Bush to City- the transition of a lifetime

Roma – 45°C heat, oil and gas industry, schools, churches, Darren Lockyer, largest saleyards in Australia

Toowoomba – 39°C heat, The Garden City, Empire Theatre, Carnival of Flowers, University of Southern Queensland

I grew up in Roma, a rural town 350 kilometres west of Toowoomba with my family. At the end of Year 12, I made the decision to move away to study at university. I was moving away from a town that only just recently got its first roundabout and set of traffic lights, away from the place where I was born and all my family and friends were. It is a big change that has taken a lot of getting used to. I was leaving my comfort zone and moving into the big world to achieve my goals.Inaug Group Photo

So, I had decided to move but didn’t know where I was going to go – share house, Student Village or USQ Residential Colleges. I didn’t know anyone in Toowoomba so I didn’t want to move into a house with a group of people that I had no relationship with – that just didn’t seem like it would work for me. I did some research – prices, facilities, how close it was to the university, if there would be a chance to meet new people, were there sports and events I was able to go to and many more. USQ Residential Colleges checked the boxes for all my criteria and that is how I ended up here!

USQ Residential Colleges are just across the road from the university, I got to have my own bathroom or the option of sharing one, it works out to be cheaper to stay there than renting a house, it provides an option to socialise and meet new people through different events. By attending USQ Residential Colleges I have made lifelong friendships and experienced so many things that have made me the person I am today.

So, if you need to move away from your home to achieve your aspirations, here are some tips!

  • Give it time – everything takes time. Don’t expect everything to happen in the first week
  • Plan ahead – assess every option, make a “pro-con” list to choose the right option for you
  • Meet people at O-Week – attend O-Week! Attend every activity! You will meet people who will become your new ‘family’.
  • Keep in touch with old friends – you have a phone, use it! It’s not as if you will never see each other again, it just won’t be every day at school like you were used to.
  • Talk to someone – talk to a friend, family member, counsellor, RA or someone you trust and are willing to confide in.
  • Attend everything (even breakfast) – Every sport, every event, every meeting, every opportunity. Attend them, even if your friends don’t want to! By attending you will meet new people.
  • Visit each College – pick the one that is right for you. Don’t just go off the pictures, actually go and see the one that you think will suit you.

Semi Group PhotoThere will be times when you feel like it’s the end of the world and being away from home will make it even tougher. Everything happens with your family that you don’t see. You may feel like you don’t fit in and just want to go back to your comfort zone, back home. You may feel like you just want to curl up in a ball and cry and have your mum or dad give you a hug. You may feel like it’s the end of the world. MASSIVE TIP – don’t quit! You are adjusting and getting used to the new place. If you quit and try and come back at another time, it will be harder – stick it out and you will be rewarded.

If it doesn’t work out, it’s not the end of the world. College isn’t the place for everyone, but it can be if you let it!

My Study Abroad experience- six weeks in China

It transpires that Kublai Khan, grandson of infamous Genghis Khan, established Beijing as the ‘Northern Capital’. Beijing, with its ‘amazingly mild winter this year!’ in which temperatures hovered around minus 5, and desert-like dryness such that it snowed slightly twice in the six weeks I was there remains China’s capital city. The supreme hardiness of the local people does, for me, hark back to ancient times when the world lacked thermal long-johns and central heating.

This reads 'Beijing' (literally 'Northern Capital')

This reads ‘Beijing’ (literally ‘Northern Capital’)

From mid-December ’14 to late January this year, I had an amazing time studying at Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU). I learnt Mandarin from 8am to noon each day for five weeks, at the Intensive Winter Language Course.

In class at the BLCU

In class at the BLCU

With dawn just breaking each morning, I pulled on layers of clothing, including facemask and set off for the massive three floor dining hall to start the day with a takeaway steamed bun breakfast, and a warming cup of freshly blended mung beans. The food was amazing.

In the Dining Hall and some of the amazing food I ate while I was in China177 183 280

I had the luxury of my own room in the hotel on campus, which even included a TV. I tuned this constantly to the beautiful (if tragic) Imperial soaps; listening to Mandarin, even while glued to my desk, writing out reams and reams of new characters daily.

My class comprised mostly of lovely, friendly, sweet young South Koreans. I readily embraced the Asian tendency to ‘yi qi qu’ – let’s go together –enjoying many lunches and outings with classmates. We tackled the breathtakingly (literally) steep Great Wall and wandered for hours through the confronting Art Precinct. The Temple of Heaven – at a crisp minus 7, when the rash on my legs hinted I’d forgotten to don thermals beneath jeans – was another cultural highlight of my stay.

Ice skating with my friends

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I felt like China had changed since the last time I was here, with the flood of advertisements for Western products all around me. But, as I manically photographed chubby-cheeked babies held aloft by proud parents ‘walking the babies’ in the subdued winter sunshine I realised China hasn’t changed much. The fleets of cleaners on the university grounds, expertly cycling ‘bike utes’ complete with brooms fashioned from tree branches. The shock to my friendly, country Australian system, of the famous Northern ‘lihai’ – formidable – public persona was that small talk was non-existent, along with eye contact which might have been interpreted as customer service.

You discover the humanity-affirming warmth and hospitality of Chinese people when you have established a relationship with them. I travelled to Tianjin on the high-speed train and met the family of my Chinese friend still studying back at USQ. As I hugged her beautiful, welcoming mum, I gave thanks for the priceless personal opportunity which Study Abroad had given me.

I was thrilled to be navigating the Beijing Subway on my own, attending 4 hours of lessons each day (taught in Chinese) and enjoying meals with classmates who didn’t speak any English at all.

Eating in a Café with my friend Yuri Chan

Eating in a Café with my friend Yuri Chan

I talked to students from North Korea, Djibouti, Benin and Kazakhstan. I coped with SWAT squads, sniffer dogs, an incredibly thorough airport pat-down…AND managed to not miss my flight from South Korea to Brisbane, despite chancing upon a Hello Kitty Café moments before boarding.

If you ever, ever get the chance to be a uni student overseas, my advice is, of course you should – surprise yourself! With the backing and assistance of USQ behind you, enrich your life by seeing how other people live! View your home through new eyes upon your return! It is an opportunity you simply cannot miss. Apply today. As the Chinese proverb reminds us “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step!

European Adventures

Do you want to know what I think the best part about finishing Uni and getting a job was – finally having $$$. Not just that but also having time. Sure, I have to work during the day but once that clock hits 5pm I walk away and don’t think about work until I sit down at my desk again the next day.

For me, that time and money means holidays! Not just a weekend you get every now and then between assignment due dates in Uni, or the mid semester break that’s over before it even starts. I am talking about a pack your bags, we are off to see the world, who knows when we will be back kind of holiday.

For 18months I worked and saved, all building up to the dream holiday – several months backpacking around Europe. This was always my motivation for graduating, knowing I would finally have the time I needed to see the world. I set off in July, starting with a Contiki camping tour to get myself orientated before venturing off on my own to explore.

Contiki Map

I had the most incredible time abroad, meeting weird and wonderful people and making memories to last a lifetime. I’ve see the Eiffel Tower,

Eiffel Tower

the Colosseum and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.


I went parasailing and scuba diving in the Greek Islands,


climbed to the highest peak in Europe in the Swiss Alps,

Swiss Alps

danced on tabletops in Spain (sangria in hand), explored castles and ruins in Slovakia and partied in underground bunkers. I have eaten copious amounts of pizza, pasta, pastries and gelato, played with the high rollers at Monte Carlo Cassino, saw Tom Cruise repelling from a rooftop in Vienna filming a movie, and so much more!

It has been an incredible and life changing experience that challenged me every step of the way. I have battled freezing cold nights and scorching hot days, not to mention the wind and rain while trying to set my tent up, sometimes in the pitch dark. I have dealt with ice cold showers at 5am and many a sleepless night in hostels. Travelling alone in foreign places where no one speaks English can be daunting but I am proud to say I did it and I survived.

After 32 days spent sleeping in a tent and countless more on uncomfortable couches or questionable hostel beds I am finally home. Sick and tired at first (anyone who has ever been on a Contiki will know about the dreaded Contiki cough) and very broke, but also with a strong case of the travel bug. Now to plan my next adventure…


There were two extremes in moods in the lead up to the Bunya Mountains camping trip for Steele Rudd. Aaron (Our Social Coordinator) advertised the camp, trademarked with a bear around college. I’m not sure if he was trying to scare people with the thought that drop bears may be real, or if bears were just his first mental image of camping and wilderness. In the end, only eight of us from college went.

Camp Poster

The biggest challenge of the camp occurred before leaving on Saturday morning- strategically packing all of the camping gear and food into two vehicles. It was at this moment of crisis that luxury items or foods lacking high protein were eliminated (MASS GAINS!!! – 7/8ths of us were males). For obvious reasons, steak got preference over the doughnuts. Don’t worry, we didn’t waste the doughnuts, we just had to carb-load before leaving.

Being the only person in our vehicle who had been to the Bunya Mountains before meant I got the front seat because I was the navigator. Little to my immediate knowledge, being the front passenger also meant I controlled the music. Luckily I had music that was pleasing to the masculine ear as we lads hit the road in Steve’s dual-cab Ute. The excitement of leaving the confines of Steele Rudd College ran through our veins and we talked about what other trips we should make through the year – If only we had the time. The back seat passengers listened in, adding comments as their minds wandered away from the engineering assignment they were attempting as we traveled. Being the farmer kid I was growing up, it was nice driving through the country side, except that there was no grass anywhere due to the drought.

Before we knew it, we were climbing the winding roads admiring the views and anticipating better ones to come. We were surprised how many people were at the Bunya Mountains but it was very good weather to be camping. Arriving at the Burtons Well Camping Ground we decided to setup the camping equipment first so that we could make the most of the afternoon. Starving by now, we sifted through the food and decided that snags on bread with barbecued onion would be perfect for our late lunch. Speaking of barbecues, the cooking equipment provided was an open fire barbecue. It had been mentioned in the risk assessment forms prior to the trip that there was a chance the national park could go up in flames. Lighting a barbecue fire straight away put us at risk of this being a reality. Don’t worry, we were responsible… well… as responsible as we could be while almost delirious from starvation. We smashed down our food and realised there were no rubbish bins so improvised and reused the bread roll bags. Take note future campers – bring bin bags!

Now about 2:45pm we figured it was early enough to do a decent bushwalk. Choosing the 9km track ended up being about 12km because we decided to do the little detours along the way to see the extra lookouts and waterfalls (some of which weren’t even running due to the dry weather). This drew our day out till almost 6pm when we headed back to camp to start the BBQ up again for dinner. Aaron stepped up as cook for the much-anticipated steak ‘n’ bacon with salad on bread rolls. We all decided that the best steak was one that wasn’t cooked almost to the point of beef jerky. However, everyone ended up with near restaurant standard blue steaks, with the actual definition of “blue” steak slightly shocking some people. Did I mention that due to the small number of campers, there were enough to have about four each? The verdict was, ‘as long as we were fine in 48 hours’ time, we know it was cooked enough.’ As it turns out no one got sick, Kudos Master Chef Aaron! Having had sufficient to eat, we returned to the campfire, where we talked and laughed for several hours. Prior to leaving college, we predicted that we would be up all night entertaining ourselves around the fire, however we were all tired from our walking and laughing and hit the hay about 10pm.

We decided we would wake up at 5am the next morning and walk up the mountain near us to watch the sunrise. When the alarm went off at 5am I felt way too buggered to get up, it seems others were the same and we all slept in until nearly 7am. When we got up we realised that the view would have been very limited anyway because there was really thick fog and the sun made the whole place a big, bright blur. After eating as much of the leftover food as we could, kicking the football around and packing away the camping gear, we ventured up the mountain for our last climb of the trip. I had been to the Bunya Mountains in the past and promised that this was the best lookout yet. It was only a short walk but there were enquiries from the back light-heartedly questioning the purpose of the climb. Once we reached the top, all doubts were erased.

Bunya Mountains View

The fog had cleared and everyone had learned to trust my judgment. After seeing all there was to see, we walked back down the mountain, returned to camp, connected up the Bluetooth and cranked the tunes for the trip back. Before we knew it we were back and checking ourselves for ticks. The trip was thoroughly enjoyable and we have plenty of stories to tell and laugh about.

If you read this and were there, you will relate. If you didn’t go, I hope this doesn’t make you too jealous, and for anyone else, I hope you enjoyed the journey.

Until next time,


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.


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.


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,



Something Borrowed, Something Blue


Almost everyone knows of a science fiction show. Star Trek and Doctor Who are the big ones because they’ve been around for such a long time. Doctor Who for example, is the longest running sci-fi show ever. They’re celebrating their 50th anniversary this year (2013) as a matter of fact.

Readers who are unfamiliar with Doctor Who won’t understand the meaning of the title, so allow me to explain…  The T.A.R.D.I.S. is the spaceship of the show; its gimmick is that it looks like a blue police box. The Doctor ‘borrowed’ the T.A.R.D.I.S. from a museum back on his home planet when he first started his adventures because he failed all his exams and wasn’t allowed his own ship.

In one of the more recent seasons, the T.A.R.D.I.S. is described by the old wedding saying that you need “Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed and Something Blue.”

Honestly I could talk about the semantics for hours, but since I don’t want everyone to know how much of a nerd I can be, I won’t.

Science fiction is a subject that is near and dear to my nerdy heart. To me it isn’t just about the aliens, but how does it relate to college, or indeed university?

To see how it relates, we have to travel back in time about fifteen years. When I was five, I was first introduced to science fiction through Stargate SG-1. A show that even today I enjoy. The most intriguing thing to me was Space, and travelling to new and exotic places – something I inherited from my mother.

I decided I’d be an astronaut when I got older.

I didn’t become an astronaut. However, I continued to dream about the stars and about travel. I started watching Doctor Who because my Mum watched it when she was little and wanted my sister and I to do the same. That’s how I became acquainted with Tom Baker (Doctor No.4) – the guy with the outrageous scarf.

Now here was this exciting alien, who traveled around earth having adventures and saving people with two big rules.

Number 1: Don’t use weapons i.e. Guns and

Number 2:


Both rules I liked and agreed with.

It was by this point that I was starting to gather a picture of what I wanted to do. My ultimate goal was to make the world a better place by me having been in it, and with a doctor as a mother I had already been exposed to medicine.

I wanted to travel and help people, and for me the natural leap was to nursing which brought me to University. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my course and found that over the past three years I’ve learned lots of new facts about caring for people.

For me, science fiction became the start of a passion that guided me towards my chosen career, with a little bit of help along the way from my parents of course.

The decision to go to university, or what one ultimately decides they want to with the remainder of their time on this little blue-green planet can have a very strange path.  Some come to university because family push them and others come because they don’t.

Whatever the reason or the story behind the university decision, it is an important one. While it might seem bizarre that I came to my choice through science fiction, it worked for me.

The advice that I offer freely today is to think hard about the field of study that one has chosen, how that choice came about and is it really something that you want to do.

It might just be a story out of this world.


(P.S. If you’re looking for a good book to read that’s a bit out of the ordinary – The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is a good one)

Checking out for Christmas

“If there were a prize for the most depressing day of the college year, I would award it to check out day in November.”

Check in day, on the other hand, is the opposite; exciting day full of promise!

You see all the friends you left behind four months ago, hear the holiday stories, and scrutinise the years ‘freshers’ (first year students) with a fine tooth-comb, to determine who might be living with you for the year. The best part is the ‘Little Head Voice’ (or LHV) is saying “Oh Goodie, this year is going to be great!” The LHV doesn’t even consider going home.

Then, as life inevitably does, it gets busy. Thus leaving the LHV to scream at you in moments of respite “Why on earth didn’t you start that assignment earlier! Its due in two hours; get cracking!”

Before you know what hit you, its time for mid-semester break. When the LHV calms down and starts nattering on about all the fun things to do. Then, the process is rinsed and repeated and with hardly more than a shocked look, the year is over. Bringing us once again, with dragging feet, to the Christmas holidays, and check out day.

Check Out Day 

Ah..that day, when many people who you’ve come to love and admire insist on graduating, and leave your life to enjoy and fulfill their own.

With them, they take the wonderful memories of years happily spent in the presence of like-minded people, leaving you to stare at the photos and reminisce while watching old block videos. At this point, the LHV quietly reminds you that one day, it will be your turn and you will then have to leave the safety of College to enter the big wide world and make it a better place for having been in it.

But as all mourning periods eventually do, it ends… allowing you to enjoy the four long (maybe too long) months of holiday between semesters, and look forward to seeing some of your friends again soon.

Many people work over the break, I certainly do.

The aforementioned sinking feeling of the approaching holidays. is matched almost perfectly by the sinking levels of my bank account.

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Whilst the country burns in this super heat wave, I while away my time in the cool hideaway of a travel health clinic – playing vampire in a way that even Bram Stoker would be proud of, and giving advice to people spending their Christmas visiting remote and far more exciting places than Brisbane.  Just today, my customers (girls my own age) were finalising their travel to Egypt, South Africa, England, Scotland and the Greek Isles for three months with friends…jobs can be depressing!

Choose what you will for the remainder of the summer break..

Laura Mills Blog 1

..hoping it will end soon..

and bring the exciting promise of another exciting year on College!