Mid Sem Stop 2: Fun in Phuket

Ahhhhhh living on island time. That’s exactly how it was spending 5 incredible days on the beautiful island of Phuket. White sand beaches, blue water, lots of local culture surrounded me everywhere in a place that was designed for tourists but definitely didn’t feel like it.

The way to go in Phuket is to find an Air B&B to stay in. It’s significantly cheaper than trying to stay in a fancy tourist resort and chances are the owner will give you insider information on things to do on the island.

While the beach was by far my favorite part about Phuket, we saw and did a lot of very cool things. The warm waters surrounding the island are home to many coral reefs with a huge variety of fish. I conquered a major fear of mine and went scuba diving for the first time! We also explored some small neighboring islands and spent time looking for monitor lizards, a close relative of the Komodo dragon.

One of the famous attractions in Phuket is the big Buddha. It sits high on a hill and is still under construction but it watches over all of the island and people flock to it to appreciate an amazing wonder and explore the Buddhist faith.

Another attraction is Monkey Hill, a road where monkeys roam hoping to snag a snack from a tourist and tourists hope to get close, but not too close to the monkeys!

The vibe in Phuket was so chill and relaxed that it was the perfect place to go after the hectic streets of Bangkok. I highly recommend any Southeast Asia traveler make it a stop on their itinerary!

Mid Sem Stop 1: Bangkok Diaries

So when I told people I was heading to Bangkok, Thailand for 4 days for the first part of my break, the first thing that came to their minds was the movie “The Hangover 2.”

I can wholeheartedly say that the city has absolutely zero parallels to the movie (with the exception of the heat!)

Bangkok is huge. It’s a metroplex with scattered skyscrapers, a million Buddhist temples and divided by a river. The thing that amazed me the most about the city was the culture. The people of Thailand have a strong devotion to the Buddhist faith and it was extremely evident, even though the 5 temples I visited were full of tourists. Practicing Buddhists and monks who inhabit and keep up the temples accepted us tourists gracefully, but still expected us to adhere to their customs. No shoes are allowed inside temple rooms where the main Buddha resides. Quiet, hushed behavior was expected and modest dress was the norm. The majority of temples required an entrance fee for foreigners, typically of 50 Bhat (about $1.50 USD). My favorite temple was one of the oldest; Wat Arun is on the banks of the river and is known for its unique decorative style.

One cool thing about being in Thailand at the time I was was that it was Thai New Year, celebrated by the festival called Songkran. This festival lasts three days and is basically a giant water fight. Locals and tourists alike take to the streets and douse each other with water guns, hoses, buckets, pretty much anything they can find. The water is used to symbolize purification, the washing away of sins and bad luck for the upcoming year. This also extends to religious practices as well; Buddhists pour water on statues of Buddha to cleanse him too. At first it was a little unnerving to be say riding along in a tuk tuk (the little motor-powered buggies that are everywhere in South East Asia) and suddenly see a wave of water coming toward me form the sidewalk! But as the days drug on and the weather got hotter, it was a welcome relief from the heat.

If Thailand is known for one thing, it would have to be street vendors. From food to clothes to art, they were everywhere around the city. Some of the street food was way too bold for me to try, so I tended to stick to the classics of Pad Thai and fresh fruit sold from carts. It was amazing to see just how much could be sold, especially when I visited the biggest weekend market in Bangkok. I wandered around the market for 3 hours but probably could have spent 3 days there to look at everything!

The last day was reserved for visiting the ancient city of Ayutthaya, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The site was a collection of Buddhist monasteries and palace sites and has been left to deteriorate since being destroyed by the Burmeese in the 18th century. The coolest part was seeing the famous Buddha in the tree, the head of a Buddha statue fell off and tree roots continued to grow around it, leaving it to play a sort of peek-a-boo with tourists.

Overall, Bangkok was an amazing way to start off my journey. Thai culture is like nothing I have ever experienced and it was incredible to immerse myself in it, even if it was only for four days. I will 100% be going back in the future, its only a matter of when.

Keep a look out for chapter 2: Phuket Island and beach-y paradise!

Oh, the Places You’ll Go

So it’s been 5 weeks. 5 weeks in a different country, a different continent, a whole different hemisphere! And it’s been a crazy 5 weeks full of meeting people, going on adventures and forming friendships that I know are going to last me a lifetime.

If I’ve learned anything this first 5 weeks, it is that studying abroad is going to take you more places than just to your country of choice. Being here, I have already experienced most of what Melbourne has to offer, but I have also been introduced to a world of other cultures by the people I have met. Something that everyone says to avoid is hanging out with people from your same home country and I can’t emphasize this point enough. The group of friends I have made consists of me, 4 Americans, 3 French, 2 Dutch, 3 Brits, 2 Canadians, 1 German, and 1 Malaysian. That’s crazy! I encounter 6 different cultures every day! Not to mention the countless other people who share my living space with me.

While people are important, I’m finding this experience is taking me actual physical places too, both on personal travel and with classes. I spent three days exploring Victoria’s southern coast on the legendary Great Ocean Road, seeing some of Australia’s most beautiful coastline scenery. I get to travel to the mountains on a two day field trip taking ecological measurements for one of my environmental science classes. One of the elective classes offered here at Monash (called Contemporary Australia) organizes a class trip to Tasmania. That’s crazy! You can explore Australia and still get credit for it!

As for personal travel, as of right now I have plans to explore Southeast Asia on mid-semester break, something I’ve dreamed of doing since I was young. I plan to visit Sydney, and if I can the Gold Coast as well.

I guess my point is this: studying abroad gets you more than one place and for more than one purpose. It puts you in a position of growth and change, and that is the greatest lesson I have learned so far. Be on the lookout for more lessons, coming soon.


AMS Conference: An Adventure of its Own

6 days, hundreds of sessions, thousands of the countries best meteorologists and meteorology students. I give to you the American Meteorological Society Conference 2017 edition.

Seattle was the perfect host to the conference; it’s a city vibe with a relaxed atmosphere but with plenty to do and a whole lot to see. The student conference was the first thing on the agenda and in my opinion, it was what I got the most out of. I came into the conference with one main goal – meet new people. I met so many incredible students (both graduate and undergraduate) in the two days that I spent at the student conference that my goal was met literally within hours of getting to the conference.

It’s really easy to stay within your comfort zone at these kinds of things, especially when you are in a group of students you are friends with because those are the people you feel the best around. But my advice to get the absolute most out of a conference or experience like this is to put yourself out there and really try to hang out with people outside of your squad (no matter how #squadgoals your squad may be). That being said, I think it is important to spend some quality time exploring the place you’re at with your friends as well, which is exactly what we did.

So the first two days were full of networking, handing out business cards and talking to grad schools and even searching for that all important job offer or internship. Then the real work (erm… fun) started: the full AMS Conference session. The fun thing about the full conference is that it is completely customizable to the individual experience of each person. It is possible to tailor the entire conference based on your interests. I picked talks and sessions and research presentations based on the parts of meteorology that seemed most interesting to me and that’s how I got the most out of the conference where the knowledge being presented far exceeded mine.

The flexibility component was my favorite thing about the overall conference because it gave me time to learn more about the field of meteorology, but also time to explore the wonderful city of Seattle. This was the first step in what is going to be a semester of adventure and I am so glad I got to have this opportunity. First adventure down, next one starts in 8 days!

The Do’s and Don’t’s of a Visa Application

One of the most vital steps in the study abroad process is making sure you have the ability to gain legal entry to the country you are visiting. If it is short term, a passport may suffice but if you are planning on living there for an extended period of time, a visa will be necessary. Some countries are easier to gain access to than others and some application processes may be more extensive. Regardless, here are some steps to make your visa application process as easy as it can be!

Do: Understand what type of visa you need.

Visa types vary from student to working to everything in between. Knowing what you intend to do in the country (and how long you intend to do it for) are keys to learning what type of visa is going to work for you!


Do: Gather as many identity documents as possible.

Documents like a birth certificate, passport card, proof of address, social security card, and drivers license may all be necessary to prove who you really are! Having them on hand and in the right format (scanned if an online application, copied if a paper application) will prevent delays gathering documents.


Don’t: underestimate the time it will take to do your application.

There are a lot of components to applying for a visa, and sitting down to do it in one shot could take up to hours. Plan accordingly to block out a significant portion of time to answer all the questions thoroughly and in completion and without skipping any steps.


Don’t: Make travel arrangements until visa status has been accepted.

Visa dates limit the time you can be in the country. Typically if you provide your ideal travel dates they will provide buffer days on your visa, but you are still limited to your time in the country by those dates. Be sure you fully understand what days you are limited to in the country before booking flights in order to avoid mistakes and expensive airline change fees.


Do: Continuously keep up with government requirements on travel and entry, even once visa status is granted.

Especially when traveling to a country where government tensions may be high, rules and regulations may change rapidly. Be sure to keep a check on what you legally need to continue entrance into the country.


Once the major step of a visa is taken, you are one step closer to making your travel dreams a reality!

Updates, All the Updates

Hey guys! Life has a way of throwing curve balls at you, doesn’t it? It seems like time has gotten away from me and now it’s October and days are flying bye and before I know it I’ll be on a plane to Australia. On that note, it is official! After a long application process, I have been approved for studies by both OU and the School of Meteorology. I am so thankful for this opportunity and to say it is a blessing is an understatement. Along with this, I have been awarded an extremely generous scholarship from the SoM to help with my studies.

Next up on the to-do list are the exciting things: I get to plan a travel itenerary, book flights, and apply for housing at Monash University! Class planning has been a little difficult, but things have worked out well (see the next post for all the details on that) and I am super excited to get to challenge myself in the new way of learning abroad.

Big things are coming for me, the School of Meteorology and for this blog. Keep an eye out for some cool posts, talk about trouble shooting, new plans and more! As always thanks for reading!


Tell Me What Ya Want

What you really really want?

Gotta love the Spice Girls, but really, I want your input! Tell me what you would like to see me write about. Ask me questions you have, let me know what I can do for you! Comments open and appreciated. Give me your feedback and I will do my best to answer any and all things that I can!

Gathering my Thoughts: A Mid-Summer Update

Hello friends, readers, comrades. It has been a while since I have been active here and I gotta say, time has really gotten away from me. However, do not fret! I haven’t forgotten about this or my goals or my ideas to inform you guys about the wonderful world of getting abroad.

Reasons for my absence: the craziness that comes with getting back into the school routine (yay summer classes), moving into a new place and trying to get my life together as deadlines loom closer and dreams start to become realities.

Where I am at now: I have some great ideas for some topics that will launch in the coming weeks and am in the process of still working through kinks of photos and the like for the blog. However, I would love some input from any of my readers on what they would like to see covered content wise. Maybe perhaps even opening up a post free for people to comment on with questions I could answer for you guys? Let me know, I’ll make it happen. There is going to be a lot of content flying up here now that I am back and in business and I sincerely appreciate everyone hanging on with me through this journey. I can’t wait for the next things to roll out so without further ado, I’ll sign off of this one and get to work on whats next! It means so much for me to know you guys read and enjoy my stuff, keep the comments coming! I love them!
Thanks and here’s to running away with adventure!

Event update: Spring School of Meteorology Study Abroad Meet n’ Greet

Nothing is more comforting than the knowledge that you have a support system when making a decision as big as going abroad. The School of Meteorology is big on making sure that both current students abroad as well as prospective students know the SoM is there to be their backbone. At the end of April, the SoM sponsored an event with the Office of Education Abroad to let students see first hand the kind of support they can receive. The event involved a wide range of people, from staff to prospective abroad students to students who are currently at OU doing their abroad programs. It was low-key and made all the students comfortable in a setting where they were free to ask questions and get answers from experienced people.

Perhaps the best thing about this event (besides the food from various countries, everyone loves food right?!) was the openness of conversation between everyone present. There were students from all three abroad locations on hand to give personal accounts of what it was like to go abroad. Personally, I talked to now graduated Blake Elmer who studied in Australia in Spring of 2015. I got a lot of questions answered about what it was really like to live in a different country for a whole semester. I was also able to speak with Dr. Fred Carr who is the Australia adviser for the School of Meteorology. He gave me some clarification about what classes I will be taking and how they transfer back to OU.

This event was one of the most helpful things to the study abroad process so far. I think that it holds a certain amount of benefit to the students as well as the staff because it gives them a chance to interact with each other on a more personal basis. I encourage the SoM to hold more events like this in the future and to spread the word to get more students a foot in the door in the abroad process.

Preparations: Passport Please!

One of the biggest must-haves for international travel is a passport. This is a form of identification that documents who you are and where you are traveling. Some people find the task of getting a passport to be somewhat daunting, but now with online forms and procedures the process is as easy as 1, 2, 3, smile for the camera!

The first step in getting a passport is to look at your expected date of travel in order to know how soon you must order your document. Typical processing and delivery times range from 4-6 weeks standard, or 3 weeks expedited service. Arrangements for your passport should be made as soon as possible before your expected travel date that way you are not left without proper documents when the time to leave comes.

The easiest way to apply for a passport comes directly through a government website. Visiting https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports.html provides all the information about passports and applications. This website also provides a printable PDF application that can be taken to any local passport processing office and submitted.

Passports can be pretty pricey, and as I discovered it is best to have the money for it in the form of a check before going in to submit documentation. I applied at the OU Passport office, which is conveniently located in the student union right next to the Sooner ID card office. This office specifically requires a check for the majority of the payment, as the payment must be sent the US Department of State. The OU passport office only collects the service fee, which is $25 and can be paid by credit or debit card. Costs of a passport are included in the majority of cost estimations for studying abroad listed by OU’s Education Abroad office. Getting one done as soon as possible is the best way to make sure you have the proper funds to do so as well as the time to get it processed and mailed to you.

The passport process is significantly easier than most people think and because of this ease, I encourage anyone going abroad to get it done as soon as they can. Doing this checks off one box on your preparations to-do list, and it also enables you to check off a box in the study abroad application process as passport information is required to complete the application.

The sooner it gets done the better, so take the downtime you have during the summer months and get your passport. Your wallet, your calendar and your stress levels will be thanking you as your travel date approaches!