Stanford in Australia, Autumn 2016-17
Major: Human Biology
College year while abroad: Junior
About the photo: Byron Bay has dolphins, whales, beautiful blue water, soft sand, a historic lighthouse, and delicious food. I could not have asked for more from this day trip.
Why did you choose to study in Australia?
BOSP in Australia is a very unique program. Approximately every two weeks, all of the students pack up and move to a new city, where they take a new class and have new field experiences. This aspect of the program in Australia set it apart for me. I wanted to see and experience as much of Australia as possible in my ten weeks there. And travelling to four or five different locations seemed like the best way to do that. In no other study abroad experience would I get the opportunity to visit so many different cities and locations.
The program in Australia would also be a big step outside of my comfort zone. I am not one to seek out new outdoor activities, and honestly I was terrified of snorkeling before Australia. After snorkeling for two weeks, however, I have grown to love it instead of dreading it! But I wanted to have my study abroad experience challenge me and encourage me to expand my comfort zone, which I could accomplish through the field experiences in Australia.
Many of the classes in Australia also count for upper division units for my major, Human Biology. All of these factors, the opportunity to travel to multiple cities, to step outside of my comfort zone, and get credit for my major, helped me choose BOSP in Australia.
What were your expectations before you went and how did they change once you were in Australia?
I went in with very open expectations. I knew that I would be studying ecosystems in Australia and also a class called Australian studies, but I did not have many specific expectations. I can say that Australia exceeded my expectations! The faculty members were much more integrated with students than I had expected and the field experiences were more enjoyable as well. Overall, Australia was a truly amazing experience and opportunity.
What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Australia?
The classes cover many WAYS requirements and count towards my major, Human Biology. I had also never taken Earth Systems classes at Stanford and really enjoyed the opportunity to learn about a new field of study. Every student in Australia also completes a Targeted Research Project (TRP) with guidance from a faculty member in one of the locations. This opportunity allows students to design and conduct a short-term research project with support from a faculty member. The TRP helped me develop and refine research skills.
What did you learn about yourself while studying abroad?
During my time in Australia, I gained an appreciation for nature that I did not have before. I remember sitting on the ferry as we were leaving Heron Island and just staring in awe at the ocean. From the surface, it looks like there is not much happening. But during my two weeks on the island, I had spent time in the busy world under this surface. I had studied the coral, the fish, the turtles, and other species. And I left with a much deeper appreciation of the ecosystems around us. This new appreciation also helped me realize that my interests can always expand and develop. I had not been particularly interested in nature in the past, but now, I like to take any opportunity I have to learn more.
What was the most challenging experience you encountered while abroad and what did you learn from it?
Towards the end of our time at Sheoak Ridge, we all went on a hike as a group. Students in the program have been going on a hike at the end of Sheoak Ridge for many years now. Our year’s hike was shorter and less strenuous than the hike that the group had done in the past. I am not sure what level of difficulty I was expecting, but this hike was extremely challenging for me. It was much steeper and longer than I wanted it to be. At first, I was very aware of how slowly I was climbing and was worried about holding my group back. But these fears quickly subsided. Everyone was encouraging, patient, kind, and very helpful. I made it through the hike ok! This experience prepared me for the rest of my time in Australia. I gained more self-confidence and was ready to take on the other challenges that my experiences in Australia would present.
What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?
I would describe it more as a lifestyle adjustment than a cultural one. Since we were switching locations almost every two weeks, we were essentially living out of suitcases for the entirety of the trip. We were also always sharing a room with at least three other people. It was difficult at first to travel so much and always be sharing a room, but I really came to appreciate it. One of my favorite things about my time in Australia was being able to see so many different places. And sharing a room with multiple other students was a great bonding experience. It was also all worth it for the beautiful singles with lots of closet space that we stayed in for the final two weeks at the University of Queensland.
What was your favorite part of everyday life?
Tea time! There are two tea times, one between breakfast and lunch and another between lunch and dinner. Tea time involves fruit, baked goods, Tim Tams, and many other delicious foods.
What was the most memorable experience you had while in Australia?
On my last snorkel at Heron Island, Songhee and I encountered a sea turtle that decided to hang out around us. We got to spend about 20 minutes just snorkeling with this sea turtle and another that joined for a bit. Sea turtles are one of my favorite animals, and I had never thought that I would get to swim with them in their natural habitat.
What 5 words would you use to describe the experience?
Outdoors, beautiful, challenging, bonding, packing (since we change locations multiple times)
What was your favorite food?
What was the most valuable item you took on the program?
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Vergheese
I did not bring this book to Australia but acquired it from another student who had finished reading it. It was extremely useful for the long bus rides and times without Wi-Fi. It helped me create some alone time in which I could relax and also reflect on my experiences.
What was your favorite music/band you discovered in Australia?
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.
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