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Haub School Student, Zayne Hebbler, Travels Abroad to Queensland, Australia

June 9, 2020

Students abroad in Chamonix, France

I had the great opportunity of traveling to Queensland, Australia this past summer. I traded the familiar mountainous landscapes of the American West for eucalypt forests and extensive ocean time. Australia has always been a place of great interest to me - the incredible biodiversity, the vast wild landscapes, and the interesting history make it an incredibly unique destination. 

I was consistently surprised as to how easy travel was in Australia. The lack of a language barrier combined with the friendliness of the people made it easy to get around, as well as not intimidating to engage with the locals.

The faculty who led this course came from different professional backgrounds and offered engaging and critical discussions along the way. Having these individuals from UW helped contextualize our landscape, and connect it back to challenges we see in the States. Dr. Jeff Hammerlink has spent an abundance of time in Queensland, and his knowledge helped me gain a better understanding of the culture, landscape, and people.

Students Abroad in Chamonix, France

Our course started in Brisbane, where we got a feel for contemporary urban communities, as well as some historical context for the country. We were given a few down days to manage jet lag, explore the city, and sample the cities diverse cuisine options. From Brisbane, we made our way into more rural environments. The tourist towns of Mooloolaba and Noosa offered up beautiful sunrises and incredible coastlines. Our group had the opportunity to look at different food production systems, local indigenous landscapes, and outdoor recreation in the regions. All of these opportunities came with an abundance of environmental challenges and allowed me to see how these communities are adapting in real-time. We went on beautiful hikes, learned to surf from local legends, and got to talk with academics about the issues these communities face.

The course was capped off by a trip to both Fraser Island and Lady Elliot Island. Being the largest sand island in the world, we were able to look at the local ecosystems and see how ecotourism is playing a role in the future of the fragile environment. Dingoes, tourists, and other wildlife have come to coexist on an island that is not like anything I’ve ever seen before. To get to Lady Elliot Island, we took a small, fixed-wing airplane from Hervey Bay. The coral cay island sits on the great barrier reef and offers its visitors an opportunity to experience the extreme biodiversity that calls the region home. In two days, I saw sea turtles, sharks, bull rays, octopus, and many other sea creatures. Getting to snorkel in the great barrier reef was one of the most unique and cherished experiences of my life.

Overall, the opportunities and experiences I had during my time in Australia were unique, interesting, and incredibly insightful. This great continent showed me an incredibly different perspective - one that I will cherish for years to come. I excitedly await when I can return to those diverse ecosystems, white sand beaches, and friendly people.

Story from Haub School student Zayne Hebbler. Photo Credit: Melanie Matthews.

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