I finished my 22 days of studying abroad in Australia. It was short, almost too short, but the memories and experiences will forever be in my head. The sights I’ve seen is imprinted somewhere in the temporal lobe or the cortex and I really hope it’ll be there until I die. The diversity of life in the ocean, the beautiful creatures in the trees, and the refreshing raindrops of the world’s oldest rainforest…
Our journey starts off in Brisbane. Staying at X-Base hostel right in the center of the city was the first sights of Australia we experienced. Heading over to the museum there was a clear difference in appreciation of invertebrates than in America. The next day, I woke up early for a jog through the botanical garden by the river. A few hours later we were off to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. We were able to observe the various creatures that were native to Australia. I got to take selfies with kangaroos, saw the almost extinct Cassowary and even hold a koala. If you never held a koala before, you’re missing out.
Our next and probably the most important stop of the trip/program was to Heron Island. We took a plane to Gladstone and a boat to the island itself. I’ve only seen pictures of Heron Island and to see it with my own eyes was a dream come true. We stayed at the Heron Island Research Station funded by the University of Queensland Australia. Our days were rigorous. Starting our day at 7AM with breakfast, lecture, TEA, snorkel, lunch, lectures, TEA, research, dinner, presentations ending at 9PM. And sometimes right after afternoon tea, there was another snorkel. There was no time for jetlag, everyone pretty much passed out at 10PM. Oh and the tea… best part of the day. Tea and pastries… I really need to start making that a habit.
The snorkels were amazing. The amount of life I saw in corals and out in the canyons is something I will never forget. Swimming with schools of fish right next to me, like I was one of them, was truly amazing. The gigantic sea turtles we saw were so majestic. The fifteen rays that were three feet below me was nerve wrecking. Sharks swam right past me with hundreds of bait fish swimming past by. It was amazing.
We split into groups and developed our own research projects. Ours was on “Correlation of Tridacna (Giant Clam) Length and Abundance of Hermatypic Coral Volume in Heron Island, Australia Reef Flat”. This will be presented at research day in April 2014.
Oh and the stars, my gosh the stars. The Southern Cross was in our view every night. We sat out on the beach after evening lecture and looked up at the stars. It looked like God just sprinkled glitter all over the sky. We saw so many shooting stars. I’ve never seen one before this trip so that was worthwhile! And just as amazing as the stars was the sunset. Even the professors dropped everything to make sure everyone headed out unto the Jetty by 5PM with either a beer or wine in hand to watch the sunset. Everyone gathered sitting on the dock watching the sun disappear on the horizon… I can still feel the emotions I felt that moment. Truly magical.
After ten days on Heron Island, we headed back to the city to Cairns. Cairns was a fun little city. We had our first free day there so we went shopping and walked to the Esplande. There was a shallow city pool with a shipping dock. It was a nice city to be in.
After Cairns we headed to the rainforest in Daintree. Now, when you say rainforest, it really is a rainforest. Constant rain and humidity, nothing every dried there! We slept in bunk beds with mosquito nets over us. The amount of bug bites we had was ridiculous. We went out on a night walk with a world renown guide Possum. Vicious Hairy Mary’s, Huntsman spiders… Yikes. The next day was our free day. I trekked about 15km to get to the Discovery Center with information on the rainforest and its inhabitants and back to the resort. And after that long walk we went ziplining through the rainforest. We hung upside down “Look ma, no hands!” and slid across the forest. And we saw a rarely seen tree kangaroo! That was so much fun. We also swam in the freshwater lake, yelling like Tarzan on the rope jumping into the water.
That was the lowlands. We headed upwards to the Tablelands towards the top of the rainforest. The resort we stayed at was so beautiful. We saw possums, sugar gliders, and paddy melons. Such cute little creatures. We walked up to Lake Eacham (for a really long time…) and swam in volcanic crater that is now filled up with water. We went in search of waterfalls that only locals knew about. We weaved through paths that not many people walked through, getting wet walking behind the waterfall, stepping on hog poop. What an adventure!
Our journey ended in Sydney. What a great city! We took the ferry to Circular Quay and went about town. It was busy and filled with people. The next day was our free day. We went shopping and met up with the professors to walk through the botanical garden, the public library and grabbing dinner. Cheers to a great group of students and professors. I don’t think a group of seventeen students can get along so well.
And now I’m back in America with all these adventures, sights, images, emotions, and experiences behind me. It seemed as it I stayed there for months but my trip only lasted 22 days. I will never forget anything of the things I saw and felt. This experience has made me want to be a different person. Not to be lazy and to go out more. To love the Earth and everything that inhabits it. Humans, animals, and every single tree. I want to go snorkeling again, go hiking, and experience what the Earth has in store. I’m excited to embark on another journey and can’t wait to see how I will change for the better.
Thank you to everyone who supported me and wished me the best of luck. Australia will be an experience that will never be forgotten.