Dear diary: my perspective from my time in Mexico

Group photo at Reseva Forestal Multifuncional, a community company which seeks to reduce the pressure on natrual resources through product diversification. Representing Australia at the International Cultural Night with students from the University of Melbourne Getting a lift in the Helia Bravo Hollis Botanical Garden Posing at sunset in the Helia Bravo Hollis Botanical Gardens A hiking tour with a fantastic view from above. The view from a corner of Monte Albán, a pre-Columbian archaeological site in Oaxaca Taking a tour around the Chapingo Autonomous University, Texcoco Árbol del Tule (The Tule Tree), the widest tree in the world!

Written by Karen Khoo

In August, Fenner School of Environment and Society students Karen Khoo and Chew Jia Yi travelled to Mexico to attend the 46th annual International Forestry Students' Symposium (IFSS). The two-week symposium is a chance for students all over the world to network, give and attend presentations and go on forestry excursions.

We asked both students if they'd like to provide an insight into their experience, and Karen sent us this brief recount of their adventure.

You might be familiar with the period of the semester when time starts to speed by and students develop a very slight inner panic, also fondly known as week 4. Instead, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to travel to Mexico to join a fantastic group of forestry students in a whirlwind adventure of forestry tours, informational sessions, and cultural experiences I'll never forget.

Camping under the stars at the Helia Bravo Hollis Botanical Garden.

Camping under the stars at the Helia Bravo Hollis Botanical Garden.

From the very first moment I set foot in Mexico, it was an experience to remember. From communicating through lots of hugs, smiles and the many 'Muchas gracias!" due to my limited repertoire of Spanish phrases, to the street food I had to try and which most definitely made me feel ill, to visiting the 2000 year old Tree of Tule (with a diameter of 14m!), I still think my most memorable experience would have to be our visit to the Helia Bravo Hollis Botanical Garden. Camping under the stars in a tropical desert peppered with countless species of cacti is something you don't get to do every day.

Participating in the IFSA-IUFRO (International Forestry Students Association - International Union of Forest Research Organisations) Joint Taskforce workshop was also a particularly enlightening experience. It really hit home the importance of community engagement and tailoring solutions to the people who will be affected by these decisions. We even got to construct our own mini dioramas to visualize our final proposals!

The beautiful thing that I've found about educational travel is that I've already acquired a base level of knowledge from my studies at ANU and am familiar with the general concepts used and landscapes present in Australia. So, when I'm then immersed in another country's culture and learning about the different forestry techniques, particularly the Mexican community management ethos, I developed a much deeper appreciation for a holistic approach to systems and processes. It really emphasized the importance of establishing good science communication, having solid underpinning legal frameworks and considering environmental and social factors alongside the economical.

I came away from this experience with a network of bright, passionate and innovative people all around the world, a deeper understanding of Mexican forestry and community, and particularly an appreciation of the real-world application of technical and theoretical concepts that I'd learned about at ANU. And as for avoiding the slight inner panic in week 4, I am instead encountering the frantic scramble to revise for final exams!

This opportunity was partially funded by the Student Extracurricular Enrichment Fund (SEEF).

ANU offers a variety of overseas opportunities for students. For more about these opportunities, including how to apply for an overseas exchange, visit the ANU Global Programs website.