We’re Halfway Through

I don’t know about you but I often think about how fast time flies by. I swear you blink and another month has passed. Anyway the past I week I had one of those moments that trigger you to sit back and really take in the moment that you are living….there and then. I am not going to lie, it was just a usual afternoon of me sitting in my college room thinking about which test to study for next or more than likely, which website to search for cheap flights to another city somewhere. Is there such a thing as a professional procrastinator? If so, I think I would be at the top of that field. Back to the story. It came to me that I had been in America for over 2 months now and I am halfway through my college experience. I am not completely sure how I feel about it to be honest. On one hand it feels like I have been here forever yet on the other, it feels like yesterday that I was stepping off a plane in LA after 20 something hours of travel. Delirious and ready to take on the next adventure. To be honest it still feels like I’m looking in on someone else’s life.

I went on my Contiki, I caught up with my brother in Missouri and got to experience Speedway in America (Yes, I like motorsport) and now lets go to campus life. I flew into Raleigh, the capital of North Carolina on the night of the 9th of August and stayed in a hotel as I could not arrive on campus until the following day. Honestly, it was incredibly strange having some space after travelling in close quarters with people over the two weeks prior. That space was short lived. Getting into an Uber to come to NC State the morning of the 10th gave me an odd feeling. It was bittersweet and I was eager to experience the ‘college life’ yet I felt like I also wanted to burst into tears. Overwhelming was an understatement. A few years of dreaming and over 12 months of planning had lead up to this moment.

I rocked up to an office on campus and wandered in, having no idea if this was where I was meant to be or not. I would have loved to have seen my face. I knew that I must have been in the right sort of area as I had seen NC State banners but it looked just like a little town. I expected the campus to be big but never realised how big it actually was. Luckily, I arrived at the same time as another girl from Adelaide and from that office we went on the search for our home for the next 6 months. The 3rd floor of Alexander Hall it was. A residential hall, home to about 160 internationals and americans right in the centre of the campus. We decided to go and explore that day and visit another friend on a different part of the campus. After walking for over 1 and a half hours, in 40oC and 100% humidity we finally made it. Thankfully the uni has its own bus like and we caught that back. The next 4 days were our orientation days. Full of meetings, lectures on culture shock and making new friends. Those few days flew by and it was time for classes to start.

In general, I have found uni here to be quite different from home. The campus is huge (like a little town) and there is a great deal of college pride/spirit. As far as classes go, I am taking 5. Immunology, Biochemistry, Medical Microbiology, a Biochemistry lab and a Medical Microbiology lab. Unlike home, my lectures are not recorded and there are a lot fewer people in the classes. Testing is very frequent. On one hand I feel like it is easier to do well and keep up but I think I prefer having a major exam. I am trying to get out and do something most weekends but there is honestly aways something going on on campus. There would be no need for me to leave if I didn’t want to. So far we have been to a few house parties, a frat party, been tailgating, a couple football matches, gone to Charlotte, gone to Carolina Beach, gone to a lake, been to Chicago and I have volunteered at a few events. I will do a post on those adventures soon. Many more events are coming up including Homecoming, Halloween, Thanksgiving and I am sure a few others that I can’t remember at the minute. Then basically time is up.

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Wolfpack on tour in Chicago

I am not going to say that the whole time I have been here  has been smooth sailing. Yes, I had a couple of rough weeks but looking into the future now, it is going to be sad to leave this place. It has grown to be my home and a place I feel comfortable. I have started booking trips for after uni as I have about a month here before I head home. I loved my Contiki so I have decided to do a Top Deck tour. At first I will head to New Orleans for about a week and from there head to Memphis, Nashville, Chicago again (I love that place), Washington DC and finish in New York where I will have New Years. From there I will have a few days before I head back.

All in all, I just wanted to give you a quick update and tell you a little more about my experience. I should be off. Until next time…. take care.

Xx.

 

 

 

 

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Contiki Tour Day 8 & 9 – Las Vegas and Bass Lake

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The 30th of July  was a full day to do what we pleased in Vegas. The problem was…. what do you do when you have so many options?  The majority of the tour group that were over 21 went to a Calvin Harris pool party and to be honest I am kinda glad I didn’t go because for starters $40 for a drink is a little out of my price range and then you still have to pay for tickets etc. The strange thing is that in Vegas women get into concerts/parties cheaper then men. This is something that I never realised before coming. So, heads up..if you ever come make sure that you have plenty of money saved because this place is incredibly expensive. One of the guys on my tour blew over $400 in one night. A few of us girls decided that we would spend our day at a mall on the strip. I didn’t buy much as I knew that I still have so much time here but it was definitely tough. Before heading back to the hotel we wandered through a few of the hotels. The Venetian is incredible. There is literally a baby ‘Grand Canal’ just like Venice and you could have rides on gondolas if you wanted. Although having said that it was small, it was surprisingly large considering it was all inside. We then headed back to the hotel and got ready before going to see a Cirque Du Soleil show, ‘Ka’. I have seen a different one of their shows before and really enjoyed it. Again, it was pretty incredible but I found the storyline to be very confusing.  Then once the show had finished we got a limo ride to another club. The limos all had champagne (tasted more like goon to be honest) which was a bonus. Again, being underage we couldn’t go into the club so we just ended our final night in Las Vegas by walking down the strip.

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The following morning we were up bright and early again and this time we were off to Bass Lake. Basically it is a lake in California that is close to Yosemite National Park. The majority of the day was spent driving with a few stops here and there. We arrived in the afternoon and stayed in cabins right next to the lake. They were surprisingly nice compared to previous accomodation. The afternoon/evening was very relaxed. We all had dinner by the pool which was next to the lake and didn’t really get up to much else. Either way, it was again nice to be near water and just chill out.

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Xx.

 

 

 

 

Contiki Tour Day 7 – Grand Canyon to Las Vegas

 

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The 29th of July started off great. Do you know why? It was the only day we actually got to sleep in! I never realised how much I appreciated a good lie in until I wasn’t able to. Today bags were to the bus at 8.45am and we departed at 9am. Our destination was Las Vegas. We drove for about 2 hours and then stopped off for a short break at a small town located at the start of Route 66. If I am completely honest the town was exactly like the towns shown in the movie ‘Cars’. There wasn’t exactly much to see and it was a pretty old and run down town but there were some pretty old cars and it was still very cool to see.

From there we continued onto Vegas baby! We passed the Hoover Dam on the way but didn’t stop. The traffic was pretty bad as it was a friday afternoon but soon enough we arrived and went down ‘the strip’ which is out of this world. There are so many people, all drinking and walking and there are so many themed hotels/casinos. We had about half an hour at our hotel (Harrahs) and piled back onto the coach for a city tour. We drove around the city and headed to the ‘Welcome to Las Vegas’ sign for a group photo and then it was time for dinner at Planet Hollywood. From Planet Hollywood we moved onto Fremont Street. Back in the day this part of town was losing business so people came up with the idea of an overhead light display. Evert half an hour the casinos turn off all of their lights and a light show plays to music overhead. It was awesome to see and again there were so many people, interesting characters and buskers. The bus then continued onto MGM Grand as the majority of people were going to Hakkasan for a night out. Those of us who were underage walked back to the hotel, stopping at the Bellagio on the way to see the fountains. You never realise how big the strip is until you walk it but, it is definitely something you should do in your lifetime!

Xx.

Contiki Tour Day 6 – The Grand Canyon

Hey again!

We are slowly getting there with these posts. Better late then never I guess! Anyway this is going to sound pretty similar to my last post, but again the 28th of July was one of the days that I looked forward to the most. What can I say…. I was going to helicopter over the Grand Canyon! You don’t do that every day do you.

Lets get into it….

We were up again nice and early as we were going on the morning flight over the canyon. It was about a 20 minute drive to the company (Papillion) where the flights took off from. Upon arriving we were all weighed so that they could figure out who would go in what helicopter. That way the helicopters were correctly balanced. Following this we all had to watch a safety video, not that I actually paid attention. Each helicopter had 5 passengers and the pilot. I was with one other girl from the tour and 3 Koreans and was really lucky and managed to get the front seat next to the pilot. It was my first time in a helicopter and I had previously heard mixed opinions on helicopters so I didn’t know how to feel before taking off. It was so strange being able to see so much and then not having to go down a runway.

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We flew out and over the national park (I have no idea its name) for about 5 minutes and then the Grand Canyon just appeared. I expected it to be incredible but I just can’t put into words what it was actually like. Its size and beauty is just astounding. We flew around the canyon for probably 15 minutes, listening to facts and its story through our headsets. Initially we were just flying above the canyon but we then flew inside the canyon which was surreal. I would love to head back one day, whether thats later this year or sometime in the future and raft in the canyon. We then flew back to base and waited for everyone else to get back. Although it was expensive I would do it again at the drop of a hat.

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We then caught the coach back to the lodge and a group of us caught the free shuttle to the general store. The store also had wifi so we made the most of it. After some lunch we headed back to the our rooms and grabbed what we needed as we were going to go on a hike into the canyon. We ended going on the Bright Angel Trail. This is a trail that goes for about 20 miles down into the canyon and apparently it takes about a day to get down and once at the bottom you can camp down there. It was awesome heading down but I don’t even think we made it down one mile. There were plenty of squirrels and we even got to see a mountain goat but that thing was evil. I swear it was just staring at us waiting to charge. Ok maybe thats an exaggeration but still…. The whole way down you were on the edge of the canyon and it was incredible to see the whole thing from another view. I would love to do it again but go further down. On the way down a rescue team went past us so we figured someone was hurt. We had a few close calls slipping but fortunately we were fine. As we got further down we had to wait while the rescue team helped the injured person. I think they must have slipped and broken their leg. I felt so sorry for the poor rescue team that had to carry the guy back up as it was so steep and rocky.

 

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Just after we passed the rescue team a guide went past us and asked where we were going. Of course we just said we were going down. No shit! It had started raining a little and there was a bit of thunder but it wasn’t bad. He told us that we should turn around because if it started lightning it was not somewhere we should be. Apparently quite a few people get struck by lightning at the canyon. We kept going for about 5 minutes, came across the mountain goat and a couple of good looking american guys and then decided to turn it back around. It wasn’t too bad going back up however, the weather did get a little worse with the track turning very dusty and windy. We made it up in one piece and took a little break at the top looking over the canyon. We then went for a little walk and headed bak to our rooms to shower as we were quite dirty and had to organise our bags once again. Around 5 we went to the main lodge and grabbed a pizza and garlic bread to share and then headed onto the shuttle bus to go to Hopi Point for sunset.

We sat and ate dinner watching the sunset even though it wasn’t great due to the weather and then went on a search for ice-cream but we were unsuccessful. It ended up being  an early night but we had covered a lot of ground and it was certainly an unforgettable day.

 

Xx.

Contiki Tour Day 5 – Phoenix to the Grand Canyon

Out of the whole trip, the 27th of July was one of the days that I was most looking forward to. We were again going to make another long journey however this time it was from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon. I have always seen pictures and videos of the Grand Canyon and had a desire to visit and to have the opportunity to actually see one of the seven natural wonders of the world was simply incredible. Much like usual we were up by 6.15am, loaded our bags and headed off. Luckily for me though, I didn’t have to be up at 4 am like a number of others on the group who decided to go hot air ballooning. From the photos that I saw, it also looked incredible but unfortunately I’m not made of money and I decided to helicopter over the canyon instead. This is a decision that I do not regret at all.

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We stopped off and collected those who did the ballooning and then continued the journey. The scenery for this part of the journey was much better then the scenery that we previously had passed through. The north and south of Arizona is completely different which is quite hard to comprehend. Again we travelled through the Sonoran Desert which is the only place on earth that has the Saguaro cactus species growing naturally in the wild. It was again great to see something that I have only ever seen pictures of. Fun fact: Only mature cacti have the arms and these are about 100 years old.  Just before stopping in a small town in Arizona by the name of Sedona we stopped to see Bell Rock. Although it was a sedimentary rock, it was amazing. Many other rocks surrounded this rock and they were all a vibrant red colour. Many of the rocks had layers of red and white. These are apparently limestone and sandstone and the red colour is the iron oxide of the sandstone. Apparently back in the day there was the ocean covering this whole area and hence why there are the different layers. We then continued to Sedona, a cute little village in the middle of nowhere. It is a town that relies on tourism and attracts retirees. Apparently it is beautiful in winter and even Oprah has a house here.

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We had lunch at a pizza shop before going on a Jeep tour. It was certainly a highlight of the trip. There were 6 people per Jeep and the driver. Each driver was dressed in authentic cowboy attire, even to the extent that they had guns and spurs on the back of their boots. Our driver was a real character and told us about many of the different rock formations, animals, local americans and plants. The Jeep was called ‘giddy up’ and if you called it out the guy would go faster. We went out to the bush and through rocks, a hiking trail and ended up at an old house. Back in the day apparently the government had to give people land out here to get people to move to such a place. It was a very bumpy ride but we had a good laugh. Once that had finished we headed back on the bus and continued going to the Grand Canyon. We all had to have our passports on us as we had to go through an immigration check point and there was a possibility that the bus could be searched for illegal immigrants.

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We arrived at the south rim about 4pm and headed to a look out. It was incredible to see. No words could ever describe it. It was so surreal to see and even now when  look back at pictures it is hard to believe that I was at such a place. We were told that it is up to 30km wide and a mile down. At some stage in your life you really should make the effort to go and see it! We then headed on and checked into our lodge followed by dinner at another lodge a little walk away. We all just about shit ourselves going to the lodge as there was an elk right next to where we were walking but didn’t realise as it was getting dark. It was so cute though! Once dinner was over we went on a search for wifi but it was unsuccessful as we didn’t know the passwords and so I headed back to our lodge but I got lost. Luckily I found the rest of the group when they decided to return and called it a night. This was by far one of my favourite days on tour.

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Xx.

Contiki Tour Day 4 – San Diego to Phoenix

Hey Again!

I am actually on a roll and have managed to get a few of these posts done over the last few days which is great. Fingers crossed I can manage to get a few more done before classes get too hectic. Classes actually started today and by the looks of it they are going to be very full on compared to back home in Adelaide so it will be very interesting to say the least. Anyways back to my Contiki tour, Day 4 26th of July.

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Today we were up at 6.30am again so that we were ready to be on the bus at 7.45am. We had another long day of driving ahead of us as we travelled from San Diego across to Phoenix. We passed through a number of cities and small towns on our way but all in all it was very barren, dry and just a few cacti here and there. Every known again you would see a house in the middle of nowhere and I have no idea why you would want to live out there or how you would even make a living. After a few hours of driving we stopped once at a petrol station that had a few fast food outlets. Upon getting out of the bus the heat just hit you. It was 44oC. We grabbed an ice cream which was huge and then got on the bus. Did you know in America they have multiple sizes of McFlurrys? The small was larger then our normal size back in Australia. #merica. We hopped back onto the bus and at stages of the next part of the drive we were less than 100 metres from the Mexico border which was pretty crazy. I even got a message from Westpac saying welcome to Mexico as a matter of fact. There was actually a fence that ran along the border which was pretty interesting to see but apparently it doesn’t go all the way along. Driving along we saw the Imperial Sand Dunes and crossed the Sonoran Desert. These sand dunes are constantly moving and span hundreds of kilometres. It would have been good to stop and get a photo but unfortunately we just kept driving. We arrived in Phoenix around 4pm and went straight to do washing but unfortunately there was already a queue. After about 1.5 hours our washing was in the machine and we all went to the pool or should I say…. bath. The water was so hot it was barely even refreshing. They had the pool bar open, which was great for everyone else but the good old underagers couldn’t drink this time. After a few hours of hanging out at the pool we headed back to the rooms to shower before dinner. We went to a sports bar for dinner and got picked up by pimped out golf carts. Apparently in that particular area this is a common way to get around as it gets so hot.

We had our dinner and left pretty early, walking back to the hotel. On the way we grabbed frozen yogurt, which was really cheap and packed our bags again. I thought that I would check the temperature and at 11pm it was still 40oC. Again it was time to get ready to leave and although our time was good there, I could never live in a place that gets so hot.

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Xx.

 

Contiki Tour Day 3 – San Diego

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Hey Again!

On the 25th of July we spent the day in San Diego and had the majority of the day free to do what we felt like. A large group including myself decided to venture to the San Diego Zoo. I was particularly excited about the zoo because 1. I love animals and 2. It was supposed to be one of the best zoos in the world. Having said that, I was not excited for the blasted heat! We arrived at 9 am and luckily it wasn’t super packed but that certainly changed by mid afternoon. The zoo itself was massive and it was pretty cool because it was celebrating  100 years. They had every animal imaginable from koalas to pandas (we didn’t actually get to see them) to polar bears. The exhibits were all very clean and spacious compared to many other zoos that I have been to and some exhibits felt like you were right near the animals. The pandas were the first on everyone’s list to see however, the both times we went to see them, they were not out in their exhibit and instead they were out the back where there was air-conditioning. I don’t blame them to be honest. Apparently they had only been in this enclosure for one week and they were still getting used to it. We literally stopped once for lunch and we still did not manage to see everything. Whilst at the zoo we saw a special show which showcased a few different animals and gave us some facts about the zoo. They bought on stage a few African Singing Dogs which were super cute and started howling. I would have to say that my favourite animals were the polar bears as I had never seen them before and the giraffes. The giraffe enclosure was really open so it felt like you were with them and there also a couple of babies which were adorable. From there we headed to Mission Beach which was about a 20 minute drive away. There was quite a large group of us that decided to go and some had surf lessons and the rest of us just chilled on the beach. We swam for a little bit but it was quite wavy and the beach was just not like home. It was good to finally relax as we had covered quite bit of ground in a few days. We also checked out the shops and amusement rides before getting back on the bus to go to the hotel and head to dinner at Pacific Beach. Dinner was lovely and at a restaurant/club/bar or whatever you want to call it facing the water. We then caught an uber home which was super cheap, grabbed ice-cream, packed our bags and that was another day done.

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Xx.