SFS Australia: Rainforest to Reef (Semester)

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Immerse yourself in the rich biodiversity of the rainforest and learn about ecological resilience in the face of climate change and other environmental threats. Connect rainforest management and conservation issues with downstream impacts on the Great Barrier Reef. Become a part of large-scale restoration ecology experiments and study environmental policy and community conservation approaches while developing skills in field research and data collection.

Students live and study at the SFS Center for Rainforest Studies. 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 you can see incredible wildlife from the front steps of your cabin. Nearby Yungaburra and Cairns provide the occasional return to civilization.

  • Explore the world’s oldest rainforest – the Daintree – then work alongside citizen volunteers to regenerate critical rainforest habitats.
  • Travel to the Great Barrier Reef to learn about the biological links between rainforest and reef ecosystems.
  • Head out of the rainforest to the edge of the Outback and explore the region’s savanna ecosystems and vast limestone caves.
  • 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
  • Conduct research in some of the following areas: Climate change, rainforest fragmentation and recovery, marsupial behavior, Aboriginal ecotourism, forest ecotones, habitat restoration

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


9.33 Rating
based on 6 reviews
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  • Academics 7.5
  • Support 9.2
  • Fun 8.8
  • Housing 8.2
  • Safety 9.3
Showing 1 - 6 of 6
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Yes, I recommend this program

Rainforest Research: A Wildly Good Time

SFS Australia is set right in the rainforest, up 30 minutes of windy highway. It may seem secluded, but this program is good at introducing you to Australia and it's many, many amazing features.
The Centre itself is remote but well-structured. You live in one-room, multi-person cabins a 5 minute walk from the main building, which has a kitchen, lounge, computer room, and classroom. The local wildlife is unlike anything I'd seen: wild brush turkeys with confidence to boot, long-nosed bandicoots, tiny kangaroos called pademelons, death emus called cassowaries. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner feature all the students and staff, family-style (the cook is also amazing, by the way). The three classes (Rainforest Ecology, Principles of Forest Management, Socioeconomic Values) are informative and stimulating. There will be some days full of just lecture, but other times, you'll head out in the vans for a field trip and learn so much from exposure. The Directed Research project is one of the best parts of the program, where you work in a small group to make a real journal article, poster, and oral presentation.
Would highly recommend for a wild and fun time!

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
On the last night, we had an Aussie BBQ, and Kangaroo and Crocodile were served. They were pretty ok!
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Yes, I recommend this program

Rainforest Studies in Queensland, AU with School for Field Studies

In the fall of my sophomore year at my home institution I decided to study abroad; a little over a year later, I was stepping off of a plane in the Cairns, QU airport. I had never been outside of the US and I never studied ecology in a rainforest; so I felt incredibly excited, but also very intimidated by the prospect of navigating entirely new circumstances.
Immediately upon landing I met other students from the program as well as several members of the SFS staff. The atmosphere was welcoming and I found myself immediately connecting and trusting the other students and our staff members. This set the stage for a successful semester both academically and socially.
When people think of going abroad, typically a worry is whether the program is actually oriented toward academics. For me this was very important because I am a science student (biology major), and I needed to be able to come back with something on my resume. In my experience, the individual SFS courses are designed with science students in mind; although not incredibly challenging, they require a certain level of understanding of research and experience with biology and environmental studies classes. The program moves quickly and research is a large element of the experience; therefore I don't recommend the program to someone who is not at least an environmental studies minor.
Safety is usually people's next concern when going abroad; I never felt unsafe on my study abroad with SFS. Safety was an important part of the program because of the location (in a remote area with some of the most poisonous snakes/spiders/marine animals in the world) and there were protocols put in place on the first day which prevented any eventful things happening during my experience. Even while on spring break, when we were on our own, we still had one of our professors within 40 minute of our location, and had safety contact information with multiple members of staff. If safety is why you're not considering this program- think again; in situations where action could be taken to prevent injury/etc.. the SFS staff are fully prepared. As for something like a terrorist attack; these happen everyday all over the world- and this shouldn't deter you from choosing to study abroad.
Having talked about safety concerns and academics, I would like to express how much fun this program actually is! The experiences I had on this program are really irreplaceable in my mind. There is never a dull moment in the SFS AU program, and you will never find yourself 'looking for something to do'. Whether it is daily activities going on around the Centre or field trips to old abandoned mining towns and caves in the outback or several weekends exploring Cairns, there is something for everyone (really). One week you might be traveling around the Atherton Tablelands interviewing local residents, and the next week you could be attending a fruit-tasting in The Daintree (one of the largest pieces of untouched lowland rainforest in the world).
One of my most memorable experiences was Spring Break when I was able to diving on the Great Barrier Reef (very affordably) with several friends from the program. I realized while I was diving that I was actually experiencing something that I had previously only studied. It was inspiring and it made me more excited about pursuing my career in biology. Experiences like these that combine what you are studying with what your are actually experiencing are things you will never forget and can be invaluable toward shaping the future you want.
SFS AU allowed me to experience so many new things that I had only previously dreamed about. Yes, it is an academically challenging program, and working hard is expected; however, there are many fun experiences to be had, so much room for personal growth and improvement. This program will give you as much as you want; if you take full advantage of it, you will come out of this experience more mature, more open and receptive to different points of view, and with more stories than anyone wants to hear.

What would you improve about this program?
- the program should be clearer on how it is oriented towards science majors/minors
-the program could be less scheduled to allow students more time studying (a big component of the program)
-class assignments could be spaced out a little more, rather than having them all due at once
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Yes, I recommend this program

Dirty Biologists

The SFS program was one of the most influential experiences of my life. It provided me with valuable knowledge about the research process. I learned what it truly means to conduct your own research project, and the definition of a dirty Biologist. The classes were all experiential learning, therefore the students had abundant hands one learning opportunities. The field trips gave me an immersive experience of the country. I would highly recommend SFS to anyone interested in the program.

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Yes, I recommend this program


Overall my experience was awesome. I saw a ton of wildlife and beautiful landscapes, which was what I was most excited about. The main disappointment of the trip was the lack of free time to explore the country and travel on our own. Because we were so remote all of our excursions were pre-planned group activities with little room for booking our own tours on the weekend or going in to town after classes. With that said, the site that we stayed at was amazing and it was kind of nice to be so isolated from civilization because I became very close with my fellow students and my surroundings. We also got to travel around a bit for class and got a free weekend in Cairns to shop and see the Great Barrier reef (my absolute favorite part of the trip!) I saw tons of animals including platypus, echidna, pademelons, pythons, crazy birds and ocean life. I loved the Australian people and would love to go back.

What would you improve about this program?
More free time to travel around the area or just get away from the field station. More field trips out of the field station.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Time of my life!

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.

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Yes, I recommend this program

Time of my life in the rainforest!

I had the best time in Australia. Definitely one of the best things I've done with my life this far. Living in the rainforest, doing field ecology with twenty-something of the best college kids I can imagine was just great. I learned so much, academically and personally through this program. They keep you busy with projects and community work and everything, but some of the best times I had involved sitting in the rainforest, just soaking it all in with some of my friends.

Living situation is very rustic, you're very isolated. I loved that, as did almost everyone on my program, but that's definitely something that you should be sure you want before you go. It's not going to be your typical study abroad program. We had a TON of fun, but if you want to be going out a lot and meeting tons of Australian college students, this is NOT the program for you. Yungaburra is a tiny little town, which is nice because everyone gets to know you and you can get to know them, but you are isolated. The interns try to counter that by taking us on trips around the area on weekends.

Academics are generally good. I didn't find the initial three classes too strenuous, but they were definitely intersting and I learned a lot about the rainforest I was living in. Directed research is the main thrust of the program. As the Center Director told us, getting us through the DR portion of the program is their main goal. And DRs are crazy! You get to design your own research project and do it for a month. It culminates with a massive paper, a fifteen minute powerpoint presentation and a poster. By the time that's all done, you're going to need to sleep for a week! But it's incredibly rewarding to be able to do a whole project like that on your own.

Overall, I had an amazing time and miss it terribly. I loved all the people I went with, and we're doing a pretty good job keeping in touch! I would definitely recommend the program, but while emphasizing that it wouldn't be right for a whole lot of people. You have to really want to live in the rainforest for a semester!

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