Thursday, March 30, 2017


Throughout history certain names can strike fear into your soul just by a mention: Hitler, Stalin, Castro, Debbie. I know what you're thinking, "how can anything named Debbie be so bad?" Well as Gilligan once said, "Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip."

Disclaimer: I did not know their was a cyclone coming to the exact beach I was going to. No one did.

It's been no secret that I want to travel as much as I can while in Australia. Each weekend I want to see new places and experience new things. Last Monday a Tiger Air deal to the Whitsunday Islands came my way and it was just too good to pass up. I asked if anyone wanted to go with me, and when no one felt up for a trip to God's preview of Heaven, I decided to go by myself. I know lots of people think that it's crazy for me to travel alone--ahem, Mom--but it really isn't all that scary. You also have to remember that I just uprooted my entire life and everything that's familiar to me to live in Australia for several months, so the being alone stuff doesn't really bother me anymore.

Moving right along, I booked all my flights and excursions and was ready to see what was ranked as Australia's Most Beautiful Beach 2016. Friday morning I got up early and headed to the airport for my 9:30 flight. I try and make a point of taking the train long distances, especially the airport, because I am certainly going to utilize the free travel. ISA and their rotating door of employees aren't going to profit off me.

I get that Tiger Air is the cheap airline to use, but did Sydney Airport really have to put them at gate 58? Just because I like cheap flights doesn't mean I like to be treated like a second-class flier. Not cool. My flight was delayed (no surprise), and I eventually made it off the tarmac at 11:00. I was plum wore out, so I was actually asleep for takeoff and the first hour. Thank goodness I was wearing my seat belt because I was floating when I woke up. Apparently discount prices on Tiger Air also means discount pilots. Not once, twice, or three times, but on four separate occasions I experienced weightlessness. Was I on the Tower of Terror at Disney World? Nope, Tiger Air, but you could've fooled me.
Word of advice: If you are considering dropping $70 thousand to fly on Richard Branson's Zero Gravity plane, skip it and pay $99 for a flight on Tiger Air.

After an hour and a half and an apparent time change (Queensland is an hour behind New South Wales despite being directly above it), I landed in one piece at Proserpine airport. That whole area of Queensland is very podunk. I luckily managed to get a roundtrip bus set up to take me to my hostel in Airlie Beach. The ride to Airlie was flat and cloudy. It even rained a bit, which I should've seen as a precursor for the rest of the trip, but the sun came out and gave me false hope. I arrived thirty minutes later at Beaches Backpackers. Ha. Hahahahahaha. Do not ask me why I booked myself a room at a hostel. I am not a free spirit or a vagabond. That is not my scene. I am a crazy person. But hey, I wanted to say I had done it.

Beaches had a deceptively nice website that made it look very upscale and ritzy for a hostel, but I should have been a bit less naive. I mean, I only paid $22 a night after all. I got a shared room for eight people. It had a bunk bed and no air conditioning with cinder block walls on all sides. The bathroom just screamed "athletes foot" at me as soon as I saw it. It was squalor. North Carrick dorms just got a much higher rating in my book. I changed into my swimming trunks and made my bed and briskly escaped the bacteria haven. You get what you pay for.

I had lunch and went for a walk along the beach, except there was no beach in sight. I was then concerned. I found a bench and called my mom. Classic Hunter move. I was overwhelmed and she wasn't easing the anxiety. "You shouldn't travel alone. This is what happens." I wasn't overwhelmed because I was alone, I just didn't realize what I had gotten myself into. Mom told me to go make friends with "the natives." I told her that this isn't 1765, and they go buy locals. She then asked how my brothel was. Not joking on that one. I explained that I was not in a whorehouse, but in fact a hostel. On paper they're very different. In reality, the lines are a bit blurred. Regardless, I told her as fun as being Tyrion Lannister for a weekend would be, I wanted to make it back to Sydney STD free.

Mom made me laugh and the sun was out, so I decided to make the best of my trip. Turns out I'm just ignorant and did not go to the right location that Google had specified. I can't even work my iPhone, I never would have been able to use a real atlas. But I prevailed and found the beach after all! There were only a handful of people, and I excitedly put out my towel. I started the cycle of baking in the sun for awhile, swimming, baking, and so on. After killing several hours and enjoying some "me time," I headed back to take a shower with shoes and chill out. On my way back, however, I stumbled upon one of Airlie Beach's neatest hangout spots. They have a man-made lagoon right in the middle of town that is free for anyone to swim in. The water was treated and kept at a comfortable, lukewarm temperature. It was better than the beach and so much fun to swim in a pool that overlooked the ocean. I stayed for quite some time and even watched the sunset.

My evening after that was pretty chill and uneventful. I bought some souvenirs, ate a large pizza for one, enjoyed the nightlife, and took a long, moonlit walk on the beach. I'm a romantic, what can I say. Around 11:00 I headed back to my hostel to find that its courtyard was transformed into a makeshift club, complete with lights, a band, and drunken, barely legal, youngsters doing the Macarena on tabletops. It was the only thing I could hear walking back from dinner, so I knew early on sleep was going to be a challenge. I decided to check it out for a few minutes, and I do have to commend whoever was picking the music. Never in one sitting, and especially at a club, have I ever heard Taylor Swift, Grease, Neil Diamond, the Spice Girls, and whoever sings Hey Baby played one after another. It was like they were trying to call me home. I maintained a strong front and did not let the guilty pleasure songs lure me in. I knew I had to get up super early and couldn't stay out much longer, but I made a mental note to come back the next night and enjoy the compilation of wonderfully, terrible One Hit Wonders. Thank goodness they didn't play Adele or I would've been a goner.

6:00 AM came very early. I don't recall falling asleep, but I have a sneaking suspicion it was to ABBA's Dancing Queen from downstairs. I'm about as quiet as a freight train, so I'm sure I woke up my roomies who likely had gotten in an hour or so before, That didn't stop me though. If they were going to yell it would have been in some European language or Japanese (they were all foreign), and I only know American English and Southern Spanish, so no comprendo mis amigas.

I left for Port Airlie with the sun still down and eventually found it in the misty, morning twilight. (Is that a song lyric? Sounds familiar.) I boarded my Cruise Whitsundays vessel and high-tailed it to the inside lower-deck, where with the speed and precision of a new Hyundai Elantra I went back to sleep. I swear I have narcolepsy. I can fall asleep anywhere. Whitehaven Bach was a 2 hour boat ride, so I got a nice little nap in. I do remember waking up at one point to our boat hitting some major ocean waves. *red flag*

We got to Whitehaven about 10:00, and I can firmly say that the beach and ocean are THE prettiest I have ever seen. I have 20 years and lots of beaches under my belt, and it absolutely wins. The sand was 98% silicon, so it never gets hot. It's also very aerated, so it stays fluffy and fun. The water was crystal blue and warm. The beach was pristine, with only our boat of about 75 people on it. The jungle behind the sand led to mountains that cascaded down in both directions and faded into the sea. It was like a movie. Magical.

After being in awe and finding my perfect spot to lay my towel, I resumed my cycle of tanning and swimming. From November to April jellyfish are very bad off the coast of Queensland, so I was put into a ridiculous "stinger suit" when I swam. I felt like a third-rate superhero with it on. It was one of the goofiest get-ups ever, so I ended up risking it without it in the end. We only stayed for two and half hours, sadly, but I will never be able to forget its natural beauty. God took his time on that place.

Our next stop was Daydream Island, but to get there we had to hit some major waves. Never in my mind did I attribute the monster waves to a possible storm over the ocean. I just braced myself and hoped my picture wouldn't be on CNN the next day with the caption, "American College Student, with Striking Resemblance to Academy Award Winner Leonardo DiCaprio, Dead in Australian Shipwreck." But our little boat road the waves like a surfing pro and got us to our destination.

At Daydream Island I had lunch at a cabana restaurant with bad service and birds, but the view of the ocean made up for it. I ate my meal and then laid out by their pool, sleeping in the sun with my sunglasses on. Silly raccoon Hunter. At 4:00 it was time to go, and I was already getting myself excited for the nap I was going to take at my hostel and the throwback hits that the club was going to play. But first, I had to schedule my pickup for the airport in the morning. This is where the fun begins.

I call the bus service, and they kindly informed me that my Tiger Air flight was cancelled from Proserpine. Aca-excuse me. Apparently the flight was having engineering issues a whole day in advance, so they flat out cancelled it. K. I call Tiger Air customer support and explain the dilemma that they put me in. All that they could do was transfer me to the next flight, which was on Tuesday. That's fine. It's not like people have jobs or lives or only packed two sets of clothes or are staying in a pig sty or anything. I settled for a refund for the flight home. Hello Overwhelmed Hunter, welcome back. I move onto the boat that's headed back to Airlie Beach and quickly start looking up other flights. The cheapest I found was a Jetstar flight for $700 one way. Nah fam, that's not going to work. I called Tiger Air back and asked if they could fly me to Brisbane, or Melbourne, or anywhere not there. They said no. I yelled at them. Fun times.

When we got back to port I had the grand idea of flying to Sydney from Hamilton Island airport. I checked the prices and found a $250 Qantas flight. Manageable. Without hesitation I booked it and did not look back. I knew that the boat company I toured with made stops to Hamilton, so in my mind I was in the clear. Wrong. I go to buy my boat ticket and the lady informed me that all boats are "harboured" until Tuesday. Huh. Apparently there was a cyclone headed right for me, and that was the first I heard of it. So there I stood, in a state of disbelief. A cyclone with the least menacing name possible was wreaking havoc on my travel plans. Good grief, it should at least go by Deborah.

I tried my very hardest to remain calm through all of this. I was 1200 miles from Sydney, and I had no way to get home. The nice lady at the boat desk was trying to be positive though. "Don't worry about not being able to get to Hamilton," she said, "that flight will probably be cancelled too." She was right, all flights ended up being grounded until Tuesday. She was full of ideas, however. "I bet you can take a helicopter over there." When she said that I actually gave her a dumbfounded look
because I thought she was joking with me. She was not. So there I go actually looking into taking a helicopter. I called the helicopter man. No luck there. He wasn't flying in that storm. I learned it was a Category 4. And no, the 4 does not mean 4 times as fun.

After the helpful desk lady told me that the company could not take me by boat right then, even if I was willing to abandon the clothes I left inside the hostel and pay her under the table the $55 I had in my pocket, she offered more bright ideas. "You could try and get one of the people who leave their boat in the marina to take you, and if that doesn't work, try a travel agency." I have no shame and begging is not below me, so there I went. I asked random strangers if they could take me to Hamilton Island in their little passenger boats for my measly $55 I had on me. All were a resounding no. I am giving them the benefit of the doubt, however. It was about a two hour boat ride, and they probably would've been hardcore harassed by Debbie's gusty winds.

So off to town I went to try and strike a deal with the travel agency. They were my last hope. As I walked, I saw people boarding up their windows and strapping things to their car, Beverly Hillbillies-style. People were getting the heck out of dodge. The dudes at the travel agency (not even guys, just dudes) asked me the same questions the desk lady asked me, all obviously to no avail. Their final two options were to either wait out the storm or take a 9:00 PM Greyhound bus to Brisbane Airport for twenty hours and fly to Sydney from there. I didn't really want to drop anymore money, so I went back to my humble abode and asked about staying a few more days. I came to terms with the fact that I was going to miss a few days off work.

Sike! Beaches was full. I would have had my one more night and then would've been on the streets for Debbie's full wrath. I can picture it now: strapping myself to a tree to not get blown away, eating sand crabs to survive, sleeping under a park bench. That brothel Mom mentioned was sounding better and better. I was snapped out of my trance because of winds that were howling, like the swirling storm inside. (That one is definitely a song lyric. Everyone loves Frozen.)

At that point my only option was the Greyhound. I took a chance and called Qantas to see if they would refund me my Hamilton Island flight, so I could pay for the bus. The lady was a real sweetheart, and I'm sure my pitiful begging helped. She gave me a full refund. I traipsed back into the travel agency and told the dude to go ahead and book it. Road trip!

I went back to my room to shower and charge my phone, and not thirty minutes later I get a phone call. "Hey, umm, your bus is like running five hours late, so if you want to run to the bus station we will put you on one right now." At the time I was annoyed with the dude, but he actually did save me quite a bit of time. I rushed to strip my bed and tossed my pizza at the Europeans. Ahoj, (I have no clue what they were, but that us how you say goodbye in Czech.) I ran down to the lobby, got my deposit, and then practically sprinted back to the bus station. All that running wore me out. Usain Bolt is the man for being able to do that for a living.

Once at the bus station, I found the driver, and that was that. I was off on a twenty hour adventure to Brisbane. The distance is only fourteen hours, but Greyhound takes twelve, thirty minute stops along the way, because, of course they do. From then on it was mostly boring. The roads were bumpy and there was nothing to see. Australia is pretty much either cities or bush. Literally there are vast expanses of nothing for hundreds of miles. My ride consisted almost entirely of sleeping. When I wasn't tired I would take two Benadryl and knock myself back out. Somewhere in there I booked my flight from Brisbane back to Sydney. The ride honestly went very quickly, and I can say that I've seen most of Queensland because of it. Occasionally, when I was actually awake and we needed gas or to change drivers, I would explore the truck stops. I bought a cool fishing shirt for $5, peed in an anti-Heroin bathroom with blue lights so you can't see your veins to shoot up, and saw a giant kangaroo statue. Oh the memories.

After a very precise twenty hour bus ride, I arrived in Brisbane. I said goodbye to the other young people who were in the exact same position as me, only to then realize I was not at the airport. The driver told me it was the end of the line, even after I showed him my ticket. "You got on an earlier bus. This one doesn't go to the airport." Well I obviously know that, guy. Despite being told by the dudes that it would all be the same if I took an earlier bus, it was remarkably not the same. Never trust a dude. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. I was so close, and yet so far.

At that point, I was over it. I didn't bother arguing with him and just left. I walked my annoyed self around Downtown Brisbane until I found the train station. Luckily for me, I was at Brisbane Central. I walked on in and found out that they have airport trains like Sydney, and I bought myself a ticket. There goes another $20. The trains and whole environment of Brisbane was very laid back. I barely saw any people, and only three trains ran in the thirty minutes time I waited on the platform. I get that Sydney is better, but the Brisbanites should still come outside. Geez. Eventually my train came, and with the assistance of another person, I got on the train. Apparently you have to push a button to get on in Queensland. I just stood there staring at the door like an idiot.

My train took me on a nice tour of Brisbane. I definitely had no intentions to go, so it is neat to say that I have been there. There's a perk from all this! It eventually dropped me at the airport, where I was searched for chemical weaponry inside my backpack. Clearly I am a terrorist. I did learn that the Australian TSA equivalent allows you to take aerosol sprays on planes and allows you to come through security without a boarding pass. If only the love of my life ran through there to meet me mere moments before I boarded. That didn't happen. What did happen was me waiting for three and a half hours to board. Then it was nearly my time to get on and it got delayed. Eh, what's another few hours at this point. At long last I did, in fact, board my flight, though.

The flight was only an hour and a half and pretty bleh. Jetstar was much nicer than Tiger Air, even when the flight attendant was flirting with the lady next to me and gave her free water and cheese and gave none to me. I even winked and still got nothing. Never mind me, only a starving young man with an insanely high metabolism that hasn't eaten in who knows how long. At least I was in an exit row and had extra legroom. Another perk! I landed in Sydney at nearly 11:00. I have to say, it honestly felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders when I finally touched down. I would say I will feel similar when I get back to the US, except that will be better because I'll get to see my family.

That weekend is one that I will never forget in my entire life. The whole experience was wild and left me with crazy memories. I got to see the natural beauty of the Whitsundays and the barren beauty of the Queensland bush. Though unplanned and rather boring, it was very cool to see Brisbane too. No matter where I go, there is always a story to tell from it. Here's to hoping the rest of my time in Australia is just as fun and less surprising. Thanks for the mems, Debbie. It only take a Category 4 cyclone to show me who's boss.

Are you ready to go home?

"Are you ready to go home?" I can't tell you how many times I have heard this from my friends and family back home, as well as locals that I meet around and at work.  Surely after two whole months of being in another country I would be ready to head to good old USA right?

Of course there are things that I miss at home, like going to a grocery store and actually looking at brands that I recognize, driving a car and not having to take the dreaded light rail( light does not mean fast as light btw), and simply coming back to my own house and spending time with my friends.  But I would be lying if I said I really wanted to go back home.  I love Sydney! Every day I love it more and more (except when it's raining for days on end) and I can't even think about going back to the US. I love the laid back atmosphere, and the fact that you can just walk almost everywhere.  I have lost almost 15 pounds since I've been here, and it's mostly from having to walk literally everywhere.  And even though it can get a little old and annoying, I actually enjoy my walk to my train stop every morning by myself, just taking in the sights and admiring all the different people around me.  I love the Australian accents and humor, and I think it will actually be really weird for me to hear American accents when I get home.  I just love how Aussies make fun of each other and make jokes, while not getting offended.  It's also cool to hear different perspectives and opinions, and not having to defend or fight with the other person if you disagree.

I love the warm sunny days with the ocean breeze and view, and even though I'm used to seeing all the touristy things, they still amaze me and make me realize how beautiful the earth really is.  I love the food and especially the coffee.  I don't think I will ever go back to instant coffee and a life without Tim Tams.  I miss my friends, but I have made so many new ones that I know will continue after this part of my journey.  I do miss the days when we could explore the city, because sometimes I feel like all I do is work, but once the weekends come, I try to make the most of the days.  I have learned so much about Australia in two months than apparently most Aussies learn in their entire lives.  I know that Sydney will always have a special place in my heart and if anyone tries to say something negative about Australia I will always defend it like it's my own country. I only have one month left in Australia but I plan to make it the best month ever.  I want to explore as much as I can, and feel like a true local, if only for a short time.  I'm not sure if I will ever be able to come back to Australia, but my dream is to come back soon and bring my friends so they can see just what an amazing place it truly is.  And I would love to visit the other amazing places in Australia like Tasmania, Melbourne, Perth, and maybe even New Zealand.  My love for travel has continued to grow as I've been here, and I know that this will not be my last international trip.

So am I ready to go home?

I am home.

A Taste of Adulting

I like being an adult.

Shew, that’s something I never thought I would hear myself say. Well, I guess I haven’t said it out loud so much as written it, but you know what I mean.

Maybe it is just me, but I am quite burnt out on school. I needed this semester to get away and get a taste of the real world. That being said, I must say I was a little intimidated by the idea of a 50-hour work week when I first arrived. My whole life up until this point has been school. Class, tests, projects, papers, and maybe a part time job on the side. Like working in the Golden Roast coffee shop as I did last semester.

As intimidated as I was for the internship, I was ready. I’m not the type of person who learns by sitting in a classroom. I learn on the go. And after only five weeks at this internship, I have easily learned more about my profession than I have in my three years of college. I look forward to work, even the things I am not keen on doing simply because I love the fact that every day I have the opportunity to learn something new. After all, I didn’t pay this much money to come on the trip and learn nothing.

Now, I am no full-fledged adult. I don’t pay taxes, my job is unpaid, and I haven’t even graduated college yet. I am, however, well on my way, and this internship has been the first step. I have an interview when I get back to the states with another production company to fulfill a school credit and, hopefully, it will lead to full time employment once I graduate in December.

This trip has required a lot more attention to detail, sense of responsibility, and growing up in a very short amount of time. However, even at the toughest times and my lowest of lows, it has made me more excited about the future and more passionate about what I plan on doing with my life.

Making a Mark

I've been doing a lot of reading on Medium lately, specifically about personal growth, and it has lead me to a lot of reflection about my time in Australia - and what it'll be like to be back in Knoxville (in three weeks (!!!)). It also lead me to only use social media in order to post and update or two, and to not mindlessly scroll through multiple timelines, switching from one to another, and to another, after one platform gets boring.

Oh, the highlight reel. 

I think we can all agree that it would have been cool to be in the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest Power T (go vols), but on multiple occasions I have found myself saying "Wow I wish I were there for that..." as I viewed an event from Australia. 

I do not think that posting things that look better than they actually were to impress people we do not actually like is an a positive benefit of social media. But, before I continue, I will say that I am completely guilty of this and this post isn't to make people who really enjoy social media feel judged. I'm not 'holier than thou.' Recently, though, I have wanted to challenge myself to get grip on my social media usage, because my worth, my satisfaction, and my happiness were becoming increasingly dependent upon likes...and God forbid I go somewhere and without posting it on my story.

I do not want my main source of satisfaction based upon how many people comment heart eyes and fire emojis on my pictures.

So, how can I 'make a mark' these last three weeks as I simultaneously withdraw my social media presence nearly altogether?

Well, as Benjamin Foley writes in this article, I need to start with myself before I can get anywhere else - so I may not be leaving a legacy in Sydney, but in the past two weeks I have begun to make a mark within myself. One that catalyzed growth, challenge, and new habits to make my ephemeral time in Sydney (and on this Earth) a little better.

This blog post is simply an update of a few changes that are still in the beginning stages in my life, so, here are a few:

1. I want to take more pictures and post less of them.
I'd like to print out more pictures than I post, because I feel like holding a memory in my hand is      more sentimental, more personal, than sharing it for hundreds of people to see. This will also give me an opportunity to utilize my new camera, but sharpen some photography skills and look for the best way to capture the details and true emotion of a place.

2. I want to read more.
Replacing scrolling with reading has allowed me to take breaks from assignments, but still be I don't feel guilty if I take a 30-minute break because in that time I read about environmentalists in Honduras, genocide in Egypt, grassroots social movements, hunger in Sudan, and how to maximize my time throughout the day. It's basically a win-win, or as Michael Scott would prefer, a win-win-win.

3. I want to treat my body better.
Let me say this as plainly as possible: I love food. Love it. I also lack motivation to get app off of the couch (prime eating and scrolling place) to go exercise. As of right now, I'm certainly not training at the caliber that I used to, but I do know that movement is necessary at the end of a day spent sitting behind a desk. So, I changed how I eat and how I spend my time in the evening. It used to be Nutella on everything and some really killer grilled cheese whilst watching Married At First Sight, but now it is fruits and vegetables only before dinnertime, no late-night snacking, and exercising daily. The latter routine has helped me sleep better and feel better about myself.

4. I want to appreciate people more.
I used to say this and not mean it, but now I really mean it when I say that the last thing I want to happen when I am hanging out with some friends is we all communally look at some electronic device instead of conversing. I want to be a better listener and I want to put my cell phone face-down and not pick it up when other people are talking, because having to make someone repeat what they said to me (because I was giving more attention to my phone than I was to them) does not make it look like I really appreciate them. I want to give more compliments and make more memories, and the best way for me to do that is to not divide my attention between the multiple people sitting around me, and the thousands of posts at my fingertip.

5. I want to be ready to go when it is time to leave.
That's right. I want to be ready to go. That means that when my time here comes to a close I want to be able to say that I accomplished, explored, and learned a vast majority of the things I wanted to while I was here. I want a crossed off "go to" list and the tan lines to prove it. I do not want to leave too many stones unturned and I want to have a feeling of satisfaction when I look back at all of the things I've done while I lived in Australia. Of course I 100% empathize with the travel bug and the wanderlust vibe, but instead of crying that I only have three weeks left, I want to make the most of them so that I can go home to see my mom, dad, dogs, and best friends and continue to make memories and check off explorations that have been on hold for nearly the past four months.

I want my highlight reel to be my tribe and my mark to be made with the people around me and I presume this whole post can be boiled down to being aware and appreciative of my beautiful life.

"I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life." -F. Scott Fitzgerald

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Rain brings flowers

I slumped in the seat of my dad's pickup truck, watching the raindrops fall from the sky and turn into mud puddles as they touched the earth below.

It had been raining for a solid week, and the ground had turned to slush with slips and slides around every corner. Tired of sitting and waiting, I stretched my premature legs out to allow my feet to touch the floorboard.

"Dad, it's been raining for days now," I whined, letting my elementary-aged, childish impatience get take the wheel.

"I know!" My dad exclaimed with bright eyes and his classic crooked smile. "Isn't it great?"

At age 10, I just didn't get it. What good was the rain for? It's just water, the same stuff that flowed from the sink, the shower, and my eyes when my pet goldfish died.

A few days later, my dad rustled me out of bed early in the morning, eager to show me something. I groaned and moaned as I rolled out of bed, because obviously, my ten-year-old self had a busy date book and much greater things to attend to.

We walked to a window, and as my father opened the blinds, a much-missed sunshine revealed itself through the cracks. The fields of the farm were lush and green, with the sun illuminating the light spray of dew covering the forage. The sky displayed a brilliant shade of blue, a perfect accompaniment to the slight chirping of birds across the horizon.

Suddenly, I got the importance of all that rain.

The past few weeks, I have been transported to the irritation of my former self of eleven years ago.

I would wake each morning to the sound of rain drops hitting my window. My shoes would be soaked solid by the end of each day. The rain was seemingly never ending, and with my head on my pillow each night, I hoped that the sun would clear for our Blue Mountains trip.
It didn't.

As we hiked and drudged through the soggy trails with sweat dripping under our layers of rain protection, I was tempted to whine and moan and groan, exuding the impatience of a 10-year-old with an age 21 body. By then I remembered, that if farm life has taught me anything, it's to be thankful for rain. I held my head high and marched on, keeping my outlook positive.

I've always kept the phrase "rain brings flowers" close to my heart both metaphorically and literally, through hard times and bad weather. As I struggled with both through the pouring rain with soaking wet socks and a killer headache, I wondered if any flowers of sort would come out of this experience.

They did. And in a magnificent way.

I'll never complain about the rain again. I know I say that a lot, but really, I mean it this time! ;)

Monday, March 27, 2017

It's the Little Things

With less than a month until my journey in Australia comes to an end, it is safe to say that I have found a home out of Sydney. This city will always hold a piece of my heart, from the beaches to the diverse cultures.

While my love for this amazing city has only grown since I arrived, there are still times I naturally find myself missing home, my safe place, my comfort zone. I find it completely natural to occasionally feel almost an emptiness when exploring other areas of the world. The world is a massive, beautiful place, but nothing will ever beat your home.

However, I am fortunate enough to have some pretty solid friends that always ground me when I start feeling a little down. I cannot tell you how many times Hunter, Cayla, Olana and I have shouted patriotic songs at the top of our lungs in the evening. Hunter always like to take it a step further by kneeling with his hand over his heart for The Start Spangled Banner.

There are even times we put on a very overdramatic southern accent, just for the fun of it. While it is fun and silly at the time, I later find myself reflecting that interaction and really feeling grateful I had friends to play along. While the accents may be a bit overboard, just hearing a southern accent gives me contentment and peace.

Just last weekend, my fellow peers in Apartment 1713 put together a Southern Feast that anyone should be jealous of. I was honestly astonished by how well they pulled it off. It is safe to say that I have not eaten that well, or rather that much, since I left America. Between fried chicken, green bean casserole, baked macaroni, fried okra, and some banana pudding to finish off with, I was very content. Not to mention we also had a bit of fun chanting Rocky Top for our lovely Aussie guests at the dinner. 

All of these small things have really made a big difference. You don't realize it at the time, finding it to be a bit silly. However, when reflecting on my time so far, I realize that there were many times I was feeling a bit down or a bit homesick. Fortunately, I have surrounded myself with some pretty cool people that really know how to make me feel like I am still on Rocky Top.

It's the little things that can make me feel right at home.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Where's the Pause Button?

It’s the beginning of my third week at my internship here in Sydney, Australia. I am interning at the US Consulate General in the US Commercial Service department. The first week was a little overwhelming getting used to waking up at 6:30 to be on time at 8:00, and then staying until 5 and not getting home until 6. To say the least, I was exhausted. My second week was a lot less stressful, because my body had finally adjusted to my schedule and I wasn’t as tired. Although my first week was exhausting, I absolutely love my internship. I have already gained such valuable experience in just the first two weeks. The people have been so amazing and inclusive, inviting me to go to meetings, trade shows, lunch, to get drinks after work, anything that is happening they have included me in. They also care what I have to say and what my opinion is, which I find to be completely different from an internship back home. It’s been really refreshing feeling like you matter at an internship and having your input taken into consideration.

I have six more weeks left at my internship and I am really excited to see what the future holds. There is also a VIP guest coming to the Consulate General the day before I leave Australia. They are coming on the Saturday of April 22nd, and I leave April 23rd. Although it’s going to be an extremely busy weekend I cannot contain my excitement! The time is already flying by, It feels like just yesterday I got off the plane. I wish I were able to press the pause button.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Life Experience

in these last few weeks, i have made strides in my life i would definitely missed if i were back home in the United States. Call it introspection, self awareness, or what ever you would like, but regardless of the name, i feel i have learned some things about myself i didnt think i could learn in just a short while. in order to save us all some time, i will just tell you some quotes i found that basically sum up my life lessons.

- inaction is a greater sin than ignorance.

- sometimes all it takes is 20 seconds of insane courage embarrassing bravery to make something good happen.

- we evolve beyond the person we were a minute ago... little by little we advance a bit further! that is how a drill works, and that is who we are.

in these last few weeks, these few quotes has resonated with me and have forced me to reevaluate my current place in life a question my mind set. in the time i have spent between blog posts, i could write about many fun and exciting experiences... but those wont last to me. to me, i hold on to is the lessons i learn while im here, and the laughs i share with others, and the stories i have been privileged to hear.

The Opportunity of a Lifetime

I will be the first to admit how nervous I was about traveling to Australia, particularly regarding my internship placement. However, I can safely say after my first full week of work, I had absolutely nothing to worry about. I currently work as a studio intern for The HubStudio, which is a hub for professional actors to obtain more training.

I have been given an amazing opportunity to create an online masterclass from the ground up. The class is "The Kevin Jackson Technique" which is based off of Kevin's 10 step guide called "The Creative Habit". From creating the website, to filming the online classes, it is all ultimately my creative decision-making. The owners of The HubStudio and Kevin Jackson have put a lot of trust in me, so I hope to do my very best over the next 45 or so days.

Not only is the work I am doing relevant and interesting, but it is also mind blowing when i think about it. For example, we need testimonials from actors who were taught by Kevin Jackson in order to help market and advertise the online course. Because of this, I am in contact with the agents of Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth Banks from The Hunger Games, and several other actors from Orange is the New Black and Hawaii Five-0. I also pass by several famous Australian actors and actresses while I am at work. I just don't realize it until my co-worker tells me afterward who that just was.

From the opportunity I have been lucky enough to obtain here, can sprout into many other opportunities as I head back to America in April. For one, The HubStudio would appreciate keeping me on the online course project as they create more courses for other acting teachers, while also getting paid for doing so. Along that line, Kevin Jackson has admitted that he is quite fond of me and wouldn't mind connecting me to film opportunities in L.A. if I do a good job with his online course. It is very nerve-wracking and pressuring to know that this online course puts a lot of weight on whether or not more doors will open for me after the program. However, it is well worth it.

The cherry on top this amazing internship opportunity comes from the ticket opportunities. Over the weekend, my boss gave my apartment and myself tickets to go see the opening night of the play 'Chimerica'. We got all dressed up for the night out, and had one of the best nights we have had so far during our stay in Sydney. The play was easily the best play I have ever seen.

Like any normal person, we figured that the end of the play meant the end of the night. Boy, were we wrong. As soon as we walked downstairs, there was an after party with free hors d'oeuvres and wine. I could just tell from the atmosphere that we were surrounded by some pretty well-known and important rich people. All of us tried as hard as we could to blend in, but I imagine that failed as soon as Emily dropped her plate of food and we immediately had to abort the situation. All in all, it was one of my favorite nights here and will forever be a great memory to hold onto. Thank you HubStudio for taking me in and giving me the opportunity of a lifetime.

Note: Read Hunter's blog for a funny and in-depth account of our night at the premiere.


Before I arrived, I didi n to expect for there to be any 'low' moments throughout my trip. After all, I'd be living in Australia! How could I ever need a pick-me-up when my live would be a dream...right?

To my surprise, there have certainly been some days where I really needed some TLC. It's not like our lives are particularly rough here, but being 10,000 miles away from familiarity can be difficult, no matter how adventurous we claim to be.

Some mornings, my literal perk is a cup of coffee courtesy of Eastside Radio's espresso machine, and other days it is watching Married At First Sight with my apartment. Though, recently I have had a stroke of luck when it comes to little extra benefits. Primarily, the premier of Chimerica was the most amazing night ever, and has been recounted in perfect detail by the one and only Hunter McClure (see his post for the full story of the evening).

At the beginning of the week, my boss gave me a voucher for two free tickets to "Jasper Jones," the Australian film that recently debuted. So, last night, Shelby and I went on a friend date to the cinemas and enjoyed a mysterious, humorous, moving, action/ adventure-filled, love-story that spoke to innocence, racism, forgiveness, and corrupt small-town Western Australia the late 1960's.

Tomorrow I will be going to a few Saturday markets and enjoying my first beach-day in a few weeks (which is far past overdue), and I am looking forward to a sunny, uplifting, laughter-filled, day with my gals.

I have learned that even when you're living in paradise, life marches on. Nobody can escape the normal ebbs and flows of matter how picturesque some weeks (or months) are. I have become more and more grateful for my friends back home, and simultaneously more grateful for each passing day here in Australia.

“I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.” -F. Scott Fitzgerald

Like Nothing I Ever Expected

I'm not going to lie, it has been a hectic last three weeks. Life as an intern has been nothing like I expected, however, I really didn't know what I was getting myself into in the first place. Truth be told, my internship placement was not fully confirmed until less than a week before my first day.

My original placement with the Australian Baseball League fell through the cracks at the last minute (for reasons I'm still unaware of) before heading off to New Zealand. It took a toll on me. I had been gearing up for this experience for MONTHS and was so excited about it with everyone I shared it with. That was all taken away with just a simple email, and I'm going to be honest, I was ready to just go home right then and there.

Luckily, New Zealand was a stress reliever and filled with experiences I wish I could do over and over again. Heck, you might see me end up moving there when it's all said and done. I honestly don't know about that, but seriously, it was one of the best weeks of my life.

I lived below the largest mountains I'd ever seen, I witnessed sunsets that might as well have been slapped on a postcard, I ate the best burger I've ever tasted, and fell from the highest cliff jump in the world. It was a week of adventure and a nice change of scenery, but I was not ready to leave.

While this was all great, I knew I was trying to run from the reality of a final essay and a brand new internship I had no information about. I knew reality would slap me in the face as soon as my plane touched down in Sydney... and that it did.

On that Monday morning, I woke up and headed to Central Station, praying for the best with my new internship with the Sydney Blue Sox, Sydney's professional baseball team. The hour long commute landed me in Rooty Hill. If you don't know anything about Rooty Hill, it's a small community in Western Sydney, and when I say small, I mean small.

Once stepping off the train, I only saw a field of horses, a small row of convenient stores, and people without shirts and shoes, and thought I was back in a rural, small town Tennessee. It didn't feel like I was in Sydney anymore.

We pulled into Blacktown International Sportspark to the Blue Sox Stadium- my new home for the next 8 weeks. My supervisor Krissie is great; she made me feel more than welcome and put me right to work. My daily tasks in the sport communications field consist of sending emails, making phone calls, writing articles, and managing social media platforms- exactly what I was expecting.

A big difference in my internship expectations is that I didn't realize that how involved I'd be in the managing of big projects for an organization during my first week. Thus far, I've already planned and filmed 2 successful FacebookLIVE events and am now full swing ahead for tournament season this coming month.

The funny thing? I love it.

I was absolutely mortified at the fact that all my internship plans were thrown out the window in an instant. I was worried sick, but came to find out that the backup plan wasn't so bad after all. Sure, Rooty Hill is not an ideal location and the commute does get a bit monotonous after a long day, but I'm getting to get hands-on experience in the career I've wanted to pursue since I was 8 years old.

Nothing is more rewarding than that.

It's safe to say that nothing has gone to plan on this trip, even in my internship at times (like getting into a car accident, but that's a story for a later date). I've learned so much already in this short amount of time, and I know I'll be more equipped for my career when it's all said and done.

Sydney, you keep continuing to surprise me; most of the time in good ways, but sometimes in not so good. You're really testing the boundaries I have put on myself, but I'm sure that's probably for the best. I'm dreading the end of April, but until then, I'll continue being the working girl who's adapting to life's continuous unexpected.

The Rat Race

Mom, Dad, I made it. I've got an office job in the city, my own desk with a view of Sydney's Central Business District, and I drink an "almond flat white" every morning (I know that sounds like a concoction that would cost $7 a pop at Starbucks, but I promise it's not that much.) I'm living the high life up there on the 14th floor - not getting paid, per say, but no matter.

These last two weeks, I've felt very grown-up. I feel like I'm officially a competitor in the proverbial "rat race" (except for the whole not getting paid part.)

Much of this has to do with my current lifestyle and routine more-so than my job itself. I've been an intern before, and I know what a difficult position it is. The life of an intern is a tap-dance of trying to avoid stepping on toes, figuring out how much you are truly integrated into the team, deciphering instructions and systems and protocols, all while trying to soak up as much information as possible. Though I'm learning an incredible amount from my supervisors and coworkers everyday, the work isn't the only thing making me feel like a rat.

It's the getting to work.

My office building is almost exactly one mile from Urbanest, meaning walking is the most logical option for me. This is VERY LUCKY, and I am VERY APPRECIATIVE - I don't want this post to imply otherwise. But what that one mile means to me- a person who is constantly living at the edges of "on time"- is that it's turned into a daily experiment in efficiency. I walk out of my building and open an app, intent on finding the quickest way possible to get from point A to point B. Can I cut my ETA by two minutes if I cross the street here or at the next light? I'm sure someone at Google is monitoring my daily times and testing my intelligence as if I truly am a lab rat. She wore heels today - add two minutes and subtract two intelligence points: that was a bad move.

MacArthur Street, MaryAnn Street, Harris Street, Omnibus Lane, Pitt Street, George Street, Liverpool Street, Dixon Street, Haymarket, and Darling Harbor are all starting to align themselves in my head. I'm orienting myself to the city, and what I've found is that on the days I give myself more time to explore, I feel less like a test animal.
This, I've started to think, is very important. Sometimes as I trod my to work beside briefcase-carrying competitors in the rat race, I fear my face projects the same lifeless look that children identify on adults (it definitely does by the end of the day.)

On the mornings when I find a new coffee shop; however, or a new alleyway, I'm as enamored as I was the day we got here. That's worth a few extra minutes, even if it means losing the rat race.

(For the record, I have not been late once and most of the time I fall within the first 15 minutes of the acceptable 30 minute window of arrival time at my office - turns out the key is to leave earlier. Who's winning now?)

The Leo Treatment

Since I was twelve people have told me I look like the greatest actor of our time, Leonardo DiCaprio. Each time I hear it I smile and thank them for the generous compliment, and I think to myself, "I wonder if people tell Leo he looks like Hunter McClure?" In 2016 alone I got told I look like him a record breaking 84 times (I kept count). But as much as I like to think I'm a celebrity, even though I do have a star named after me, I am not. However, Saturday night I did feel like a celebrity, and I have Shelby to thank.

Shelby's uber kind boss had six tickets to opening night of a play called Chimerica. That man just gave them to us for free! Obviously we weren't going to pass up the opportunity, so apartment 2103 got gussied up and went to the big show. Per usual though, our trip to the show was filled with craziness.

Fun fact for all you Conservative East Tennesseans out there: Mardi Gras in Sydney is actually a gay pride festival. Forget beads and boobs, their Mardi Gras was filled with bare butts, drag queens, and raging shirtless dancers (male and female). What a time to be alive! We treaded our way through the sea of glitter after we got lost getting off the bus, but eventually we got to where we were going.

Squad rolled into the Roslyn Packer theater in The Rocks with 30 minutes to spare. A sassy bartender had us sit at a table in the theater's restaurant where we fancifully had a glass of champagne before the show. We then proceeded to our seats, where Shelby and I pretended to be a high-class married couple for the remainder of the evening.

For the sake of my memory and your sanity, I will not describe the plot of Chimerica. It was three hours long after all! I will say that it was the best play I have ever seen. It had drama, comedy, romance, and music! By the intermission all of our mouths were agape at how phenomenal it was. At the end it got a standing ovation and the cast bowed seven times. I'm telling you, it was absolutely magnificent and everyone should see it.
Side note: It was performed by Australians playing Americans. For the most part they were spot on with their phrases and accents. But FYI to the cast, Americans don't say "AirCon" or "post it to me." I give them an A for effort.

After the SEVEN bows that the cast did, we departed...or so we thought. By the time we got down to the lobby, the building had transformed into a makeshift nightclub. Waiters were walking around with plates of food and drinks. People were mingling over finger foods and champagne. I didn't feel welcome at all, but nervously I grabbed a glass of wine off the waiter's plate to see what he would do. Expecting that he would slap me with a bill, I anxiously looked back to my group for guidance. They offered blank stares, so when I turned around to face my tuxedo-clad, tray-wielding executioner, he merely smiled and walked off. That changed everything. That meant that things were a certain magical word that every college kid wants to hear: "free." Quickly we all dispersed to find more of the kind luxury food and drink barers.

I had no intention of leaving there on an empty stomach. I was served decadent cheese balls, sliced meats, and caviar. Never in my life would I ever had expected that I would like fish eggs. But there I was, eating the little undeveloped Nemos of the South Pacific. Boy did I feel like a king. They had an open bar, but like any self-respecting gentleman I limited myself to a few glasses of wine and champagne.

We stayed at the after party until 12:30. While there we met Shelby's boss and several actors from Chimerica. They were all such givers. There was a rumor that Cate Blanchette was there, but we did not cross paths with that Oscar winning Aussie. Eventually a 1 star Uber driver showed up to take us back to our ramshackled apartment--the Uber made us walk two miles because he got lost and the fridge door fell off that night, so both complaints are warranted.

Really though, it was a night I will never forget. I got to feel like a bonafide celebrity. I got the Leo Treatment. Thanks again to Shelby and her benefactor of a boss! I will gladly be her husband and escort her to a few more opening night premieres if it means having as much fun as we had Saturday night. Who knows, I might even run into the real Leo. If my life is any indicator, stranger things have happened.

I wish time would slow down

It's been a few weeks since I have written my blog post and so many things have happened. Time is passing really quickly, we visited New Zealand and we are already done with our second week at our internships.

We visited New Zealand over our spring break and I can honestly say it was the best trip I have ever taken. First, we went to Auckland and stayed there for one night and two days. Auckland was really cool because it was a big city but it had a very different feel to it than Sydney does. To me, Auckland really felt like we were in a different country. We walked around, shopped, and got to see the famous sky tower in person!! Not to mention I literally had the best Mexican food I've ever had in my life.

The next day we went back to the air port and flew to Queenstown. I don't even have words to describe how beautiful Queenstown was. It was so green and surrounded by huge mountains and crystal clear water. It was like a cute little town in the middle of the Southern Alps.

While in Queenstown, I was lucky enough to get to bungee jump (twice!!) I had never bungee jumped before and since bungee jumping originated in Queenstown, New Zealand, I figured it would be the perfect time to do it. The feeling you get when you have to force yourself to jump off a ledge and rely on only one rope to catch you is indescribable. It was terrifying but amazing. I could do it again and again and not ever get tired of it. I think I was laughing, screaming, and crying all at the same time.

I also got to eat at the famous Ferg Burger and those burgers really changed the game. I have never had a burger so good, I literally crave Ferg Burger constantly now!! I would fly back to Queenstown just to get another burger if I could.

Five days was way too short to spend in Queenstown, but it was the best spring break and most fun I have had in a long time. I hope one day I get lucky enough to go back and explore more of New Zealand.

We got back from New Zealand on a Saturday and started our internships on that Monday. At first, I was really unsure about my internship because I was supposed to be at a travel magazine place and last minute they cancelled and said they were unable to take interns. ISA quickly found me another placement at a different company. However, when I talked to the manager and heard about the company, it sounded interesting but it didn't really have anything to do with travel writing and what I wanted to do with my life.

So I ended up at Adventure TV and was pretty nervous because I have never worked in the film industry. However, I have learned so much and gotten so close with my boss, Cam, and the other interns there, Emily, Cici, Naomi, and Keith.

I love having close friends at work because, although I enjoy hanging out with my UT family, I do like being able to hang out with other people as well. It is also cool because they are all from different places. Keith is from Sydney, Naomi is from England, and Cici is from Denmark. We have spent a lot of time together and hang out on the weekends and after work.

As far as the work I am doing, I am really liking it. As I said I have never worked with film or editing before so it was completely new to me. I am still getting used to all the cameras and the software but it is so interesting and useful, I think, to know other journalism skills besides just writing. With that being said, it's not like I am not writing at all. I keep up with Adventure TV's Facebook and Cam's other business All Natural Planters' websites.

I feel very lucky to be at my internship because I have learned so much. The stories we do are really interesting. Most the stories are based on traveling, so I have edited stories about the Chinese community, the Arabian health beliefs, and the Indian diets.

Our boss is even working on sending Naomi, Cici, Emily and I to Tasmania for four days on a paid for tour. This experience would be amazing and very good to put on my CV. This would be my first actual travel writing job! The tour would be us camping and traveling around all of Tasmania and visiting cool places like the white sand beaches, Port Arthur, feeding Tasmanian Devils,  and tree top canopy walking. It would literally be all paid for and all I would have to do is write about it!

I know these two weeks have totally flown by and, although I get homesick, I know I will be so sad to leave in April.

Part time intern, full time student

As I was heading off to my first day of work last week, I was thinking it was going to be like any other Journalism job.  I figured I would have to to do little jobs and I would stuck with editing stuff all day.  As soon as I got to my job though, I realized nothing was going to be like I thought it would be.  For starters, the company I work for is huge! We have a cafe, five floors, and multiple coffee machines( which I take advantage of multiple times a day.) I also didn't realize that I was going to be directly working with the video part of Fairfax.  I was a little sad when I found out I wouldn't be able to be a reporter or a news writer.  I also didn't realize how much work work was going to be.  I guess I figured that as an intern I would be doing little jobs and working around 32 hours a week.  Little did I know that I would be working around 40 hours a week, practically a full time job.  The first three days were completely stressful, full of learning all the ins and outs of a company, and trying to learn how to manage three different computer systems to post one video.  I literally felt like my head was going to explode from so much information, the train we had to ride every day was so full that I couldn't even breathe, and I was a little upset that everyone else was getting Fridays off and exploring, while I had to stay inside and work.  It was weird not seeing my roommate and suite mates all the time, and if I'm honest, I actually missed being at school with everyone and only doing school four days a week.

 But after the first week, I truly saw what a great opportunity this internship was for me.  My video director let us choose our own special project to do, let us go to cool events and film stuff, I got my first article published in the Sydney Morning Herald, and I'm currently working on a project that me and my roommate Haley completely wrote, filmed, edited, and will soon publish. I never thought that as in intern I would be able to do so much, and also learn so much! It made me realize just how little I really know about Journalism, and that there is so much more than reporting with a TV station.  One of the best parts about my job, is learning from the other workers.  Every one is so nice there, and they all want to know what life as an American is like, but they also want to make sure I know new things about Australia.  I now know so much slang, history, and just goofy things about Australia and the great people in it! They are all so proud to be called Australians, but they are also curious about how others live.  I never knew just how much they all knew about America.  I felt bad because I felt like they were teaching me stuff about America that I should have been teaching them.  They are all so friendly and always available to help me and Haley out, or just explain the words that came out of their mouths.  I'm truly excited to see what I can do by the end of this internship, and even more excited to learn all about Australians and how they live.  I think after living here for almost two months now, that I absolutely love Australians, and their fun, laid back lifestyles.  Although I think I could live without being on a stuffed train for 40 minutes.  I now treasure my weekends and try do as many things as I can, because before I know it, it will be time to leave this amazing place.  I also now treasure every moment I have with my roommate Olana and my suite mates.  I often don't want to go out at night because I want to know just how everyone's days went.  We have truly become a family and I will always remember this special time.  Although I am just an intern, I'm really a full time student, because we never stop learning and gaining new knowledge.

What a gift!

On our first day of class at the University of Sydney, we did that normal-first-day-of-school-routine. Say your name, your year, your major, and something about yourself. It’s typical and tired: a familiar way to ease some nerves, but not much of a way to meet anyone.

Then, our professor added one more question to the usual suspects. She asked each of us to tell the group what “expertise” we brought to the class.

I can’t remember what I said. I don’t really remember what most people said, but at the time I was a bit stumped. I wasn’t exactly an expert in anything, I thought. Then the event slipped into the back of my mind and I forgot about it.

But this week, I’ve been thinking a lot about gifts. It was Valentine’s Day, and then Catie’s birthday, and all the sudden I was quite preoccupied with thinking about presents, and asking myself, “what can I give?”

By the end of the week I’d given a few presents, but I’d received some even better ones. UT gave me a dinner in Sydney Tower and a night out at the Opera House. Dr. Miller gave us all sweet cards and AWESOME koala bear keychains that grip onto your finger (they’re really cute.)

On the day of the exam, some of the Australian students in the class gave us a pretty cool gift too. It wasn’t formal, they didn’t all sign their names on a card or anything, but they took us to one of the student pubs that we never would have found on our own and drank “bevvies” and ate “chips” with us. They gave us their laughs and their personalities and their accents and their perspectives. They extended their invitation and their mateship, and it was one of my favorite afternoons we’ve had here so far.

When we parted ways, we talked about keeping in touch with them and somehow we had the idea that maybe we would cook a meal for them. We’d been talking up our “southern cooking” and decided that maybe in a few weeks we could whip up something and have them over.

Immediately I started planning in my head. I started fretting about whether or not I could make fried okra as good as my grandmother’s (the answer is absolutely no way), and whether I would be able to find the right kind of cornmeal to make proper corn puddin’ here. Suddenly I was back to the first day of class, and I had no expertise! What could I give?!

About 30 seconds into this chain of thought, I realized I was being silly. There I was, genuinely worried over a hypothetical meal that hadn’t happened yet.

That question though—it wasn’t so silly. Of course it is when it’s material. No one here would care at all what brand of cornmeal I use. But that deeper question, it’s actually really important. What is my expertise? What can I give?

I don’t know the answer yet. I guess one of the reasons I’m here is to find out, but at least I guess I’m asking the right questions now.

It was a lesson I hadn’t expected to learn, but gosh, I’m glad I did.

What a gift, Sydney, thank you so much.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

INTERNal Balance

7:00 am: Alarm number one goes off. I turn it off and close my eyes again.

7:15 am: Alarm number two goes off. If I’m lucky, my brain registers that I actually must get up and adult today.

7:30 – 8:10am: I actually get out of bed and go make myself a *Whole 30 approved* breakfast and pack a lunch before retreating back to my room. I dress myself, gather my belongings, and head out to brave the harsh reality of public transportation.

After two walks and a train ride, I arrive at 100 Walker Street, board the elevator, and ascend to the 11th floor – home of the Benojo office.

Since beginning my internship a mere ten days ago, I have quickly come to the realization that being an intern is hard work.

I have had jobs before. I have worked at a Farmer’s Market, a Taco Shop, and been a nanny, but I have never actually been a full time intern the way I am now.

The difficulty in being an intern is not necessarily in the tasks I am assigned or even the long hours (though these do add up when factoring in a long commute each way). Rather, the difficulty is in finding balance.

I am lucky to be at Benojo – a place where I feel that my presence is valued and more than coffee is expected of me. I enjoy having responsibility and the freedom to express ideas and opinions. However, there is a limit to my freedom. 

How many ideas should I share? How valued are my opinions, really? How many mundane tasks should I complete before it is ok to ask to do something different?

These questions are only intensified by the fact that we are in Australia. The grammar is different. The work environment is different. The people are different. It is all different. 

Recently, I was assigned the task of making email contact with clients the company had not reached in a while. I was instructed to attach a PDF document with more information about recent changes in the company to each email, so I perused the document to better understand the purpose of my email. 

I found two grammatical errors - not large ones, but errors nonetheless. Or so I thought... I texted my mom right away to see what I should do. On one hand, I felt that the company would appreciate knowing if they had made a mistake. On the other hand, I am aware that I do not fully understand all of the differences in Australian writing, so I was concerned I would seem "holier than thou" if I pointed them out. 

After some advice from mother dearest, I decided that these errors were probably not worth the risk. After all, the document was not of a formal tone, and it was filled with pictures and infographics. 

This seemingly small event stuck out to me, though. The difference between the right choice and the wrong can be so minuscule sometimes that, as an intern, weighing your options and trying to make the best guess is all you can do.

It is finding this balance between wanting to help out the company in whatever way possible while also trying to get experience in the areas that truly interest me and will be beneficial in my career search that is a true challenge.

I expect that in the coming weeks, I will learn how to find this balance – how to be an intern. I do not expect for this to happen overnight. While I am pleased with my placement and the infrequency of my assigned coffee runs, I know that I must go through some of the lows to balance out the highs.

5:45 pm: I am usually home or arriving home at this time. I will go inside, compare days with my roommates, and try my best to get a good night’s sleep before beginning the process all over again and hoping I’ll get a little closer to finding that [INTERN]al balance. J