Since she was a little girl, international student Alex Johne has had two dreams: to study in Australia; and to explore her fascination of the ocean.

At the time they seemed like lofty aspirations for the Munich native as she says no universities in Germany offered degrees in the topic she had her heart set on: marine biology.

So Alex pursued a combined degree specialising in English and physical education at a German university, with the intention of becoming a teacher. But after a stint working in Wales as a German language teacher, she soon realised that teaching wasn’t the profession for her, and after graduating decided to follow her childhood dream.

‘When I was a kid I wanted to become a marine biologist, but that wasn’t available at German universities, and I didn’t feel confident about the idea of studying abroad’, she says.

Alex then enrolled to study marine science at a university in Ireland, which was the closest course to Germany that she could find. But she couldn’t seem to gel with the course content or the Irish lifestyle. After just one semester in Ireland, Alex called it quits and after a quick online search discovered that the University of Tasmania (UTAS) has a specialist institute, the world-renowned Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) that offers the course she was after (Bachelor of Marine and Antarctic Science).

‘I chose UTAS because they let me specialise in Antarctic research and Arctic studies – and it is the only university that offers that specialisation’, she says. ‘After some encouragement from friends and family, I enrolled and was accepted!’

It was a life changing decision, but one that Alex is incredibly glad she made.

‘Everything has turned out well since I arrived in Australia. I found a nice house to live in, my house mates are great and I don’t live far from the university. I also found a job straight away! It’s completely different from my study abroad in Ireland – in a good way!’, she laughs.

As she comes to the end of her first year of study at UTAS, Alex points out that studying at a specialist institute has made all the difference for her.

‘I didn’t know anyone in Australia, so it was a difficult decision to study abroad, but now I’m so glad I did. The UTAS degree let me choose a stream and specialisation right from the start, in contrast to other degrees that were far too broad. At UTAS, I was able choose my focus and passion from the beginning’, says the marine biology major.

But UTAS offers more than just interesting course content, she points out.

‘Studying at UTAS is more challenging than studying in Germany, but I have really enjoyed my first year. I like the way the course is structured and the content, but what’s more important is the lecturers are incredibly helpful and always available to help’, she says.

Lecturers will say to me, “If you have a problem, just come and see me in my office”. They’re always there to offer support – it’s the total opposite of studying in Germany.’

Studying in the picturesque southern Tasmanian city of Hobart, Alex says she feels at home. ‘Hobart is a really pretty city. I love walking everywhere because it’s so nice with the mountain [Mount Wellington] overlooking the town and the views of the Derwent River.’

When she’s not busy studying, Alex is immersing herself in the local life. She works as a waitress at the cellar door of the Cascade Brewery, the oldest continually operating brewery in Australia and she attends plenty of arts and cultural events on the weekends.

‘I play for the university soccer team, I go to quiz nights in local pubs with my uni friends and I go on excursions set up by the Community Friends and Networks Program’, says Alex, describing some of her favourite things to do in Hobart.

The Community Friends and Networks Program helps UTAS students network and make friends in Tasmania, and also helps them see the state through the ‘eyes of a local’.

‘It’s really cool; we’ve been to the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) and to Bonorong Park [a wildlife zoo], where I got to see kangaroos and wallabies’, Alex says of her experience with the program.

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Wallabies are common in Tasmania, including on our two main campuses. Image: Tourism Tasmania

The program, coupled with the friendly Tasmanian locals, is what makes her feel so at home in Hobart. ‘It feels really good living in Hobart compared to the other cities in Europe that I’ve studied in. I’ve met some really nice people and I feel very welcome’, she says.

As the university year comes to an end, Alex plans on exploring more of Tasmania – and showing it off to her family and friends when they come to visit her in the summer holidays.

‘My family will be in Tasmania for a week and a half, so we’ll do a lot of sight seeing like [the historic convict site] Port Arthur and the beautiful Maria Island, Cradle Mountain and Mount Wellington,’ she says, listing off some of Tasmania’s most popular tourist attractions.

She’ll also have a chance to show them the new IMAS building, located on the idyllic Hobart waterfront. It will be Alex’s home-away-from-home for the foreseeable future, because she’s already thinking about the opportunity to study a post-graduate qualification at UTAS.

‘I would love to do ecological research, and hopefully go to Antarctica at some point. But I am also really interested in environmental management – I like governance and policy and looking at how it relates to research. It’s fascinating to see how research is implemented in real life’, she says.

Are you inspired by Alex’s story? Whether you’re interested in marine science, climate change, fisheries management, oceanography, ecology or Antarctica, you can apply now to start in 2017 and choose one of the courses on offer at IMAS, our specialist marine institute.

Do you already have an offer to study? Accept it today and get ready to start your journey at the University of Tasmania.