Study Abroad in Australia || Reflection

If you’ve been following my blog the past few months, you’ll know that for the past five months I had the incredible opportunity to study abroad at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. I arrived back home a week ago and now that the jet lag has worn off, my suitcases have been unpacked, and I’ve had time to process the whole experience, I decided that it was finally a good time to sit down and put all my thoughts into words.

I’m going to do my best to cover everything about my time abroad, the good and the bad, so I apologize if this post gets a little lengthy. But I wanted to provide a solid conclusion for those who have been following along with my journey, and offer advice and first-hand accounts of my experiences for anyone else who is considering to study abroad during while in college.

So get comfortable, grab a snack, and enjoy!

Choosing my Program

There were essentially three key criteria that I considered: location, courses offered, and cost, in that order. Location was obviously the biggest factor, as I wanted to love the place I’d be if I was going to live there for 5 months. By focusing on that factor alone I narrowed my program option down to two places: Australia (because I’ve always wanted to go there), and Argentina (so I could improve my Spanish). Then I proceeded to research the courses, as well as the tuition and costs of living at either school, and make a pro and con list about studying in either country. Having chosen such differing places, I would have vastly different experiences based on where I went, so I spent a lot of time deciding which experience I felt would be right for me at this time. Ultimately, after lots of prayer and consulting with my friends, family, and advisor, I decided that living in Australia was going to be best.

Prep

After applying and being accepted into the program, I spent a long time researching things about Brisbane, such as the culture and weather, and then wrote & rewrote one long comprehensive packing list. It’s certainly a process to prepare to live in another country for half a year, and requires lots of thinking ahead to ensure you have enough supply of daily things like prescriptions, contacts, etc. Calling my banks and phone company was also a big step, to transfer money, authorize using my card abroad, and suspend my phone plan. Then I had to acquire a visa and make copies of important personal documents to leave in separate places in case one bag got lost. It was all about accounting for the little details to make sure there were no hiccups. It may seem tedious, but spending months preparing for arrival was absolutely key in having a smooth transition overseas.

Benefits

I can say whole-heartedly that studying abroad has innumerable benefits that you won’t get at any other time in your life. One of the biggest benefits is the new level of independence you gain. You essentially begin a new life in that other country, where you have to do everything for yourself and you don’t have the luxury of being close to home for help. You learn to become more self-sufficient and confident in your abilities, because even if you don’t always know what you’re doing, you know enough to pretend like you do ;).

Getting to live in a new place and experience their culture is another advantageous opportunity that you can’t get anywhere else. I haven’t met many adults who have dropped their lives and moved to another country for 6 months, so I wanted to take advantage of the fact that through studying abroad, I could. It’s a chance to get outside of your comfort zone and try new experiences and gain a different perspective on the world that you wouldn’t get back home. It’s a completely unique, one-of-a-kind experience, and the beauty of it is that it’s completely different for everyone. Your time abroad will be as rich and engaging as you make it.

Challenges

Of course there are bound to be some bumps to living in a new country on your own. Homesickness is a big one that everyone will face at some point during their trip. For me, I kept myself very busy, taking trips every weekend for the first two months so I didn’t have time to feel homesick right away. But later in the semester it hit me hard and I found myself making a few extra Skype calls home during that time. And depending on where you chose to go abroad, the culture shock can be a rough transition as well. It took me a bit to get used to all the spiders in Australia (especially since I was terrified of them) but eventually I even adapted to that. Overcoming a language barrier might also be a problem, depending where you go, but everyone comes out happily on the other side so I wouldn’t let the idea struggling deter you from going.

My Favorite Moments

Of course it’d be impossible for me to pick just one favorite moment I had, because there were far too many incredible experiences to narrow them down. So I thought I would just share a few of the memories that stick out the most to me. My first trip in Australia to Byron Bay was definitely memorable, particularly because I had some many new friends to spend my time with. The paint party that weekend at Cheeky Monkeys was possibly the best part, because there was good music, great company, and I even ran into a few old friends while I was there! The next most memorable trip was Melbourne, as it was the first time I got up close and personal with kangaroos (and hand-fed them!) and I completely fell in love. It was also when I toured the Great Ocean Road and witnessed some of the most beautiful landmarks in the country. And speaking of beautiful scenery, White Haven beach in the Whitsunday Islands was an absolutely breathtaking location. The swirls of vibrant ocean color quite literally looked out of this world. And of course I’ll never be able to forget sky-diving over the Great Barrier Reef and landing on the beach.

But some of my truly favorite memories weren’t big trips or crazy activities, they were times I spent make new friends, and connecting with people around the world. I was lucky enough to call my housemate my best friend and enjoy all the little things that studying abroad had to offer; late-night ice cream runs, and movie nights, and deep chats about life. I’m grateful for all the small moments that added up and filled in the time between traveling so that Australia actually felt like home for me. And that’s what I love most from studying abroad, is the knowledge that I now have two places I can call my home.

<3 Ash

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Hugging a Koala

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When in Australia, there are a few things that you simply have to do before you leave, and one of those things includes getting to hold a Koala. Luckily the Lone Pine Koala sanctuary, the only sanctuary in all of Australia that allows you to hold one yourself, was just a short drive from where I was staying in Brisbane. So when my brother came to visit, we decided it was only right to give him the full Australian experience and interact with the wildlife.

Just like on Phillip Island in Melbourne (which you can read about here), Lone Pine also allows you to hand feed the kangaroos, which has been one of my FAVORITE experiences being abroad. Instead of having a small trail to follow however, Lone Pine let you into a large open pen full of kangaroos eagerly ready to come up to you and be fed. It was so funny and sweet to see my brother drop his cool for a second and adopt that high-pitched “I’m talking to something cute” voice while the kangaroos were eating out of his hand. The kangaroos also shared a pen with a few large emus and thanks to the insider tips from a nice passerby; we learned the secret to get one to cuddle right up to you!

But of course the star attraction at Lone Pine is the koalas, which were all surprisingly extremely awake while we were there. For an animal that sleeps an average of 20 hours a day, we were quite excited that they were so active while we were there. We watched them eat, climb around, and play with each other. In my entire time in Australia I’d only seen one or two koalas awake, so it was incredible to see 20 awake and interacting at the same time!

My brother and I each got to hold our own Koala, his was a girl and mine was a boy, and they were so calm and relaxed. We also thought it was nice that they switched out the koalas so that they weren’t just tiring out one of them; they were rotating them so all the animals got a nice break. Plus the experience included photos so we can always remember it!

If you’re ever in Australia, this is an activity you can’t pass up! Lone Pine is a much more interactive experience than you’re average zoo, and you’re guaranteed to leave with a big smile on your face, feelin’ like a true Aussie :).

P.S. Check out my vlog of this day on my second YouTube channel SimplyAshVlogs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QtX0oRvTxkA

(And be sure to subscribe while you’re there!)

<3 Ash

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Zoeva Rose Golden Vol. II Eye Set

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After falling in love with the Zoeva en Taupe brush set (which I discussed here), I was eager get my hands on more of their brushes. And being a huge fan of rose gold I couldn’t resist the beautiful design and packaging of Zoeva’s Rose Golden Vol. II eye set.

What’s included:

142 Concealer Buffer: Apply and blend concealer
221 Luxe Soft Crease: Blend eyeshadow evenly along the crease
227 Luxe Soft Definer: Softly blend and smooth eyeshadow
228 Luxe Crease: Blend transitions professionally
230 Luxe Pencil: Apply and blend eyeshadow and kohl
231 Luxe Petit Crease: Accentuate and shade in the crease
232 Luxe Classic Shader: Apply eyeshadow evenly and intensively on the lid
235 Contour Shader: Emphasize the contours of the eye with eyeshadow
238 Luxe Precise Shader: Apply eyeshadow precisely
310 Spot Liner: Apply eyeliner precisely along the lash line for instant volume
322 Brow Line: Apply eyebrow products for perfectly shaped brows
325 Luxe Brow Light: Apply highlighter below the brows

Five of the six the brushes from the En Taupe set were also included in this set, as well as seven additional different brushes. I love that the set comes with a large variety of different types and styles of brushes so that you have the tools to create practically any eye look. The crease brushes come in a range of sizes (and I even use #230 luxe pencil as a crease brush as well) so you can choose how precise you want to be with your application. For those just starting with makeup, or anyone who has trouble blending out eyeshadow, I think having the smaller crease brushes is a huge help. And I’ve found the larger crease brushes are also great for blending.

Two of my favorite brushes in the set are the luxe precise shader and the brow light, which are both great for applying highlighter. The precise shader I use for the inner corner of my eyes, and the brow light (as you probably guessed) I use to highlight under my brows. The luxe classic shader is also a great basic staple for applying and packing eyeshadow onto the lid, and it does a great job of transferring the pigmentation and spreading it evenly. I also love the contour shader for applying eyeshadow to the outer corner & crease of my eye. In addition to the eyeshadow brushes, this set also includes a concealer buffer that’s the perfect shape and size for blending in concealer under your eyes.

If you’re looking for a more comprehensive eyeshadow brush set to add to your collection, then the Rose Golden Complete Eye Set is definitely a great choice! You get unbeatable quantity and quality of brushes at a price that’s extremely hard to match. Next on my list is to try the Zoeva face brushes, as I have quite high hopes for them after trying these sets!

What do you think of Zoeva brushes? Leave a comment down below!

<3 Ash

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Casual 4th of July

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Happy 4th of July everyone!

Independence day has always been my brother’s favorite holiday, and luckily I made it back from Australia just in time to celebrate it at home. Since the temperatures are well above 100 degrees here in Arizona it was an easy decision to spend the day relaxing and cooling off at the pool. The water was almost like bath water it had been warmed so much, but it still felt much nicer than the surrounding air so we opted to lay out on our pool floats where we could stay cool and still get a nice tan ;).

After the pool, Matt and I took a little road trip around the town to find the best deals on fireworks to light off later in the evening. And getting to blow off fireworks is definitely an easy way to make Monday a little more manageable ;). My favorite buys were a firework called ‘Black Beard’ that came with a free eye patch (how neat and random!), & a set of four fountains called ‘Great Barrier Reef’ (which I thought was extremely fitting for obvious reasons).

We had a small cookout for dinner including Italian sausages and an all-American apple pie for dessert. Then once the sun set we headed to the porch to watch all the neighbors’ firework shows and light off some of our own. Our dogs however, were not as excited about the festivities and hid under the bed the entire night instead. When the celebrations were over we made sure to give them extra cuddles and treats to make up for their scary night.

It was a very casual and laid-back day, but the quality family time and wholesome relaxation was much enjoyed. It was one of those quiet days that will be remembered and appreciated for its pure simplicity :).

How did you celebrate the 4th? I hope that it was lovely!

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Bikini top // Bikini bottoms

<3 Ash

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My Current Daily Exfoliator

It wasn’t until a few months ago that I introduced daily exfoliation into my skincare routine, but since including it I’ve noticed big differences in my skin and now I’ll never go back. Previously, I only used an exfoliator about once a week, usually right before I would do a face mask (if I was feeling up to it). However, when browsing my local Beauty Brands I came across this product by First Aid Beauty and was intrigued to give it a try. The Facial Radiance Polish is a hypoallergenic exfoliator intended for daily use and safe for sensitive skin. As I’ve mentioned on here many times before, I have struggled with sensitive, blemish-prone skin my whole life, so whenever I find products that are designed not to irritate my troublesome skin, I’m always eager to give them a try.

It’s intention is to exfoliate, brighten, and purify, and I can confirm that after using this regularly I started seeing positive results in just a few weeks. The scarring on my skin has gradually begun to lighten, and my blemishes have also come less frequently. I would like to note that I’m also currently using several other treatments, so daily exfoliating has in no way magical dissolved all my breakouts. However, I do feel that sloughing off the dead skin at the end of every day has helped my nightly cleanser get deeper into my pores and has led to it being more effective in cleaning my skin. And it’s also lifted the dullness from my skin, reduced some of the discoloration from past marks, and my skin seem all around brighter and healthier.

I would definitely recommend to everyone to start including a daily exfoliator into their skincare routine! I’ve personally incorporated mine into my nightly routine so that I can get rid of the toxins from the day and wake up the next morning with my skin feeling refreshed and clean. And for anyone with sensitive skin, I would highly recommend starting with the FAB range so that you know it won’t cause you any unnecessary trouble.

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FAB Facial Radiance Polish- $24

<3 Ash

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