January 17, 2023
Program Semester and Year
After much anticipation, the 2023 Australia Regional Area Study trip has finally kicked off. Behind the arduous and lengthy flights, unexpected delays, and lost luggage, all of the program participants have made it to our home for the next month in Sydney. Our first full day began with a bus tour of several main attractions across Sydney. In the downtown area, our group stopped to admire the grandness of the opera house, the Sydney Harbor Bridge, and the view from Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair. Leaving the city center, we took a short walk through Gap park to admire the dramatic view of the Pacific Ocean and the Sydney Harbor. Our outing concluded with some sun and a swim at the iconic Bondi Beach.
Over the next few days, students began to get into the normal rhythm of lectures while exploring the neighborhoods surrounding our accommodations. Our first lectures examined the geology and bioregions of the Australian continent as well as the significance of Australia’s place in the evolution of humanity. We also started to gain some background surrounding the complex history of the indigenous people who inhabited Australia long before it was “discovered” by the British. Students were also asked to start to think about topics for their independent research projects that will be completed through out the course.
Near the end of the week, our group was given the opportunity to explore the interactive museum at the Hyde Park Barracks in order to gain a better understanding of the penal history of the original colony. The experience gave students a visceral sense of the conditions endured by convicts who were exiled to New South Wales. Continuing on our tour of colonial Sydney, the group explored The Rocks, a neighborhood home to the oldest European settlement in Sydney. Our day concluded with a cultural rich and thought provoking dance performance that called on the legacy of an indigenous man named Alec “Tracker” Riley.
The next day, the group traveled by ferry to the Taronga Zoo to learn from experts about the unique nature of Australian terrestrial biota. Our lecture was interrupted by a visit from Edna the Echidna, a quill covered marsupial. The encounter was a welcome surprise for all the students. Following the lecture, students explored the zoo, viewing many Australian animals including koalas, kangaroos, wombats, and many different species of snakes.
After a packed few days in Sydney, our group traveled by bus to the Blue Mountains for the weekend. On our way, we stopped at the Mount Annan Botanic Gardens to explore their extensive collection of native plants. While there, we also learned about the important work they are doing to safeguard the biodiversity of plants across Australia. Upon arriving in the Blue Mountains, our group took an excursion to Scenic World where we took a hair raising ride on the steepest passenger railway in the world. After exploring the incredible natural beauty of this area, the group got settled at our accommodations in Katoomba. Over the course of the next few days, we went on multiple excursions and hikes across the area with local experts. On these trips, we learned about the history of British settlement in the area as well as the natural history of the region. Through out this time, we were given the opportunity to fully immerse ourselves with the unique landscape of the region. We swam in rainforest waterfalls, hiked through eucalyptus forests and deep gorges.
Our busy weekend in the mountains wrapped up with a cozy potluck dinner cooked by students. With our first full week in Australia behind us, students have began to get their footing, acclimating to our new routines and this new country we are calling home for the next three months. If we crammed so many memorable experiences into a week, I can’t imagine what we will be feeling at the end of the program.