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May 26, 2009

Sydney!

On Sunday when we arrived in Sydney, we got a chance to explore the area around our hotel, which is incredibly nice! (It has a pool and sauna on the roof and an amazing view at night). Then we got to go on a guided bus tour to see all the popular tourist areas. The first place they took us was to a lookout point across from the Sydney Cove where we could take pictures of the Sydney Harbor Bridge and the Sydney Opera House! I remember always seeing it on TV during the 2000 Summer Olympics so it was incredible to actually be there looking at it with my own eyes. It was definitely a beautiful sight and I would visit again in a heartbeat. Today, we got to visit the Parliament House, where all of Australia’s legislation takes place. The walk there was almost two-thirds of the way to the coastline, so we decided to extend our journey a little further through the Royal Botanical Gardens. Those were just as beautiful as the gardens we got to see in Brisbane. We continued walking through that and were lucky enough to see the Opera House up close and personal! It definitely looks a lot different It was about an hour until sunset so I got some more great pictures of that, the Harbor Bridge, and the area inside the cove itself. We went to Darling Harbor on the way back to eat supper at a restaurant right on the water. By the time we got there, it was already nightfall so all of the city lights were reflecting across on the water and it was absolutely breathtaking; that has now become my favorite spot in all of Sydney. When we finally got back to the hotel, I used a map to calculate how far we had walked that day and arrived at a grand total of 14,200 meters. If our conversion from metric is correct, it was just less than 8 miles! My feet are unbelievably sore, but the 147 amazing pictures on my camera from today alone were definitely worth it.

May 23, 2009

Weekend Activities

Throughout the past five days, we've also had plenty of free time to do sightseeing and enjoy some of the wildlife that is unique to Australia. Two of the most memorable things we've gotten to experience so far on our journey have been our trip to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary yesterday and the trek that a few of us made to the Gold Cost at Surfer's Paradise Beach today. At Lone Pine, we got to play with and pet kangaroos, cuddle koalas, chat with parrots, and observe tazmanian devils, emus, etc. It was kind of surreal to be in an open area surrounded by kangaroos that were just hopping around as if they were in their natural habitat. It was really cool to see koala bears too! Although they are super cute, they have an interesting odor that most would consider unpleasant. A word of wisdom to anyone who visits Lone Pine: wearing white flip-flops is definitely a mistake... Today, a small group of us students decided to try our luck with Brisbane's transit system. We took an hour and a half long air train ride to a bus station where we jumped on one of those and successfully made it to the Gold Coast in less than two hours! Due to the recent rainstorms causing the riptides to be even stronger than normal, swimmers and surfers are temporarily unable to actually go into the ocean. But it was obvious after watching the water why they call it Surfer's Paradise; I have never seen such enormous waves in my entire life! I was hoping to have my first surfing experience, but I guess I'll have to keep that on my "Life To-Do" list for a little while longer.

Guest Lectures/Company Tours

Throughout our week in Brisbane, we were lucky enough to be able to listen to three guest lectures and go on two on-site company tours. Each of our lectures gave us insight into different aspects of Australian business, such as political views and economics, workforce strategies, and performance management techniques. Each of the companies we visited were non-profits, but in completely different fields. The first was a retirement community that must compete with for-profits to fill space, and the second was the Mining Industry Skills Center that uses simulators to teach employees how to operate enormous machinery correctly. Professor Benrouane did a great job tying each of the lectures and visits to the curriculum we learned during class. Overall, this has been a great learning experience so far and I feel extremely lucky to be able to have this opportunity.

QUT Campus

My first impression of the Queensland University of Technology campus was that it is absolutely beautiful. They are lucky enough to be right on the end of Brisbane's Botanical Garden which is absolutely gorgeous. I'm jealous that we don't have anything resembling that right by the U's campus. The natural vegetation is exotic, colorful, and in full bloon right now since Australia is in the middle of its Autumn season. I envy each of the QUT students for getting to experience walking through this whenever they please. All of the building on campus look so new and modern, yet at the same time resemble the old buildings on the mall area on East Bank of our campus. The students who took us on the tour of campus and parts of the city mentioned that Brisbane has only recently been becoming a growing city. Apparently, one thousand people migrate to the city each month! One thing is for sure, I could definitely see myself living over here at some point in my life as well.

May 21, 2009

Weather Update

This morning was the first time we’ve seen the sun since we arrived in the city. Brisbane had been experiencing a drought for several weeks until the last 48 hours. Their dam levels were at 16% and decreasing so the city officials had declared that citizens were no longer allowed to water their gardens or wash vehicles until it rained. During our time here, the level has risen to 68% and is still increasing. The news reported that the city hasn’t seen flooding like this since 1974! Karen, the head of the management department here at QUT, joked that she blames us Minnesotans for the bizarre weather change :)

Exploring the City

The day we arrived in Brisbane, we were given the option to go on a tour guided by a few of the students from QUT. It was a great opportunity to get a feel for the city. Upon seeing some of the sights and landmarks, we all noticed that Brisbane is actually very similar to Minneapolis! The architecture is a little more modern, but a lot of their downtown buildings are structured the same as the Minneapolis skyline. They also have a building that looks exactly like the Metrodome, a stretch of road that we’ve been referring to as “Nicollet Mall”, a bridge that is structure and lit up at night like 35W, and a pedestrian bridge on campus similar to the U’s Washington Bridge! Although it slightly felt like being at home, it has been very difficult (since Australian’s drive on the opposite side of the road) to get used to veering to the left when walking down the sidewalk since we all have the tendency to go right instead!

May 14, 2009

Nearing Departure

It seems that the past few weeks of my life have been more hectic than ever. From completing final papers and assignments to studying for and taking final exams, I haven't found much time to get excited about the upcoming trip to Australia. But after finishing my very last final this morning (yay!), it finally hit me that we'll be on a plane in only three days! I've had plenty of time today to create a list of a few things I need to accomplish before leaving the country:
-Check on exchange rates and credit card fees
-Make payments (rent, car) that will be due while I'm gone
-Decide how many and which outfits to pack :)
My biggest fear is that everything I want to bring wont fit in my luggage!

T-minus 73.25 hours!