Organization: The School for Field Studies
Dates: 3-Feb-13 - 8-May-13
In Jay's own words
How I contributed: I took part in scheduled tree plantings on abandoned agricultural land. The School of Field Studies worked with a nonprofit organization called Trees for the Evelyn and Atherton Tablelands (T.R.E.A.T). This organization had a greenhouse and a center which grows rainforest seedlings into small trees. By planting diverse amounts of species over abandoned agricultural land, this organization works to restore rainforest in the area. We were able to see native animals such as the tree kangaroo come back to some of these past plantings.
What I felt most challenged by: I felt most challenged by the fast pace in which the courses moved and the lack of academic support offered to students. The program is shorter than an average college semester and therefore moves quickly through many topics. There were not as many resources available for support as there are at a typical college campus. The living and working conditions were also a challenge. We lived and attended courses at a field station in the middle of a new growth rainforest. Internet was also unreliable at the field station and the research resources were limited. We often referred to our field station as "a place where everything molds and nothing works–due to the constant rain and humidity. This was especially true during the wet season, which takes place during the spring semester.
What I enjoyed most: I enjoyed taking part in the scheduled tree plantings and traveling to Chillagoe, the Daintree Rainforest, Cairns and all around the Atherton Tablelands. The food at the center was also very good and much of it came from local farms. Far North Queensland is home to the Great Barrier Reef and the oldest continuous rainforest in the world. This is an amazing corner of the world and a great place to study biology and environmental issues.
Would I recommend this experience: I have mixed emotions about recommending this program to other students. Although I enjoyed my experience and learned a lot about the rainforest ecology, the program was very disorganized and I found the director of the program and the academic dean at headquarters to be surprisingly non responsive to specific problems I brought to their attention. However, a couple of my professors did a fantastic job with their courses. Far North Queensland is also an amazing place and the program focuses on the unique ecology of the area.
Organization: WWOOF Australia
Dates: 1-Jun-10 - 26-Jul-10
In Charlotte's own words
What I felt most challenged by: One personal challenge I faced was loneliness. This challenge stemmed from another logistical challenge, which was lack of access to phone and internet. Without a way to reliably and constantly communicate with my friends and family, anyone who knew me well at all, instead of being surrounded by strangers, I became very lonely. I tried to overcome this by purchasing a prepaid phone, but the phone did not get signal on the farm where I was living. I never fully overcame this challenge, especially as it became worse with the situation on the second farm in Tasmania.
What I enjoyed most: What I most enjoyed about my international experience was the sense of accomplishment that I felt upon finishing it. I learned tremendous amounts not only about agriculture, but also about myself. I feel more confident in my choice of major and career focus, and also better prepared to work in those areas. Also, Australian food is delicious, and I really, really liked being able to eat it all the time.
Would I recommend this experience: I would selectively recommend my hosts and field experience sites to other students. The experience was very valuable; however, for students who are looking to have a more structured international experience, I would not recommend the WWOOF program. For those who simply want to go abroad and have hands-on experience with agriculture while being very exposed to and involved in day-to-day life on a farm, WWOOF is an excellent organization that allows travel to many different countries.