Australia is an incredible place to study abroad. Here are my top five reasons why:
1. Live in the rainforest.
To kick things off, I’d like to talk about where you live when you study abroad with SFS in Australia. Our center is located in the World Heritage Area of North Queensland, tucked away in the mountains and the beautiful rainforest. Nothing really compares to the feeling you get when you wake up in the morning to sunlight filtering in through the canopy cover and the many diverse species of birds giving their unique calls to warm up for the morning. I remember our first morning at the center, my cabin and I all woke up very early due to jet lag from travelling and we decided to go for a walk through the cabin trails that we have here at the center. It was so cool hearing bird calls that you’ve never heard before in your life. Our favorite to listen to was the Eastern Whipbird.
The flora and fauna that surround you in the rainforest are fun to discover and learn more about as you go about your general day. It really helps me feel inspired and refreshed from all of the stress from back home which I greatly appreciate. Finally, the stars at night are just wonderful. There is no light pollution and you can get glimpses through the canopy cover of the thousands of stars at night. Looking up at the sky before you go to bed is the best way to end your day in the rainforest.
2. Experience one of the most geographically diverse areas in the world.
I didn’t realize coming into this program that I would experience so many different places here in Australia. There’s this saying up here in North Queensland that if you travel for 2 hours in any direction you will experience entirely different environments. So far on the program, we have gone in every direction and have confirmed this theory. We have been to the edge of the Outback at Chillagoe where we saw an ancient beach and caves of fossilized coral reefs. We have also been to the Daintree Rainforest which is the oldest rainforest in the world and has many neat features to explore. And of course, we cannot forget the Great Barrier Reef! This is one of those places that is a must see at least once in your life, and SFS takes you there many times which was awesome.
3. The people.
This is a two-part section because in the program you have the opportunity to meet many locals, but you also meet some great friends within the program. First, I’ll talk about the locals that you will meet while studying abroad in Australia. My first impressions were that everyone here is super nice. If you ask anyone for help, they will kindly help you and have a great conversation with you as well. You can always count on someone to crack a joke with you or make your day a little brighter. We got to have a barbecue one weekend with some locals from Yungaburra and it was a great time!
While on program here, you will also be living with other students from all over the United States. It is so fun to get to know these people and make lifelong friends. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed this much in my entire life since being here. It’s also great because we all motivate each other when it comes to our studies and get more out of our learning experience. I’m very happy to have these people in my life now.
4. Step out of your comfort zone and experience a truly wild place.
Most of you have heard about Australia and the fact that everything here can hurt you. I will not deny that there are some scary things crawling around out there but being on this program can put everything into perspective. The first time I saw a large Huntsman spider it was not a good time let me tell you, but once I learned that they are harmless and basically just sit there and look big all the time, I got used to them and now it’s not so bad! In fact, many of the creepy crawlies here are actually pretty great and beautiful in their own way! This was something I had to step out of my own comfort zone for and learn to appreciate the things around me.
We had a neat classroom exercise where we went spotlighting in the old growth rainforest where you essentially go out at night with flashlights and try to see nocturnal creatures. Our professor had us stand close together and turn off our lights for a second and she let us soak in the beauty of the dark and quiet and then she told us that this is one of the safest places we could be on the earth. Who knew! Being here has helped me overcome some things that I would not have had the chance to back home.
5. An entirely different classroom experience.
Along with the standard lecture learning style, we also get to have field research and various excursions. This has been a neat way to learn this semester, because we get to apply what we learn during lecture in the classroom to real world scenarios around Australia. For example, if we learn about rainforest conservation, we will get to go out and either see real examples or help take part in activities that work towards reforestation. Our many excursions usually have lectures out in the areas that we go to which make the learning experience more fun and interesting.
Also, for the last month of the program, we get to complete a directed research project which pieces all of the information that we learned throughout the semester together. This is a neat opportunity to do something you’re passionate about that is relevant to the real world and can be used for future projects in the program. With all of these opportunities in the program, I have felt more connected to my studies and have learned so much!