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The degree that teaches you a global perspective on the big issues

Gemma Rushton took a 10 year gap and then decided to study in one of the world’s most incredible environments.

Sometimes it takes a long time to figure out what you’re passionate about. For Gemma Rushton, it took ten years. Finally, a passion for the environment saw her move to Tasmania.

“Ten years being out of school, back in the education system is a bit of an adjustment, but the University is really supportive of that,” she says.

“Right from the beginning, they structure it and teach you exactly how it’s set out step by step, so it’s not an overwhelming process."

Gemma first developed a passion for the environment while outdoor guiding in Western Australia. After choosing to study the environment, Gemma decided that the University of Tasmania was the best place to do it.

For me, I wanted to choose areas where I would be close to nature, and to the coast. The more I looked at Tasmania, the more I looked at the units in the course, the more I was drawn to it.

“Since being here, I’ve loved it. It’s a really great place. Yes, Hobart’s a city, but it doesn’t feel like a city. It feels like a big country town, and for me, that’s important. No crowds, being so close to the bush, all this is really special.”

Gemma studies a Bachelor of Natural Environment and Wilderness. She says it taught her how to address some of the world’s biggest issues.

“For me personally I’m interested in the conservation side of things which goes really nicely with animal ecology. And together, you learn about the major issues, not just in Tasmania but globally, and in Australia as well.”

As part of her degree, Gemma was able to travel to Indonesia with a New Colombo Plan scholarship. While there, she learned about a significant environmental issue: deforestation.

I went to Indonesia for two weeks to learn about conservation and sustainability from a neighbouring country but also a global perspective.

The Bachelor of Natural Environment and Wilderness teaches students about how to see issues from all perspectives. This makes graduates like Gemma critical thinkers and problem solvers. It also makes them highly employable.

“You learn how to address where problems might be and arise from, and how to make a plan moving forward for those people in the community and businesses – not just those who like bushwalking.”

While studying, Gemma has also used her degree to gain employment working in her area. She says she met the requirements for the position thanks to her degree.

Gemma is now a Bushland Activity Leader for the Hobart City Council, managing to fit her work in with her degree.

“It was the help of the degree and my previous experience that they were interested in.”

“The idea is to connect people in the community back with Hobart’s bushland and reserves. It’s focused a lot on the younger generation.”

Many courses at the University of Tasmania give students the opportunity to have practical, hands on-experiences. One of Gemma’s highlights of her degree was a camping trip.

Field techniques is a second-year geography unit. We were camped for eight days on North Bruny Island. We were down there putting everything we’d learnt so far into action.

“We were getting that hands-on experience with activities like animal trapping, looking at insects on plants, bird-watching, looking at fire damage, soil samples and marking everything out.”

Learn more about studying about the Bachelor of Natural Environment and Wilderness.