Outdoor recreation students at a campsite

What it’s like to study outdoor recreation at uni

Working in the great outdoors. Sounds like a great way to make a living, doesn’t it? Well, when you study outdoor recreation with Australia’s number one uni for graduate employment, you get set up to do just that. That’s what Tom Johnstone is aiming for. So, let’s go behind the scenes with him to find out what a day in the life of an outdoor rec student looks like at Charles Sturt University.

by Tom Johnstone
Bachelor of Applied Science (Outdoor Recreation and Ecotourism)
Charles Sturt University


8am I wake up to my phone’s alarm as it slowly plays the sound of waves. It’s a great way to start the day. I’m up nice and early in order to maximise my time. I eat breakfast, listen to music and plan my day so I can fit everything in. Just before my first lecture starts, I read over the notes so that I have the topic fresh in my mind.

10am The first lecture of the day is about motivation in outdoor recreation. This topic is from my social psychology of risk subject. I’m thoroughly enjoying the subject. It explores the reasons why people choose to participate in adventurous – even dangerous – activities.


12pm I have a two-hour break before my tutorial starts. That’s just enough time to take the five-minute walk back to my res (on-campus accommodation), make some lunch and look over my notes.  

2pm The one-hour tutorial is on the topic of campsite design. We’d previously going through the content in the lecture the day before, so we begin unpacking this. We discuss as a class what we believe the elements of an effective campsite are. This is intriguing to me as it begins to click: I now get why some campgrounds are built certain ways.

3pm My classes are finished for the day. I have a couple of hours to fill so I go to the library and do some research for my upcoming assignment. It’s on the meaning of risk and the psychological concepts of risks that people experience while doing outdoor recreation activities.

5pm It’s time to get ready for social sport, which for this session is touch football. This is a social competition run by Charles Sturt between teams of students who live on-campus and those living off-campus. Most teams, including mine, are made up of housemates that you currently live with.


6.30pm It’s a very close game, but we come away with a win! I walk back to res and make some dinner; a quick and easy satay chicken.

8pm Next, after dinner I get stuck into some serious research for my upcoming assignment. In addition, I read over tomorrow’s class notes. I’ve got a lecture in the morning for my environmental education and interpretation subject, and the topic is planning communication and interpretation.

10.30pm Finally, I get to relax after a long but productive day. We’re planning to watch a film in the common room of the house. After the movie, I hop into bed to get some rest so I’m ready to do it all again tomorrow.

Sound like a pretty good day to you?

Whether you want to help people discover the wonders of the natural wilderness, or you want to work to ensure our natural and cultural heritage is preserved for future generations, we’ve got a course for you. Check out our environmental science and outdoor recreation degrees – all backed by research in environmental science and management that is rated above world standard in the 2018 Excellence in Research report. Find the perfect course for you, and every day will be an adventure.