Studying animal behavior in Australia

Such a cute koala
Such a cute koala

Blue skies, towering mountains, and the salty sea air greeted me as I looked out upon the Illawara for the first time. Although I realize that I am joining a thriving educational community — the University of Wollongong — I could not help but see my surroundings from a biological perspective.

The crisp winter wind made me question my lack of winter coat. As I huddled for warmth with my fellow Hanoverians, I quickly noticed similar species clumped together for safety, seemingly warding off some unknown predator that I am, still, yet to see. The cockatoos flamboyantly calling out for attention, the magpies protecting their kin, and the frog-mouth tawnys quietly sitting on the sidelines, watching from within the Gum tree.

Of course, this is only natural, to cling to safety within numbers, but is that really the point of studying abroad? As the week wore on, biodiversity bloomed, and these survival tactics were quickly shed.

Orientation week was quick upon us, meaning classes were yet to begin. This meant a lot of free time for us upcoming students. Within the International House community, this meant many gatherings at the local watering hole. Free-spirited dancing  ensued on these nights, as the call of the wild drew us in, establishing territories and creating bonds of friendship.

Similar to most wild animal species, the cornered male was quick to react when threatened within his own territory; the watering hole being prime territory for these interactions. The chaos that ensued during these encounters can best be described as a group of mammals, eerily similar to howling primates, growling and watching from the branches of the eucalyptus tree, and sounding more intimidating than the true reality.

Of course, fears are quickly dissolved when one realizes they are staring into the face of a fluffy koala rather than the fanged face of the mythical drop bear.

More often than not, there are calm days full of what one might dare to identify as a growing family. The weaker species, which are usually culled off from the pack, are welcomed with open arms into International House. The early morning chatter of the kookaburras invites one to wake up and greet the day early in the morning (or maybe that is the jet lag).

At first glance, some creatures may seem intimidating, such as the grey kangaroo with the squint and black eye, but one is quick to see that although others may have abused this poor creature, its kind nature still remains. It seems courage and kindness are the key to survival here Down Under.

I am excited to see what hides deep within the hallowed gardens of the University as the academic week begins. I am sure my upcoming science classes will only broaden my perspective of life at Wollongong and lead to more life altering experiences.

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