Katelyn Tynan (she/her) - Stanford in Australia
College year while abroad: Junior
About the photo: Feeding the wallabies at Sheoak Ridge.
Questions and Answers with Katelyn
Why did you choose to study in Australia?
I wanted to gain an experience completely different from any class I had taken at Stanford. I wanted to take a break from my Economics and Classics classes and get out of a traditional classroom setting. I wanted to go to a country I had never been to before and be part of a group of students who were also seeking an educational adventure. I wanted to experience new things like scuba diving and marine and terrestrial research with organisms endemic to Australia. I wanted to be thrown into a hands on learning environment, where I can see lecture material in action. Most importantly, I sought out a traveling program, in which I would get to see the most cities and islands as possible within a 10 week program.
What were your expectations before you went and how did they change once you were in Australia?
Heading into the Australia Program, I was excited to gain unique experiences in the outdoors, but I had no idea I would gain once in a life time opportunities that I will never again have access to even if I travel to Australia in the future. The Australia BOSP Program has been operating for so many years that the logistics are planned almost perfectly. The relationship Stanford has fostered with the University of Queensland allows BOSP students to study endangered species on Heron Island, an almost private island, and learn from native Aboriginal Australians on their home island of North Stradbroke Island. With access to the research station facilities on both Heron Island and North Stradbroke Island, many individuals would not have the financial means to pay for marine excursions on research boats everyday had it not been included in the tuition of the trip. These experiences far exceeded my expectations.
What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Australia?
The most beneficial academic experience for me in the BOSP Australia Program was learning about marine ecosystems in lecture and then putting this knowledge into practice studying these ecosystems in person on both Heron Island and North Stradbroke Island.
As part of the Coastal Forest Marine Ecosystems course taught by Catherine Lovelock on Straddy, we learned about dugongs, a population of vegetarian mammals living in Moreton Bay. Dugongs are endangered due to hunting and habitat loss. Before going to Australia, I had never heard of a dugong before, but today, they are truly the most unique, spectacular creature I have ever seen in person. As part of class, we did a lab to examine the different species of seagrass the dugongs feed on and the effects of seagrass grazing on the environment. We went out on the research boats, jumped into the water with our quadrats and snorkels, and looked at small tracts of seafloor one by one. On the boat ride back to shore, we got lucky enough to see a herd of 20 dugongs, some of which were baby calves. It made me want to preserve these amazing creatures for the next generation. Never before have I ever experienced such hands on learning as I did as part of the BOSP Australia Program.
What did you learn about yourself while studying abroad?
The three months I spent in Australia were the most unique and exciting three months of my life. Growing up, I did not spend a lot of time snorkeling, hiking, or camping; as a result, much of the Australia Program was new to me, which was intimidating at first. This trip was definitely outside my comfort zone, but the adventure and complete happiness I experienced throughout the program were worth overcoming this initial fear. This program allowed me to discover my appreciation for marine life and scuba diving. As an Economics major and a Classics minor, I learned that I didn’t need to have a extensive science or outdoors background to enjoy this experience. All I needed was an open mind and a desire for new experiences.
What was the most challenging experience you encountered while abroad and what did you learn from it?
When I was at Sheoak Ridge, I tripped down an incline while running and injured my ankle pretty badly. This was within the first two weeks of the program, and two friends essentially carried me all the way through the end of the hike so that I could make it back to camp. Over the next week or so, it was pretty difficult to be in a rural area while having an injury, but it taught me the value of the bonds formed on the Australia Program. New friends I had just met a week or so ago went out of their way to help me in any way they could. It showed me how important these friendships would be to me though the rest of my Stanford career. Our cohort treated one another as a family, and I knew I could depend on them in challenging times over the next few months and eventually back on campus.
What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?
The biggest cultural adjustment I had to make was getting used to being outside for the majority of the day. Of course not everyone in Australia lives this way, but the marine and terrestrial researchers we spent our time with definitely do. Australians seem to have a much greater appreciation for their ecosystems than we do back in the U.S. With the Great Barrier Reef just off the coast, Australians are more conscious of their footprint and seem to have a greater sense of urgency to preserve their country’s beauty. Rather than spending days inside a traditional classroom or in front of a computer, we were only partially in lecture and the rest of the day was spent either in the rainforests, out on the research boats, swimming in the bays and lakes, or reading in hammocks. I became used to going out into nature to study the native Australian bird and plant species rather than reading about them in textbooks like I would do back at Stanford.
What was your favorite part of everyday life?
Snorkeling with rays, sea turtles, and reef sharks on Heron Island.
What was the most memorable experience you had while in Australia?
One of my most memorable experiences was hiking to the lagoon at Sheoak Ridge as a cohort. Whenever we had free time from class, most of the cohort would take a quick trip to the lagoon to cool off. There is a rope swing by the lagoon, and everyone would take turns learning how to flip off the swing into the water. It was so peaceful and serene. Besides our group, there wasn’t another person or building in site. Because this was in the first few weeks of the program, everyone was still getting to know each other, and it provided for some quality bonding time.
What 5 words would you use to describe the experience?
Adventure, Bonding, Awe-striking, Natural, New.
What was your favorite food?
What was the most valuable item you took on the program?
What was your favorite music/band you discovered in Australia?