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Journey Down Under (Copy)

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S: Journey Down Under

BC: About the author Blair Yarborough is a junior at Meredith College. She is majoring in English with a 6-9 licensure. She is grateful for the opportunity Meredith College has given her to study abroad., and she looks forward to incorporating her study abroad experience in her future classroom!

FC: Summer 2009 | By Blair Yarborough | Journey Down Under

1: This book is dedicated to my mom, dad, brother, and Kevin. Even though they did not journey down under with me, they were in my heart every day.

2: It was summer 2009- sophomore year at Meredith College had ended, and I was about to embark on a journey that will forever be imprinted in my memory. I had always wanted to go to Australia, and now I was finally boarding a plane to take me across the world to this kangaroo country. Mind you, I had only flown once before, and that was briefly to New York City, so this series of flights was a big deal for me and my family. Mom was a nervous wreck the day my friend and I boarded that plane. Originally, my mom was going to wait in the car outside while my dad, my older brother, and my boyfriend went inside the airport to send me off, but, I couldn't let her do that. Five minutes after receiving my boarding pass, I returned to the car to get my mom and walk her inside so that she could say goodbye to me, her baby girl, who was going away for a month to the other side of the world to study abroad.

3: It was summer 2009- sophomore year at Meredith College had ended, and I was about to embark on a journey that will forever be imprinted in my memory. I had always wanted to go to Australia, and now I was finally boarding a plane to take me across the world to this kangaroo country. Mind you, I had only flown once before, and that was briefly to New York City, so this series of flights was a big deal for me and my family. Mom was a nervous wreck the day my friend and I boarded that plane. Originally, my mom was going to wait in the car outside while my dad, my older brother, and my boyfriend went inside the airport to send me off, but, I couldn't let her do that. Five minutes after receiving my boarding pass, I returned to the car to get my mom and walk her inside so that she could say goodbye to me, her baby girl, who was going away for a month to the other side of the world to study abroad. | Kevin, my boyfriend, was not happy the day I left...

4: My friend and I, slowly fading away from our loved ones' visions, walked through the security check, then made our way to our terminals. While waiting to board our plane, we chatted about how this situation felt surreal. WEewere going to live across the world for a month, and this was the longest time I had been away from my family. My family and I were used to weekly visits back home on Sundays, when we'd have time to relax and catch up on each other's live.s Now, we would have to wait one month before we could sit down and have those catch-up conversations. Phone calls would lessen the distance for a short amount of time, but the 14- hour time difference would make it difficult to contact one another. The journey to Australia was about to take place, and little did I know the impact it would have on my life.

5: After frantically running to catch our flight from Dallas to Los Angeles, we had arrived across the United States. In the humongous Los Angeles airport, we met eight other students on the study abroad program. These people were going to be our family for the next month; we would eat every meal together, shop together, and of course, study together.

6: The whole group | The Sydney Harbour Bridge | Sydney Opera House

7: Our first day in Australia was in Sydney, home of the famous Sydney Opera House. My second day in Australia, we got the amazing opportunity to tour this beautiful piece of architecture; with the sun beautifully reflecting off the water and little clouds in the sky, it was the perfect day to be at the Sydney Harbour. While walking through this wondrous structure, I could not believe that I was at the place I had been dreaming of visiting my whole life; my dreams were finally becoming reality. The day after visiting the Opera House, we had a free day to explore Sydney's wonders. Part of our group decided to take a trip to tour Australia's Blue Mountains, located about two hours west of Sydney. We boarded a tour bus at around ten in the morning, and we were off to see a natural wonder. But, little did Cady Mack and myself know what this day would bring...

8: After a great day of petting kangaroos, climbing a waterfall, and peering out among the peaceful Blue Mountains, the tour bus decided to take a stop in the small town of Leura, Australia.

9: Leura is the typical mountain town, filled with local boutiques and businesses. As the bus driver let us off, he explained the bus would be departing at 3:45 p.m. to head back to Sydney. Miss Mack and I were enjoying browsing through the quaint shops when we realized it was 3:50 p.m. We did not worry, because the bus had never left on time that day; the bus driver always did a head count to ensure every individual was on the bus and left about fifteen minutes after the stated time of leave. As we were walking towards where the bus was supposed to pick us up, I got a sinking feeling in my stomach... it was then I realized that it was a possibility that the bus had left... without us on it. We could be lost... all the way around the world from our homes...

10: When we realized the bus wasn't there, we franticly ran up and down the streets of this tiny town, searching for the bus. The bus, of course, was nowhere to be found. Using our city smarts, we returned to a store we had visited and asked the lady if we could use her phone (there were no pay phones in site.) This nice Australian shop owner, excited that some "drama" was occurring in her small mountain town, enthusiastically lent us her phone. We called our tour guide of our study abroad program; he simply said "no worries, you're near a train station, just buy a ticket back to Sydney!" After thanking the woman, she asked me for my passport photo, explaining the she collects them. Due to fear of identity theft, we quickly left the shop and went to the train station to purchase our tickets back to Sydney.

11: After boarding the train and realizing we were sitting in a backwards seat, we nervously paid attention to each stop, being on the alert for the Sydney Central Station. Two hours later, when we finally arrived in Sydney, we immediately purchased some comfort food, spaghetti and lasagna, then headed back to our hotel room and passed out of exhaustion.

12: After we were deemed "the lost girls," homesickness was quick to set in. All I wanted to do is hop on a plane back to my small town of Clayton, North Carolina and be in the comfort of my family. I was infuriated that our tour guide simply stated "no worries, catch a train" when we were lost; I was experiencing culture shock. The extreme worry-less-ness bothered me; I was used to anxiety-prone American society. Luckily, this homesickness and culture shock did not last even a day. As soon as we awoke the next morning, there were no worries, and I was ready to board our flight to Cairns, I was eager to explore more of the land down under.

13: "NO WORRIES!"

14: After this interruption, our study abroad group boarded a plane that took us to the northeastern tip of Australia's tropics, Cairns. Here, we stayed in a hotel one block away from the ocean and the "esplanade," a cement walkway parallel to the beach. Along the road beside the esplanade were shops and quaint restaurants, Cairns was the perfect beach town. | Beautiful sunset in Cairns

15: Our first week in Cairns was spent at James Cooke University, studying Australian ecotourism and wildlife management. We were in class from 9 in the morning until3 in the afternoon, Monday through Saturday, and had to catch the bus each day to class. Using public transportation everyday was a first for me, but it enhanced my travel skills. We wrote approximately two papers each day, each one being about 3-4 pages long. Being in an intensive course such as this one assisted in my time management skills. | JCU & Australian rain forest | JCU library

16: During the class, we had to visit field trip sites, including a rain forest tour, a crocodile farm, a couple of zoos, a bird show, a reptile zoo, and a bat sanctuary. We received the opportunities to hold koalas and pythons during these visits!

17: After the class was over, we traveled out to the Great Barrier Reef, one of the world's 7 natural wonders, where we stayed overnight on a boat for one night and snorkeled for two days. A speed boat took us out to the Great Barrier Reef, and we were able to see beautiful rain forest mountains along the ocean. After an hour or so on the speed boat, we finally reach our dive boat, where we quickly received lunch and jumped into snorkeling gear.

18: This was my first time snorkeling- what better place to snorkel than the Great Barrier Reef?! The day was sunny and beautiful- perfect weather. Although I was awfully afraid of getting scraped by coral, I was able to spot many nemo's and dory's, along with a couple of sea turtles!

19: After our snorkeling trip, we then made our way to Outback land, where we stayed at a camp and toured caves. The most remarkable thing about the Outback was the scenery at night. During a camp fire, we all laid on old wooden benches, gazing up at the many stars that light up the sky. We could see Orion's Belt; everywhere we looked, we saw billions of burning specs in the black night sky. I wish my family could have been there to see such spectacular views, but they were with me in my heart. While I was star-gazing, I kept thinking about how ready I was to be home to see my family again. I had fallen in love with Aussie-country, but I could not wait to be back in the arms of my loved ones.

20: After spending a couple of night in the Outback land of Chillagoe, exploring caves, and swimming in the local watering hole, we made our way to Cape Tribulation.

21: Cape Tribulation is unique because it is the only place on Earth where the rain forest meets reef. Our group stayed in a beach house for two nights; our two-day stay was filled with sea kayaking and soaking up the last rays of Australian sun before heading back to America. | Sea kayaking | Beach House

22: After some late-night cave exploring, we took a van ride back to Cairns. The end of our journey had arrived; it was our last night in Cairns, the night our "family" had been dreading. We would soon be boarding separate planes that would scatter us across the United States. As soon as we arrived in the Los Angeles airport, we passed our dreaded goodbyes to one another, then made our way to our designate terminals. Although we were to be geographically separated, we would always be united by our Aussie-family bond. | We were sad because it was our last night in Australia.

24: Although I was leaving one family behind, I was ecstatic to be reunited with the family I left behind one month ago. My anticipation grew more and more as the flights grew nearer- from Los Angeles to Dallas, and from Dallas to Raleigh. When we stepped off the plane at RDU, Cady Mack and I could not stop smiling. After briefly pausing before turning around the corner where our loved ones were patiently waiting our arrival at the airport, I ran into the arms of my mom, dad, older brother, and my boyfriend. Although I was suffering from EXTREME jet lag, we headed straight to Bojangle's for my first meal back. I never realized how much I would miss this heart attack of a restaurant, and it was nice to be home enjoying my favorite comfort food once more.

25: Welcome home roses- one for each day I was gone... | Welcome home cake

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