July 24, 2014

Study Abroad - Jaimie Grace '17 in Australia

Sophomore Jaimie Grace, a business major and a forward/center on the Hornet women's basketball team, narrates her unique summer study abroad trip to Australia.

By Jaimie Grace

This summer I traveled to Australia with 19 other Lynchburg College students for a month long study abroad trip. The trip, organized by the American Institute for Foreign Study (AIFS), focused on the study of Australian Public Relations and Australian Character and Culture.

On May 25 our group embarked on the long journey from Lynchburg to Australia, culminating in a 16-hour flight from Los Angeles to Melbourne. Upon arrival our group, led by Communications Department professors Dr. Roux and Dr. Rothermel, was greeted by Fred, an AIFS tour guide. Melbourne, the capital of the state of Victoria and the second most populous city in the country, is full of sights and Australian history. Highlights in Melbourne included the Old Melbourne Goal where famous bushranger Ned Kelly was hanged and shopping at the Queen Victoria Market, the largest open-air market in the Southern Hemisphere. Melbourne also served as our base for several day trips to outlying areas.  Sovereign Hill, is an outdoor museum that tells the story of Ballarat's first gold mining town. This living history museum maintains an authentic feel with employees dressed in clothes of the period. Our other Melbourne day trip, Phillip Island, was a group favorite.  Phillip Island, a surfing mecca in summer months, is home to a koala conservatory, offers wine tasting at the Phillip Island Vineyard and Winery, and features the PI Important Bird area where we watched fairy penguins swim ashore from the ocean.
Following a week in Melbourne our group boarded the bus for a 10-hour ride to the capital city, Canberra. In Canberra, we toured the Australian War Memorial, which honors all the soldiers who have died or participated in the wars of the Commonwealth of Australia. We also visited the National Gallery of Australia where we learned about aboriginal art and saw the famous Ned Kelly collection by Australian artist Sidney Nolan. While in Canberra we had a private meeting at the U.S. Embassy with several embassy employees. On our last night in Canberra Dr. Roux cooked kangaroo burgers for the entire group. Most people were skeptical at first but almost everyone ended up trying kangaroo and really liking it!
After Canberra we loaded back on the bus for a four-hour ride to Sydney, our home for the next week. Sydney the largest city in Australia was by far my favorite segment of the trip. Our first day we purchased tickets for a "hop on hop off" bus which gave us the freedom to explore the city independent from the group. The next day we toured The Rocks, Sydney's oldest street. Here we learned about local architecture and the original Australian settlers. Of course, no trip to Australia is complete without a tour of the Sydney Opera House. It was amazing to actually go inside one of the most iconic buildings in the world and learn about the history of the building and its impact on Australia. However, my favorite experience in Sydney took place above the city when we climbed to the top of the Sydney Harbor Bridge. The climb requires navigating almost 1400 steps and takes three hours to complete. Despite the rigors of the climb we all agreed the views from the top were inspirational.  Other highlights of Sydney included attending a professional rugby game and an Aussie Rules Football game, a tour of the Australian Broadcast Cooperation and the National Maritime Museum.
 

Our next destination required a three-hour flight to Cairns, the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef! On our first day in Cairns the group attended a reef class that provided instructions on reef procedures and taught us what fish and coral to look out for.  The next day we were up bright and early for a two-hour boat ride to the Great Barrier Reef. Unfortunately we encountered extremely choppy water; the boat rocked so much we could barely stand up on deck without falling down. However, the rough ride was worth the trip. Snorkeling among the colorful fish and above the amazing coral formations made The Great Barrier Reef an incredible experience.

As our trip wound down, we visited the Kuranda rain forest where we interacted with kangaroos, wallabies, and koalas. In addition, the group spent a day on a working cattle ranch in order to have an authentic "bush" experience. The best part of the day was when we learned how to crack a bullwhip. It was terrifying at first but most people eventually got the hang of it. That last night our group had a farewell banquet where our professors gave out awards and we said goodbye to our tour guide Fred. The next day we began the long journey back to America.
I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity I had to visit Australia with such a great group of students and professors. The study abroad program did an amazing job ensuring we had a safe and fun trip. I can honestly say that my month in Australia has changed my life!