The worldwide Augustana College experience

I Met Nemo!

Dear Sydney,

Wow did you exhaust me this past week! Since this past Monday so much has happened. For starters,

Wednesday: me and the rest of my CAPA group from Augie had our first ‘academic’ class of our time here. The class is taught by a younger lady and it’s mostly to help us work through issues at our internship sites, share our failures  and successes, as well support each other as we feel the pressures of working in another country full time. I won’t lie, the first meeting (and only 1 of 2 that will be in person, the rest are online) was a little redundant. We already had a 5 week program which consisted of 40 hours of internship and cultural research which we took on campus at Augie before leaving the country. Most of the work for the course will probably be pretty reflective and full of our observations though so it can’t be that bad.

Thursday: I had my internship to go to. I attempted to work diligently, but the prospect of leaving for the Great Barrier Reed when I got off work was a LITTLE distracting. However, I was good and even started one of my own little projects that I hope will help me learn more about Brown-Forman (Jack Daniels Parent Company) as well as different departments within in a corporation. I asked my supervisor if I could “interview” other employees and department heads in the office in order to learn more about them, their field, and their role within the company. My first interview was Thursday and I got to talk to the Human Resources Manager. She was really friendly and I got to learn so much about how she was able to get the position she has, the responsibilities of an HR manager, what the HR department does at Brown-Forman as opposed to  other companies, and how HR differs from the US to Australia. She was great person to interview first because she was very sweet, encouraging, and passionate about her job. Made for a great learning experience and I took lots of notes.

The actually cool part about Thursday was that I took off to Cairns, Queensland, Australia. It is a city about a 3 hour plane right north of Sydney and is situated around the north eat corner of Australia. It is a completely tourist driven such as the Wisconsin Dells or Branson, MO because it is the closest coastal down to the Great Barrier Reef! We got into town late Thursday night and got a shuttle to our Hostel which is named Gilligans… You are welcome to google the hostel to understand what I am getting at, but man was I under prepared for what I was about to experience. There was a MASSIVE night club on the main floor of the hostel full of excessively drunk and sweaty people. The music was crazy loud and even shook the walls with the bass. We could hardly hear the desk assistant that was trying to check all 10 of us into the SAME ROOM. I was prepared for the 10 people in one room, what I wasn’t ready for was the lack of linens, the one shower and toilet for all 10 people, the small mirror for 10 girls to share, the gross and over lived in room smell of thousands of backpackers that had slept in the beds, and the continued booming bass coming up from the night club downstairs.  Since we ha already gotten in late that night, had worked that day and been up early, and were planning on getting up early the next day as well to snorkel and scuba dive, none of us were too interested in the night club. However, the night club was still interested in us. from about 11-12 at night until 4 am in the morning when the night club closed, I was wide awake and enjoying the vibrations of bed keeping time with every slight bass note of the music down stairs. I also got to enjoy every word of every song booming in through the window. I was great.. At about 3;59 the music stopped and there was death silence.. I was FINALLY able to sleep for the next 2.5 hours until we had to get up and get ready to go snorkeling out in the tropical heat, sun, and saltwater. Wonderful.

Friday: I’ll stop complaining now though, live and learn I guess. Anyway, Friday was scuba diving! We all got up, more than a little haggard, and threw on our swimsuits and sunscreen and headed to the marina where our scuba diving trip was scheduled to take off. Given this is a tropical edge of the world, it was at 98% humidity with temps at 93 degrees. A little warm and muggy I would say. We were all pretty excited for the relief the boat gave us when the wind started up. We took off out of the marina and finally got to see the real splendor of Cairns. It is in a valley among st MILES AND MILES of rainforested mountains. I have attached pictures at the bottom of it. We got too see all these mountains, rain forests, and valleys for about 45 minutes until we hit open ocean on our way to the Great Barrier Reef which was another hour and 15 minutes out (its a barrier reef so it’s miles out and mimics the line of the coast).  It was kind of cloudy, but otherwise a beautiful day. Once we got to the reef we were given snorkeling equipment (I would be the third group to scuba dive and I had to wait my turn), and were literally just dropped off over a section of the “reef of paradise” which is named for the variations and coloring of the reef in that particular area. IT. WAS. AWESOME. I had rented an underwater camera with me friends and I could not stop snapping photos of everything in sight. However, the middle of the ocean is more than a little wavy and I definitely ingested my fair share of salt water though the breathing tube. So I was pretty excited when I get to come in and get my scuba gear to go dive.

Now I am not certified, but Australia has different rules so you can do an “Intro Dive” where you go down with a “tour guide” who is certified and you can go down to a certain depth. Pretty awesome they let you really because it was gorgeous down deeper and where I could get up close with the colorful fish, quirky and random coral, explore the variations in plant life, and even see a baby shark! It was really exciting but I do owe my instructor a lot of credit because I almost didn’t end up going down. I got scared because of the pressure of the water on me and wanted to back. It was a little mental crisis that had me feeling claustrophobic. However he took me up, calmed down, and asked me if I would try again because he really wanted me to see it. I trusted him and I can now say that I WENT SCUBA DIVING IN THE GREAT BARRIER REEF! So very cool and views I will never forget. After that we were provided lunch on the boat of, what else, sea food. It was actually great and really refreshing to eat after being in the sun and water. As we ate we continued on to a small island in the middle of the ocean which is a protected area for ocean birds and turtles. It was basically a breeding ground for protected animals, so we had to be very careful. However, we still got to swim with the turtles that mate and lay babies there, as well as swim with a new variety of fish that live mostly around beaches. So freaking cool. I even got to lay out a bit and relax on an island in the middle of the ocean. 🙂 After a great day we started making our way back to Cairns on the 2 hour trip back in. Was a nice relaxing time while they taught us about what we had seen and been swimming with.

Lastly, while I would love to say I was adventurous and could back pack with the best of them, I surrendered my battle with the hostel after a huge fight happened in the night club and I passed a few drug deals coming up the steps… A friend of mine there and I were more than a little freaked out and ended up hiking all over Cairns looking for a decently priced place to stay for the next two nights. We found a Holiday Inn and with a room and nearly cried with relief. So there was that scare.. After we calmed down and got a shower at the Holiday Inn, we started to explore the board walk of Cairns along the Pacific Ocean. They call it the Esplanade there and it was gorgeous. It was full of little shops, markets, cafes, restaurants, and pubs along the walk. We also saw a BEAUTIFUL public infinity pool which overlooked the ocean. There were huge iron artistic tropical fish floating over the pool as well. It was really pretty neat.  We also rows and row of big tropical trees lit up from the insight with different colored lights and Chinese lights hanging from the branches for the Chinese New Year which is this coming weekend. Was a great end to the day and really helped me and my friend calm down after our little.. adventure.

Saturday: So this day was definitely more a relaxing day. While 7 of the friends I traveled there with decided to go white water rafting the rain forest, me and my two friends Lindsey and Ashley decided to go an Island called Fitzroy Island. It is about 45 minutes off the coast and surrounded by the rain forest mountains and valleys I talk about earlier. Except this was a mountain all its own in the water and had coral beaches. Here we got to snorkel casually along the beach, get lunch and hike to the “secret garden” in the rain forest up the mountain, paddle board, and get drinks at the bar over looking the ocean. So.. not a bad day I would say. (I have attached pictures of this as well) This night the three of us shopped around in the markets and got a great cheap dinner at a bar and restaurant call PJ O’Brains. It played great music and even included a “pot” of your favorite alcoholic drink with the meal. So naturally we were sold. Although the full meal, a little drinks, and all that sun had us to bed before 10 PM. Not that I am complaining though because our 6:45 AM flight had us up at 4:30 AM to get to the airport on time.

Sunday: Happy Australia Day! Oh my gosh if I didn’t Sydney at it’s finest last night. I didn’t have much to drink. I’m not a really a drinker plus I was so dehydrated from the salt water and sun all weekend that it probably wasn’t a good idea to drink anyway. I will not go into the details of my friends escapades, but I will say I should be considered a certified babysitter at this point. The night was still enjoyable though because I saw the fire work show a life time. Sydney spares no expense or extravagance when it comes to celebrating and especially on its birthday. (pictures below). I’ll leave that at that.. haha

Today is Monday, but it is a public holiday here so I don’t have to work. YAY! Which is why I am here celebrating by reflecting on the past few crazy days and attempting to catch up on such mundane tasks such as grocery shopping and laundry. boo. I will leave with thanking my sister for her continued texts and emails keeping me updated on her life and making me feel like I’m not missing EVERYTHING, I want to thank both my parents for waking up in the middle of the night to listen to my panicked rants about a disturbed hostel, and also my boyfriend for his continued understanding and support. I love you all so very much!

Goodnight Australia!


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