As the Fall 2018 SFS students begin to settle into their new homes around the world, we asked them to share their impressions of the experience so far. Emma Liddle had this to say about SFS Australia:
Why did you choose to study abroad with SFS?
I chose SFS because I wanted a field-based, research heavy, and character-building study abroad experience. As an aspiring biologist/environmentalist, the program stood apart because it allows me to live and study in the places I want to protect. Through SFS Australia, I can take classes outside and do hands-on work through field exercises and community volunteering, as opposed to just living at a university and going to sit-down lectures the old-fashioned way. The course load, three classes and a directed research project, was especially inviting to me when I applied. Although I have researched and presented work in the past, I’ve never done independent directed work. Lastly, I’ve frankly been afraid to step out of the bubble of the United States. Studying biology abroad, especially in an isolated region of a faraway country, appealed to me to gain self-confidence and scientific skills.
What are your first impressions of the country?
Australia is terrific! Entering the country came with moment after moment of awe—seeing the ocean for the first time, crossing the coast and seeing the wetlands, and looking up at my first mountains. The temperatures are cool in the morning and at night, but the transition temperature-wise wasn’t difficult because winter here is about equivalent to summer in the states. I really love the rainforest; my favorite part is it smells so woody, and I think I needed the breath of fresh air. The people in the nearby towns are welcoming and the food is good, too. Tim-Tams, Twisties, and Shapes… who knew I was missing out on those snacks?
What are your first impressions of the Center?
I haven’t explored the Centre as much as I would like, but it’s nice! One of my favorite things is coming up from my cabin to the main Centre and sitting in one of the hammocks, watching the bush turkeys. Dinner is one of my favorite times, as everyone sits, eats, and chats around the big picnic table outside. I almost never eat outside at home, and now I’m a giant fan. I love the food, too– our cook is fantastic. I’ve watched a movie in the Student Lounge and played so many games on the open spots. The Site Walk is one trail I’d love to get acclimated to. If one thing really solidified my love for the Centre, though, it would have to be the night sky. Standing still, headlamp off, gazing up at the thousands upon thousands of stars. I’ve never seen the Milky Way, either, until I got to Australia. Incredible.
What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you this semester, both academically and culturally?
Academically, I think my biggest challenge will be the scheduling. I looked at all the lectures, hikes, and activities for the next week and it looks very intense, so finding a way to balance schoolwork, other activities, and free time will be difficult for me. I also worry that I won’t be prepared for exams and quizzes because of the busy schedule, although it makes me feel better that there are so few people on the program, so we can all be in the same place in terms of readings, studying, etc.
Culturally, my biggest challenge will be interacting with people from the community. One of our assignments recently was to go into one of the towns near the Centre and interview people about their lives. I found it hard to get the courage to ask them questions, and although the little town of Malanda reminded me of the town near my college, there was still a little Australia culture shock. Hopefully being at the Centre and being forced out of my comfort zone will aid interactions with local people soon.
What are you looking forward to the most about the semester?
I am looking forward to a lot of kinesthetic learning and confidence-building in the rainforest. This study abroad experience is so different from my home/college life—living in a cabin, eating outside, doing lots of hiking and exercise, and studying biology in a place so full of life. Having grown up with sit-down lectures and blocked class time, I am interested to discover my learning style from doing less blocked, more applied lessons. I know this will be such a fun, character-building experience; around six total hours of hiking has already made me feel stronger than when I came in a week ago.
Give three words that best describe how you are feeling right now.
Riled, Tired, Thankful. Words that don’t seem to fit together, yet perfectly encapsulate this moment. I am riled, in that I’m both excited and anxious for the days to start intensifying. I’m tired from exercise and a small bit of remaining jetlag—I’m not used to being so active all hours of the day! However, I’m overall grateful to be where I am. I’ve been here for a week and already am good friends with ten lovely people and three fantastic mentors. I’ve met my professors and can’t wait to learn with them. I’m in a fantastic little country, on a hill that smells like the Northwoods, one of my childhood favorite places. I’m right where I want and need to be, and I know everything will be alright.