Student Profile: Brandon

Photograph of BrandonMajor: Animal Ecology
Focus Area: Wildlife

I chose Tasmania, Australia for many reasons. I’ve traveled to Europe before but I wanted a destination more exotic and full of natural beauty and somewhere with fascinating animals. Tasmania met all of these expectations and was perfect for me because it has such a rich diversity of fauna, a pleasant maritime climate, and breath taking landscapes! I also wanted to visit Sydney, snorkel the Great Barrier Reef, and fly to New Zealand. Tasmania was a great central location between all of these places.

Tasmania is very different from other destinations! First of all, it is a small island state of the southern coast of Australia. It’s a complete paradise! Over 1/3 of the state is protected National forest which makes the island extremely pristine and natural. Tasmania has the purest air and water in the world. The geography is also extremely unique and diverse because it has temperate rainforests, rugged cliffs, mountains, rolling hills, caves, plateaus, and gorgeous beaches. It’s not like Newcastle, Australia which is very cosmopolitan with a hectic city and surfer life. Tasmania is down to earth and peaceful with a natural beauty beyond compare and incredibly friendly people.

It is an excellent place to study for Animal Ecology and forestry majors. There is an enormous diversity of not only wildlife, but of eucalyptus trees (over 700) and other unique flora. Plus, they speak English there so you don’t have to know a foreign language, just a few new slang words. Studying in Tasmania provides such a contrasting lifestyle and landscape to Iowa which is very refreshing. It is one of the most natural and outdoors friendly study abroad locations Iowa State offers! The university is just outside (15 minutes) to the capital city of Hobart which has 200,000 people and tons of cultural and recreational activities too, like museums, restaurants, galleries, theaters, outlet mall, and more!

Before the trip, my expectations were to immerse myself in a totally different culture from America and gain a more global perspective of life. I expected to meet international students in my classes and hoped to become close friends—which happened immediately. I expected to travel as much as I could and take advantage of my time overseas. My international friends and I went on road trips on the weekends to see more of the beautiful Tasmanian countryside and visit wildlife centers, iconic landmarks and a laundry list of National parks.

“Here you can ask all the questions and speak with students who have already studied abroad!”

The first step in planning a trip or even thinking about studying abroad is to go to the Study Abroad Center in 3224 Memorial Union and speak with an adviser. Here, you can ask all your questions and map out your trip and speak with students who have already studied abroad!

For my trip, Iowa State University is affiliated with the University of Tasmania (UTAS), and so this is the university where I studied while in Tasmania. I was able to enroll in classes there while still being an ISU student here. It has about 8,000 students so it’s not too small and not too big. UTAS also has a wide variety of animal and ecology classes, all of which can transfer back and fulfill requirements. I was very excited to take unique classes like Antarctic Ecology and Wildlife Conservation and to see how their university compared to ISU.

“I learned so much both inside and outside the classroom!”

I learned so much both inside and outside the classroom! Being outside of Iowa, even America, for five months really opened my eyes to a totally different worldview. I was exposed to types of people I had no idea existed, and I gained a deeper appreciation and global perspective on everything from religion to culture and education to government. For example, I was there right in the middle of a national election and learned that voting was compulsory and witnessed the election of Australia’s first female prime minister!

I learned a lot from my classes, too: Antarctic Ecology, Wildlife Conservation, philosophy and sociology. I learned about biodiversity of the world and how other countries like New Zealand and Australia are battling the same issues in wildlife conservation efforts. I learned about the ice fish—the only vertebrate animal which does not have hemoglobin in its blood because the cold, oxygen rich ocean waters diffuse oxygen through the fish’s skin! I loved learning about all of Tasmania’s marsupial mammals, especially the Tasmanian Devil. It’s endemic to Tasmania and is critically endangered because it is suffering from a rare contagious cancer!

The education system is a little different from America. For instance, the final exam and essays are emphasized more, but classes meet less often so I also had more free time during the week where I learned to balance my time with work, friends and activities.

There’s so much to do outside the classroom. I went on camping trips with the bushwalking club and learned about deforestation and rainforests. I took field trips to national parks and state preserves I learned all about Tasmania’s convict history as a British penal colony. I was able to gain more veterinary medicine experience when I shadowed a wildlife veterinarian almost every week! I sang in the Tasmania Symphony Orchestra which was one the highlights of my trip. After my exams, I flew to New Zealand and went sea kayaking for the first time. It was incredible!

Studying abroad has strengthened my personal beliefs and distinguished me from my peers. It fueled my desire to go to vet school but also gave me a clearer focus on who I am and who I want to be. It’s reinforced my love of traveling and exploring new things. Plus, now I have international friends whom I can visit and talk with anytime. Every day I improved important life skills like time-management, communication, and self-discipline, all of which have made me more independent. My time abroad will significantly aid me in interviews because not only do I stand out on a résumé, but I can draw from my experiences when answering challenging questions.

"It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience and I absolutely loved it!"

Some of the best parts to my study abroad experience include:

  • Shadowing a wildlife veterinarian and helping with an echidna necropsy
  • Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef during Spring Break
  • Exploring Tasmanian Caves and swimming in thermal hot springs
  • White water rafting on class 3 rapids with my international friends
  • Singing concerts with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra
  • Touring the inside of the Sydney Opera House
  • Volcano hiking in New Zealand after my exams
  • Feeding kangaroos, seeing the Tas. Devil, holding Koalas


White water rafting down a raging river in the Tasmanian highlands was one of the most exhilarating and unforgettable experiences of my life! I had such a blast paddling through all the roaring rapids and getting drenched as giant waves crashed over the raft!
I went sea kayaking for the first time and it was fantastic. I had canoed before, but this was different because of the peddles in the bottom. It was so cool paddling out on the open ocean with my friends as the deep blue waves rocked our kayaks. The water was so clear too and we beached at a breath-taking cove and had a delicious lunch.

Snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef was out of this world! We saw sea turtles, sting rays, tropical fish and giant clams! The water was so warm and the sun was shining and the coral was so colorful. We went to two dive sites; one off an island and one in the middle of the open ocean! It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience and I absolutely loved it!

“If you are interested, I say go for it!”

If you are interested, I say go for it! You have to! This is the best time in your life to study abroad because there are scholarships available, advisers to help, and time to plan. Sophomore spring and junior year are when students most likely study abroad because it fits well with a four year plan. I went during my junior fall semester and had an awesome time. But many students like to go in the spring semester to escape the Iowa winter and head to warmer temperatures.

Plus if you go while you’re a student, you can get student discounts almost everywhere you travel. I had the time of my life in Tassie and, although I was sad to leave, I couldn’t wait to get back and share all my adventures with my friends back home. You learn so much about yourself and make unforgettable memories. The world’s too big to stay in Iowa or even America.