All posts by Gabrielle Ann Pagana

The Aussie Aftermath

Every time someone asks me about Australia all I can say is “amazing”. They always look at me for more details like “okay…and?”, so I retell the same stories over and over. You know how sometime stat can get really annoying…”what are you doing these days” at your family get togethers, “ya know, the usual, studying…”. But this time it is different. I don’t get tired of telling people what I did. I want to tell the world how amazing it was and let everyone experience it through my stories. I like to tell everyone the day that we spent on Phillip Island, the necropsy on the marsupials, how I literally see kangaroos everyday and “hung” out with them, how terrible the flies were, how hot the weather was, how the “no worries” really applied, how much fun I had and most importantly the amazing experience I got out of it. I have talked about some of my impressions, thoughts, and experiences in my blogs but I would like to reiterate them again.

Australia was not just a place to study abroad. It wasn’t just a vacation either. I think a lot of people had the impression that my abroad time was mostly spent hanging out with kangaroos. As much as I would love that, and yes that did happen a few times, most of my time was spent in class and learning. In the 5 weeks that I spent there, I honestly think that I learned more than in a whole semesters worth of time. We still had a semesters worth of material but just put into a shorter time, but it was easier to learn. It was fun, interesting material put into a different environment. In my opinion, everyone should have to study abroad in college. It gave me better understanding of different cultures and opened my eyes to the world and endless opportunities that we have. It made me realize that the bubble I live in is a lot bigger and there are more important things out there than just “Gabby’s world”.

I said in my previous blog that it helped me figure out what I want to do with my career and that is my most significant learning experience overall (academically and personally). If you would like to read that just go the the blog labeled “New Blog Coming!” and you can the whole picture but in a nutshell I really enjoyed the animal welfare lectures that we had in Australia and I hope to make a difference in my community by teaching people how to properly take care of their pets. I am going to school to be a veterinarian, like some people know it is extremely hard to get in so I am not going to say I am going to be a vet because I may not get accepted buttttt I hope to be one someday. I realized while I was in Australia that I want to be a small animal vet but I want to travel as well and try to expand my knowledge and help others in need. For example, travel to a third world country for a week and take care of peoples animals in which they rely on for their food and life. That is just an overview but I will be making a new blog about all of this and some posts on pet care and other interesting pet articles.

Another thing I wanted to point out that took my trip to the next level was the people. The friends that I made on this trip were some of the best people I could have ever imagined going on a trip with. I really made some long lasting friendships and I am happy that we can keep them going because we all go to Penn State. The group that we traveled with made everything such a better experience. Not only did I make some amazing friends, but the professors that came along made the abroad experience so much better as well ( I promise I am not sucking up!). They all made us feel so comfortable and I felt like I could really communicate whatever I wanted with them. I know Dr. St. Pierre also felt  the same way because he was upset he had to leave us half way through! Australia would not have been the same without any of the people that came along.

So some of my impressions and thoughts. Well lets just say Australia is a lot “cooler” than we are. I have said this before, but they seriously do live by the “no worries” motto. It is expressed in every single sentence they say: “No worries mate” is what I have been trying to live by back here in the states but it really isn’t that easy. America is so hustle and bustle and rise to the top but in Australia as long as they have some money, a house, family, food, etc. they are content. I am sure there are many Australians that do want the fancy things and more but overall they “work to live” but we “live to work”. They make sure that they have time for their family. Personally experiencing family time in my home stay: They always made dinner together and sat down and ate it together and would talk for hours sometimes. Most dinners lasted 2 hours or so! And at the end, they all would help clean up and then hangout in the living room together or play with their dog. Now, it was the summer their so I know they had a little bit more time on their hands because the daughter was on her summer break from college and the parents were both teachers, but they mentioned that they do this every single day. My family at home tries to do the same but I noticed that other families here in America do not.

A few things that everyone on the trip could agree that they didn’t like were:

  • The annoying flies that stuck to your face in the over 100 degree weather by a farm
  • the small cups
  • the expensive prices ( McDonalds didn’t have a dollar menu!)
  • getting burnt after being in the sun for 5 seconds
  • the endless lectures with “answerless” answers
  • the breakfast after a while. For the first week we all loved it but after a while eating the same yogurt and granola or plain cereal got boring
  • some things were very plain and they never had any sauces. Most people complained about the ketchup but I don’t like ketchup anyway so I didn’t care
  • the bugs (especially spiders)
  • the Cockatoos waking us up with their annoying screeches at 5 am
  • the heat at night

A few things that everyone on the trip could agree that they loved:

  • each other (for the most part)
  • the animals…especially the kangaroos and koalas
  • the marsupial dissection
  • the sun going down at 9 pm every night
  • the heat
  • the beaches
  • the atmosphere
  • animal welfare in the classroom…we all loved those lectures
  • our big separate dorm rooms
  • our professors
  • Melbourne in general
  • the boys at the University of Melbourne
  • the night life (some more than others :p)
  • Sydney Opera House
  • surf shops, stores in general, especially Cotton On
  • boomerangs
  • rock climbing
  • hiking

And sooooo much more!

So overall, my experience was amazing. I could probably talk about it forever! It inspired my to travel the world and do new things. I want to expand my horizons and explore everyday. In my free time all I want to do is go on a hike, bike ride, and just be adventurous. Australia was not just a trip, vacation, or study abroad program but it was everything combined into one AMAZING EXPERIENCE that I will never forget. I will go back to Australia one day, and hopefully at that time we can travel in an instant rather than over a day of flying time.

New Blog Coming!

So for anyone who has followed my journey I just want to say thank you! I really appreciate  it and loved to share my amazing experiences. Soon, I will be posting about my impressions and also one more post that I somehow missed putting up from my departure home.

I also wanted to advertise a bit on here. So I don’t have all of the details but I will be starting another blog revolving around animal welfare, pet care, training, etc. Since I went to Australia I had some kind of revelation of what I want to do with my future and here it is:

After learning a lot about animal welfare and getting the gist of it all, I became extremely interested in it. So, I wanted to apply this towards pet care.  I am going to write more about this in my other blog, but I just want to make a difference in animals lives. I know every vet and pre-vet says that, but I don’t just want to be a vet, a want to do more with that. I hope to open my own practice someday and raise awareness in my community about pet care. Even the simple things like food, walks, and petting mean so much to the health of a pet and people don’t realize that. Everyday petting can create a special bond between the pet and the owner, cope with stress with the pet and the owner, and help the owner see signs of any other problems such as depression, ticks/fleas, etc. I haven’t gotten it all figured out but I just think that not many people when they get a pet really research and know how much they need to take care of it. This is not all pet owners, but a lot of them. That is why there are so many animals in shelters! It is just a social norm in our society to get a pet! I hope to start some kind of society or even just as simple as handing out pamphlets at my practice (if i even become a vet!), giving first owners some pointers, and maybe even a beginners class on simple training, signs of a problem, and normal tasks. Some people don’t even know how much food to give their animals and tend to over feed!

I am unsure how Australia really fits into that other than taking some animal welfare classes, but here is how the trip ties in for me:

I don’t want to just be a small animal vet in my small town. I hope to own my practice with one other person and once a year ( or more if it is possible) to travel the world and help other animals as well. Maybe go down to a third world country and take care of some pets and farm animals for a few weeks. My mom went to the Dominican Republic for a mission trip and my brother went to Guatemala during his residency (as a doctor) and they both said how terrible the conditions are and that they noticed many people had farm animals to feed themselves and that if they became sick then they would have no food. My brother said that he was taking care of a patient and he told her that she needed to bring her kids into the office but she said she didn’t have enough money because she needed to feed her chickens or they would get sick and die. So I hope to help that lady someday and treat her chickens! Hopefully, I can come back to Australia and do some kind of fellowship or internship at a place like the Healesville Sanctuary where we visited…I got to see a bat surgery; it was so cool. I want to be on the other side of the window and do the surgery too!

So everything is a rough idea, and maybe I will change my mind but like I said I just had some kind of revelation. It seems that things like this keep happening to me and I get more of a drive to push through college and get to vet school. It seriously is my ultimate dream. Once I am there I will feel like I am on top of the world, especially because I have had a lot of people doubt me along the way. No matter what I won’t give up though!

Bitter Sweet

Tonight was our last night in Sydney and it is bitter sweet. Instead of going out with a bang, like the other nights, we decided to take it easy and relax. It was very nice and fun to hangout all together and pack up!

Although I am going to really miss it here and I LOVE IT HERE, I am honestly ready to go home. I miss my family, dogs, and boyfriend a lot and I can’t wait to see them all. I hope my flights don’t get canceled on my way home because I am so anxious to get there that I don’t think I will be able to wait any minute longer. This snow better hold up until 9:30 pm on Wednesday night! I leave tomorrow afternoon (Wednesday here in Australia) and will get home Wednesday night in America which means I am traveling back into time! I leave from Sydney to LA, then from LA to Chicago, and then Chicago to State College….THEN HOME!!!!!!!

I really miss America and can’t wait to see the snow! I want to go skiing when I get home but it will be a huge shock to go from 100 degree weather to 0 degree weather in a matter of a few hours and airports.

I hope this won’t be my last blog post ever because I plan to blog a bit more about my ambitions which I started and the impact this trip has made in my life.

I will also try and post a few things about my internship at the zoo and the online class that we have to take for this trip.

Thank you to everyone who has followed…I might have to change the name of my blog since I won’t be down under in 2 days!!!

Assignment 6

As one of our assignments we had to go to a museum. After trying to choose which museum would be the most interesting we decided to choose the Contemporary Art Museum because Yoko Ono (John Lennon’s wife) had an exhibition showcased. When we walked in we realized we had to pay for her exhibit so we decided to just walk around the free areas. The first floor was very odd…I might try and add pictures later for people to look at but my iPad won’t allow me to do it ! We walked in and watched the first piece of art moving around. It was a tree stump with something sticking out of a hole and moving up and down. We were just really confused because it was a phallic. We read the description and it was suppose to be a tongue…but it was circular and we just walked away in confusion. The next piece of art was a life size, white mushroom sculpture smoking a pipe. After seeing the first two pieces we whispered, “I think this person was on drugs”. Walking deeper into the exhibit we kept seeing some weird art works. Many of them had phallic symbols or were just odd. On the second floor there were a lot of aboriginal art paintings with naked men, which was expected. But then there was a life size, spider man sculpture…with the largest bulge ever…like what? It just made no sense and had no purpose for how large it was.

I realized that I didn’t like contemporary art at all. It was just nothing that made me feel any positive emotions; only confusion. I felt that some of the pieces were weird, simple, and didn’t make sense. Contemporary art is just not my thing, especially because I feel like I could do it easily and I am not even artistic. I enjoy architecture the most and maybe should stick to that until I learn to appreciate modern and contemporary art.

Bondi Beach

Burn baby burn on Bondi Beach! Yesterday we went to one of the many beaches in Sydney and had a great time relaxing after our big night out. The only problem was that we all got burnt and some can’t even walk. I only got burnt on my face and can’t really lift my eyebrows, and also on my lips. I’m getting so frustrated because I haven’t been getting tan at all but just burnt everywhere. I guess that is my Irish side rather than the Italian part of me! The Australian sun is a lot different than the American east coast sun. You can be out all day on a beach in Maryland and get some color but in Australia you can be out in the sun for 5 minutes and get 3rd degree burn on your eyeballs.

For lunch I ate fish and chips, of course. I’ve had that meal at least 6 times so far here…it’s so good! They call french fries “chips” for everything, not just in “fish and chips” but even their McDonalds french fries are called “chips”.

Some more differences of beaches here in Australia vs beaches in America :
              Australia                                        Vs.                                          America

  • Light blue water                                                                        Dark blue water
  • Flowy and clear                                                                         Murky, can’t see the sand
  • No seashells                                                                                Seashells
  • Sand is soft and lighter                                                           Sand is coarse and dark
  • Couldn’t Make a sand castle                                                 Could make a sand castle (empire)
  • The beach is wider from the water to the road             beach is longer overall

( hard to explain but basically innaustrlaia the beach is one big area but in America is soo long you usually cant See the end of it)

  • Young adult crowd                                                                    Family crowd
  • No umbrellas (maybe a few)                                                 A lot of umbrellas
  • Surfers                                                                                            Boogie borders
  • Shallow water at least 40 feet                                              Deep water after 10’feet
  • Sand isn’t hot (i’s manageable)                                           Sand is on fire
  • Cliffs                                                                                                 No Cliffs
  • grass area right behind the beach to hangout               boardwalks
  •  sand dunes (accessible…not at Bondi Beach)             sand dunes (not accessible)
  • People walking around selling ice pops and water     selling snow cones/italian ice

Overall, the beaches are both a lot different, but a beach is a beach! There are not that many things that I can say are similar but a lot of things are different! It is basically like a beach down in the Caribbean, exactly what you picture but with Australian surfers! I can’t wait to go back tomorrow!

Recovery

We are in Sydney!!!!

We traveled a boring 8 hour train ride from Wagga Wagga to Sydney on Saturday. It was sad to leave Wagga though, I really liked my host family and had a fun and relaxing time with them. My host sister was so cool, she was our age and took us out to some pubs. I am going to miss them!

We got to Sydney at night, put all of our overweight bags in our rooms at the youth hostel, and went out to a bar right next door. It was so much fun, and we knew it would be great because we walked into Beyonce playing.

I had the best night so far here. I just really let loose and danced and didn’t take my smile off of my face. I got on top of a table and danced next to the DJ stand and everyone on the dance floor turned to me and started fist pumping at me and cheering me on; it was hilarious. After about a minute of the limelight I was approached by a security guard and all he did was give me a look, laugh, and pick me up. I was lucky because apparently they kick people out who do that!

All of us girls just had a flock of guys around us and we did not even bother with them, we were all happy with eachother and had a blast. I really am going to miss these people when we leave. I really could say this trip has made me lasting friendships, even with my professors. We are talked about it today how much we love them and don’t want to separate! (I’m not just saying that for a good grade it’s true!)

This morning was not the best though. I woke up, turned over, and felt a puddle of wetness…I peed my bed. I said to everyone in the room, “uhm guys, I think I peed my bed…[silence] Well actually I did pee my bed.” Everyone just laughed and couldn’t believe it. It wasn’t a surprise to me. This is my 7th accident since I have been in college (I’m a sophomore).I have been a chronic bed wetter and knew it was bound to happen sometime after a night out in Australia. It’s safe to say I left my mark in the youth hostel! I use to be embarrassed about my bed wetting when I was little because I wore pull-ups and was sober, but now I’ve embraced it. The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. My mom even bought me a water proof mattress pad this year in college!

We had to eat breakfast at 8:30 am, but I couldn’t even look at food. I just felt like a tractor trailer ran me over. After basically crawling back up to my room and into the shower, we went to the beach and relaxed. I nursed an Australian hangover until 8pm…it really lasted all day.

We then went to the Sydney Harbor and viewed the Opera House when the sun was setting and it was beautiful! I am finally feeling better and decided to go to bed early tonight after I switch mattresses with an empty bed.

 

Last Exam

Right now I am studying for my last exam and I am not looking too hot. I just feel hopeless and exhausted. I have learned so much this week at the farms and in classes but I just can’t think back to it. I think I might have some sort of memory loss because I am trying to think and nothing is coming up. I think my concussion is starting to kick in a week late…hehe just kidding!

I am getting really nervous though and I figured I would blog about it and get some thoughts out. We were told not to worry but my brain is fried. We had a lecture today about animal welfare and I don’t remember a thing. One of our farm visits today was miserable. It was a mix between exhaustion and flies eating our faces off. I cannot begin to describe my hate towards flies and how annoying they are here in Australia. They seriously stick to your face and won’t leave you alone. They buzz in your ears, eyes, nose, mouth, and any other thing you can think of.  Today, in my random time to distract myself from studying, I was wondering how flies live through harsh weather like the winter seasons. I almost started researching it! I honestly have no idea about flies, like where do they go when it rains or snows? They are barely around in the winter, do they just die?! How do they come back to life? These are some serious life questions I need answered people…

I guess I’ll get back to studying…PRAY FOR AN A, or at least to be awake for the exam since it is after a visit to an abattoir (slaughter house) and a lecture or something??? That’s how much I know about my day tomorrow. Just going with the flow! I’m trying to live by this whole “No worries mate” thing over here but considering I am having an anxiety attack right now because of a cocktail full of reasons (exhaustion, homesickness, exam, girl problems, and a heat stroke because my family has the air conditioning off).

Ambition

Sneak Peak of what my next blog will be about. I am going to talk about how Australia has helped me!

Ever since I was three years old I told my mom I wanted to be a veterinarian. That first line is a likely story from almost every Pre-Vet and Vet student, but it is true. I have always had a love for animals ever since I could remember and always had one of my cats in my arms. The reason my family owns three dogs and two cats is all because of me. Living in a family full of doctors is not the easiest thing living up to, but it has given me the medicine aspect. I was taught to always love medicine first and animals second, and I think my background has helped me do that.

When I applied to Penn State my goal in mind was to major in a Pre-Vet program. As I was doing orientations and visits I have found from professors and students that the Animal Science major was the route to go. So that is what I did, and I am a lot happier with that decision! I am gaining a lot more hands-on experience compared to the crazy sciences (even though An Sci still has to go through most of the hard science courses too!)

Look for more about how Australia has helped me decide what I want to do for my career!

Junee Chocolate Factory

Today was a very long day filled with exciting visits to Wantabadgery Station, an angus beef cattle production, Kooringal Stud, a thoroughbred horse breeding farm, and Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory (no need for an explanation here!).

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Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory is nothing like Hershey’s Chocolate Factory back at home. It is not as commercialized for starters! It is located in a small town 25 minutes from the city of Wagga Wagga. The factory was built in 1935 as a flour mill by the Druce family and in the 70’s was shut down and bought out by a commercial flour operation. The Druce Family owned about 1000 hectares of land for an organic farm operation named Green Grove Organics. It is one of the most world renowned truly organic farms. The family in 2002 opened the building again for a licorice factory because licorice’s number one ingredient is flour (30%). Licorice is said to:

  •     Boost the immune system
  •     Is a mild natural pain reliever
  •     Aid endurance
  •     Activate the liver
  •     Rejuvenate the pancreas
  •     Strengthen the respiratory system
  •     Aid digestion
  •     Cure ulcers
  •     Fight tooth decay

Maybe I will start eating more licorice!

They started making chocolate as well to coat the licorice and make it taste better, which it definitely does!

The factory is nothing like Hershey’s but we still were able to do a lot of taste testing! We watched the ladies make the chocolate (we said looked like wombat poop which we learned about because it is sort of square). We then played a licorice bowling game and my team, along with two others, tied for the win! We then obviously had to go to the gift shop and bring back some chocolate for ourselves.

I think I like Hershey’s chocolate better, but like my host family says about vegemite “You had to grow up with it”. So I grew up with Hershey’s and some chocolate that is very bad for you, and the Australians eat organic Junee chocolate and licorice, which is “good” for you (in moderation of course).

Extra Photos of horses today!

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Eyes Wide Open

Today was such an amazing day. It kept my eyes wide open and fully interested!

Today was our first day of classes at Charles Sturt University. We will be taking classes here for the next week with an exam on Friday mostly on animal production and welfare (we are basically done with history of Australia thank goodness!). I had a misconstrued view on the university and expected a very small university, but was I wrong about the size of the place and the size of the knowledge and resources as well which I will talk about!

We arrived at the parking lot and were taken to a small room in the animal science and veterinary building. This room was full of animal bones and skeletons. We were given our introductions and then told a few things about the bones such as shown an inflamed cow tendon compared to a normal one. Joe, our bus driver/tour guide/worker@theUni/bone assembler/horse dentist/”adopted” father of some of the kids on this trip/”comedian”  aka a man of many trades, gave us an introduction and then showed us around the building. He took us to the classroom for dissections which was very nice and I would say state of the art but I guess I don’t have anything to compare to.

Then he took us to the freezer where they keep the animals for the students to dissect, or better known as animal cadavers. The freezer was very shocking with tons of animals and parts piled on top of each other. Some students gave a look with disgust but I stood in the room with interest. He threw a camel head at me and made me show the group, which was a very awkward show put on by me because I don’t think I have ever had a camel head, or any head thrown at me before. Then he brought out an enormous bull head and set it on the ground. The head was about 3-4 times the size of a normal cattle head, it was just huge. Before talking anymore about this room or any other places maybe I should tell you that this is on extreme university protocol and the animals are not killed for no reason. They are mainly animals that will be euthanized due to disease such as cows on a farm, or dogs and cats that are in their old age at the pound and they take them for research, and roadkill. Sometimes people are against this but you have to understand that if an animal is dead or going to be dead anyway, you may want to end its suffer and use it for research so you can better animals in the future, rather than do nothing. (When I say you I just mean in general)

We then were taken over to the veterinarian hospital which was right up my alley! Last year and in the beginning of last semester I had a hard time with school and doubted my ambitions of being a veterinarian. Ever since I started doubting I have been getting signs that I should not doubt. Amazing experiences, encouragement, and sights I have seen have  made my drive to be a veterinarian grow bigger than ever. I think I will write a blog about this soon, it really has changed my life goals and ambitions. Anyway, the hospital was one of these sights that helped my ambition and it was amazing. We were taken around the surgical rooms, the CAT scan area, shown 3D scans on the computer, the artificial insemination room, stables with mares and foals (mother horses with their babies for those people reading back at home who don’t know, aka my family!) and a lot more. I could go on and on about what we saw and my feelings but my sister asked me during a FaceTime chat, “Do your blogs have to be minimum or maximum characters?”, and I said, “No, why?”. She answered that she thought they were extremely long, which must mean she gets bored reading them so maybe I need to make them shorter even though this one is already too long. I am suppose to be documenting my thoughts and experiences Chelsey!

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I guess I am missing my family so much I need to joke with them over blogging! Anyway, we then were taken back to the classroom and given a lecture from a veterinarian and a researcher pursuing his PhD, Dr. Andrew Peters. He was simply amazing. Out of all of the experienced lecturers and professors we have heard from so far, Dr. Peters was the best one I have ever heard. He gave us a talk on Australian Wildlife which is vast. He touched briefly on marsupials (like kangaroos), monotremes (like platypus’), reptiles, birds, and more. My eyes were glued the entire time on him because he really just presented the most interesting material in the best way.

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Afterwards, he took us to the dissection classroom and we had a roadkill kangaroo, possum (different than an opossum from home), heron, magpies, shingleback skink, sugar glider, bearded lizard, and a parrot laid out in front of us. All of us, except for a few who were uneasy about the blood, were so interested in cutting up these animals. We were looking for every organ, tooth, vessel, muscle, etc. to understand how these animals worked.

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We dissected the pouch of a sugar glider, a marsupial similar to the pouch of a kangaroo, and found the teat ducts and glands leading all the way to the one teat that the animal has for sustenance of their young. We also tried to cut the brain out of the kangaroo where the fractures were when the car broke the skull of the animal. Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful because we did not have the appropriate tools.

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To sum all of this up and make it somewhat shorter (I could talk for days), this day was just sooo cool. We learned so much, and I would say the most interesting and best information we have learned this whole trip. I have never been more interested in something. Maybe I should pursue a PhD in Australian wildlife and just move here! Only in a dream!

Sorry for the gruesome photos. You gotta see it to understand!