An unforgettably experience in field biology in North Queensland, Australia January 17, 2023

By (Conservation Biology, Middlebury College) - abroad from 08/26/2022 to 12/08/2022 with

SIT Study Abroad: Australia - Rainforest, Reef, and Cultural Ecology

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
On top of this being an experience of a lifetime, I learned so much about myself, and my field of study. The program allowed for a lot of independence, and for individuals to get out of it what they put in. Academically, I feel like I learned more that in any semester of college up until this point.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

This program was an amazing opportunity for my academic endeavors. I gained so much experience in field biology, and got to talk to, and work along side some of the best marine biologists in the world at Lizard Island Research Station . The seminars were extremely well taught, and there was a good integration of lectures and learning in the field. All of the instructors were incredibly knowledgeable about their fields, and were extremely familiar with native flora and fauna. I would say the rigor of the program is what you make of it, especially during the independent research project, where I was able to dedicate a lot of time and effort to develop a project I was extremely proud of. The resources provided to me by the program, Lizard Island Research Station, and my advisor allowed for an unparalleled experience in field biology.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The program director, Tony Cummings, did an incredible job throughout the entirety of the program. Along with Jack, Uncle Russ, Vanessa, and his other assistants, the program administration did such a good job of making our group comfortable and educated as we experienced some of the most amazing ecosystems in the world.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

the living arrangements were extremely beneficial to my emersion in my study abroad experience. Most of the time we stayed in a hostel, which may not be for everyone, but I think the opportunity to live with other travelers was great for my experience. The living arrangements allowed for me to see all different parts of the Australian culture in Cairns.

* Food:

The food on the trip was good. We received stipend money while staying at the hostel for breakfast and dinners, and lunch was usually provided by the program. We would grocery shop for ourselves for lunches, which allowed for everyones accommodations to be met.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I felt very integrated to local culture. I think living in a hostel was helpful to push me to be integrated with the city culture in Cairns, and get to meet a lot of Australians. Additionally, our camping trip with Uncle Russ, an aboriginal elder, gave us a lot of insight into aboriginal culture in a way we couldn't have gotten anywhere else.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I did not have any serious healthy issues, but for all of the minor ones I had, the program was very accommodating.

* Safety:

I felt very safe overall in my host city. There were a couple instances where we were made uncomfortable by some locals, but overall I was never scared to walk around at night or go outside.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes

Honestly, this program was one of the best experiences of my life. I made so many friends, and got the opportunity to experience the incredibly diverse and draw-dropping ecosystems of the Wet Tropics, Outback, and Great Barrier Reef. People ask me what my favorite part of the program was, and it is difficult to answer because I loved every minute of it.


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

I think if you were to cook all of your own meals while staying at the hostel, you could have kept your expenses relatively minimal. But I tended to eat out at relatively cheap local places where I had to spend some of my own money.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? 75
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Definitely just be aware of how much money you are willing to spend on the trip. There are lots of opportunities to save money, such as cooking your own meals, but it can also be hard because you want to go out with your friends and experience the city.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? No

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Other
  • Hostel
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • Other
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Independent Research Project
  • Field-based Learning
  • The individuals who were on the program with me
* What could be improved?
  • Packaging List
  • Expectations for assignments
  • lecture space
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Honestly, not much. I went into the program not knowing what to expect, ready to go with whatever the program had in-store, and it did not disappoint. The only thing would be, you really don't need to pack a lot. Even if you think you do.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Rainforest, Reef, and Cultural Ecology Seminar

Course Department: N/A
Instructor: Jack Grant, Tony Cummings, and Vanessa Messmer
Instruction Language: English
Comments: I wouldn't say the course was challenging, but it was definitely rigorous in some ways (ex. 14 page write-up on specific species of flora and fauna). I thought the course did an excellent job of using the location, and the field learning aspect of the program was exceptional. The teachers were extremely knowledgable, and very engaging. I think participation probably mattered a little bit more, but I honestly wasn't thinking about it much because it was conversational, and I wasn't thinking about how I had to say something for participation credit like I do at Middlebury. I was assessed through papers and exams.
Credit Transfer Issues: No
Course Name/Rating:

Environmental Field Study Seminar

Course Department: N/A
Instructor: Tony Cummings, Jack Grant, and Vanessa Messmer
Instruction Language: English
Comments: This course was extremely enjoyable and did an excellent job using local environments to learn about field biology. The teachers were always prepared and very knowledgeable. I was say participation counted more, but it was also a lot more natural to participate and be interactive. We were assessed through research projects and papers.
Credit Transfer Issues: no
Course Name/Rating:

Independent Study Project

Course Department: N/A
Instructor: Vanessa Messmer
Instruction Language: English
Comments: Yes, I would say this project was very challenging, but also extremely rewarding, as it was probably the most valuable experience of my academic career. The course allowed me to conduct an independent research project at the prestigious Lizard Island Research Station, giving me an unparalleled experience in field work. The "class" culminated in a 40-page research paper, and 25 minute research presentation that I was extremely proud.
Credit Transfer Issues: No