TEAN Photo Contest 2011

3 Mar

I bet you guys thought you would never hear from me again, didn’t you?!  Well, this is long overdue (like… several months overdue) but a friend suggested that I should post an update about how I won $100 with two of my Australia photos since this is where I first posted them.

I submitted a bunch of my photos to an alumni photo contest through my study abroad program, The Education Abroad Network.  There were several different categories and each category winner got $50.  Two of my photos were category winners, so I got a check for $100 in the mail.  It was a very, very nice surprise for a broke college student.  Here are the two photos that won:


TEAN Category Winning Photo: “Check Us Out”

I took this on day 6 of my spring break road trip with my Australian friend Jenni.  We took a day trip out of Cairns to the Great Barrier Reef, where we spent hours snorkeling (we were the first people in the water and the last people out!) and then drank Coronas as we sailed back into port.  It’s one of many great memories I have from that trip, and this photo really sums it up.  TEAN liked it so much that they framed it and put it on the wall of their new Chicago office… nbd. 

TEAN Category Winning Photo: “Putting the STUDY in Study Abroad”

This one is from my EV3406 field trip to Orpheus Island.  The actual title of that class was Coral Reef Geomorphology, which is the study of reefs as landforms: how they form, the processes that shape them, etc.  We did a lot of surveying, or mapping elevation changes across various reef flats.  That’s what is happening here.  While my classmates were surveying, I waded out to the reef crest and turned back to get this shot.  I really like how you can actually see the coral in the foreground.  I’m proud of this shot and I’m glad that it won.

So that’s that!  This was first time that any of my photos have won anything, so it was pretty exciting.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how much I love photography and how I’d like it to be more than just a hobby on the side.  I decided that I’m going to find out how I can convince someone to pay for me to go around and take photos of awesome places.  It might take a while, but I’m pretty confident that I can do it.  I’ll be sure to let you all know when that pans out.

In the meantime, I’m graduating this spring!  I’ll be heading out to California this summer, back to Camp Ocean Pines which some of you may remember from my first blog Kat in Cali.  I’ll be the Program Coordinator and Camp Photographer, which means I’ll have tons of opportunities to photograph the beauty that is the central coast.  It also means that I will be several thousand miles away from my friends and family, without much time to keep in touch with people- working at a summer camp is pretty much a 24/7 job.  Conveniently, I’ve started to really miss blogging lately.  You’ve probably figured out where this is going… I will be reviving my blog this summer!  Actually, I’ll probably keep it going past the summer, since I don’t yet know where I’ll go next but it will probably be far from home.  I’m not sure if I’ll resume posting on Kat in Cali or if I’ll make a new blog.  It recently occurred to me that I can’t just make a new “Kat in ____” blog every time I go somewhere new (I mean, I guess I could…..) so I probably need to make a more permanent one.  Either way, I’ll post a link here when I start up again.

And now I’m off to enjoy spring break.  Tomorrow I leave to drive down to Miami, where I board a cruise ship and head to the Bahamas!  HAPPY SPRING BREAK EVERYONE!!!



10 Aug

This is it, the last post.  It’s been exactly one month since I arrived home and I’m finally ready to end this blog.  I’m not entirely sure why it’s taken me this long but I think maybe I wasn’t quite ready to admit that it was all over until now.  I got an email today about a photo contest for my study abroad program and was thinking about what I could submit when I realized that I haven’t looked at any of my photos from Australia since I got back.  I haven’t even thought about Australia all that much until today, which is very strange.  Even when I’ve talked about it I haven’t really thought too hard about the experience and what it meant to me.  I’ve gotten used to people asking “So how was Australia?” and responding “Oh, it was great.  By the end I was ready to come home but it was an incredible experience.”  Same answer, every time.  Not a lot of substance but I figure it’s what most people want to hear.

I’ve been thinking lately about how so many people warned me and my fellow studiers-abroad that when we returned home we would have to deal with reverse culture shock.  They said that it would be hard at first to jump back into our everyday lives, that we had to remember that while we may have had a life-changing experience abroad, our friends and family hadn’t.  For the most part, everyone and everything would be the same but we would be different and that could be hard to get used to.  I didn’t really feel that way at first.  I felt totally comfortable and happy to be home.  It was like I’d been gone for a couple weeks… I just fell right back into my old routines and I liked that.  But I think that gradually I’ve started to notice the effects that Australia has had on me.  I don’t like being inside for long periods of time.  I keep forgetting to wear shoes out of the house.  I’m more friendly with complete strangers.  I can’t get in to heavy drinking anymore.  I feel weird eating dinner without drinking wine.  I find myself craving “tasty cheese”.  These are all just little things, but taken altogether they mean that Australia changed me.  I don’t want to get too Lifetime movie here, but I do think it’s important to say that I don’t think I’m the same person I was six months ago.

This was me in Sydney six months and two days ago, the day after I arrived in Australia.  A lot has happened over the past six months; if you’ve been keeping up with this blog that whole time (and if you have, I love you) you can probably attest to that.  I’ve seen the oldest rainforest in the world, spooned a kangaroo, gotten SCUBA certified, been to the outback, seen the sunrise over the Coral Sea, swam with sharks, seen saltwater crocs in the wild, learned to cook, been to Thailand and New Zealand, climbed an ancient volcano, dived the Great Barrier Reef, and made a few amazing new friends.  It really has been an incredible experience.  If anyone reading this is thinking of studying abroad, I urge you to go for it.  Go somewhere new and meet people who are completely different than you are.  If you’re lucky like me, you might end up meeting a bunch of people who are much more similar to you than the ones you know back home.  Either way, I think it’s a great thing to do and everyone, if given the opportunity, should do it.  So do it!

Of course, I can’t end this blog without thanking you all for reading it.  It’s been a lot of fun to write and I’ve loved having people tell me that they read it.  Who knows, maybe someday I’ll get some sweet job that lets me travel around and blog about it and I can reference this blog as the beginning of my career and you will have been there to see it!  Anyway, thanks to everyone who has followed along with my adventures, especially to those who read the whole thing and especially ESPECIALLY to those who have been reading my blogs since my first summer in Cali (so Mom, Dad, Mimi, and possibly my grandparents…. you all are the greatest.)  That’s all I’ve got for you guys, so thanks again, have a great rest of the summer, and here’s a photo taken in Sydney the day before I left Australia to bring it full circle.

New Zealand: Greymouth to Christchurch by train

9 Aug

From Franz Josef we headed north along the coast.  We drove past a lot of farms and my mom insisted on pulling over on several occasions to take photos of sheep.  Eventually we reached the ocean again, which made for yet another cool but gloomy photo op.  Here are some pics from the drive up.

Our shitty front-bumperless rental car.  It really is a miracle it got us the whole way:

Our reason for driving to Greymouth was to board the TranzAlpine scenic train to Christchurch.  As its name suggests, the train runs through the mountains and provides some spectacular views.  It was a pretty cool way to finish up our trip.  We talked to some nice Aussies on the train, had scones with jam and cream for the last time, and got to see some more snow at a place called Arthur’s Pass high up in the mountains.  The train stopped so we could play in the snow, but the novelty had definitely worn off for me by that point, so I snapped a few photos and returned to the warmth of the train.  I didn’t get many photos over the course of the journey because it’s difficult on a moving train, but here are a few.

We got in to Christchurch that night, then flew out early the next morning to finally head home.  So that’s all for New Zealand!  It was a good trip and I got to see the highlights of the south island.  I would, however, love to go back during the NZ summer and preferably stay for a couple of weeks.  It really is a beautiful place and I hope to one day (soon?!) have the opportunity to explore it again… in the sunshine.  Until that day comes, this is all I’ve got for you guys.

Only one more post until I retire this blog!  Check back within the next few days for that!

New Zealand: Franz Josef Glacier

7 Aug

Franz Josef was easily my favorite part of the trip. I have always wanted to see (preferably touch!) a glacier, both because I happen to think that they are awesome and because I believe that within my lifetime there won’t be many left.

The drive from Queenstown to the town of Franz Josef was… interesting, to say the least. We asked the receptionist at our motel if we would need tire chains and she said that there were two ways to get there: one that would definitely require chains, and one that would not. We opted for the no-chains route and set off.  Everything was fine for the first hour or so, and then it started raining right as we entered the mountains.  In about five minutes the rain had turned to snow and we came very, very close to getting stuck in our crappy two wheel drive sedan.  It was about that time that we started wishing we had brought some chains along after all.  In the end we only spun out once and it all ended up alright, thanks to some impressive driving by my mother while I had a minor panic attack in the passenger seat.  Soon we had reached the west coast where I was thrilled to see the ocean for the first time on this trip, and just after it got dark we arrived in the tiny town of Franz Josef.  Here are some shots I took along the way.

We came to Franz Josef for a half-day glacier hike with Franz Josef Glacier Guides.  They outfitted us with everything we would need- waterproof jacket, waterproof pants, boots, wool hat, wool socks, wool gloves, and crampons- which was nice because otherwise we probably would have died up there.  I know I keep saying things like this, but the weather was ATROCIOUS on the day we did our hike.  It was windy and raining cold, unrelenting rain that occasionally turned to hail.  It was so bad that they cut back all of the full day trips to half day trips and some people decided that even that was too much.  We had a few people drop out of our group before we left.  Their loss, really, because the glacier was truly awesome.  We had to walk about a mile or two to reach the base of it, then we spent a good three hours hiking around on the glacier itself.  I would have loved to bring my nice camera but the weather definitely prevented that, so here are the photos I managed to get with my waterproof, shockproof, freezeproof point-and-shoot (which can be found here in case anyone is interested.)


Inside of a glacial cave:


Also, just in case you don’t believe me about the weather, here’s a short video I shot on the hike back to the bus from the glacier.  (Warning: it’s kinda loud.)

So that was Franz Josef.  So worth it, even if by the end we were wet and miserable and had multiple blisters.  One great thing about the tour we did is that it includes free entry to the glacial hot pools in the town of Franz Josef- the perfect way to recover from a glacier hike.  We hit the hot pools, ate an early dinner, drank some wine, and passed out.  The next day we headed north to Greymouth for the last leg of our journey, which I’ll talk about in one last NZ post, because I feel like this one is long enough as it is.  Check back soon for that!

New Zealand: Milford Sound

4 Aug

My mom and I used part of our time in Queenstown to take a day trip to Milford Sound.  The tour we chose to do included a 4 hour coach ride to and from Milford Sound, plus a two hour cruise.  It was a long day- we had to be on the bus at 7am and didn’t get back until well after 7pm- but it was worth it.  Milford Sound is a fjord, meaning that it was carved out by a glacier and is now filled with water.  It is known for its dramatic cliffs that rise up out of the water, making it a pretty breathtaking place.  Unfortunately for us, the day we went there it was cloudy and raining (like it was our entire trip) so we didn’t exactly get the full experience.  It wasn’t all bad though; it turns out that rain creates hundreds of temporary waterfalls along the cliffs, which was pretty cool.  Here are some photos, starting with the first one we took on our cruise… which is probably my favorite pic from the entire trip.


The drive between Queenstown and Milford Sound took us through some high-altitude mountain passes, and it happened that by the time we drove back the rain had turned to snow up in the mountains.  The driver pulled over so that we could all play in the snow and my mom and I got the sense that a lot of people on our bus had never seen snow before (which is not that strange in Australia/NZ.)  It was kind of adorable to see them all running around and throwing snowballs at each other.  It was also cool to stand in the snow and think that one week before that moment I was in the humid, tropical heat of Thailand and one week later I would be back home in equally humid, even hotter Virginia.

That’s all I’ve got on Milford Sound.  Check back in a few days for a post about Franz Josef glacier, then it’ll be time to retire this blog for good.  I hope everyone is having a great summer!

New Zealand: Christchurch to Queenstown

26 Jul

I know it’s been a while and I apologize.  I’m slowly working my way through all of my New Zealand photos.  It turns out it’s a lot harder to stay on top of a travel blog when you’re no longer traveling, but I promise that starting now I’ll get through these last few updates in a timely fashion.

From Thailand I flew to Sydney to meet my mom.  We stayed the night in Sydney which was kind of cool, because it was a chance to say goodbye to Australia.  We flew out very early in the morning bound for New Zealand.  We actually spent our first (and last) night in Christchurch but I have no photos and not much to say about it because a. I never saw it in the daylight and b. the city is still pretty messed up from the earthquakes, so there really wasn’t much to see where we were staying besides rubble and condemned houses.  We rented a car in Christchurch, woke up early the next morning, and headed for Queenstown, the “adventure capital of the world.”  The drive was about eight hours and took us through forests, mountains, and a whole lot of sheep farms.  I (of course) took photos along the way.

One thing we didn’t see much of was people.  There are only about one million people living on the entire South Island- that’s the population of the county I live in.  Pretty crazy.

Anyway, Queenstown was a charming place but it literally rained the entire time we were there.  (Unfortunately, this turned out to be true of pretty much our entire NZ trip.)  Still, it was rather lovely.  The town is built around a huge lake and surrounded by mountains that seem to just come out of nowhere.  We couldn’t see them for most of the time, but on the few occasions that the clouds receded, it was really a beautiful view.  It actually felt a lot like a ski resort, which was weird because there wasn’t any snow… there rarely is in Queenstown.  To ski you have to take a bus up into the mountains, but they don’t really have resorts up there like we have here so a lot of people will base themselves in town and take a shuttle to the slopes every day.  As a result there were people everywhere carrying skis and snowboards through the rain.  Most of them were around my age- it seemed like it would be a really fun place to visit with friends.

We basically spent two days in Queestown.  On one of those days we took a trip out to Milford Sound.  (I’ll talk about that in my next post.)  We spent the other day following the walking tour suggested by our copy of Lonely Planet’s guide to the South Island.  It ended up being pretty fun and a great way to see the highlights of the town.  We visited an underwater observatory, a bird sanctuary and some beautiful gardens.  We got fish and chips by the water for lunch and finished the day off with some wine tasting at this place in town called the Central Otago Wine Experience.  (I REALLY wanted to go actual wine tasting at a winery but we didn’t have time. :()  Here are some assorted photos from Queenstown.

That’s all I’ve got for Queenstown.  In a few days I’ll do a post about Milford Sound, so check back for that.  I hope everyone’s having a great summer!

Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

15 Jul

This post is technically about Koh Phi Phi Don, which is just one of the Phi Phi islands (pronounced “pee pee”, which I still think is funny) but since it’s the largest island and the only one with permanent inhabitants, it’s usually just referred to as Koh Phi Phi.

Though Koh Phi Phi is only about a 50 minute ferry right from Koh Lanta, the two islands could not be more different.  For one thing, Phi Phi is very small- so small that there are no roads, cars, or motorbikes, only dirt paths that weave between the shops and stalls and are constantly crowded with tourists.  You know how before I said that Lanta is heavily dependent on tourism?  Well, Phi Phi is like a physical embodiment of the tourism industry.  Every menu and store name was in English and everywhere we went we were surrounded by Westerners.  For every traditional Thai restaurant there were three others serving Western food- burgers, sandwiches, spaghetti, even Mexican.  It was so weird.

As strange as it was suddenly being surrounded by people who spoke my language, it was kind of fun.  It was pretty clear that everyone was there to have a good time and it really is the perfect place to do so.  Koh Phi Phi is absolutely beautiful- probably a bit more so than Koh Lanta, though I still very much prefer the latter.  Here are some photos.

(Yeah, we got Mexican food.  It was about as good as you could expect Mexican food to be in Thailand.)

One day and one night on Koh Phi Phi turned out to be the perfect amount of time, partly because the crowds got a little irritating but mostly because the next day I was too hungover to move.  It turns out that Phi Phi is quite the party island, which makes sense given the fact that pretty much everyone there is young and on vacation.  Sophie and I decided that we deserved one night of quality partying after working so hard on our dive courses and going to bed at like 9pm every night of our trip so far (I’m not kidding), so party we did.  We drank out of buckets, attended a fire twirling show, and watched some  live Muay Thai boxing in a bar that I think was called Reggae Bar yet had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with reggae.  Here are the few photos I took that night.

We departed Koh Phi Phi feeling like crap, but the kind of crap that isn’t SO bad because you know it’s only because you had a really fun night.  All in all it was a good end to the trip.  I flew out the next day to meet up with my mom and continue on to New Zealand.

So that’s all for my Thailand posts.  I had an incredible time on this trip.  I really went into it with no expectations at all (to be completely honest, the only thing I knew about Thailand was that was somewhere in Southeast Asia and produced great food) which is part of what I think made it so great.  Furthermore, traveling with Sophie was awesome, which is also great because I barely knew her when we decided to go on this trip together.  I’m not sure if I mentioned this before, but this whole thing started when I saw her at a party and we ended up making drunken plans to go to Thailand together.  Somehow, I’m still not sure how, I got my parents to go for it and the whole thing ended up actually happening- clearly one of those very rare times that drunken plans actually lead to something awesome.  Anyway, Sophie is one of those people who are unfailingly upbeat.  She’s in a good mood 99.9% of the time, not in an annoying way but in a way that is both genuine and infectious.  She made an excellent travel companion and we got along very well.  Basically, everything just worked out perfectly.  Like I said, it was great.  Definitely a trip that I’ll remember forever.

Only a few more posts before I retire this blog!  Check back in a few days if you want to hear about New Zealand and/or see some pics.