Thank You …

It’s 6am and I’m watching out the window of my plane as it breaks through the clouds barreling it’s way back to the United States. I am on my first of four flights Kris and I have to take to get home.

Our route home has us hopscotching from Cairns to Brisbane to Auckland to LA and then finally to Chicago. Once Kris and I get to Chicago (at midnight), we will take a three hour shuttle back to Lafayette for a quick two night stop over before we head out again to meet another study abroad group in Ireland and Scotland for three weeks,

This is our typical summer schedule. 

Normally by now we are excited and eager to head over to Dublin, yet, somehow I am not. 

This year feels different. 

I am now on my second flight and a wave of melancholy crashes over me on this journey homeward. 

I think about our last night in Australia. We went out for a traditional Balinese meal (a cuisine many students never heard of before). We dined at smaller tables in groups of 4 and 6 people. I sat with Kris and a few of the vegetarian students (and three serious carnivores). As the carnivores gnawed away on their crocodile satay and BBQ short ribs, we ate fried rice, fruit, and mixed vegetables.

Balinese cooking is served family style with large portions of food that come to a table wave after wave after wave. Last night the waves of food were mainly curry – yellow, brown and green. Each time we thought we saw the last of the curry another curry dish would arrive. Naturally, our table quickly made curry our running joke of the evening. I worried about all this curry because I learned long ago that curry and traveling on planes don’t go well together.

At my table the conversation flowed freely and because we sat at different tables, the dinner felt more private. This privacy was great for deep conversations but because we sat apart, Kris and I never had a moment where we felt we could thank the group collectively.  A toast would have been impossible for all to hear. 

Towards the end of the evening we did go around the restaurant to thank everyone but there wasn’t one moment where as a group we all held our breath to say our thanks and showed our appreciation and gratitude. 

I regret not having this closure.

I am now two hours into my third flight (from Auckland to LA). 

I am tired. 

As I think more about last night, I wish I could show my gratitude in person.

Another hour has passed. 

My eyelids are heavy and I am fighting off sleep. 

I don’t think I will be able to stay awake.

As I start to drift off, I think about this trip and I am thankful for so many people.

I am thankful for having the opportunity to mentor such amazing young people and to help them learn more about themselves and their lives. I know I say this a thousand times but, it deserves one last “they really are quite extraordinary.” This group of students make me hopeful for the future – if they are any indication of the next generation, then we are all in safe hands.

I am thankful for being allowed to teach overseas with my husband, Kristofer, who is gentler and kinder than I am. He is empathic, intuitive and compassionate. He is my rock and my foundation. He is passionate about helping others and he does it with an open mind and a tender heart.

I am thankful for being allowed to go overseas with one of my mentees, Jaziel, who worked very hard to arrange all the details of this trip. This instructor role often goes unrecognized since most of the work is behind the scenes. 

I am thankful for Richard Feinberg (my Department Head), Liping Cai (HHS’s Dean for Study Abroad), Carmen Morrow (HHS’s Study Abroad Coorindator extraordinaire),  Paula Memmer Departmental Study Abroad Manager), and Kathrine Yngve (my Intercultural Faculty Mentor) for all their guidance and patience.

I am thankful for all the Aboringal people we met: Anthony McKnight (from the University of Wollongong), Dwayne and Steve (from the Ngaran Ngaran Gulaga Creation Tour), Donna (for showing us the history of Redfern), Margret and Beryl (Korrobora Dreamtime Dinner), and Dr. Ernie Grant (from the Ingan Tour).

I am thankful for each and every student on this trip. I am always impressed when I get to know our students on study abroad but this group was filled with some of the most memorable students I have had the pleasure to encounter. I feel close to these young people and I am very excited about their future lives at Purdue and beyond.

Finally, I want to thank you the reader. You obviously have someone you love who came on this trip and I hope our blog let you share in some of what we experienced. We can never fully capture in words and pictures all the beauty we saw and things we learned. 

To everyone, Thank you …

Written by Dr. Stewart Chang Alexander

Goodbyes Are Never Easy

Today was officially our last day as a group, and while bitter sweet the memories made here will never be forgotten. I’m sad that’s it’s over but forever grateful for the memories and life long friends that I made here. I want to express how appreciative I am to my instructors Jaziel Ramos-Ortiz, Kristofer Chang-Alexander, and Stewart Chang-Alexander. I can never express how grateful I am to them for all that they have done on this trip and how they have helped me to grow and to realize my potential. I also want to thank all the amazing people on this trip who I have had the pleasure of getting to know for the past 3 weeks. While it may seem like a short amount of time, some of you have become some of the best friends I have ever had. I am truly grateful for everyone on this trip for aiding my growth as a person and for encouraging me to be the best that I can. Our last night together was magical as we all shared in one final dinner to express our gratitude to each other. Thank you to everyone for making this trip amazing. Safe travels!

Love, Danielle

Great Barrier Reef (Day 19)

With only 6 hours available to catch some sleep last night, I could not fall or stay asleep to save my life. I truly felt like a little kid on Christmas Eve, excited for Santa to bring presents!

Since I was a little kid I have had two things on my bucket list. One was accomplished the first day of our trip: go to Australia. Today I can check off the second: go to the Great Barrier Reef.

I was so excited to be able to blog about today but I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to put this experience into words. 
We woke up early in the morning with eagerness towards a long awaited day. We walked to our check in and boarded the boat, making it one step closer to seeing the largest living natural wonder of the world! To begin the trip, as we left the dock, the crew was full of witty jokes during a presentation on safety and plans for sea sickness. Plan A was sea sickness pills for prevention, not as a cure. Without those, if you already felt sick, it’s time for plan B. A white, paper barf bag on your way out the door to the back of the boat. Our instructors told us to prepare early and buy the pills before we left, due to a rough experience they had last year. Even those who thought they could do fine without, immediately ran to buy plan A pills after the first large wave sent us flying out of our seats. The group spent a large portion of the boat ride out to the reef with safety lessons and training for both scuba diving and snorkeling. 

When we arrived at the first Reef, the groups of scuba diving began. Many individuals in our group got the opportunity to scuba dive. In groups of 4 people with one instructor, diving deep to the bottom of the Reef. Many saw giant fish and even a small shark. The ones who went described it as amazing and were glad they conquered this new experience. Others did not go, for different reasons, but enjoyed a full day of snorkeling. 

Most people have never snorkeled before, so this was also a new and amazing experience for us. Snorkeling through the Reef made me feel as if I were in and apart of this incredible living organism. 

Throughout the day, we were taken to two locations within the Great Barrier Reef. I personally loved the 2nd location the most. The water was much more shallow on this one so we weren’t really able to swim above it. Instead, we snorkeled and swam along the edges of the reef. Seeing the life that lives among the coral is amazing. There were millions of different colors and sizes of fish swimming around me. Elise and I even got the amazing opportunity to see a sea turtle swimming through the water. I actually felt like we were in a Finding Nemo movie. 

As incredible and beautiful as the Great Barrier Reef was, it saddens me to know that so much of it has been bleached and died. It makes me question the actions of myself and others towards our earth. We have learned how the Aboriginal people here in Australia cherish Earth. Knowing that humans are the main cause of this damage to Mother Nature is devastating.

As most of our trip has been a surprise until the night before or day of, the instructors kept one secret until the very end. Along with our cruise, snorkel, and dive, we got to take a helicopter ride to see everything from above the Great Barrier Reef. From the sky, we were able to see 5 reefs right in a row. It was mind-blowing to hear that there were over 300 similar reefs to these. If you combined all of the reefs together, it would equal the square area of Germany! 
Everything I have written about today doesn’t do true justice for how amazing our day was. It was the best way I could ever imagine to end our study abroad. With only a couple days left, the fact that the trip is almost over is scary. It’s going to be a bittersweet moment, as I’m ready to reunite with friends and family but I’m not ready to leave such an incredible place. 

Written by: Katie Rance

Coming to a close!

It’s unbelievable to know that today is the second to the last day of the end of a wonderful journey. After such an eventful and exhilarating day yesterday at the Great Barrier Reef, many of us decided to take it slow today and relax, perhaps even sleep in a bit. Nonetheless, a small group of us, including myself, were keen on holding and taking photos with a koala bear! Off to the Cairns Wildlife Dome, located in The Reef Hotel Casino! The koala’s name is Micro, and he was absolutely adorable. Though he had a bit of an odor, he was very soft and cuddly, just as one would an imagine a koala bear to be like. It was all hugs and smiles from there on out! Micro surely wasn’t camera shy!


Pictured above: Chandaly Sovan with Micro, the 5-year old koala bear

Not only were we amazed by Micro, but we also encountered a few more fascinating wildlife creatures, such as Snowy the rare white kookaburra, and Goliath, the magnificent, 4 metre saltwater crocodile. We also had a bit of fun with Gollum, a small bird with beautiful, vibrant feathers and piercing red eyes! Gollum was very entertained by my umbrella!




The next thing on our minds: fooooooood. We noticed a cafe, called Bang & Grind, nearby that was bustling with people and filled the air with the lovely smell of morning coffee and cooked bacon. Why not check it out for our brekkie? Though many of us college students rarely eat breakfast at home back in the States, we’ve adjusted to incorporating breakfast into our day-to-day lives while here in Australia due to the jam-packed, entertaining schedules. After all, breakfast is the most important meal of the day! This morning, I was in a desperate mood for buttermilk pancakes while others indulged in bacon and egg paninis and avocado toast. The presentations of the food were quite superb and made the dishes all the more scrumptious. Mmmm.


Pictured above: Buttermilk pancakes… with banana and bacon

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Pictured above: Huevos Rancherios… served on sourdough with refried beans, Monterey Jack cheese, fried eggs, avocados, tomatoes, onions, and cumin.

Cairns, a major well-known tourist destination due to its tropical climate and the Great Barrier Reef, is packed with souvenir and gift shops, along with a vast array of restaurants featuring cuisine from all over the globe. While Cairns sits along the coast, the view of the ocean is breathtaking. Even more so, the lovely lagoon located adjacent to the ocean is a popular attraction site. After today’s morning breakfast, we took a stroll to the lagoon, where many young adults were basking in the warmth of the sun or lathering on sunscreen or simply taking a snooze. Children were dipping their feet into the blue, transparent water.


Pictured above: Cairns Esplanade Lagoon

After lounging in the glorious sun, many of us returned to the apartment hotels to begin packing, or perhaps do laundry, or to participate in life-story sharing. Life-story sharing truly enables each one of us to connect with our fellow mates on a much greater intimate, personal level. And lastly, a few of us students merely stayed inside and slept. Slept for hours. And it was totally worthwhile, given the exhausting day yesterday.

Group dinners have always been one of the activities I look forward to as each day passes because it’s the time to catch up with everyone. Ask how everyone’s day was. Ask what everyone enjoyed. Let’s not forget about the food. After a long day’s adventure, we surely recuperated well from dinner. Not to mention, we all take samples and munches of each others’ delectable dishes. It’s a miracle that we’re not all sick! I, along with several other students, prefer to order and taste the seafood that comes directly from local commercial fisheries. Everywhere we go, there is an abundance of opportunities to sample Australia’s world-famous seafood. Particular favorites are prawns, scallops, and calamari. However, for some students, seafood is an entirely new experience, and what better way to taste authentic seafood for the first time than in Australia!


Pictured above: Prawn Nasi Goreng… with wok tossed rice, Asian greens, bacon, chili & fried egg

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Pictured above: Deep Sea Laksa… prawns, fish, & scallops in mild spiced coconut broth with egg noodles & bok choy

To top off dinner, we decided to go for… gelato! I must say, gelato in Australia is much better than the gelato I’ve tried back in the States. The numerous flavours available astonishes me, and I still have yet to taste every single flavour. Tonight, I opted for a mixed berry flavour, while my friends requested the passion fruit flavour. If you ask me, both were excellent choices.

Afterwards, feeling bloated and sluggish after finishing a delicious dinner and dessert, we decided to head off to the Night Markets,


When visiting Cairns, the Night Markets is a must. With its collection of Australian-made jewelry, Australian chocolates and treats, souvenir T-shirts and accessories, it’s difficult to refrain from purchasing something! The prices are fairly reasonable as well; and if you’re feeling courageous, you could even test the waters and attempt to bargain to achieve the price you desire. If you’re feeling worn out from all the shopping, you could stop at one of the multiple massage kiosks available in the markets. Or even better, you could try the ice cream waffles, cream puffs, churro, or gelato at one of the shops located at the entrance of the markets. What a tasty treat to end a long day!

With the adventure coming to a fast close, we all hope to make the most of it tomorrow, our last day in Australia as a family of 25. Check in tomorrow to read about our final, farewell dinner!

Written by Athena He

Hey Hey Hey free day!!!!

Waking up in a bed after two nights of sleeping on the ground in tents refreshed us all. Today was our first day to really explore the city of Cairns and refresh our minds and bodies with good food and great experiences. Many of us took advantage of the free time in the morning to take care of some housekeeping. An activity that was definitely on all of our minds was laundry. After days of camping and kayaking in a river there were some funky smells coming from all of our suitcases. Mary Kate, Katie, Elise and I went to a local Laundry Zone and to our surprise there was a cupcake shop next door. The result of this was a good morning of laundry, journaling, and eating cupcakes.

The best way to get through a chore is with laughs and fun so this is a picture of Mary Kate helping Katie into the large washing machine.

The best of breakfasts might not always be the healthiest, but that’s okay when we are walking miles a day exploring the city!

After completing the housekeeping that was all desperately needed, groups split off to do a couple different things. Either shop, swim or sleep. A group of people spent the day going through shops in the mall and around the city while checking out the local cuisine and gelato shops. I was able to complete my souvenir shopping for family and friends back home. Now the trick is just staying under the weight limit for my luggage on the fly back home. Another group went to the lagoon close by. This is a large swimming pool/park right next to the ocean. You may wonder why that’s needed because the ocean is so close by. The answer is simple, crocodiles. Fun comes with a little risk and luckily everybody escaped the day with only minor sunburns.

It looks like the group finally found a spot big enough for us to be as loud and spread out as possible. It’s been very unusual accommodating 25 for dinner. After a day in the sun, the groups went back to their hotel rooms and rested and cleaned up before dinner. At 6pm we went to the grocery store to buy breakfast for 25 people for 3 days. A task that could not be any more chaotic. When we arrived back at the hotel dinner had been ordered. Pizza!! A great comfort food after a long day.

We separated into our life story sharing groups to indulge in our dinner while learning new things about each other. These meetings always help the group become closer. After sharing and eating to our hearts content we went to bed and prepared for the fantastic day we had ahead of us…scuba diving and snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef!!!

Written by Amy Shade

Back 2 Cairns (Day 16)

June 21, 2017

What’s up party people?

Today we woke up, some more exhausted than the night before. It appears sleeping with five others in a small tent might not be the best for sleep, but everyone’s in bright spirits regardless. Many are eagerly looking forward to a hot shower when we return to a hotel. With our time here complete, we packed up our sleeping bags and enjoyed a breakfast of scrambled eggs before loading up on the bus and returning to the cafe/rail station. 

Once at the rail station, we sat down once again with Dr. Ernie Grant for a talk about Aboriginal tools and tool making, including how to properly design a boomerang. They operate on the same principle as airplane wings, where one curved face causes the air to flow around it slower than the other face, causing the characteristic spinning motion. Aboriginal boomerangs also have one side longer than the other: this allows the boomerang to fly in a high arc as well as determine the “handedness” of the boomerang. A right-handed boomerang will never curve to the left, and vice versa. With all the creation and fine tuning, creating a boomerang takes about 20 hours of work, and is an amazing example of aerodynamic engineering.

In addition to the boomerang, we were shown a variety of other tools, including an X-shaped boomerang designed as a toy for children, a firestarter carved in the shaped of a man, a stone axe, a massive sword/club around 5 feet tall and made of hardwood, and a traditional shield. The shield was especially interesting, as it was decorated with painting that symbolize the “mob” or tribe it belongs to. Shields such as this one are actually copyrighted to the Aboriginal people, and cannot be produced for sale otherwise.

Afterward, Dr. Grant spoke about the four periods of Aboriginal history: pre-contact, contact, post-contacted, and contemporary. Much like the Native Americans, life changed dramatically with the contact of Europeans, almost entirely for the worst. Aboriginal people are tied to the land they live on, and carry the duty of being stewards of their earth. When the British came and forced the people from their land, they were removing the aboriginal way of life and severing the spiritual connections. We also watched a film called “The Secret Country,” detailing the struggles of the Aboriginal people during the contact through the contemporary period. The events and actions done to the Aboriginal people were some of the most abhorrent things I have ever heard, and it is safe to say all of us were shocked by what we learned. To say it was a slaughter is to put it lightly. It was much like the treatment of the Native Americans by the USA, but more recently. One of the most shocking examples was the nuclear testing within radiation range of Aboriginal communities as if they were not there. Dr. Grant tread the topic well, and discussed how much of this history is still not taught in Australian schools. The country may not be ready for its full history, but there is hope. As Australia progress toward a more multicultural society, popular support for anti-discrimination legislation for Aboriginal people will grow, and while they may never get their land back, they can rise to an equal place in society, valued as a cultural group that has existed for 40,000 to 100,000 years.

On a much lighter note, we had lunch then began the two hour journey back to Cairns. We were so pooped out, and after two days in packed tents most of the bus and I took the time for some sleep, visions of real beds dancing in our heads.

We arrived in Cairns to the Southern Cross Hotel and I enjoyed a long awaited hot shower and came out a new man. Everyone looked so nice after a fresh set of clothes and a return to regular hygiene. We went to a fabulous Greek restaurant called Fetta’s Greek Taverna. The food was absolutely delicious, and we enjoyed delightful dinner conversation. In my mentor group with Stewart, we reflected on what we had learned on this trip and what we are going to do with the information we received. I hope to use the perspective I have gained about the disadvantaged, the mindfullness I gained from reflection, and the compassion I gained from hearing the stories and struggles of others in order to be a better person and hopefully a better doctor someday. In addition, we talked about all the great things we’ve done on this trip, and our thoughts on changes for next year. Personally, the amazing race was my favorite.  Nothing gets me going like a good competition. The restaurant also got us complementary baklava, which was totally delicious.

Afterwards, most of us retired to our rooms. My best bud Jared and I decided to try out the placenta face masks he bought at the Blue Mountains. Despite the jarring name, my skin feels just as soft and refreshed as a newborn lamb’s.

We’re at the final stop of our journey now, and with only four more days left I’m a little sad. But what a time it has been, doing amazing things and getting to know all these amazing people! We visit the Great Barrier Reef in two days; stay tuned!

Written by Anthony McGuire

Shoutout to my mom and dad! Love you, miss you so much!

Cairns (Day 14)

June 19, 2017

Traveling with 25 is never easy, never mind when every person has 2+ bags. Despite our large size, leaving the hotel this morning at 6 A.M. was a breeze, although we had the shuttle bus driver from hell. At the airport we got through security and group check in before 7 A.M. (See Maggie Wagner being creepy). 

We took our 3 hour flight and most people used the time to either catch up on journaling or snooze while we could. Once we landed, we suddenly were in 27 C weather, whereas before we had 17 C weather. As soon as we could, everyone started shedding their extra layers and tried to readjust to the new weather. Shortly after our flight landed, the aboriginal tribe hosting us picked us up in shuttle buses and we made our way into Tully. The differences between Cairns and Sydney make you feel as though you’re in two separate countries. Cairns (pronounced “Cans”) looks very similar to Hawaii, except for the fields of sugarcane and bananas or the occasional roadside circuses that have camels and horses roaming at the entrance. 

(Our aboriginal guide and local- Sonya)

After 2 hours in the car, we arrived at Cafe Chloe. Here we had lunch and got to explore the cafe and the surrounding area. 

After lunch we took another bus ride to the traditional country of the Jirrbal aboriginal peoples. Here on their traditional land we are camping for the next 2 nights. 

Once settled into our tents of 2-6 people, we set off to explore Tully river, which is home to many crocodiles and snakes.

Around dinner time, we started to prepare dinner. We had freshwater fish native to this area in Queensland, potatoes, and salad. To make the fish we had gathered fresh ginger leaves and then wrapped the fish with olive oil and the leaves in foil to cook over the fire. 

While we waited for dinner to cook, we played cards and chatted with some of the aboriginal people here at the campsite. We learned from Sonya about her people and some of their history. It’s really saddening to know that these aboriginal people were considered to be under flora and fauna until the 1960s. The need for recognition of these people is of utmost importance. These people have never been interested in the money, but have their focuses on being the custodians of the land. 

Dinner was definitely worth the wait! After we ate we left the campsite and loaded up in the car. We ended up driving for 2 hours to try and see the night wildlife. At first all we saw were forest rats as they ran by with their tails held high. Finally, after over an hour, we saw a snake. It was black and brown, and about 6-7 feet long. The guides ended up using tools to catch it and allowed us to touch the body. It was quite smooth and as we touched the scales, it started to coil its body around the arm of our guide. Fortunately, it was a type of python that was not poisonous. Overall we had a full day of traveling and learning more about aboriginal culture. Today was the first day for the rest of our lives, as we have learned to say! 

Written by: Reilly Dillon