I had the opportunity to study abroad for the fall semester of my junior year in college. I immediately took this amazing opportunity and decided to go to Australia. I wanted to go someplace warm and exciting, and someplace where I possibly may never get to spend a long amount of time there again. I thought Australia would be the perfect place! I went through Butler University's Study Abroad Program, which was arranged with my home university. I decided to study at the University of Queensland near Brisbane, Australia. I was able to travel extensively during this time and hope this guide will help any considering a trip Down Under, regardless of the amount of time they get to spend.
The trip began with panicking over packing. I completely unpacked and repacked about an hour before I had to leave for my flight! Deciding what to take and what to leave when I was going to be thousands of miles from home for 4 MONTHS was difficult.
I flew New Zealand Air which was very nice and comfortable. My flight route was from Nashville to Los Angeles to Auckland to Brisbane. I was very nervous about transferring at LA as I've heard the horror stories about LAX, however, it was not too difficult. I've never been to CA, but the views of LA from the plane were breathtaking and made me want to plan a trip there someday. The overnight flight to Auckland was ridiculously long, but it goes by fast. You lose track of time. It didn't seem any worse than a flight to Europe, even though I think total plane time is about 21 hours or something ridiculous. Auckland to Brisbane was fine, and then in Brisbane I met the rest of my study abroad group to head to orientation.
Our orientation was at Lamington National Park, at Binna Burra. We were all very tired and ready to settle down. Our accomodations were these sort of permanent tents that were not very nice. This was a student trip, so we were not expecting things to be nice. I'm sure if you travel to Lamington Park by yourself, you can stay in nicer places.
Over the course of the orientation, we were able to have lots of fun at Lamington National Park. Activities included: Aboriginal dancing show, folk dancing, hiking in the rainforest, and a high ropes course which was fun and frightening at the same time. At night, these cute little creatures called pademelons would emerge -- they were like teeny tiny kangaroos! Also, there were wild turkeys running around everywhere! The view overlooking the valley was impressive.
Hiking in the woods was ok, but not a lot different from similar experiences in the US.
Overall: we were not too impressed with our stay at Binna Burra, but a lot of this was because we were very tired and jet-lagged, the accomodations were not good, we were whiny college students, and it was very cold while we were there. Of course, this was traveling in July, which is the dead of Australian winter. It would get extremely cold at night (40's, 30s) but warm up quite a bit during the days (50's and 60s). At night I was sleeping in multiple sweatshirts and a huge coat and was still FREEZING. We had a trek from our tents to the bathroom which was annoying. The food was ok. Also, they made us do all these silly "get-to-know-ya" things that I disliked.
I would suggest a trip to Lamington National Park people who like camping and hiking, though. Overall it was very pretty. I probably would've liked it if I had known what we were getting into, and it had been warmer. Probably we could've seen a lot more in the summer as well.
Sorry for the delay guys! I'm back!
After orientation, our study abroad group split up into smaller groups and headed for our farm stays. This was our first chance at meeting authentic Australians, plus we got the added experience of staying on an Australian farm.
We took a bus from Lamington National Park to where we were meeting our farmers. I was put in a group with two guys & another girl, and our farm was near the city of Toowomba.
Our hosts could not have been any nicer! They had a daughter, Annabelle, 18, who was also going to be attending the University of Queensland with us. She was a wealth of information & we drove her crazy asking questions about our uni.
They had a beautiful house, warm comfortable beds. After spending all that time camping, it was like being in heaven. The food they prepared for us was delicious as well! One night we had lamb raised from their farm! We ate all the time. Aussies tend to eat more often than Americans, and it seemed like everytime we turned around, we were eating - brekkie, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, & bed! We were still very jetlagged, so we kept going to bed really early (around 10pm) and waking up really early (around 6am!) This probably annoyed our farm family a little.
We had a lot of fun conversation with our host family. Topics included President Bush ("He's a bit of a wanker, isn't it?"), snakes (we were scared of them), & bears (Aussies are scared of them).
We spent the days relaxing on the farm, gathering wood for a barbie, fishing, playing tennis, and table tennis. We spent a lot of time riding around in the back of the ute - pick-up truck. At twilight, we would climb in the jeep & search for kangaroos. We saw lots of wild kangaroos & wallabies. The farmers next door raised camels. I didn't know it beforehand, but there are lots of camels in Australia! They were brought over from the Middle East and adapted well to the climate.
Brisbane was my home base during my study abroad trip. I was studying at the University of Queensland, and living in St. Lucia, a suburb of Brisbane. I was there for approximately four months.
I think that Brisbane is a wonderful city. It is extremely easy to get around by the train (Queensland Rail Citytrain information), bus, or even ferry (CityCat cruises)! (I did not have a car). The climate is fantastic, the people are extremely warm and funny and engaging. The people were interested in getting to know and talking to Americans. It was easy to make friends hanging out in the pubs or meeting people at uni.
The downtown area is gorgeous. It's quite modern but beautiful and comfortable at the same time. It's great to just walk around and explore, go shopping, eat at fun restaurants. One of the most interesting parts of Brisbane for me was the South Bank area. This is literally a man-made beach area in the middle of downtown that everybody can enjoy during the hot summer months! I had never seen anything like this before but think that it's a brilliant idea.
Nightlife in Brisbane is great as well. I went to some clubs downtown, but I really enjoyed the smaller pubs around St. Lucia much more. My favorites were the Regatta Hotel and the Royal Exchange Hotel.
Finally, something has to be said about the beautiful flora and fauna of Brisbane. Despite it being a major city, I was thrilled to see this wonderful kookaburra land right on my balcony and lizards crawling around in my backyard. The beautiful purple jacaranda trees awed me as well. It's an amazing place to explore in Australia!