Janae Belk (she/her and they/them) - Stanford at The University of Queensland, Australia
Major: International Relations
College year while abroad: Senior
About the photo: Photo of Janae Belk smiling into the camera. In the background are cliffs by the coast. She is wearing a blue blouse and a blue skirt and sitting on rocks. The sky is blue and sunny.
Why did you choose to study in Australia?
I chose Australia for a multitude of reasons that can't be summed up in one sentence! It aligned with my degree requirements, yes, but I knew that I wanted to experience Australia and all of its natural sciences that it had to offer.
What were your expectations before you went and how did they change once you were in Australia?
Beyond what the program gave us in terms of what to pack and where to go (and what they would require of us to prepare for the program), I tried to keep my expectations as a blank slate. I've never been to Australia prior to this program, so I know that nothing could really prepare me for this program besides actually going there. I knew of Australia based on media depictions, but I can say now with confidence that Australia (at least the places we visited) is a country that can't really be summed up in a few travel documentaries or movies. Australia is a continent of natural beauty and splendor, with a natural history that spans millions of years. The one major shock for me was having summer weather in fall quarter, but it made the trip that much more awe-inspiring to me. From swimming on top of the Great Barrier Reef to visiting the largest sand islands in the world, every place we visited in Australia was gorgeous and made me learn and appreciate what the world has to offer. I tried to go with the flow of the program wherever I could (because things could get fast at times!), and I made memories that I know will last me for a lifetime.
What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Australia?
Some major benefits are the marine and ecology-focused classes of the program, so the program is a perfect fit for Biology, Earth Systems, and Ecology majors. There is even one class focused on the modern history of Australia, so the classes are a good fit for any major in terms of WAYs requirements. But, it also meshes well with interdisciplinary majors like International Relations, and I learned so much about combining field work with scientific analysis, and centering environmental conservation on the path to mitigating the global impacts of climate change and human pollution.
What did you learn about yourself while studying abroad?
I learned the necessity of time management and the necessity of working in a group that you might not immediately mesh with.
What was the most challenging experience you encountered while abroad and what did you learn from it?
I would say that our most challenging experience had to be the logistical side of the program--- on our first field-based trip, our food accommodations weren't the most accommodating, so us (the students and teachers) as a group had to work to concentrate and stay optimistic during our classes despite the snafu that was the food catering for our first field-based trip (especially since we were on a semi-remote island, with only a boat being our connection to the mainland).
What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?
The main cultural adjustment was how much Australia paralleled the United States, at least in small, somewhat jarring ways (but in a good way)! The people we met and conversed with were nice and eager to get to know us, so the main challenge for me was being able to match that sort of energy.
What was your favorite part of everyday life?
My favorite part had to be the natural beauty of the places we visited. There were so many gorgeous sites in Queensland and New South Wales (Sydney), and my main regret is that I wasn't able to stay longer.
What was the most memorable experience you had while in Australia?
My most memorable experience was my first time seeing a wallaby in the wild! It was just... there and I remember getting so excited to see it on the boardwalk on the hilly cliffs beside the beach. I knew it was such a unique thing (because nowhere else would I be able to see a marsupial like that anywhere else in the world) and I scrambled to get a good photo.
What 5 words would you use to describe the experience?
Oceans, marsupials, iridescence, first-nations, and respect.
What was your favorite food?
What was the most valuable item you took on the program?
My phone- It also helped me take all the pictures I took during the program.
What was your favorite music/band you discovered in Australia?
This Land is Mine by Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly.