Friday, June 19, 2015

It's time to say goodbye...

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To my lovely readers,
The time has come to say goodbye to this blog and move on to a new one. It has been a pleasure these past two years writing here. I look back on my posts with fondness and appreciate everyone following my adventures. Much good has come of this blog; it has connected me to friends new and old and enabled me to chronicle my life in America. It also has enabled me to assist other Australian students looking to study in America.

Thanks, however, to my love of travel and the incredible opportunities afforded to me by the Robertson program my world of adventure is about to become much broader. I feel that this blog served its purpose but can’t accurately reflect the next two years of my life or beyond.

I hope that those of you who started with me will continue but I hope I reach some new people along the way. This new blog:  is going to chronicle all my travel adventures (including my upcoming semester in Madrid), provide tips for fellow travels and hopefully encourage myself and others to keep on exploring.

To the days of sore feet, glorious sights, overweight luggage and new friends,

May we never become strangers.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Duke vs. UNC.... Who does it better?

“So, which do you like better?”

I couldn’t answer this question fairly or easily, regardless of how many times it was posed to me this semester. Being a Duke student and “switching” to the rival school, UNC, for the semester is almost sacrilegious. Everyone wanted to know who ultimately came out on top.

The question is inherent problematic.  Prior to this semester I spent 1.5 years at Duke, making friends, taking classes, immersing myself on campus, joining a sorority and putting down roots in the gothic wonderland. UNC was going to be at a disadvantage from the beginning because Duke has defined my college life.

When I first got the offer to move to North Carolina I had a choice between the two schools and originally picked UNC. I changed my mind and picked Duke. I’ll be honest; I was very scared I would leave this semester wishing I had gone to UNC.

I don’t wish that. Duke was the right choice for me. However, though my blood bleeds Duke blue there are so many reasons why I love UNC. I feel so privileged to have been a part of this campus for a semester and look forward to returning for some classes after my year abroad in Madrid and Chile.

That being said, both schools excel in different areas. The following is my highly scientific evaluation of which school trumps the other in a variety of (crucial) categories.


This one is tough for me to say. Duke has a reputation for being a high-stress environment while UNC is known for its relaxed happy atmosphere. I didn’t want to admit that it was true. That’s my school you’re talking about! The rumors, however, are true. UNC has a much better work-life balance and more carefree environment. Duke student’s ambition and excessive focus on school can lend itself to a more intense and stressful environment. That doesn’t mean I’m not happy or I don’t have fun at Duke, I definitely do! However, I learnt a lot from my time at UNC and noticed I am able to go back to Duke and not get as sapped into its perfectionistic/competitive culture but rather watch a little from the outside. For that I am truly grateful.

The Winner: UNC


Given that I lived in an apartment at Duke 1st semester sophomore year I am pitting my freshman year dorm (GA) against my dorm at UNC (Kenan). I’ve gotten really lucky with my housing at both schools. GA and Kenan had large, bright, modern rooms decent proximity to everything and almost enough closet space to deal with my clothing.
However, GA had beautiful, modern kitchens and the best common room space I’ve ever seen (it also had just undergone renovations when I moved in). GA was a friendly, social space (probably because it was a freshman dorm). Kenan by contrast seemed to be filled with the misfits (kidding) 3 one semester Robertsons, transfer students and others who couldn’t get housing off-campus. It was a little quiet but I had a blast with my friends Charlotte (the excellent roommate) and Sofia (just across the hall).

The Winner: Duke

This one is a little tricky because I’m basing my evaluation on my four classes this semester and one the previous semester. Duke students love to ask me about the “rigor” of UNC classes fully expecting me to say they are so much easier. That is not (usually) the case. I’ve now taken three classes in the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication and let me tell you they are definitely not easy. They have pushed me, inspired me and frustrated me more than any class at Duke. That being said my language and anthropology courses were enjoyable but less intense and exciting than those I had taken at Duke.

The Winner: Duke, I love the small classroom sizes that Duke offers, I like being constantly pushed and I love that the students in my classes are more willing to discuss and debate than I had found at Carolina.


UNC, UNC and oh UNC. I’m not counting the dining halls in this equation at either school (mainly because I didn’t use one at UNC). The food choices on campus and on Franklin Street are far more varied and delicious than those at Duke. Also more affordable, I am pretty sure the prices of everything on campus and surrounding are ridiculously inflated.
Med Deli’s falafels and veggies, TRU’s wraps and salads, the bottom of Lenoir’s choices, Carolina Coffee Shop’s omelets and of course the best frozen yoghurt ever at YoPo…Carolina was a wealth of great food.

The Winner: UNC


UNC’s Internet was the bane of my existence (yes I’m melodramatic, blame my mother for the early acting classes). It kept dropping out, occasionally only worked in my doorway or just simply “expired”. Duke’s Internet is always speedy and only drops out when you’re wandering in odd patches on campus. I take my Wi-Fi very, very seriously. I mean how am I meant to check Insta if it keeps cutting out?

The Winner: Duke


I’ve been so lucky to have great professors at both schools. My experience with my professors is only enhanced by the fact that I’ve rarely had a class of more than 12 students. I’ve been taught by previous high-profile reports, male lawyer-turned-anthropologist who wore a Hawaiian skirt to class, quirky late twenty something who drink out of mason jars, crazy Cuban Spanish teachers and really only one droner. Both schools have provided me with access to inspiring, intelligent individuals who can’t only do, they truly can teach which makes learning so invigorating and enjoyable.

The Winner: A tie!


I’ll be superficial. I like pretty things, especially pretty places. Going to a school that didn’t look like a dungeon has always been important to me. My primary school had a nature trail, my high school a beautiful garden and both my colleges are gorgeous and featured in “America’s most Beautiful Campuses”. They have a different look. UNC has sprawling laws, spread out buildings, and canopies of lush trees. Duke has spectacular gothic architecture, gardens that take your breath away and streets lined with trees.

I’ll admit I love and find my gothic wonderland at Duke more breathtaking than UNC’s campus (but maybe I’m a little biased). Sorry UNC you’re also beautiful but…

The Winner: Duke!


Though both schools have great statues aka Duke’s Camel they are both known for a distinctive piece of architecture. UNC’s Old Well dates to, and it said to have mythological properties, if you drink from it before your first classes your semester will be lucky. Duke’s chapel (really more of a cathedral if you ask me) is arguably the focal point of campus and features stunning views from the top.

I love the history and unpretentious nature of the well but really I can’t go past my stunning chapel. I have incredibly fond memories of first arriving in Durham and seeing the Chapel from miles away and knowing where home was.

The Winner: Duke


Do I even need to say it? Duke’s campus is currently death trap of construction. Getting to class or the library has become an adventure reminiscent of Alice in wonderland and I once sunk up to my ankles in a poorly covered rain sinkhole thing. Given that I both dislocated my knee and fractured my foot this semester and had to hobble around I can confidently say that despite a few missing bricks UNC is much more accessible!

The Winner: UNC

Student Town

Duke is infamous for being in a bubble, meaning that its students only really experience their lives on campus and don’t really venture into the city of Durham. We all joke about the Duke bubble and acknowledge its presence but it’s a little sad. My friends and I leave the bubble often enough to explore Durham and have fun beyond Duke and I would urge others to do the same. UNC’s town, Franklin Street in particular is fun, vibrant filled with bars, restaurants and clubs, which don’t only cater to UNC students. My Duke senior friends know it and frequent the area on Saturday nights. It’s fun, exciting and I can’t wait to go back!

The Winner: UNC

People aka Students

This one is too hard to say, especially when you have an established group at Duke and come into UNC second semester sophomore year when people aren’t really looking for friends.  The people I have met at Duke are some of the most ambitious, inspiring, supportive and stimulating that I have ever met. I have been so privileged to solidify strong friendships that make me feel happy and loved. That said the people I met at Carolina were loving, supportive, kind and embracing of me. I think both campuses should be proud to have such great students.

The Winner: A tie

The verdict?
Both campuses are fabulous and I will always have a little bit of a Carolina blue imprinted in my heart but at the end of the day I’m a Blue Devil through and through.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Losing my Cameron Virginity

I finally lost my Cameron virginity

Ok, I have a confession, no wait two confessions.
1)   Until the National Championship game last Monday night, I had never been inside Cameron Indoor Stadium…and I’m a sophomore.

PSA: For those who don’t know (aka non Blue Devils) Cameron is Duke’s stadium used primarily for basketball and also volleyball games. It’s a typical bleacher style affair and looks pretty much like any other except for the National Championship and former star players’ banners hanging from the ceiling. 

      2)  I also didn’t know you could have or lose your “Cameron virginity” but apparently it’s a thing and I definitely lost it. Though my friend Christina called me “the world’s worst Duke fan” for having not been before, I would like to defend my previous lack of experience with Cameron. I’ve never been into sport, none of my close friends were down to line up for hours or even sleep in snow-covered tents for a game and I never really bought into the hype.

Until last Monday.

After realizing that watching the game in my common room was a terrible idea I decided to go watch it on T.V in Cameron with friends from my sorority. You may remember, however, that I live at UNC this semester, Duke’s rival school. So it was glad in full Duke gear, devil hat and all, that I left my dorm at UNC to watch the game. I was spotted. I was booed. Let’s move on.

Arriving at Cameron where my best friend Shelby had saved me a spot in line, I got instantly pumped. I was surrounded by a wave of blue clad students, dancing and chanting whilst many of them swigged the usual cheap alcohol. We didn’t have to wait long before we were let into Cameron. The team coordinating entry was trying very hard to maintain control but quite honestly a few Cameron Crazies were ready to charge.

We got our spots on the lower level, showed off our best Blue Devil spirit for the cameras and prepped ourselves for what was going to be A Very Important Game. Duke had not won a National Championship since 2010 and everyone was dying for us to steal this year’s.

The game began and quite honestly I got sucked into what is very clearly a cult. A super exciting, energizing, consuming cult. I shouted “De-fense”, held my arms out in front of me for good luck on free throws, booed the ref and screamed and clapped with the rest of the stadium. And you know what? It was so much fun!!

At some point I said to Shelby, “I would rather we lose and have an exciting, close game than it be a steal.” At halftime with a score of 31-31 I was beginning to deeply regret those words. I mean what? I would rather an interesting game than have us win by a mile??? Don’t worry I’ve learned my lesson.

As the game continued Wisconsin started pulling ahead to a 9-point lead and I was getting very, very nervous. I looked at the packed stadium around me and imagined all these defeated, blue-painted people sadly filing out of the stadium…not a spirited picture.

Then Duke really kicked into gear. Freshman, Grayson Allen who was in my 12-person class last semester (I'm cool by association) seemed to score over and over again. As the time ran quickly out we were pulling ahead and a win was so tangible it was terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. The score had danced back and forth so much that it was only then, in the final 3 minutes that I think the stadium truly collectively thought “I Believe That We Will Win”.

You could sense it all around you. People were screaming, jumping up and down, looking at each other and saying “oh my God”, “Oh my God”. With those three minutes left people started preemptively storming the bleachers gathering just below the T.V on the court. I think everyone’s heart was beating as fast as mine. Things can change in seconds in basketball and that’s what we were down to. No way could we let a win, so close we could taste it, slip through our fingers. 

With Duke in the lead, the entire stadium shouted out the countdown to the buzzer… “3-2-1”. Then everyone completely lost it. We all stormed onto the court, hugged strangers, sent snaps, jumped up and down and snatched at the News and Observer’s front pages floating down with our victory spelt out.

That’s the thing, it really felt like our victory. No matter that I’ve barely touched a basketball in my life, no matter that everyone in Cameron was miles from the live event and no matter that we didn’t spend years training for this game. As we burnt benches in traditional-celebration style with helicopters overhead and reporter’s on the ground, as we made the Shooter’s club owners obscenely wealthy in our celebration, as we abandoned homework and sleep – we felt like collective champions.

Duke has many issues that can divide and challenge us, one of which I shall discuss in another post. This game cannot and should not negate that.

However, that evening connected us as a community of Blue Devils. Yes it is somewhat superficial, yes it is just a game and yes there are more important things in the world… but bleeding Duke blue and bearing witness to a great moment in Duke’s basketball history thrilled me, connected me to a campus I’m not even living on this semester and gave me hope that if we can unite with such fervor over an orange ball and a number on a screen… maybe we can mobilize that sense of community for greater things.


I have two confessions:

   1)   I risked my life going to class at UNC the next day wearing Duke gear #sorrynotsorry  I missed the first bus time to change

2)  I’m no longer a Cameron virgin… but most definitely a Cameron Crazie

As always,

“Work hard, Play Hard”  

Monday, January 19, 2015

Bid Day - One Year On

Though it may appear that I abandoned the blog forever, sorority recruitment (rush) has brought me back. 

After 3 weeks in my amazing home in Sydney I came back to America. I wasn’t even coming “home” here, I was starting at a new university, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (or UNC). I will be at UNC for the semester as part of the Robertson Scholars sophomore “switch” (which I will discuss soon!)

I didn’t really get a chance to settle in before sorority rush started. This time, however, I wasn’t trying to show different sororities why they should want me but rather show PNM’s (potential new members) why they should want to be in Zeta Tau Alpha.

Rush is no less weird from the other side. You meet innumerable amounts of girls and try to have interesting conversations with them in about 7 minutes. You evaluate them and they evaluate your sorority based on the 4 maybe 5 girls they met that round. All members in the sorority will wear identical outfits each round eg: blue jeans, neutral wedges and black shirts. My hair was straightened, makeup carefully applied and nails painted. We chant… as in peppy American movie “Go Zeta!” style chanting. We complain of sore feet, lost voices and tiredness, much as we did last year.

The difference was this year I had 100+ girls with me on my side that I love. We danced in between rounds, shared lipsticks, took innumerable selfies and laughed at each other and the whole process.

I fell in love with my Zeta sisters all over again. They are fun, vivacious, hilarious, caring and crazy girls that in so many ways define my life here in America. As our (now former president) said in her speech one round, these girls make you feel like a strong, independent and powerful person.

It’s funny because Bid Day last year I wouldn’t have thought I’d feel that way at all. I wrote about Bid Day at the time but I was very cautious. I didn’t want to offend my new sorority nor seem bitchy or ungrateful. The truth is when Bid Day came Zeta was not my first choice, in fact it was my last of three.

I cried on Bid Day.

At the time I felt a bit ridiculous. I went into sorority rush for fun, promising myself I wouldn’t make it a huge deal like a lot of ‘Americans’ do. Now I was staring at a bid and was crushed. It wasn’t that I disliked the girls in Zeta, not at all, I just had liked one other better and had gotten caught up in the social standing of another.

I was late to my own Bid Day because I didn’t want those nice Zeta girls to be insulted by a look of disappointment on my face. When I arrived however, my Bid Day Buddy was waiting for me, all alone outside. Katlyn, the girl that I loved from the first time I met her, the girl who would become my Big, inspiration and role model, ran into my arms and shrieked with happiness. I instantly felt loved, and accepted as every girl, both a new member and a current member, made me feel so welcome.

Though I had fun those first few days, I didn’t forget my disappointment completely for a few weeks. It was funny, but falling in love with Zeta crept up on me and then hit me all at once. Now, I cannot imagine myself anywhere else.

In Zeta I find myself constantly accepted, encouraged and welcomed. These are the girls with whom I have wiped away tears, laughed until my sides hurt, danced at Shooters, shared clothes, secrets and aspirations. These are the girls that make me forget that a sorority seemed like a remote American-movie concept and that I am so far from home. Our symbol, the crown, isn’t inconsequential but rather a reminder that each girl here is the queen of her own life.

I have had to find ‘home’ in different places since leaving Sydney, but in Zeta I think home found me.