For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to travel to the land down under. I remember that my frequent response to the question “what do you want to do today?” was always “fly to Australia.” Therefore, after a successful week at the Canada-Wide Science Fair last May, Moriah, Shaun and I were delighted to hear that we would be attending the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) in Canberra this past January. Moriah flew down from Thunder Bay the day before our flight left and we both could not contain our excitement. I barely slept that night, but somehow we both managed to get over ten hours of sleep on our flight to Sydney!
For the first ten days prior to the forum we toured through Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne staying with students who attended the NYSF last year. We were able to see the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Aquarium, go snorkelling and visit the beach numerous times, watch the Penguin Parade at Phillip Island, pet and feed kangaroos, koala and emu and experience an Aussie Christmas and New Year’s. We marvelled at all of your interesting cuisine such as fried egg and pineapple on hamburgers, vegemite on toast and delicious TimTams and Milo! Before we knew it, our ten days had ended and we boarded the bus from Melbourne to Canberra for the NYSF.
From the moment we sat down on the bus, to when we left on our flight destined for Canada, we were busy doing everything from lab visits to chanting and often, both at the same time! Personally, I got to visit several really interesting labs including a plant phenomics facility, forensic chemistry lab, a facility where they design video games and I got to dabble in mechatronics engineering building robots at ANU. We also had presentations from outstanding scientists who offered insight into their various fields of study. Some of the scientists we met throughout our journey were even invited to the Science Dinner we had on the second Thursday night. It was great to be able to interact with such highly acclaimed academics outside of the laboratory and discuss some of most fascinating research being published today.
It was also great to learn all about the Australian government at Parliament House where we participated in a mock senate debate. Since both Canada and Australia have a Constitutional Monarchy it was intriguing to see the similarities and differences between two countries on opposite sides of the world!
I thoroughly enjoyed discovering everything that Australian universities have to offer. Being able to interact with representatives from various universities across the country provided great insight into the degrees and programs offered throughout Australia. In fact, I learned so much that I may even consider coming to Australia for university now, or at least for an exchange.
One of my favourite parts of the forum was the debates we participated in on highly controversial topics. I was absolutely astounded by the wide range of well-supported opinions offered by my peers and it was amazing to hear how students in another country view topics which are regularly discussed in Canada. My favourite debate topic was definitely “Is science the new god?” as we were able to argue both sides equally which made for heated arguments and interesting thoughts being explored.
Apart from the science and other academic activities, we also had a fantastic time experiencing the Aussie culture: playing cricket, swimming, applying LOTS of sunscreen and learning about all of the differences between North American and Australian vocabulary, which I discovered was quite expansive when wearing my sweater, swimsuit and flip flops.
During the NYSF we also had an awesome science themed disco. Everyone came out in science-related costumes and I remember seeing Schrodinger’s Cat, Albert Einstein, the visible light spectrum, robots and so many more. It was an outrageously good time!
Overall, these past 23 days have encompassed the greatest experience of my life. Australia is not merely a travel destination, it’s an infectious way of life similar to addiction; you never want to leave such a beautiful and laid back country. I have been fortunate enough to meet some amazing people who will most certainly remain my friends forever. Even though I am sad to have left I know that the memories and experiences I now have will remain with me for the rest of my life. From the bottom of my heart, my sincerest thanks are extended to Youth Science Canada, Geoffrey Burchfield, Sandra Meek and the entire NYSF staff for making this trip available to Canadian students. My only hope is that every student is able to be inspired as I am to make a difference and invent the future.