Things I’m Loving Lately #1

1. Coconut water – holy moly it’s hot here. And the sun is SO strong. I feel like every time I get back to the apartment I have to down two nalgenes of water. Gatorade and Powerade are SO expensive here so I’ve swapped those out for coconut water. It hydrates you and tastes amaaaazing

2. The PEOPLE – Wow, and I thought people in the south (of the US) were nice! Everyone is so incredibly friendly here. It might be due to the fact that it’s O-week (orientation week) and everyone is putting their best foot forward, but man…it blows my mind! I can’t tell you the number of times people have struck up a conversation with me on the bus and given helpful tips about Sydney and Australia. It’s almost as if everyone in this city is looking out for each other. Aside from that, all my flatmates are incredibly sweet, outgoing, and a lot of fun. My upstairs neighbors (from Australia and New Zealand) have been heaps of fun to be around as well. So welcoming, so genuine, and such a blast to be around.

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Mahla, Eloise, myself, and Charlotte at Scary Canary

3. My ceiling fan – so, no A/C in the flat. Which is totally fine (go environment!). But, some days it really can get quite hot. This fan seriously has saved my life a few nights.

4. Whatsapp  – although I’m LOVING meeting all these fabulous new people, it’s nice to stay in touch with all the great people back at home. So, thank you whatsapp for being my connection to my friends around the world!

5. O-Week — O-Week is like orientation on steroids. Everyone, everyday, everywhere is ready to get you pumped up about this school and be helpful. There’s been booths set up on the main walkway where you can join organizations and get **lots** of great free things, tons of events going on every day and night, and lots of discounts at the local restaurants and pubs ;)

6. The bus system – less than 90 cents a ride? I thiiiink I can deal with that ;) Although Sydney-siders have a bit of a sarcastic attitude about how “greaaaat” their bus system is, I find it incredible. Coming from a city where the public transport is absolute crap, I’m loving what they’ve got here. It’s so nice not having to worry about petrol, parking, or any of that rubbish when you want to go somewhere. And, you can get to some really unique and far away places in just a little bit of time! Seriously…so grateful.

7. Campus — I wish I had more pictures to share with you (soon…promise!) but, this campus ROCKS. There’s quite a few old and historic buildings, a TON of innovative and new architecture, lots of green space, great restaurants, and unique places to study and/or hangout. It reminds me a lot of Georgia Tech’s campus with all the juxtaposition — they also do a fabulous job of making you feel like you’re not in a big city. I couldn’t be happier with the uni I chose!

8. The beach — As if I haven’t raved about it enough already! I’m just a 15-20 minute walk to Coogee Beach. The views are stunning, the water is crystal clear, and the beach is spotless. Hopefully I’ll be able to enjoy it just as much once school kicks up

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9. UNSW Outdoor Club – awesome group of people with an awesome set of goals! It was pretty cheap to join and I get to go on trips for free, rent gear for free, and go rock climbing for $5 all throughout the semester. Last night I headed out to The Ledge at University of Sydney to climb for a bit! Tons of fun

10. Cleaning supplies – sooooo my kitchen was pretty rank when I moved in. The cupboards were full of food, dishes, etc. and the fridge was as well. We’ve been cleaning for the past 5 hours and I am SO grateful for my dear friends ajax, windex, etc. We are finally getting to make this place our own!

Coogee to Bondi Run

Just when I thought things couldn’t get ANY better, I have discovered the most incredible run I could ever ask for. There are heaps of beaches along the coast in Sydney and some **genius** decided to create a coastal walk connecting all these beaches. The beach that is closest to my university (about a 15 minute walk) is called Coogee Beach. From here, it’s about 2-3 miles to the iconic Bondi beach.

Although it was a bit rainy when I did the run but can you imagine running along beautiful beaches like this?? Seriously I could run for days!! Note: this picture does NOT do it justice…..more to come soon :)IMG_0115

It was extremely windy the day I went running — thought I was going to fly off the edge of the coast (hence the feature image). Hopefully the next time I run it’s with some other people so I don’t have to take these awkward selfies ;)

But, I’m off to the grocery store for dinner tonight. Laters!

Settling In

What have I been up to lately? Just about everything!! After I saw my family off, things have been bustling. Moving in and getting settled can really take quite some time. I’m excited for classes to start up in a couple of days, but I’m really liking this vacation lifestyle.

As of today, everyone in my flat has moved in! I live in six person apartment with a GREAT kitchen, living space, and two shared bathrooms. Once we liven it up a bit, I’m sure I’ll show you all some photos :) We are a diverse set of flatmates — two from the US, two from Canada, one from Singapore, and one from Thailand. Everyone seems super welcoming and friendly — a huge plus! I have really hit it off with two of my flatmates and we’ve been spending evenings together with dinner and enjoying orientation week activities.

I’ve also spent a good bit of time at the beach and taking advantage of the beautiful coastal views. I’ve met some other really great girls who are also on exchange here that I’ve been enjoying my time with.

Other than that, I’ve just been running errands, getting my course schedule straightened out, trying to find a job, and exploring campus! I was able to find the place I’ll be spending a good bit of my time over the next few months…IMG_20140220_145154

I’m still enjoying orientation week and this bit of vacation before the real world sets in!

Home Sweet Home!

Well, I made it!!

CMH –> ATL –> LAX –> SYD

After a few days of traveling (stopped for some time in Los Angeles to visit family), my parents, brother, and I made it to Sydney. We’ve had a whirlwind past couple of days FULL of adventure, exploring, and learning. I successfully checked into my new apartment, got my student card, and have met some fellow exchange students. It’s all coming together so nicely!

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We took some time to explore downtown Sydney. Most of our time was spent at Circular Quay — a bustling part of the Sydney harbor where you can see the Sydney Bridge and the Opera House.

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The city is SUPER clean, the harbor is MASSIVE, and the people are so incredibly friendly. Another morning, we spent some time walking around the Royal Botanical Gardens and we’ve also made our way over to Manly Beach (where some of the biggest worldwide surfing competitions are).

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On top of our days spent exploring downtown, we also made our way to the Blue Mountains. It had been a rainy couple of days so it wasn’t the most conducive for hiking and sightseeing, but we made the most of it! One of the coolest views was from Echo Point where you can see the iconic Three Sisters. I can’t wait to make it back here for some serious hiking.

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Also during the road trip, we went to the Featherdale Wildlife Park, the Waradah Aboriginal Center in Katoomba.

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Getting around has been a little crazy since they drive on the opposite side of the road, but after a day of driving, I think we’ve got the hang of it all! Now, we’ve got to get used to walking on the other side of the sidewalk…..not as easy as you’d think.

In our spare time, we’ve been spending our hours in Bondi Beach where our flat is located. The views are absolutely incredible. Good lord I love the ocean!!

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Bondi is chock full of surfers, coffee shops, and phenomenal restaurants. I seriously couldn’t be a happier girl. Great coffee, great weather, great people, and great upcoming adventures. I can’t wait to see what else is in store for me on this trip!

Tomorrow is a new day, you shall begin it well…

Well, tomorrow is the day! The past couple of months have been full of joy, laughter, adventure, goodbyes, and learning, but now it is time for me to do one of the most selfish (but necessary) things — begin my exchange in Australia.

First, I want to give a huge shout out to all the amazing people who have been so warm and welcoming over the past month or so. Friends who let me stay in their rooms, friends who let me use their closets, friends who went on spontaneous adventures with me, friends who played mom when I had food poisoning, friends who drug my butt out of bed for insanity workouts or yoga, and friends who explored new restaurants with me — THANK YOU. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend the time before my exchange than with people I love. I will forever and always cherish these past few weeks. Sometimes it’s important to take a step back from reality and enjoy what you have been graced with (and in my mind, that’s good people, good food, and adventures).

Although the last few weeks have been so incredible, they also have served as a huge mental battle. Yes, I have always been thrilled to go on this exchange, but when you are constantly faced with the people who mean so much to you (that you are inevitably going to leave), it is only natural to get in the dumps about it all. The last study abroad I went on, I had no time to even register the fact that I was leaving. Plus, I was going abroad with 200 friends! This is so, so, so much different. Days would go by that I wanted to take everything back and stay in Atlanta for the semester (problem: registration for classes had passed….oh, and I had already thrown a couple G’s toward Australia). Other days would go by that I would get SO incredibly irritated with anyone who asked me things like “when do you leave?” or “wait…you haven’t left yet?” or “are you excited?!” It would drive me absolutely crazy **apologies to anyone I snapped at**.

After a week or so of emotional rollercoaster-ing and many discussions with friends sisters, I got over it all — real quick. The reason why these people were asking about my trip is because they care and want to stay incorporated into my life. And it was completely normal for me to have highs and lows regarding my trip. I have to keep reminding myself that life in Atlanta is not going to go on fast forward when I leave. I have spent years developing the friendships and relationships I hold so dearly — five months is not going to erase the past. The same amazing and supportive friends that I have are going to stick with me through it all.

Right now is the time for me to be fearless, selfish, independent, courageous, and courageous. This stint abroad is going to teach me more than I could ever imagine and make me even stronger.

So, to my dear friends who wish to keep up with me during my upcoming adventure, please know that I will miss you all DEARLY and I cannot wait to share my adventures with you. Please keep in touch and share photos, snapchats, and ridiculous stories. I’ll see you all on the other side!

And now some quotes (frame-worthy):

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.”

“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.” – Proverbs 31:25

Goal Setting

GOALS FOR THE TRIP (to get me started)

  1. Get a job. Yep! You heard me. On the student visa I’ve obtained, I can work up to 40 hours a week. Time to pretend I’m a real sheila from down under.
  2. Get better at surfing. I’m straight awful. Balance = zero. So, when in Australia…do like the Australians, right?
  3. Come back with a sick accent. Or at least bring back some new vocabulary.
  4. A week long backpacking trip. Destination: New Zealand? I think so! Flights are super cheap in the Pacific (well…as long as you stay in the pacific!). I’m hoping to explore one of the THE most beautiful places on earth. And yes, with just a backpack.
  5. Go to Bali. Ever since I saw the movie “Eat, Pray, Love” I’ve been absolutely in awe of this place. I’ve spent such little time in Asian/Pacific Islander countries that I really want to throw some time into exploring over there and learning about the culture. 
  6. Master the Sydney public transport system. Must be the little engineer in me but something about mass organized transportation really gets me goin’
  7. Make friends outside of the other exchange students. Locals are the best! So knowledgable, so welcoming, and SO willing to share. 
  8. Send a postcard (or 2, or 3…) back to the states at least once a week. I’ll be away from school, family, and friends for quite some time
  9. Continue to watch SNL every week. Yes, this is a bit of a lack-luster goal but, it’s important to me! It’s been a tradition in my house for quite some time and I want to hold onto something!
  10. Make a routine while I’m there. Whether it’s daily runs with a new friend, weekly yoga, or monthly meal time, I need to set some sort of routine to make this new place truly feel like home.

UNSW Exchange…here I come!

Hey everyone!!

So, in light of going on a new exchange, I figured it was time to kick back up the old blog to keep you all around the world in tune with what I’m up to. Starting mid-February, I will be heading down under for four and a half months of learning, changes, and adventure. Y’all…I’m freaking excited!!! I will be taking classes at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Kensington (just a bit outside of downtown Sydney) and living on the north side of campus in a six bedroom apartment along side other exchange students. I’m SO excited to be taking an exchange semester all on my own — it’s like a clean slate. Nothing will be tying me down aside from my school work and I can hardly imagine the heaps of exploring and adventuring I will do. Here’s spending hours on end outside (can you say beach?), making some incredible new friends, and having a new shot at figuring out who Kara is! Hope you can stick with me for the ride.

February 13th (spending Valentine’s day on a plane…my one true love) – July 2nd.

From now until my departure, I’ll be documenting my month in Atlanta. I’ll be heading back down south in a few days (sorry mom!) to spend a bit more time with my friends until I leave. My time will be spent working in my scholarship office, trying out this whole yoga thing (hey Bryce), running a TON (hey Olivia, Marnie, and Audrey), bumming off of my friends’ couches (hey everybody), living out of my car, and getting some quality time in with my little (hey Missy), and hopefully exploring some of Atlanta’s best restaurants.

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