I am leaving for Australia (round 2) in just over 40 days. That's not very long. But, I've been planning this for over a year. Basically as soon as I got home the first time, in December 2004, I knew I needed to go back. I have also known since about my freshman year of college that I want to get a PhD. So, I figured, why not combine the two aspirations? Go to graduate school in Australia! Sounds like a plan to me...
So as soon as I got home, I started looking into graduate programs. It's not easy, though, to get a feel for a program over the internet. Maybe it's just me, but colleges and universities have the most confusing websites ever. They can't be straight-forward, because they'd look simple rather than hi-tech. I'll take simple any day. Anyways, after much deliberation, on top of advice from a professor who spent her sabbatical in Australia, and a current Australian PhD candidate, I have (recently) decided that it's probably a better idea to work on an honors project over there before I dive right into a grad program. Hopefully, this will work to my advantage, for a number of reasons. I can get into a program more quickly than if I were trying for a PhD--which means that I can defer my current student loans for longer. I can get to know some faculty and have a better chance of getting one of the very few international research scholarships. That way, the costs of my entire PhD program would be covered, including health insurance while I'm there. I think there were other reasons, but I don't remember them right now. But, either way, I'm going to go over in May, to Townsville (where I was before, and where Andy is), and try to weasel my way into an honors project. It hopefully won't be too hard, I'm kind of impressive on paper (not to toot my own horn, I just learned how to work the system really well!). Then I'll figure out where to go from there.
Aside from academia, I have a lot of plans and goals for my time in Australia. I really want to take a few weeks/months and drive around the country. I didn't get to travel much while I was there the first time, and I want to remedy that this time around. Driving around would mean seeing so many things that I might otherwise miss. Little things like the penguins in the south, and the living colony of stromatolites on the west coast... I know I'm a total dork, but I'm okay with that fact. I also want to go to New Zealand. The Australian visa that I have now (more on visa bullshit later) lets me spend 6 months at a time in the country, with unlimited entries until March 2007. So, if I needed to, I could go for 6 months, leave for a week, and come back for another 6 months (this is all assuming I don't get a student visa for some reason). Sounds like a perfect excuse to go to New Zealand to me!
The other big thing that Andy and I want to do is see the world. I don't know where that's going to fit in with grad school and paying back student loans, but it will definitely happen at some point in the not-so-distant future. The Pacific Islands, Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Europe... I want to see it all! I've been so sheltered in my little upstate NY world that I have a serious case of wanderlust. And I think the only remedy is to get out and travel, so that's what I intend to do!
Those are my plans, however sketchy they may be. Of course, the best laid plans go to waste (is that the saying?). I'm not dumb. I know that plans fall through and things change and no one knows what will happen in the future. So I'm not stuck to them like glue. For the first time in my life, I've given up my uptight 'tude and I'm just going to see what happens. It should be fun!