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Newcastle Knights Rugby Match!

The McDonald Jones Stadium

On May 27, I attended a really interesting cultural activity, an authentic Australian Rugby match! For those unfamiliar with this sport, Rugby is a complete contact sport (meaning no pads or helmets worn!) in which two teams of thirteen players attempt to outscore each other within 80 minutes (in two 40-minute rounds). Points are scored when a player carries the ball and touches it on the ground space beyond the opposing team’s goal line. Additionally, points can be scored by kicking field goals over the opposing team’s goal post. Some interesting aspects about the sport are that the ball must be passed backwards at all times and each team gets five tackles to score, after which they have to kick the ball to the opposing team for their turn to try to score. Each player specializes in a certain position. The game requires a lot of speed, strength, and passing and kicking prowess. That’s Rugby in a nutshell!

Me and the Knights Mascot

The game I saw was held at the McDonald Jones Stadium at the Newcastle International Sports Center. As the name suggests, this is Newcastle’s premier sports center. The stadium is home to two of Newcastle’s prominent sports teams, the Newcastle Knights (Rugby) and Newcastle Jets FC (Soccer). The Rugby match I saw was between my city’s home team, the Newcastle Knights, and a team from Sydney, the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks. The match was very interesting to say the least. I had never seen a Rugby match before, so this was a unique experience. It was thrilling and exciting to see the players run across the field passing the ball backwards attempting to get the ball past the opposing team’s goal line as the opposition tries to bring them down. As a Novocastrian (the local term for someone from Newcastle), I rooted hard for the Knights. The stadium was quite packed, and it was fun engaging in the enthusiasm of the match. Despite our lively cheers and show of support, the Knights unfortunately lost to the Sharks, 10 to 48. Although the loss was a bit disheartening, I overall had a spectacular time. I was impressed by the performance of all the players. It takes a lot of strength and stamina to play Rugby and seeing the players play for almost 40 minutes straight in two rounds astonished me. If you ever get a chance to see a Rugby match, I would strongly recommend seeing it. I’m not a sports person at all, but I greatly enjoyed what I saw!

In the Stadium, before the Match.
The Stadium Scoreboard
The Match going on!
The Knights huddling together.
Me after the match, feeling good despite the loss!

Aman Kukal is a senior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Economics. Aman is spending the spring semester in Newcastle, Australia with the ISA Newcastle, Australia: Courses with Locals program.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

Port Stephens Excursion

Leaving Port Stephens for Dolphin Watching Boat Trip

Last Saturday on the 21st of April, me and my Newcastle ISA group went on a day trip to Port Stephens, a seaside town that’s a 40-minute drive north from Newcastle. For our first activity, we went on a dolphin watching boat ride. The experience was a very magical one. The landscape of and around Port Stephens that I saw as our boat headed out to the nearby harbor was truly one of paradise. From the boat, I could see various cozy, harbor-side communities and distant mountains and hills (one of which I would later traverse) covered in lush forests. Half-way through our ride, we began to see the fins of dolphins streaking through the clear blue waters. Everyone on our boat broke into cheers as we spotted our first few dolphins. As the ride went on, we began to see dolphins more and more frequently and much closer to our boat. It was quite the sight to see sometimes two to three dolphins swimming and playing together. The experience was a very memorable one since I’d never seen dolphins so close before or views so magnificent from a boat.

Me and some nice views in the background

On our second activity, we climbed the Tomaree Mountain, one of the mountains that I saw during the dolphin watching boat ride. Getting up the mountain was physically exhausting and sometimes treacherous as the stairs going up were very narrow and the walk itself was very steep. However, in the end it was well worth it. I had thought the views from the boat were quite scenic, but the view from the mountain was much more stunning. The summit of the mountain once housed a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) radar station that operated during World War Two. The base of the satellite was still there as well as the septic tank that served the troops that were once stationed there. This experience was a fulfilling one as this was the first time I had ever walked up a mountain and the views were well worth the exercise.

For our last excursion, we went sand-boarding. Yes, sand-boarding in Australia! After the mountain trek, we traveled to some nearby sand dunes which look like something you would see in the Sahara or the Middle East. It was a unique and unusual site to behold as just a few minutes earlier we were trekking up a mountain through green forests and now we were amidst sand dunes. To get to the sand-boarding site we traveled on special trucks that could traverse through the dunes. The ride there was quite bouncy, but definitely an experience in and of itself. Once we got to the site, we immediately picked up our boards and began sledding down the dunes. Sand-boarding is basically sledding down a sand dune, just as you would sled down a snowy hill. It was a very fun experience to sled down the dunes. The wind rushing down my face and occasionally coming off my board, rolling my way down added to the enjoyment. I never thought I would experience something like this in Australia of all places, but alas I did, and it was awesome!

View from Mount Tomaree
Another view from Mount Tomaree
This view from Mount Tomaree was really breathtaking!
The sand dunes of Port Stephens
The truck that took us to the sand-boarding site
Me amidst the dunes!

Aman Kukal is a senior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Economics. Aman is spending the spring semester in Newcastle, Australia with the ISA Newcastle, Australia: Courses with Locals program.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

Thoughts on Class Formats at the Uni

I have officially completed my first full week of classes at Uni (University in Australian lingo)! I would thus like to share my thoughts on how classes are done at the University of Newcastle. Here, classes are separated into different sessions. They are divided into a lecture session, a tutorial session, and in some cases a laboratory session. Some classes have a seminar session which is a combination of a tutorial and a lecture session in one sitting. The lecture session is of course, the session where you hear the lecture. The tutorial session is where you get together with your classmates and discuss the lecture as well as the course readings for the class. I have tutorial sessions for my Australian History, (History, War, and Film), and Professional Writing classes, as well as, a seminar session for my Popular Culture and Society Class. I found the tutorials to be unique as they helped me to better understand what I’ve learnt and also allowed me to gain new insights into my courses from my classmates. I have had within my first week many lively and insightful discussions on war films, parallels between Australian and American History, the state of professional writing in the social media age, and the critical analysis of pop culture as a legitimate academic field. At first, I was anxious about this method of doing classes. But after having my first full week of classes, I realized that this format is nice as it allows time for me to absorb what I’ve learned so that I can have productive class discussions and do better on my assignments afterwards.

One of my course readings; An interesting read so far!

Aman Kukal is a senior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Economics. Aman is spending the spring semester in Newcastle, Australia with the ISA Newcastle, Australia: Courses with Locals program.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

 

Highlights from the Bridging Cultures Program

After my first day in Australia, I checked out of my hotel and made my way back to Brisbane Airport where I met up with the rest of my ISA group for Newcastle, as well as all the other ISA students studying in Australia. After we all met up, we left the airport and headed together towards Byron Bay, a popular, yet serene beach town where we held our Bridging Cultures Program. Basically, we were there for four days and did all sorts of cool activities to get us adjusted to life in Australia, as well as to appreciate the rich cultural and natural beauty of the land as well.

On the first day of the program, I took a stroll to the beach and was absolutely astonished by the landscape, the crystal blue waters, and the sense of tranquility I felt upon arrival. At the beach, I could see far and wide the rolling hills in the distance, the clear and clean sand stretching far out, and the calm, blue waters that seem to go on forever. Words and pictures don’t do justice, but it was truly a sight to behold, especially from someone who’s from right smack in the middle of the US.

On the second day, an Aboriginal teacher came and spoke to us about the various aspects of indigenous Aboriginal culture. He explained to us his people’s rich oral history of passing down stories generation to generation, making efficient yet responsible use of the environment for survival, and practicing utmost respect for the elders of their society. He showed us a sampling of traditional Aboriginal music through the Yidaki or Didgeridoo and performed a dance honoring his ancestors and telling the story of creation as expressed by his people. The whole experience gave me a greater understanding and appreciation for the indigenous peoples of Australia.

On the third day, our entire ISA group went on a Bush Tucker Walk with an intriguing guide named Cockatoo Paul. What is a Bush Tucker Walk? Well, “Bush” means forest or jungle and “Tucker” means food in Australian lingo. Hence, Bush Tucker Walk is a walk through a forest or jungle whilst finding food along the way. No, I’m not talking about finding a McDonald’s in the middle of the forest or jungle. I’m talking about finding edible berries and plants you can find in the Australian “Bush”, which is exactly what we did. Our guide, Cockatoo Paul, was a seasoned survivalist, basically an Australian Bear Grylls. Oh, and he also has a pet Cockatoo (hence his name) called Mr. Pickles. He showed us various plants and berries we could eat for survival in the Australian bush. Those same plants could also be used to do various things like make fire, use as a disinfectant, and make some beautiful art.

Mr. Pickles

On our last day, we left Byron Bay for Brisbane Airport. Along the way though, we stopped at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. It was here that I had one of the best days of my life. I not only got to see all the unique animals of Australia, but I had the chance to get up close to them as well! During my time there, I got the chance to hold a Koala, feed and pet free-roaming kangaroos, and see many more native animals like the Tasmanian Devil, Tree Kangaroo, and Wallaby. This experience was truly mesmerizing and one I will always cherish.

 

 

 

Sleepy Tree Kangaroo

After our excursion through the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, we all headed back onto the bus and headed straight for Brisbane Airport where we all split up and took our respective flights to our program cities. The Bridging Cultures Program set up by ISA was an eye-opening experience that really gave me a real sense of awe and astonishment of the beauty and wonder of Australia.


Aman Kukal is a senior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Economics. Aman is spending the spring semester in Newcastle, Australia with the ISA Newcastle, Australia: Courses with Locals program.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

G’Day from Down Under!

G’Day Everyone! My name is Aman Kukal. I am a senior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Economics. I am currently spending my last semester of my undergraduate college career in Newcastle, Australia with the ISA Newcastle, Australia: Courses with Locals program. After many days of lugging luggage, orientation, flights, and settling into my new home in Newcastle, Australia at the University of Newcastle, I have finally found time to get down and relay to y’all all the cool things that have transpired since the time my flight touched ground in Sydney. It’s been a dazzling almost two weeks since I reached Australia, so let me start of the tale of my journey by describing my first day down under.

After flying some 20 hours from my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, I finally touched land on February the 13th in Sydney. As I disembarked the plane, a blast of warm air greeted my face and reminded me that here in Australia it’s summertime, whilst in America it’s winter! It was a quite refreshing experience as back home in St. Louis it was literally cold as the Arctic. As I made my way through immigration, I was told I had to grab my checked-in luggage and take it through security again and check the luggage in again for my connecting flight to Brisbane where my ISA orientation pick-up is. After flying for so long, I was crazy tired and was not looking forward to lugging my luggage all over again. I somehow managed to muster enough strength to make the last push and got my bags checked through security and finally checked-in for my next flight and got my boarding passes as well. After that, I had to take a bus to transfer from the International Terminal to the Domestic Terminal. It was on that bus ride that I got a breathtaking view of the skyline of downtown Sydney!

Sydney Skyline

Finally, after reaching the Domestic Terminal, I made my way through to my gate and alas I was on my way to Brisbane.

Brisbane, Here I Come!

As I exited the Brisbane Airport after landing, I made my way outside with my luggage, still wearing my big red puffy jacket I had worn since entering my flight from St. Louis to begin my journey. I felt like I was almost going to pass out as the refreshing warm summer air I first felt upon landing here in Australia turned quite discomforting to me. I had worn my big jacket throughout my trip coming to Australia since I did not have any room in my suitcase or backpack to keep it (they were both stuffed as I had to pack a semester worth of stuff). Thus, I had no choice but to keep wearing it. Wearing that big jacket while carrying a backpack and dragging a stuffed suitcase through the middle of summer made me very hot and uncomfortable. Despite the discomfort, I hailed an Uber and made my way to my hotel where I would stay for the night. After making it to my hotel and settling in, I checked my emails and noticed on the email receipt from Uber that there was no option for tipping. After pondering why, I remembered ISA in their online orientation telling us that in Australia tipping is not common and is not expected because wages here are much higher than in America and the UK.  Upon the satisfaction of answering my burning question regarding tips, I crashed in bed for a few hours.

Upon waking up from my short slumber, I decided to check out the area of my hotel. I was hungry and needed to exchange my dollars, so I asked the hotel front desk where I could do both and to my joy there was a mall nearby called “Toombul” that had places to do both. The Uber driver that took me to Toombul, David, to my shock, was from Newcastle. We had an enjoyable conversation about Newcastle’s great beaches and laid-back atmosphere. After our conversation, I was even more excited about the time I would spend in Newcastle. The mall was quite an interesting place.  As I entered the mall, I found out to my surprise that they have Target and K-Mart here in Australia too. At the mall, I got my US Dollars exchanged for Australian Dollars (lucky for us Americans, the US dollar is stronger!) and I chowed down at a familiar eatery: McDonald’s (known here as “Maccas”).

Toombul Mall
Good Ol’ Maccas!

After checking out the local Target and K-Mart and strolling the mall, I headed back to my hotel and after taking a nice, hot shower laid down in bed and drifted to sleep awaiting the adventures that I would soon behold.


Aman Kukal is a senior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Economics. Aman is spending the spring semester in Newcastle, Australia with the ISA Newcastle, Australia: Courses with Locals program.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.