Jennifer Torres, a senior management major from Chicago, Illinois, will travel to Cairns and Sydney, Australia, December 26-January 7. Leading up to her trip abroad, she and her classmates learn more about the region as part of the “LEED” program, which stands for Leadership, Ethics, Entrepreneurship, and Design in Asia Pacific - Australia. Torres wanted to make her senior year her best yet by studying abroad for the second time and exploring and familiarizing herself with Australian culture. She said, “I am most looking forward to seeing the Great Barrier Reef and being a part of the first in the world to ring in the new year! Studying abroad was one of the best decisions I made in college and am grateful for the opportunity to go again.”
1/10/18 - Long Way Home
I woke up, looked over and saw my suitcase all packed up. I knew that the next time I’d wake up from a bed I would be in Nebraska. Both excitement and sadness overwhelmed me as I made my way to the last group breakfast with Erin. We had turned in our room keys and got onto the bus. Plans for departure were explained, but my mind was wondering through the sights of the Sydney. It is truly one of a kind place and a city I can see myself working and living in the near future.
We arrive at the airport to find it similar to Black Friday. People were everywhere and somehow able to fit in very tight places. Not even 10 minutes pass before an employee of Qantas told us that our flight had been canceled and we will need to speak with representatives to reschedule our flight. Within an hour, we were in a Holiday Inn trying to readjust our plans for arriving in Omaha and the rest of our first week back in school. It was quite frustrating knowing I would have to rush into my last semester, but we did not have a way around it.
After a very long waiting game of being on hold and playing phone tag, we all were able to make it on a flight back to the U.S. So what did we do to celebrate? We ate a nice dinner at the hotel thanks to Qantas. The following morning we all ate our last meal together and departed ways to flights to San Francisco and Dallas. I was excited to go through Dallas because that meant I was able to see my Mom and spend time at home before I went back to school. I do not get to see her often so it made getting our flight canceled worth it for me. Fifteen hours of screaming babies and turbulence was finally over and I landed back in the United States!
I had a seven-hour layover so I went home, showered and hung out with my dogs. My Mom and I went out to eat and I told her all about the trip. I could not help but smile and think about all of the amazing memories I made in Australia.
I know it’s a common question to ask those who study abroad things they wish they knew. If you’re going to Australia, I would recommend you research the history of the Aboriginal people as they make up a large portion of the country’s history and influence everything from business practices to natural wildlife reservations. I would recommend you be prepared with bug spray, bug spray and even more bug spray. Regardless of how many times people told me to put it on, I did not because I thought I could handle the insects. Boy, was I wrong! Finally, something I was happy to have known was the great group of people that came with me. All of us brought special characteristics that made the experience overwhelmingly successful. Thank you to Dr. D’vee Buss and Dr. Kalu Osiri for making this experience possible. I know it changed the way I viewed business to a more global perspective.
1/6/18 – Kangaroos, Koalas and Wombats, Oh My!
Nothing like another early morning to get us up and going for our last day in Sydney. Brian, our bus driver, arrived at 7:45 a.m. and we all piled in and headed towards Featherdale Wildlife Park. It was like walking into our own private zoo filled with Australia’s best animals. Right when we walked in, there were kangaroos everywhere. They were jumping around and trying to get some of our food that we bought for $2, which was easily the best $2 dollars I spent on the trip. We were able to pet some of them and they are a lot softer than many of us imagined.
We continued to walk around and stumbled upon the koala sanctuary. My favorite was Mia, who was not sleeping like the rest of them and walking around looking up at all her visitors. She then climbed up and made her way back up to the branches for a well-needed nap. I decided to venture away from the group and wonder around to see who else was up and wanted to say hello. I met up with Erin, our guide, and she told me that wombats poop in squares which was the most random fact I learned during our entire trip. So we wait a while to see them but they were hiding in their logs since the temperatures were going to be hot. We moved on and saw snakes, a variety of rainforest birds, and even a crocodile. We made our final rounds and said goodbyes to our new furry friends and made our way to Leura Village for lunch. We had the classic meat pie and wondered around the shops for homemade chocolate, candles and coffee.
Our final destination was to Blue Mountains, which got their name due to the illusion of a blue tint from eucalyptus trees. We met David, our Indigenous Park Ranger, who told us about his Aboriginal heritage and customs from times past. He talked about how there is a balance within the earth, and whatever you took you needed to replace. Everyone had a role during their lifetime. Men were hunters, and women were healers and caregivers. Both continuously taught children their jobs to continue life beyond their elders. We thanked David for his presentation and then went on a hike to the main lookout to see the iconic Three Sisters peaks. There is an Aboriginal dream-time legend that three sisters – Meehni, Wimlah and Gunnedoo – lived in the Jamison Valley as members of the Katoomba tribe. These beautiful young ladies had fallen in love with three brothers from the Nepean tribe, yet tribal law forbade them to marry. The brothers were not happy to accept this law and so they decided to use force to capture the three sisters causing a major tribal battle. As the lives of the three sisters were seriously in danger, a witchdoctor from the Katoomba tribe took it upon himself to turn the three sisters into stone to protect them from any harm. While he had intended to reverse the spell when the battle was over, the witchdoctor was killed. As only he could reverse the spell to return the ladies to their former beauty, the sisters remain in their magnificent rock formation as a reminder of this battle for generations to come. We made our way down seeing more waterfalls and beautiful clay formations. It was a hike but the view was 100 percent worth the work. I definitely will be missing the view when I go home.
1/5/18 – Sweet, Sweet Victory
Waking up on Friday was difficult because we all were up late working on our projects. At breakfast, we all were on our computers researching and prepping for our final exam in the afternoon. We had class one last time and wrapped up the unit discussing business ethics. Depending on the country, certain regulations and laws pertaining to trading agreements vary. Political involvement in business is heavy in Asian countries, creating more barriers and increasing time and money spent. Many countries both developed and developing are redirecting importance to the issues at hand that deal with unfair labor wages, working conditions and educational training. These areas have caught the attention of domestic affairs within the United States and have changed the way people are outsourcing their goods and products to be produced and shipped. A significantly gaining popularity of human life in priority of economic development, leaving those who will not comply with newly enforced laws and regulations out of business. Nigel left us with the challenge to consider all sides of whatever industry we end up working for once we graduate. He wanted us to think of the little people and their families and realized the privilege Americans and many developed countries have when it comes to convenience.
For lunch we ate at Bondi Pizza and enjoyed some traditional pies in Australia including salmon and chili prawn. Many of us were ready to get the exam finished so we came back early to do our exam. The exam was straightforward with six possible essay questions, and we picked four to write our responses based on the information we learned during our short trip here. After 3 p.m. we were done and had the rest of day to ourselves. We got ready, dressed up and hit the town to a celebratory dinner near the Opera House. Everything was happening outside – people talking, playing music and dancing. We celebrated our victory in finishing our class.
1/4/18 – A Little Taste of Home
Waking up Thursday, I started to realize that our time in Australia was winding down and I needed to make the most of the rest of the trip. We all met for breakfast once again with our fruit and coffee drinks. Those who went to the game told us it was great and the attendance reached around 20,000 people. They laughed and noted that it had nothing on Husker gamedays.
Nigel held class again in the morning, giving us a more detailed rundown of the exam and what should be expected for the next two days in class. Today we talked about the importance of small to medium enterprises and outlined their opportunities, challenges and key considerations. They make up over 95 percent of all enterprises and they employ an average of 50 percent of the total workforce, making them the largest employers in many countries. Digital technologies are enabling the breakdown of geographic barriers and making it easier to do business internationally. There is also a growing shift in more service opportunities like business process and knowledge outsourcing.
After class we quickly made our way to a fast lunch at a small cafe in downtown Sydney where we enjoyed salads, burgers and corn fritters. The next company visit – to the U.S. Consulate – was right around the corner so we headed towards the main building. After going through security, we made our way to the 56th floor to take a seat for our main presentation. Several speakers discussed what they did and their partnership with the United States and the services they provide to citizens who happen to be in Australia for various reasons. They also discussed the services they offer for business ventures to expand their products and services to include Australia and how they can be successful in a competitive market. One of the interesting facts they shared was that over 1.5 million Australians come to the U.S. every year but only half a million Americans make their way here. It is kind of like we are pioneers, making our way around to see all that this beautiful country has to offer.
After our visit, we made our way to the gem of all of Sydney, the Opera House. We had the best weather of the whole trip, a light and crisp 77 degrees with sunny skies and light clouds. Erin had us first stop to have legendary Golden Gaytime ice cream. It was a toffee and vanilla ice-cream dipped in chocolate and covered in biscuit pieces. Yum! As we ate, we took in the scenic view of to the Opera House and passed the botanical gardens and ports. The Opera House is actually a light cream color, but because of the tiles it’s made of it gives the illusion of white roofing. We walked around and enjoyed the views, sunshine and ocean breeze.
1/3/18 - Yes, We Do Actually Go to Class
Wednesday morning was rough for the majority of the group. The late night flight to Sydney didn’t run as smoothly as the previous flights but we did have a chance to see the Sydney skyline and harbor at night. It was a beautiful view and made the delayed flight worth it.
We began our day with breakfast from a food truck that comes to the university for the students. So, we got breakfast including fresh fruit, a puff pastry and a coffee drink of our choice. We were greeted again by Nigel and proceeded to have class in the morning until 12:30 p.m. We discussed China’s influence over the Asian market and the delicate relationship that Australia has with them. Australia has successfully avoided any economic downfall for more than 25 years by seeking out ways to manage their exports and create new trade relations with countries near and far. Nigel mentioned factors that pertain to the external environment like political, economic and socio-cultural factors that can affect the way business in done in the Asian-Pacific market. We also learned about the cultural barriers that can make it challenging to do business with partners in China, Korea, India and Singapore. They are a high-context culture and believe that relationships are meant to be deeper than just signing a contract. For example, going out and grabbing dinner will get you farther than attending a mandatory meeting.
After class we quickly changed and headed to lunch at Grill’d, home of the “healthy burger”. It was easily one of the best burgers I’ve ever eaten, and that is a pretty high standard considering we come from, according to Erin, the land of burgers. After lunch we made our way to our first company visit, Salesforce. They have been ranked the best company in the world to work for and for the past seven years they’ve been recognized as the most innovative company. They beat Tesla, Google and Apple. We met Merlin Luck and he discussed what Salesforce does and how they continue to stay on top being a customer relationship management technology. He broke down the future of cloud technology and the importance of companies to be able to adapt to an online world. All of us were blown away by the innovative and appealing style of Salesforce and were pleased with the visit. Following the company visit, we went to a cafe nearby and tried kangaroo! To me, it tasted like rare steak, which is how I like it. Everyone had a try and was shocked by its tasty flavor. Once dinner was up we all spilt – some leaving for a soccer game while others went back to bed due to the long travels from the night before. It was an early night but rest was much needed.
1/3/18 - Fitzroy Island aka Paradise Island
Australia also honors January 1 as a national holiday celebrating the new year so we had the day off from all school-related activities. As mentioned in an earlier blog post, we could not go to the local beaches due to it being stinger season so we took a boat to Fitzory Island. Our boat ride to the private island was uneventful due to the majority of us falling asleep from exhaustion from the night before. We arrived and made our way to a free space on the beach. What we did not know was that the beach was made up of dead coral! All shapes and sizes of coral completely filled the shoreline that touched the clearest water I have ever seen. The group slit up: Eastin and Joshua went hiking; Sarah, Lauren and Katie headed towards Nudey Beach; and the rest of us stayed at the initial spot. It was also an extremely hot day so it did not take long for us to get into the water. Scott, Jaclyn and I all stayed in the ocean and were on the hunt for the coolest looking coral. Dave joined us and we took some photos and relaxed in the ocean.
Afterwards, we walked towards Roxy’s Cafe, the only restaurant on the island and indulged in some burgers and chips (what they call french fries in Australia). Everyone all met up again and shared stories and photos of their findings. The guys explained that the hike was a hike, but the view at the top was worth it. The girls showed us photos of the beach and we knew we needed to go. It was a 15-minute hike to Nudey Beach and it did not disappointment. The beach, which got its name from being not commercial or developed, had even clearer water and whiter coral if that was even possible. We reapplied our sunscreen and rushed toward the rocks. We saw mussels and snails attached to the rocks and small lagoons that would wash up a variety of sea life. We climbed around and swam in silence, just in awe of our surroundings. By this time it was 3 p.m., and we needed to be back on the boat to leave by 4:30 p.m. so we dried off instantly due to the heat and hiked back. Once we got on the boat everyone passed out due to the amount of sun and fun from the day. Once we arrived back in Cairns, we ate at Nando’s. They are famous for their peri-peri chicken, a seasoning that I highly recommend trying if you find your way down here. We ate, had a few laughs, and went to bed pretty early at 8 p.m. It is going to be difficult to top our first day of the new year.
My alarm goes off at 4:30 a.m. Yep, that is right. It is 4:30 a.m. and I quickly get up, get dressed and make my way down to the lobby. Eastin, Katie and I patiently waited for our shuttle to go skydiving. All of us were barely awake but understood that what were about to do was going to be an experience of a lifetime.
Our shuttle picked up several other people from various hotels and hostels before arriving at Skydive Australia’s main Cairns location. We walked in and started on our paperwork and payment. We then put on some lovely and flattering jumping pants to protect us from wind and landing. We were weighted and then matched with an instructor that fit our measurements. A man with the thickest mustache I have ever seen made his way towards me and introduced himself. His name was GJ, short for Grant Jefferson, and he has been doing tandem skydiving since 1994. He helped me get in my harness and explained the best way to jump out of a plane. First, you hold on to your harness and shift your head back so that it will lay on the instructor. You keep looking up until they give you the signal to spread your arms out like if you are flying. GJ explained he would give me another signal and I would glide down until we get close to the landing. I need to then hold up my legs and keep my feet high until we safety land in the grass. It seemed easy enough right? All I needed to do was follow those simple directions.
1/1/18 - I Go Faster in the Freefall
We watched a safety video and then got on the shuttle to go to the plane. Everyone was starting to get excited for the jump. We got near the plane and our tandem partners started to record us for our videos. GJ asked me who was my best friend at the moment, which I thought was an odd question. He looked at me and pointed at himself. He said, “It's me. I’m helpin’ ya come back to ya mum in one piece mate.” I laughed and continued to joke with him until we got in the plane.
The plane fit exactly 20 people, and we needed to shift our weight evenly for when we took off. The ride took about 15 minutes to get to 14,000 feet. All of the adrenaline and excitement kicked in when they opened the door for us to jump out. All of the tandem partners did a hand shake and started to jump out. I was sitting right in front of the door, but I did not go right away so I saw everyone one sit along the edge, jump and disappear into the sky. Then, GJ told me it was our time to go. Everything around me seemed to slow down and every second seemed like hours. I sat at the edge, looked out to the sun, leaned back and trusted more in those moments than I have in a long time.
We tumbled down, flipping a couple of times before GJ gave me the signal to spread my arms and freefall. I have never felt so free. The wind was intense, but the view was priceless. We reached a certain point where we needed to launch our parachute and began to glide down. Fields of cane sugar, mountains and various greenery went as long as my eyes could see. GJ was checking up on me and making sure I was enjoying myself. No feeling else in the world could match the one of just being in the air. It was incredible. We got ready for landing and glided into the softest grass I have ever felt. I stood up and was in disbelief for the next 30 minutes. We got our videos and pictures before making it back to the resort with enough time to eat breakfast, get ready and hit the town.
“Smile girl – these are the happy times.” GJ had no idea when he said that to me that my smile would not be coming off my face anytime soon.
12/31/17 - Finding Nemo and All His Friends
What is a better way to spend New Year’s Eve than snorkeling and scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef? Yeah, I not sure either. We woke up nice and early to leave the resort at 6:55 a.m. on a shuttle from the resort to the marina. Boats lined the docks and advertised every water activity imaginable.
Snorkeling, breakfast tea, and hot and cold lunch were included within our tickets. We boarded our ship and took seats on the back deck. We were sized for flippers, wetsuits and snorkeling gear. Those who decided to scuba dive were taken a separate part of the boat and given a lesson on how to use their equipment. Quickly we proceeded to apply sunscreen and lots of it. There is a hole in the ozone directly above the reef and we were warned by the locals to apply sunscreen every hour.
After a brief informal presentation on the agenda for the day and a lesson on how to snorkel, we made our way to the first of three stops. All suited up, we jumped right into the cool, refreshing but extremely salty ocean water. Fish were everywhere, in all shapes and colors. Coral ranged from one to 15 feet from the top of the ocean. I was one of the lucky ones to see a smaller shark right when we got in the water. The first stop had a stronger current which made it difficult to enjoy the views when you were carried away from the boat. We were called back and made our way to my favorite of the stops, Mickey Mouse. It is called that because the coral is grouped together looking like his iconic outline. The water was much calmer, making it easy to follow the endless stream of coral. Due to lack of disturbance of waves, the water was clear and you could see every detail of the coral and marine life. Without even looking for him, I found Nemo! He swam out of his anemone, saw me, quickly swam back inside and kept poking out to see if I was still there. I turned back around to then be surprised by a sea turtle, gracefully swimming alone with the current. A group of us followed him for a while, mesmerized. This was our longest stop so we decided to swim first then eat after. Lunch consisted of Asian-inspired cuisine with some fresh fruit. We ate and shared stories of our findings at the reef.
Our final stop was Tracie, a long wall of coral that was a popular stop to see clown fish. One of the staff offered to give a free tour along the wall. A majority of us joined in and snorkeled along. Some of the highlights consisted of seeing another shark, a 60-year-old clam open and close, and sting rays! Once they made the final call to get back towards the boat, we said our last goodbyes to all of our new sea friends. Jaclyn and I sat in the front deck on the way back towards Cairns simply in awe of the natural beauty surrounding us. We glided along the water, giving the appliance of glass. Once we arrived back on to the marina, it was a race to get back to the resort to begin the celebration of New Year’s Eve. We headed back to downtown and counted down the last few moments of the past year. Together we laughed, smiled and celebrated like there was no tomorrow.
12/30/17 - DO Go Chasin' Waterfalls
Saturday morning we started bright and early at 7:15 a.m. and headed towards Cairns hidden gems – waterfalls. First, we drove about an hour out to the Babinda Boulders, which. Ancient aboriginal legends say there once was a young man from one tribe seeking a relationship with a young women from a rival tribe. They defied their tribes wishes and stayed together. However, the young man was seized and forced away by tribesmen. She flung herself into the gentle waters of the creek as she cried for him to return to her. When she hit the water, the land shook with upheaval, creating the boulders. Her anguished cries spilled out as rushing water over the whole area. She drown but seemed to become part of the stones as if to guard the very spot where it all happened. The legend lives on as the area is extremely dangerous. It appears she is still searching for her lost love, luring young men to their deaths in the icy waters of the “Devil’s Pool.” There have been 17 sudden deaths of men and young boys reported and none of their bodies were found.
A trail led us to the look out, and we saw nothing but vast greenery and water streams. We then departed towards Josephine Falls, but before we got there, we stopped at a tea farm where we were able to buy local Australian tea right next to the fields. It was taking the term “local” to a whole new level. Once we arrived we hiked towards the main waterfall point and placed our stuff on the nearby rocks. Quickly making our way towards the chilly water, it felt refreshing from the humid heat. One by one, we swam towards the rock water slide. It was a gamble to stand up due to the smoothness of the rocks, and I would hold my breath walking along the edge to get to the slide and other waterfalls. We stayed for an hour and then headed towards our guide Erin’s personal favorite waterfall, Millaa Millaa Falls. We had a quick lunch once we got there. This iconic waterfall is known around the world because it was featured prominently in the Herbal Essences shampoo commercials. This water was by far the coldest water we entered in all day but once our bodies adjusted it felt incredible from the hot sun. Up close to the main waterfall, you get a view of the each individual water droplet coming down from the top. I thought, “This is why I came here. You cannot get this back home.” Before leaving, we decided to recreate the shampoo ad so we all circled up and flipped our hair. It was hilarious because we completely overthought it and would get water in our nose when we would come up. We probably did the take several times before everyone was satisfied with their flips. After we dried off, we headed to our final destination, Lake Eacham. It is a volcanic crater that is 65 meters deep. At this point, we all were exhausted so we just swam towards the coast and relaxed. Sunshine and waterfalls? Easily a day for the books!
12/29/17 - Is Nigel a 007 Agent?
On Friday morning. all 12 of us gathered towards the main entrance of the resort to be guided towards our make-shift classroom. Our professor for the next 10 days met us there. Dr. Nigel Bairstow is from England but did most of his college education in Australia, where he focused his studies on the Asian Pacific trade markets. Lively and bright, he quickly introduced to us the miniature course we will be complete while in Australia. The course includes seven sessions based on history, economic markets and political stability in the Asian region. Our assignments include a case study, a country health check presentation on one Asian country, and final written exam. It is evident Nigel is a passionate teacher and wants to emphasize to us a region we often do not get enough time to cover at home.
Australia is a vast land with precious resources that are largely exported to China. With the unified ASEAN nations, by 2030 Asia will account for the largest share of global GDP at 40 percent. Nigel continuously emphasized the importance of Australia seeking stronger relations while still driving innovation at home. In class, we were able to make out his 007 cuff links and he said that was a detail not many were able to spot out. He explained he always idealized James Bond and told himself that regardless of whatever occupation he ended up doing, his goal would be to be the best.
Fun fact: there are more kangaroos than people here in Australia rounding up to 34 million scattered across the country. Haven’t seen one yet, hoping to in the our days to come.
12/27/17 - The Longest Day in the History of Mankind
Today is the day! Today we embark on our trip to Australia. I arrive at the Dallas Fort Worth airport at about 5:30 p.m. meeting six others who traveled from Nebraska and Illinois. Luckily my Mom works at the airport and gave us all dinner before we took off.
It was surreal to think I will be on a plane for 17 hours. We got on, what seemed at the time, the world’s largest plane. We all struggled to stay up and strategically plan when to sleep. Most of us failed. Nothing compares to waking up to the sun - something familiar in a not so familiar place. We rushed through customs and immigration, needing to change terminals to get on a bus.
It was pretty clear we were from Nebraska, and it was not long until a native Nebraskan asked us if we were from there. We told her we all went to UNL and she explained to us she was from Omaha. It was amazing to think we’ve traveled across the world and just met a Nebraskan.
We proceeded to our connecting flight and landed at what seemed to be paradise. Palm trees, lush green mountains and flowers everywhere. It was like we were watching the first scene of Jurassic Park. We arrive at our resort and quickly made our way to the pool to take in some strong Australian sun. Our guide Erin, a native Australian, gave us a quick orientation and we proceeded to dinner and a informal walking tour of Cairns town center. It was built on a grid system making the ocean one of the four edges. The water is breathtaking, but we are not allowed to go swimming in the ocean here due to the high amounts of stingers that can kill you. Yikes! Key points noted: going barefoot is standard, stinger deaths happen and Australia has so much more to reveal. Today is the day! Today we embark on our trip to Australia. I arrive at the Dallas Fort Worth airport at about 5:30 p.m. meeting six others who traveled from Nebraska and Illinois. Luckily my Mom works at the airport and gave us all dinner before we took off.
12/18/17 - Anticipation
With all of the stress of finals past me, you would think the excitement of going “Down Under” would instantly wash over me. That’s not quite true. Part of me just did not seem like it was really happening or the distance I will be traveling is not as far as people make it out to be.
I am having Christmas in Texas, an unexpected new home. I am working in the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport during winter break. It is amazing the people that come through from all walks of life.
I was cleaning off the front counter space when a women asked me for directions to her gate. I proceeded to tell her where to go when she interrupted me. “Are you in school?” she asked, seeking a deeper understanding. I said, “Yes, I go to the University of Nebraska–
Lincoln and will graduate this May.” She smiled ear to ear as we continued to chat about various topics.
I asked her where she was from, and she said Sydney, Australia. I was in awe by our connection. Some encounters are just meant to be.
We proceeded to exchange information and she gave me suggestions for my trip. She left me with the advice that this trip can be once in a lifetime and to “make every moment count.” I realized instantly that I am extremely fortunate to be going to such a sought-out country and region. The rest of day seemed lighter, and the excitement has quickly started to build since then. Our departure date of December 26 cannot come soon enough!