Australia: rainforest, coolest place you'll ever live; people, nicest you'll ever meet Past Review

By (Biology, ) for

The School for Field Studies / SFS: Australia & New Zealand - Rainforest Studies

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Completely changed some of my views of the environmental world, expanded my horizons about environmental and agricultural issues, and was the singlest best three months of my life. Yeah, I'd call it worthwhile.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Difficult courses that require lots of thought and effort put into each and every assignment. The program gives overviews and slowly introduced students to the research process, but if you do not have prior research experience, especially statistics, writing and presentation skills (the backbones), then it was exceptionally challenging. Wonderfully devoted staff - teachers, interns, and support - and unbelievably rewarding education experience, combined to make this the best semester of my college career. It was not the easiest, however.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Support staff was very expereinced and tried to coordinate as many great cultural/sight-seeing experiences as possible. Half were American, half Australian/foreign experienced so able to share different insights to a diverse education process.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

You live in cabins in the rainforest. You walk uphill, seemingly both ways?, to get between the classrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, other facilities. You are walking through rainforest, however, where exotic & endangered wildlife can cross your path at any given moment. If you are not a nature lover, please don't even consider this program. No televisions, no cell phones, long walks to bathrooms, insects and wildlife all around you, internet service is satellite based and was being improved as we left - if those things don't sound appealing, or at least interesting/exciting, rethink this decision.

* Food:

Les - our cook when I was there - has since moved on from SFS, I'm sorry to say. Damn you missed some amazing eats, as he was a genius. I'd give this 7/5 stars, if I could, and Les was still there. They've probably hired someone equally amazing, and their budget for food is incredible (granted you're paying for it with the steep tuition), so almost nothing is out of line or scope for cooking. Do realize that Aussie's have a bit of a different taste - peanut butter is very rare, the school is the only place I ever saw it and they buy in bulk. Hamburgers almost always come with beets, so you may or may not like that. And food is crazy expensive everywhere else (all meals are provided for on site, but when you travel on your own or go out for the night), for a number of reasons. Example - Coke is $20+ for a case; Beer is $40+ for a case; typical, no frills, cheap breakfast is $10+; McDonald's almost nothing is under $3, except for the 50cent ice cream cones which are a staple.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

The program gives you ample opportunities to meet locals, support enviornmental and cultural projects, participate in home stays, visit the region, explore native issues/heritage, and anything else Australian you could desire. I dock this a star because the bars are all 30 minutes away by a bus, that you have to schedule ahead of time to pick you up, and walk 2 miles of dirt trails to get to. It's a

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

You live in the rainforest. You live in Australia. You have trips where you sleep in tents, climb slippery rocks, go into the outback. There are deadly snakes - on site. Leeches, spiders, insects - everywhere. Two types of unbelievably painful/terrible-should-be-exterminated plants (wait-a-whiles & stinging trees) all throughout the scrubbier woods. On the first day of arrival, you have a massive safety talk and demonstration. You'll have things repeated over and over again regarding snake/plant/swimming safety. They are excellent at it because they are used to it, but while you don't have to worry about big city crimes (traffic, theft, rape, etc), you are going to face some unusual circumstance.

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

Finances

* 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)

Language

If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Other
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans

A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? If you are a city socialite, depend on your iPhone/Blackberry, need constant internet access, hate bugs, hate the outdoors, need to go out every night, cannot entertain yourself, don't enjoy new locations and natural beauty, then maybe consider another, more traditional program. If you are an outdoors-y person, ... well ... that's actually all you need to be. If you love the environment, nature, plants, animals, and beauty, then go here. When I can honestly say that the single hardest part for me, by far, was missing out on watching American football, then you know it's worthwhile