Students on the HWS Queensland study abroad program are exploring the ecology and culture unique to eastern Australia. Based at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, the program integrates lectures with field research and a rigorous schedule of multi-day excursions that allow students to learn and test new skills and concepts. Students are required to take a range of courses, which cover everything from the terrestrial, marine and urban ecology of the region, to Australian culture, society and contemporary issues.
“The courses have been challenging but extremely rewarding,” reflects geoscience major Hannah Schley ’19. “They cover a variety of topics and have certainly provided me with new skills and methods that will help me in future studies.”
As part of their “Edible Australia” course, students have launched an online newspaper, The Woop Woop Weekly, and have been reflecting on their experiences through writing and sharing articles. Students rotate through different topics each week, including arts and culture, Australian books and media review, top news, and food and land.
“The newspaper is a really great way to reflect on the trip and see what other people are thinking,” says Lauren Mercier ’19, a biology and environmental studies double major. “It’s been fun to go out of my comfort zone to find information on what to write about.”
Biology major Jack Mainella ’19, for example, interviewed an elderly woman sitting next to him on his flight back from a weekend trip to Wellington, New Zealand, who was a native of New Zealand and had lived all over the world.
“It really pushes us to look at what’s around us and reflect on what’s different in Australia from the United States,” says Mainella. “Within each topic, our professors are looking for us to research and look deeper at different aspects of Australian culture.”
With a busy schedule of day trips and extended excursions, students have a range of cultural and research experiences to reflect on. The group spent their first week at a research station on Moreton Bay, where Schley says they were able to come “face-to-face” with animals they’d only ever seen in aquariums and zoos. Students have also taken trips to Lamington National Park, hiked a small mountain to take in the views from Castle Rock, and are looking forward to their final weeklong excursion to Heron Island on the Great Barrier Reef.
“I want to be a marine biologist, so the marine biology course has exposed me to important experiences that will help as I pursue my career in the future,” says Mercier. “My experiences here have given me a new set of skills that I can bring back to campus and share with my professors and peers.”