For the last 16 years, Professor Leon Geyer has taken students every other year to Australia to study land, environment, water and cultural issues.
Although students learn much about Australia during these trips, the following comments show that this program is not just about book and class room learning. What do students learn on a study abroad? Here are three students’ views after returning from their trips.
Rachael Bondi, Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise
“When Dr. Geyer first told me about this trip, he told me that I would learn about myself, others, and Australia — in that order. His words of wisdom could not have been more accurate! Traveling halfway across the world allowed me to experience life in ways I’d never been exposed to before. Knowing only ten other people on the continent granted me friendships that will last for years, perhaps with people I would not have met otherwise. When put in a place that is entirely new and unfamiliar, one begins to build a sort of camaraderie with those in the same position. It is this striking camaraderie that made my Australian adventure such a thriving success. Because of respect and love of friendship, I was able to collect firewood in the Outback, hike mountains, explore new cities, and learn more about our beautiful world with people I had never met before. What a truly inspiring experience!
For me, this study abroad trip was somewhat of a refining process, especially in the way of loving others. It is very easy for me to love the people surrounding me when I am good friends with them, have similar interests and values as they have. I did not know anything about the other nine students with whom I’d be spending a month in a foreign country before our plane ride, and I wouldn’t change that for the world. We were all from different majors, different graduating years, different walks of life, and yet we got along splendidly. Loving people well often means that one must die to one’s own selfish desires in favor of serving someone else. I was able to practice this concept in doing dishes in the Outback when maybe I’d rather be playing a game, in electing to do something someone else wanted to do instead of my preferred option just because they are important. This trip has been able to teach me in remarkable ways what it looks like to serve mankind in a loving way.”
Jaspret Tashar, Department of Biochemistry
“One of the most memorable parts of studying abroad in Australia was not only the opportunity in making lifelong friends, but also the once in a lifetime learning experience it offered. One of the many unique aspects of my four weeks studying abroad in Australia was traveling along with students who were studying a variety of disciplines. As a biochemistry major pursuing a career in medicine, a majority of my courses revolve around science in its raw element. Meeting students with different backgrounds helped shape my perspective on the world and allowed me to become more globally minded. Learning about Australian culture, their environmental laws and policies and contrasting them to those of the United States, allowed me to gain a better understanding of the various ways to influence our planet.
Another unique aspect about this trip was learning about the relationships between the indigenous people and the environment while exploring the Outback. It was interesting, especially as someone interested in medicine, to see how they’ve used their environment to concoct medicines specifically for their ailments and used it as a source of survival in terms of their health. Coming to Australia exposed me to the fact that medicine is as much cultural as it is scientific. While in the Western World we are focused on creating synthetic drugs that will target the exact source of the issue, the indigenous people of Australia used the environment specifically to treat their ailments. It certainly was eye opening to see the Australian perspective in the arena of medicine. I can easily mark studying abroad in Australia as one of the best experiences of my life.”
Will McHugh, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
“Throughout traveling across Australia, one thing that could be seen everywhere was that water equals life. This was seen in both ends of the spectrum; barely enough water to sustain life and more water than there was need for. For example, the Red Center gets as little as 300mL of rain per year and it was very clear because it was a vast desert with very minimal vegetation and animal life. On the rare occasion there was a water source, it was immediately seen in the huge spike in wildlife around that source. However on the other side, the Daintree Rainforest could get three meters of rain in the dry season and up to eight meters in the wet season. This kind of rainfall has lead to the creation of one of the oldest and most diverse rain forests in the world.
Overall, because of the vast differences in rainfall and water throughout the continent, Australia has become one of the most diverse countries in the entire world.”