SFS Australia: Rainforests of New Zealand and Australia (Summer I)

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In this two-country program, you’ll learn how environmental and social factors have led to forest fragmentation in the spectacular, once-vast rainforests of Australia and New Zealand. Compare endangered species management practices, meet with indigenous communities to learn about their natural resource use and relationship with the environment, and examine ecosystem restoration approaches.

For the first half of the program, students live and study in locations throughout New Zealand. The second half of the program is based out of the SFS Center for Rainforest Studies in Australia. Our Center lies at the end of a narrow, winding road, in the middle of a lush rainforest. The 153-acre property is surrounded by protected World Heritage forests, and comes alive at night with the sounds of wildlife.

  • Learn about the Māori people’s connection with nature as you explore the ancient podocarp and Kauri forests of northern New Zealand, which contain trees estimated to be more than 2,000 years old.
  • Develop core skills including: GIS & GPS, species ID & population monitoring, forest survey methods, animal behavior observation, citizen science protocols, research presentation, research design, implementation & presentation, data collection & analysis

We’ve updated our refund & cancelation policy to allow for flexible booking due to COVID-19

We’ve updated our refund & cancelation policy to allow for flexible booking due to COVID-19


SFS Awards More Than $650,000 in Need-based Aid Each Year

SFS works closely with your home school to help you fund your SFS program. Many applicants receive aid through their home institutions or other outside sources, so check with your financial aid office to see what aid may apply to an SFS program.

$500 - $5,000

Questions & Answers


9 Rating
based on 3 reviews
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  • Academics 7.3
  • Support 9.3
  • Fun 8
  • Housing 9
  • Safety 10
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Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing program with wonderful staff

I attended the Summer I session to AU and NZ this year and I could not be happier. The program is very travel intensive, with frequent day trips in both countries. There were always planned activities, things to do, places to see, and people to meet. One of the most valuable aspects of this experience, for me, was having a chance to meet indigenous people in both countries and hear their stories related to environmental stewardship, colonization, history, culture, and modern politics. Not only do you witness and learn about the impacts of colonization on the environment, but you gain a deeper understanding of how colonization affects the people who originally lived in these countries. In this way humans and the environment are considered as a single issue, rather than being separate. Plus you're experiencing people's culture and hearing their stories first hand. Another key topic of this program was ecological restoration. You have the chance to see restoration projects in the works and are able to help with the realization of these projects. Overall this program gave me a greater appreciation for the relationship humans have with the environment and how we have negative and positive impacts on the world around us.

The accommodations for the program are very nice. The cabins in AU are much better than the usual cabins at campgrounds (at least from my experience) and the food is amazing! You are able to be fully immersed in the environments in both AU and NZ. In NZ the Prime family is beyond amazing and they make you feel like part of the family. Plus staying in their Marae is a wonderful time to really get to know fellow students. Our group bonded a lot during our time in NZ! In the end, our group became incredibly close and we all have left AU as friends.

The academics of this program are not quite as scientific as I had hoped, but I'm still very pleased with it overall. You do have to think critically and be a bit self directed in terms of learning from the excursions and activities. There are some lectures as well to supplement field activities. If you go into everything as just a vacation, you might not get as much out of it, other than a fun trip. But if you keep an open mind and are willing to learn from everything and everyone, you'll come away with a lot of knowledge! It's also important to take lots of notes, even in the field. The academic work was somewhat disorganized, but the academic staff all responded well to feedback. The main issues were a lack of grading rubrics and not having a whole lot of time to prepare for the final exam. But it's still a great program!

I also enjoyed having some free time in both NZ and AU. My group got together to plan activities during our time away from the program and we all had a great time. We were able to experience some night life, go on day trips to beautiful locations, and even snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef! Definitely worth the money to take some day trips, like the GBR in AU and the islands off the coast of Aukland in NZ. Rangitoto Island is beautiful!

Finally, the staff at SFS are so wonderful! I had the unfortunate experience of getting very sick during the last week of my stay in AU. I ended up being sick for 2 weeks and having to stay at the centre for an extra week. The staff allowed me to stay at the centre and made sure I was very comfortable. They also helped me open cases with my insurance companies, took care of scheduling doctor appointments and transported me to said appointments, and helped me with rescheduling my flights. If anything happens during your stay, rest assured that you will be well taken care of! I was glad to have so much help and to have received so much generosity from the staff (both at the centre and at SFS headquarters). I can't thank SFS enough for the help they gave me during my illness!

I was on the fence about going to this program at the beginning, but I am so glad I went. It's worth every penny! There's no way you can get an experience like this on your own. Financial aid, scholarships, and fund raisers really help to lighten the bill. I was able to cut my total costs almost in half this way. And for what I paid, I couldn't have done everything that we got to do if I traveled on my own! I met so many amazing people and had an absolutely wonderful time. This was truly a once in a lifetime experience that I will never forget.

What would you improve about this program?
A little more academic organizing in terms of assignments and exams would be helpful.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Great program for those willing to live with others and no afraid of nature

I absolutely loved the SFS- Australia program and would recommend it to everyone; however, you have to make sure it will be a good fit for you. You like in the rainforest in a cabin with 3-7 other students, so you have to accept that you won't have much privacy. There are also snakes and spiders to deal with and intermittent internet at times since you are in the middle of the rainforest. Even if you don't think you can deal with that, it is an incredible experience. You get to learn about the rainforest in the classroom and then walk away from the centre and directly into the habitat you just learned about. You get to interact with the locals and gain a sense of life in the Wet Tropics. One of my favorite experiences was going on a weekend homestay with another student. We stayed with an Australian family and learned all about the Australian way of life. The group takes trips to the Daintree and the Outback. I have never seen so many different ecosystems and learned so much about the environment.

You get a few free weekends in Cairns where you can have fun off of program time. The 5 day long mid-semester break was also a great chance to explore parts of Australia with some friends in a caravan (a great deal and great way to travel) on our own.

For the first 2 months of the program you take 3 courses. With awesome professors! The last month you work on a directed research project of your choosing under the guidance of one of the professors. The directed research project component allowed me to study a topic that I was very interested in and has helped guide my graduate school pursuits and career aspirations.

There is a cook that makes all of your meals, and the food is great! And she takes requests and really wants to make sure everyone is happy.

For those of you who are athletic and want to continue your sport, that can be tough. I am a 3 season athlete, so I really wanted to stay in-shape while I was there. There is a run down elliptical and some weights there. The other option is to run (when you can find time- early morning is best, when it is cool). It is a rough, uphill path.

Even with some of the annoyances, I would go again because it is a wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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Yes, I recommend this program

A rainforest adventure

This was a once in a life time experience. I got to meet amazing people both in the program and the community. the best word to directive it w would an adventure. New zealand has rich culture and transits. a couple of the highlights of nz were staying with the mauri, they tested us like family. Another was going canyoning in auckland, a breathtaking experience. Going to australia was a whole new adventure it was gest to actually live tucked into the wet tropics, lots of animals and stars. this was a fantastic trip and words can't describe all of the memories made.

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