Major/Minor: Theatre Studies and Psychology
21 September 2018
Hey there! My name is Delaney Debinski, and I’m a second-year theatre studies and psychology student from UMBC. This semester, I traded in my black and gold gear for a few months in Australia, studying at Western Sydney Uni (just about an hour by public transport from the city’s noteworthy opera house). At WSU, I’m taking courses in sociology, journalism and psychology. I’m also involved in local theatre, and at Hillsong church. This is the first of many blogs to come, which highlight what it’s like to be a retriever down under.
September 24th will mark my first two-months as an honorary Aussie. Since arriving in July, I’ve gained my bearings around campus and the local city of Parramatta. I’ve explored, hiked, studied, watched Netflix, met new people, tried new food, hosted casual dinner parties with other international students and so much more.
Below are just a few of my favorite memories and take-aways from the past two months.
Walking from Bronte to Bondi Beach. My second day in Australia was marked with the famous beach to beach hike along the coast of the crystal blue waters (shown in the photo above). Though it’s the peak of winter here, if much different than back in Maryland. Instead, it is about 65-70 degrees outside during the day and sunny. I ended the journey by refueling on fish and chips.
Meeting Strangers. On various occasions, I’ve found myself taking a ferry or train to Sydney by myself, meeting new people along the way. Hearing people’s stories and parting ways without even knowing their name is one of the most enlightening experiences. Similarly, I’ve been placed in student accommodation apartments with a mix of Australian and international students, which has allowed me to have new conversations, discuss stereotypes, try new food and make some friends.
Visiting Kiama. A few friends from Sweden and I took advantage of the discounted Sunday public transportation, and we boarded a three-hour train to Kiama- a beautiful coastal town known for its famous natural blowhole. We climbed rocks for endless hours, dined in local cafes and admired the forceful waves. See the video I created of the adventure below…
Overall, I’ve made the most of the past two months while trying to remember that I’m still a student.
I am taken aback by the new culture and nature I’ve come in contact with, and I look forward to the adventures to come.
Catch you later,
P.S. Feel free to reach out and connect with me if you have any Australia related or study abroad related thoughts and questions. I’d love to help you learn about making this experience a reality (it’s much easier than you may imagine)!
29 September 2018
We Were on a Break
It’s a bit hard to believe that this week marked half of my semester in Australia. In honor of my mid semester break from Uni, I decided to embrace this hemisphere of the world and add a new stamp to my passport in New Zealand.
We spent five days hopping on and off a coach bus, seeing sights and checking off many activities from my “Joy List” (a more optimistic version of a bucket list).
Here’s a more detailed picture of what my days looked like…
Day 1-2: Wellington
Beginning in Wellington- an amplified, chillier version of Melbourne with more local cafes, art studios and tattoo parlors, my friend Sun and I joined a tour of other youngish adults in pursuit of exploring the North island. On the second day, we visited the Te Papa Museum, showcasing traditional Maori artwork and culture. We walked along the harbor and I even peaked in a few nearby theaters. We then hopped on a bus to our next destination.
Day 2-3: Tongariro-Whakapapa
Arriving in the evening on our second day, we spent two nights staying at the highest hotel in New Zealand. My ears popped on the drive up, and it’s much chillier and rainier than I expected, but the views are well worth bundling up and embracing the cold. It even snowed! Here, we relaxed, hiked, napped, ate lots of lamb and watched Lord of the Rings.
Day 4: Taupo-Rotorua
Here’s where most of the adventuring begun. This morning, I went bungy jumping. It was surreal and thrilling and nerve wracking and I felt like a noodle, but it was unforgettable. Afterwards, we shared a family roast and stayed in a traditional Maori building, recognizing the tribe’s ancestors. Here, we watched tribal dancers perform and took part in a haka war dance.
Day 5: Rotorua
Today’s adventures included a canopy tour of some of the tallest trees in New Zealand, horseback riding over natural grasslands and taking a dip in a steamy sulfur mud bath. We also made a pit stop at Huka Falls to see the vibrant racing water.
Day 6-7: Auckland
Our final destination on the tour. Today was more of a road trip, but I caught a glimpse of many stunning views while peering out the bus window. We did make a pit stop to tour glow worm caves; the caves were dark and mysterious, but the worms were like green stars. After arriving in Auckland, I enjoyed a final night of dinner with my new-found tour friends.
Since returning to Sydney, I’ve noticed my overwhelming gratitude for my location and the opportunities I’ve been provided here. I look forward to my next adventures while abroad- both big and small.
8 October 2018
Still a Student
If you’ve read my previous blog posts, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve taken many adventures to places like Bondi beach, Melbourne and New Zealand. You may be curious; is this girl even “studying” abroad? Now that I’m over two months into Uni, I thought I’d share a recap of what it’s like to actually be a student while abroad.
Here’s what my weekly schedule looks like:
Monday- Attend a news reporting class, or go report on an event happening in real-time for class credit. I prefer the latter. Last month, I went to Parramatta and reported on a local fundraising event for Parramatta’s homeless population.
Tuesday- Attend a motivation and emotion tutorial (a ‘tute’ for short). Talk about why people do what they do and feel what they feel. After class, attend rehearsal for the upcoming play I’ve been cast in. Then, visit the city for a trip to the grocery store, and try to catch up on school work and online lectures.
Wednesday- Attend everyday life class. Here, learn about daily life, routines, rituals and practice. This course fulfills one of UMBC’s ‘culture’ general education credits. When I explain this to Australian students, they laugh and ask me why I have to take classes that aren’t related to what degree I’m pursuing; its very hard to answer that one.
Thursday- No class. This usually ends up being a full day dedicated to exploring. One of my Thursdays consisted of exploring the Auburn Botanic Gardens, seeing a peacock, walking through cherry blossoms and being an arms-length from both a kangaroo and an emu.
Friday- Attend child development class. This class is specifically catered to future teachers and educators. I don’t intend to be either, but acting the part lets me gain some practical experience while I take a break from my usual theatre coursework. 😉
I have Uni for an hour or two each day and most classes and tutorials take place in the morning. I usually dedicate the rest of my daytime working, drinking lots of tea, studying, cooking, walking through the city or meeting with friends.
The University system here is dedicated to teaching students what they need to know in a relevant, direct way. Many students are older, having taken gap years, travel years or time off for work experience. Australian students seem to pursue careers that make them happy and fuel their passions- not fill their pockets. This mindset and atmosphere has made my learning experience here much more interactive and positive.
Yes- I embrace the weekends (especially using the discounted public transport on Sundays). Yes- I treat myself to lots of sweet treats and nights out with friends. Yes- it’s surreal that I’m on the other side of the world. Yes- I am still a student.
It’s all about maintaining a balance, and remembering that my time here is limited, so I better make the most of it.
15 October 2018
About a month ago, I spend an entire Sunday hiking the blue mountains with a group of Western Sydney Uni students. We all gathered very early in the morning, meeting each other for the first time at the local train station.
To my surprise, the mountains were, in fact, not actually blue, but they were undoubtedly breathtaking. The air was crisp. The wattle trees were floral and fragrant. The lake water was a color I had never seen before, like an aqua blue from the movie Avatar.
The red clay hand-prints of previous indigenous Australian children were long-lasting and moving. They symbolized the sacred space within nature, and the development through countless generations. Though changed, the space is still maintained, cherished and respected by current visitors.
We ended the hike with sweet caramel koala treats, and pink marshmallows. I left with two others by train to return to home base. I turned my head and relaxed in the seat as I watched the world fly by.
Suddenly, I jerked up. What I saw out the window was unbelievable- the first of its kind that I’ve ever seen. I felt like I was going to implode because this creature which I’d only ever seen on postcards or on tv had finally turned up in my reality.
I saw a kangaroo! Not just one, but two living, breathing kangaroos.
The train kept going, so we parted ways without a photo, but I sat in awe for several moments after. I’m actually in Australia. That wasn’t a deer or a dog or a fox; that was a kangaroo.
Little surprises like this kangaroo encounter have occurred every day since my arrival, serving as a friendly reminder to where I am and how incredible this opportunity is. I’m learning to live in the moment, and to not let any of these precious instances pass by without my notice.
29 October 2018
It’s been quite some time since my last blog post. Here’s a recap of my most recent month in Australia, which just so happens to be my favorite month of the year.
Early this month, I celebrated my birthday and was surprised by friends and family both here and back home in the states, in person, through facetime and by mail. I felt showered in love. To commemorate my new year of life, I enjoyed a night out made complete with pizza, cake and getting my groove on.
I’ve been enjoying the change of seasons by the pool, in between homework and study sessions. It’s the most refreshing way to embrace the heat, and a great spot for quality time, conversation and naps.
Last week, I acted in a play at Western Sydney Uni, playing the Conscious to the lead role. The play was locally written and produced, with this being its debut performance. I enjoyed soaking up some acting time while abroad, and it was even better with lots of my new friends performing by my side (shown in the photo above).
Nearly every weekend this month, I’ve contributed to the making of ‘family dinner’ (usually pasta and tomato sauce) for my mates. We’ve shared lots of noodles, bread, salad, stories, and laughs. I even made a fresh batch of baguettes for the first time to go with a classy ladies’ night dinner.
Sticking with the classy theme, a few of my friends and I dressed up for a free prize brunch at what’s known as Sydney’s prettiest café- Social Hideout in Waterloo. We dined under the flowers at this vibrant, Breakfast at Tiffany’s inspired restaurant.
Since then, I’ve focused on completing final assignments, and wrapping up my school work. Today marked my final day of classes and next on my Uni agenda will be a final exam in mid-November.
This semester has flown by, but I’m embracing the last few weeks by enjoying spontaneous adventures, and soaking up time with my new-found friends.
20 November 2018
Now that I have just 10 days left in Australia, I’m reflecting on the process of getting here and turning this dream adventure into my reality.
Knowing that I wanted to study abroad before even applying to UMBC, I quickly engaged in the process of study abroad orientation and advisor meetings. I decided to apply through ISEP exchange as it was a practical study abroad option allowing me to pay directly to UMBC as if I had never left. Though this program didn’t allow me to choose my study abroad location or Uni, I was able to narrow down the options to a list of three which I would want to attend.
The application process was daunting and time consuming, as applications for both UMBC and ISEP had to be completed; however, once finished, I was so relieved and at that point just anticipating the results. Ultimately, I was placed at my top choice- Western Sydney Uni, and I continued with the motions of selecting classes, accommodation and then packing.
Before arriving, I had some assistance from ISEP advisors through email and video conferencing; however, it was the international student office at my host Uni which made the transition from life in the states to life here in Australia.
They organized events for international students, such as the Bronte to Bondi beach coastal walk (shown in the photo above), which instantly connected me with students from around the globe. My family provided me with the moral support I needed to hop on a plane and ditch my ‘normal’ for a semester.
ISEP is a great study abroad option for students without a predetermined destination or Uni. It also allows students to stay on a reasonable budget, as UMBC fees are associated with the term abroad.
While ISEP isn’t right for everyone, I absolutely think studying abroad is, and there’s no better time than now to take in the world around you. Plus, what’s better than studying and exploring at the same time?
27 November 2018
On the week of the Thanksgiving holiday at home, I’ve seen countless gratitude posts, pictures of American Thanksgiving feasts and heard stories of family traditions for the holiday. Being in a place where Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated, I spent my time reflecting on my semester in Australia, and embracing the end of my term.
Last Sunday, I encouraged everyone in the village (my accommodation) to bring a food or drink to the central barbecue area at 5pm where we’d create and share a Thanksgiving feast. I brought sweet potato casserole, and others brought foods ranging from chips and dip to homemade arancini balls. About 25 of us joined to sing Christmas songs, dance and eat, reflecting on the semester we just had.
Every night since last Sunday has been a late one, full of conversation, laughter, dancing, singing and trying to ignore that this has been the last week. We’ve had family meals almost every day, and we made the most of every second with each other.
My final week in Parramatta was marked with many goodbyes and see-you-laters. Reunion plans are already in place with many of my mates, and FaceTime calls are in order.
Between the bittersweet goodbyes, I said hello to my mom who came to visit me in Sydney. I’ve created a new home in Australia, and I’m grateful to have shown her a bit of my environment and experience of the last four months.
On Saturday, I made my way to Perth from Sydney. I met more of my extended Australian family members, some of which I know, some who I had never before met. Now, I’m spending time taking in the sights of Western Australia.
I’m incredibly grateful for the relationships formed and memories made during this adventure. It’s hard to wrap my mind around the fact that my time down under is coming to an end.
P.S. If you’d like to take a look at what I’ve recently been up to, check out my Youtube page where you’ll find my adventure vlogs.