Saturday, June 18, 2011

The past 48 hrs...the countdown...

This is definitely the longest and most detailed entry I have probably written, but I felt it was necessary to really capture my past 48 hrs of exams and saying goodbyes.

The last 48 hrs have been so filled with emotions and stress. I want to begin by describing my exam experience at Macquarie. The exam structure is a lot stricter than what I am used to. Friday morning I had my first exam. It started at 8:50am. I got to campus around 8 to meet up with my friends and study right up until the exam started for the most part, or at least that was the intention. When I arrived on campus and in the computer lab, I looked at my notes and was flipping through the past exams and I was just thinking if I don’t know it now, then there is nothing I can do, I can’t even look at these anymore, I just want it done. Keep in mind I had been studying for the past 2 weeks, only taking 2 days off in that period of time. I did take a few days break from studying for this class to study for my other exams, but still, I was going absolutely crazy in the beginning of this week as I just didn’t want to look at the material any longer and it really didn’t help that it was raining everyday. I do have to say that I did learn quite a bit in the past 2 weeks. Things in the class were actually starting to make a lot more sense. I still couldn’t do absolutely everything, but the main concepts I started to understand a lot more. I even felt like I could really do character tables, which I was actually quite excited about.
            Well the time for the test came way too quickly. I was so nervous going in. We had to leave our notes outside of the classroom, only bringing in our calculators and pens/pencils and our ID card which they checked at the door. So strict! My exams at UB seem so casual compared to this, as I usually have my backpack right next to my chair or whatever and they try to seat us every other seat if possible and the teacher hands out the exam and says “ok, begin.” At Macquarie, your teacher isn’t there. The people running the exam are just supervising to make sure no one is cheating. I felt like I was taking the ACT again. We even had assigned seats and there was another class in addition to ours in the room. This was just strange to me.
            The first 10 minutes of the exam time was reading time and that really means, only reading. You can’t even pick up your pencil and scribble in little notes on the side, just read the exam for 10 minutes. That reading time only freaked me out more as I read through the questions and I was thinking can do, no clue, that’s fine. AHHH why is the format changed, where is my character table to read off of? I have to write my own? From that? I did not need the full 10 minutes as staring at it and not being able to pick up a pencil was freaking me out more as I was afraid I would forget stuff and practically shaking. I looked around at my friend making a scared/frown face at her. We were both freaking out. I stared at the clock, watching as the second hand ticked and ticked, waiting for that minute hand to hit the 12 so that I could start writing and maybe calm down. FINALLY we could start, that 10 minutes felt so long. First question was good, second not so much…and I continued working on the rest of the exam. Almost 2 hours went by and I was so fully absorbed into the test I forgot what time of day it was. I looked at my watch and it read 10:30am. I then looked out the window and saw the nice sunny day it was outside, unlike the past 5 rainy days. At one point I felt I was trapped in this room and felt it should be 8pm or something, at least some hour when it’s dark outside. It was only an hour and a half through and somehow felt so much longer.
            With a half hour remaining, I left. I couldn’t look at the test any longer. I had done what I could and I knew staring at it for another half hour was not going to make the answers magically appear like I would have liked. I was getting a headache and getting so hungry, I had to leave. While it was nice to have that first exam done, I had so much to do in the afternoon to prepare for my 2 Saturday exams. However I needed a short break in between as I could not focus right away after my exam.
            I met up with Michael, Francesca, Vanessa, Laura and James once the exam finished. We all went to the Ubar (my first time there) and Michael bought us drinks. First thing we started flipping through the exam, talking about answers we got to each problem to see whether we did them right. I really didn’t want to look at the exam any more, but it was nice to compare answers and maybe I did alright. I’m just hoping I passed. We had a nice time talking for a while and then I had to say goodbye to everyone, first to Francesca, Vanessa and Laura, giving each of them a hug. I hope to see them again sometime either in the states or on my next trip to Australia for a vacation. I then continued to talk with Michael and James for a bit before saying goodbye to them as well, getting a wonderful hug from Michael. At that point though, it still hadn’t fully hit me that I was leaving Australia in less than 48 hrs. I was still solely focused on exams.
            Clearly I spent my afternoon studying for my next math exam. I could hardly look at the material for my exam after that because waves was way more important to me. So I studied until dinner. I took a break to eat some food and then after dinner studied some more, successfully staying off facebook (my addiction). It was tough though as I was counting the hours that I had been off and counting the hours until my freedom from exams.
            It was hard to sleep as I kept thinking about my exams for the next day and reminding myself that it was only about 20 hrs until freedom. I was fully awake around 6:30am, my alarm went off at 6:40am and a song I liked came on and I started singing to it while still in bed. There I was laying in bed, 6:40 in the morning, singing…yes there was something wrong with that picture. Why was I so wide awake at 6:40 in the morning was the real question? It was going to be a long day, 2 exams to get through. The annoying thing about it being a Saturday is that breakfast (brunch) doesn’t start until 8am, because…well, most people sleep in on Saturday.
            In order to stay offline, I got dressed, got my books and headed to the dining hall around 7:15 to wait for the food. They actually had the cereal all ready around 7:40, so I was glad I went early. I continued to do more and more waves problems until I headed to campus and just looked through it up until going into the classroom.
            As soon as I sat down at my assigned seat, I watched as one of the supervisors closed each of the shades to the classroom. Here I was again, locked in a room, taking an exam. We had 10 minutes reading time, but this time I wasn’t freaking out as much. Luckily this test was a rather similar format to the past exams and I knew some answers really well and others wasn’t so sure on, but again I hope I passed. I stayed for the full 3 hrs and 10 minutes. I think I went through my answers 4 times each as I was trying to figure out stuff to put down for questions I skipped and just wasting time until the end came. At the end, they were so strict about collecting all the books and no talking and everything. I survived though and then I was counting down hours again, 1.5 hours until exam number 2 of the day, 4 hrs until freedom!
            I came back to DLC, threw my waves notes on the floor of my room, grabbed my other notes and headed to lunch. I studied for a while, while eating before heading to my classroom for my last exam. I felt that I should have studied more for this one, but I just couldn’t as the math ones mattered more and I figured I shouldn’t have a problem with this one because throughout the semester it was basically a review of basic science things I had done in high school. This exam had a lot of diagrams and stuff to draw out and I took my time sketching them out and then did the short answer. Overall I don’t think it was too bad, but if I had studied more, maybe I could have written a few better answers. I finished the exam in 2 hours and then I was in the best mood I have been in this week! I was finally free from exams. I was done!! I couldn’t believe that I was finally done! I practically skipped/ran in the beautiful sunny weather back to DLC. I texted Jenny right away letting her know I was done and asking her when we’d meet up. I also went on facebook right away after surviving 48 hrs without it! 
so I stacked up all my papers and notebooks next to my feet before getting rid of a ton

the recycle pile, pounds of paper (sorry trees)

            I started packing up all my things and then came the hard part of going through papers and which to keep and which to get rid of. I am so bad at that at the end of the semester. I can’t just throw away all my work. I did come up with quite the stack though. Paper weights too much to bring in my suitcase, so I picked which things to keep in addition to my notebooks. I spent about an hour and a half or so packing up and then Jenny was on her way, perfect timing!
            We met at the mall and had wonderful French toast for dinner and then came back to my room and watched 27 Dresses. I love that movie! It was then 8pm. I wasn’t really tired, but it felt like it should have been later. Jenny headed home, so I had to say goodbye to her, but I should see her again sometime next year as she lives in Canada and not too far from Buffalo.
I decided to head to the common room to see if anyone I knew was there and ended up finding all my friends still talking in the dining hall. I hung out with them for a bit and then headed back to my room with the intension of going to bed soon, but instead that turned into updating my blog and I figure I might as well stay up for a while in order to sleep tomorrow on the plane.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Week without Classes (where everyday is a Saturday)! Part 2

Thursday I took a day off from studying. I went to Bondi beach with Angie and Jenny. Bondi was the last place on my list of things to do before I leave. The morning was rather chilly, but it was actually warmer at the beach. It was nice because there weren’t too many people there, since it’s now winter in Australia. In summer, you wouldn’t be able to see the sand on the beach because there are tons of people, so I hear. We sat on the rocks for a while, enjoying the gorgeous view of the ocean and the sun shining directly on us. Then we walked on one of the paths next to the beach for a bit. We came across a rock with 2 little cubby holes in it that Jenny had remembered from her trip to Australia 6 years ago. Jenny climbed right up the rock into the hole. As I was taking photos of her, I wanted to try to climb up it too. With help from Jenny, I got up and we had a great time curling up in the little hole. It was so cozy in there and the perfect place to sleep. 
Bondi Beach!!

Angie and me on the rocks

a pool that fills from the ocean

Jenny and me in the cubby hole

we fit so perfectly!

            After our lovely photo shoot, we decided to head back to the road and find a café to get some lunch. Walking uphill was my exercise for the day as we walked to find a café. Jenny and Angie got meat pies (another Australian food) and I had brought a sandwich so I just bought a peppermint chocolate bar for my dessert. Once we were done eating, we found the nearest bus stop and took the bus up to Bondi Junction to go to the big Westfield mall. I wanted to go to Build a Bear to get an Australian outfit for one of my build a bears at home. Then we just walked around the mall. In one of the food courts, we came across a place to buy chocolate shots. Of course we just had to, because how many times are you going to come across a chocolate fountain and get a chocolate shot? It was delicious!! We then shopped for the next few hours before heading back just in time for dinner, which included more socializing time and time with friends. It definitely felt like a Saturday once again.
chocolate shot!

            On Friday I went for another swim, as I have to try to go as many times as I can before leaving and plus I like starting my day off with a swim because somehow I feel I can be more productive that way. The internet was down this morning so after swimming I packed up my things and headed to campus earlier than I planned to get online. Then at 10 I headed to the computer lab. I didn’t know if anyone was going to be coming to campus today from my class, but I seem to be a bit more productive in the computer lab so I worked on more past exams, trying to figure out more proof questions. One other person did join me around 11 and we worked together for a bit until lunch time.
            I headed back to DLC for lunch and to say goodbye to one of my Aussie friends, Lucy, who was leaving this afternoon. It is sad to see so many people leave now as the end is near. It seems like so many people are finishing up and I haven’t even taken 1 final yet. We took some pictures together and then I headed back to campus to continue studying for the afternoon.
            Overall it has been a great week and almost everyday has felt like Saturday, even with all the studying I have been doing. I’ve been trying to find ways to make the studying fun, but productive at the same time, which is hard sometimes. I hope I study enough to do well on my finals next week. Once I get through finals, I will be heading home! Can’t wait!!  

A Week without Classes (where everyday is a Saturday)!

            Well I thought this week would feel so long because I didn’t have classes to go to and I have crazy amounts of studying to do for finals, but I have found a nice balance of fun and studying throughout this week. Next week will be the hard core studying before my finals.
            Monday morning I went swimming, since I didn’t have to worry about classes or anything, so being the weird person I am, I set my alarm for 6:30 am even though I had no classes. I like swimming in the morning though, because it’s less crowded and it’s always a great way to start the day, even if it’s cold outside (since it’s winter here). After swimming and breakfast (number 2, since I eat before and after swimming), I headed to the library for the rest of the morning to work on past exams and start studying. Starting is always the hardest part as I usually don’t even know where to begin, but I got a bit done. The library filled up so quickly and people were stalking out spots by sitting along the walls, watching for the first person to get up and take their seat. It reminds me so much of parking at UB. If you get there early, you get to choose where you want to park (sit) and as soon as you leave your spot is taken immediately. I was in the new library too! The rest of the new library opens next semester, so maybe it will be better then because there will be even more study spaces, but I can’t even imagine how it was without this library over finals time.
            After lunch, my day wasn’t as productive and I got distracted a lot, but it was still a pretty good day and I knew that I had time. Dinner time came around and I talked with friends for a while and then I went to watch tv with my friends in the common room. We ended up watching the movie ToothFairy which I know is a stupid movie. I had seen it once before and I think the second time was even better, watching it with other people and laughing at the movie. It was a great night! We even got m & m’s for our 9pm snack, which are served because it’s finals time.
            Tuesday was a wonderful day. It was a nice balance of studying and fun. I headed down to the city to meet up with Michael from my group theory math class. We first headed to the botanic gardens. It was nice to hang out, outside of class and talk as we walked through the gardens. We walked to the Lady Macquarie's chair point with a great view of the harbour. We decided to sit down in the sun and work on a bit of a past exam to study. It’s amazing how easy a problem can be once you have a start to it.
            After a while, it was nearing lunch time. We decided to head over to the Rocks (the oldest part of Sydney and a very nice shopping area). The day was finally getting nice as the sun was out and the temperature was warming up. We went to the Australian Hotel to get some pizza for lunch. We had a chicken pizza which was pretty good, but I definitely think cheese pizza will always be my favorite kind of pizza.
            We stayed at the restaurant for a while, working on math problems again. I swear it felt like we were there for hours, but I think it was really only about 2 hrs that we were talking and working on math. Our heads were starting to hurt concentrating on the math for so long, so we decided to leave and ended up at Darling Harbour for the rest of the afternoon. I had Michael take some pictures of me doing bridges at the Harbour and in the Chinese Gardens. The Chinese Gardens was a cute little place with a couple of waterfalls and beautiful plants all around. It was a great way to end our time in the city. 
bridge at Chinese Gardens

Chinese Gardens

            I got back just in time for dinner. Dinner was alright. I think the highlight of dinner was that I finally tried a Tim Tam which is a type of cookie they have here. It was pretty good. I’m hoping to bring some home with me and hopefully they won’t melt.
            Wednesday was a very productive and fun day. I started my day just like Monday, going for a morning swim and then it was time to study for the rest of the day. I met up with some people from my class at the computer lab and stayed there for most of the day, only coming back to my room once so that I could get lunch. It’s great to study with others as you can teach them what you know and they can teach you what they know. We were even able to use the white board to work out problems, which was very useful. I think we were mostly on track with studying throughout the afternoon until the last hour came and I started doing bridges in the computer lab. Thanks to a suggestion from Jenny, I was able to try to get on my elbows to do a bridge under the table and then I decided to try to do a one handed bridge, since I felt I was close with it yesterday as I was doing bridges at Darling Harbour. I succeeded with both of those! So Wednesday was a day of studying, socializing and doing bridges! 
on elbows success!!

one hand!!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Last Day of Classes

Last day of classes today and it just doesn’t feel like it can possibly be the end. It’s such a surreal feeling. I mean the whole reason it doesn’t really feel over is because I have to stay so focused for my finals that are between 50 and 60% of my grade, so basically they determine my grade, so I will be studying for 2 weeks…what fun, but I will be taking a couple days off from studying by going to Bondi beach, the last place on my list of things to do before I leave and maybe just spend a day walking around Sydney with a few friends.
            After my first class of the day I came back for lunch. Friday is fish and chips day! It is the only time that I will eat fish since it’s battered fish, some days it’s better than others. There was one day where it was different fish and not as tasty to me, but today was good. I then headed over to campus before class started so that I could meet up with the girls in my math class (Francesca, Vanessa and Laura) and hang out and take some pictures. We went to class together and took some fun pictures in the hallway and in the classroom before class started. I think it was the best start of class we have had. It was also a bit of a workout doing a few bridges before class started.
bridge in the computer lab

double bridge with Laura

Laura, Vanessa, Francesca and me
 Just a quick thing from my day referring to the picture of the 4 of us above: we were in the computer lab before class started when Laura brought up the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Apparently someone in my class thinks we are basically them. For those who don't know what that is, it's a book series by Ann Brashares. They also turned it into 2 movies. I loved that series so much. In fact me and my friend Mercedes got the idea of sending a journal back and forth when I went away for college just to stay in touch from that series. So anyway I guess you can also think of us as that. I kinda like the idea personally. So rather than Laura, Vanessa, Francesca and me it would be Tibby, Carmen, Bridget and Lena (even though Lena has brown hair rather than my blonde hair, but close enough).
bridge on desks

            In class we reviewed and right after we all stopped at my room and I dropped off my stuff and then we headed to the Macquarie Center to go see Hangover 2. This was the first time I was going to the movie theater here. I haven’t gone mainly because it costs $15.50 for a regular movie. At home if I pay that much, it’s for IMAX or 3D at least. I consider $8.50 at home expensive, only because I usually try to go to the show before noon and pay $5 for a movie. When buying our tickets, we even had to specify what seats we would prefer in the theater. Such a weird concept to me as I’m used to first come, first serve. I have to say that this theater was soooo nice for the price. I wish I had brought my camera to take a picture of the theater. When I walked into the theater, I saw a seating chart right at the front on the wall so that you could find your seat number before heading all the way into the theater. The aisles were marked by a letter on the floor and then the seat number was marked on the cup holders. I thought this was so cool! I was probably way too amazed at all of this seeing as it is normal for Aussies.
The floor of the theater was all carpeted, so no sticky floors as you walked to your seat. I hate it when I go into a theater at home and you hear your shoe peel off from the floor as you walk to your seat and then it feels forever sticky on the bottom. The seats were quite cushiony and comfortable. The arm rests were even covered in cloth like the seats, rather than cheap plastic. So I guess when you pay a bit more, at least you get better seating because they are able to put more money towards it.
 I had watched the first Hangover during last weekend to prepare to see the second and personally I liked the second one more than the first. It was a ton of fun passing snacks back and forth and watching the movie with friends. It was a great way to celebrate classes being over and spend the afternoon, because otherwise I probably would have just been in my room and bored.
As for the rest of my night, I headed to dinner, not that hungry after snacking so much at the movies, but that was perfect because dinner wasn’t that great anyway. I then spent some time talking with friends before heading back to my room for the night. So it was a wonderful Friday and now just 2 weeks of serious studying and I'm done!!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Outdoor Places Project

In the beginning of my semester at Macquarie, a person came to my class and talked about a project they were doing about how outdoor places contribute to your learning. After that class I picked up the postcard with some information about it and found more info on their facebook page. I then attended the info session and I was so excited to participate in the project. For the project, you had to write a short narrative about your favorite outdoor place on campus. I already knew my favorite place right from the start. The idea was to take photos of your favorite place, explain why it was your favorite place and how that outdoor place can contribute to your learning environment. So I wanted to share with you what I wrote and my photos I sent in for this project. My narrative and photos will most likely be included in the exhibition for this project next semester. Unfortunately I won't be able to see it since I will no longer be in Australia, but I will be able to communicate with the leader of the project through email on how the exhibition goes. So here is my narrative followed by photos of my favorite place:

How do you use the Outdoor Places on campus in ways that contribute to your learning?

            While walking around campus one day just exploring, I found the perfect place (in my mind) to study, reflect and relax. My favorite outdoor place on campus is behind the Campus Hub building in the big open green field where Mars creek flows through. It’s a special place that I have absolutely fallen in love with. I can be myself, not feel self conscious and be in my own world when I am there. I love to walk over to this spot on sunny days and just sit on the field with few people around and gather my thoughts. Sometimes I just need some time alone, away from other people and some fresh air.             
           Sitting here, I feel the blades of grass beneath me and look around to see the beautiful scenery that surrounds me. Looking straight ahead at the fountain, I watch as the water shoots straight into the air and then falls back down to the ground. In the distance behind the fountain, Scribbly Gum and Turpentine trees stand tall contrasting with the blue sky behind them. Sometimes the sky will be clear and other times, white fluffy clouds will bring even more beauty to the sky. The sounds of nature are all around, from the water rushing through the creek, to the birds chirping as they fly overhead. The nature brings liveliness to this place and when the sun is out, you feel the warmth as it hits your skin and suddenly, for just that moment when you concentrate on the sounds and the scenery, you are one with nature.
            The time I spend here is so important. Not only does it get me out of my bedroom and some fresh air, but I relax and then get a fresh start and focus again. This space is so open and inviting giving me the feeling of freedom. I can have my own space and lots of it, because there is room for people to spread out. Here, I take the time to think and reflect with whatever may be on my mind, whether it’s about school or home. Sometimes I’ll bring my journal along and be inspired to write a story or just write about my day. I write to see how I have changed and progressed in my life. It helps me to remember the day perfectly so that when I do decide to read through my journal I can picture the day like it was yesterday.
By thinking, reflecting and writing, I learn more about myself, whether it was a good or bad day. I reflect on mistakes, thoughts and feelings throughout the day, finding the happiest moment and trying to stay positive. I also take the time to just observe nature, watching the birds and other wildlife that is around me, sometimes trying to imagine what their life is like. There are not too many places like this where you can sit peacefully and observe your surroundings and relax. This makes you appreciate it even more. When I am relaxed and enjoying myself, I get more out of what I am doing, because I can stay focused and then I learn more. The pressure is lifted off my shoulders once I look around at nature and take the time to breathe in the fresh air.
By the time I leave, the sun is setting, letting me know that the day is coming to an end. As the sun sets, it shows even more beauty in nature, with the light shining on just one area at a time changing the dark green grass to look more lime green. As I start to head home, smile across my face, I say goodbye and goodnight to nature. I know I will return, if not tomorrow then the day after. From the scenery, sounds, warmth from the sun and the smell of fresh air, this place will always be a part of me as I appreciate it more and more each time I go there. 

this photo is one of my favorites as the sun sets and you see the 2 different shades of green

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sydney Opera House lights video

This is a video I took of the Opera House lights changing. It's short and the quality is probably not that great, but it gives you a sense of what the show was like.

Last Laid Back Weekend (Memorial Day weekend)

Well it’s the last few days of May and that means that it’s Memorial Day weekend, but sadly I have to go to class on Memorial Day this year, for the first time in my life, since Memorial Day is an American holiday and not an Australian holiday. I did get a few extra days off for Easter with Anzac day and in June we get the Queen's birthday off, even though that happens to be in the middle of exam time and I have it off anyway, but oh well. Being that it is the end of May, it also means that it is almost June and when I think of June, I think summer!! I have to remain focused for another 20 days though.
            So this weekend I haven’t done that much of anything. I have 2 assignments left, 1 for each math class and I finished most of one yesterday and started the next one today. Mostly though, I’ve been watching a lot of tv shows and stuff and just relaxing. After this last week of classes I will be studying at least part of everyday if not the full day, so it’s my last relaxed weekend until I get home.
            Saturday night was a lot of fun though. After dinner, a bunch of us from DLC went to the city to see the Vivid lights show on the Opera House and around the circular quay area. We took the train to Wynyard and then walked to the harbour and watched as the Opera House changed from one color pattern to another. It was beautiful. We met up with Jenny and Jason for a bit as we walked through the area known as The Rocks and took more pictures of the Opera House. Then we decided to walk across the Harbour bridge and got a lovely view of the harbour. I got a few really good photos of the Opera house on our way up as well. It was a beautiful night, not too cold, similar to September weather in the states, seeing as it is Fall here. 
the group

Harbour Bridge at night (picture from Jenny)

the city! (photo credit to Jenny)

rainbow Opera House

            After walking across the bridge, we decided to go to Luna Park which is honestly the smallest amusement park I’ve seen. You are free to walk around the park without buying a ticket for the rides, which was awesome, because now I can say I’ve been to Luna Park, even if I haven’t gone on the rides. It was awesome to see the giant clown entrance up close. I have only seen it from on the train and on a boat. It was a fun evening out with friends.

not creepy at all right?? The detail is amazing up close

fun house mirrors!

I'm a yellow person. It'd be awesome if I was a red person, half the price