Back to SummarySara Silberstein - Student Advisor Profile
In general, I think absence does make the heart grow fonder. But when it comes to Australia, it’s a one-way street. I do love Stanford – I love the people, events, activities, and places I associate with it. I do, after all, consider the Bay Area my home. But I will admit that I now miss Australia more than I missed being on campus. I miss being surrounded by the same 46 incredible students day and night. I miss watching sunsets on Heron Island with a new friend. I miss not knowing exactly what was around the next corner. It’s the middle of winter here, and yes, I miss the Australian sun.
The Stanford in Australia program not only offers the opportunity to take classes in a completely different setting than the Stanford campus, but it allows you one of the most incredible travel experiences of your life. I spent 12 weeks climbing in caves, hiking in the rainforest, snorkeling, and exploring new cities with 46 of my closest friends.
We didn’t start out that way. In fact, when we all arrived in Brisbane the first week I felt so overwhelmed by all the new faces and personalities – it seemed like an impossible task to get to know everyone and find my place in such a large group. But by the end of the quarter it doesn’t matter who you sit with on the bus or who you go out with for dinner. Every person contributed to the entire group dynamic. Becoming so close was unavoidable - it just happens when you spend so much time in so many different scenarios with the same people. Oh – and we did do real work too. We all took the same courses: Rainforest Ecology, Coral Reef Ecosystems, Coastal Resource Management, and Australian Studies, along with a Targeted Research Project that we could tailor to our own interests. But the stress of homework, projects or all-nighters was always mitigated by the fact that I had my friends sitting next to me.
It was difficult to ever feel alone in Australia. But there were still times when I felt out of place. There were times when I did miss home or times when I was upset. Throughout an entire quarter you are bound to have your ups and downs, even if you’re travelling through an explorer’s paradise. But this is a crucial component to going abroad- feeling uncomfortable and coping with new situations allowed me to grow and learn, opening me up to new experiences.
Everyone has his or her own reasons for going abroad. I chose the Australia program because I was looking for an adventure. I do not normally study leaf morphology or bugs or soil composition as we did in our rainforest ecology class. I am a human biology major and I love studying brains – human brains. I also want to be a doctor – a doctor for humans. It is not like the courses I took exactly fit in with the requirements for my major. But that was not what my quarter abroad was about; I wanted something completely different than my usual quarter at Stanford, and Stanford in Australia did not just deliver me one adventure — I got countless adventures in places I would never have experienced otherwise.
Is Australia for everyone? Of course not. Some people like the rhythm of campus life, but in Australia you never know what is coming next. At times I think a lot of us were surprised by just how muddy we had to get, just how many sand fly bites would be on our backs by the end of they day (I think 37 was the record) or just how tiring parts of the program would be. If you’re like me, these images probably do not gel with your idea of fun. But this is all part of the experience as well, and by the end, I felt like the 47 of us were a formidable group that could take on any challenge together.
As much as I rave about my time Down Under, I do not think any particular program is ever for everyone. But I do encourage every student to consider going abroad. It may be counterintuitive – but the perspective I gained getting away from campus and out of this country is already enhancing my experience back at Stanford and at home.
But be warned: when returning from Australia, you will have withdrawals. You will miss playing beach volleyball with your professor. You will miss climbing through a jungle gym of Rhizophera roots. You may even miss hearing the infant-like wails of mutton birds at three in the morning. And you will definitely miss being surrounded by the friends you made there.
P.S. I’m not going to say Australians have the most exciting or rich cuisine; the country is, after all, descended from British penal colonies. But if you have a sweet tooth like mine, you will discover that they do know how to do dessert pretty well.