International spotlight: Leaving the nest for The Reef

Heather Hunstad spent a year in "The Land Down Under" studying at Bond University.

International spotlight: Leaving the nest for The Reef

By Katie Carroll

“You can’t call your mom for everything.” Heather Hunstad, a senior from Cottage Grove majoring in biology, may not have learned this if she had not spent a year studying abroad at Bond University in Australia. “I did a lot of growing up that year because I was able to learn I can do things on my own.”  

After hearing about studying abroad in Australia from a UST representative that visited her high school, Hunstad wondered if it would be the right fit for her and if she would benefit academically from a study-abroad trip. The words of her favorite philosopher, Socrates, helped her decide: “Wisdom begins in wonder.”

While she was studying, Hunstad was able to experience and research unique environments across Australia. She spent a month on the Great Barrier Reef for her tropical marine biology course, where she researched the biodiversity of benthic fauna.   The research was done on islands containing only research facilities. Swimming with sharks, nighttime snorkeling and adventures through the rainforest also were a part of her studies, which were guided by an instructor who was much like crocodile hunter Steve Irwin.

While abroad, Hunstad was able to learn about Australian and American culture. “Australians are a lot like Americans, just more laid back. They are extremely passionate about their country and are willing to introduce and show it off to those people who are interested; also, Australians seemed to be just as interested in learning about American culture from me,” she said. This interest sparked a “reciprocal exchange of culture” among Hunstad and her Australian friends.

The sense of adventure gained in Australia is what Heather misses most. Unique climates (such as rainforests that meet the ocean), nights camping on the beach with a bonfire and guitars, and the stunning animals also will be greatly missed; but, she was glad to see her family and friends again after being away for a year.

Hunstad advises other students to take advantage of the opportunity to study abroad. “Now is the time you have to do it.   If you are going to go overseas and immerse yourself in another culture, the best time to do it is as a student,” she said. Her life philosophy fits in well with her advice: “Take advantage of any unique opportunity.” It is obvious she has followed her philosophy because when talking about Australia, she said, “It was the best decision I’ve ever made.”

After graduating in May, she plans to pursue her goal of working in the medical field. Graduate, nursing and medical schools are some of her options. She will be going back to Australia in June and is thinking of going back to Bond University to attend its prestigious medical school.