By Louis Garcia, BA ’14, MS ’16, AV/IT User Support Technician
After a long flight over numerous time zones, our group finally arrived in New Zealand. After getting off the plane, a bunch of us immediately had one thing on our minds—seeing Hobbiton. This excursion brought us to the actual set where the Lord of the Rings movies were shot. After completing the movies, a permanent location for future Hobbit movies was created so fans could explore the houses tucked into the rolling green hills. As I wandered through the Shire, I was transported back to the movies, and although I was physically still in New Zealand, I felt as if I was in a completely different world. From the hobbit holes to the green dragon, the experience was one that would leave any LOTR fan speechless.
As we made our way from New Zealand to Australia, we were met with a surprise nobody expected. Our group had arrived just in time for the start of Vivid, a light, music, and ideas festival held annually in Sydney. The city was lit up across office buildings and bridges, including the iconic Sydney Opera House. There were light shows and attractions that made the nightlife in Sydney thrive, taking an already memorable moment and making it that much better. The view of the city aflame, basking in light from the top of a Ferris Wheel, was something I will not forget.
One of my favorite locations we traveled to in Australia was Cairns. After taking a short one-hour boat ride away from the city, the group docked in the Great Barrier Reef. We then were fitted with gear and went snorkling, taking in the underwater views. Swimming with schools of fish, exploring the reef and its varying colors, and seeing the different sea life was incredible. We were led by marine biologists outside the barrier so that we could swim and explore the undisturbed parts of the reefs below.
Overall, the trip to Australia and New Zealand was not only a trip to another country, but instead to a trip to new worlds—one that I’ll never forget.