While some students slept in late, worked, spent time with loved ones, or watched TV over break, others were camping in the mountains and watching the New Years Eve fireworks in Sydney, Australia. These adventures overseas were a part of the winterim program at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. These three week experiences are a unique and convenient way to see a new country, gain some credits, but not as time consuming as a semester trip would be.
Communication & Social Change in Australia
The first trip to Australia as a winterim course took place on Dec. 27 to Jan.19. They arrived just in time to watch the New Years Eve fireworks in Sydney, Australia with roughly 2 million other people. Typically, this trip is only offered as a semester program. However, the winterim offered a feasible option for some students. Those that went on this trip learned about the communication and social change in Australia and how it differs from the United States.
“Most people think that Australia is just an English speaking country so it’s not a big deal; however, this experience is so valuable. There are so many significant culture and social differences,” said Matt Tolstedt, the leader of this winterim experience. The 19 students that went on this trip visited sites, went on field trips, and listened to guest speakers all surrounding these topics.
There was also a four-day weekend built into the trip. Students were able to explore around Australia and immerse themselves in the culture. Some explored the Great Barrier Reef and The Outback while others remained in Sydney and went skydiving.
As the leader of this trip, Tolstedt was able to see first hand how it impacted students.
“I will forever remember the smiles of these students. Everyday I would wake up and see them smile from the morning until night. That’s not something you get to see everyday in a lecture hall; unless you crack a joke and get a few smirks.”
Tropical Ecology in Costa Rica
Every study abroad program that is organized by the Natural Resources Department targets a different aspect of natural resources. The trip to Costa Rica that took place on Dec. 26 to Jan. 14 was centered on its’ human dimensions, soils, waters, and tropical ecology, in general. Students saw about half of the country including a cloud forest. The unique sight is made up of humid air that condensed on leaves.
“It is such a great opportunity for students because they are able to see one of the most diverse countries in the world. It makes up about 13% of the world’s diversity. Students traveled from the dry, hot, tropical forest to the freezing high mountains. So as you can imagine, it was difficult for the students to pack,” said Mark Demchik, the leader of the trip.
As a Spanish major, Jenika Marlon was hoping to immerse herself in the language and see the country; however, she got much more than that.
“I learned so much information; not only about natural resources, but also about Central American culture. They really have a commitment, dedication, and belief to live sustainably. It was amazing and encouraging to see how much they worked with the environment and land rather than just working on it.”
From zip lining and whitewater rafting to seeing sea turtles lay their eggs on Naranjo Beach New Year’s night, the students got a wide range of experiences on their trip.
“Hiking is a huge part of this experience. In one day we had hiked 8.5 miles down and back in the dry forest. It’s extremely hot, especially with the 1500 ft. elevation change,” Demchik said.