‘Bears in the Outback’ offers study abroad for all

The Baylor in Australia study abroad program is an option that students find to be adaptable. Not only does the lack of a language barrier help, but the program is also open to all majors and fulfills credit for recreation or leisure services courses. Photo courtesy of Taylor Serrano.

By Elise Crosley | Reporter

Baylor offers a few study abroad programs that are not specific to any major. One of these trips takes students to Australia. The trip is highly interactive, with most of the learning being done out in the field rather than a classroom. Students learn as they hike through the Daintree Rainforest and snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef.

Christopher Wynveen, program director and associate professor of health and human sciences, has been to Australia a number of times. He received his Ph.D. in recreation, parks and tourism science and did much of his research in Australia.

“The whole purpose of the trip is to look at how Australians have lived and interacted with the natural environment,” Wynveen said.

Baylor partners with Texas A&M University to connect students with similar interests and aspirations.

“We have 13 to 15 Baylor students, and [Texas A&M] usually brings somewhere between 15 to 20 students. It’s a great opportunity for people to interact and get to know each other,” Wynveen said.

The Baylor in Australia program offers a unique experience from other programs because there is no language barrier.

“Some people who are uncomfortable with a foreign language like Australia because of the language component. It takes away the language issue that they might see in going to countries with a different language,” Wynveen said.

Students on this trip are always on the move, only staying in each location for two or three days at a time. They travel to Magnetic Island, Hidden Valley, Mission Beach, Atherton, Chillagoe and a variety of other places.

The entire program is only four weeks long, so Wynveen packs in speakers and a multitude of places to travel. Students get credit for recreation or leisure services courses.

“We look at how [the Australians] are managing the land and we talk to some modern European Australians and discuss similar issues,” Wynveen said. “Then we go to the Daintree Rainforest, which is one of the oldest rainforests in the world. That’s a neat place to see. It’s also the only place in the world where a rainforest ecosystem touches a coral reef ecosystem. That has some unique characteristics to it. Then we end the trip out on the Great Barrier Reef where we spend two days snorkeling,”

Las Vegas senior Taylor Serrano attended the trip this past summer.

“My favorite part of the trip was snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef and exploring the beautiful Magnetic Island beaches. I was able to fulfill my lifelong dream of holding a koala bear and play with lots of kangaroos,” Serrano said. “This trip was truly insightful, and I was able to learn so much about Australia’s culture and wildlife.”

Applications are due Feb. 25, but those interested are encouraged to apply before Jan. 15, as the trip is often full by that time. For more information on Baylor in Australia, visit Baylor’s BearsAbroad website and select either the semester or summer options.

“This experience was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I would go again in a heartbeat,” Serrano said.