Francis DeLeo '14

Thursday May 9th was easily the most emotionally and physically draining day of the trip. Since our flights were at 5:45, 6:30, and 6:45, we had to leave the center at 3 a.m. to arrive in Cairns at 4 a.m. All of us stayed up and participated in our lasts. Our last game of Euchre and Settlers of Catan, our last episode of Game of Thrones, our last walk through the rainforest to our Cabin, and many more.  Not to mention the fact that a third of the group stayed behind until 7 a.m. Thus, the goodbyes and subsequent tears started at 2:30 as we began loading up the vans for departure. Someone wrote on the whiteboard in the common room, “Goodbye to everyone and Warrawee Center it has been an amazing ride.” I decided that goodbye was not the appropriate word. I wrote under it, ““This is not goodbye; it is just see you later.” Like I said in my first post, goodbye has a sense of permanence to it, which is inaccurate for our situation. No one could figure out who wrote it until I decided to reveal myself a week later.

With all of us going our separate ways we sat together in the airport until our flights. A group was going straight home, a group was going to New Zealand, and several people were exploring Sydney and the east coast either in a group or solo.

I was in the group bound for two weeks in Auckland, New Zealand. My three friends, Liz, Emma, and Mackenzie, and I stayed at the hotel Bianco off Queen, but weren’t there often. Between site walks, three day mountain hikes, hot springs, sea kayaking, etc, New Zealand was a great way to cap off an amazing abroad experience. However, one activity stood out the most, blackwater rafting. Blackwater rafting is simply whitewater rafting through caves. At the glow worm caves in Waitomo, my friends and I were decked out in full cave exploring gear: wet suit, boots, hard hat, and headlamp. Trudging through the freezing cold water, jumping off waterfalls, and paddling in the dark while looking at the glow worms was incredible.

Throughout our trip, we were always multiple hours outside of the city because we decided to rent a car due to the ease of transportation. The first time driving on the other side of the road was trippy and difficult to get used to. The last thing I wanted to do was accidentally turn head on into oncoming traffic.

Additionally, our hotel had a washing machine dryer, refrigerator, freezer, and full kitchen. We were able to cook majority of our meals in order to save some money. By the end of the trip, between New Zealand and Australia we were all tapped for money. Regardless, I wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything. Overall, New Zealand is breathtakingly beautiful, and I definitely need to go back in order to explore the south island and everything it has to offer.

Independent directed research…enough said. Nothing has been more enjoyable than staring at my computer screen for 8 to 12 hours every day for the past two weeks. Ok well that’s not entirely true. I have had the opportunity to pull myself away from the non-stop flurry of deadlines, literature research, and writing, but the majority of my time is spent in various places around the center attempting to get work done.

However, my work area and productivity is dependent on multiple factors, whether I need internet access or not, whether people are around, and whether the area is quiet. Unfortunately, these locations are tough to come by in the rainforest. It is nearly impossible to find a completely silent place to work. Between the study shack, classroom, and back tables, every day and every hour my work location can change. Zumba on the back veranda, movies on the classroom projector, etc all dictate where, when and if work can actually be completed. Not to mention the fact that 31 students are trying to use 4 computers that have consistent internet access to obtain references. If I can’t get a computer, I try my luck with the study shack, but when it rains the internet cuts out. Living in the rainforest during the wet season, this has posed a major problem…

Ok. Ok. My rant is over. Anyway, weeks 9 and 10 kicked off the directed research projects. For the DRs, the 31 of us were given presentations on the topics in three areas of study (based on the classes we took): ecology, resource management, and socioeconomics/environmental policy. We then ranked the 6 topics (2 topics per professor) by preference.

I was given my first choice: carbon sequestration. However, after collecting the DBH (diameter breast height) of trees in various plots from various tree plantings conducted in various years, I still did not know what my research question would be. Eventually, Colin Hunt, an ex SFS professor and the ex president of TREAT, provided me with the inspirational spark I needed. After our discussion and through much thought and deliberation with my research adviser, I determined that my study was going to investigate local community conservation organizations and the attributes that contribute to their success by using TREAT (Trees for the Evelyn and Atherton Tablelands) as my primary case study. I couldn’t have been happier with the decision because I combined my two collegiate areas of interests, psychology (my major) and environmental studies (my concentration).

For a week and a half, I was shuttled to numerous towns in the Tablelands in order to conduct semi-structured interviews to generate my results. I interviewed four different groups of people (TREAT members, Landcare members, local residents, and TREAT experts) to remove insider bias and to gain a wider array of perspectives from individuals with different POVs. The end of a week of data collection meant that data analysis and writing would dominate the remainder of my time here in Australia. Through literature review and examination of interview responses, I discovered the criteria that foster the success of CBC organizations (community based conservation) are: volunteerism, organizational structure, and networking relationships. From there, I created an interlocking theoretical framework that I applied to TREAT to determine how the organization embodies the model.

That brings us to the present and final state of my project. On Wednesday, I presented my research findings and project to staff and fellow classmates and Saturday I turned in the final copy of my research paper. The paper is 35 pages long (including figures, tables, appendices, etc). After all of the blood, sweat, and tears that went into the report, it was finally over. When that hard copy came out of the printer and it was put in a binder, I was overcome with a sense of achievement. I couldn’t believe that the program was less than a week from ending and that I had successfully completed my first collegiate research project. With time running out and the days flying by, all I can think about is spending time with my SFS family.

Contrary to popular belief, I did not get eaten by a python. And no, I didn’t get bitten by a Funnel Web Spider. Unfortunately, the story of my absence is a lot less exciting. Four weeks ago the center switched internet networks. Consequently, the internet was out for a week, and when it came back on…the Holy Cross website was blocked. Of course the only college website that gets blocked would be Holy Cross. Due to this fact, I have been unable to upload a blog post and unable to access Star, Moodle, Crusader Connections, and anything HC related for the past month. Despite having access to internet in Cairns and Magnetic Island, my plans for those excursions prevented me from bringing my laptop and other electronics, which I will justify later.

In the past four weeks, a lot has transpired. To keep this post under novel length, I am going to touch upon the high points since my last post: homestay weekend, Cairns weekend, and Spring break.

At the end of week 6, homestay weekend was the perfect escape from the overload of field exercises and assignments that were due in the prior weeks. The homestay locations were split into what gender the families wanted: all boys, all girls, or mixed. Additionally, diet was an excluding factor. Vegetarians were specified as being optimal or non-optimal. In order to get placed with a family, we were given a list of descriptions and told to pick our top three choices. Luckily, I received my second choice, a relaxing two and a half day retreat on Lake Tinaroo doing water sports, swimming, and tanning. Well for me, it’s more like burning, but that’s beside the point. My homestay was three students, mixed, and vegetarians were non-optimal. On Friday, Kristen, Alan and I walked over to the Yungaburra bowls club in order to meet our homestay mom and dad, Paul and Leslie. Bowling in Australia is not the traditional American sport. This game is a mix of shuffleboard and bocce. The object is to roll the oval shaped balls as close to a marker as possible. You can knock your opponents’ bowling balls away from the marker in an attempt to get the most closest to the marker. Bowling is played by retirees (not a single person at the club was under the age of 55). Unfortunately, we didn’t get an opportunity to play.

Surprisingly, our homestay family ran a conference/retreat center. There were four housing blocks, a cafeteria, volleyball court, and an amazing view. The three of us were in our own room with a private bathroom and a lakeside view. It felt like paradise after roughing it in the rainforest for so long. Between playing elimination trumps, kneeboarding, tubing, swimming, and touring the lake in the boat, not to mention the food (sausage, oxtail soup, and chicken salad wraps), I did not want to go back to the center. Rather, I wanted the Warrawee Center to be the Lake Tinaroo Conference Center instead.

Two weeks later, Easter weekend, started the most anticipated trip of the semester, Spring break. For Spring break, me and 17 other students headed out to Magnetic Island, which is a 30 minute ferry ride north of Townsville. Unfortunately, Easter weekend meant everything was booked, so we were unable to rent a house. Regardless, we all stayed at Base Backpackers, a hostel right on the beach. After the 6 hour bus ride and 30 minute ferry ride, we made it to the island on Good Friday, which is a national holiday in Australia (Easter Sunday and Good Friday are reversed in AU). The next three days were absolutely incredible partially because the weather was perfect. We laid on the beach, rock jumped into open ocean during stinger season, jet skied, slept on the beach, and rented scooters. Going 70 mph over water on a jet ski was some of the most fun I have ever had. Not to mention riding a scooter with 14 other people exploring the island. Our “scooter gang” took up 3 full parking spots and was a formidable force on the roads topping out at 55 kmph. I highly recommend renting from Road Runner Rentals. 45 dollars for 24 hours with 2 dollars of gas cost. Hands down the best deal on the island, and no waiting for the bus. Although I didn’t get to spend Easter with my family, I had my SFS family by my side. I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to live, explore, and study abroad with.

The only thing that could have made our return from Spring break worse, finals. The 2 days following our arrival back at Warrawee we took final exams. As a reward for cramming a semesters worth of information for 3 classes in 1 day, we went to Cairns at the end of week 9. Sunday, I booked snorkeling for a full day on Green Island. At 9:00 a.m., the 10 of us were shuttled out to the island to get our stinger suits and snorkeling masks. Unfortunately, the wind was extremely strong, which made the water unusually choppy. However, we still saw and swam with Sea Turtles, Black Tipped Reef Sharks, and hundreds of fish. The water was clear enough to see straight to the bottom. It was a sight I will not soon forget. Eating lunch on the island, taking ridiculous pictures with our stinger suits on, and witnessing the plethora of fish and coral made for a special day. With our second Cairns weekend in the history books, it was time to get down to work, directed research.

This post is already much longer than it should be, but I want to say that I left my computer behind for Cairns and Magnetic Island because of damage risk. Between the sand, water, and potential theft while at the hostel/lack of attendance while snorkeling, the cons outweighed the pros of bringing it along. Many computers have already broken at the center due to the moisture. Therefore, I have to be extremely cautious with mine because of its importance since our independent directed research projects are in full swing.

“I can’t believe we finally made it,” breathing a sigh of relief after my final midterm exam this past Saturday afternoon. After an immensely stressful week 4 and 5, all the pressure, stress, and weight of exams, papers and field exercises were off my shoulders. I could finally relax and not have to worry about cramming in a massive amount of work into our already structured, jam packed schedules. Unfortunately, my perfectionist mentality got the best of me, which made even the smallest assignments seem like massive projects.

Week 4 kicked off with a practice directed research project for Rainforest Ecology. Three days, 9 hours per day spent in Ravenshoe collecting data in dry open Eucalypt forest. Our mission: find active feeding (Eucalyptus resinifera) and den (Eucalyptus grandis) tress used by Yellow-bellied Gliders in order to access the population in North Queensland. The active or inactive determination was beyond a tedious task. Sifting through the brush and debris, canopy cover, surrounding tree species, understory density, and numerous other measures were calculated for each tree discovered on our 500 meter transect. Not to mention the massive Tiger Leeches we had to pull off every once in a while.

Our reward: Cairns. Saturday at noon we arrived in Cairns and checked into our hostel, Gilligans. Exploration, beach volleyball, and swimming filled my first exposure to the bustling beach city in the lowlands of Far North Queensland. That night, the entire group went out and experienced the night life of our first major Australian city. The next morning, half of the group went snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef. However, the rest of the group and I went out and familiarized ourselves with Carins. Stores, internet cafes, and restaurants were staked out for future reference on our next two Cairns weekends. Unfortunately, we were forced to carry around our bags the entire day since checkout was at 10 a.m. At 7 p.m., we loaded up and headed back home up the Gilles Highway.

Who needs to unpack when Daintree is less than 2 days away? By the time we got back from Cairns, it was already Week 5, and time to leave Warrawee again for another excursion. This past Tuesday we packed up the trailer and headed 4 hours to the Daintree Rainforest. Although the SFS center is in the rainforest, there are various types throughout the northern and eastern coasts of Australia. Whenever you picture a rainforest, Daintree, is what you’re thinking of. All three days were spent in the lowlands within this pristine, type 1a rainforest environment. With staggering 90 degree weather and 95 percent humidity, Daintree was muggy and disgustingly hot.

Fortunately, before we had to endure the intense heat, the group stopped at Mossman Gorge to break up the long drive. Mossman Gorge is owned by the aboriginal people of Australia. The river water is sacred and thought to have healing properties. Full of rapids, rocks, and cool clear water, it was the most refreshing swim of the trip. However, we didn’t swim for long. Our idea of fun; trying to cross the rapids without getting swept downstream. After getting three-quarters across, we decided that the rapids were too strong to risk injury. Regardless, I already had plenty of bruises and cuts from being swept away once, which undoubtedly was worth the adrenaline rush.

During our stay in Daintree at Crocadyllus Village, a local hostel, we visited an exotic fruit farm, traversed numerous trails, and of course went spotlighting. Between eating breadfruit and seeing the endangered Southern Cassowary, the trip lived up to expectations. Our luck didn’t run out there. We were able to see a 28 foot long crocodile named Scarface on our windboat tour of the Daintree River. However, we did encounter dozens of Golden Orb Weaver spiders. Whenever you see a spider bigger than your hand, you hope and pray one doesn’t end up in your room. Most importantly, the weather held up all three days. The forecast predicted rain, but the only drop that fell was while we were asleep. The sun shined bright at every stop, which was absolutely perfect for photography.

Our arrival back to Warrawee on Thursday afternoon was far from a relief. The entire group buckled down and studied for our three exams: one on Friday (Socioeconomics and Environmental Policy) and two on Saturday (Natural Resource Management and Rainforest Ecology). Spending Sunday in Yungaburra playing soccer and exploring the town was the perfect way to celebrate surviving exam week. Midterm exams mark the midway point in the semester. I can’t believe we are already halfway done. Where the time has gone? Feels like just yesterday my flight was landing in Cairns!

Unfortunately, on my trip to Cairns I was unable to upload pictures. I left my camera cord in my drawer back at the center. I am hoping that my homestay family will have internet in their guest house this weekend, so I can upload pictures. Whenever I do get the opportunity I am dedicating an entire post to pictures. Everyone deserves to see what I am witnessing down under.

“Hey buddy,” said the campsite maintenance manager gesturing in my direction. Confused, I gave him a dumbfounded look and pointed to myself not 100 per cent sure if and why he was calling for me.”Yes, you,” he retorted. Without a shirt on, right after my shower, I ran quickly over to the storage shed. Kneeling down, he pointed to the back left hand corner of the room. He asked with excitement, “You see it?” After a couple seconds, I saw a beautiful Desert Carpet Python. The manager told me that the snake lives in the shed to catch unlucky prey, and that the python protects the grounds from rodents, “He earns the right to live here.”

The camping trip at Chillagoe was absolutely amazing. After the three hour drive, we finally arrived in the small town with a recorded population of 200. Considering our group was equivalent to one quarter of the entire population, no matter where we went we drew a lot of attention. Between the cattle, desert heat, and abandoned atmosphere, I kept asking myself if this was real life. Personally, I could never imagine living in such a small rural environment. Growing up in Stamford, CT (population of roughly 120,000), I am the epitome of a city boy, which makes people question why I am roughing it in Australia in the first place. The answer: my passion for the environment and drive to leave my comfort zone influenced my study abroad program and destination. That being said, I embraced the opportunity to go camping.

Setting up a tent for merely the third time in my life, the sun beat down on us over the barren landscape. Dripping sweat, the group headed to the swimming hole. A breached old dam was turned into a small waterfall and lagoon. Between jackpot, ultimate water frisbee, and monkey in the middle, not to mention the amazingly refreshing water, the swimming hole became our safe haven from the heat. Our first night was capped off with spotlighting and sleeping out on a tarp under the stars. The night sky in the southern hemisphere consists of a few thousand stars. Pictures could never do it justice.

Could Chillagoe get any better? The answer: yes. Day 2 started waking up soaked from the morning dew at 6 a.m. Despite this fact, the experience was definitely worth the hours of constellation naming the night before. We started the day off strong with cave exploring and swimming. The caves we visited used to be a coral reef, but were raised up from a mountain building event when Asia and Australia collided. During our exploration, the group discovered a large chamber that was attached to the main room. The only problem was you had to squeeze through a sliver of an opening five yards long. One after another we crammed through to catch a glimpse of what was on the other side. The rest of the afternoon was filled with more rocks. Our trip to Balancing Rock provided us with the best photo opportunities of the trip thus far. The sunset from the highest vantage point made Australia seem surreal.

The chances of rain in Chillagoe, 1 percent. Ok, well that may be an over exaggeration, but we happened to be there for a rare thunderstorm. Walking back from the pub in the pouring rain at night with seven other people in a town we had never been before was an adventure to say the least. Not to mention the fact that when we got back to the campsite two tents collapsed and flooded from the rain. The storm refugees had to sleep in the campsite kitchen on sleeping pads. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the last of the rain. We were welcomed back to Warrawee Center with an absolute downpour. Fed up with the rain, a few students began dancing in the storm. Eventually, the entire group was kicking mud at each other and playing soccer in order to not let the rain get the best of us.

What I’m about to say will completely shock those of you that know me personally, but my family especially. While at the Yungaburra market on Saturday afternoon, my lunch consisted of a Swiss Veal Bratwurst sandwich with sauerkraut topped with sweet chilli and barbeque sauce. Doubt anyone would have expected that from the kid who eats pasta in Kimball for every dinner and whose pallet doesn’t stray too far from chicken and rice. The food came in handy for the swim-marathon to raise money for Polio later that night. Seven of us did the hour long swim and were sponsored money per lap by our peers. I ended up swimming 20 laps in an Olympic sized pool (50 meters), and passed out on the van ride back.

Week 3 was the best week of the trip. Between the sights and group mates I am sharing the experience with, I couldn’t have asked for more. Everyone has been open-minded and care free no matter the circumstance. I have honestly surprised myself with my willingness to embrace every aspect of Australia and get out of my comfort zone. With Chillagoe in the history books, five trips remain: Daintree, 3 Cairns weekends, and the home stay. Plenty more to come.

I didn’t sign up for this! When I think about Australia, I picture kangaroos, dingos, and pythons. Never did it cross my mind at any point in the application process that the wet tropics would be infested with these pests. Well, that statement isn’t entirely true. I knew that Australia is famous for poisonous spiders, but that’s beside the point. Between swatting flies every five seconds, consistently pulling leeches off of my legs, and watching spiders spin webs in the cabin ceiling, I am slowly developing a case of paranoia. However, there is nothing more terrifying than rolling your pants up and seeing a swarm of leeches attached to your leg.

All blood sucking aside, the trip has been phenomenal thus far. Week 1 consisted mainly of getting acclimated to the 15 hour time difference, classes, no electronics, and the center and its rules, while Week 2 was trips, trips, and more trips offsite. The time difference hasn’t been too difficult to adjust to. Although, I do find myself dozing off in the middle of the afternoon when it is normally 2-4 a.m. back home. Not to mention it is incredibly difficult to communicate with family and friends. McDonald’s WiFi in Atherton is not cutting it for Skype and uploading pictures. Nonetheless, I do enjoy not having to check my phone or send an e-mail every five minutes.

So what is life in Australia like? Between the 80 degree weather, beautiful scenery, and abundant wildlife there is nothing better. Can’t say I’d rather be trudging through the multiple feet of snow in Worcester. However, I learned quickly how different and structured life is at the center. In addition, the immense amount of rules and safety precautions are a lot to handle sometimes. More often than not my schedule varies day to day, but most weekdays breakfast is 7:30-8:30 a.m., lunch is 12:00-1:00 p.m., and dinner is 5:30-6:30 p.m. Classroom lectures fill the morning and afternoon with field lectures and workshops thrown in now and then. The long day is capped off with a night activity or free time. Usually, I hit the hay around 10 p.m. due to the 7 a.m. (or earlier in most cases) wake up. However, every Friday is community service and Warrawork (cleaning), every Saturday night is pub night, and every Sunday is a free day.

Despite having little free time, the professors and staff at SFS have planned a massive amount of incredible offsite and onsite excursions: TREAT tree planting, Mount Hippipome field lecture, Malanda Falls, and Night Spotlight just to name a couple.

One recommendation for anyone’s next trip: spotlight. Basically, spotlighting is going out into an environment in the dead of night to observe nocturnal wildlife. If you have the opportunity to spotlight in the wet tropics, make sure to bring long pants and hiking boots, but most of all fashionably tuck your pants into your socks. Unless you enjoy leeches, then by all means go out in shorts and flip flops. Armed with our headlamps, my group managed to see a ten plus foot long Amethystine Python, Golden Orb Weaver, and a family of Pademelons. The eight leeches I had to pull off was totally worth it.

Tomorrow we leave to camp-out at Chillagoe (the Outback) for two nights and three days. Spotlighting, starshowing, and cave exploring are all on the agenda. It’s going to be an incredible spectacle.

Unfortunately, I have some good news and bad news. The good news is I have taken a ton of pictures of my adventures thus far. The bad news is I can’t upload them until I go to Cairns to get halfway decent internet. Weeks 1 and 2 were action packed. I have pictures of Lace Monitors, Tiger Skinks, Pythons, and much more. However, my personal favorites are of me on top of a waterfall and on top of the rolling hills of the Atherton Tablelands. I am going to dedicate a blog post every Cairns weekend to pictures in order to make up for lost time.

Hope everyone is doing well. Look out for a Week 3 Post this weekend.

After an immense 34.5 hours of travel time (including all of the layovers and plane and bus rides), the SFS group finally made it to Warawee Center just outside of Yungaburra Queensland (one of us without any checked bags). Unfortunately for me, Jet Star decided to delay my bags in Sydney for a day. I felt too exhausted and grimy to worry about not having my luggage. All I wanted to do was take a shower and sleep after driving on the wrong side up the windiest road I had ever been on, the Gillies Highway.

Although I make it seem as if getting to Australia was a nightmare, in actuality, the trip wasn’t that bad. Ok. Well that’s not completely true. My American Airlines flight from JFK to LA was borderline awful. The flight was almost six hours with not an ounce of entertainment, or should I say “good” entertainment. At least I had Kim, another student in the program, to endure the boring flight with.

Before I continue, I have to say one thing; Qantas is the best airline I have ever had the pleasure of flying on. This airline made a fifteen hour flight feel like nothing. Between the pillow, headset, personal screen, leg room, and not to mention the phenomenal selection of movies, I was occupied the entire flight. I got the opportunity to watch five movies: Inglorious Bastards, Taken 2, The Departed, Pulp Fiction, and The Hangover. Actually, I didn’t get to watch all of Pulp Fiction. Such a shame the flight wasn’t an hour longer.

With the whole group together, our last task was getting on the domestic transfer from Sydney to Cairns. Easy, right? After clearing customs and baggage claim, I realized I left one of my bags on a chair next to the conveyer belt. The bag only had my laptop, camera, USB, and no luggage tag on it; no big deal. Pretty much had a heart attack running back to Qantas in order to bang on a steel door until someone answered. I told the assistant where I left my bag, and waited while I thought to myself that the bag is probably gone because someone was bound to take it. Luckily, she came around the corner with my backpack and all I could do was smile. Definitely not the best way to start off my arrival in Australia. (My parents are probably reading this and saying, “We told him not to forget a bag.”)

How many SFS students does it take to find a connecting domestic flight? The 25 of us did not know we had to take a taxi to another terminal in order to fly with Jet Star not Qantas, even though our itinerary said Qantas. With four minutes left to make last boarding call, Jet Star checked all of us in and passed us through security. Here’s a situation no one wants to be in: running through a foreign airport with your belt and laptop in your hand, carrying two backpacks, while your jeans are falling down to catch your flight. In the end, we all made it. The program hadn’t even started yet and we had already experienced our first adrenaline pumping adventure in Australia. I can only imagine how crazy the rest of the trip is going to be.

(After being in Australia for the past few days, I learned that the SFS center has a limited data plan. Unfortunately, I am not allowed to upload pictures, but I am going to try my best to go into town in order to use the unlimited WiFi to upload pictures every week. In addition, we still don’t have our own WiFi set up, which is making it incredibly difficult to add hyperlinks as well (we have four student computers for 31 students) Bear with me.)

Twenty-four. A mere twenty- four hours separates me from the trip of a lifetime. I honestly cannot believe the day has finally come. It seems like just yesterday I was turning in my study abroad application, and stacks of other paperwork along the way: medical forms, post-acceptance questionnaires, visa documents, etc, not to mention the slew of immunizations required to live in the rainforest. After a full year, these plans are finally coming into fruition. The mix of emotion is overwhelming. I don’t know how to feel, but it is undoubtedly a mix of anxiety, nervousness, and excitement.

The past two weeks leading up to the flight have been far from relaxing. Last week, I paid a special visit to Holy Cross to see friends and professors (had to have one last Kimball meal as well). No meal swipes, no room, and sleeping on my friend’s futon, I spent three days attempting to piece together my honors thesis for next year (to no avail), spending time with close friends, and tying up loose ends before my departure. I couldn’t help thinking about all of the events and opportunities I will be missing this semester. Despite a slight feeling of regret, I realized that this trip will be a life changing experience and an opportunity that I could never pass up.

This week, I spent my time visiting family and packing. The reminiscing and the constant “we’ll miss you” was a reminder of how much my family cares and takes interest in my affairs. On the other hand, packing quickly became a frustrating endeavor. Packing for study abroad is way beyond a challenging experience. Qantas Airlines allows a traveler two checked bags with total dimensions of 106 inches (should be a crime to allow so little packing space) . No single bag can be over sixty-two inches or weigh over fifty pounds. In terms of the carry on, the max size is forty-five inches and the max weight is fifteen pounds (my laptop weighs seven by itself)…After buying luggage three separate times and attempting to pack four days straight, everything fit! Somehow, some way my entire packing list made it into the three bags at the exact requirements. Seems too good to be true, but I’m not going to question it.

Now all that’s left is thirty hours of travel time to get from JFK to the School for Field Studies (SFS) center in Australia. Three plane rides, two layovers, and a bus ride later, I will be at my destination: Yungarburra, an hour outside Cairns. The SFS program runs from February 4th to May 9th with a five day mid semester break. Internet is spotty, so communication is limited. In all honesty, I am looking forward to forgoing technology and taking a break from the hustle and bustle of life at HC. That’s not to say I won’t be busy during my trip, but I am going to make it a point to enjoy my time away and reflect. Reflect not only on what I want to do in my final year at Holy Cross, but also on what I want to pursue in the years after graduation. I can only hope that my time in Australia will give me an inspiration or a revelation-esque moment during my stay as well as a passion for my career and thesis.

As my time in the States dwindles, I don’t like to say goodbye. The word has a sense of permanence. To all of my friends and family, I will see you later. To everyone at Holy Cross, good luck this semester (work hard and stay warm). I will miss all of you.