Bec studying overseas in the United States of America

 

I am a recently graduated science student, majoring in sustainability. My passions lie in sustainable agriculture and environmental conservation. In order to gain additional  ‘real world’ experience in this area, I accepted the offer to study abroad during the second-last semester of my undergraduate degree. So in 2015, I  undertook  two work-place learning courses (WPL310, WPL311) in the United States of America. The first was in Jackson, California,  and the second in the Grand Tetons National Park (Wyoming) at the AMK Ranch. I then spent an additional 7 months further exploring sustainability in its many forms throughout  the USA and the west coast of Mexico.

My first WPL was based at a small-scale organic farm called ‘Paloma Pollinators’, which services the local county and is a part of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. We managed a large variety of fruits and vegetables, 2 pregnant Jersey cows, a lama, 6 crazy free-range chickens and around 50 beehives. The days were long and the work was tough, but I did gain a real understanding of what it means to be an organic producer, as well as the social-economic trials and tribulations that face the small-scale independent farm. My time here increased my passion for agricultural research, as well as giving me an appreciation of the importance of community exchange programs, and the effort and support needed to keep them afloat.

My second WPL was scheduled for one month. However as my time drew to an end I was thrilled to be invited to extend my stay for another month! And I simply couldn’t refuse. My summer in the Tetons will be one I cherish for a lifetime. I was given a number of fantastic opportunities to work with world-renowned scientists from across the globe, on their various research projects. I was also privileged to be able to contribute to a number of PHD projects investigating everything from parnassus butterflies, to canoeing the Jackson River in search of otter latrines, to Brown and Grizzly bear research and mountain top social-science human surveys. Not to mention that in my spare time I pushed myself mentally and physically by hiking as much of the Teton Range as I could manage. The highlight was completing a 4-day, 65km hike of the Teton-crest trail SOLO!

My time abroad reignited my passion for learning. I am now about to commence my Honours year focusing on sustainable and organic agriculture in the Pacific Islands (PICs). I was also inspired to aim for my PHD in the year to follow. I recommend studying abroad to anyone who wants to get more from their degree; better their CV; make invaluable industry contacts (and friends), and not to mention,  travel the world. The University of the Sunshine Coast offers a great deal of support and guidance for these students. And I am grateful for all they facilitated for me.

So follow your feet, and go into the USC study overseas hub. You will never look back. I know I wont!

Bec Cotton

 

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