It’s already Week 12 out of 13 for classes here at the University of Wollongong, and I can’t believe where my time in Australia has gone. After this week and next week of classes, I will have a one-week study break and then two weeks of exams before heading back to the United States. Overall, there are fewer assignments per class at the University of Wollongong but each assignment counts for more of the grade than at UMass. In Australia, they don’t have GPAs and graduating with a credit average (65) or above is considered graduating with honors because achieving higher grades is much more difficult than in the United States. As the semester comes to a close, I am noticing more and reflecting on these and all of the other differences between the Australian and American education systems.
At the end of September, I had mid-session break, during which I spent ten days on a guided bus tour exploring the South Island in New Zealand. The trip was full of once in a lifetime experiences, beautiful scenery, and many adventurous activities. During the trip, we saw movie sets from The Lord of the Rings series, The Hobbit, 10,000 BC, and Taylor Swift’s “Out of the Woods.” We also went to two sets of glow worm caves, Fox Glacier, and Lake Pukaki, which had some of the bluest waters I’ve ever seen. The majority of the trip was spent in Queenstown, the adventure capital of the world. While there, I went zip-lining through the forest, bungee jumping from 400 meters up, and luging down a mountain. My favorite day of the trip was the day in Queenstown when we took a helicopter up the river to then go white water rafting to then take a jet boat ride. We also went to Milford Sound where we took a boat ride and saw penguins and seals and to a sheep farm where we saw a sheep shearing. New Zealand was such a beautiful and fun country, with a constant view of the Remarkables mountain range and offering some of the most unique adventures in the world.
Lake Pukaki and Mt. Cook
About fifty people from International House, my dorm at the University of Wollongong, went camping at Bendalong Point, about two hours away from Wollongong, one weekend. We were staying in a campsite right on the beach, so we were able to see sting rays in the morning and have bonfires at night. On the Saturday, I learned to play piggy in the middle, which is essentially monkey in the middle with one person in the middle trying to get the ball as it is thrown but a group of people throwing the ball around instead of just two people throwing it back and forth. It was a very fun weekend of bonding and making memories.
This past weekend, I went to Melbourne, and road tripped along the south coast of Australia with some friends. One day we went to the Old Melbourne Gaol, which is how they spell jail here, Hosier Lane, which is a street covered in graffiti that is constantly being done over and can change even day to day, and the Eureka Skydeck at night, which overlooks Melbourne and gave us a great view of the city lights. The next day, we went to Brighton Beach and saw the famous bath houses and then drove the Great Ocean Road to the Twelve Apostles, seeing koalas in the wild on the way. We also went to St. Kilda where we were able to see penguins at dusk.
Bath Houses at Brighton Beach
As my semester begins to wind down and I realize that I will be back home in less than six weeks, I am cherishing every moment I have left in Australia by seeing as much as I can and enjoying time with the friends I have made here. I am feeling very lucky for the opportunity to study abroad and everything that I have experienced in Australia and can’t wait to see what the next five and a half weeks have in store.