Discovering the Culture of Toowoomba

When considering university choices, location can play a significant role for many prospective students. It can be hard to make a decision if you have never been to the city yourself, let alone know where it is! When I told some of my friends I was moving to Toowoomba, many asked, ‘how many hours north of here is that?’ No, no, about 6 hours south guys, but anyway! Today, I am here to highlight to you the very best features of the beautiful Garden City that is Toowoomba.

  1. Eateries

Pic 1If you are looking for great food, you have come to the right town! Toowoomba has many quality cafes and restaurants which provide top quality food and beverages. Some of my personal favourites include the Park House Café, the Engine Room Café, Picnic Point, Raw Energy, Angelo’s House Restaurant and Qi’Lin, just to name a few. Each of these places has its unique features, making for an extra special dining experience. The Park House Café offers specially flavoured hot beverages, such as their Cherry Ripe Hot Chocolate. The Engine Room Café’s new owners create delicious items like panna cotta for the tastebuds to enjoy. Picnic Point has very high quality meals and sweet treats, topped with a glorious view over the Toowoomba range. Raw Energy is the place to go for all of your delicious healthy and clean eating options. Angelo’s House Restaurant brings top quality Italian food to the table in a wonderful homely style that cannot be found elsewhere. And Qi’Lin provides top quality Chinese food in a welcoming, Chinese-decorated surrounding and have this week been crowned the best Chinese restaurant in Queensland for the fourth year running.

  1. Markets

Pic 2Toowoomba is a hive of activity on the weekends, with a market occurring every weekend, showcasing the best fresh produce and homemade crafts that Toowoomba has to offer! The PCYC Markets are held every Sunday at the Toowoomba PCYC on James Street. The Margaret Street Markets are held on the first Sunday of each month down the Gelatissimo block end of Margaret Street. There are also the Global Care Markets, held on the second Saturday of each month at Citilife Church.  We also have the Queens Park Markets, held on the third Sunday of the month in the lovely Queens Park. Recently, we were also treated to The Handmade Expo visit at the Clive Berghofer centre across from USQ, which will be returning this year on Sunday November 30th, just in time to purchase something special for Christmas!

  1. Shopping

If you are looking for fabulous shopping options, Toowoomba has you covered! We have many smaller shopping centres around town, including the Kmart Plaza, The Ridge Shopping Centre, Westridge Shopping Centre and the Uni Plaza, near the university, all offering at least one major supermarket each as well as many specialty stores. The town’s largest shopping provider is Grand Central Shopping Centre, or as we all call it on college, Grandy. Grandy is currently undergoing renovations, as they are extending the centre to add more shops, including a David Jones, due to be completed by 2017. Currently, Grand Central has over 200 stores, including the only Myer store in the region, the Body Shop, Target, Coles, Birch Carrol & Coyle Cinema, over 50 fashion stores and 140 specialty stores! Whatever you are after to fulfil your retail desires, Toowoomba has the store for you (unless it is Forever New, but we are hopeful that the Grand Central extension will fulfil that dream for us all)!

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  1. Entertainment

Pic 4We are very lucky in Toowoomba to have many local and world-renowned acts visit to perform for our audiences. The best venues for viewing these acts include the USQ Artsworx Theatre and the Empire Theatre. The USQ Artsworx Theatre, provides an intimate entertainment experience, usually at a very reasonable price (perfect for those uni budgets!). The Empire Theatre is the main theatre in town, which includes a balcony viewing level, and old-world décor, creating an ambience that is hard to find elsewhere. This is a top quality theatre for top quality performances. Whenever the Empire is involved, a good time is bound to be had!

  1. Gardens

Pic 5Toowoomba is not called the Garden City for nothing! Here in Toowoomba, we have a plethora of beautiful gardens for you to enjoy.  From the relaxing Japanese Gardens, right next to USQ with its many quacky inhabitants always keen for a feed, to the Spring Bluff Railway Station on the other side of town, which is maintained to this day after it was first tended in 1914 when Queensland Railways launched a garden competition. There are also the main features of the well-known Toowoomba Carnival of flowers, Queens Park and Laurel Bank which are beautiful at any given time of the year, however particularly in spring when they are bought to life with various overhead patterns and images according to the theme of the carnival. It makes for a truly spectacular display! Also throughout this festival of spring, many proud Toowoomba gardeners dress their gardens and permit the public to view their hard work through the Chronicle’s annual garden competition.

If you haven’t any plans for your school holidays this September, don’t just take my word for it! Come for a visit to Toowoomba to see the Garden City at its best during the annual Carnival of Flowers! For more information about the events occurring throughout the carnival, please visit the following link! http://www.tcof.com.au/

Keeping in contact with your friends

It’s the end of semester: you’ve finished exams, your last assignment has been submitted and you’re ready for whatever the break might bring. When you’re living on college there are lots of people you can celebrate the end of semester with. But you may also be faced with the realisation that some of your friends are now moving off college because they’ve completed their degrees, or for other reasons.

I recently said goodbye to one of my close friends, who is moving home to Western Australia. While we won’t be in the same town, or even the same state, I know that this goodbye isn’t forever. During my five years on college I’ve seen many of my friends finish their degrees, go back home to be with their families and start other things, so I thought I’d share my top five tips for keeping in touch with your friends over the holidays as well as after college and uni.

Tip 1: Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone

We all get busy, but if you wait for your friend to call or text, you may never actually speak to them. If you call and they don’t answer, leave them a message or call them back later. I like to text my friends before I call to make sure they’re available, because a text message is much less distracting than their phone ringing.

Tip 2: Social media is great

Using social media is a great way to keep in contact with your friends, particularly if they are in a different time zone. You can send them a message and they can reply whenever it suits them. This way, you aren’t accidently waking them at 2am. I have a friend in Germany and we often use Facebook messages to organise our Skype sessions.

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Tip 3: Skype, Skype, Skype!

You may not have seen your friend in person for months, or even years, but with Skype you can have face-to-face conversations on a regular basis. Make sure you have a strong internet connection so you don’t have a call with lags or worse, have your conversation drop out completely.

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Tip 4: Write letters and postcards

I always get really excited when I receive mail and I know my friends do too. The messages and stories on the back of postcards help me imagine what that place is like, and make me want to travel there one day myself. Email is another great way to write to your friends, and it gets to them instantly.

Tip 5: Make the time to visit

While it is easy to visit your friends who are in the same town or only a couple of hours away, it’s more difficult to visit those who are in different states or countries. I’ve never been to Sydney, Western Australia or Germany but I’m looking forward to some great holidays during which I can catch up with friends, plus free accommodation means more shopping!

The most important investment you can make isn’t your job, the money you make or the car you drive, it’s the relationships you build. Building and maintaining these relationships will take effort and time, but no amount of money will make up for how good it feels to have friends there to celebrate the big events in your life with you. So what are you waiting for? Make contact with your off-campus friends now!

White Powder Specialists – Ski Trip 2014

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Photo Credit to Luke Diezmann

“…Do you wanna build a snowman?”

“…no.”

Operation Ski Trip successful. Don’t tell anyone, but I recently escaped my honours project for a week to go to Queenstown for some fully hectic extreme skiing.

Just kidding. My version of skiing for the first few days was less upright and more like horizontal stationary skiing. Following in the footsteps of Jon Snow, I knew nothing.

In fact, my third trip on the chairlift at Coronet Peak was a bit of a whoopsie. To set the scene: Skiing involves strapping two long, flat sticks to your feet and using them to slide down a snow-covered mountain. Early skiing pioneers realised that climbing up the mountain was lame, so they devised the chairlift. To embark from the modern chairlift, a conveyor belt slides you into position so the chairlift does not have to stop to pick you up. This is where my troubles began. I did not get on the conveyor belt fast enough. Now imagine, in slow motion, the following events playing out. Myself and a fellow USQ student Tayla are on the conveyor belt. Our troubles began when we realised we were a few meters behind the rest of the team. A local New Zealander notices, and quippes “I wunder what’s guing to happn nuxt”. The chair swings around the bend and knocks me over. I knock Tayla over. I get sucked under the chairlift, skiis flying all over the place. The long line of onlookers waiting for the chairlift admire the spectacle, wishing they had their gopro’s turned on. The staff member in charge of the chairlift realises that we aren’t going to recover without his assistance, and he reluctantly turns off the chairlift, and begins to pull us out from underneath the chair. We awkwardly get up, put our skiis back on under the heavy stares. #embarrassing #sillysausage

It wasn’t all bad times on the chairlift, though. A few days into the trip I’m back on the chairlift striking up a conversation with a fellow traveller.

“So where are you from?” I begin the conversation with.

“Australia.”

“Me too! I’m from Toowoomba”

“…Me too, I study at USQ”

“No way, I study Biomedicine” I hesitantly responded. Damn, I thought I had escaped Toowoomba.

“I study Nursing… Hey wait a minute. Take off your Ski goggles for a sec.” Well, this conversation is either going to take an interesting or a creepy turn, I thought. My inner voice said YOLO. I took off the goggles.

“Yeah I remember you from an O-week orientation session. It was Steph, right?” And he was right. Small world.

Other than Skiing adventures, we also had plenty of time to explore the glorious Queenstown.

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For those who might be keen to come along on a future ski trip, it included the following at a student-friendly group price:

  • Return Airfares from Brisbane Airport to Queenstown (direct), including 23kg luggage & air taxes
  • Chartered coach for all Brisbane International Airport transfers to and from USQ Residential Colleges, Toowoomba Campus
  • 7 nights accommodation @ Base Backpackers, in the heart of Queenstown
  • Breakfast daily
  • 4 dinners at various famous restaurants and eateries around Queenstown
  • 4 Day ski pass (2x days @ Coronet Peak, 2 x days @ Remarkables)
  • 4 day bus mountain transfers
  • 1 Day Activity Pass (includes the shot over jet boat ride, Skyline Gondola, hot buffet lunch & 1 Luge Ride)
  • 4 days of Ski, boots & poles/or snow board & boots hire
  • 4 Days of jacket and pants hire
  • Ski Trip merchandise – personalised ski jacket to use on the trip!

Let me know if you have any questions about Ski trip!

Holiday Envy

Although I didn’t go on the New Zealand Ski Trip, I did have the pleasure, or displeasure, depending on how you consider sitting in an office looking through hours of fun holiday footage.

Holiday envy to say the least.

So, I thought I would share this little video compiling all the fun that the group had and get you in the mood for the upcoming holidays.

Hollywood Unveiled: My Film Making Experience

It’s not often that we university students (or really anyone I suppose) get an opportunity to try other fields of expertise. However, in the mid-semester break of 2013 I was fortunate enough to be invited to be a part of a film.

Not a multi-million-dollar James Cameron undertaking, just a fairly low budget film designed to make people aware of the dangers that are inherent with overseas travel and to urge people to seek advice before they go overseas. The aim was not to specifically advertise the organization,, instead it says ‘seek advice before travel’. It was an interesting, exciting and enjoyable enterprise.

Because it was a low budget film, the actors were all volunteers and most of them were either drama students or amateur actors. However because, as was previously stated, they were all volunteers there was no incentive for many people to keep their commitments and often throughout the course of the filming we would get a call from someone saying  “I can’t do it anymore – sorry.” This, as you might imagine, caused major dramas. However, usually we’d manage to get someone in at the last possible moment.

We needed an Asian lady to play a Chinese store-owner at one point, but the person we had pulled out at the last minute. Luckily my aunt (who was the main talent scout) knew someone who could take over the role, so crisis averted there.

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While we started with mainly actors of some form, we finished with reception staff, cleaning ladies, nursing students (myself), science students (my sister) as well as a few other people.

 I asked a few of the drama people on college if they would like to participate, as if would be a great thing to put on a resume, however sadly no-one was particularly interested. How sad.

On the topic of the filming itself, it was incredibly fun. All the actors, as well as the film crew were funny people, and many of us would stand around cracking jokes and telling stories while we were waiting for the film crew to ‘get the light right’ or to fix angles or whatever it is that they spend forever doing.

The photo below is of us waiting in an airport to film a scene (which never even got used!) we were waiting around for nearly two hours. Boy, were we bored, we were all paying on our phones by the end. The man with the red shirt standing in the middle of the picture was our director.

IMG_1948I’ve got lots of photos from the different scenes, but they wouldn’t mean very much to anyone without me explaining what was happening in each photo – which would take a while.

 However, I will show you one more that I am somewhat partial too.

This third picture was taken when we were filming the Rabies scene. We spoke to a very lovely lady who agreed to let us borrow her pups for the day, and they were the sweetest things.

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The completed video is now on YouTube with nearly 4000 hits. We’ve had lots of really nice feedback, and if you decide that you do want to check it out, the video can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6oRXMW72iw.

My segment is after the Altitude Sickness bit and in the mosquito scene – I’m Malaria and my younger sister is Yellow Fever. I’m also in a few other scenes momentarily. Can you spot me?

That’s the story of my exciting holiday program, it’s a little different to most.

Hope you like the film if you do check it out,

Regards

Laura.

A Guide to the New Zealand Ski Trip

Hey it’s been a little while since I posted something so this post is about my recent Ski trip to New Zealand.

    
 

The Residential Colleges was offering a holiday opportunity to Queenstown in New Zealand. For those who may be unfamiliar with Queenstown is known as being a party town all season round. So, I was looking forward to it. Our ski goals were the Remarkable and Coronet Peak which was exciting being an absolute rookie to snow let alone skiing. I was looking forward to it until with a month before the trip I suffered a fractured leg, and just like the story of my life, it was too late to pull out or obtain a refund. So, this blog is 

about how I made the best of a ski trip where I didn’t really go skiing. Nevertheless there were some highlights which I will elaborate on.  

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Nevis Bungy Jump and swing:
Nevis Bungy jump was located half an hour drive from Queenstown and is known for being the highest Bungy jump in Australasia at roughly 134 meter above the ground. The Nevis Swing is also the highest swing in the world.

Now, I know for most people it’s just about jumping and saying they did it however with me in this situation it’s all about choosing the craziest option to get the most out of it. So for this Bungy jump it was jumping backwards and upside down so your pretty much seeing the ground coming right at you,  doing this made it a little more memorable and that little bit more scary. Love it.

Don’t let me fool you though, I may like to try the scarier and different option but that doesn’t take away the fear. Despite what the photo below might suggest it was pretty terrifying. However like most guys when we’re being watched by women we’re surprisingly good at keeping a straight face. Anyway, in the end jumping was a great adrenaline kicker for the day and something I recommend for everyone once in their life.

Nevis Bundy Jump-2 

Queenstown Fear Factor: 
This was a pretty cool experience. This place was a maze of dark hallways where your objection was to find the exit in a pitch black surroundings with only red lights to guide you. Of course the whole time you have scary staff dressed up in Halloween costume jumping at you grabbing your legs and arms with the intention of freaking you out. So, four friends and I decided to give it a go, the whole time wondering whether our Residential Life Manager, Katharine would get scared and take the chicken-way out.

To elaborate on the chicken-way out the place has a fail-safe method for those wishing to exit the maze immediately if they no longer wanted to continue. Apparently the staff believed this had happened for over 4500 people so seeing Katherine on the picture below I’m surprised she did’’t take this option (she the second last person from the right on the picture below)

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As you can see from our faces there were some pretty scary stuff in this place that got even me, but as freaked out as I got it was enjoyable. I think there’s something about being with friends on this that even though you’re little scared, you’re still enjoying the moment. So yes, I do look kinder pathetic in this photo but I will point out that I was at the front with all the scary staff freaking me out so again I’m not acting cool but I’m doing a lot better than my other friends ok so don’t judge me.

Ice Hockey Game at Queenstown Ice Arena (Southern Stampede):
This game was intense. I’ve seen ice hockey game before on TV, so when our College Manager said we were going, I thought I knew what to expect. Apparently not! Watching a final match against two international level teams was intense.

This match was a game against two experienced teams, the Southern Stamped and the Swans each team had players from around the world, not to mention a lot of hostility after facing each other last year in the finals. The only problem was that the my group didn’t know who to cheer for, which was soon resolved when we discovered team Southern Stampede was made up of a lot of Australian hockey players, so it was then a no-brainer to decide.

Throughout the game these players flew like the ice was their element, committing to fast dash to the goal, performing sharp turns to avoid potentially take out hits from the opposition players and some locking their feet in to the ice if the moment required them to hold a player against the wall.

For those unfamiliar with ice hockey yes it’s a high contact sport and despite player regularly taking nasty hits from their opponents, ice hockey players need to accept that it’s just a part of the game and keep emotion in check. Naturally, this is easier said than done. This particular hockey game had a player skating to the other side of the field in order to retaliate after an unnecessary comment was made. Although, for me seeing that was kind of cool, ultimately I was there for some honest hockey play. Watching these guys fly across the field with ease and possessing the termination to win made this game a highlight of the trip.  

State of Origin:
Can’t say I’m a big fan of watching state of Origin matches but watching it in a foreign bar really set the mood for me. Queenstown Sport Bar had every sport playing on television that you can think of, there must have been at least 100 televisions playing at once scattered around the bar. But for this particular night they realized due to the large number of Aussies, including our college group, it was beneficial for them to have all of these televisions on one game, the State of Origin!, because of this, everywhere you looked Origin was in your view so you never missed a moment. There it was really something about being in a foreign country watching the origin with other Australians that really got me worked up for the game.

For those who remember the second Sate of Origin game for 2013 it was an absolute annihilation and the Blues were defeated. At the end of the match the atmosphere was still there because everyone wanted to talk about the game making it so easy to talk with complete strangers about how much New South Wales sucked. 

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So that is pretty much my New Zealand Ski trip in a short summary but I hope it gives you an idea of college trips and about me. I put a few more photos at the bottom showing other parts of my trip so enjoy.

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Nevis Bundy Jump
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Res Colleges Ski Trip

As Semester 1 passes us yet again, I realize again just how quick time goes. The last 6 months had included the infamous O-Week, College dinners and semi-formals, university events, charity committee, work, and I guess you could say study. As well as all this, I was also lucky enough that I was able to go on the Residential Colleges Ski Trip of 2013.

And what a week it was!

I can say with great confidence that it was one of the best experiences of my life. I mean, there aren’t many opportunities to go overseas with 20 friends that are all your own age. With a mixture of residents from all 3 colleges, under the direction of the fearless leader Katharine Bigby, it was certainly a recipe for success.

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We all made our way to the tourist capital of Queenstown after a gruesome 3 hour plane ride, and 4 hour bus trip. There weren’t too many hiccups however, it was bloody cold I will tell you that. We stayed at Reavers Lodge for the week, which is extremely inconveniently located on top of a massive hill and has a driveway with a very steep incline. Let’s just say we were getting taxi’s home by the end of the week we were that sick of walking up it.

Some of the best parts (which I believe are the most noteworthy) of this week were…

Drum Roll please…

The Nevis Swing

Swing

See the little black thing there? THAT’S ME! Well… I lie. It’s not ACTUALLY me. But it WAS me. To be honest I don’t know who that is, but you can’t see them so I am sure they won’t mind us using the picture.

The Nevis Swing is not only the biggest Queenstown Swing my friends, it is not merely the largest New Zealand Swing. This is biggest swing in the whole world!

After being lifted out above the launch deck, suspended 160 metres above the canyon floor, you’re suddenly released and find yourself rushing towards the other side of the valley at 150kph, eyes wide open in disbelief or shut tight in fear. Me personally, I screamed the entire way. But it was so worth it!

There were a fair few of us residents that went on the swing that Thursday morning, and I hope they were all as scared as me. I purchased a video of it, however haven’t been able to download it yet. Maybe I will upload it soon. .

My favourite day of the week would have to be the Queenstown sightseeing/experience day. It started with an all-day breakfast (It’s not over then and there!), and a ride on a Gondola which had awesome views of all of Queenstown. You could see EVERYTHING. I’m not really one for taking photos, so I can’t share any with you. We then went to an all you can eat buffet, which had THE best food. After eating way too much, we went on to the best part, the luge ride. You jump on your specialized luge cart, select which track you want to go on, and then zoom down it! We got to have 2 turns, and of course it turned competitive. It became so hectic that someone rolled their cart!

I suppose there was some skiing involved lol. We went to both ‘Coronet Peak’ and ‘The Remarkables’. I wasn’t the best at skiing but feel I was competent enough to make the judgment that I liked the Remarkables better. They had better food! We had people of all skill levels, some who had never skied before, and even a few that didn’t have to use poles, they were that good (crazy!). It was good being in such a big group because if you were on a slope, or on a chairlift and you saw someone stack it, there was a high possibility it was someone that you knew.

So there you have it, my two cents about Res Colleges Ski Trip 2013. As it was the first (hopefully of many) trips, I believe it passed all the tests. I would certainly recommend it to all residents!

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