Saying goodbye

This will be my final study abroad post.

Whether you’re a family member, friend, or prospective study abroad student, I hope you’ve enjoyed following my travels in Australia and New Zealand. When I started this thing, one of my goals was to give you a real, unabashed glimpse into this wonderful adventure I’ve had.

One of the things, I think, that happens when you’re abroad is that you gain an appreciation of other people and other cultures. You start to understand how the world works. You also start to appreciate some of the finer aspects of America.* You grow as a person because you see what it’s like to be on your own. You see some amazing sights and do things that you never in your wildest dreams thought you were capable of.** All of this makes it harder to say goodbye.

*Like, for example, the absence of ridiculously large spiders that attack your house

**Like bungy jumping in New Zealand. Or sleeping on an airport floor.

Here’s something else I learned: embrace the chaos. Being on your own means a lot less structure and a lot more free time. It’s really daunting and kinda scary – but it’s also liberating.  An absence of structure means a lot more is going on and you have to organize everything yourself like traveling and exams and eating and exercising. It makes your struggles more difficult and your successes more rewarding.

I fully expect to keep this blog going, but with a slightly different flavor. Instead of focusing on Australia, I’ll be focusing on some of my other passions: sports, movies, music, and my summer in NYC. You can expect many filtered, opaque, instagram-esque photos of pizza, bagels, tall buildings, parks, and Yankee Stadium. I’ve got a lot of American culture to catch up on.

Finally, thanks for reading. I have appreciated all of your comments and words of encouragement. See you on the other side.


What you should know about studying abroad in Australia

Yeah, I’d say this sums it up quite nicely:

1. Australia is expensive
Seriously save up before you go! Probably the most shocking part of Australia is just how expensive it is. Canberra and Sydney are both in the list of the 20 most expensive cities of the world. What does that translate to? When I was there a movie ticket was $18 (except for Mondays, they were $8 then!), there was no $1 menu at Mcdonald’s with the cheapest meal being around $6 there, a beer at just about any bar was a minimum of $4.50 and a one shot drink in the city was $8. Yikes!

2. It gets cold.
This is one thing no one ever believes me about- but yes Australia does get cold in the winter, especially if you go farther south to Melbourne. During the day it was about in the 60’s but as soon as the sun sets (which during winter is around 5:30) it gets cold. While it never got below freezing while I was there in the winter, it is still a good idea to pack warmish clothes because seriously, Australia does get cold.

3. Prepare to drink a lot of boxed wine
A small bottle of alcohol in Australia will cost you about $25. A box of wine, or goon, as they call it, will cost you between $10-$15. Believe me, over a semester of partying the cost adds up and as much as you probably hate the idea of drinking boxed wine, you’re going to end up drinking it. A lot.

4. Kiss your unlimited internet goodbye
The unlimited your probably used to getting for cheap in the good ol’ USA hasn’t quite reached Australia yet. Instead you pay by gb which translates into less aimless browsing of the internet. Downloading music and movies as well as skyping with people eats up your gb so be prepared to use your internet services less or pay up.

5. Australia is larger than you probably think it is.
Turns out that Australia is actually about as wide as the continental US. Who knew? Before getting there I knew it was a large country, but I didn’t realize how large it really was. So if you’re thinking everything’s just a short distance away, other cities might be a little farther away than you think.

Paddington Markets

Today we took a trip down to the Paddington Markets, located on the outskirts of Sydney. The markets have an endless amount of open-air tents that sell everything from aboriginal art to the best chocolate coffee beans you’ll ever taste.

The markets had a great vibe – even when we showed absolutely no intention of buying something, the sellers showed a genuine interest in our semester abroad.

At one point I walked into a store and had a long conversation with a woman trying to sell me a ukelele. We exchanged pleasantries, and when I told her I lived in Coogee, her eyes lit up. “Oh, you’re in luck. There’s a ukelele club that is pretty close by. They meet once a month.”

Here’s a picture of me trying to play said ukelele:

The Hunter Valley

As part of my New Zealand trip, I received a free day-trip. I had a few options: the Jenolean caves, Port Stephens dolphin watching, or a wine tasting in Hunter Valley. I chose the latter – I had never been on a wine tasting before, and I had talked to people who said that the Hunter Valley was a must-see (you can read more about the Hunter Valley here. It’s Australia’s equivalent of the Napa Valley).

As part of the trip we stopped at three wineries: Drayton’s, McGuigan’s, and First Creek. Each winery gave us eight different wines in a 3-3-2 pattern (three whites, three reds, and two dessert liquors). Many of these wines have won multiple awards, and they are considered the best that Australia has to offer.

I learned why sophisticated wine-tasters smell and swirl the wine before they drink it. The faster the lines drip, the less alcohol content the wine contains. And if there are more lines, there is more alcohol.

I’m still a wine rookie, so there were a lot of wines I had never tasted before. I don’t think I can really make a judgment on what I like and don’t like yet, but there were a few reds and ports that I really enjoyed.

Overall, it was a great day to be out in the country – the weather was perfect and our tour guide was excellent. At one point he locked the keys in our van and had to call roadside assistance. I also tried kangaroo meat for the first time, and it was delicious. I’ll probably cook some more at the house before I depart.

Here are some pictures from the day:

Study in Australia Student Blogging Program

A few days ago I found out that I was selected to be an official student blogger for study abroad students in Australia. You can read more about it here. It’s a great honor to be selected, and if you’re a prospective study abroad student, I hope my blog can be a resource to you as you decide where you want to spend your semester abroad.

I’ve been blogging for a few months, so if you’re new here, I recommend checking out the site archives. It’s been a wild few months in Sydney, and I’ve had some amazing experiences. Here are some posts to get you started:

20 things I’ve learned in Sydney

Coogee to Bondi walk

Trip to Melbourne

Trip to New Zealand

Sydney Roosters rugby game

Blue Mountains

Walking around Coogee

If you want to check out all of my abroad posts, you can find them here.

As always, feel free to reach out to me via email (, Twitter (@jjf91), or in the comments below.

Blue Mountains

I spent my Sunday at the beautiful Blue Mountains. We got up early, packed our bags, and piled into the van – my roommate’s parents were in town, and thankfully they offered to drive us there.

It was about a two hour ride, which included a stop in the town of Katoomba, where I ate an amazing roast beef sandwich. We arrived at the mountains in the early afternoon, and after we took pictures at the various lookout points, we decided to hike down the Giant Stairway. The Giant Stairway is exactly what it sounds like – a massive staircase that leads you into the depths of the mountains. 900 steps later, we reached the bottom.

To get a feel for just how intense 900 steps is – my apartment last semester was on the sixth floor and was 70 steps up. So we hiked the equivalent of (approximately) 77 stories. Keep in mind that we also had to hike back up, so in total we hiked about 150 stories. It’s safe to say that we all had a good workout today.

Along the way, there were amazing views and lots of interesting wildlife. Here are some pictures: