Jordan Ferré - Stanford in Australia
Major: Earth Systems
College year while abroad: Junior
About the photo: This photo is of me hugging a Eucalyptus tree that I had climbed and perched in during one of our field trips on North Stradbroke Island. This tree was at the top of a fairly tall sand dune, so after we got our mini lecture we got to run down the dune for a speedy descent!
Questions and Answers with Jordan
Why did you choose to study in Australia?
Ever since I was little I have been obsessed with the ocean, coral reefs and everything to do with the beach (which is one of the main reasons I am pursuing a career in Marine Biology). This obsession kind led me to always view Australia as this idealic place. I always knew I wanted to go abroad during undergrad and as soon as I realized that BOSP has a program in Australia, I was sold. Being able to go to this country that has been on my bucket list forever and spend my time there really immersing myself in the science and culture around the ocean and environment made this decision a no brainer. The fact that the Australia program has everyone do an independent research project and we get to move around and immerse ourselves in every class that we take were just the cherries on top!
What were your expectations before you went and how did they change once you were in Australia?
"I didn't really have any expectations going into the program. I got in off of the waitlist at the beginning of the summer, so I was mostly just really excited to be going! I did know a few people going in (there were about nine of us that had done Stanford@SEA together the previous spring), so coming to Australia with all of them felt a little bit like coming back to a family that I hadn't seen all summer. I was glad that I at least knew them, and it turns out that I knew more people than I thought. As far as the program on the whole, I tried to keep my mind really open and not go in with expectations. I wanted to just stay really present in the program and enjoy each location and class as it came. "
What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Australia?
There were two main academic benefits for me studying in Australia. The first was the way that classes were set up. The program is run using a modular structure, meaning that we would be in one class every day for two weeks and then move locations and have a few days off. This allowed for us to be fully immersed in the material of each class as we were taking it. We were able to walk through the forest on labs in the afternoon during our terrestrial ecosystems class and go snorkeling on the reefs around Heron Island after our coral reef ecosystems class. Each class we were taking was intimately linked with the location we were staying at, which made everything that much more in depth and special. The other main academic benefit of studying in Australia was the incorporation of independent research. Everyone conducted their own independent research project during one of the classes. This meant that we could gain experience in creating and conducting our own research as well as take a part of our education into our own hands. By the end of the program we were all able to sit around and present on our projects and learn even more about all of the ecosystems and cultures we were surrounded by from our peers. It was a really special part of the program.
What did you learn about yourself while studying abroad?
The fact that home and the sense of comfort and belonging I associate with home doesn't come from a place but from the people I share it with is probably one of the biggest things I learned about myself on the program. We were moving around so much, and barely unpacking our suitcases that the sense of stability didn't come from where I was but who I was with. I have always loved to travel, but I also LOVE having my own space and that sense of home, but I didn't really miss that while I was abroad. I could always find times and space to spend some time on my own but I was more fulfilled and felt happiest when I was spending time with my friends. Whether or not we were watching Netflix in our room or going out at night those were when I felt at home, and therefore I never really got home sick.
What was the most challenging experience you encountered while abroad and what did you learn from it?
I think the most challenging thing for me on the trip was to find the right school/life balance. The program was set up with modular classes, which meant that for two weeks we would be taking one class and then we would have about three days off. Often these free days were also in a city (Cairns, Brisbane or Sydney) while the classes were on remote islands or the rural North Queensland. This meant that these free days ended up being simultaneous relax and recuperate days as well as get out and explore the city days (and nights). Through this I really learned how important it is to listen to my body and take the time to be by myself and recuperate when I need it. When we were traveling to a different location every two weeks and just having those three days off between classes you can really want to squeeze all of the fun travel things in, but traveling that much can be exhausting and it is important to take some time for yourself as well as exploring the places you are visiting.
What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?
There aren't really any big cultural differences between the US and Australia. Especially when we were in the cities they seemed very much like most American Cities. I will say that I really enjoyed getting to learn some of the Australian lingo. We would often try it out on our TAs or professors and it was fun to get to learn a bit more about the culture and the people through the slight differences in our languages. One of my favorite lingo discoveries was that the word selfie originated in Australia. It was pretty cool to learn how Australia has influenced the US and the rest of the world. It was also pretty funny seeing the Ibises around Sydney and Brisbane and calling them "bin chickens" as they are not so affectionately referred to in Australia.
What was your favorite part of everyday life?
I think my favorite part of my everyday life in Australia was the fact that it was always changing. Every two weeks we were moving around to a different place and so we got to know multiple parts of the country pretty well. This also put more emphasis on the people around you and the relationships you were making within the group because they were the one constant. Our housing, professors, and even the TAs changed every two weeks, so we got to know a lot of different people and places, but we also relied on each other for the sense of stability and uniformity throughout the program.
What was the most memorable experience you had while in Australia?
Beyond diving on the Great Barrier Reef and holding a koala, which are all VERY memorable experiences, some of the most powerful and memorable experiences for me were just the evenings we would spend around Brisbane or Sydney. It really struck me how we were able to cultivate a home and routine in these cities, even if we were only there for a couple of weeks. As we were leaving each location it was this bitter-sweet moment, because I was excited to go to the next location and get to become familiar with a new town or city, but it also felt a little bit like leaving home. Some of the best times were just going to Woolworths (the grocery store) with friends and getting food to make dinner all together. Those were the moments when I really felt like you were living in these other places rather than just visiting and studying around them.
What 5 words would you use to describe the experience?
Adventure - Exploration - Discovery - Exhilarating - Family
What was your favorite food?
Tim Tams! I love Tim Tams and one time on Heron Island someone had brought like four or five different flavors and we had a Tim Tam Taste Test to pick our favorites. Good times!
What was the most valuable item you took on the program?
I took my GoPro with me and I found it really useful. Really any waterproof camera would do, but my GoPro wasn't too big so I could take it everywhere and I was able to get some really fun photos and videos from all of the different locations which are super fun to look back on and reminisce about now.
What was your favorite music/band you discovered in Australia?
"One thing I learned on this program is that AC/DC (or Aca Daca) is from Australia. I have listened to a bit of AC/DC growing up and it was fun to learn they are from Australia, and that they are referred to as Aca Daca.
There were also a few songs that became sort of anthems for the trip. One of them is Dance Monkey by Tones and I, which reminds me of dancing on the beach at Heron Island every time I hear it!"