Australia Study Abroad May 2016 – STEP Reflection

Erica Savin

Study Abroad

In May of 2016 I studied abroad in Australia for my STEP signature project. While in Australia, I studied sustainability through human societies like the European Australians and Aboriginals, as well as unique ecosystems like the Great Barrier Reef and the remote outback. I traveled to eight different locations in North Queensland, Australia being taught by well-known, knowledgeable Australian Lecturers with a group of 20 Ohio State students, a professor, and a teacher’s assistant.

The understanding I have of the world and myself transformed during my experience abroad. My love for travel grew, and so did my desire to try new things and be taken out of my comfort zone. Traveling has always been an important aspect of my life because of the new experiences and cultures it entails. My time in Australia, however, taught me the many harmful impacts tourism can have on the environment. Thus, I plan to travel more sustainably in the future and participate in eco-tourism to help the country I am travelling in. My view of the world and how humans are effecting it has transformed through the knowledge I gained while in Australia. The impacts of fishing, farming, and global warming are harming the earth and something needs to change. I believe governments, business, and people are not doing enough to protect our planet. I care more about sustaining the earth than I ever did before my time abroad. I learned that I can make a difference to the environment and therefore, I practice sustainable living everyday. Overall, my values for traveling and sustainability has changed for the better, and my understanding and knowledge about the world and how humans are effecting it has grown.

Many opportunities and experiences in Australia led to these transformations I just discussed. My love for travel grew as a result of the people I met and the amazing new adventures I had. The 19 other Ohio State students and the Australians that I met along the way made the month unforgettable. I loved traveling with new friends, which I never would have met without this opportunity. The new adventures I participated in added to my love for travel as well. Snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef, hiking to amazing places like Wallaman Falls and Balding Bay, and camping in the outback all brought me out of the comfort zone and forced me to experience something new and amazing.

My new goal to save the planet and live sustainably is a direct result of my experiences in Australia. I saw the impacts that farming, fishing, and global warming have on the Great Barrie Reef first hand. For instance, I witnessed the bleached and dyeing coral in the Great Barrier Reef which is a result of human impact and global warming. After completing research with my classmates and a team of marine biologists in Port Douglas, Australia, we found that overfishing is extremely harmful to the health of the reef. The Great Barrier Reef is divided up into several zones. We discovered that the yellow zone, which allows the most fishing activity, is the most damaged area of the reef compared to the blue zone, which only allows tourists. Farming is another major cause of the declining reef health. My farm homestay and several lectures about farming taught me the harmful effects farming has on the Great Barrier Reef and waterways all over the world. The pesticides and herbicides used in the soil are increasing the nutrients in the waters causing coral to die and algae to bloom. Other ecosystems in Australia are being damaged due to more human causes. For example, the koala population is declining due to the deforestation of eucalyptus forests for buildings and roads. While on Magnetic Island, off the coast of Townsville, Australia, I participated in a study to see how many Koalas are on the island using a fecal crop standing method. I found that the number is declining, as it is throughout the rest of the country as well. Due to these tragedies that unsustainable practices are causing, I have become much more aware of my impact on the world.

I believe I can make difference in the world through sustainable endeavors, traveling, and everyday activities. In Australia I was involved in several eco-tourism service projects. With marine biologist Dr. Adam Smith, my classmates and I were the first to participate in a reef rescue program on Magnetic Island. Small groups of students would go into the water and collect seaweed that was overgrown and covering the coral in hopes that it will not grow back. My classmates and I also planted trees at Mungalla Station, an Aboriginal land with waterways connecting to the Great Barrier Reef. Finally, we cut down she-oak trees in order for the forest to be burned under control and animals like the wallaby and other small marsupials to thrive in the area. Several lectures like the one given by Dr. Smith taught me many ways that I can live my daily life sustainably through shorter showers, carpooling, riding my bike instead of my car, recycling, and more. I traveled sustainably in Australia by staying in accommodations that used alternative energy. For instance, two of the places I stayed at were Hidden Valley and Tyrconnell Outback which were both solar powered. Through living sustainably in my everyday life, participating in sustainable projects, and supporting alternative energy use, I can make a difference.

These transformations are significant to my future personally, professionally, and academically. As I mentioned, I met many Ohio State students that I never would have without this opportunity. I am a business major with a specialization in marketing. As a business major, networking and who you know is very important, therefore, meeting more students and professionals on my trip can be of potential importance in the future. Also with my future job I am very interested in doing marketing or sales for an environmentally sustainable company, and promoting sustainability. As for my personal goals, the transformations that occurred will be particularly valuable because they changed my daily routine like biking more, advocating sustainable living, taking shorter showers, and recycling more. Although this class was not required for my marketing major, it was the most memorable and impactful class I have taken at Ohio State thus far. Being immersed in a brand new culture and ecosystem broadened my understanding of the world, and will forever effect my behaviors and outlook on life.



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