Dear Prospective Student…

There are many reasons why I could tell you to choose the SFS Rainforest Studies program. I could attempt to write eloquently about the magical experience you will have here in the Atherton Tablelands, how it will be nonstop joy and the time of your life. That isn’t to say that it won’t be these things; however, I like to fancy myself as a realist and I don’t want to sugarcoat it so much that you get a stomach ache. Rather, I would like to pass on a piece of advice that has served me well and I think will be useful in making your decision: don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone.

You may think of your comfort zone as a happy place; it is safe, familiar, and free of surprises. In truth, there are many parts of the Rainforest Studies program that will not be this way. You will be rained on. Bugs of all shapes and sizes will be around you, and on you. At least one of your personal possessions will likely get moldy. You will be pushed to meet unfamiliar people, go unfamiliar places, and try unfamiliar things. For all but the most adventuresome, these sorts of experiences would not be within their comfort zone. But once you step outside that zone, you’ll find that that’s where the real fun is.

I challenge you to challenge yourself. Take risks, make yourself uncomfortable, do things you wouldn’t do. Sure, rain and mold and big scary bugs don’t seem like fun. But without these shared discomforts, you don’t form friendships so tightly knit that it sometimes feels like you’ve known each other for three years, not three months. Striking up a conversation with a stranger isn’t easy. But if you don’t, you won’t know how kind, worldly, and hilarious that old lady planting trees next to you on Saturday mornings really is. Snorkeling for the first time alongside jellyfish can be daunting. But there’s only one way to get face-to-face with a 250-pound green sea turtle: slap on that suit, strap on that mask, and get in that water!

Some of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had in Australia so far have been the result of my choosing to do things that were initially intimidating or difficult. Over mid-semester break myself and three of my peers embarked on a hike up to the lower peak of Mount Bartle Frere, Queensland’s tallest mountain. It was undoubtedly the steamiest, steepest, most leech-ridden climb I have ever had the privilege of underestimating. This may sound like this was a very bad experience; on the contrary, it was probably my favorite day of the whole break. Hours of sweating up a 45-degree incline only made the triumph of reaching the top that much sweeter. The spectacular views of the coastal plains were just as invigorating as the long drink of water and oatmeal cookie that accompanied them.

The Center for Rainforest Studies – as homey as it is – might be outside your comfort zone. But if you are considering this program, you probably already know this. I’m here to tell you; embrace it. Don’t fear it. No one ever changed their life by playing it safe. Take a leap, a chance, a risk. Challenge yourself. Good things are sure to follow.



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