Dufton indulges in the rich nature and wildlife of Australia

From snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef to visiting the world famous Sydney Opera House, Bridgette Dufton ’16 is having an once-in-a-lifetime semester living halfway around the world. Dufton is currently spending a semester abroad living and studying in Australia.

“I chose to study [abroad] in Australia because it is so far away from me…so I knew that if I ever wanted to visit I would have to stay for a very long period of time. So, studying abroad here seemed the best option to fully explore Australia,” Dufton wrote in an email to The Colby Echo. Indeed, the journey from Andover, Mass., Dufton’s hometown, to Sydney, Australia entailed a six-hour flight to Los Angeles, CA and then a 16-hour flight to Sydney.

In addition to the exciting opportunity of being on the other side of the world, Dufton was also enticed by the warm and sunny weather. Her university is right outside of the center of Sydney and very close to the beaches.

Dufton is currently studying at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) with IFSA-Butler. Dufton petition to study at UNSW because it was not on the College’s list of approved abroad universities.

As a biology major with a concentration in neuroscience, Dufton filled her semester with a plethora of biological and biomedical courses including “Biology of Invertebrates,” “Personalized Medicine,” “Concepts of Physical Activity, Exercise, and Health” and “Perception and Cognition.”

“I’m most surprised to find that I most enjoy my biology of invertebrates class. I did not think I would be interested in the information at all, but I have found myself enjoying learning about invertebrate classes and characteristics. I found out that horseshoe crabs only exist in the Northeast of the U.S. and that they actually evolved form spiders, not crabs,” Dufton wrote.

Despite the fact that horseshoe crabs are a common siting for most New Englanders, Dufton learned that Australians are terrified of the creatures.
Since UNSW is a much larger University than any small liberal arts college, Dufton has experienced a different academic setting. Most of her classes are taught by specialized guest lecturers rather than a single professor and all the lectures are recorded and put online.

In addition to the lectures, Dufton said, “[We have] tutorials, which are smaller groups within the class where we do activities about what we have learned.”

In comparing the culture in Australia to that of the United States, Dufton found that Australians are more likely to speak their mind regardless of whether it is politically correct. “They just say what they mean whenever they want and people don’t take much offense to it. They are all pretty laidback and hate complaining,” Dufton wrote. Dufton feels that Americans are louder and complain much more than Australians.

For example, the orientation for her program entailed a form of hazing, where her and other study abroad students dressed formally at 7 am for a supposed breakfast with the chancellor. This turned out to be just an hour-long walk. “I’m pretty sure someone would have complained and the orientation leaders would get in trouble if that happened in the U.S.,” Dufton said.

Dufton’s abroad experience has been exactly what she wanted. “I really enjoy seeing new things every single day, seeing different parts of the world. I love being able to make a checklist of all the things I want to see and accomplish in a new place and slowly checking them off. I really feel so lucky to be here,” Dufton wrote.

In addition, Dufton is glad she decided to go abroad with IFSA-Butler. “They have organized so many events that I have loved attending, such as the color run, a show at the Sydney Opera House, a country life weekend in the Outback…we went to the blue mountains and learned about aboriginal culture, did a tour of Sydney to get acquainted with the city, and more,” Dufton said.

From living and learning abroad, Dufton gained many valuable life skills and learned many life lessons she would not have learned otherwise. Dufton said, “I think living abroad you have to learn that you absolutely cannot plan for everything. I have made and continue to make mistakes all the time. I decided to go to the Royal National Park one weekend and just showed up with no form of transportation. I walked for miles along the highway and ended up only exploring one corner of the park…Stuff like that just happens when you are abroad and it forces me to just take things as they come, rather than attempting to plan everything.”

Australia, which is as large as the mainland U.S., is rich with wonderful travel and adventure opportunities, which Dufton utilized. She traveled to Cairns in Queensland to explore the Great Barrier Reef, Bathurst in the outback where she stayed on a farm and Hamilton Island in the Whitsunday Islands.

She also has trips planned to travel to Melbourne (a city south of Sydney), the south Island of New Zealand and Tasmania. Dufton enjoyed taking advantage of the national parks and nature in Australia by going on nature walks where she has gone to rainforests, waterfalls, beaches and botanical gardens.

“When I visited Hamilton Island I was shocked at how amazing it was…It looked like we were in Jurassic Park,” Dufton wrote. “We visited a beach, called Whitehaven beach, with sand that was pure white and it squeaked when you walked on it, not to mention the water was completely clear. Snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef there and in Cairns was obviously incredible, the coral was so bright and there were so many cool fish and sponges.”

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