Melanie Mituta - AustraLearn Internship, Cairns, Australia
Crocodiles, kookaburras and koalas, oh my! For ten solid weeks I had spent my time doing an internship at the Cairns Tropical Zoo in Far North Queensland, Australia. Growing up, I would have never thought I'd be spending my days feeding a 16.5ft crocodile, talking to cockatoos and nursing a joey (baby) wallaby. These were a few of the most incredible job duties I was able to participate in during my time abroad. The ten weeks were divided equally among the reptile, bird and mammal department of the zoo, so I would be able to gain a broad spectrum of experience with each different type of animal. In each department, I gained knowledge in the species native to Australia, which are extremely unique compared to all other species.
In the reptile department I was able to handle non-venomous snakes, enter and clean some of the enclosures for our freshwater and saltwater crocodiles, as well as prepare the reptilian meals (rats, crickets, chuck or vegetable mix). For the bird department, there was an incredible amount of species to which I was able to feed, massive pelicans, the predaceous kookaburras and even the most peculiar yet vicious native species, the cassowary. Lastly was the mammal department, which ranged from kangaroos to lemurs to red pandas, all of which I was able to hand feed. In addition, the head of the mammal department took time out to train me on how to properly handle a koala, which was the most amazing opportunity that not many people have the privilege to learn.
On another note, zoo keeping was not the only experience I gained while doing my internship at the Cairns Tropical Zoo.Since I was the only intern at this zoo, I was able to really get to know the keepers who were all from Australia and have them teach me about Australian culture. One of the first things that I realized was that although English is spoken in Australia, the vocabulary and slang makes it almost seem like a whole different language. Often the keepers would have to explain what certain words meant or even repeat themselves because of their strong accent. Australia is also a very laid back country, strong on being ‘green' (environmentally friendly) and very active.I loved all those parts of the Australian culture compared to how things are here in the U.S. where everything is based on technology and people sit hours in front of a television. As far as my coworkers views on Americans and their culture, the stereotypes were all mentioned, however they did envy some of what America had to offer. Overall, I find it difficult to try and summarize or pick out specific parts of my time abroad because all of it was so unbelievable that there aren't enough words to describe it. Australia is such a beautiful country with the friendliest people and an incredible and unique culture, Not everybody can or will have the opportunity to study abroad, so if you do, take the opportunity because it is one decision in your life that you will never regret.