By learning to coexist with spiders the size of my hand and waking up to the sound of the most beautiful bird calls, the SFS experience has really made me become the woman I am meant to be—a woman who embraces the nature around her, and appreciates the mechanisms of the ecosystem we protect. I have learned so much about myself in the past month, things that have made me a stronger and more dedicated person to the environment. I know that for the rest of my life, I want to dedicate my efforts and energy into conserving the species we have harmed in the past and bring them back from the brink of extinction.

I also know that humans are not the center of the universe—if we took a moment to sit, listen, and observe all that goes on around us in a rainforest, we would realize there is an entire dimension of intelligence and beauty. We would become less in tune with our desires and needs and focus more on the ones that are already in place—inherent and innocent needs akin to those that drive our flora and fauna. I am blessed to find myself in the mindset of conservation and environmentalism.

In regards to the sociological impacts of these incredible countries, both New Zealand and Australia have endured quite dramatic pasts, which are now reflected in the fraction of rainforests and inhabitants still here today. The culture of the Maori and the Aboriginals have grasped my heart in ways I never imagined—their down-to-earth, dedicated lives put mine in perspective, leaving me humbled and inspired. We have star gazed with the Maori, as Kiwis, a critically endangered species, cry out in the late hours of the night and make their presence known to us; we have stargazed in the outback of Laura, Cape York, where the Aboriginal people took us to spiritual realms of beauty, through song and dance; we have witnessed the resilience of both cultures and their drive to keep their cultures and customs shining brightly.

What makes this an even more special experience is the people I shared it with. All fifteen of us—each unique and special in their own majestic way—have made this experience full of laughter and memories, some I know I will someday tell my grandchildren. This group has been fantastic in adding substance to this experience and introducing me to lifelong friendships.

Since my part of the experience is not over, I feel incredibly excited to see what comes our way in the next month. I am sad to know some of the group is leaving us, but I know we will follow through in the many summer get-togethers we already have planned.  At the moment, I am going to embrace their presence and company, and most likely have a dance party over our nightly kitchen duty session!