Similar to ‘reading day,’ Bond University has a week off before final exams commence. Most of the study abroad students take this as a vacation because we haven’t had any (official) days off this semester. Bond runs on a trimester system, so they don’t have ‘Spring Break’ or anything. They get 3 weeks off between each semester. I’ve wanted to go to Melbourne for a while, especially to see little blue penguins in the wild. I went from Friday to Tuesday with my friend Becca. It was a pretty packed trip. When we got there on Friday, we explored the city, went into a bunch of free museums and watched a free comedy show. We got dinner with my friend Leah from my high school (and Northeastern) who is studying abroad a bit out of the city. It’s so weird seeing people you know in a different country, definitely nice though!
On Saturday we did a Great Ocean Road tour. A lot of time was spent on the tour bus, the road is about 250km! (150 miles). I still haven’t gotten used to these conversions. We stopped every once in a while for sight seeing and pictures. We also saw koalas in the wild. The tour was from 7am to about 9pm so it was a long day.
The next day, we went on a tour from 9am to 10pm. It was a wildlife tour, including stops at a wildlife sanctuary, several beautiful beaches, the fallen London Bridge, and last but not least, Phillip Island. The wildlife sanctuary had albino kangaroos which was very interesting! As for penguins, hundreds of little blue penguins reside on Phillip Island. At the New England Aquarium, where I did my first co-op with the penguins, we have little blue penguins as well.
Every night at Phillip Island, hundreds of penguins come out of the ocean to make their way back to their burrows after a long day of hunting and swimming. Seeing them in the wild was indescribable and it filled me with emotions. I was tearing up and it made me so incredibly happy! 13 out of the 18 species of penguins are currently endangered or vulnerable to endangerment. The little blues are not of those 13 species, but things can change very quickly, and it’s hard to keep tabs on how many of them there are. They may be vulnerable to endangerment and we may not even know it. Penguins are very dear to my heart and I am extremely passionate about them, so seeing them in the wild was a dream come true.
On Monday, I spent the day at the Melbourne Zoo. My boss at the aquarium worked with the head of Communications at the zoo so I was able to get some behind the scenes action. I spent the day with the zookeepers of the Wild Sea Team. They take care of 24 little blue penguins, 2 pelicans, and currently 2 seals. They only take female seals that are too injured to go back into the wild, or that have been in rehabilitation too long to be able to adjust to life in the wild again. Another requirement is that their seals are ones that have been injured due to human causes. It really helps with education and sends a message about how detrimental humans have been to such amazing animals. They only take females because their exhibit is not large enough to be comfortable for the large males to live in.
My day at the zoo made me miss the penguins at the NEAq so much! As I am nearing the end of my study abroad, I am very sad to leave Australia. However, I am so lucky to have so many things to look forward to come back home to. My family, friends, coworkers, and school are all things that I am fortunate to have in my life and that will make coming home from this wonderful country a lot more bearable. Being this far away from home has been a challenge, as has being away from my friends at school that I have gotten so close to in the past few years. I am even looking forward to moving back into my apartment.
But enough of that, I will write a reflection about my experience when I get home. I have two finals coming up and I have a lot of studying to do for them. Anyways, Melbourne was amazing, and I’m thrilled that I got to do so much while I was there. Time to get studying, goodbye for now!