Steven Ranweiler from Minnesota State University – Moorhead in the US studying abroad at USC Sunshine Coast

How ya goin’ mate? My name is Steven Ranweiler, and I’m visiting from Minnesota in the United States. Back home I’m studying visual arts education, and this semester abroad has been an incredible opportunity to explore more subjects and expand my horizons! I’ve dreamt of visiting Australia for years and the study abroad partnership between my home university (Minnesota State University – Moorhead) and the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) helped me to make that dream come true.

I’d heard that Australian culture has a more relaxed pace than life in the US, and I found that to be true in my courses. I was concerned at first to see just a few major assignments making up my grades rather than the many smaller assignments I was used to back home. However, I soon realized that with the time, resources and awesome support provided at USC, those few big projects were great for my learning and less stressful. My professors and tutors have been fantastic, and it was a joy to walk out of classes greeted by sunshine and kangaroos! After courses moved to online learning, I was able to spend even more time in the great Australian outdoors while I attended classes remotely.

By traveling the area with new friends, I’ve gotten to enjoy experiences like surfing, mountain climbing. and swimming under waterfalls! Learning about the cultures and experiences of local Australians and my fellow international students has been enlightening and meaningful.

The pandemic brought some pressure in terms of returning home earlier than expected, but I wasn’t ready to leave the dream. Travel opportunities became limited, but that wasn’t too much of an issue considering I was already in such an extraordinary place. I spent weeks examining and photographing the incredible plants, animals and fungi which are unique to this region. The birds here are impressively loud and several of them remind me of dinosaurs.

I’ve been especially enchanted by the wonders of the local tide pools. One day I counted over 100 sea cucumbers, and by snorkelling I’ve encountered 1000s of charming fish just off the shore! Experiences in beautiful and vulnerable ecosystems like these motivate me to keep pushing for conservation to protect them. I enjoyed the opportunity to volunteer with the Sea Shepherd conservation group in a beach clean-up project, and it’s been awesome studying on a campus surrounded by a wildlife reserve.

 As my time here comes to end I don’t want to leave! I’m excited to see friends and family back home and share stories of this amazing experience with them, but even with great things to get back to it’s hard to leave this paradise and the wonderful new friends I’ve made.

Studying abroad at USC has been an incredible opportunity, and I enthusiastically recommend it to anyone who has the chance to do it!

Wishing you all the best,

Steven 😊

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