Words by Kristen Curtis, a business major from Anderson University who studied abroad in Sydney during fall semester 2016.
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One of my favorite memories from studying abroad in Sydney last fall comes from the beloved CAPA My Global Education event of spending the night in Tarongo Zoo. Back in the States, I’ve grown up with more pets than most people could ever imagine having - goats, chickens, horses, cows, dogs, cats, a buffalo, and a tiny marmoset monkey named Abo (yep, we sound like crazy pet people). Australia is known to have all sorts of dangerous and beautiful creatures found only native to the land down under… so, when the opportunity to spend the night at the zoo came up, you could say I was just a little excited.
After a 45-minute bus ride, my fellow students and I were greeted by an empty zoo and smiling zoo keepers. We walked about some of the grounds and were given a private tour. While exploring, we not only saw animals hanging around in their cages, but also a few straggling visitors - free-range, large peacocks and wild lizards. Our bubbly guide informed us that one extra-large peacock was, “a regular mate who came about often, romping through the grounds freely”. While I’ve been to zoos in developing countries like India and Uganda, this idea of free-range critters is so foreign to American zoos; it just added to the whole overall adventure!
That evening we were treated to a delicious buffet which included fun Aussie cuisine with a few more exotic tastes like emu and kangaroo. After dinner, we were given another tour around the zoo to see the nightlife of some of the residents. We watched a sun bear duo making, or rather unmaking, their bed, preparing for sleep, and many other animals walking about at night or preparing for slumber. It was super amazing seeing all the night time rituals of the animals!
Before bed for us humans, in our “tents” - or rather glamping tents since the accommodations included electricity and two full-sized beds for the two people who would stay in each tent, we had nighttime snacks and watched the harbor twinkle with nightlife lights from across the bay.
The next morning was greeted with a 5am wake-up call. While we all felt the chill of the cool spring morning, about 15 of my peers and I stood in pjs and blankets and watched as the night sky turned from dark black to a hazy mix of bright colors to the beautiful blue Sydney sky that we had all grown to love. With coffee in our hands and our stomachs full of breakfast - no Vegemite was consumed during this time, though, like always, it was offered - we were walked about the zoo to see morning feedings and participate in one extra special feeding.
One zookeeper had a green bucket in hand as we rounded a corner towards the… giraffe pin! Back in the States, I had once fed a giraffe, but this experience was much much more personal. Each student fed the giraffes, and after we’d all gone, we got to go again (and again and again until the lettuce ran out). As you would hold out a big clump of lettuce, the giraffe's long, blue tongue would reach out and grab the treat, often grabbing your hand in the process. It may sound gross or strange, but it was really awesome!
Before leaving, we also saw other animals’ food prepared in an amazing first-hand experience with the hard-working zoo keepers that love and take care of all the critters. By the time we all settled upon the 9:30am ferry, we were all content and amazed at what we had just experienced. By far, spending the night in the zoo was one of my favorite Australian memories.
Want to connect with Kristen and ask what it’s like to study abroad?