Type of Project: Study Abroad
Description of my STEP Signature Project:
I studied human impacts on the environment in North Queensland, Australia during the month of May. I learned about various topics such as the vast wildlife of Australia, the aboriginal people of Australia, and different ecosystems like the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef. I participated in many activities, ranging from hikes to lectures to a homestay with an Australian farming family.
How did my understanding of things change while completing my STEP Signature Project?
I have learned a lot about myself, as well as the world around me during my time abroad. I have discovered my love for different environments, especially the ocean, and my desire to study oceanography in the future. I have confirmed that studying environmental science makes me the happiest, and can help me see the world. I learned a lot about the country of Australia, noting the similarities and differences with the United States. I feel like I have benefited from viewing others perspective, and am now more accustomed to interacting with people different than myself. I have learned the importance of human connection with the absence of cellular service and the need to constantly go online.
What events, interactions, and relationships led to those changes?
The people I have met during my time in Australia have left a permanent impact on me. Our tour guides led us through the different biospheres, and gave us insight into how the ecosystems are readily impacted by humans. My classmates and I bonded over our amazing experiences and make the most of our time there. I do not think this experience would have been the same if I did not have the same group of people always by me. The people who impacted me the most was my homestay family. They are a cute older couple, who manage a sustainable cattle farm along with a daycare center. Their house was small, and it was evident that they did not have a lot of money. But they were happy and in love. They shared funny stories from how they met, and stories about the challenges they face on the farm. They showered us with gifts, like a tour in a cave museum, a souvenir, and milkshakes, despite their income. I felt so special and honored to get to know my host couple, Esther and John, and I will always remember the wise words they shared with me.
During this trip, I discovered my passion for the ocean, and how I want to work with it in the future. Spending three days on the Great Barrier Reef led me to this realization. I cannot explain the ease and excitement I felt when I was out on the reef. Before, I did not know that such beauty even exists and I did not realize how important it is to protect it. I felt responsible for protecting the reef and have decided that I will spend the rest of my life protecting the ocean. Before this trip I was not sure what I wanted to do after I got my bachelor’s degree in environmental science, but now I know that I want to further my education in the direction of oceanography. I hope to one day return to the Great Barrier Reef and possibly make a living off it.
Another part of the trip that significantly impacted me was the first place we stayed, Hidden Valley Cabins. We spent our first five days in Australia staying at this eco-tourist hostel in the Daintree Rainforest. It was very secluded, and it took us one hour to get out of the rainforest and to see other buildings. There was no service up there, and that was the best part. I connected to my group from the very beginning and explore the natural aspects of the rainforest. We constantly saw geckos in our cabins, or snakes in the common area, and it prepared us for the wildlife we would eventually see. Our tour guide Ross was amazing and was the first Australian we had the privilege of meeting. Having Hidden Valley Cabins as our first destination allowed us to get comfortable with each other, experience wild Australia, and experience every moment without constant connection to our cell phones.
Why is this change valuable for my life?
These changes are so important to my personal values and goals. I strongly value human connection as opposed to the internet. I have already noticed that I am going on my phone less, and trying to give my full attention to the people I am with. I already valued the environment, but now seeing many different ecosystems I have a newfound love for it. I feel more inclined to protect the environment, and share my passion with others. The three days on the Great Barrier Reef directly changed my professional goals and future plans, providing me with a specific path I want to take. I am excited for my future, and I can now take specific classes that will relate to my future career goals. I am so thankful for this trip and how much it has impacted me. I, without a doubt, feel like I am a better person after I visited Australia.