Back into routine

The next day after returning from Australia I had a weekend ecology field trip to go on. It was ANZAC day down here, similar to Veteran’s Day. We got to stay in a lodge near Mount Cook (Aoraki), which is the tallest mountain in New Zealand. Spectacular views as you can imagine. We did some counting and measuring of wilding pines and set some live traps with trails cams as well. We finished early on Saturday so we got to go on a 45 minute hike to a lookout by Mt. Cook. I am definitely returning there to do some more exploring.

It is back to school again. We have 6 weeks left of classes until finals. Time is flying by. Sadly it is rainy here for the first couple days. I will not be traveling this weekend for sure. I need some rest and relaxation.



Coastal Drive/Melbourne

April 18: I finally made it to Australia again! I got 3 hours of sleep on the flight so now I was running on 8 hours of sleep out of 48 hours. Better than I was before, that is for sure. I met up with my roommate from home who studies in Sydney and our friend flew in from home to visit. As soon as I landed, we began our drive from Sydney to Melbourne along the coastal route.

Stops along the way included the Wollongong lookout, Kiama to see the blowhole, lunch at Kangaroo Valley, and Durras North. That was definitely my favorite place because they just had wild kangaroos roaming throughout people’s backyard and the beach was one of the most gorgeous things I have ever seen! It is definitely the hidden gem of Australia. We also stopped at Hyam Beach on Jarvis Bay and collected the sand that is supposed to be the whitest sand in the world. We got McDonalds for supper (3 times on this trip actually) and checked into our hotel by 8pm. I definitely benefitted from the good night of rest after all of my traveling.

April 19: We woke early to make the 7 hour drive to Phillip’s Island to the see the little penguins return to the beach after being out in the ocean all day. It was at sunset and there were easily thousands of people there because it was Easter weekend. Really neat to see though. We drove the 2 hours to Melbourne afterwards. The view of the city as night was amazing!

April 20: Happy Easter from the 12 Apostles! One of the neatest places and it was only a 3 hour drive from Melbourne. It was super packed though and we wanted to see it at sunset so we grabbed lunch first and headed back. Definitely worth it if you can make it there. It really is more than a bunch of rocks.

April 21: This is the day I had been waiting for months for! It is basically why I wanted to go to Melbourne. We toured Rod Laver Arena! For any who don’t know, it is home to the Australian Open in tennis and I am a big Rafael Nadal fan. The arena was located in Melbourne Olympic Park so that was neat to walk around. We got to walk through the walk of champions that shows past winners and that the players always walk through before heading to the court. It was an amazing experience for sure! Next we planned to take the free tram around the city but parking was a disaster so we decided to head back to the hotel and rest. Later that night we went to Pancake Parlour. It was like IHOP and so delicious.

April 22: We finally found reasonably priced parking at a mall and took the free tram to Queen Victoria’s Market, which a big market for tourists. It was pretty packed for a Tuesday so we didn’t stay long. We rested at the hotel again for a bit and then went to a cinema downtown to see Divergent. Great movie by the way! It was our last day in Melbourne.

April 23: We left Melbourne early and headed to Healesville Sanctuary about an hour outside of the city. They we began our 9 hour drive straight back to Sydney at 11:30am. It was a long day but we finally made it and stayed in my friend’s dorm at UNSW.

April 24: I had an 11:30am flight back to Christchurch and our rental car had to be returned at 8:30am so it was another early morning. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize I bought a ticket with no bag so I had to pay for that. I had many problems with my flights on this trip. I suppose it is all part of traveling but I hope everyone else is having better luck. I finally arrived back at my flat at 6:30pm.

Cheers, Taylor


North Island Adventures

What a crazy two weeks it has been! It was jammed pack full of travel and very little sleep, but it was a great experience.

On April 11, our break began. Shawn, Kyle, and I did not have class so we began our trip early. We caught the 6:15am bus from Lincoln to Christchurch to board the Naked Bus (a very popular company here) to take us to the Picton Ferry. It was about a 5 hour drive and we saw a pod of dolphins along the way. The ferry was then a 3.5 hour ride and although it was a rainy day, it was absolutely gorgeous. I wish I could have a house through there. We arrived into Wellington at 5:30pm. We then had to carry our packs on a 45 minute walk from the ferry to our hostel downtown. Eager to get out and explore, we began walking the downtown. We ate some Chinese food, which I had been craving.

April 12: We got to explore Wellington, which is the capital of New Zealand for any that did not know. We walked around the downtown and saw parliament, the cathedral, the national library, the underground market, a farmer’s market, and the City and Sea Museum. We also walked through an outdoor mall area and got lunch at a cafe. We went back to the hostel to rest at around 2:30pm so we definitely did a lot in a short amount of time. We decided to make supper at the hostel that night which was cool because it allowed us to talk with many of the people staying there. I found it was very common to stay in one hostel for a long amount of time. We walked along the harbour that night and there really isn’t anything as gorgeous as a city under the night sky surrounded by water.

April 13: Very long day of travel. Our bus left Wellington around 10:30am and arrived at our next destination, Rotorua, at 6:15pm. Always nice to sit back and enjoy a ride through New Zealand’s countryside. Rotorua is the main place for everything Maori, which are the original peoples of New Zealand. We went to a grocery store and got some meat pies and fries for dinner at the hostel. Turns out there wasn’t an oven 😦

April 14: Today was very exciting. We were headed to Hobbiton, the place where Lord of the Rings filmed the Shire and hobbit houses. We caught the 8:15am shuttle there and took the tour. It was super neat and a must-do if you are in the area. We even got a free drink at the Green Dragon. We came back and ate Subway and then walked around a park with thermal pools. Rotorua smells heavily of sulfur because there are so many thermal spas there. We went to one where we got to put our feet into it. Definitely like a hot tub! We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the downtown and buying souvenirs. Sadly, our dinner consisted of noodles and salt because the noodles were free and we didn’t have sauce. It was good for our budget though!

April 15: We in slept in some and decided to rent mountain bikes and go explore the Redwood Forest about a 30 minute ride away. It was drizzling/rainy most of the time unfortunately. We started on an intermediate trail and it was a bit scary. That was all I wanted to do!

April 16: Another rainy day (sensing a pattern?). Our bus didn’t leave Rotorua until 11pm so we had the whole day to wait around. We couldn’t kayak because of the weather so Shawn and Kyle spent most of the day watching movies at the hostel and I spent 3 hours reading at the public library and watching movies. The bus traveled overnight to Wellington.

April 17: Our bus arrived at 7am. I only got and hour and half of sleep on it. We walked to the ferry and again it was very rainy and windy. Our 9am ferry didn’t leave until 11am because of this bad weather. While on the ferry, we experienced huge swells which made me feel sick. Glasses even fell off tables and broke. The ferry finally arrived in Picton at 3pm. So we missed our 1pm bus to Christchurch. Luckily some nice people volunteered to drive people to Christchurch after the boat captain asked. They took me and two other girls back. I had to make a 6am flight to Sydney the next day so I was very grateful for their generosity. The roads were washed out because there had been so much rain and it took was 6 hours to get back. It was definitely the most stressful day ever having to worry about getting back to my flat to repack and catch the last bus to the airport. I ended up talking to a friend who helped me arrange a shuttle to the airport at 3:30am. I got to sleep in my bed for 3 hours. I ended up packing for a week long trip on 2 hours of sleep out of 40 hours. I was going crazy and ended up packing sunscreen and toothpaste in my carry-on, which of course they took away.

Cheers, Taylor


Semana Santa & Portugal

So the past two weeks I have been pretty busy traveling but also doing a lot of homework and essays for my last week of class! From April 10-20 I traveled to Italy with a group of friends and mainly visited Cinque Terre and Sicily. We had the week off of school because of Semana Santa or Holy Week. In Cinque Terre there are 5 towns that you can hike to and from or take a train and all of them are right on the sea. The first two days we spent hiking but since most of the easier paths were closed due to falling rocks we quickly got tired and ended up taking the train to and from the different towns.

Halfway through the trip two friends and I split from the group and went to visit one of my friend’s family in Sicily. Italian people are super nice but it was very rough to communicate with the language barrier. We really got a local experience when staying in Sicily as we were shown around by people that had lived there their entire life. I must say that the best food I’ve eaten in my entire life EVER was in Italy. They eat pasta like Americans would eat a salad before a main dish and I love it! Sicilians also eat a lot of egg plant and I had it almost every day I was there. The only thing that I was sad to miss were all of the religious processions during Semana Santa back home in Granada. I got to see pictures of the entire town in the streets celebrating and it was a shame I couldn’t experience it for myself.

This past weekend I took a trip to Lagos, Portugal with most of the students from my programs. It was very easy to get to by bus from Granada and so beautiful! Everyday we went to the beach and just relaxed so it really felt like a tropical vacation. On Sunday I got to try surfing for the first time! It was really a fun experience but extremely difficult. I have a new found respect for anyone that can even stand up on a surf board.

This coming week is bitter sweet. I’m very sad to leave Granada and Spain in general. I feel so lucky to have gotten the opportunity to come here and do all the things that I’ve done while abroad. On the other hand, I will be happy to see my friends and family and have some of the food I’ve been missing from home. This week is pretty busy with all my finals and I feel rushed to do a lot of things in Granada that I haven’t yet. I have to go home at some point, just wish the program was longer!

Allison Hirsch

Here are some pictures from my travels:Image




Homesickness Abroad

Studying abroad has been a once in a lifetime experience, but I won’t lie that there have been days where I’ve gotten homesick. I was pretty surprised by this since I’m definitely an independent spirit that loves adventure and doing things on my own. Still, five months away from friends, family, and all the comforts of home can be difficult. Here are some of the strategies that I’ve used that have helped:


A night in with fellow international students

  • Skype: This is an obvious one, but so crucial. When I’m having a rough day it can be so encouraging just having 30 minutes to chat with my boyfriend, my parents or any of my friends from home. Similarly, apps Snapchat and WhatsApp are great ways to stay close to home.
  • Connect with students on campus: It’s important not to be so focused on goings-on at home that you’re not connecting with new friends on campus. Even if you’re feeling homesick, getting out to the dining hall to meet with friends or Facebook messaging someone and inviting them to watch a movie in your room are great ways to beat feeling lonely. Chances are, other international students are feeling the same way and would love the company as well.
  • Meet up with other students studying abroad: Luckily, a number of my other friends decided to study abroad the same semester. Although we’re not at the same school, we can meet up to travel together and make memories together abroad.
  • Journal: This one has been really big for me. Being far away from the comforts of home has opened me up to new ideas and perspectives on life that I don’t want to forget. I know in a few years it will be so valuable to look back on everything I’m learning now and all the experiences I’m having.

Traveling in Italy with my friend from home, Shanna who is currently studying in England

Although five months is a long time, it’s going by so much faster than I ever imagined it would. Before I know it, I’ll be back at home with all my family and friends. My hope is that any homesickness I have will be able to motivate me to enjoy the short time I have here to make more memories and friendships that will last the rest of my life.


Hi, it’s Yunyun from Nagoya, Japan. For this post I would like to start with sharing one of the most amazing things in Japan—–Sakura(cherry blossom). The months of March, April and May are one of the most beautiful seasons in Japan, for it’s the time that spring begins. In Japan, Sakura is everywhere. It sort of becoming one of the symbols of Japan. During sakura seasons, Japanese people will hang out with their friends at park or other places that are good for doing Hanami()(which means watching and enjoy sakuras). The most famous place to do Hanami in Japan would be the UENO PARK in Tokyo. But since it is a bit far from the city I am staying in, I wouldn’t be able to go to Tokyo to do hanami. 😦 Instead, I went to the Nagoya castle and Inuyama (which could be translated as dog mountains in english).

Preview of Sakura


Nagoya is the fourth largest city in Japan. It is a city famous for its samurai cultures. The most famous samurais in Japan like Tokugawa Ieyasu used to live in Nagoya. It is also a city with advanced industries. One of the most popular automobile brand, Toyota originates from Nagoya city. So far I haven’t got the chance to see the industrial part of Nagoya. But I do get the chance to experience the historical part of Nagoya by going to Nagoya Castle.

“Nagoya Castle (名古屋城 Nagoya-jō?) is a Japanese castle located in Nagoya, central Japan. During the Edo period, Nagoya Castle was the center of one of the most important castle towns in Japan—Nagoya-juku— and it included the most important stops along the Minoji, which linked the Tōkaidō with the Nakasendō” (wiki) Here’s the URL Nagoya castle’s wikipedia page just in case anyone’s interested http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nagoya_CastleImage

 The castle was originally built for shogun’s use and for defense purposes,which has different layers (forts). Of course, at modern times no shoguns lives here. Now it’s basically serving as a sightseeing place. Inside the castle, some art pieces are put on exhibition. Some of the art pieces came originally or inspired by Chinese culture, which are the parts that I can understand. But for the pieces that contains Japanese culture, I have few knowledge about them so far. I think I would come back after I learned more about Japanese culture so that I would have a deeper understanding of the art pieces they show.



In terms of Inuyama festival, it is “A national significant intangible gold cultural asset, started in1635 as an annual festival of the HARITSUNA shrine, and is still held every year on the first weekend of April. The highlight of this festival is the parade by 13 three-layered floats 25 feet in height, with the sound of Japanese flutes and drums. In the nighttime, every float is lit by 365 Japanese lanterns and its light and fully bloomed cherry blossoms make the scenery a truly unforgettable picture”

More info URL:


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At the festival, many street foods are sold. People could enjoy the show while eating the delicious food. In inuyama area, there’s also a castle that is similar to nagoya castle but in a smaller scale. On the top of the castle, you can get the overview of the inuyama city. It is quite amazing.

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Right near the Nagoya castle, it is a shrine, a holy or sacred places. In Japan, people make their wishes at shrine and buy some souvenirs that presents good meanings from the Shrine.

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More pics of Sakura

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Yunyun Liu

Nagoya, Japan


Nagoya Castle & INUYAMA Festival, Nagoya, Japan


First week in Nagoya, Japan

Hi everyone, my name is Yunyun Liu. I am a junior in the ACE department. For this spring semester, I am studying abroad in Nagoya University in Japan. Japan’s new semester starts in April which is actually pretty late. After my long winter vocation, the spring semester finally begins.

Whenever coming to a place, it is inevitable that we feel the cultural shocks that the different cultures bring to us. As a person who barely speaks Japanese, making my own way to university (dorm) is really troublesome. I have to figure out the right ways to get to the dorm while dragging my heavy luggage. Undoubtedly, it is really a hard and long way. But luckily I finally made it. I arrived in my dorm “international residence Higashiyama” at April 2nd. When I arrived, the Japanese students (volunteers) gave a really warm welcome. Well, that’s my first impression of Japan: Japanese are very friendly even though they do not speak English.

I’ve wanted to go to Japan for a really long time. Everything about Japan intrigues: its cultures, its food, scenarios and people there. I had a lot of expectations about Japan that: Japan is very clean; Japanese food is really great; Japanese people are very friendly; Japan’s public transportation is really convenient. etc. So far, Japan has met most of my expectations. Japan is very clean for a very crucial reason: the way they category their garbage. Japanese people follow a very strict way of categorizing garbage: they categorize the garbage into three categories in general: burnable, not burnable and recyclable. And they collect each categories on different days. We’re not allowed to throw the garbage after 8am in the morning. Below are the two flyers I am given when I moved into my dorm. YUNYUN_20140403_011 YUNYUN_20140403_012


The convenient store in Japan is really convenient. Not only I can buy food there. I can also buy concert tickets and pay the bills at the convenient store. And btw, the food in convenient store looks and tastes very great! Everything is so cute in Japan.

And of course, there are some cultural shocks other than the languages.

The first cultural shock is already mentioned: the over complicated way of sorting garbage, which is good but complicated.The second cultural difference I encountered is that I have to take off my shoes off even when I enter my own room. Nagoya University even provided a really detailed “guide” of how to clean my own room. With such customs, no wonder Japan is clean and neat everywhere.

Well, enough for the cultural shocks and first impressions, time to talk about something fun.

Spring is the best season in Japan because during this season, I am able to do one thing that I’ve dreamed about for years: in Japanese it’s called:hanami(花見), which means seeing/watching the cherry blossoms. Here’s a picture shows the cherry tree right near my dorm.



The cherry blossoms are really beautiful. I went to a park in Nagoya to do Hanami right on the second of my arrival. The park is called tsuramai park(鹤舞公园),which is a popular place to see the cherry blossoms. People bought some food and sit under the cherry trees.


InstagramCapture_a970f94b-d5f1-49f3-a5ce-885a515ff846_jpgInstagramCapture_52738e5a-2211-44bf-9c0c-92f7ee042f0e_jpgStreet food sold in the park.

















The weather is not very good, but the views are still awesome.

10001543_10151986645266980_8430245189400450364_n this is the convenient store near my dorm

Yunyun Liu

Nagoya, Japan