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SIT Australia Sustainability and Environmental Action

Fast Facts

Sessions Offered:

Fall, Spring,


Byron Bay, Australia




Good academic and disciplinary standing. Minimum UI and cumulative GPA of 2.5 or higher.

Application Due:

Spring: 9/27

Fall: 3/1

Program Cost:

Click the Application tab.

Program Description

Surrounded by the inspiring beauty of Australia’s World Heritage areas, investigate sustainable ways of protecting the environment and promoting equality.

SIT Study Abroad offers more than 60 accredited semester and summer study abroad programs — in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East, as well as the International Honors Program, which has multi-locational programs.

The SIT Experience
• Rigorous academic programs through a field-based, experiential approach
• Undergraduate research through an Independent Study Project
• Cultural immersion through fieldwork, language classes, and urban and rural homestays with local families
• A small group of students in each program, supported by SIT faculty and staff, homestay families, in-country experts, and community members
• Access to SIT's extensive local resources and networks
• A commitment to reciprocity as the foundation of SIT's educational philosophy

Sustainability and Environmental Action

Witness and investigate practical alternatives to current systems that are degrading the environment and increasing inequality and be inspired by the incredible natural beauty of Australia's World Heritage areas.

This program is designed to empower you to make a positive contribution in building more sustainable societies. You will witness and investigate practical alternatives to the current economic system, which is degrading our environment and leading to increasing inequality, and will be inspired by the incredible natural beauty of Australia’s World Heritage areas. You will learn how to apply the principles of sustainability not only in your personal life, but in any career you choose.

With poor soils, unique organisms, and a climate governed largely by El Niño, Australia has keenly felt the effects of climate change. From your base two blocks from the beach in the small coastal town of Byron Bay, you’ll explore Australia’s burgeoning permaculture and sustainable farming initiatives. During excursions and workshops, including ten days in Tasmania, a sustainable urban design workshop in Melbourne, and a five-day camping trip with Aboriginal elders, you’ll meet environmental activists, see examples of successful campaigns, and get tools to apply sustainability efforts at home.

You’ll spend much of the program in the field. In each destination, you will learn about climate, geology, geomorphology, soils, and flora and fauna as well as the area’s human history and culture, in order to instill a sense of place and to help understand its unique management issues. During three interactive workshops, you’ll learn about environmental psychology, discover how Aboriginal peoples view and relate to their environments, and get practical tools to take effective action toward environmental social change.

Major topics include:

  • Sustainability
  • Sense of place
  • The natural environment and nature conservation
  • Social change and environmental action
  • Ecopsychology and environmental ethics
  • Aboriginal relationships with the environment

For additional, more specific information, please visit SIT's website for the program by clicking on the following link: Sustainability and Environmental Action.

Academic Program

Interdisciplinary Seminars

Thematic seminars merge student experience with academic theory to examine critical issues from multiple perspectives. Students learn from SIT faculty as well as guest lecturers from local universities, research institutes, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and community and professional associations. Field-based activities and assignments complement readings, discussions, and research papers, allowing students to engage in a variety of study methods.

Research Methods and Ethics

Students learn appropriate methodologies that prepare them to undertake fieldwork on topics connected to the program’s theme and specific cultural context. Students develop research skills and approaches including cross-cultural adaptation and skill building; project selection and refinement; contact and resource cultivation; observation and interviewing skills; gathering, organizing, and presenting findings; and maintaining a field journal. Students also examine the ethics and impact of their research on local communities and are required to follow the World Learning/SIT Human Subjects Review Policy, which serves as an approval process and guide for ethical field study practices.

Independent Study Project (ISP)

Typically conducted during the last month of the semester, the ISP allows students to pursue original field-based research on a topic of their choice within the program’s thematic parameters. The academic director advises each student on developing a project plan. Students also identify an ISP advisor who works with the student on the design, implementation, and evaluation of the student’s research project. Final projects generally include a 20- to 40-page paper and presentation to peers, academic staff, and interested members of the host community.

University of Iowa students who complete an Independent Study Project (ISP) must follow University of Iowa Institutional Review Board (IRB) policies and procedures. For more information on the Iowa IRB process please visit the Undergraduate Research Abroad webpage. An additional pre-departure orientation session, hosted by the Iowa IRB, will be offered on campus to help answer questions and ensure compliance.

Cultural Activities


Camp in the quiet and majestic eucalypt forest of the Forest Haven Meditation Center for a two-day workshop in environmental psychology. Ecopsychologist Dr. Elizabeth Bragg will introduce you to a range of philosophical perspectives on the natural environment, from economic rationalism to deep ecology and ecofeminism and help you explore ways to remain resilient in the face of serious environmental crises. You will begin to develop an understanding of your own and others’ environmental philosophies.


Explore how the land is central to Aboriginal identity in a one-day workshop led by Dr. Mary Graham, a Bundjalung elder who has been teaching with SIT Study Abroad since 1993. Examine different ways indigenous peoples view and relate to their environments and start to deconstruct dominant western worldviews as you come to understand a radically different worldview. You will be led to critically analyze your own relationship with the environment and to reflect on what contemporary western societies can learn from indigenous cultures that might help them in their efforts to become more sustainable. The workshop is run in Aboriginal style with the group sitting in a circle and sharing stories.


In this workshop, led by Dr. Elizabeth Bragg, you’ll examine models of social change and the types and scales of changes needed to solve our major environmental problems. You’ll look at examples of successful environmental campaigns and be introduced to a wide range of environmental activists. You’ll get practical tools for effective environmental action at different levels: personal, community, and structural/political. As you identify skills you already possess, you’ll explore ideas for projects you can undertake when you return home.


The program’s five-day orientation starts in Lamington National Park, where you’ll stay at the historic Grooms Cottage when you’re not outside enjoying the park’s mountain views, lush rainforests, and sightings of rare bird species. Orientation concludes at sustainable Linnaeus Estate, a 280-acre property with 1.5 kilometers of pristine beachfront on Seven Mile Beach. On day trips around Byron Bay and Lismore, you will visit a number of sites important to Australian conservation history and explore temperate and subtropical rainforests, sustainable house design, organic farming, permaculture, community gardens, and renewable energy technologies.


Tasmania’s extremely diverse ecology — including grasslands, eucalypt forests, alpine heathlands, moorlands, and cool temperate rainforests — has resulted in 40 percent of the state being set aside in nature reserves, including the 3.5 million-acre Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, one of only two World Heritage areas to be listed under seven different criteria. The program’s ten-day field trip in Tasmania will take you through spectacular glaciated scenery, magnificent forests with coniferous species of Gondwanan origin and the world’s tallest flowering plants. You’ll also stay in Tarkine, a vast wilderness known for its natural values and high concentration of ancient Aboriginal sites.


Acquire traditional ecological knowledge on a five-day camping trip led by Aboriginal guides who have long been associated with the program and who enthusiastically share their knowledge of traditional and contemporary Aboriginal cultures. Here, along the Clarence River, you will make traditional Aboriginal artifacts, learn hunting and gathering skills, experience Aboriginal customs, and hear stories about how to care for and live in the environment.


With more than half of the world’s population living in urban areas, cities are a vital element in the study of sustainability. On the weeklong field trip to Sydney and Melbourne, two of the world’s great cities, you will attend several lectures and see examples of sustainability initiatives in urban settings.

Program Dates

Spring: typically the end of January - mid-May

Fall: typically the end of August - beginning of December

Click the following link to connect to SIT's website for this program: SIT Australia Sustainability and Environmental Action.

For more information


Steps to Studying Abroad

  1. Before initiating an application with CIEE, students must complete a Discover Study Abroad session at the University of Iowa. 
  2. After completing the Discover Abroad session, students must call the Study Abroad office at 319-335-0353 to be assigned to the appropriate study abroad advisor.
  3. Once assigned, students must meet with their study abroad advisor to receive  program application instructions.


Study Abroad
1111 University Capitol Centre
Iowa City, IA 52242

Phone: 319-335-0353


Much of the program will be spent in the field. A few lectures will take place at the SIT location in Byron Bay.

Byron Bay

Byron Bay is a coastal town in the southeastern Australian state of New South Wales. It’s a popular holiday destination, known for its beaches, surfing, and scuba diving sites. Cape Byron State Conservation Park is on a headland with a lighthouse. Between June and November, humpback whales can be spotted from headland viewpoints such as the Captain Cook Lookout.


Australia ranks as one of the best places to live in the world according to measurements of income, human development, healthcare, and civil rights. The sixth-largest country in the world by land mass, its comparatively small population of approximately 23 million people is concentrated in the highly-urbanized east and southeast coast of the Australian continent.

US Department of State Country Information

The US Department of State provides safety and security information for every country of the world to help you assess for yourself the risks of travel. Each country information page contains a Travel Advisory, Alerts, and other important details specific to that country that could affect you.

Pay close attention to the entry and exit requirements, local laws and customs, health conditions, and other details to help decide whether traveling to any given country is right for you. Non-US citizen travelers may also wish to seek guidance from the embassy of their country of citizenship. The UI International Travel Policy for Students addresses restrictions on student travel to high-risk locations and engagement in high-risk activities abroad.

Living Arrangements

Homestays are an essential part of SIT Study Abroad’s commitment to providing students with meaningful study abroad experiences that help them understand the realities of living in a particular country. Following orientation in Byron Bay, you will move into a two-week homestay with a family in Lismore or a nearby rural location in northern New South Wales. The homestay will provide you with insights into Australian culture and allow you to establish ties to the community.

Lismore is a typical Australian country town with a population of 30,000 and is home to Southern Cross University. In rural areas near Lismore, you will stay with a host family on a farm or in a small village or hamlet. Many of these communities were settled by people seeking “alternative lifestyles” in the 1970s and more recently by "tree changers" relocating from cities. While in your homestay, you will attend lectures and workshops and undertake day trips in the surrounding area.

Lismore is best known as the gateway to the rainforests of northern New South Wales and the center of the alternative lifestyle movement in Australia. Many homestay families are very knowledgeable about the environment and sustainability, and you will benefit from their firsthand perspectives on the green challenges.

Other accommodations during the program include apartments, hostels, lodges, and campsites.

Travel Arrangements

Students will receive instructions on making travel arrangements during a program-specific orientation session. Students will arrange their own flights to Australia. Upon arrival, ground transportation is available to take students to the program site.


Students must have a UI and cumulative GPA of 2.5 or higher, and be in good academic and disciplinary standing. You must be in good academic and disciplinary standing at the university at the end of the semester prior to your study abroad experience. If you are not in good standing at the end of the semester, your acceptance will be revoked and you will be responsible for the associated withdrawal fees.


The cost sheet, which can be found by referencing the follwing PDF: PDFSIT Australia Spring 2018 Cost Sheetoutlines the total estimated costs associated with participating in this program and can be used for financial aid purposes. It includes fees charged on a student's U-Bill, as well as out-of-pocket expenses. Actual out-of-pocket expenses will vary from individual to individual.

The cost sheet includes the Study Abroad Administrative Fee and Mandatory Iowa Regents CISI Travel Insurance. Please see the respective websites for further details. If the fee is inclusive of UI tuition, it is calculated by Current Tuition. There is a $50 application fee charged to a student's U-Bill at the time of application.Please note that for study abroad programs through Spring 2022, students will not be charged the $50 application fee until travel is assured. If a student chooses to withdraw prior to the application fee being billed, it will not be charged.   There is also a subsequent $50 application fee charged by SIT. Total application fee charges equal $100.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Most financial aid (scholarships, grants, and loans) is applicable to study abroad programs. Please check the Study Abroad website for information on financial aid and how it may be applied to studying abroad. Students are also encouraged to speak with someone at the Office of Student Financial Aid to explore financial aid options.

Scholarship opportunities exist for study abroad participants. Please explore Study Abroad’s websites for UI Study Abroad Scholarship Opportunities, and Non-UI External Awards.

SIT automatically gives students from Big Ten institutions a $1,500 scholarship. There is no application necessary—the scholarship will be automatically applied to your account. SIT offers additional awards that can be found on SIT's webpage.

Pell Grant Recipients will have their SIT application fee of $50 waived. However, the University of Iowa Study Abroad application fee of $50 will not be waived. Please talk to your study abroad advisor for more details.

How to Apply

The UI online application for this program can be found on our website by clicking the following link:UI Study Abroad Application. Applicants must meet with a Study Abroad advisor before application will be processed. To schedule an appointment with the appropriate advisor, please call 319-335-0353.

Participants must also complete the SIT application and complete all the application components by SIT's deadline. The SIT application can be found at the following link:SIT Application.


Application Deadlines

  • Spring Semester: September 27
  • Fall Semester: March 1

Acceptance and Confirmation Materials

After the application cycle has finished, students will receive an email, an acceptance letter, and more information about accepting their place in the program, as well as information on purchasing plane tickets. Continue to check this website for more information on post-application procedures.

Health & Safety Planning

In addition to submitting their Confirmation of Participation form, students should review the following:

Study Abroad Resources

Passports and Visas

Iowa Regents CISI Health Insurance Information

Students are also encouraged to complete the PDFHealth Preparation Guide for International Travel form with their medical practitioner. This document is intended to help you plan for your medical needs abroad. Please DO NOT turn this form in to UI Study Abroad.


If you need a visa, SIT will send you a document titled "Passport and Visa Information" and you should follow these instructions. Contact the SIT visa coordinator with questions or reach out to Study Abroad. You must have a passport valid for 6 months after your return date in order to apply for the visa, so please renew or apply for your passport as soon as possible.


In order to prepare for your time abroad, you are required by the University of Iowa to complete two orientations. These may be in addition to orientations provided by your on-site provider. See below for more information.

Online Education Abroad Pre-Departure Orientation

You are required to complete the International Programs online “Education Abroad Pre-Departure Orientation” course distributed through ICON prior to departure. This orientation is mandatory for all students going abroad under the auspices of the University of Iowa. It covers many practical matters about living overseas, such as health and safety, communication, money, goals and much more. You will be enrolled in this course by International Programs and an email will be sent to you once enrolled. If you have any questions you can email

Program-Specific Orientation

This orientation will be facilitated by your study abroad advisor and will cover content specific to your program and host country. It could be conducted in a group setting or one-on-one depending on your type of planned activity abroad. Your study abroad advisor will send you more information about this mandatory in-person session.

Program Payment

You will be billed for the program on your U-Bill through the University of Iowa's billing office. Billing occurs the semester you are abroad and is due with the first U-Bill of the term, this allows for financial aid and scholarships to disperse BEFORE the bill is due.

Resources and Cultural Information

SIT Resources

Contact a Former Student
SIT Confirmation Materials
Pre-Departure Materials by Program
SIT Medical Review