My name is Jaimee, I am currently studying a Bachelor of Environmental Science/ Bachelor of Marine Science and Management at SCU. I’m going to relay some the experiences I have had in my studies, and what opportunities a degree at SCU can award you. Before starting my degree, I always planned on spending a session abroad, studying as an international student overseas. But through the opportunities awarded to me by SCU, a few passionate teachers, my environmental volunteer work and determination, doors opened that I never even knew were there. I have thus far been awarded two scholarships, the first to aid sea turtle conservation on Pulau Bangkaru in Sumatra, and the second to conduct my own research in the form of a multiple island assessment of sea turtle populations, for 10 months in Sumatra. I have also recently studied Biodiversity in Peru at the Universidad San Ignacio de Loyola in Cusco.
I was able to apply and later be accepted into these scholarship programs through my volunteer commitment and involvement. Whilst studying I volunteered at the Lismore Koala Hospital, ORRCA Cetacean Rescue and Australian Seabird Rescue/Ballina Sea Turtle Hospital. Volunteer work is highly recommended and sought after when applying for future jobs. Through my year at Australian Seabird Rescue, I completed an internship that they catered around my degree. I was heavily involved in the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of sea turtles and sea birds, including sea turtle necropsy workshops. The experience and knowledge gained through volunteering provided the foundation to be accepted into both sea turtle research scholarships and the Biodiversity in Peru program.
The first New Colombo Plan Scholarship took me to Sumatra in Indonesia, where I aided in the development of a grass roots, not-for-profit volunteer program, which will allow the ongoing protection of Pulau Bangkaru. Bangkaru is situated on the west coast of Sumatra within the Banyak Islands; with untouched primary rainforest it is home to the largest nesting population of green sea turtles in Western Indonesia. I was lucky enough to volunteer with VAST, which is a volunteer program with a mission to protect endangered sea turtle species and their habitats from anthropogenic threats, while incorporating sustainable livelihoods in local communities. In the near future, the program will be expanding to include marine reef surveys, and bird population surveys.
If this is interesting to you, I would seriously recommend checking out the opportunities provided by VAST: http://www.healthyislandsindonesia.com/vast-volunteer-program.html.
Peru has always been top of my travel list, so when I was informed that there was a university credited program operating in Cusco I had to apply! Biodiversity in Peru is a one-month intensive course ran through Aim Overseas, at the Universidad San Ignacio de Loyola. The program incorporates trips to Machu Picchu, four days in the Amazon, cultural experiences, architectural sites, and quickly became home. This particular program provided me the “international student” experience I had been seeking from the beginning. Studying at a Peruvian university, in the center of Cusco, once the capital of the Inca Empire, was absolutely incredible. I gained many new skills, knowledge of the region, especially improving on my mild fear of public speaking (this is a large part of the assessments) and uncountable memories. It is quite perfect, as this course is ran intensively over third session in January, it will not interrupt your course progression, and allows for extended backpacking adventures before or after the program. There are many amazing organisations operating with university-credited programs, all over the world, in every field, take the opportunity to cater your degree to you!
Through my volunteer experience with sea turtles at Australian Seabird Rescue, work in the community and the initial sea turtle conservation scholarship to Indonesia, I was able to apply for the prestigious 2017 New Colombo Plan Scholarship. This scholarship awards 100 of Australia’s university students to study and intern within the Asia-Pacific region. After a long application and interview process it was beyond my belief to discover that I had been accepted. I am currently in Indonesia at the beginning of my scholarship, which includes an Independent Study unit with Associate Professor David Lloyd, assessing the Sumatran local’s perception and knowledge of the illegal sea turtle trade and their endangerment. An Integrated Project with Associate Professor Danny Bucher, conducting a multiple island assessment of nesting sea turtle populations in Sumatra. An Internship unit, interning with Indonesian NGO Ecosystem Impact, which includes sea turtle conservation along with continuing the development of the VAST Volunteer Program, and finally 60 hours of Bahasa language training in Yogyakarta.
The major advice I can give is cliché, but in following your passion you never know what opportunities will present themselves. Whether that takes you studying internationally, volunteering in your community, completing your internship or integrated project unit overseas, applying for scholarships or creating a student group at SCU, it is all incredible! This scholarship has enabled me to not only gain the knowledge and experience needed to follow my field of choice, but to begin to create a professional network and positive real-world implications for marine conservation, before even finishing my degree. I cannot urge you enough to apply for these opportunities; you will gain significant amounts of independence, professional experience and networks, cultural knowledge, lifelong friends, fuel for your passions and above all, love for your field of work!
-- Jaimee Moynihan, Southern Cross University, February 2017