Posted: May 21, 2012
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Final Impressions of SFS Australia



Name: Jillian Guenther
School: Vassar College
Major: Environmental Studies
Program: Rainforest Studies, Australia



What did you like most about the SFS experience?

I liked being in an area with beautiful landscapes (cleared and forested), unbelievable animals, and incredibly friendly people. What I liked most about our program was the professors – their lively commitment to our classes and close proximity.

 width=You’ve been in the country for a full semester – tell us your impressions of it now.

Australia as a whole is still a very new place – it seems to have a lot of similarities to the US while being quite distinctive. The Atherton Tablelands, on the other hand, I feel I have come to know quite well. What’s valuable to me is the fact that the knowledge I have gained in only three months comes from the people who live there, many of whom have lived there their entire lives. There were varying perspectives on all thinkable topics, but what most people had in common was a willingness to talk, about nearly anything! These social interactions have shaped my knowledge and impression of the Tablelands immensely.

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?

I loved the field station! From calm, beautifully sunny days to an all-out flood, life was exciting and beautiful. There were often things to fix and always work to do, but I enjoyed the way these tasks were divided and rotated. I have to commend the staff and professors both for always meeting challenges cheerfully and effectively. I liked having everything in one fairly small location, with a beautiful walk between the farther buildings. The site walk was amazing, though perhaps the terrestrial leeches were the most challenging things of all!

What ended up being your biggest challenge this semester both academically and culturally?

The biggest academic challenge was adjusting to the fact that my SFS professors’ expectations significantly deviated from my Vassar professors’ at times. For example, one of my professors had very different perspective on our writing and at times it was difficult to alter my writing style. I suppose the biggest cultural challenge was simply the complexity of Australian and local culture. I wanted to understand it fully but being from overseas limits and the short time I was there limited the depth of my understanding.

What is the best memory you have from the semester? Give some highlights.

How can I choose?! I think something that I will remember my entire life was Community Night, when we presented our DRs to community members of the Atherton Tablelands. I had fantastic conversations with some people that I’d known all semester and some that I’d never met before. We were able to discuss issues of education, policies, sense of place, and life philosophies. Other highlights include chances to visit the beautiful places in the area and talk to people. I also enjoyed time spent at the field station, and the tremendous productivity of our group as a whole – in classes and research as well as extra projects.

Give three adjectives that best describe how you are feeling right now.

Happy, accomplished, still kind of tired.

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