At home, when I’m not in class or engaged in extracurricular activities, I am often studying at my school’s academic study hall called the McGraw Center. It may take a while to discover but once I find a place where I do most of my productive studying, I always keep going back to it. At the University of Melbourne, I found my study nook at Baillieu Library.
I still put substantial effort into my academics: attending all except one of my lectures, all of my tutorials, and dedicating sufficient preparation to writing assignments and to assessments. To adapt to the significantly larger class sizes where I do not receive as much individual attention, I email my instructors or meet with them 1-on-1 asking for more detailed feedback. I have also attended every Peer Assisted Study Session for my history class even when I was the only student on some occasions.
I am proud of my academic grades so far and the highlights have been achieving a perfect score on my zoology midsem and the highest mark in my modern Chinese literature class on the midsem. My greatest accomplishment though is the academic confidence I have gained through studying abroad. Studying ecology and evolutionary biology in Australia has affirmed my love for the subject. Writing my spring Junior Paper in a different academic environment and schedule has enriched my undergraduate academic journey by teaching me organizational skills and instilling me with more academic independence.
My time studying in Australia has been filled with exciting activities revolving around various artistic disciplines. I jive, cha-cha, and samba with the University of Melbourne Ballroom Club and on the 2nd of May I will be competing in the intervarsity dance competition against Monash University. I will also be performing in a showcase for my African Dance and Drumming class on the 29th of May.
When I came to Australia I was determined to find circus activities, and I have. I take aerial silks classes at Blue Circus Studio and at Women’s Circus I participate in an Aerial Create class where I explore various aerial apparatus. The class is working towards a performance on the 21st of June. Since coming to Australia I have joined the University of Melbourne and Monash’s juggling clubs where I learn diablo, partner acrobatics, and juggling tricks. On weekends I go to Viral Happiness; a gathering of circus individuals who meet in parks and run workshops on various circus disciplines.
My time in Australia has been filled with learning new skills, volunteering, performing, and meeting new people. The people here are incredible and new experience are everywhere all you have to do is get out and explore.
I feel really good about all the work I am doing over here and I think my story is pretty cool. I got my heart broken and puked on a plane for 15 hours to a place I’d never been but then I took a class about monism and wrote a children’s book about nature and started going to the gym. I’ve gotten the chance to help conservation research (sea turtles specifically!) and care for animals at Billabong. I’ve also gotten to participate in the art scene in Townsville through the poetry slam I organized (with A LOT of help) and a few visits to umbrella gallery. I have taken up some activism work through my facebook selfie project and am just starting contact with a few indigenous rights activists in the national student organization. I have transformed as a person and though I am still working out a lot of kinks (especially academically), I have found my power here. I’m actually working on staying for the extra time I have on my visa to farm and to love someone—so I feel full and realized and open and excited. ^sorry if thats too long of a submission/sorry this is on FB–I’m currently headed to Daintree to do some ziplining so wifi and word counts are hard to come by!
Spectacular Sports Star
At my college back in the United States I am a multisport athlete having been a member of the Football Team and also Track and Field team. I have also become a member of the Old Methodist Rugby Club and eventually got nominated captain for the 2015-2016 school year. Coming to Australia, I had the goal in mind to challenge myself athletically by trying out and playing rugby here. Through hard work and hours of training, I made the Unilodge Rugby Team at ANU and also the Uni-North Owls Rugby Club. I also had the honor of starting for both teams. In our first Unilodge Rugby team in our first game I was nominated as the second star of the game. For the Uni-North Owls Rugby I recently got moved up to the Grade 2 teams where I am playing players 5 to 6 years older than me from places such as Fiji, Samoa and South Africa! I have gained valuable experience playing against older players and hope to build on this success. In these 3 months, I have grown tremendously as a rugby player, athlete and leader on the team and I know that I will carry all of these memories with me forever when I return back to the states.
Simply by participating in this abroad program, certain steps toward independence, adulthood, and responsibility have been achieved by all. However, I would like to talk about the millions of physical steps that I, along with my chosen travel partners, have taken in the past several months. Having grown up in New York City, walking has always been both the most practical, and my preferred, method of transportation. Although I knew that I would be travelling in places both geographically and culturally foreign to me, I decided that walking would, once again, prove its worth and provide me with the deepest understanding of any place in which I may, expectedly or unexpectedly, find myself. And so, with countless hours of planning, I have embarked on hundreds of walks—long and short, strenuous and casual, planned and unplanned, directed and aimless. I have pushed myself to walk regardless of crowds, weather, and personal feelings of fatigue. In this way, I have been able to make the most of any amount of time that I have been allotted in a place, whether it be four months in Sydney or eleven hours in Hong Kong. I have walked the entirety of the world-renowned Milford Track and seen its incomparable natural beauty, I have been privileged enough to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge and soak in the indescribable architecture of Sydney’s two most iconic structures, as well as walk countless paths through the back neighbourhoods of Sydney that only ‘true locals’ ever walk. I have walked the streets of Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, and Queenstown, immersed myself in the lush rainforest, the glacial regions, and mountainous areas of New Zealand’s west and east coasts, ambled along the quintessential alleyways in Melbourne, and look forward to strolling along the pristine beaches of Fraser Island, walking the untouched beauty of Tasmania, and to wandering beneath the bright skies of Uluru. Although my feet may tire, my mind and heart have never been more alive and eager to see more of the diverse places, people, cultures, and environments of the world.
I trusted that JCU would enable me to explore the Great Barrier Reef, yet I never predicted that I would be working closely with one of the reef’s most mysterious inhabitants: the flatback marine turtle. Believed to inhabit the turbid, shark and crocodile filled waters of Australia, flatbacks comprise a small fraction of the existing knowledge on marine turtles. JCU is currently participating in a groundbreaking study involving satellite tracking of juvenile flatbacks to better understand this vulnerable species.
Arranged by my SSC Rob Spencer, I began volunteering with Hector, a doctoral student, in taking care of the adorable flatback hatchlings. My duties were simple: clean the turtles and their baskets, assist in weighing/measuring, prepare the food, and feed the hatchlings. What began as weekly meetings quickly changed into the turtles essentially becoming my life. I was soon able to identify the hatchlings’ personalities, watch them grow larger from week to week, and even administer medicine and fluids if needed. One day Hector, originally from Venezuela, timidly asked if I would help him edit a paper on leatherback turtles as English was not his first language. Sharing a passion for marine life, we soon became friends and colleagues through working on other papers and even his thesis. Incredibly this also led to Hector and I becoming coauthors on a paper about Guiana dolphins! I arrived in Australia as an undergraduate and will leave as a published author, and I am extremely thankful to Rob, Hector, and IFSA-Butler for these opportunities.