My Semester Down Under

Global Theme

As a student in many majors, many minors, and many certificate programs, I’ve always found it hard to settle down and pick something to focus on. But, generally speaking, my focus in college has been on environmental policy and international relations, which made the GLI theme of Natural Resources and Sustainability perfect for me. In the past years at UM, I have served in a number of roles, from a campaign organizer with Montana Conservation Voters, to an undergraduate teaching assistant in the Climate Change Studies program. My Beyond the Classroom experience allowed me to take my existing passions into an entire other realm, and in fact an entire other country: Australia.

My Experience

When most people think of Australia, they might think of Melbourne, or Sydney, or if they’re a little more knowledgable of Australian geography, maybe they’ll throw in Perth or Uluru (Ayer’s Rock). But very few people had any idea where I was going when I told them ‘Tasmania’. Every time my mom told friends where I was going, she always had to clarify that yes, Tasmania is a part of Australia, and no, it is not Tanzania, or somewhere in Africa.

Hobart, Tasmania, is just about as far south, and as close to Antarctica as you can get in the world, besides the southern tips of Chile/Argentina. Tasmania is a wonderful, beautiful place, full of incredible species, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and rich with a culture (and a slang) of its very own. Little did I know that the English language could be contorted in such ways: doco=documentary, arvo=afternoon, thongs=flip flops, esky=cooler, bottle O=liquor store, daggy=scruffy, Macca’s=McDonald’s…and the list goes on and on.

I lived in a 6 bedroom apartment with 5 wonderful people, 3 from China, 1 from Tasmania, and 1 from Denmark.

I took four courses while at the University of Tasmania, including: Governing Antarctica, Population and Community Ecology, China’s Global Power, and Indigenous Justice Issues. The buildings on campus were incredible, and a massive student body of over 30,000 people was a big change from the about 7,000 at UM.

While a lot of my time in Tassie was in class, I did have enough time to explore the island and go on incredible trips.

I visited places like: Bruny Island,

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Mt. Field National Park,

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Wineglass Bay, 

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Kunanyi/Mt. Wellington,

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and Fortescue Bay.

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The wildlife was also incredible, and if you know me, you know there’s at least a thousand more pictures of animals that I didn’t include in this post. 

From wallabies,

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to kangaroos,

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to Tassie Devils,

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to dingoes,

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to koalas,

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and so many more, I absolutely loved the wildlife and came to really appreciate the unique natural world that I was able to experience alongside my academic component of the semester. 

One of the most memorable moments came from an evening walk in Tassie. I had just finished with a free lecture on campus, and was making my way back uphill to my apartment. Suddenly, I saw about thirty wallabies in front of me, munching on grass in this large open field. I was so amazed by them, and couldn’t help but just stand and stare for ages. While most people here don’t seem very phased by wallabies, I absolutely love them. I’ll never get sick of seeing them, even if they are basically the equivalent of your everyday deer in Missoula. 

What I Learned

I learned that the most important part of leadership is being able to take care of yourself and operate independently. This semester was a huge risk for me. If something bad happened, I couldn’t just call my parents and expect them to make an overnight car ride to come and help me. I was an ocean away, I was a 17 hour flight away, I was over 8,000 miles and a 19 hour time difference away. I was truly on my own, and I had to figure out how to live on my own.

But, through my experience, I came to understand just how adaptable I was, and I learned the importance of asking for help without feeling embarrassed. I also came to appreciate and deeply respect the people around me who had come from all across the globe just to study here. There are very few experiences in life where you can meet people from China, Canada, Germany, the U.K., Malaysia, Denmark, Norway, and Mexico all in the same place. We were able to laugh in our shared experiences, our shared fumbles, and I was often the ‘English dictionary’ for my friends learning English as a second or third language.

My time in Tasmania did help raise some important questions for me about my future and my last year of college. I knew that when I returned to UM that I wanted to be much more involved on campus, so I decided to run for a Senate seat in ASUM, which I won. I also began to think about my future after graduation, and started looking at graduate programs related to climate change and politics. No matter what I decide to do after graduation, I know that I want to do something on an international scale, where I can effect real change and do something meaningful with my life, my privilege, and my knowledge. 

I am beyond thankful for this experience, the friends I made along the way, and the continued support from my family, friends, and the Franke Global Leadership Initiative.

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