Stanford in Australia, Autumn 2013-14 Major: Earth Systems (Ocean Track) College year while abroad: Junior
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH CHRISTINA
Why did you choose to study abroad in Australia?
I thought it was the perfect opportunity to bring to life the information I had been studying in textbooks.
What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad?
I became a lot more comfortable in my independence – so much so that I decided to travel around New Zealand by myself after the program!
What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad and what did you learn from it?
Stepping out of my academic comfort zone was a bit challenging. Before taking the terrestrial portion of Coastal Forest Ecosystems, I knew nothing about plant biology and was worried about how I would perform. In the end, there was nothing to be worried about because Claire and her teaching team are very good at what they do. Coming out of the experience, I learned the value of group studying as well as how much fun branching out academically can be.
What was your favorite part of everyday life in Australia?
Encountering/doing something new almost everyday – eating a different Asian cuisine every night while in Sydney, going to a dance club in Brisbane, watching a nesting turtle on Heron, and observing a sugar glider on a night hike in Lamington.
What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Australia?
The morning snorkel on Heron Island. I really didn’t want to get out of bed that morning, but I’m happy I did because I spent it swimming in a bait ball with lemon sharks! It was exhilarating to swim with such beautiful creatures and momentarily join the ecosystem.
What was the subject of your Targeted Research Project?
I studied the influence of stingray foraging on invertebrate communities in tidal flats. When stingrays feed, they flap their wings to disturb the sediment in order to dislodge invertebrates – creating “potholes” all along the tidal flat. My team focused on how invertebrate communities change within these sediment disturbances throughout the lifetime of the pothole. Our project required a lot of creative thinking and getting a bit dirty – I really enjoyed it.
What advice would you give to someone who was considering studying abroad in Australia?
Two things – be prepared to live out of a suitcase and learn how to cook if you don’t already! The Australia program is different compared to all other programs in that you don’t live in a program house or with a host family. You’re on the move every two weeks or so, so bring a suitcase you’ll easily be able to use as a traveling closet. In terms of food, you may soon grow weary of using your food stipend at restaurants (and restaurants in Australia are much more expensive than they are in the U.S). Cooking in hostels with friends can be a good way to both bond with other program participants and stretch your stipend that much further!
If you had to do it all over again what would you do differently?
I’d try to room with every girl in the program at least once. It can be really easy to hang out with who you know or become fast friends with, but I would have liked to gotten to know more people in the program.
How has the experience changed or enhanced your future academic and career goals?
I learned that coral reefs aren’t really my thing and I much more enjoy being on the water than in the water. However, I did really love the hands on, immersive learning style. As a result, my experience in Australia has further solidified my hopes to pursue fisheries science and find a job where I can be outside as much as possible.
What was your favorite food you had while in Australia?
Potato wedges with sour cream and sweet chili sauce. They’re also available in potato chip form – a great item to bring home and share with friends and family.
What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?
My travel pillow and Nook – awesome for bus, boat, and airplane rides!
Every Stanford undergraduate should give serious consideration to studying overseas.
Regardless of the academic path you choose, you will be enriched by time spent in another country. Achieving cultural literacy and gaining substantive understanding of other perspectives in the world will deepen your awareness of yourself, your educational goals, and your own society. Nearly one-half of each graduating class studies abroad through one of Stanford's overseas programs.