Getting ready for and arriving down under

Hi, everyone! My name is Celeste Whitman and I am in between my first and second years at the Nicholas School for a Master’s of Environmental Management. Thank you for joining me for three months while I am completing a research internship in Australia.

If you have ever been to a different country, you know the preparation involved before you begin your journey and when you arrive. Getting ready for my research internship was way more involved than I thought. When I studied abroad for a semester two years ago in Melbourne, Australia, most of the details were sorted out for me, but for this internship, I had to be self reliant.

At the Nicholas School, I have been focusing on environmental justice and community-based environmental management in minority and underrepresented communities. I have a Bachelor’s degree in anthropology/sociology, so I am especially interested in environmental management in indigenous communities. The Nicholas School does not have any courses specifically focused on indigenous environmental management, but my summer break gave me the perfect opportunity to explore this sector of the environmental field. One of my amazing professors at the Nicholas School, Elizabeth Shapiro-Garza, was able to connect me to a researcher in Australia who studies Indigenous water rights. Through this researcher, I was able to talk to several other researchers doing similar work throughout the country to see if any of them could use a research assistant for the summer (their winter). I began this process in October, and it took me until January to find a promising lead on a position, but I finally secured a position in February with a research team at Griffith University on the Gold Coast of Australia.

The visa process, securing housing and working out grant funding was a bit daunting for someone who had never done research in another country. I worked down to the wire to get everything secured, which I do not recommend, but it ended up working out in the end as I am now in Australia writing this blog.

I left the United States on May 21 and arrived in Melbourne two days later on the 23rd. It does take an extremely long amount of time to get to Australia from the East Coast (23-26 hours, to be exact) and I lost Monday in the air while crossing over the International Date Line near New Zealand. By the end of the 23 hours, I was definitely ready to get off of the double decker plane.

My first week in Australia was spent in Melbourne visiting the friends I had made while studying abroad. It was incredible to see my friends again after two years. I had to keep pinching myself to make sure that I was actually back in Melbourne. I had to also keep pinching myself to make sure I was not going numb from the cold. It is winter in Australia and my body was not happy with the abrupt change from 90 to 50 degrees.

Melbourne CBD (city center)

I spent my first few days settling in and catching up on all the food that I had missed. My friends and I explored the city and went back to some of our old haunts from when I studied abroad.

I was the quintessential tourist for the week and got to see a lot of cool sights. I went to the CBD, which is the center of the city, to explore the alleyways that make Melbourne so famous, like Hosier Lane with cool graffiti on every available surface and Flinders Lane filled with restaurants and cafes.

Graffiti in the famous Hosier Lane
Graffiti in famous Hosier Lane
Graffiti in famous Hosier Lane

Starting out my summer in a city that I was familiar with and being around people that I knew and loved was a great way to get me settled into my new surroundings. After a week in Melbourne, I hopped on a flight up to the Gold Coast to start officially start my research internship and have just been getting used to the surroundings and my office for the first few days. Down under has been great so far, and I am ready to get to work!

Reunion with old friends