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Posts Tagged ‘Experiential Learning’

Caroline Gilmore, the Richmond Down Under marketing intern, writes:

On the North Queensland program our guides led us through different habitats and ecosystems, teaching us about the land they knew so much about. Their stories about the outback, Daintree Rainforest, and Great Barrier Reef were engaging and kept us informed as we made our way around the region.

file3661291126590Our classes used experiential learning, allowing us to travel the land and see first-hand the flora and fauna we were learning about. Working with the Center for Coastal and Cassowary Conservation (C4) we heard about the importance of the cassowary and the ways in which they are essential to protecting the rainforest and coastal ecosystems. Many people don’t know that cassowaries carry the seeds of trees and distribute them throughout the rainforest. If this did not happen many tree species would go extinct.

After our lecture on our way to a hike, we saw a cassowary, an independent and solitary bird, walking down a main highway completely unprotected from the passing cars. It was after this sighting that we were all able to better understand the challenges that we inflict on our natural ecosystems.

In a normal classroom setting, it is hard to make these real life connections, for instance I still don’t know how linear algebra relates to my day-to-day life. But seeing the cassowaries made me understand some of the challenges in modern day Australia and made me want to make a difference, and that is something you don’t often get in a classroom.

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Thomas Koller, the Lions Abroad marketing intern, writes:

When people ask me about my experience studying abroad in Fiji and North Queensland and Sydney, I hesitate. I hesitate not because I did not enjoy the experience (this would be a complete and utter lie); I hesitate because their question conjures feelings of joy, excitement, euphoria, bliss, and exhilaration.

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I immediately envision those breath-taking Fijian sunrises, the welcoming Votua Village, the boat rides along Fijian islands seeing the quintessential blue seas, the nights we gazed for hours at the clearest night sky, the little hot peppers that look harmless but leave your mouth begging for water even after gulping two bottles, the sunset over the Australian Outback, the sea turtle I swam with on the Great Barrier Reef, the true friends I made, the genuine people I met, and the perspectives to which the trip has opened my mind.

Maybe a better question to ask is something more direct. For example, “What did you do on the Great Barrier Reef?” Now this I can handle. On the Great Barrier Reef, my fellow students and I snorkeled for three days learning from local marine biologists about the health and future of the reef. The first day (being an introductory lesson to snorkeling) marked one of the most monumental days in my life, and here is why.

There is something mysterious—almost spooky—about the open ocean. It plays with the human desire of exploration of the unknown. We were sitting on the stern of the boat, fourteen kilometers offshore, flippers and masks on, ready to see the largest living organism on the planet. There is no explanation for the emotions I was feeling. We were given the signal to enter the sea and meet our finned friends and with no hesitation, I dove right in.

It took a few minutes of swimming to realize that I was hyperventilating and needed to control my breathing. I finally grasped my bearings and decided to free dive. During my first plunge a few meters under the water to say hello to a bumphead parrotfish munching down on some coral, I looked back up at the surface. And something special happened. There was a feeling of weightlessness. You know when you reach the peak of the roller coaster and begin to drop down the highest peak? Yeah, that feeling. The adrenaline only felt during those moments of euphoria. I saw the rays of sun beaming through the surface and onto the coral. I slowly floated back to the surface while saturating myself in the experience. And as I felt the gentle waves lift me up and down, I then understood—on a level unattainable in a classroom—the importance of interconnectivity, interpersonal relationships, and appreciation of the world we live in.

IMG_0461I understand the importance of learning in a classroom or reading a textbook or conducting controlled experiments in a lab. But I also think that everyone needs to apply knowledge taught in the classroom to the world we live in. In this way we can all reach the deeper understanding only attained from real life experiences and travel.

As humans, we cannot be ignorant enough to live in one place our entire lives and expect to grow to our full potential. Travel opens our minds to new perspectives and helps us go beyond our current capacity of appreciation while achieving a new level of comprehension.

So if you approach me and ask, “How was your program?” you may need to give me a few moments to reminisce and realize, yet again, how metamorphic the experience was. I urge you to experience study abroad for yourself. Stretch the limits of comprehension and open new perspectives never seen before.

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