Jennifer Burks, Australia, Marine Biology & Terrestrial Ecology, Univ. of Queensland (Biological Sciences)

  1. What was your biggest fear about studying abroad that turned out to be no big deal?

I was really worried about feeling homesick and having my support system so far away from me. When I arrived in Australia, all of the other students, program advisers, and professors were so friendly and it was so easy to make friends that had a similar love for nature and biology. My homestay made me feel so welcome that it became my home away from home. Surprisingly, I never once felt homesick and I have a new found confidence about stepping out of my comfort zone.

  1. What do you wish you had done to better prepare before going abroad?

I wish I had researched more about where to travel in my free time because the program kept us very busy once we arrived. Otherwise, I felt really prepared for the coursework and field trips.

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  1. What were your favorite classes abroad? How did they compare to UCSB?

My favorite class was probably Terrestrial Ecology because the lectures were so interesting and engaging, and included three field trips for five days each. The classes were more accelerated than UCSB in the classroom because you only had 6 or so weeks of traditional lectures, but you were rewarded with breaks from studying on the field trips. In addition, we received many more guest lectures than I experienced at UCSB, so that was a refreshing change that kept the courses interesting.

  1. What is one of your best memories from abroad?

Definitely the last morning snorkeling at Heron Island. A lot of us woke up early and got to swim amongst pods of green and leather-back turtles, reef sharks, rays, and all kinds of reef fish all at once. It was truly incredible and magical, and I couldn’t think of a better way to have ended the program.

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  1. What was your biggest challenge abroad?

Probably adjusting to a new schedule at school and adapting to use public transportation to get everywhere. Luckily, the public transportation in Australia is incredibly easy to use as long as you can use Google Maps to help you navigate. But school days were much longer, the schedule changed from day to day, and we were in a different classroom each day, so that required me to become much more adaptable and organized. 

  1. What is your favorite aspect of your host culture?

I LOVE morning and afternoon tea. These are short breaks between breakfast and lunch, and lunch and dinner, and are usually a time to socialize with friends while eating delicious snacks. We were treated to these tea breaks every day on our Marine Biology field trips and I probably gained 10 pounds because of it, but it was so worth it.

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  1. Did you intern, volunteer, or conduct fieldwork or research abroad? If so, tell us about your experience.

All of the students on the program conduct two group research projects as part of the Marine Biology course. The professors and TAs guide you through the process of writing a research paper and designing the first project so you can feel confident doing this more independently on the second project. While research is a large focus of the field trips, the TAs encourage you to explore the islands on your own and provide so many chances to snorkel. It was an incredible experience, and I feel 100% more confident writing research papers and designing research projects after this experience.

  1. What local food or drink do you miss most now that you are back?

Definitely tim tams and kebabs. Thankfully I can still buy tim tams in the U.S., but we don’t have many good kebab places here.

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  1. How have you changed since your time abroad?

I definitely feel more independent and comfortable putting myself in unfamiliar situations. I have a greater appreciation for the U.S. and UCSB, and try to embrace more opportunities.

  1. What is your advice to prospective UCSB EAP students?

Be open-minded and try new experiences. Talk to locals and embrace unfamiliar situations

 


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