Final Impressions of SFS Australia

Posted: May 6, 2014

What did you like most about the SFS experience?
Falling asleep with no light but that of the stars was a comfort. Walking through the dense woods on the way to the Centre every morning was a calming experience. I loved being able to look at the variety of plants and animals that roamed about the Centre. I love living amongst the trees and breathing the forest air. Everything is brilliant and green, my favorite color. I also enjoyed getting to spend time with the Djunbuji Rangers during Directed Research.

You’ve been in the country for a full semester – tell us your impressions of it now.
To be honest, I don’t feel that I have a very good feel for Australia as a country. I have seen only a small area of the land, and the community in the Tablelands seems to be a bit quirky when compared to the rest of Australia. On the whole, I found the people here to be friendly and inviting—I feel positively about Australia but I wouldn’t say that I have much authority on the subject.

What is life at the field station really like? What are the best and most challenging parts of living at a remote field station?
Life at the field station is “action packed” and extremely structured. We live in very close quarters and it is a rare occasion to find oneself totally alone. The best part of living here was being so close to the rainforest. I am not one for city life and being able to spend time in the woods was thoroughly appreciated. The biggest challenge to living here was a lack of personal space and an attention to rules and structure that vastly contradict my normal state of being. While I enjoy good company and conversation, I also require adequate time to myself without schedule or obligation in order to recharge and rid my body of stress. This is not the sort of environment in which you can simply disappear when the notion strikes you.

What ended up being your biggest challenge this semester, both academically and culturally?
Academically, spending large periods of time in lecture was very challenging for me. I don’t like chairs. Culturally, my largest challenge was not being able to eat TimTams because I am gluten intolerant.

What is the best memory you have from the semester? Give some highlights.
We had just arrived in Australia and had been living in wet darkness for nearly two weeks before the rain finally paused. It was night, cool and damp against my skin, as I walked back to my cabin. I entered the clearing that surrounds our little hut, the lights already extinguished by those sleeping within, and glanced up at the sky. The most brilliant stars I have ever seen in my life shone back at me. I stood in awe, rooted to the spot as I gazed upward. I was overwhelmed by the feeling that I am connected to something vast and ever in flux. I am a tiny, insignificant speck floating in a sea of darkness amongst brightly blazing stars. Confronted by the fact that everything seen is not concrete – that while the light emitted from these stars still shines to us, many of them are long extinguished. Life is an odd matter of perspective. We must each find our own reason for living. Let your mistakes go – the stars do not care what we do here. Live consciously – your energy will keep shining even after you have extinguished.

Give three adjectives that best describe how you are feeling right now.
Tired, pensive, placid