Semester’s End

Last week involved quite a bit of chill time and homework, in preparation for my trip to Brisbane. Saturday I went to a footie game, which is always a good time. Collingwood won, the team we have allegiance to due to the free tickets they provide! Sunday I went on a gorgeous hike with Helena out into the Dandenong mountain ranges, about an hour’s train ride from Melbourne. Whenever I leave the city I realize how much I’ve been craving nature, despite all the small parks that dot Melbourne. We saw a swamp wallaby and enjoyed the smell of the forest. That evening we made Bon Appetit’s best chocolate chip cookies (I had listened to an hour-long podcast on them) and ate far too many. Monday brought some time in the agricultural building to study, one of the most gorgeous buildings on campus, and a night out with friends.

In Australian Wildlife Biology on Tuesday, we had our “prizes” for what observations of animals we had made in the Questagame app. I won most detailed descriptions of animals, and a cheeky apron with iconic Australian animals on it as a reward. Headed towards to the end of the semester, I find myself reminiscing. Wildlife Biology, especially has rekindled the passion I think I had for biology to start with, and has introduced me to Australians I’m lucky to call friends and an amazing badass female field biologist professor. I’ll miss it greatly, and the gorgeous campus now starting to show signs of fall.

Jaimie and I headed for hotpot, and had quite the adventure, involving needing to visit a cash machine, a closed off road, long lines, stores by the same chain with different menus (some of which not including vegetarian options), and quite a hangry Jaimie. It ended up being delicious, albeit a wild goose chase.

Wednesday and Thursday brought with them lovely morning runs, visiting with friends, and finally trying to wrap up assessments I had procrastinated on. I stayed up quite late on Thursday night, packing for my trip for Brisbane the next morning and doing work. I got two hours of sleep, so there’s the glamorous study abroad life for you!

Friday morning bright and early, I took my tired brain and body and flew to Brisbane with Helena and Lexie. We dropped our bags, got some lunch, then headed to the Lone Pine koala sanctuary, a legendary location in Brisbane. It was like nothing I had ever experienced, with over 100 koalas, and an open area where you can feed and pet kangaroos, which were softer than you could imagine. There were even wallaby and koala babies in the pouch! It was truly a surreal experience to be in such close quarters with such amazing animals.

koala mama and koala baby! You can’t make this stuff up!

The next day my assessments had been officially turned in, and we had all had at least a slightly better night of sleep. I took a walk down to the river before everyone was out of bed, and then we walked back down to the water for brunch, ran into a market, and explored Brisbane. We visited the modern art museum, which was wonderful, and went to the Brisbane brewing co. for beer and deep fried pickles. We even checked out a rooftop bar downtown.

Sunday we took an excursion to Moreton Island, a gorgeous place off the coast of Brisbane. We got to snorkel among shipwrecks, with crystal clear water and fish surrounding us on all sides. We walked along the beach, and hiked in the forest until we reached sand dunes. It was absolutely breathtaking, like nowhere I had ever been before, and a break I think we all needed.

The first couple days I spent getting groceries and doing work, settling back in. I learned I was the runner-up in a contest I entered for my study abroad program, IFSA, for a writing piece I had submitted (I won a $50 gift card!). Tuesday night some friends and I got to meet Helena’s mother, visiting from Maine, and then we had a final feast for IFSA. It’s pretty crazy to think that I didn’t know any of these people before this experience, and I hope that I do stay in touch with the friends I’ve made.

The next day was the last farmer’s market on campus! I met up with my friend Nicole there, and I tried paella for the first time (of course it was delicious). I did a little bit of grocery shopping with the woolworth’s gift card I had won, then met up with our IFSA coordinator and some friends for yet another free dinner. Wednesday’s dinner had a little bit more of a serious tone, however, because it was made by some chefs from Sri Lanka, still seeking asylum after more than 10 years in Australia. We discussed why things like this continue to occur and what we could personally do to reduce judgement in our own lives. The food was amazing, I had a wonderful vegetable curry with potato and okra.

The last couple days of the week meant my last few classes of my junior year. It feels pretty surreal that I’m so close to the end of this semester, but also to the end of my whole college career. During these past few weeks I’ve also been frantically trying to figure out my summer plans to fit in research, which has been quite stressful (stay tuned!). Most of all, it is bittersweet to know heading home is eminent. I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss home, but I also can’t comprehend that once I go back to the states I won’t be able to visit this home anymore. Luckily, there are coffee shops to visit, donuts to eat, traveling to do, and finals to study for in my last month! I’m not quite finished with Melbourne yet.

Australian vocabulary log #9: chips=fries, toastie=grilled cheese, queue=line, reckon=I suppose, I figure, cheers=a sign-off or a congratulatory comment

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