Back to SummaryKatie Corelli - Student Advisor Profile
As a member of the non-expert traveler group, I had no idea what to expect when I walked into the Benson Court Hotel, the first Stanford in Australia destination. People were running down the hallways in excitement and while secretly wondering what the next 3 months might hold for us. Again, as the non-expert traveler that I am, I had no idea what was going on. Luckily, we met some great folks in the University of Queensland office (shout out to Karen, Ross and Jess) and they explained everything. The first week in Australia we did some scavenger hunting, listened to ghost stories about convict Brisbane, held koalas at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and met some seriously awesome Stanford students. We met our professors, but little did we understand that they were about to be the best “tour-guides” ever.
At this point in my story, I would like to introduce mangrove expert Norm Duke. I have never met a man that loved and knew more about mangroves in my life. He could spew out mangrove facts and scientific names almost as fast as I can list the number of places you should never ride your bike between classes. Norm introduced us to the Daintree rainforest (who knew Australia wasn’t just the desert outback?). He also showed us his favorite swimming spot, introduced us to multiple aborigines and pointed out some big crocodiles; my personal favorite is named Big Al. Norm was the first of many amazing professors and friends.
Okay so if I haven’t already convinced you to go to Australia, here goes. There is no better way to see more or learn more about the east side of that continent (including amazing cities like Perth in western Australia would take another 3 months). This program offers opportunities to explore caves, go star-gazing, feed kangaroos, learn about indigenous culture, hold koalas, swim with sea turtles, surf sand dunes, do your own research and see glowies (aka glow worms, just ask Claire Baker)! Not only that, but you actually get to be on a field trip for 3 months with 47 of your best friends. Everyday you get to spend time in the field actually solidifying and testing what you are learning. How did I learn where a rhizophera grew its roots? I climbed to the top of one (their roots grow above ground) while doing research about mangrove growth rates. How did I learn about fire regimes for managing dry rainforests? I did biodiversity experiments out in the field. How did I learn how big sea turtles grow to be? I swam next to one. How did I learn about managing issues like erosion and eco-tourism? I walked in and around an island and devised my own community management plan. How did I learn about indigenous history and convict colonization? I visited the first barracks ever built by convicts and was actually taught how to throw a boomerang.
Gosh, writing this is making me want to go back. As much as I would like to continue writing about my favorite Australia stories, there is one last point I would like to stress. The Australia program introduces you to so many new friends that you may have never met at Stanford. Instead of trying to explain how close you become with your fellow Stanfordians, I am going to tell a story. For thanksgiving in Australia, everyone spends a day in the kitchen and makes the most delicious meal. I unfortunately experienced extreme food poisoning and had to go to the hospital at 2 am. One of my really good friends, who I barely knew before coming to Australia, accompanied me, checked me in and stayed all night with me in the hospital. Those are the types of friends you make in Australia and trust me you will never forget them.
I never expected to go abroad. As an athlete at Stanford, I never considered it an option. Turns out, my coach and my team understood the importance of studying abroad before I did. Australia taught me about the outback and convict history, but more than that, it renewed my love for learning (not an easy task for the average stressed college student). Australia helped me make 47 fantastic new friends that I will never forget. Going abroad and leaving Stanford was one of the best decisions I have ever made. As a final note, go abroad!! If you need more convincing, I have some great stories in my repertoire and I’m happy to share.