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Anika Quon

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Anika Quon (she/her) - Stanford at The University of Queensland, Australia

Major: Earth Systems

Minor: Data Science (+ Notation in Science Communication)

College year while abroad: Junior

About the photo: On an off-day, we took the train on a day-trip to the Australia Zoo, two hours away from Brisbane and owned and run by the Irwin family. I didn't realize how much the Irwins are like royalty in Australia, but getting to see their whole zoo was surprisingly insightful into Aussie culture. There were kangaroos hopping all around, who we could pet and feed, just like a barnyard petting zoo in the US. I took a particular liking to this guy.


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Why did you choose to study in Australia?

I loved the focus on experiential learning, and getting to be exposed to and immersed in so many different ecosystems that I would never have the chance to see otherwise. The Australia program was an experience I knew I would never be able to recreate again in my life.

What were your expectations before you went and how did they change once you were in Australia?

I thought that we would have much more independence with our time and schedule being abroad, but in reality, because the learning was so hands-on and location-specific, much of our time and activities ended up being planned for us.

What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Australia?

I loved the modular style of learning. By taking only one class at a time, and sharing it with all my peers in the cohort, I was able to be much more engaged with the material itself. Each day was fully committed to learning in the field and experiencing the ecosystems firsthand. If you are interested in ecology or earth systems at all, you will learn a ton, and in a way that is much more field-focussed than many other classes I've taken.

What did you learn about yourself while studying abroad?

I learned how valuable it is to my well-being to spend time in nature every day. It was so centering to be able to wake up in some of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, and to spend time looking at the diverse life in Australia, both large and small.

What was the most challenging experience you encountered while abroad and what did you learn from it?

Conducting my independent research project. Mine was in a topic that I didn't know much about beforehand, so it was incredibly intimidating to be given such authority to design an experiment, collect data, and report about something I barely understood myself. During data collection, the water was freezing and our tape measure kept drifting away with the current, but it taught me so much about the realities of doing marine ecology research.

What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?

The relationship between the Australian government and Aboriginal people is very different relative to how Indigenous people are represented and viewed in the United States. The Voice Referendum—a movement to include an Indigenous voice in Australian Parliament—was voted on while we were in Australia, and it was interesting to hear the perspectives of different Aboriginal people on this issue. It was inspiring that these issues are much more frequently brought to the forefront of the public mind in Australia, also in how the Traditional Owners were acknowledged in every new place that we went, and that is a mindset that I hope will be adopted in the United States. However, it was also incredibly heartbreaking to learn about the constant silencing and discrimination of the land's Traditional Owners, and to understand the generations of pain that they have experienced.

What was your favorite part of everyday life?

I loved that every day was different! We were constantly on the move, getting to see new sceneries, and experiencing the ecosystems in a different way. But a highlight that I kept with me was trying to watch the sunset every evening, wherever we went.

What was the most memorable experience you had while in Australia?

Going snorkeling off the boat at Heron Island in the Great Barrier Reef. It felt like I was in a completely different world, surrounded by canyons of colorful coral on every side, and with green sea turtles, stingrays, and black tip sharks swimming alongside us. It helped put into perspective why we were learning about conservation and ecological value.

What 5 words would you use to describe the experience?

Whirlwind, Ecological, Immersive, eye-opening, Snorkeling.

What was your favorite food?

I wouldn't say that Australia is particularly distinguished in its cuisine, but every day without fail we would take a break from whatever we were doing and partake in the Australian tradition of eating morning tea and afternoon tea. One day, teatime was in the middle of our terrestrial ecology exam but our professor didn't want that to stop us from getting our mid-morning snack, so he walked in with a tray of pancakes, butter, and jam, and brought one around to each student in the room.

What was the most valuable item you took on the program?

A frisbee! On long travel days, it was nice to pull out the frisbee and play a little bit in a field we found, and on Minjerribah we would frequently organize games, which was a fun way to bring the whole group together!

What was your favorite music/band you discovered in Australia?

The H2O Just Add Water theme song.