Final Impressions of SFS Australia

Posted: December 5, 2013

What did you like most about the SFS experience?
Before leaving for Australia, I had let many of my friends and family convince me of the many hardships that would present themselves living with 28 other people in the confines of the Centre. Being a naturally shy person to begin with, I was genuinely worried about the whole situation and being able to live and work in an area of virtually no privacy. After being here for three months, not only were my fears unfounded, but all the people involved really made the whole experience worthwhile. It’s incredible how such a diverse group can get along so well. While it’s true that small cliques exist within our group and we tend to hang out with some people more than others, we work really well as a group and excursions as a group are always the most memorable. Every person here means so much to me and I am so happy to know that I will be leaving here with 32 amazing new friends.

You’ve been in the country for a full semester – tell us your impressions of it now.
All in all, it was easy to forget we were in another country at times. There were a few instances when differences stood out. I couldn’t imagine being able to walk around barefoot in the middle of town, as it is acceptable in areas like Cairns and Townsville. I will never forget trying to ask “where the restroom is?” and getting nothing but blank stares in return and getting strange looks when referring to tomato sauce as “ketchup.” And then there is the odd absence of “iced coffee” in Australia which has been the cause of much disappointment for many of us coffee drinkers at SFS.

One aspect of Aussie culture that has been most prominent to me during my stay here is the openness and welcoming attitudes of all the people. Everywhere we have traveled, from our community service trips and Folk Festival adventures right in the Atherton Tablelands, to the beaches of Daintree and the rocky landscape of Chillagoe, we were able to converse with people easily.

What is life at the field station really like? What are the best and the most challenging parts of living at a remote field station?
I’m really going to miss my routine that has developed over the course of the past three months. Getting up early, hearing and seeing all the birds and pademelons that share our rainforest home on my hike to the Centre, running up the many hills on the access road when I felt particularly motivated to do so, enjoying egg and vegemite covered toast or perfecting my pancake making skills at breakfast, piling into the classroom at the ring of the bell, reconnecting with the group at afternoon announcements, forgetting to exercise moderation and self control with Iris’s amazing cooking, and finishing the day off with work, a game of cards, or a movie night with everyone piled into the common room.

As I thought from the beginning, time management was certainly the most challenging aspect of living at a remote field station. It was always easy to push off school work for the sake of hanging out with friends, exploring the site, or simply getting that run or bit of exercise in. The days leading up to field exercise deadlines, exams, and practically every day of Directed Research (DR) were filled with late nights, early mornings, and many cups of tea and coffee.

What is the best memory you have from the semester? Give some highlights.
The week before DRs was a rather apprehensive time. Much of our time was spent studying for finals and we were all well aware that we were not going to be seeing each other as a group for a few weeks. But luckily, we spent our last Sunday together on a high note visiting the Milla Milla Waterfall Circuit and Mungalli farm. All of the waterfalls were absolutely stunning, the water was cold, but not unbearably so, and the weather was perfect. But of course the best part of the afternoon was simply being with everyone, sharing laughs and memories none of us are soon to forget.

Give three adjectives that best describes how you are feeling right now.
Accomplished, Tired, Reflective