Your degree can take you anywhere: travelling and studying!

Summer Reading

When thinking of university study, most of us tend to picture students sitting in lecture theatres and listening to lecturers impart their knowledge. We might also visualise the tutorials that follow, perhaps study sessions in the campus library and then the almost obligatory meet-ups at the campus bar. But with USQ, it’s different. Sure, you can study in this more traditional mode if you want, but you’ve also got the choice of travelling the world and taking your study with you. Does it sound too good to be true? Maybe it does but you really can do it! USQ’s online programs allow students to study from anywhere in the world – be it Rome or Paris, the Maldives or Seychelles, Istanbul or Muscat… the list could go on. I am one of those students and yes, some of these are places that I’ve found myself enjoying while completing my degree!

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I am currently enrolled in the Graduate Diploma of Teaching and Learning and am based in Istanbul, Turkey. Although far from Australia, I have everything I need to be successful on this learning journey – computer and internet access and a good dose of motivation (though admittedly there have been times when I didn’t have all 3 at the same time!). Using my student ID and password, I have access to pre-recorded lectures which I listen to at any time of the day or night, online forums where I discuss course content (and sometimes a few other bits and bobs) with my peers and teaching staff, and online library access which links me with thousands of quality books and research journals. I am a bit too far from the USQ campus bar I must admit but there’s a pretty good one just down the road from my apartment which is almost the same!

During the first 6 weeks of this semester, I have taken my study with me on many travels which has seen me in the Netherlands, France and out and about in Turkey. I will soon be on my way to Australia where I look forward to completing some of the practical components of my particular degree. I truly am taking my degree everywhere!

Summer-Reading

For those of you who have been thinking about studying but worried about fitting everything in around work, kids, travel, Margarita Mondays or whatever else it is that fills your schedule, ponder no more. Studying online gives you the flexibility to go anywhere, any time. You can break up your weekly study into manageable chunks that fit in with your personal schedule, body clock or mental peaks. So what’s stopping you?! Get online and enrol today – you’ll be glad you did!

Studying by distance from another country: 6 tips for studying on the go!

keep_calm_and_study_on_unique_poster_print_design-rde9f2dd6cde6449a9e5d9316c17a5834_wv4_8byvr_512I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post that I live overseas so am studying by distance.  It’s not always easy, as I’m sure you can imagine, so I thought I’d put together some of my key tips for a successful semester of studying on the go.  While I’ve written them with special thought for those living abroad or who travel a lot like I do, I’m sure we can all benefit so have a read and let me know what you think by leaving a comment at the end!

 

#1 – Become paperless

Not only will you save the environment and money by not printing things out, you will be much more mobile, which means you can studying anywhere, anytime, as long as you take your laptop with you.  Better still, set yourself up with an online storage cloud.  You can set it up so that your work is synced to your cloud automatically, so you don’t even need to remember to do anything extra.  You’ll then be able to access all of your files from any computer across the globe as long as you have an internet connection (Note: USQ offers online storage space via UDrive though it won’t sync automatically like clouds do).

#2 – Know where to find resources before you need them

Don’t wait until the week before your assignment is due to find out where the task sheet is and how to search online for quality resources.  Check out the various USQ tutorials now and save yourself time and stress later on.  With international time differences it can be difficult to contact support staff (or other students) in real time for help, so it’s important to plan ahead.

#3 – Connect with other students

We all know that studying by distance can be an isolating experience, but it doesn’t have to be! Connect with others in your course through StudyDesk and set up informal study groups (using email or Skype, for example) for support.  While family and friends can be a great support, it’s always nice to connect with someone else who’s also up at 2am trying to get their assignment finished before exhaustion sets in and the rest of the household is awake!

#4 – Develop a routine – but be flexible

It’s easier to get your brain into gear when you’re working to a familiar schedule but as you know, life happens and we can’t always stick to the schedule so it’s important to be flexible.  If you find yourself with a spare half hour before you need to head out for Friday drinks, use it to your advantage.  You probably don’t want to start a task that will require deep thought and a lot of time, but you can do shorter tasks like preparing for tutorials or listening to shorter lectures.  You’ll be thankful that you already did it later in the week when your momentum is slowing.

#5 – Break tasks down into smaller chunks

There’s nothing more daunting than having a 10,000,000,000 word super long essay to write so break it up into more manageable pieces (e.g. read a relevant research article; write an essay plan, develop an introduction).  Don’t forget to celebrate your achievement at the end of each chunk – but leave the weekend long wine appreciation celebration until all of the task has been completed!

#6 – Stop procrastinating!

We all do it.  But for some of us (me included) it can eat up a lot of our time.  Be aware of this and avoid spending all of your time preparing to get your stuff done – start your stuff now.  As in right now – GO!

 

A balancing act: Studying, travelling, living!

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There’s no denying that university study can take up a lot of your time and leave you trying to make that difficult decision between a beer at the pub with your mates or reading that textbook chapter that you should have done yesterday.  In fact, if I were to add up the amount of time I’ve spent pondering such difficult decisions (for me it is travel versus study!) I’d probably be very surprised!  But I am a traveller and if I kept my feet firmly on the ground every time I had an assignment that was due, or a quiz to study for, I would be missing out on enjoying the other part of my life.  There definitely is a lot of work that goes into being a successful student, but it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t enjoy life as well!

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I live overseas (in Istanbul, Turkey) and often find myself distracted by new places in the city to explore that I’ve only just heard about or cheap airfares to a destination I’ve already been dreaming about!  I’m also distracted when the next episode of Grey’s Anatomy, Bones, or The Mentalist is released.  And then there was the rare type of snow (thundersnow – yes, it is a real thing!) that recently fell on this beautiful city – I just had to go out and play in that!  Having previously tried to ignore such wonderful distractions, I found that I was becoming a bore (in my own words of course – my friends were too kind to tell me this!) and was heading towards burnout.  And that’s why I made the decision to live a little too.  I am a person after all and being a student is only one part of me – I am a Grey’s Anatomy fan (to name but one tv show!) and traveller extraordinaire as well!

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There was a time last semester when I was trying to write an assignment and getting nowhere.  I just couldn’t get ‘in the zone’ and the hours were slowly (very slowly!) ticking away.  I was drowning in persistence, but progress was non-existent.  Eventually I had had enough and decided to watch an episode of one of my favourite tv shows.  I watched two episodes in fact.  And you know what?  Right after that I was transported into ‘the zone’ and I was able to write a fairly decent draft of that assignment.  It was this experience that made me realise that I had been denying myself so many of the usual relaxing times, these other things which make up ‘me’ as a person and it had affected my ability to study.  All I needed was a little fun and relaxation and I was back to being a productive student again.

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But what does that mean for you, you might wonder?  Well, next time something fun comes along, don’t immediately deny yourself the occasion simply because you are a student.  Live in the moment – give yourself the gift of enjoying the other parts of your life alongside your study.  Of course you can’t do this every single time – you need to find the right balance after all.  But you can choose wisely: if you feel like going to the cinema, choose a shorter movie; if you want to go to a restaurant for dinner, choose one with fast service (and don’t order a whole bottle of wine!); if you want to take a trip abroad, choose a nearby destination to save time travelling… or do as I do and take your textbooks with you and study on the plane!

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There are plenty of ways to enjoy your life while also being a dedicated and successful student and it’s really important to find the right balance.  I’d love to hear your stories and tips on the balancing act of being a student and nurturing the others parts of your life!

From terror to self-confidence at the speed of light!

Those first few days at University were without a doubt, absolutely terrifying. There is no other way to describe it, or maybe there is, and I am sure that if I put my mind to it I could think of some other suitable words to describe the feelings racing through my mind.  At the beginning of my first semester for instance, I felt fear, overwhelming dread, utter panic, trepidation and complete horror at what I had committed myself to and of course that all-encompassing doubt. Can I really do it?

Not all of it was negative though, there were also the other slightly more positive feelings that surged through my body and mind such as exhilaration, excitement, elation and plain simple joy that I had finally gone ahead and dedicated myself to study for the next few years. Very soon into my first semester and first year I was filled with the knowledge that I can do it because I was not alone, everyone else around me were in the same boat and this boat was not the Titanic, it was not sinking, and I was not going to drown in the abyss of study.

Going to University was a dream I have had my entire life. It was there in the back of my mind continuously eating away like rust on a steel pipe. So I decided to jump in boots and all.

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After all I had made up my mind that it could only go two ways, I could succeed or fail. That is 50-50 odds, not bad really. Anyway if others could do it why can’t I? The questions you have to ask yourself  are:

  • Why shouldn’t you attend university?
  • What is stopping you?
  • What could be the best and worst possible outcomes?
  • How will it change your life?

And most importantly of all

  • If you don’t do it, will you regret it for the rest of your life?

My trepidations were soon dispelled by the support that I encountered from the teaching staff, the Learning Centre (for those panic moments! And there were plenty of them!!!!) and the social network amongst the students. I had become a part of a tight knit community which was a bit like living in an episode of Friends.

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Having never experienced these frequent boosts of self-esteem before, I now wake up in the mornings and have a bowl of self-esteem with a strong coffee, and head off to University, my veins surging with self-assurance and motivation.  Along the way I very quickly discovered the all-important secrets to university life.

  1. Self-esteem: Get loads of it from wherever you can. I found lots of useful books and articles online for example: www.psychcentral.com/lib/how-to-raise-your-self-esteem to help in this area as well  as ‘The Motivated Mind’ by Dr Raj Persaud
  2. Tell yourself every day when you get up that you are awesome and deserve to be a university student!

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In short attending University has been a lifelong ambition realised quite simply by one small decision that I made not too long ago. There is now satisfaction and fulfilment in my life all because of studying in my chosen career at USQ. Plus I have received all the unexpected benefits that came along with university life, like the friends that are going through it with me. The special moments of panic we still occasionally experience are still there, but now they are accompanied by determination.

Share your experience! What did it mean to you to study at USQ?

Lisa

The Facts and Myths about University Life!

Is it true that university lecturers don’t actually mind if you sleep through their lecture? Can university assignments really be handed in at midnight? Is it true that there are different clubs students can be involved in? Is there really such a thing as a 24 hour library? Are all university students poor? Do all first year students gain 15kgs? But most importantly, is university life fun?

All these questions and more will be answered in this mythbusting blog!

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Three years of study completed, one more semester to go and then I’m done and dusted! My occupation will no longer be classified as ‘Student’, but as ‘Registered Nurse’. What a roller-coaster ride my university experience has been…there have been lots of ups and downs.

I will start with the ‘downs’, these moments are just like falling from the Giant Drop at Dream World. The first 6 months of my study was completed at a university in Brisbane and I lived on-campus as a college student. It is true that I gained weight in the first 6 months of my degree (fresher spread they call it). I was experiencing ‘culture shock’- Brisbane is very different from Hervey Bay and I missed my family. I comforted myself with chocolate and I always gave in to the yummy desserts that the college’s chef cooked. I would advise all first year students to say NO to that chocolate bar, but YES to going for a run or bike ride! It is surprisingly true that people sleep through their lectures without their lecturer knowing. In large Brisbane universities there are up to 500 students in some lecture theatres. I suggest you find a friend that is studious and will pinch you on the arm if you start to drift off to sleep or daydream. I was studying a science degree and HATED it, so the best suggestion I can give to any uni student is to study something you enjoy! A great thing about studying in the city is that there are over 100 different social clubs to join…from the chess club to the athletics club.

Don’t let my first experience of uni life in Brisbane put you off…I just wasn’t ready to hit the big smoke!

The ‘ups’ to my uni life is just like the Superman ride at Movie World where you’d like to do it again and again. The last 2 ½ years of my study have been at USQ, studying nursing. Moving back to Hervey Bay to study nursing was the best decision I have ever made. USQ Fraser Coast Campus is such a great uni; you can get to know all your peers and your lecturers at a more personal level. The only down side is you can’t sleep through your lectures because the class sizes are a lot smaller and your teacher will hear you snoring. In reality the smaller class sizes are great; you are forced to stay awake and listen to exam content plus you can ask questions without 500 other eyes looking at you!

blog1Most assignments are to be submitted online by midnight (great for all those last minute assignment stress bunnies)! The student library at the Fraser Coast Campus this year underwent a huge refurbishment – it is now such a vibrant, fun place to study. Even better, the library is open to all USQ students 24 hours a day.

 

 

blog2Uni students aren’t always poor. We may not be the richest of people, but we learn to manage by applying for scholarships and bursaries. Part-time work is also an option and has been manageable for me personally. It’s always good to earn some extra spending money for those much needed shopping sprees!

 

 

blog2Uni isn’t always just about study. The Student Representative Committee (SRC) at the USQ Fraser Coast Campus in 2013 held many fun events. I attended their bowling night which was great fun to interact with new people and to win cool prizes! The SRC finished with a bang this year by holding a Gala Dinner with a 2 course meal, live entertainment and prizes to be won. Goes to show that uni doesn’t have to be about studying 24/7, but about having fun while you are doing it!

All in all, university is a lot better than what I thought it would be. I thought it would be really hard and scary! Thankfully it is nothing like that; with fun people, great job opportunities and more contact with lecturers means you can make friends of all ages. I have made friends for life! All of the staff want to see you do your very best and enjoy every moment…embrace it! I have loved being a university student and would do it again in the blink of an eye.

This blog has officially been busted! Keep an eye out for me in the future, I have thought about starting a new blog in 2014 as a graduate nurse. Thank you for reading my blogs this year, I have enjoyed writing them and sharing my knowledge.

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All the best,

Kara :)

Summer Holidays: Taking a break to reset yourself

I was listening to John Mayer’s song Wildfire recently and he says, rather succinctly: “‘Cause a little bit of summer makes a lot of history.” Summer, what an opportunity. When I think back to my childhood, my high school years and more recently the years of study, summer has been the source of some of my best memories. New friends, road trips and holidays with family are just a few of my fondest recollections of past summers.

This summer I have a plan. It is simple. Enjoy, relax and grow. Hakuna matata. No worries.

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There is only one thing that really bothers me over this break though. How do I actually make the most of it? It is a pretty easy thing to sit down and do very little over the course of the holidays, and whilst it might be fun at the time, it is doing things that makes memories.

Here’s a shortlist of summer activities to make memories and don’t cost too much $$ (the essential for any uni student).

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Photo credit: @jewelszee_ on instagram
1. The beach. There is no doubt that this is the place to be over the summer. Whether for a day trip or week long retreats, the sun, waves, salt air and sand never fail to refresh body and soul. The options are endless: sunbathing, swimming, walking, fishing or surfing. One way or another a day or week at the beach will never be a waste.

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Photo credit: australiangeographic.com.au
2. Road trips. Perhaps this is one of the best ways to create memories over summer. Bundle a bunch of friends into a car and take off, either to a known or unknown destination. This one is about enjoying the journey. Laugh, cry but most importantly have fun. Travel south to the snowy mountains for a few days trekking Kosciusko or biking Thredbo, dare to travel further and end up in Melbourne or travel north to Hervey Bay, North West to Longreach or a short trip East and enjoy a day in Brisbane or Burley Heads. Do it. Find those unknown destinations and make memories on a road trip.

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Photo credit: Gourmet Traveller
3. Throw together a good barbecue. Invite a heap of friends and tell them to bring meat, drinks or salad and let the fun begin. I particularly love a summer barbie because the sun sets so late and everyone is able to sit around, beer or cider in hand (maybe a glass of wine too) and enjoy each other’s company. Add in a cricket bat, tennis ball and a bin and there’ll be a game going in minutes with plenty of guys able to show off while the ladies (excuse the stereotype) sit back and talk about their finds at the Boxing Day sales.

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4. Finally, one of my personal favourites: Go and see some sports. There’s plenty to see, especially with the cricket this year featuring the T20 BigBash at the Gabba and also the One Day International Series. If you happen to be in a major city around the time of one of the Ashes Tests be sure to go and see a day, it is well worth the time, especially if you’re with good company. And if you’re not into cricket there is also the A-league Football running over summer.

So this summer, take a break. Kick back with something cool to drink, have fun and make memories.

Until next time,
Josh

Sucker for punishment!

Holidays? What are these “holidays” people speak of? No study, they say?

While some are celebrating the end of the university year, my fellow ‘sucker for punishment’ peers and I are oblivious to this occasion. Yep, we are the ones who chose to do Semester 3 subjects. Whilst pondering on my first university year once it was over, I calculated the months until next year’s classes commence, one… two… THREE MONTHS! Cha-ching! This was plenty of time, for me and many others, to work towards a big fat tick beside a small component of our degrees. Instead of merely doing ‘holiday stuff’ for the entire three months, on top of this, we will find ourselves sitting at the computer, watching lectures, completing assignments and absorbing content for exams. For some this may sound like an utterly mind-numbing way to spend some of the summer period, but the way I look at it is… studying is just another hobby to fulfil this time bracket. Yep, does it make me crazy if I say I enjoy it? Besides, we don’t have to spend the WHOLE time studying. If we did, that’s definitely CRAZE-AY!

The one subject I have chosen revolves around a big word in a teacher’s dictionary… assessment. It has been interesting to discover the different aspects on this topic and I can definitely see it becoming applicable later on in my career. The ways I have prepared and chosen to get through it (aside from consuming half of the Cadbury factory) include:

  • Adhering with the allocated study schedule – by gauging your learning around this, last minute panic when assessment is due is less likely to occur. There is nothing worse than last minute cramming for assignments and exams!
  • Setting a goal and sticking to it by creating a timetable – due to the lighter workload in Semester 3, there is opportunity to assign simply one whole day a week towards study, matching it to your study schedule. This will form a routine, which increases the likeliness of the work getting done. Plus the rest of the week off – score! If this isn’t possible, break it up over a few days, yet ensure to keep on track with this each week. Saying ‘I’ll do it later’ tends to fold, and later ends up being too late! (Not at all speaking from experience :P)
  • Allowing time for “fun stuff” – those who follow my blogs would know by now that I’m a strong believer in taking breaks and having time out for yourself. Make sure there are enjoyable events scribbled in your timetable. That way, we aren’t completely isolated from the holidayers! On top of this, we have something to look forward to and reward us. After all, Christmas is unbelievably just around the corner. Something like a whopping 5 weeks and 36 sleeps away (not even counting!).

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I’ve chosen to participate in these “holidays” too by having “fun stuff” planned within this period. In between studying and working in a clothes store, I will spend my time going to a couple of concerts, celebrating a birthday with my twin brother, and eating A LOT around Christmas time. For the rest of the time, I will go with the flow and see where the time takes me. After all, we can’t let studying this time of year get in the way of having a break!

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and for those doing Semester 3 – Happy Studying!

Kristie :)

So what do they call people who aren’t students?

I ask as I am about to put my studies on hold for the first time ever. EVER.

In less than a month’s time I will lose one of my defining features. No longer will I select ‘student’ as my primary occupation on the demographic section of surveys, or flash my ID card for discounts at the movies. My days spent studying/chatting/sleeping in the library are numbered and I may well have had my final picnic (for many months anyway) in the Toowoomba campus quad. The most astounding thing, which definitely hasn’t hit me yet, is the fact that I won’t constantly have assignment due dates in the back of my mind or exam study looming over me. My diary will be devoid of highlighted study reminders, my USB will lose its ‘Uni’ folder, and many trees will be saved from all the journal articles I won’t have to print.

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It’s a freaky feeling to be putting my tertiary education aside but, after much deliberation, I have decided that it is time for a break. I feel like I’m ending a relationship: ‘it’s not you, USQ, it’s me – and I need some space’. Twelve years of schooling followed immediately by a three years’ bachelor degree have taken their toll on my sanity and stress levels (especially as my bachelor’s degree included two doses of summer semester and thus no real Christmas breaks). And then they were followed by this year. Honours year, which is due to be finished in a month (…tell that to my two outstanding assignments and thesis – so close but yet so far it seems!). Sixteen years of being a non-stop student. And to think that at the start of this year I was planning on applying for the 2014 master’s program as well, which would have brought the count to 18 years!

I guess the dilemma which is faced by many goes along the lines of ‘well if I stop studying now to _____ (work full-time/travel/have a family/become a lion tamer and run off with the circus), then will I ever return to obtain the education and qualifications that I want?’ Coming out of high school I figured I’d just ‘knock over’ the six additional years of study taken to become a registered psychologist – better that than be interrupted and lose focus on the end goal. I was naïve and didn’t realise at the time that it would take some kind of super power (that I am yet to possess) to stay focused for so long without my brain making mad attempts to escape through my ears and never come back.

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I am someone who likes to be involved in lots of things and unfortunately the life of a successful student isn’t always compatible with that. So, after many hours deliberating over what to do next year I have come to the ‘take a break’ conclusion. Though I wouldn’t pinkie promise you on it, I do think that I will return to study at USQ sooner rather than later and that time off to relax, refresh, and reassess can only be a positive thing.

So then I had to think ‘wow, well if I’m not going to be a student then what will I be?!’ ‘Well,’ I thought, ‘what better to be than an adventurer?’ I need a real break next year, and whilst I also considered full-time work, in the end travel seemed like the best option, and something that I may not get the chance to do if I go down the career path now. Added to this is the fact that I was born in the UK, have British (as well as Australian) citizenship, and have 95% of my extended family living overseas. Aside from these things, wouldn’t you choose a traveling holiday over work?! So, not being one to mess around, my flights to the UK are booked for April next year (after graduation), and my British passport is in the process of being renewed. The tentative plan at this point is to gain some work in mental health whilst in the UK and then apply for Masters in 2015 when I return to Australia, but I’m also happy to just ‘go with the flow’. Farewell to the student and hello to the happy-go-lucky explorer! Oh wait, I’d better deal with those assignments and thesis first…

So, dear reader, I have a feeling that you may hear from me again before I depart, but if you don’t then all the best on your own study journey, and perhaps you will see another blog from me in a year or so!

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GRAAAAAHHAHAAHAHAHAHAH! SEMESTER BREAK IS FINALLY HERE!!!!!!

This past (10 week!) term has been the most epic, marathon like event of my uni life. I haven’t studied continuously for such a long period of time since school… which reminds me – this past month brought up 4 years out of school for me. Wow, just wow. Where did that time go?! (Just in case anyone was wondering if I dropped out, no – I was born and raised in the glorious state of NSW, but that is a story for another time).

So, prelude aside, it is HOLIDAYS! Well, a holiday of sorts. We still have assignments piling up (some of us anyway) as we head toward the ‘pointy’ end of semester – THE EXAMS. But while it is here, we might as well linger a while in this honeymoonlike bliss that is the mid semester break and dream of the real break in just 6-7 short weeks (depending on your exam timetable). Where will you go? What will you do? The opportunities are endless. Roadtrip to Melbourne, fly to NZ, spend hours lazing around beautiful beaches to the south at the Gold Coast or the north at the Sunshine Coast. Nevertheless, summer breaks are ALWAYS a time for relaxing, having fun and making memories.

I was trying to think of one adventure for this post until I realised I couldn’t narrow down a lifetimes worth of holidays (admittedly only 22 years…) so here is the revised edition of all my holidays compiled into one big holiday. Hopefully it’ll inspire you to find an adventure of your own.

It all began with a roadtrip. Like most good adventures. Where are we going? Southward!The taste of excitement is lingering in the air as the car sets off. The first memory? Windows down along the highway. Hot air bursts into the car send forth an explosion of hair as the girl sitting next to me peers out the window. Of course, this trip is a family trip. We wait in eager expectation of our destination, asking regularly “are we there yet?” or laughing as the younger boy makes humourous observations about the family dynamic.

Destination 1: The bakery. OH MY! The delights! The smells! Apple turnovers, custard tarts, cream buns and jam doughnuts! Culinary sensations to tease the tastebuds and fill the tummy. The essential stop and destination in any roadtrip satisfies the hungry mouths and gives the adults some quiet as the back seat passengers take a nap…

Rocking rocking rocking. The boat rocks back and forth, but it isn’t harsh, if anything the rocking is gentle, enough to rock a baby to sleep. It is the Spirit of Tasmania. Land ahoy! After only hours we’re running into the fresh breeze around Dove Lake at Cradle Mountain. Take a moment to breathe it in. Glass-like reflections across the water, fresh mountain air, “crunch, crunch, crunch” goes the sandy gravel underfoot. In the blink of an eye you’re swimming in Wine Glass Bay. And before you know it you’re out. Way too cold.

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Jump to an airplane. The first overseas adventure. Burma. Orphanages, children, games and fun. The evening brings out all sorts of strange smells. Sounds to arouse curiosity. It’s the street vendors that sell their food for five to ten cents Australian. The guide shakes his head as you navigate the cracked and uneven footpath, it would NOT be advisable to purchase, despite the pangs of hunger. But alas, when no one is around the corn fritter-thing takes your fancy and…

… by some miracle it is delightful to both the senses and the stomach! 1 – 0 to the cast iron stomach.

Ahh CHOO! The dust from the road causes a sneeze to shake mountains and before you know it, it’s the lights of Singapore dot the horizon. What a beautiful city! Adventures to be had here there and everywhere. Chinatown market fun, Orchard road mischief and the Night Zoo! Monkeys scream at the approach of dusk and fire-twirling Islanders put on a fierce show, entrancing the mind as the rhythmic boom of the drums echo through the heart and mind, flashes of orange-red flames dart across the dark sky and ferocious war cries pierce the night.

A far cry from the streets of Burma, the stores of Singapore offer another enticement. Digital goods. Cha-ching! and the credit card is whipped out at the allure of a new camera. For what is a holiday without good photos?

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Finally, on the last leg of the journey, we enter the streets of downtown Kansas City. It’s cold back home but not here – a lovely 34 degrees. Singlet weather, definitely singlet weather. A monitor is on, advising residents of a “UV warning”. What the heck is that?! Try spending 5 minutes in the Aussie sun, then you’ll get some real UV exposure.

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Besides the lovely temperature, you take in the magnificent Spanish architecture and al fresco dining places highlighted by a faint orange glow as the sun begins to set.

Flying back to reality requires one final stop: San Francisco. Steep hills, COLD breeze and thick fog (you quickly discover the reason for the local saying “The coldest winter you’ll ever have is a summer in San Francisco”) and stunning character. Segway touring is a blast, rolling up hills, down hills and side to side slalom. One last snapshot: giant slices of SF’s best pizza and very sore feet, finally, you are satisfied. It is time to go home.

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Until next time!
Josh

The Beginning of the End

Here it is. The beginning of the end. After 3 and a half years, 28 courses, 56 assignments (roughly) as well as several exams and quizzes, I am now staring into the face of my final semester at USQ.

For many, this semester will be their first. It will be marked with new and exciting experiences; the starting point in working to achieve their goals and dreams. For me though, this semester will be characterised through a series of ‘lasts’. The last uni textbook I buy, the last courses I complete, the last assignment I submit, the last prac I participate in – my university life is drawing to a close.

While I am excited about the doors that will unlock and open in the completion of an Education degree, I can’t help but feel nostalgic. I have loved my uni life from the very first lecture. I have changed, I have grown and I have discovered who I am as well as what my passions are. I have met some wonderful and inspiring people, many of whom have become part of my ‘uni family’, and have had some amazing experiences.

I have done things that four years ago I would never have dreamt that I would do. This is very true of an experience that I have had recently. I remember back to my first ‘O Week’, when I attended all of the information sessions that I could (in a desperate bid to ease my nerves). One of these was a lecture on professional placements (pracs; going out to schools to teach). Sometime through this, two fourth year students made their way to the front of the lecture theatre and discussed their recent prac, in Thailand. I remember thinking two things. My first thought centred on the public speaking aspect, I wondered if I would ever truly be comfortable speaking in front of such a large group. Secondly, I thought about actually teaching kids in another country. What a seemingly impossible task!

Less than three years later, I was boarding a plane with two other USQ students (who I had met previously but really didn’t know). We were off to teach in Thailand! The three week experience was unbelievable. I taught maths to high school children in Chiang Mai, observed and participated in many cultural traditions, rode elephants, played with tigers (yes – real life tigers) and was able to share these amazing experiences with two other USQ students who I now regard as family.  Since then, I have given presentations about this prac to large groups of students – just as the two students I envied had done! Through these reflections of the past 3 and a half years, I can see how much I have grown as a person as well as a teacher.

My first lectures of my final semester have just started. So, it is with my last textbook, pen and notepad in hand that I leave nostalgia behind (for now) and refocus on my goal – finish the degree. However, like a good Hollywood movie, I will leave you now with a small reflective montage of my uni life over the past few years. Enjoy