Name: Colleen Fisher
School: Santa Clara University
Major: Environmental Science, Public Health Minor
Program: Tropical Rainforest Studies, Australia
Why did you choose to study abroad with SFS?
Australia is a place that during my lifetime, I may never be able to come to again. Therefore, the SFS program is the perfect opportunity to travel here. Also being an Environmental Science major, this program immediately jumped out at me. The Australian rainforest has such a diversity of plant and animals, as well as a society that is in constant interaction with the land, that studying here provides an immense range of opportunities. The culture is foreign enough to be exciting and new, but at the same time not too different where I would be completely overwhelmed. SFS provides such a unique program with hands-on approach that gives us a chance to be a part of the rainforest and see all the factors that contribute to it. I could really not be more excited to be here!
Australia already seems like such a culturally and biologically diverse country. All the people here are so friendly and happy to talk to all us that it immediately makes us feel so welcomed. I can already tell how the people here incorporate all parts of their lives with the rainforest environment and live very in tune with the land. Knowing that the rainforest is such a small part of the actual country makes me so excited to see more of Australia and compare it to the parts I’ve already been exposed to. Life in Australia definitely seems more laid back than in the states and the phrase “no worries” is constantly being said.
What are you first impressions of the field station?
The field station is such a unique place that it is hard to picture before getting here. We all had smiles spanning from ear to ear as we drove down the 2km access road through the dense rainforest all the way to the station. Waking up the first morning in our cabins nestled in the trees was what made me realize where I actually was. I woke up to a wide array of bird calls and rain pattering down on our tin roofs. It was surprisingly soothing and a great start to the first day. I love that we eat all our meals outside and are completely a part of the natural community. On the first day we saw a Carpet Python as well as friendly Bandicoots looking for leftovers from our dinner. There is nothing normal about life at the field station, but each day I learn a little more about the plants and animals, and get more comfortable adjusting to this new way of life.
What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you this semester both academically and culturally?
I think the biggest challenge academically is getting used to this new style of learning. Most college students spend the majority of their time in the classroom listening to lectures from professors. While this has its benefits, a more hands-on approach like the one we have here can add another dimension to our learning. At times I feel like the continual field exercises are going to be overwhelming, but overall will give us such a unique experience we would never normally get. Culturally, I am really going to need to get used to everyone driving on the wrong side of the road and the love for vegemite!
What are you looking forward to the most about the semester?
I am looking forward to so many different things during this experience! One thing in particular is the chance to gain research experience in this amazing rainforest. The Directed Research is going to be a great way for me to be able to choose a particular topic to go into depth about and immerse myself in. It will also give me the chance to decide if research is a future career path that I could pursue. I am also so excited for all the trips that the program has planned for us. We have a camping trip in the Daintree Rainforest and the outback, a homestay, and plenty of overnight and day excursions to nearby towns. Lastly, I am so excited about seeing all the marsupials!
Give three words that best describe how you are feeling right now.
Exuberant, in awe, overwhelmed