Victoria Greenen


Stanford in Australia, Autumn 2013-14
Major: Energy Resources Engineering
College year while abroad: Junior


Why did you choose to study abroad in Australia?

I knew coming into Stanford that I wanted to study abroad in Australia. The appeals included the time in Sydney, a city I always wanted to travel to, the outdoors hands-on classes, the TRP program, and the science focused academics.

What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Australia?

Australia was a big breath of fresh air (both literally and figuratively!) in my time at Stanford. I got to take a break from physics, math, and engineering and study the extremely unique ecology of the country. It was refreshing and also valuable to dive, so to speak, into classes such as coral reef ecology, which included elements such as hands-on data collection, ocean biology basics, and lab experience.

What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad?

Two things. One, the travel bug is a very real phenomenon and my time in Australia made me want travel more than ever! Two, I absolutely thrive in the outdoors. I loved every sunshine, sweat, mud, and sand-filled moment we spent in Australia. The hikes, snorkels, and mangrove treks were by far the best part of the experience.

What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad and what did you learn from it?

My biggest challenge was less of a specific moment and more of a sentiment that I think everyone on the trip had at one point or another. The character of the program means that you are spending most of your time with your fellow Stanford travelers. Tight hostel rooms, dorm accommodations on Straddie and Heron, and the fact that you are all taking the same classes together all adds up to not getting very much down or alone time. I think everyone got to a point on the trip where they really just wanted some space and maybe had a hard time finding it. This was a very important lesson for us to all learn- how and when to take time for ourselves and how to respect others’ need to do the same.

What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?

Australia is expensive. Travelling on its own requires stringent budgeting but travelling in Down Under especially made me aware of my spending habits. There were so many neat souvenirs, food, clothes, and side trips to take but my budget could only go so far and I had to learn to prioritize how I spent my travel funds. Also internet access was scarce. Even in hostels that “provided internet” it was usually slow and unreliable. We very quickly learned where the nearest cafes with wifi connections were and became quite familiar with the public library’s hours.

What was your favorite part of your everyday life in Australia?

Morning and afternoon tea. Genius.

What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Australia?

The night snorkel on Heron where we took flashlights and glowsticks out with us to see turtles and the fish that come out after the sun goes down.

What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?

Camaraderie, Unpredictable, Stunning, Wild, TimTams

What was the subject of your Targeted Research Project?

My TRP was focused on the effects of nutrient enhancement on mangrove soil respiration. We tested to see if adding phosphorus and nitrogen (common fertilizers) to the soil would change the respiration rate of the soil and cause it to release different amounts of CO2 into the environment.

What advice would you give to someone who was considering studying abroad in Australia?

First, be sure to plan but don’t become beholden to what you have scheduled. You want to be prepared but also flexible. Second, pack lightly! The program includes lots of travelling and hauling your overweight suitcase up and down hostel stairs, onto busses and through airports is not fun.

If you had to do it all over again what would you do differently?

My one regret from the trip is not meeting more locals. The bonds that the Stanford group formed were very strong and we tended to do almost everything together. While this forged strong friendships I also wish that I had ventured out on my own more often and had met more people who lived in Sidney and Brisbane. I also wish that there was a homestay component so that we could get a glimpse into the everyday life of an average Australian home or family.

How has the experienced changed or enhanced your future academic and career goals?

My quarter abroad encouraged me to expand my academic horizons beyond the technical scope that is common to ERE. Since coming back I have made it a point to take classes that look at energy resources issues through an environmental and ecological lens. I also discovered how much I loved working outdoors and hope to incorporate this into any future job I have.

What was your favorite food you had in Australia?

Anything served at morning or afternoon tea!

What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?

Books! There is so much time to read, especially on Heron. Plus it was fun to trade around with everyone as we finished our respective reads. We had our own little travelling library.

What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in Australia?

One of our tutors, Billy, had an amazing voice and played us the best campfire songs.