If living in the middle of a rainforest, surrounded by constant beauty and wonder is your idea of a typical study abroad program then Australia with the School for Field Studies is right for you. Be prepared because when you take the turn off of the highway into the middle of the rainforest, you will be shocked. From then on, for as far as the eye can see, it will be rainforest. The closest town is Yungaburra, which is not much larger than 1,000 people, and is about a 25 minute drive. Cairns is the closest "city" which is about an hour and a half away. If you are looking for a program to be totally immersed in the area around you this is it. You will learn more than you could ever imagined about the people you live with, the people within the town, the natural flora and fauna of Australia, and so much more.
To begin, the program is academically rigorous. Everyday is filled with lectures and field excursions to give real life examples of what is being taught in lectures. While lectures and grading scales are not difficult it provides a low stress experience that allows you to focus on subject matter and learn it well, rather than just committing it to memory. On top of that, this program drives home the goals, and methods of research. 3 different field exercises, and an entire course devoted to research techniques, and scientific writing drills the point home that this program is about research. Have no fear though, even non-science majors participate in the program.
Life at the center is not all about school though. 6 days a week are devoted to class, but the value of a study abroad experience is taken into consideration. Efforts to get away from the center, and spend time among the Australian people are made on weekend trips to cities, and a mid-semester break entirely on your own. Even within the school week, multi-day trips were taken to other places to see more of Australia, at a depth that is unrivaled.
The community aspect of the program is one of the most important aspects it has to offer. Living conditions are rudimentary, kind of like summer camp. Open cabins (single sex) of up to 8 people are shared so you might have to get used to alarms. Internet is all through satellite, but contact to home, and around the area is possible through a student phone at the center. The program consists of twenty-some college students that are driven by a like-minded interest in science, which creates an enormous common ground. Be prepared to share a small setting, in close vicinities with amazing people. Interns, and a Student Affairs Manager are available to mostly help professors with transportation logistics and student social activities.
In the end, you will find that every day will be filled with awe, and your headlamp will be your most important piece of equipment.