Honestly, I am still deliberating about what I want to do professionally. I have a wide skill set, which is the direct result of my education in liberal arts schools since I entered kindergarten. As a college student, I feel that I am among millions all around the world that have no idea how they place in society or are differentiated. I am really no different from other students who have grown up in the American education system, even with my unique opportunity to be educated at an Australian University, which is akin to higher education in the United States. I picture myself as a non-potentiated cell, with no specialized instructions that tell me to do some specific societal task. Though when I do think about it, Australia is nearing the apex of my life’s turning point. And along the way I have found that studying abroad has had effects on my level of independence.
Independence is the drive to, for example, get out of the house and try something new when no one else is looking behind your back making sure that you are okay. It is the level of comfort that has changed. For me, I see the benefits of independence as the freedom to mold myself into whatever shape I want.
One of the ways that study abroad has given me independence is University of Queensland’s amazing curriculum. I am taking four classes; two are Biology related, one is Social Studies, and the last is Environmental. For my two Biology classes, I am taking Marine and Terrestrial Ecology. I have explored Australia’s marine fauna and animals in my first week abroad on Stradbroke Island at the Moreton Bay Research Station and observed Australia’s flora and plants in both Lamington and Girraween National Parks. Although both locations have aspects of flora and fauna ecology, they are specialized and are dominated by the landscape of the national parks and Stradbroke.
On Stradbroke Island, my group researched a question about the stomatopods, or mantis shrimps, which live in burrows under the dunes of the sandflats. We measured variables such as the distances of bait from their shelter, the state of the hole (open or closed), and time that the shrimp took to take the bait. The successes and failures were also noted, and our findings were presented to the class in a PowerPoint presentation.
In both the classroom and field, we learned how to gather data, work together in small teams, and present our findings in a timely fashion. This happened efficiently thanks to the stellar coordination of my group members; one of us had the clipboard to scribe, one observed a burrow, and another took pictures and video. Back at the station, we grabbed a table and dumped our data into Excel, and together made reasonable inferences as to what had happened. We observed that the mantis shrimp could smell the scent of the bait while submerged at higher tide, but not while the tide was low. I created a small video to add to our presentation, showing the mantis shrimp attacking the bait in slow-motion. This was a really fun part of working together with technology and I felt that seeing fauna in action really added a professional layer to our work.
I could be a field biologist working for National Geographic one day, who knows! But I believe that working together with my classmates has made me into someone that is more independent and self-sustaining. In a couple of days, I will be on a bus to Heron Island Research Station along the Great Barrier Reef, which will be a fruitful end to my Marine Ecology class. We will be researching at the station, creating our own experiments yet again, but at a real world diverse marine ecosystem, where anything can be found. Just like my future.