Last month, 14 START students traveled to Australia to learn about the country's counterterrorism policies. As part of a unique winter-term study abroad program, students met with terrorism experts at Sydney's Macquarie University to learn how terrorism impacts Australia and other Pacific Rim countries.
"Something I learned was that even though Australia hasn't had many attacks, their people have been attacked, like in the Bali bombings, where dozens of Australians were killed while they were on holiday in Bali," says Zahra Ahmed, a senior criminal justice major.
Michael Garber enjoyed studying terrorism in a different part of the world.
"Although I've studied terrorism several times before, I've always focused on the Middle East and never studied this interesting region," said Garber, a public policy graduate student studying international security and economic policy.
"With Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and several other countries with terrorist activity, the Pacific Rim does not typically receive the attention it deserves regarding terrorism. There is nowhere better to study the region than Australia, which has to deal with it so much more intimately."
The group's Australian experience was not confined to the classroom. Students had the opportunity to visit cultural institutions and participate in outdoor activities unique to Australia, such as attending a cricket match and surfing the Tasman Sea at Bondi Beach. For Ahmed, Australian culture was very similar to America's with some notable differences.
"We didn't have to learn another language but we had to adapt to their norms. For example, they stand on the left side of the escalator, which isn't a big deal until you realize your culture has taught you to stand on the right side," she said.
Asked what his favorite experience was traveling and studying abroad in Australia, Garber had a difficult time choosing between visiting a local nature reserve or scaling the heights of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
"At the nature reserve, it was incredible being able to meet and interact with exotic local animals like wallabies, kangaroos and koalas - it made the experience of being in Australia all that much more real," Garber said.
"However, the bridge climb was also incredible. Walking on top of one of the most noteworthy structures in the world, let alone in Australia, while taking in the incredible views was spectacular."
The trip was led by David Maimon, START researcher and professor of criminology at the University of Maryland, and Sarah Fishering, START's transition and education manager. The group stayed in Sydney, near Macquarie University.
Strongly recommending this experience for future students, Zahra Ahmed says it's the perfect trip for a winter term course.
"I know a lot of people were taken back from the idea of only a two-week trip, but it was perfect length. We had an awesome professor and Sarah planned lots of really cool activities for us. Australia is a beautiful place!"