That old saying, “time flies when you’re having fun,” has never been truer than today. After 96 days, my time studying abroad in Sydney, Australia, has come to an end. I have seen new sights, made new friends, gained new experiences, and learned a lot about myself. I am going to use this final blog post as a Greatest Hits of sorts to reflect on all the fun moments we have all shared in Straya.
January: On a day so hot that we all were smothering, we landed in Sydney. Many of us struggled to remember who was who and had some difficulty adjusting to the time difference. Alice and Allyson took us to Taronga Zoo, Olympic Park, and Bondi Beach. The next week’s classes began at USyd and we all became well acquainted with Dr. Anne Rees and our guardian angel, Dr. Miller. Alice and Allyson led us on the fun-filled Coogee to Bondi walk, complete with selfie stops. That evening Dr. Miller spoiled us and took us to our first family dinner in Darling Harbour. The next day we all put on our Australian Best and celebrated Australia Day like true Aussies at the fireworks show. On the following Sunday, a few of us went to Hillsong for the first time and found a nice church home for the next few months.
February: On the first day of the month we did the infamous Spit to Manly walk. If you did not go you weren’t missing anything. It was 10km of the jungle, rain, and Nacho running through the whole thing. The Yellow Buoy Squad did a form that day, so there is a positive out of that trek. That Friday we all met Abby, and she got us lost in North Sydney, walking up and down those hills repeatedly. We took in Luna Park and several of us nearly died on the spinning carnival ride of death. That weekend most of us got out of Sydney for the first time when we went surfing Camp. So much happened there, that if you need a refresher I have a whole blog on it. The highlights include being tent mates with Tim Tam, seeing wild kangaroos, and learning to surf. Gnarly brah. The next week was business as usual, getting harassed by professors, no biggy. Shweta took Catie and me to meet our boss for the first time. I wore a full suit and sweated all the way through it. I was gross and felt like a freak of nature. It was a rather unfortunate morning. The following weekend we all went to Royal National Park, and I, unfortunately, flipped the canoe. Still sorry about that, Mary! That afternoon, I think we all can agree, was the hottest day of our trip. The sand was leaving third-degree burns on our feet, Shelby passed out, and Tristan the tour guide was flirting with Dr. Miller (I was referring to multiple kinds of hot). It was a doozy for everybody, minus Adam who didn’t go. That Sunday several of us went to the Hillsong Hills campus for Vision Sunday, where they announced they are putting new Hillsong churches in Portugal, San Francisco, and Israel! The next week was our final week of classes at USyd. Haley met her Chinese friend who took pictures with us, we all saw the orgiastic play, King Roger, at the Opera House, and Dr. Miller said goodbye and headed back to Tennessee. The next week was spent on various parts of the globe for everyone as we had our Spring Break. Aloha.
March: Our internships began, and we all started going in different directions. Benojo had me doing lots of spreadsheets and SalesForce. The first weekend of the month Apartment 2103 got the privilege of attending the premiere of the play Chimerica, and the after party was #lit. Thanks again, Shelby! The next day several of us went to the Sea Life Aquarium and rode around on the penguin ride multiple times. On the way home, Emily adopted a shopping cart from the side of the road, and it stayed in our living room as abstract art until we left. The next weekend was filled with lots of typical tourist things. Shelby and I went to St. Mary’s Cathedral (beautiful) and the Contemporary Art Museum (weird). On Saturday I saw Adele in concert, and she blew me away. It was the best concert I’ve ever been to. On Sunday I hosted UT’s Snapchat takeover live from Sydney. I went to the Chinese Friendship Gardens, Wildlife Zoo, Westfield Tower, and Circular Quay to give the good Vol fans of the world an inside look at Sydney. The next Friday we all celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in the Land Down Under. Fun Fact: Aussie’s don’t wear green. The next day Cayla, Shelby, and I went to Canberra (We were staying in Canberra…[Inside joke, don’t mind me]). The rumors are true folks, there really is nothing to do in Canberra. We saw all four sights in one day. On Sunday Nacho and Mohammed escorted us to the Blue Mountains, while the rainy season was still in full swing. The only Three Sisters I saw were Mary, Anna, and their mom. Luckily our guide stopped the bus on the way home on a whim and actually made us all run downhill to remarkably get a stunning view. The sun came out and all was well. That Wednesday evening Elle, Cayla, Haley, and I went and saw Aladdin straight from Broadway. Even cooler than the show was us meeting the actors who played the Genie and Jasmine by chance afterward. The next weekend was my trip from Hell to the Whitsundays. I also have a blog exclusively dealing with that trip. It’s one humdinger of a tale. Just know to never underestimate a cyclone named Debbie. On Thursday night a lot of us went to eat for Mary’s birthday and got stuffed. The next day we all jetted off to Cairns, where we all held a koala and got to stay in the ritziest hostel around.
April: On the first of the month we were still in Cairns and were headed out to the Great Barrier Reef to scuba dive (my favorite thing of the trip). Several people faced their fears and all of us had an amazing time. That night a few of us went to the Ultimate Party and then headed back to Sydney the next day. On Wednesday Apartment 1713 and I prank called Cayla and Emily, pretending to be an angry Chinatown vendor. Plot twist: they actually believed us. “This is Catie from Fu Man Chi, and you just got Punkd!” On Thursday Cayla and I went to Madame Tussaud’s and Paddy’s Markets. Then Friday through Sunday I was in the Sunshine Coast. On Friday I went to the Australia Zoo and saw the Irwin Family feeding some killer crocs. Crikey! Then I went to meet with my Aussie cousins who let me stay with them and showed me how Queenslanders live. On Saturday they took me to the Eumundi Markets, then we hiked a trail to the Hell’s Gates at Noosa Heads, and then to the beach to surf, or rather, attempt to surf. That night I got a special treat because Lori and Alan let/taught me to drive a stick shift on the left side of the road. It was a hilarious ride and a day of firsts! The next day I went to church with them and listened to my other cousin preach before flying back to Sydneytown. On Tuesday of the next week Catie and I “had a dinner thing” and went to a popup Los Pollos Hermanos restaurant from the Breaking Bad universe. Word of advice: if food is free, have some Tums on hand. That Friday was Good Friday, so a group of us went to the Hillsong Hills campus for communion. The next day a few of us went to Manly, but the Autumn season had set in and it was too cold for tanning or swimming. I opted to hit up all the restaurants I hadn’t eaten at yet, so I got a gelato flower, a pizza from Salt Meat Cheese, and a milkshake from Max Brenner. On Easter Sunday most of us from Apartment 2103 got up at 4:45 AM to see the sunrise at Bondi. It didn’t occur to any of us that the buses might not be running since it was a holiday, so we were stumped. Luckily a random drunk guy hadn’t made his way home from the bar yet, and Shiza Minelli, he gave us a great idea to walk. So off we went, walking from Bondi Junction to the beach in the dark. We did eventually make it, though, and it was so rewarding. I have never gotten up to see a sunrise before, and this was truly a spectacle. There was no better way to ring in Easter morning. Later we all went to the Easter service at Hillsong and said goodbye to everyone. That night our apartment had an extreme Easter egg hunt, and I got a new tattoo. I got an arrow because it represents always moving forward and never going back. My tattoo artist, Mattoo, informed me as I was telling him about my faith and Easter, that he was a Satanist. What a conversation that turned out to be. You know me, hanging with church peeps in the morning and hanging with devil worshippers in the evening. Wow. After that excitement, it was time to begin our final week in Sydney. Monday evening most of Apartment 2103 went to the glowworm tunnel in Helensburgh. You could actually see the glowworms, which was satisfying, but what you don’t know going into it is that the tunnel is literally just several feet deep with wet mud. Cayla looked like she was wearing brown boots when she really had on Chacos. Gross. On Tuesday I escorted Shelby back to Mattoo, so she could get a tattoo also. Apparently we left a good impression on him because he gave us free t-shirts and was super kind. Life is full of surprises. I met a kindhearted Satanist this week, what did you do? On Thursday Catie and I got interviewed by UT’s camera crew on our last day of work, and then our boss treated us to dinner. It was neat to get to know them on a more personal level. On Friday the camera crew had us go back to USyd and spray paint a Power T in the Graffiti Tunnel, so I can add “Wannabe Vandal” to my resume now. On Saturday, our last day, I tried to do a little bit of every. Cayla and I spent the morning at the Powerhouse Museum. We managed to do it all in two and a half hours, but you could easily spend a whole day there. After that, we took a train to Circular Quay to see the Opera House and Harbour Bridge one last time. The camera crew filmed us being the social butterflies that we are, and then we dipped out and went to Paddy’s Markets to buy more things we don’t need. Last night I pulled basically an all-nighter, receiving one hour of sleep. Cayla and I went to N2 Gelato before coming home, and then the packing nightmare began. I got everything packed in one hour, but it took me three hours to get all my suitcases zipped. It should go without saying that they were overweight, but it was a miracle that I even got them closed. This morning Nacho picked us up from Urbanest (Woohoo! We’re done living there!), and he took us to the airport. We all quickly went our separate ways and that was that. It was really anticlimactic, but I think everyone is just ready to be home.
This trip has been amazing, and I am so fortunate that I got to experience it. I will treasure forever all the places I went, things I learned, and friends I made. Thank you for everything you’ve done for us Dr. Miller and Dr. Swan! Can’t wait to see everyone back in Knoxville!