The final few weeks and conclusion to an exchange semester in Australia

After a riveting mid-semester break, we were now back in Surfer’s Paradise, a place where I’d already spent the past 2.5 months, and only had 1.5 more months left to explore.

Time was flying by so quickly, and with only a month and a half left it was time to make every moment count! Here are a few of the things I did after mid-semester break (and the past few weeks before the end of my semester):

I began the month of October with a weekend out to Fraser Island! The days spent on Fraser were great and it was awesome to spend time away from Surfer’s to enjoy some outdoor adventures with great friends. 🙂

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A rare opportunity to spot a dingo family, including the pups and their mum. The puppies were playing with each other and chasing their mother for food. 🙂

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Lake McKenzie

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Eli Creek

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Champagne Rock Pools

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Bracing the waves. The waves would crash in over the rocks and coral, and this created a frothy bubble like champagne. 😉

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It was also a new experience to drive on the beach and there were essentially beach highways where drivers would drive nearly 100km/h! Wrapping our trip up, it was time to catch the ferry and we were on our way back, when suddenly… we got stuck in the sand! We were under a huge time pressure, and tried several times. When things were looking bad, help arrived! Another vehicle came with a rope, which could tow us out of the sand; we were free and made it to the ferry!

The following weeks were filled with further adventure, several activities, and with gatherings of all sorts (especially over food). The weeks also consisted of finishing assignments for the semester, organizing an end of the year event for the exchange students, thunderstorms, and many evenings of drinks and celebration.

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Australian dessert (lamington, Tim Tams, ginger nuts, and pavlova), which are normally accompanied by a large salad and large burgers, which we ate before the picture was taken. 😉 An Australian burger includes the patty and various vegetables, but what’s iconic is that it usually also includes beetroot and pineapple!

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Our visitor that evening for Australian dinner, an opossum.

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French – Coq au vin

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Indian – curry chicken

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Mexican – guacamole + chips, enchilada, quesadilla, pico de gallo, strawberry + mango margarita

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Japanese (one of several nights) – Sushi with chicken, tuna, avocado, salmon, cucumber

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Another day, another delicious breakfast on the balcony 🙂

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German – chicken schnitzel, potatoes, green beans, mushroom w/ cream

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Canadian West Coast dinner gathering, with an influence of the recent Thanksgiving and Nuu Chah Nulth culture to share thanks, gratitude, and hospitality.

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Canadian West Coast – Salmon

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Canadian West Coast – fruit salad

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Whale research, a volunteer opportunity with Humpbacks and Highrises. Venturing out in the ocean with Whales in Paradise.

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Spontaneous excursion to Air Factory! Bubble soccer and endless fun jumping on trampolines!

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Lizard found in the woods during some evening exploration.

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Wild Halloween night! All dressed-up and done with classes — ready to celebrate! One contrast I noticed between Halloween  in Canada versus with a large cohort of European students (mostly German and Scandinavian) was a greater emphasis on dressing scary. I really liked the themed idea of everyone dressing scary, and it really brought our costumes into cohesion!

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My final night working with the team was an amazing night of celebration! Going to miss the “work” that I did each week in this role, and the amazing people I worked with!

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For a few weeks there were several thunderstorms, and there was even a unique electrical storm that could be seen from our apartments and the beach! These storms were incredible and a great sight to behold.

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Springbrook National Park – Natural Bridge

I encountered many challenges planning an end of the year event for exchange students. Despite the obstacles, it was a successful event that allowed us to share farewells and toast to an incredible semester spent together. This event was held at Q1 at the Skypoint Observation Deck and was themed “Internationals in the Sky.” It was an awesome night, and one of our final opportunities to connect before leaving the Gold Coast.

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Concluding a semester abroad

Suddenly after an amazing semester, my final couple of weeks in the Gold Coast were approaching and it was time to make the most of the limited time I had left.

The last two weeks were filled with sharing farewells and friendly visits, making plans for travelling, and making plans for my return to Canada (where to live, when to graduate, and what I want to do after graduation).

My exchange semester at Griffith University has come to a close. While briefly reflecting during preparations for my next adventure, it is incredible to think of all the amazing people I met, the new experiences I had, and everything I have learned.

The international student population was largely split between living on campus and living in Surfer’s Paradise. Living in Surfer’s Paradise, I learned a lot about Australian culture as well as a lot about Scandinavian and other European cultures due to my social circle and the people I surrounded myself with.

The exchange student population this semester was largely European, with a small portion of us from North America. I was the only person from the West Coast.

Although I missed the comfort of connecting with the familiarity of meeting those from a similar culture, this instead allowed me ample opportunity to stretch my cultural horizons and meet many more people from different global backgrounds, providing insight and perspective into the ways we see the world.

Exploring these differences is interesting, but it is also quite beautiful to notice despite these unique differences that there is so much more shared in common and it is extraordinary sometimes to see how quickly incredible connections are formed with others globally.

Something that I’ve learned while on exchange is that the people we meet have a huge impact and help create the experience we have while traveling and living in another part of the world. Sharing this exchange semester with amazing people from various backgrounds around the world has been incredible. I am thankful for all the amazing people I’ve met during my 4 months in Australia and who’ve made a positive impact upon my experience here.

During these 4 months I’ve had the time to foster some amazing connections, and with all of us leaving so soon I will sincerely miss the people I’ve met. However, this is not goodbye, but see you soon, and I look forward to connecting again some day in the future. Sharing farewells can be difficult as after 4 months you’ve established new roots in a community and it is time to uproot again, a time to create a new community and way of life each day.

With the amazing people we’ve met it can be hard to determine when you will see your new friends again (especially if you live nearly 7700km away from most ;)), if life follows naturally and we continue to pursue our interests and feelings of fulfillment, it is very likely we will connect again with the amazing people who’ve impacted us.

Final Reflections

During this semester I visited some of the most magical beaches, learned how to catch a wave, dove 30m to a shipwreck, jumped out of a plane 14,000 feet above the ground, explored new cities, food, and wildlife (dingoes, koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, spiders, and sea snakes), and I’ve had some crazy nights. Along the way I’ve met some of the most incredible people who I’ve connected with and have helped create my exchange semester to be one of my best and most interesting semesters to date. A truly unforgettable experience, and memories that will last a life time!

I am now ending my journey in Australia, but am already making plans to visit this country again some day in the future, as well as visiting the amazing people I’ve met and adventuring with them once again!

I’ve made travel plans for the far (hopefully sooner) future, and my experience while on exchange has only reinforced my interests as I eagerly anticipate the time when I can travel again. (Travel plans for the future: Europe –> Middle East –> India –> Australia –> Indonesia + Southeast Asia –> China + Japan + Korea.)

For the meantime, I am on my way to New Zealand and have decided to make a booking with KiwiExperience. Time to spend a month of adventure in New Zealand, here I go!! 😀

<3 Ricky

 

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