This is my first time traveling outside the US. I have experienced the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area aka north Queensland Australia in a special and unique way. To date I have been living and working in the wet tropics rainforest of Australia for a month now. In that time I have learned a lot about the SFS Center For Rainforest Studies, the biogeographical history of the Atherton Tablelands, and the connections between the land, its history, its first nation people, the original owners of the land (the Aboriginal people), and European colonization. All of which make up a unique history of North Queensland.
I am really intrigued at the striking similarities between US history and AU history, that is, the resulting impacts on both lands and their native peoples when European colonization began. I am a person of color living in the US, and many of the experiences of the Aboriginal people are similar not only to Native North Americans but to African Americans as well. In this sense I feel a connection with the Aboriginal people even though I don’t directly have a relationship with them.
Sleeping and waking up in the rainforest is quite an adjustment too. The daytime and nighttime sounds take some time to become accustomed to when you are from a large metropolitan city. The first night here I woke up at 3am. I walked in the pitch black darkness to use the bathroom because we live in cabins with no connected bathrooms. Needless to say it was quite frightening. But now, it feels less intimidating.
The wildlife here is up close and personal as we are sharing a rainforest with the animals. I have seen a flying fox aka mega bat, kangaroo, wallaby, pademelon, platypus, python, monitor lizard, large spiders, skinks, and flying termites. Let me not forget the chorus of birds that wakes me up every morning just before sunrise.
The landscape of North Queensland is beautiful. I have seen the limestone cave formations of Chillagoe in the outback, the Great Barrier Reef at Green Island, the Seven Sisters ancient volcanoes, waterfalls, crater Lake Eacham, and many other wonderful biogeographic landscapes. It helps to put what I’ve learned in my class lectures into real life application, seeing the geological features of the Atherton Tablelands in person. It also helps me understand the use of this land via the history of its use and its current use. Now, the Wet Tropics of North Queensland is a tourist attractions due to its world heritage title.
There are many similarities to US culture. Radio stations play American music which helps it to feel a little like home. There are also American pop culture foods here like Oreos, KFC, and Subway. I’ve also been introduced to Tim-Tams biscuits, they are delicious cookies.
I do miss home, sleeping in my own bed, unlimited access to the internet, and most of all my family and friends. Yet, this experience is life-changing for me personally. I am a first-generation college student from an underrepresented minority background, and come from a disadvantaged community. My time here in Australia is helping to shape me into a global citizen, a more diverse and cultured student, and giving me a broader understanding of field research and scientific methods.