Read Chase’s First Impressions

What did you like most about the SFS experience?
After three months here at SFS, the thing I can say the thing I like most about SFS is the people. Through the many trips, classes, and just generally living together, the students and staff have grown so close that it feels like home away from home. This program has offered us the opportunity to develop friendships that go beyond this program. This, along with the ability to conduct my own research that I can take back to my university, has made this semester a very memorable experience.

You’ve been in the country for a full semester – tell us your impressions of it now.
The word that I think most accurately describes the Australian landscape is “diverse.” It was amazing to watch the transitions from the dense vibrant rainforest to the rolling pasture hills, to the dry sun scorched Outback. There was something unique and special about every place we visited. Beyond the natural beauty of the area, the wildlife is beyond what I could have ever expected. Every species of bird, reptile, fish, or mammal is so colorful, interesting, and different from what we have back in the U.S. This was abundantly clear when I saw my first cassowary, which is a big bird.. as big as me! Finally, the last aspect that really stands out is Australia’s people. The people here, I have learned, are tough and rugged but also some of the kindest individuals I have met. Every town I visited I met a new friendly face that was willing to tell me about their culture and way of life. This just confirms my initial thoughts that this is a truly wonderful country which I am thankful to visit.

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?
Living at a field station for three months has its perks and its downsides. The perks are waking up every morning and walking outside my door and being in the rainforest! Light shinning down through the tree tops illuminates the paths every morning with golden sunshine that always makes me stop and pause. With sulfur crested cockatoos calling overhead, brush turkeys walking around, and pademelons hopping along in the carpark, there is no shortage of things to see. Truly the wonder of the place is its greatest quality. There are a few downsides such as the showers being cold, the need for a headlamp to get back to my room at night, and being isolated, but these are all worth it to get a chance to live in the rainforest.

What ended up being your biggest challenge this semester both academically and culturally?
My biggest challenge academically this semester was budgeting my time while working on my Directed Research project. The time was largely open work but figuring out what work had to get done, what resources I needed to collect, and how to format my final paper and presentation piled up. I was able to complete all these tasks to a high standard, but it required focused management of my time to complete. As far as the cultural aspect, I can’t really say I ran into one. As I said before, the culture here is different but not completely different from the U.S. so I adjusted quickly. The only thing I never got over was all the kangaroo pelts and merchandise that is sold in Carins, which made me sad.

What is the best memory you have from the semester? Give some highlights.
I think picking one memory would be doing a disservice to all the amazing experiences that I had out here, such as traveling down a river on a crocodile cruise, visiting trees that looked like skyscrapers, sitting under the Outback stars, snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, and sitting in a glowworm cave. If I had to pick one really fond memory form this trip it would be visiting Margit’s house. She is an animal caretaker who takes in injured animals and rehabilitates them back to health. While we were there she told us so much about animal care and about tree kangaroos in the wild. I got to see firsthand a my first tree kangaroo that came to greet us, along with a baby possum, and a pademelon. The best moment was being able to hold a wallaby in my arms as it rested. It made the entire experience magical and something I will never forget.

Give three adjectives that best describes how you are feeling right now.
• Thankful: For the amazing experience I had
• Sad: To be leaving my new friends and this wonderful place
• Excited: To see what will happen in the next chapter of my travels