funny personalities or the adventures you had together. Then, there were those that are emotionally wrenching. Not only do you now know these people inside and out, but you are attached to them in a way that can never be severed. You spent a part of each and every day with them, sharing your life, your feelings, and your secrets with them. These are the goodbyes that make you feel as if your body is physically splitting into two. I definitely left a lot of myself back in Australia with these goodbyes.

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With only one week left in Perth, Sunday brought the opportunity to do something that usually I can only do at home on the lake. Davea (Dave and Eva), Eric, and I used a Groupon deal to go wakeboarding on the Swan River. Have you ever heard of a better study break?! We met two Aussie men that were as laidback as they were fun. Of course, that comes with many inappropriate jokes and degrading humor, but that just seemed to make the experience even more suitable. The water was pretty chilly and rough from the wind, but I enjoyed the adrenaline of being pulled behind the boat. Teaching the others was not as much of a thrill, but watching the guys eat water a few times before they got the hang of it was quite entertaining. In addition, the view of Perth from the water was definitely the strangest skyline I’d ever had on a wakeboard.

Monday I had my last exam – biochemistry. I really had thoroughly enjoyed learning the content of the course, about each and every step of our bodies’ major metabolic processes. Nevertheless, I was NOT complaining to be done with studying, stress, and exams!! The rest of the week I would be able to completely focus on all of my friends and our last experiences together.

So on Tuesday, Margaret, Brandon, Jen, and I headed out to spend a little time in the city, something we truly hadn’t done enough of during the semester. We shopped for souvenirs, took some pictures with the Christmas tree in our shorts with the hot, summer sun shining in the background, had a delicious lunch, and shared Brandon’s bubble tea, which was “summer love” flavored. I was right when I had warned him that it was going to taste like a rose. When we got back to Murdoch, we headed out to trivia night at an Irish bar. It was my first time going. Unsurprisingly, I was not very good at trivia, so I talked half of the group into leaving to go get milkshakes instead!

Wednesday a few of us headed out for one last day on the beach with the dogs. Unfortunately, the water was filled with seaweed. So instead of relaxing in the waves, I decided to go on a run – barefoot. That may not have been the best decision as the sand, pavement, and most substances I ran on were radiating the summer heat, but nevertheless I made it to Cottlesloe Beach, used the facilities there, and turned around. I had no clue our puppy permeated beach was so close to the much more popular and touristy beach. Wednesday night we then made the most out of our last traditional Wednesday activity – Newport.

Then, THANKSGIVING rolled around! My first completely American holiday in an Australian setting! THANKfully, we have the best advisor ever. I’m pretty sure I have not talked about Paul enough in my blog, but really, he is the best. All semester I’ve enjoyed getting to know him, and just going to him when I needed someone to talk to. Anyway, he and his wife Kate (our other amazing advisors) invited our little CIEE family of 14 (Josh had already left for New Zealand) over to his house for Thanksgiving dinner! To prepare for this feast, we all made different dishes. Margaret and I started cooking her pumpkin bread around noon that day, and then started on sweet potato casserole (with a delicious brown sugar coating) and corn pie. While these items were in the oven, we made an excursion to the pool, as we had to enjoy our first hot Thanksgiving in the sun! We laughed, splashed, and took jumping pictures with some of our friends. Then, after our pool dip, we got ready for the evening, and then gathered to make fried okra and Brussels sprouts. As we were getting the veggies together, we realized we only had about 15 minutes to chop, prepare, and cook them. We began working fast, but became more rushed when we heard that Paul was outside! We hurried to complete and cover our dishes, and then ran to the bus!

Arriving at Paul and Kate’s house, we started to look over everyone’s creations. In addition to Marg’s and my creations, there was macaroni and cheese, corn on the cob, asparagus, stuffing, spinach dip, vegetable salad, rhubarb pie, chocolate muffins, ice cream and more! As we examined (and sneakily tried) the lineup for the feast, we realized that something was missing. In our rush, we had left our delicious sweet potato casserole in the oven, which was thankfully turned off! Nevertheless, it was still going to be a great feast. But before any food was eaten, we had a blast in the front yard with Paul’s three kids, jumping on the trampoline, playing cricket, and going on imaginary vacations in the bus with his daughter, Freya, driving. I wish I had been able to babysit these kids. However, Paul and Kate let us know that if we ever needed a chance to live in Perth again, that we could nanny for them. Oh, how I would love to put off grad school for a year to enjoy some more fun in the sun…

After we sufficiently stuffed our faces and lived up to the American stereotype of overeating on these occasions, we all gathered in the living room lazily. We used that moment to give Paul and Kate a picture frame of us from the semester, and let him know how much he meant to us. Then, we walked out to the Swan River and looked out on the Perth skyline at night. It was officially the last time we would have our group together, and I was already feeling wistful with wanting to stay here forever. I was so thankful for one of the best Thanksgivings, and best four months, of my life.

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Don’t cry over spilt milk; only its expiration date

On the way back to Perth, we were all thrilled to make it back “home.” Being apart from everyone else I’d come to love for a week had not been as easy as it should be! Saturday should have been spent studying for exams, but instead I was reunited with my favorite people, and spent the night on our Farewell Boat Cruise. I made it through the video of our pictures from our semester without crying, but did get a little worked up when I realized that the “original 3,” Margaret, Brandon, and I were sitting together. We’d traveled unknowingly on the same flight into Perth, and now we had almost made it through the entire semester! The boat cruise was a success, except that somehow there were meat pies instead of the promised pizza on the menu for dinner…

Sunday was also spent doing more important things than studying. When I finally made it out of the bed, I rode to the grocery store with Ashleigh. She asked me if I wanted to drive her car, and there was no way I was going to say no! I had been looking for this opportunity all semester. I just drove around campus, but it was still challenging to make the turns and stay on the other side of the road. The windshield wipers and turn signals were on opposite sides of the steering wheel, but I only turned on the windshield wipers once during the excursion. Success!

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were actually centered around school, as I had two exams during those days. Exams at Murdoch are not taken in the classroom that your lecture is in, but in huge lecture theaters or the gym, with hundreds of other students from other classes. As Margaret put it, it seemed as if we were at Hogwarts about to take our OWL exams: very serious and structured.

When Thursday rolled around, Margaret, Ben, and I realized we were all almost completely out of any substantial food sources, and went to Coles. As Margaret and I were checking out the selection of milk, I picked up my usual Coles brand, low fat milk. As we examined the expiration date together, I suddenly began to tear up. My milk expired on November 24th, the day that we left Perth. As Ben rounded the corner onto the refrigeration section, we were still hugging each other wishing we could stay in Perth forever. When Ben walked over and we told him the sad milk story, he unnecessarily told us, “ You know, milk goes bad pretty fast. It’s not like a can of soup you can leave around forever; it’s going to expire really soon.” Thanks for being so sensitive Benno.

Friday was another great day, spent on the beach with the ladies. It’s obvious that from this point on that many emotional moments are going to come up. As we were lying on the beach, listening to the waves and Amanda’s iPod, I looked over to see Annie crying. This next week was going to be impossibly hard.

Friday night started our last full weekend, and we made the best of it. A well-known DJ was playing at Metro, then the night ended with Margaret, Malcolm, Eric and me at Hungry Jacks aka HJ’s aka the American version of Burger King. Earlier that week I had realized that I hadn’t eaten a burger the entire time I’d been in Australia, so I treated myself to a high-quality fast food burger and some of Margaret’s milkshake. Couldn’t have asked for a better way or better people to end my night with.

Saturday was another time for another tradition to another end of another semester. We had our final “family dinner” on Saturday afternoon. The atmosphere was far from our normal, as people were much more focused on when everyone was leaving than our get-together. Thanks to Malcolm, there were a few jokes and the melancholy silences were kept to a minimum. The semester was definitely coming to an end, and my milk was getting closer and closer to expiring.

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It was finally time to see if the “cultural capital of Australia,” and the “most livable city in the world” could impress this southern girl. On our last study break, five of us went off to discover Melbourne. Melbourne was the original capital of Oz, and to this day the city continues to compete with Sydney. Although I would have loved to see the opera house, I think that Melbourne may have been the right city for me to visit. As for Dave, the Australian who traveled with us, any place on the east coast that provided Krispy Kreme donuts was the right place to be. Not a day went by on our trip without his quest for donuts and diabetes being accomplished.

Although our trip was absolutely sleep-deprived, we made the most of it. Renting a car and driving to Philip Island to enjoy a picnic on the beach, a stroll to the pinnacles, a taste-test in the chocolate shop, and then a PARADE OF PENGUINS was the best way to start our trip. And when I say parade of penguins, I mean it. We probably saw over 500 penguins appear out of the water and travel to their nests. Unfortunately, we watched this with 100 other tourists, but it was magical nonetheless. These little blue penguins, the smallest species of penguins, have been known to appear at shortly after sundown at the same spot, and we got to watch them make their journey, fending off the seagulls along the way. This was my first encounter with wild penguins, and I was mesmerized when we got to stand a mere meter away from them as they searched for their nests of their young.

The next morning we made it back into the city, again with very little sleep. After checking into the hostel, we joined a group on a free tour. Matthew was our immensely informative guide, and really helped us learn about the city, its history and its traditions. We had a much better idea of how we wanted to spend our next few days, and also got to see the trademarks of Melbourne along the way. These included alleyways full of graffiti, parks full of trees, and streets full of delicious cafes. The rest of the day was spent exploring and taking pictures every chance we got, until we settled down for a big, fat Greek feast.

The timing of our trip was perfect, because on Thursday we got to attend one of the races in the Melbourne Cup, which is the largest horse race, after the Kentucky Derby. We put on our dresses and heels, arranged our fascinators, and headed off to Flemington Racecourse. Throughout the day, I cheered on the horses (always picking number 8 to win), and took pictures of all of the headwear that caught my attention. These ladies didn’t have a problem competing to be the center of attention with their colorful assemblies of flowers, lace, and more riding on top of their heads.

On Friday, Brenna and I scheduled in time to check out the Queen Victoria markets and Rod Laver Arena, where the Australian Open is held. I took tons of pictures with Federer’s picture, and touched the place that he signed in the hall of fame. It was raining, as it always seemed to be in Melbourne, but we kept moving and saw as much as we could. Brenna is such an awesome girl, and I think we both really enjoyed getting to know each other better during all of these experiences.

That afternoon, I headed off to check out the Melbourne zoo. With the possibility of seeing a platypus, I just couldn’t stay away. When I got there, and saw that there was also a pygmy hippopotamus, I didn’t want to leave. I could have watched that little guy swimming around for ages. I also gave my company to the platypus for an extended period, impressed with his speed and skill in the water.

After my animal excursion, Brenna and I met up with Dave and Eva, or should I say Daeva – when you become too tired of addressing the couple together as Dave and Eva, you simply combine the names to save time. The four of us went to the top of the tallest building in Australia to see the surrounding city during sunset, then went to the casino before heading in for the night to prepare for our 6 am flight back to Perth.

I did enjoy Melbourne and all of the memories made with our group, but it reiterated my repulsion of cities, with all of the buildings, all of the people, and all of the noise. If you’ve enjoyed the sound of crickets instead of the bustling nightlife as you fall asleep every night for most of your life, or the wide open spaces instead of skyscrapers cramping your view of the horizon, there’s no way that you’d ever want anything more.

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rottnest, and the last week of class!

After beginning the weekend with rescued animals with our program’s excursion, I was lucky enough to see some of them for myself in the wild on Saturday. We woke up (way too early) to spend the day on Rottnest Island, right off the coast of Perth. This island is known for being inhabited by quokkas, some of the cutest little marsupials that are found nowhere else in the world, but this exquisite little island off the coast of Perth.

The quokkas were a big part of the excitement for me, but we also had other plans for adventurous fun as well. Bringing snorkel gear along, and renting bikes for the day, we headed off to circle the island and see as much as we could! Laws on the island prevent the use of personal cars, so biking was beautiful and calming (at least the downhill part!). We snorkeled, swam, explored, and relaxed, often having entire beaches to our group of six.

After making it to the other side of the island, we took a secret dirt path that a tour guide at the lighthouse informed us of. It led to a cliff overlooking the ocean, where 25 fur seals were relaxing and cooling off in the water! There were no other people there besides us, so we felt very lucky to see these creatures in their natural habitat. Ben and Jody both decided to try and swim closer and closer to the seals, since they did not seem too dangerous. I on the other hand, usually the one up for adventure, decided to give the seals their space, and respect their territory. Margaret and I were very glad when they were back on land alive and well. The day was exhausting and satisfying in so many ways, and I wish that I had the chance to spend much more time exploring all of the hidden gems the island had to offer.

After such a fabulous weekend, I had no desire to get through the last week of classes, but somehow I made it. I had my problems examination in Biochemistry on Wednesday, the test that I had been most worried about all semester, but it turned out that I just needed to study and practice, so finished the test with no problems.

This week we also had our last netball game. I truly can’t believe that I played this sport that is so similar to basketball (which I suck at) every single week at uni. We played a solid team, and managed to come out on top! We were super pumped. The sport truly wasn’t my favorite, but getting to know the awesome people on our team was worth embarrassing myself every week on the court.

Wednesday night was Halloween, which isn’t celebrated as religiously in Australia. The people living in the village have become accustomed to Americans’ obsession over the holiday, and everyone dressed up and participated! The best costume had to have been Sam and Marg’s: they were Katniss and Petta from the Hunger Games. They rocked their outfits with a burnt loaf of bread, a bow and arrow,a mockingbird pin, and the works.

That weekend was spent celebrating the end of classes, but also getting a head start on exam studies. The last study break was here, and I needed to make sure I’d be ready for exams when I returned from Melbourne! I did make time to go to church with a friend from class on Sunday. He’s Anglican, so I thought it’d be nice to try something new. It was a lot more traditional than what I’m used to, but I’m certainly glad that I experienced it. It was a nice break from writing about indigenous spirituality, and I managed to get most of my paper done before heading out Monday night to spend the rest of the week in Melbourne!

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Cultural Encounters

Everyday when I wake up I’m amazed that I’m still here. It’s really TOO good to be true. The little things – the sunshine, the friendly people, the colorful birds – are what keep me obsessed with this country. The few days that it rains act just to remind us of what a beautiful place we’re in. However, being in Australia has also allowed me to appreciate the people and customs of many countries of the world.

For instance, one of the big events in the midst of everyone’s “studying” was Oktoberfest last Wednesday. Believe it or not, there is a bar on campus, called “The Tav.” You’ll see students and professors here at any hour of the day, grabbing a drink after an exam, or long lecture, or just for fun. Oktoberfest was held here – started at noon and lasted well into the night. Unfortunately, I had an important 3 hour tutorial that afternoon, but managed to still make some of the fun, including German sausages and giant Jenga!

If you’re following my blog, I’m sure that you know that I’m studying in Perth, which is the capital of Western Australia. It’s the most isolated big city in the world, and I’ve started to realize that I really haven’t spent much time exploring this gem of a city. So after class last Thursday, Eric and I explored a little. I got to finally see the famous bell tower, and walk around King’s Park without being rushed. One of the best parts of the day was when we started along one of the many trails through King’s Park, and I saw a kookaburra sitting up in a tree, fighting with another bird!! I’ve loved kookaburras since I cared for two at the zoo back at home, and this was my first experience with one in the wild. I took way too many pictures, while the magnificent bird sat still and posed for me.

The following weekend was spent at the beach. Saturday we took the longer route to Scarbourough Beach, which is famous for surfing. The beach was pretty crowded, although the water was pretty cold. We relaxed and got kebabs, enjoying the sun and each other’s company. Sunday I headed out with a bunch of the ladies, and we went to a beach that a few of them had recently found. It’s very easy to get to, and very empty compared to most of the other beaches. What it lacks in people, it has in dogs – I’m pretty certain that we were the only group on the beach without a dog, but we definitely petted as many as we could. Many times I would be near sleep or very engaged with my book, only to have a dog come over and distract me from my relaxation. I didn’t mind at all, and was excited to have some canine love back in my life!

This past week began with a GREAT start. My long-kept secret was finally going to be revealed…on Monday, I was accepted to study abroad in Cape Town, South Africa for Spring 2013! This was something I had been considering after being in Australia for a couple of weeks, and I applied in the middle of September. I wasn’t sure how it was going to work out, so the only people that knew of my plans were my Wofford advisors, my parents, and my close friends here in Australia. My parents were of course not thrilled, as they already miss me like crazy. However, they’re awesome people and gave me permission to go, as long as my grades in Australia meet their expectation. I know that going abroad two semesters in a row may seem a little crazy and a little ambitious, but I really don’t know when in my life I’d be able to take these opportunities again. If my plans to go to vet school become reality, I’ll be at vet school in the States for 4 years. Therefore, I need to get my travel cravings out of my system while it’s still a possibility. Cape Town is a big city, but seems to still have a lot of culture, and great opportunities to discover more of the world and more of myself! The hard part was that I now had to tell all of my friends back at Wofford that I was leaving them for another semester. Thankfully, they all supported my decision, and I promised to spend as much time with them in December and January that I could!

Speaking of the world and all it has to offer, Thursday was Murdoch’s Multicultural Day. Students from around the world put together display tables to share their culture, food, and more with the student body. I helped a little with the American table, where we put up a flag and decorations. We also had trays of PB&J’s, ants on a log (celery with PB and raisins), and homemade southern biscuits that some of the girls had made. The other tables allowed me to try Finnish pancakes, German sausages, and much more! Murdoch has so many international students, and it was a great opportunity for them to share their lives with the rest of the campus.

After learning about today’s culture around the world, on Friday our CIEE group learned about ancient Aboriginal culture in Australia. At an event called “Nearer to Nature,” we got to hang out with and learn from an Indigenous man named Zach (originally some way cooler name I could barely pronounce, much less remember). He taught us about his experiences and customs as an Aboriginal man. For example, we learned that he spent over 3 months out in the bush, taking no clothes, no food, no shelter, and no one else with him. I personally think it’s hard enough to live in Australia, watching out for poisonous snakes, spiders, and all else – and that’s with proper shelter and clothing! This man knows how to kill a kangaroo with nothing more than a handmade spear, or ducks with a sharpened boomerang. He also seemed to find something different to eat around each corner that we took when walking through the woods. He would see one shoot of grass sticking up from under the understory, and dig up a carrot; or pick up a green seed that was filled with fruity juiciness. He knew his country as well as he knew himself. Unlike many of the Aboriginal people struggling with poverty or alcoholism, Zach was very well spoken and outgoing. This allows him to work for his people to find ways to help them regain their wellbeing and customs.

Meeting Zach, an indigenous man, was a great opportunity, but at this event we also got to meet some awesome indigenous Australian animals! The first cutie that we encountered was a wombat – who was walking around on a leash! Don’t get too exciting, she wasn’t leash-trained, but she was adorable nonetheless and petting her managed to take my breath away. I also became the luckiest girl in the world when I got to hold not one, but two, baby kangaroos! One was so young that it had barely any fur. We also got to hold a snake, and see many more interesting creatures such as an echidna, that looks kind of like the marsupial version of a porcupine, and a quokka, the inhabitant of Rottnest Island, something that I was looking forward to seeing in the wild the next day. If I don’t come back to Australia for the people, it will definitely be for these animals.

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no worries, mate

The week returning from Bali was probably my most stressful week of uni. I got back wanting to continue relaxation and recovery, but found myself having so much more to learn before my first exam on Wednesday. I had talked to others taking the exam, but they didn’t seem too worried, which only worried me more. There was a lot of information on that exam! With little sleep and late night snacks, I powered through those few days until I knew the information. It was lonely studying for an exam without my best Wofford mates – I don’t know how I’m going to handle exam week here! I may have felt sick the entire day of the exam, but when it was in front of me, I was able to focus and regurgitate incredible amounts of pathways, enzymes, molecules, and disorders. Thankfully, right after the exam, I found out that my presentation for the next day had been cancelled, and I was able to relax and have a fun Wednesday night.

Friday afternoon was spent preparing for a good friend’s birthday party that was being held on Saturday. The theme was the Rocky Horror Picture Show, so we had to invest in some flamboyant outfits. The salvos here are pretty awesome, and we all made it out with our costumes. Friday night we went to a concert in Freo. The band was called Blue Juice, so of course we all had to wear our best blue outfits! However fun concerts are, Saturday night was just as great. Curling my hair and wearing a white dress to look like innocent little Janet in her lingerie, I had the best time hanging out with the transvestites from Transylvania, and of course my fiancé Brad (or AJ). Guys in bright gold shorts were everywhere, trying to rock the Rocky look. We then all migrated to the Court, which is a gay bar in the city. They played some jammin’ tunes, the crowd was all super friendly, and those men sure could dance.

The next morning was an early one. We woke up for a surfing safari with the CIEE program! We headed out with Paul, Kate, and their 3 kids to a beach about 45 minutes away to meet our two surfing instructors for the day. They were absolutely awesome, but the waves were not so much. The surfing in Bali was much better, less seaweed and less waves, giving you more time to prepare before trying to catch one. My best ride was my first one. The instructor decided to use me as her guinea pig, and I guess I was trying to impress, and managed to ride to the shore. However, it quickly went downhill from there. My favorite part of the day was probably getting to know Paul’s daughter Freya, and son, Ned. We had a table to ourselves at lunch, and they were probably some of the coolest kids I’ve met. I enjoyed listening to their stories, while they asked me about some of my own. Although surfing wasn’t extremely successful for me, it could have been much worse. For Kate, it was quite the painful experience. She stepped on a cobblerfish, which has spines that inject venom and hurt for days after. Her trip to the hospital was made even worse when her car broke down on the way back – unlucky in the land down under.

The following week was full of studying as well, but when I got my midterm grade back, I found out that studying here works the same as in the US: do a lot of it, and you make good grades! However, the class average was 48%, which is only 2 points from passing (a 50 passes here), but still, it seems that over half of the class of 115 students didn’t pass. Good thing the exam was only 15% of our final grade! On a high from my good grade, I spent the next few days getting work done and getting pumped up for the Mumford and Sons concert on Friday night!! On the day of the concert, we got a ride from one of our awesome friends, Elizabeth, because it was way out in the middle of nowhere. When we got out of the car, I felt like I was home again – surrounded by fields and farmland, with a few scattered houses. It was beautiful. We arrived before they even began letting people in, so that meant that when we finally got in, we went straight to the stage to reserve our front row spots! The arena was amazing, with large grass stairs as the seats. It looked like something out of ancient Rome. The opening to the opener was Willy Mason. He was good, but we were ready for the real stars.

When the real opener, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, came out, it was finally concert time. They were the closest thing to real hippies I’d ever seen. From their clothes to their hair to their voices and movements – they were chill and carefree and tons of fun. They’re from the US, and their song “Home” is a classic among many of my friends. When they came on stage, they knew that not many people there knew their other music, so Alex (the lead singer) immediately asked jokingly if we wanted to hear “Home.” When the crowd went wild, he surprisingly gave in and started singing (“Alabama, Arkansas…”). The female vocalist, Jade, had one of the prettiest voices I’ve ever heard, and they sounded just like the recorded version. Later in the concert, Alex came out into the crowd, and on his way back up, I made sure to grab his arm. Mumford was up next, and we screamed out the lyrics to all of our favorite songs for the next couple of hours. They’re a very talented British folk rock band, and proved to be much better live than I had even hoped.

On Saturday I was craving a much more chill night, and went into Freo to see Taken 2 with Eric, who’s an RA here in the village, originally from Sweden. There were a few key differences about the movies here than in the US. First of all, you don’t pay outside at the ticket booth; you pay at the same place you pay for food. Next, it costs a gazillion times more. And third, when you pay for your ticket, you also have to choose where you’d like to sit in the theater, and your ticket comes out with row and seat numbers on it. Weird, I know. So the movie was definitely not as good as the original Taken, but was still pretty action-packed and kept me engaged. After the movie we hung out in a little coffee shop, watching many drunk Australians stumbling, yelling, or singing down the streets moving from club to kebab shop to club. That free entertainment was almost as good as the movie we had just paid to see.

I know you students at Wofford don’t know the definition of a lazy Sunday anymore, so I don’t want to rub it in your face too much…but they are fabulous. That Sunday, I woke up late, had a good breakfast, watched an early afternoon romantic comedy with the girls, did some fruit and veggie shopping in Freo, ate dinner at Annie’s with some of the crew, and THEN did some studying, before going to bed reasonably early. Going back to real college American-style is going to be rough…

And then, to add to the chill lifestyle of Australian unis, I got to eat AND sleep in CLASS on Monday. This is, actually, as good as it sounds. Our Indigenous Spirituality class had a “cultural experience” during our lecture and tutorial. It started with a welcome speech from a Noongar elder, followed by heaps of delicious food for lunch. We then proceeded to a quiet, dark room filled with blankets and pillows. In this room we met a white man who had lived with Indigenous people, and was adopted into their family. He found a passion for a type of medicine called “sound healing.” He let us get cozy lying under our blankets, and then began to play all of these different instruments for us. It was so peaceful, I was never quite sure if I was sleeping or just resting. When I came to, I truly felt like a new person. According to the performer, all of the toxins had just been vibrated out of our cells as our spirits journeyed. That night, I slept like a baby and my cough went away. It may have come back a few days later, but my body seemed to appreciate that relaxing and rejuvenating session.

That same day before netball, I made one of my favorite dinners for some friends. It’s something I always beg my mom to make when I come home from Wofford. I didn’t have much trouble putting all the ingredients into the casserole, but after about 15 minutes of being in the oven, I noticed that the top of it was beginning to burn. It was supposed to be in for 30-45 minutes! I was very confused, but took it out and served it a little charred. When Eric came over, I was telling him how the oven didn’t go up to 350 degrees, so I was very confused by it burning. He then realized my American stupidity, and told me that the oven was in Celsius, like everything else in this country….guess I need a few more months to get into the swing of things. I brushed off the mistake because with a life like this in Australia, there truly are “no worries, mate.”

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In my opinion, the traveling part of traveling is not the most enjoyable thing in the world, but Garuda Airlines got 8 of us to Bali by 6:00 pm on Saturday. The plane ride was pretty chill, with some good food and nice views. Eva and I sat by an older Aussie man that was very intent on getting drunk on the plane – pretty sure he had at least 10 whiskey and cokes. While drinking, he also insisted on making fun of me for studying on the plane. A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

Flying in over the ocean, I wasn’t really too excited. I was ready for a good week, but nervous about figuring out the money conversions, taxi service, visa payments, and hotel reservations. I had done a lot of planning for the trip, so I felt like I still had to take care of everyone and lead the group. After going through customs, getting our luggage, and paying our arrival fees, we walked outside to find a taxi. This is when we saw someone looking very familiar holding a sign that said “Six white girls from Murdoch plus AJ.” PAOLO HAD COME TO BALI AND SURPRISED US! Paolo lived in Indonesia for most of his life, and had wanted to come with us on this trip, but “couldn’t afford it.” He tricked us all. I immediately relaxed, and before worrying about a taxi, we got a few Bintangs. It was starting to fill more like a vacation.

Paolo set us up with a driver that he knew, and we rode the long trip to Kuta. Kuta is where we were staying, and is known as the top tourist and party destination. Riding through Bali, I was reminded a lot of Belize. It’s a third world country full of people on scooters. The roads also don’t have any rules. The only rule I could come up with was: “try to stay on the left side of the road, but don’t worry about how close you come to other people, other cars, or other scooters when they’re in your way because you always have the right-of-way…no matter what.” I don’t know how there aren’t injured people scattered around from the crazy drivers, but somehow they survive without getting hit on a daily basis. We finally made it to our hotel, the Troppo Zone. It was very close to the main strip of shopping, restaurants, and night clubs. We got our 3 rooms, which we were only paying about $20 a night for. Julianne, Annie, and I claimed our room with three single beds and a shower without a curtain – hey, at least there was a shower at all.

After showers, we went out for dinner, and then checked out Kuta. People here are pretty crazy, and drinks here are pretty cheap: makes for an interesting night, every night. We woke up Sunday ready to relax on the beach. We got our free breakfast at the hotel, which consisted of choices of eggs or omelets, with delicious banana waffles. Another option was the jaffle. Of course, I was the first person to try this, and I was happy I did. It was a sandwich that had the crusts cooked together so that you could fill it with eggs, cheese, ham, tomatoes, or whatever you wanted! So good. We then finally got the group together, and walked to the beach. After a short dip in the warm water, Annie and I rented two surfboards and started riding some waves. I’d never surfed before, but it wasn’t too hard. After about 30 minutes I figured out what I needed to do to make it to the shore, and really enjoyed myself. The hardest part was fighting the current and the waves to get back out into the deep water. We were pretty proud of our new surfer girl status.

After the beach, we had lunch, and went out to shop it up. Nothing here is priced, so you just barter for what price you want. I definitely never paid what they initially asked, but probably could have been better at enforcing my lower prices. My favorite purchase was this one piece jumper type outfit with “genie pants,” as I’ve come to call them. It’s an awesome green and yellow pattern – hard to describe but definitely a wonderful purchase. The next step of our night was dinner, and then we met up with the European boys from our school. Had a fun night, but didn’t get nearly enough rest for the adventures that awaited for the next day.

Monday morning we got a wake up call from the hotel, and went to get some more awesome breakfast before heading inland to the mountains to go rafting. I had a bit of “bali belly” that morning, so the bus ride was absolutely miserable, but we stopped along the way at a cacao and coffee farm , where they gave us free samples of teas and coffees that started my healing process. I also took some charcoal, which I’ve only ever seen used on dogs in veterinary clinics, but it seemed to help. I didn’t feel completely better until we started heading down the river. I love rivers! This one was pretty awesome: fast moving water and rapids the entire 18 km. It was a bit shallow, and our guide had to get out a few times to push us over some rocks. I was digging the views of the lush, green mountains and the waterfalls spraying down on us. One of the best parts was when three little naked Indonesian boys came running out to us in a calm section and splashed us – too cute. Another highlight was the four-meter drop over a dam. I sat in the front of the raft, and got a little butt-bruisage, but it was thrilling nonetheless. We also stopped to swim, where one of the guides helped me climb up a cliff to jump off! Our guides were awesome. The one on my raft was younger and seemed to be a little flirty, but all in good nature. I enjoyed learning a little about his life, and how he wants to visit America. However, his English was limited, so many conversations were cut short.

Monday night we got to hang out with the other girls from Murdoch for the first time, along with the European boys, so it was nice to have such a big group. Tuesday morning was a struggle to get everyone together, but we met up to go to the beach. I ran barefoot down the beach for a bit with Sam, but then just lay on the beach. I know that that sounds relaxing, but in Bali you constantly have people trying to sell you different items, and ladies would constantly come over with their goods. Many of them offered foot massages as well, but I declined all offers. For lunch a few of us decided to treat ourselves to some American cuisine, and went to Johnny Rockets. This chain of restaurants is in the U.S., and is like an old-timey diner. The servers and kitchen staff dance and sing while you shove your face full of burgers and fries. I then went shopping with Juli until we met up with some of the guys. Then, we all headed to the spa to get hour long full-body massages (for only $4.50!). This was my first ever massage, but I really enjoyed it even though it is kind of an awkward process to have some lady you don’t know touching each and every part of your body. The woman with Zach was across the hallway, and we kept hearing her flirt with him, complimenting his bum and comparing him to George Clooney – pretty hilarious.

Tuesday night we went out to an awesome restaurant called Potato Head for Eva’s birthday. The building was awesome – made completely out of old colorful window shutters in the shape of a big semicircle. In the middle of the circle is a huge grass area, and then closer to the ocean are a few pools and places to lie out. Juli and I went all out and shared some fried banana and ice cream on a pastry for dessert – just another way of living up the vacation, and forgetting about the consequences.

Wednesday was our scheduled volcano tour that came with our hotel package. We woke up early, and started on the ride. We stopped at silver and botik making stores, and did some shopping. Our next stop was the monkey forest: one of the highlights of Bali that I had been looking forward to the most. To sum it up, it’s just a big temple in the forest where hundreds of monkeys live and continuously get fed by tourists. The first thing I did when I arrived was give my hand to a monkey, who quickly grabbed and bit it. It didn’t hurt too bad, and was a good warning that I needed to be a bit more careful around these creatures. They are also pretty skilled at stealing your items, so I took off all of my jewelry, and held on tight to my camera. Others weren’t as lucky, and I saw a few earrings and water bottles stolen. We bought some corn to attract the monkeys. This is done by holding the corn up above your head, and letting the monkey climb you to get to it. Many of them will then stay put on your shoulder while eating their treat. Most of us were successful, but others, like AJ, who kept getting bit, and Lindsay, who kept getting chased by the bigger monkeys, weren’t as lucky.

Our last stop was the volcano. It was already around 2:00, so we were starving. Thankfully, there was a huge buffet of delicious Indonesian food that overlooked the volcano. We gorged ourselves while taking in the mountain and getting lots of pictures. Getting back at Kuta around dinnertime, we grabbed some pizza and got ready for a night full of dancing.

Thursday morning we decided to go spend some time at the Potato Head restaurant, and soaked up the sun on big couches overlooking the ocean. There was a huge stage set up over one of the pools, because Foster the People is playing the day that we leave! What an experience that would be to jam out to “Pumped up Kicks” in Bali in a pool with all of your best friends. We left when we were a few shades darker, and then spent another afternoon in Kuta. I picked up some last gifts for friends and family, and then got some much needed sleep while the others got the pedicures where the little fish eat all of your dead skin. Yum. Annie and I then picked up some dinner from the pizza place, and ordered some fresh pure sugar cane juice. It wasn’t the most appetizing drink, but the sign promised that it would increase our energy levels along with the quality of our semen – what great benefits. We then went out with the same group of people, minus a few. I ended up back at the hotel pretty early, as Courtney and I looked for her iPhone that went missing for most of the night. We unfortunately didn’t find it, and she and I both were pretty bummed by the end of the search.

Sam, Eva, and I were the only ones up for another tour on our last day in Bali. So on Friday morning, we got in the van with the same driver we’d been using. Our first stop was over a valley filled with little huts and rice fields, then we moved on to a LAKE! Well, really it was probably more like an extremely large pond in the mountains, but it was beautiful. We got on a little speedboat with an energetic tour guide. He drove us around, and then let me drive us around! It felt so nice to be back on the water, with my hands on the wheel.

Our favorite stop was farther north at some hiking trails to two waterfalls. We picked up our tour guide, and followed him down through rice fields, over bamboo bridges, and to our first waterfall. There, we swam around and climbed up into a little cavern on the side of the rockface. From there we each jumped down into the water. All the while, our guide took millions of pictures on Eva’s camera, while we splashed and yelled and felt as free as ever! We were already having the time of our lives, but then we got to go to another waterfall in a different location. This one was much shallower, but still very tall and powerful! The spray was chilly but invigorating.

Our guide was a big jokester, trying to point out the irrigation system along the way and claiming it was our scenic waterfall. He bought us some jackfruit, which a delicious cross between mango and passion fruit, and also a mango each! He showed us how to mush the mango up by squeezing it all over. Then, we bit off the tops and squeezed all the goodness out. Sam had a wonderful time getting it all over her face when hers busted open, and all of the shop owners nearby sat around and watched her splatter herself with orange.

After grabbing some snacks to get us through the day (we realized we didn’t bring enough money for lunch!), we headed to a temple that was not too far from Kuta to watch the sunset. Sam’s initial reaction was that “this was the most touristy place that she had ever been,” but after we overlooked all of the international people surrounding us with cameras and fanny packs, we started to enjoy the place. The temple was right next to the ocean. We walked around taking pictures next to the ocean on some rocks, and the next thing you know, just as I’m snapping a picture of Eva and Sam, a huge wave came over the three of us! Thankfully, her camera wasn’t ruined, but we were soaked with icky, salty water. We then underwent a little ceremony where a priest (or maybe pretend-priest) splashed us with water, mashed some rice on out foreheads, and put a flower behind our ear. After this, we asked a couple to take a picture of us, and then were bombarded with Asians who seemed to think we were famous. We were not by any means the only white people there, but we had three families, one after the other, come up to snap pictures with the Americans. The Americans who were soaked with seawater, gross from hiking, and not looking too hot – not sure what their obsession was.

Our last night back at the hotel was spent relaxing in our room, talking and reminiscing about our week. We might should have lived it up, but I think we were all just a little tired of Kuta by that point. Perth was calling us back home, and we were ready to get away from the hustle and bustle of that busy little town. The next day on the plane, we were counting down the hours until we were back in the land down under.

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Don’t Think; Just Jump

Ever since returning from the NorthWest trip, it has been increasingly harder to focus on things like, you know, school, studying, homework, papers. And while this might seem like a personal problem, it’s totally not my fault. Picture this: You get to spend 10 days of absolute bliss on the beautiful coast of the Indian Ocean and in the Outback of Western Australia. Then, you come back to school, and you only have 3 weeks until you leave for the island of Bali in Indonesia for another week of adventure and fun. How are you supposed to think about something like SCHOOL with that going on??

Anyway, I’ve somehow made it through. My uni schedule is much different than my Wofford schedule. Yeah, I’m pretty much busy all the time, but I have more time to do things for me, instead of just meetings and studying. I enjoy running, hanging out, going out, and doing everyday things way more here. At Wofford, a lot of the time I felt like I had no time to do things like I really, truly wanted to do. I felt so dependent on my planner and each of the 50 things written in it for each day. Yeah, I enjoy being so involved and learning so much from our awesome Biology faculty, but it’s nice to focus on myself for a while. Bottom line: Go abroad – you won’t regret it.

However, these three weeks have been pretty productive. I’ve gotten through one paper and two lab reports, and really began studying for my Biochemistry midterm that is the week after Bali. I’m more than extremely scared for this exam, and have no idea what to expect. So somehow, I’m going to have to come back from Bali ready to study hard and get prepared. Hopefully I can handle that. I’ve been in the library most weeknights since I’ve been back. My room just feels too dark and lonely at night. The library is not the best here, as only the half of the bottom floor is open for studying after 9 each night. It’s quite annoying, but we put up with it.

The uni life after the NorthWest trip has been better in one major way: so many more friends! I can’t go too many places without running into one of my fellow travelers, and we all get so excited when we see each other. We really became like a huge family, and have been taking all of our trips to Freo and the city together. Our first trip to the city the Thursday of the week we got back was a success, and it was so nice to see Nick and Craig (our drivers) again so soon! The bar we went to had deer and bull heads on the walls – made me feel like I was back home again!!

The next weekend after the trip, Russ took a group of us to Point Walter, which is a stretch along the Swan River in Perth. The water was bright blue and the sun was warm and bright. Immediately when we arrived, a big group of us went straight to the cliffs. Have I ever mentioned how much I love jumping off of cliffs?! Adrenaline to the max. I think I was the third person to jump, and I also think that almost all of the girls went before any of the boys. True, the jump was pretty high, probably about 35 feet, but really I was surprised at the way the boys held back. My policy has always been, “Don’t think; just jump.” It’ll get you motivated to face your fears in many aspects of life. My first jump was fun, although I did scream like a little girl. Hitting the water didn’t hurt, as I’m pretty used to being smashed into walls of water from all of my water sports back at home, but the icy saltwater wasn’t the most pleasant thing in the world. I’m definitely more of a freshwater kind of girl, and am missing Lake Murray and the Oregon rivers more and more everyday! We hung out watching others jump while sitting on an abandoned boat close to the cliffs, and then went back to jump some more. Although the climb back up the cliffs could be treacherous at places, we were slightly addicted. When we went back to the beach with the others, I wasn’t really feeling like a suntan, so thankfully we only had about an hour left. I was so happy to get my cliff jumping experience knocked off of my bucket list! Plans to go back before I leave must be made.

The following weekend, a group of about 10 or so girls all went to Cottesloe Beach on Saturday. This was my first time, and after not sleeping much the night before, I really enjoyed just soaking up the rays on the sand. We also treated ourselves to some fish and chips, and thanks to the restaurant for getting my order wrong, A LOT of fish and A LOT of chips. Australia is not the best thing for my body right now. There were so many people out enjoying the beach – families, teenagers, volleyball players, and guys handing out FREE green tea. It was a wonderful atmosphere.

I’ve also spent the last two Tuesdays volunteering at the Native Arc. I’m getting used to the bike ride, and am starting to feel a little safer next to the scary cars zooming past me. While there, I work with some pretty cool people, cleaning bird and reptile cages, preparing food for the animals, and any other tasks that need to be done. No, it’s not all playing with animals while you’re there – a lot of maintenance must go into animal care! I definitely do more food preparation for these animals than I do in a week (my roommate asked what I was doing in the kitchen when I was making pasta one night). But without organizations like this, the biodiversity of Australia would be even more threatened, so it’s totally worth it. The worst part of working here isn’t the dirty work, it’s the magpies (black and white birds that are ALL over the place). These guys do not care how close they have to get to you, or how many times you swat or spray them away – they are determined to get some of the other birds’ food. They’re quite scary actually, especially when you have 10 of them zooming right over your head when you’re trying to carry dishes from one aviary to the next. They’re going to do some damage one of these days.

One of the more interesting conversations that I’ve had recently with one of my Australian roommates was when Jessica told me that she thought that peanut butter was “really quite icky.” In this same conversations, the words “I don’t know how we’d get by without Vegemite” were also spoken. Then, last night at dinner, while we were eating some delicious veggie pizza made by Margs, John-O (Ben’s roommate) started talking about how he would eat Vegemite out of the jar if he could. He said he puts it on about everything, and even has a recipe for a gravy made out of it. I tried to eat it on toast with cheese and tomatoes a couple of weeks back, and then I could still taste it the rest of the day. Never making that brave decision for lunch again. These conversations about Vegemite let me know that even though I am in love with Australia, I was born in the right country. On average, every American child will eat 1,500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches by the time they’re 18. Proud to be an American.

So today is Friday, and tomorrow starts our second study break!! No, it is not meant to be a break TO study…it’s a break FROM studying – at least that’s what we tell ourselves. Today is also the day that marks two months of being in Australia. I skyped my mom this morning, followed by Meagan, Julia, Hannah, and Caroline (4 of my besties from Wofford). I was almost brought to tears seeing them because I do miss them A TON. I’ll be back before I know it though, and truthfully I’m dreading leaving Australia more than I’m looking forward to being back. Wofford will always be home, but I’m going to be very sad when I leave the home I’ve found in Australia.

Tonight we’re all staying in the village and having a get-together in the TV room. Should be a pretty awesome and chill night with a ton of the coolest people I’ve ever met. And tomorrow at this time I’ll be ON MY WAY TO BALI. This life is too surreal.

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