Student Reflections – Veronika Jones

They say all good things must come to an end. I suppose that’s true, because here I am embarking on a 13 hour flight out of Sydney. As I reflect on my experience in Australia, it has been an eclectic balance of legal relevance and tourist appreciation. For example, when our scheduled law school functions ended Thursday morning, Kyle, Kevin, Jessie and I headed for the Sydney airport to catch a flight to Cairns, a city in Queensland, Australia — the port for the Great Barrier Reef. We arrived late to our hotel on Thursday, and basically went straight to bed. However, Friday morning began with the opening of our balcony doors, culminating in a view of paradise. Though the Cairns boardwalk is similar to that of Florida, lined with palm trees and quaint shops, our view puts Florida to shame. It’s a place where mountains meet water, and their magic is indescribable.

We boarded our boat, the Reef Experience, and cruised into the ocean on our upper deck beds, soaking up the sun. When we arrived at our first dive spot, we were briefed (by a very good looking Aussie, I may add) about the “Rules of Diving”. Here’s a recap: Rule #1- Just Breathe; Rule #2- Come Up Slowly; Rule #3- There’s gonna be water in your mask, get over it!

With over 50 pounds of gear strapped to me, I jumped in. *Freak out moment, and I forget Rule #1: Breathe. On my second try, *Freak out moment, and I’m overwhelmed by Rule #3: Water in my mask. At this point, I’m starting to wonder if this is even a good idea. Maybe I should just chicken out and spend my day basking in the sun. I decided to give it one more try, and this time I focused on listening to my breathing. Finally, some success; we dove deeper and deeper into the ocean.

All around me were the most beautiful colors I’ve ever seen! Fish that looked like rainbows, sun beaming through the clearest blue water, and so many types of coral! We got to a clam, and the diver showed us how to make it shut. I immediately realized that part of the wonder of diving is getting a chance to interact with the ocean world. We kept swimming, and we saw an anemone filled with clown fish. Imagine my excitement when I found out Nemo really does exist! Finally, my favorite part of the dive was swimming up to a sea turtle. Here I was, face-to-face with Mr. Turtle, and, in that moment I felt thankful.

My dive was unbelievable. But then, everything in Australia was. It is a country filled with welcoming people, beautiful landscapes, an amazing ocean, and a rich history. I am truly grateful for my brief visit, and many thanks to everyone that helped plan it!

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Student Reflections – Kevin Born

As our trip comes to an end, looking back it flew by and I can’t believe it’s over. There was so much to do and such little time to do it. It was surprisingly educational. Concerning cultural information, we did an incredible walking tour of the Rocks which really gave me an appreciation for where we were staying and the historical significance of everything around me. The tour guide was also a stitch and really cool in general. The museums were also very worth while. I did like how Sydney, as the location where the country was first founded by whites, continually made mention of the aboriginal people who were native to the continent. They put the aboriginal people and their culture on at least a level playing field with the First Fleet and the English settlers and often gave credit to (in a surprisingly proud manner) the 60,000 years of culture the aborigines had prior to English Conquest. (their culture is the longest continuous culture in the world by far). Throughout our trip I reflected on America’s history and marveled at how similar it is to Australia’s and yet how little we acknowledge the Natives Americans and our mistreatment of them (Trail of Tears, forcing them onto reservations, assimilation programs bordering on kidnap, and all the wars and killings from the first settlers through the Wild West). As a further comparison, Australians readily acknowledge and are proud of their convict roots. The country was built on the backs of petty criminals expelled from England for terms of 7, 14, or life sentences (although, because of the cost of the return trip, any sentence essentially amounted to a life term). We had a small discussion about how few dark skinned people resided in Sydney. The US has a lot of African Americans (whose original culture survived in some ways through food and music) primarily because they were brought as slaves to build our country. Australia had no need for this because they had convict labor. Again, this goes to show how globalization is not a new phenomenon but has been taking place for centuries through the spice trade from the Far East to Rome and Europe, the colonialization of the new world and the slave trade and eventually full blown colonization of Africa. I think this shows how interdependent and global our economies have been for so long. The only difference is that now travel and information transfer over great distance is much easier to accomplish. This is why learning about globalization is so important, both for our business lives, but also to get a sense of the shared human experience across the world. We all belong to the human race and we’re all equal. We have been shaping and touching each other’s lives for well over a thousand years; spreading and blending our peoples, cultures and religions. With this in mind I think this trip has taught me a lot about the need to acknowledge our dark pasts and to make up for them through charity and more importantly though tolerance of different peoples’ ways of life. Only then will we be able to right the wrongs of the past, grow humanity as a whole, and be successful in our lives, economically and spiritually.

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Student Reflections – Kevin Born

Waking up and staring out of my hotel window in Cairns perfectly demonstrates the beauty of this continent. Cairns is on the northern coast of Australia and is a tropical paradise much like the southern tip of Florida. Cairns is where boats depart for diving and snorkeling trips on the Great Barrier Reef, which is what we did on our first day here. Being under the water in one of the natural wonders of the world is just about indescribable. You can feel free to picture Finding Nemo (we did, in fact, find Nemo and Marlin hiding in their anemone they’re doing great and send their best) but that doesn’t capture the natural ocean treasures and beauty that surrounds you. The colors are more vibrant on the coral, the fish, the rays and sea turtles than anything depicted in that movie. It truly is a once in a lifetime experience and no one could ever regret making the journey up here.

However, that beauty should be preserved for everyone to share, enjoy and experience. One of the types of white collar crime we learned about, which few of us even knew of or considered to be white collar crime, was eco-crime; in other words, illegal deforestation, pollution, and the bribery and crime lord behind these all too common and lucrative businesses. While on the reef, divers touched coral, purposefully or inadvertently (it’s pretty hard to avoid the stuff when it’s your first dive and the ocean swells/currents toss you gently about), and you could see all the dead patches from where others had before. It’s no secret that pollution from the countries surrounding the reef are destroying vast tracks of it. I found myself wondering if I was contributing to this destruction, or if the companies that take tourists out there are committing crimes such as those we learned about. Whether the companies are or not, it is certainly a crime against nature and our own human heritage to take advantage of such an awe inspiring location without properly protecting it, not only so others can continue to see it in the future, but so we don’t lose an important ecosystem teeming with life.

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Student Reflections – Eric Wilber

Gidday Mates!  I spent the last few free days in Melbourne with friends.  When my mom was in high school, she had a foreign exchange student from an hour away from Melbourne live with her, named Pauline.  While they drifted apart after Pauline came back to Australia, we reconnected, and my parents and I came across the pond in 2009, staying with Pauline and her family.  Pauline has 2 sons, which are a year or two younger than I am.

This time, I went to Melbourne for only a couple of days.  I was greeted at the airport by Pauline, and we made a beeline for a pub near her husband’s work.  We then went about an hour south to her son Dan’s caravan.  This is basically a camper near the water.  He has a boat, and we went out fishing the entire night over a few (several) Melbourne Bitters.  It was a fantastically clear and calm night.  The stars were breathtaking, especially since I hadn’t had a chance to look up much while in Sydney.  I caught the only keeper of the night, a King George Whiting.  My mate did get a poisonous puffer fish, so he had to give up his hook to not get poisoned.  I stayed the night in the caravan, which was rather cool, a much needed break from the largely non-air conditioned hostel.

The next morning, we went to Pauline’s home in Maryknoll and fried up the Whiting, which was delicious.  From there, I went to her radio show.  She works very much with Aboriginal students and integrating them into Australian culture while still respecting their own. She does a radio show at the Aboriginal Co-op with several of her mates.  Unfortunately, there were technical difficulties, but it was cool to see how it all works.  I also tried sushi for the first time, which wasn’t terrible but not my favourite food (the prawns were good).

I then went with her son Eugene (Eug) to set up the sound for a concert for a family friend, Jenny Biddle.  Jenny is a great singer, and just released a new album.  We stayed at the theatre most of the night for the concert, and her rendition of Halleluja sent chills down my spine. The encore was a lovely bit called “Roo Poo,” which I’ll leave to your imagination.  After the concert, we stayed in Melbourne a bit before grabbing a kebab and going back to Pauline’s.

Finally, the next morning I woke up and went surfing with Dan.  It rained on the way there, but once we got to Phillip Island, it was sunny and perfect weather.  This was the first time I surfed, and am pretty rubbish at it.  However, I had a lot of fun for a few hours before heading in because of a storm.  After that we had fish and chips, then headed to the airport.  Can’t wait to go back to Melbourne and chill with my awesome second family!  Cheers, mates!

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Saturday, March 16, 2013 – Farewell at Bondi Beach

It’s hard to believe that it is almost time to leave Australia, but today was our farewell barbecue at Bondi Beach. While some of the students spent time in Cairns to the north, those still in Sydney met for a wonderful day in the sun and surf.

Bondi Beach, Australia.

Bondi Beach, Australia.

SIU School of Law students at Bondi Beach, Australia.

SIU School of Law students at Bondi Beach, Australia.

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Student Reflections – Kyle Boehmer

CAN LIFE GET ANY BETTER….? #No

Hello from Cairns! I write from the northern part of the country and the launching point to THE Great Barrier Reef!

Today, myself, Veronika Jones, Kevin Born and Jessie Sariff embarked on a life changing adventure. We awoke to a beautiful sunrise over the mountains and the bay from our hotel balcony. 84 and sunny, not a cloud in the sky. We boarded our dive boat at approx 8:00am and began the 2 hour ride to our first dive site within the Great Barrier Reef – Hastings Reef. After breakfast on the top deck we could barely make out the mountains and shoreline behind us. It wasn’t long before we had to begin our rather extensive safety briefings. While Roni, Kevin and Jessie began their dive course, I grabbed my wet suit and headed into the reef for some snorkeling. On my way I happened to hear a young guy talking about Illinois and how he had gone to school there in the south. If it wasn’t enough to meet SIU alumni in Sydney on our first day, I met another SIU alum in the middle of the ocean on the Great Barrier Reef. #SIUisbig #theworldissmall

I cannot find the words to describe what I saw…. but having done extensive snorkeling and dive trips throughout Florida and Hawaii, nothing could have prepared me for what was ahead. Thousands upon thousands of fish…. all different colors. The coral looked like neon signs lit below the surface. The more I saw, the more I swam….. just colors everywhere. After about an hour, I hopped out of my wetsuit and headed over for a glass bottom boat tour. (the wetsuits are used not because the water is cold, but rather there are jellyfish. The ones you can see are usually harmless, its the one’s you can’t that can be fatal.)

Through the bottom, I was able to see jellyfish, Nemo’s cousin, and then a giant sea turtle. It wasn’t to long after that I regained my coveted spot on my sun bed on the top deck and anxiously awaited for Roni, Kevin and Jess to return from their first dives. I will let you read their blogs, especially Veronika’s. We then exchanged stories, and dined on local cuisine as we set sail for our 2nd dive site, White Patches. This location was unique as waves actually broke on the reef…. hence the name. This allowed for shallow snorkeling and a more hands on experience. At the suggestion of one of the crew members (a native of Florida State – and the only non Aussie guide) We decided to hire her for a private marine biology snorkel. The 4 us took turns holding different kinds of sea cucumbers, starfish and other native reef creatures. I also had the opportunity to dive down and “tickle” a clam the size of me to watch in sheer amazement, the clam slamming his sides together. The colors remained neon and the fish in the thousands. It is a place unlike any other….

To end the long day, we set sail back for Cairns around 3:30pm. As the four of us climbed onto our sun beds on the top deck, we were served glasses of local Aussie wine and some cheese. As we left the Reef behind us with more memories then we ever could of imagined I couldn’t help but say something. I arose from my sun bed and held my glass of shiraz up into the sun and said to Roni, Kevin and Jess….

“does life get any better then this?”………. with a look around and sip of our wine…. the answer was a unanimous….. “#No”

As the wine flowed, the sun began to set and our boat rocked gently in the breeze…We all fell deeper and deeper into the dream that is Australia. What I would’t give to experience that feeling again………….

To sum up the trip, my favorites….

— Prof. Dervan’s opening reception at Opera Bar during sunset = energy and atmosphere unlike any other place on earth

–The Great Barrier Reef = #lifecangetnobetter

— US Consulate briefings = best jobs in the world

–La Boehem live at Sydney Opera House = iconic

— Manley Beach / Bondi Beach / Iron Cove 4k = home

This trip has been noting short of dream-making and life changing. My most heartfelt thanks to SIU Law and Prof. Dervan and his family.

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Student Reflections – Kyle Boehmer

Sydney = Home

Since my last post, we have had 3 very fascinating discussions. The first was with the US Consulate’s office. There we met with the head of Diplomate Security, NCIS, FBI, IRS and the US Consulate General himself (former ambassador to Madagascar). Each position was rather unique yet carried out the same mission…. “to ensure the safety and efficiency of our US foreign services members and diplomates as they carry out the diplomacy of the USA” I can’t think of a more awesome job then to carry out the international diplomatic strategy of the USA – stationed in Sydney Australia. If it wasn’t enough, the US Consulate is located in the penthouse of one of Sydney’s tallest buildings….. the views are about as plush as the jobs themselves. We were very fortunate to have such powerful players in the Dept. of State take time out of their jobs to meet with us.

We also had the privilage to meet with a partner of both Ernst and Young and Baker McKenzie. Ernst and Young gave the perspective of a consulting firm while Baker McKenzie was from an attorney perspective. While both unique, both were very much the same. White Collar crimes are becoming more and more frequent and not just in Australia, but around the world. While the USA hands down heafty fines for bribery and corruption, Australia does not. White collare crimes are seen as very different in Australia. For example, while at the US Consulate, one of the govt. heads said…. “see… crime does not pay, it never pays in the long run.” At Ernst and Young, however, we learned about one gentleman who stole 6 million dollars and only 4 million was recovered. Leaving 2 million unaccounted for. The man got 2 years in prison. When one does the math, thats 1 million dollars per year spent in an Australian prison. That actually pays well, very very well. The attitudes are just different in our countries. Australian’s seem to have other priorities with life….like a constant 77 and sunny climate.

We ended our academic proponents by taking a trip down to the Sydney District Court where we had breakfast with a judge and court administrator. We sat in on a felony drug smuggling case for their closing arguments. A few things to note was the intensity in which the jury was taking notes and looking through individual binders and books. They each had a desk if you will. A rather disturbing difference from the USA. Also, in Austalia, the barrister is the attorney who talks in court while the solicitor is the attorney you go to when you get in trouble. They work together as a team. The judges and barristers still wear old white powder wigs. Barristers just take an extended 6 month course after law school, allowing them to make as much as 10k a day! Judges can get around 1500 a day…. pretty loco, but considering that a vitamin water in Sydney will set you back about $8.oo US, the increased sallaries are SOMEWHAT justified.

On my last blog I spent a lot of time embracing the culture of Sydney… and as I sit in the Sydney airport awaiting my flight to Cairns, I can’t help but to continue that discussion. Although I had mentioned earlier that I could see myself living in Iron Cove, that was until I went to Manly. Manly is a north shore beach and neighborhood that is every bit as classy as Sydney, but with a beach casual twist. While there, we dined on buckets upon buckets of prawns and took in the local brew while watching the sunburnt surfers make thier way back home. Other than the occasional swag shop, nothing about it seemed to be touristy. It just seemed like the perfect place to live.

Finally, I must briefly mention Bondi Beach as it is one of the most iconic beaches in the world. As one decends the hills into the cove the wonders of its reputation come to light. Pristine and sexy all at once. We spent the afternoon worshipping the sun and asking ourselves…. “is this real life?” As the sun began to slowly set, we made our way to the Bucket List — an A-list beach lounge where you lay upon couches with Jugs…. listing to trendy music… just above the Bondi waves.

Needless to say, we left Sydney with a bang…. only to now begin our adventure to THE Reef.

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