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Students dive in, climb high while studying in Australia

Barry McNamara
01/25/2018
The Monmouth group poses in front of two iconic landmarks -- the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge.
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MONMOUTH, Ill. – After studying business in Australia last fall, a group of Monmouth College students recently had the chance to experience the commonwealth Down Under in person.

The nearly two dozen students were part of a special Jan. 4-13 field trip to Australia. Led by faculty member Tom Prince, who taught the “Business in Australia” course, the trip’s purpose was to learn more about how tariffs and trade have affected the Australian business economy. The class studied the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement and explored the implications of the U.S. decision to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Laura Dulee ’20 of Bloomington, Ill., realized one of those implications when she encountered Hunter Valley wine, which is well-known in Australia but rarely seen in the United States.

“The taxes to get the wine into the United States are very high; therefore, the companies don’t always find it worth the cost to ship their wine here,” she said. “They do not have mass production in that area, so they sell most of those wines within the stores that we visited.”

Prince, who is a lecturer in political economy and commerce, said he was impressed with how Australian wine producers and local residents turned the fairly remote Hunter Valley area into a “destination location.”

One student noted how the country took ecological concerns at tourism sites into consideration.

“We visited the SkyRail while in Cairns, which is a cable-way stretching over the tropical rainforests of North Queensland,” said Sarah Hunt ’19 of Pekin, Ill. “After learning more about the construction of the SkyRail, it amazed me it was done with as little as possible harm to the rainforest. The footings were placed in existing canopy gaps and extensive research was done in order to ensure no endangered species would be affected.”

Hunt was one of several students who climbed the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge, and she said that the private company that leases out the bridge for the climbs makes it a point to give back.

“A portion of money is given back each year to the government to maintain the bridge,” she said. “Tourist attractions like SkyRail and the bridge bring in a lot of money for their area and the country as a whole, and it was interesting to find out how putting money back into the land was an important goal for those two companies. ... What also stood out to me was the pride Australians had for the environment around them. It seemed like everywhere I went I either heard about conservation strategies or saw posters.”

A trip to the Great Barrier Reef – where the group snorkeled with a marine biologist – was also one of the more memorable parts of the experience.

“It was incredible and was never anything I imagined myself being able to see,” Hunt said. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, which makes me even more grateful I had the chance to do it.”

She and Dulee also enjoyed the view of Sydney from atop the bridge.

“Two of my favorite moments were climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge and holding a koala,” said Dulee. “We were able to learn a lot about the city culture, the building of the bridge and the importance of the bridge for the city. As for holding a koala, well, let’s be honest ... who doesn’t dream about that?”

Prince said the different cultures among Australian people made the experience even more valuable for the students.

“It was a really good trip from a business perspective, and it was also really good from a cultural perspective,” said Prince, who started planning the trip two years ago. “In the city, there were all kinds of restaurants, representing all types of ethnicities. The cultural diversity was a really important part of the trip.”

And yet, said Prince, the main language in Australia in English, which his students appreciated.

“There wasn’t a language barrier, so that helped the students feel really comfortable,” said Prince, who noted many of the 22 students were traveling abroad for the first time. “You could ask a question anywhere. It was a very comfortable learning experience for our students, and I thought they represented our college and our country very well.”