Senior Kevin Kent's Letter describing his Study Abroad in Tasmaina, Fall 2011.
After only a six week summer break, I flew to Tasmania, Australia in early July to study on exchange for the Austral spring semester. For those who might not be familiar with Tasmania, it is a heart shaped island about the size of West Virginia that lies 150 miles south of the Australian mainland. About 500,000 people call it home, roughly half of whom, myself included, live in the capital city of Hobart. As opposed to much of the mainland, the island receives large amounts of rainfall and is quite hilly and mountainous. The island is a very picturesque place, with many national parks and over a third of the total area being protected land. In fact, the entire southwest quarter of the island is Wilderness and a UNESCO World Heritage Area. For all of these reasons, Tasmania enjoys a few nicknames such as Australia's National Park, Island of Inspiration, and the New Zealand of Australia.
Overall I am having an awesome experience. Seeing the different landscapes is amazing. I have been climbing on sea and alpine cliffs, seen fairy penguins sleeping in the forest, petted wallabies and kangaroos, and even gone caving with a few friends! I'm definitely learning a lot about the culture, and making lots of friends. If I had one wish to change the experience it would be for a stronger dollar! In addition to a poor exchange rate, things just cost a lot more here! I think amount of time spent studying has direct correlation to the price of alcohol here. With a case of “cheap” beer costing $40USD, its hard for poor college students to be partying as much! Its a little easier on the locals though, because the minimum wage here is over $15!
The “Uni” here has a much different feel to it than Montana. First of all, most programs are only 3 years long. This is mainly due to the fact that they don't really have general education requirements. Each semester students only take 3 or 4 classes which usually consist of a 2 hour lecture and a hour long small group or lab session each week. Most classes have no regular homework, with the final grade usually consisting of just one 2000-3000 word paper and the final exam. The character of campus is quite different too. Fewer than 5% of students live on campus, there are no stadiums or arenas, and due to the fact that there are fewer lectures per week campus is usually a ghost town by 5 pm. The rate of University enrollment after high school is quite good here, because it is easy to get government loans for tuition. Amazingly, students don't have to start paying back their loans until they meet a certain income threshold and if they never make that threshold, they never have to repay their loans!
The geography department is quite different too because it is almost entirely focusedon GIS, surveying, and physical geography. In addition to three other classes, I'm taking an advanced spatial analysis/GIS course that is one of the most rigorous courses I've ever been in. In the beginning of the semester we took a field trip to a landslide to collect tons of data using kinematic GPS, total station surveys, and UAV collected spatially referenced aerial photos. Since then we've been using that data to explore a variety of different analysis techniques. Furthermore, a deep understanding of the software tools is stressed, including learning python for scripting!
Tassie is truly an awesome place to see and live. I would absolutely recommend it to anyone thinking about studying abroad! If you can't do that, definitely come down to check out the amazing, hiking, surfing, climbing, caving, kayaking, rafting, biking, and landscapes and culture (they have a little skiing too but you'd be better off staying in Montana for that!). The Austral summer is a great time to visit and escape the cold, dark Montana winter too!
-Kevin Kent is a senior majoring in geography, attempting the GIS certificate, and minoring in mountain studies.