Life “Down Under”

Excerpt from Jaclyn Holmes’ personal blog “Daughter of the Most High“. Jaclyn is a Spring 2018 student from Bethel College. Reproduced with permission.

Brisbane river

View of South Bank along the Brisbane River

I’ve been in Australia for almost two weeks now, and it has already been a whirlwind. A variety of thoughts have appeared ever since I stepped off the plane (after my 14 hour flight to Brisbane), but the most predominant one has been:

“What have I gotten myself into?”

Do not get me wrong, Brisbane is beautiful, exciting, and diverse. As I have soaked in the beauty of the city, the realization hit me that I am on the other side of the world, surrounded by people who live, speak, and act differently than I do. It has been challenging who I am and what I know. *I am only two weeks in the semester and I am already having existential thoughts*

Broad Beach, Gold Coast

Broadbeach, Gold Coast

Even simple things have been teaching me about myself. Relying on the bus system to go to the mall or asking my host mom to take me to a friend’s birthday party have humbled me. You wouldn’t think riding a bus would teach you a life lesson, but for some reason, relying on someone else to get me where I need to go is making me realize just how independent I like to be. Back in the states I can just hop in my little Mercury Sable and go wherever I please. Here, I have to set my pride aside and ask for help (or chase down a bus). I have to tell myself it is okay to depend on others sometimes, and many times its necessary when you’re on the other side of the world.

I became comfortable at college since I’ve been there for three years. I had my routine, friendships, classes, and professors that I knew like clockwork. I liked being independent and going where I please. I found comfort in the familiar. Now that I am in the unfamiliar, and I am known as “the American”, it is pushing me. I am essentially starting over.

I think dependence and humility are going to become themes of my study abroad. Not only dependence on the people I meet here in Australia (and different ways of transportation), but dependence on God. Because as fiercely independent as I like to be, I need replace that with humility so my heart can be open to change.

It may be difficult, but I think this season of change is much needed. If I want to be the woman that God calls me to be, I have to put His will above my own, and situate all parts of myself- heart, mind, & spirit- to be changed (even if there is some discomfort at the time).

My time in Australia is going to be a wonderful experience and I am going to see some amazing things, but I would like it to be so much more than that. I’m hoping that I learn things about myself that I never knew before. I also look forward to seeing God work in my relationships with the Australian students, host family, and in myself.

“The seasons change and you change, but the Lord abides ever more the same, and the streams of His love are as deep, as broad, and as full as ever.”- Charles Spurgeon


ASC Potluck Party

This blog is written by Olivia Burkhart. Olivia is a Spring 2018 student from Grace College and Seminary.

Arriving in Australia three weeks ago, ASC students have been settling in to their new homes that they will be staying in for the duration of the semester. As students have taken this time to get to know their host families, there have been many stories, both of awkward moments and joyous times shared among students. This prompted an eagerness for an opportunity for students to mingle with members of other students’ homestays. It just so happened that students would be able to participate in such an opportunity with their host families.

At the start of the third weekend, the ASC organized a potluck dinner at the residence of one homestay family. Earlier in the day, the students took a trip to St. Helena Island for an interactive historical tour of the island as part of The View From Australia class. As this was an all-day trip, some students seized the opportunity to take a quick nap on the ride back home to ensure they had enough energy to last through the potluck party later that night.

With the stereo system playing throwbacks,  families started arriving with their student and finger-food in tote, the party was soon underway. The night was filled with yummy food and fellowship, as students and families were able to mingle with each other. A photo booth was also set up so that families and students could create lasting memories of their semester together.

ASC student and ASC host mum

ASC student Maleya striking a pose with her host mum Susan!

Once people had enough to eat, a game was played in order to test how well families knew their student and vice versa. This proved to be an entertaining bonding experience between students and families as they were able to learn more about one another. The night ended with students going for a refreshing swim in the pool whilst parents continued to socialize among themselves. All in all, the potluck dinner was a success, it fostered new friendships and strengthened connections between students and families.

7 students and counting…

This post was written by our guest blogger Janette Alexander (ASC host mum). Janette is married to Craig and they have been host parents to ASC students since 2014. They are Kiwis with a strong love for Aussie sports (Cricket, Australian Football and Rugby).

Alexander Family

Craig and Janette Alexander with their kids!

I remember our first student was back in July 2014, a Chicagoan from Wheaton College. Since then, the students have come from far and wide and we get to see different perspectives of America we never knew each time. Each relationship is a memorable one, with no favorites, we are blessed to continue each one after they’ve gone, through Facebook or Skype. Over the years, we’ve even had the opportunity to meet up with students and their families in their own hometown.

As host parents, we really enjoy helping the students through their studies in Australia especially in the area of culture and history. We have taken our students to experience the diversity of the landscape from the Sunshine Coast through to Northern New South Wales. As a family, we love being able to share a little of our world here in Australia with the students. We love building lifelong friendships and with that comes memories which leave a American-shaped hole in all of us when they leave.

ASC students Anna and Lauren at Eat Street Markets with the Alexanders.

Having an ASC student is a great experience! We have been fortunate to have shared our home with 7 students so far. We can’t wait for the next…


Burleigh Heads

We depart the leafiness of Mansfield and chug down the busyness of the Pacific Motorway. We find ourselves going pass HUGE amusement rides so high you feel sick just thinking about them! The chatter on the bus remain constant and sounds of laughter fills the air.
We slow down.
We stop.
We look out…
YES, we are at the beach!
Welcome to Beach Day 2018.
The students’ roar and cheer are drowned out by the crashing of waves. Many eager to shed their wintry skin in exchange for a golden sun kissed tan. The day is going to be SWELL – no pun intended as there were news reports of giant waves hitting the Goldy *that’s what the local call the Gold Coast*
We stake our spot for the day. Laughter. Talking. An exchange of accents fills the air!
The beach is perfect. The weather warm.
Swimming and walks along the coast call out to the students.
Morning tea is what is calling me. We sit, we eat. We talk.
The stumps are assembled. The pitch is drawn. The fieldsmen get ready and the ball is bowled.
Someone yells “Catch it” followed by a THUD! Batsmen bat for the first time. Bowlers bowl, they don’t pitch. There is running. There are catches. There are stumpings.
Lunch is PIZZA. Pizza is LUNCH.
We dive. We duck. We get our hair wet.
We saunter back on the bus.
Till the next time, Goldy.
We came as strangers and leave as friends.
Welcome to Beach Day 2018.

Students jumping at Burleigh beach

ASC students loving their time at the beach.

Burleigh Heads

ASC students and Red Frogs at Burleigh Heads for beach day.


I’ll Leave You With a Question: Are you a Tourist or Pilgrim?

Excerpt from the Bravo Voice intern blog. Tarian was a Spring 2017 student from Cairn University. Reproduced with permission.

As I gear up to say goodbye to Bravo Group, one phrase has stuck in my head — tourist vs. pilgrim — and what that looks like in my community and work environment.

I was introduced to the “tourist vs. pilgrim” concept while studying abroad in Australia around this time a year ago. While both individuals experience a journey of sorts, a tourist and a pilgrim have contrasting natures.

A tourist is someone seeking a surface experience who asks questions of authenticity while holding the experience over the destination. A pilgrim, on the other hand, travels with a sense of emptiness and sacredness and seeks to make a home in every location; a pilgrim plants roots.

During my time abroad, we were encouraged to be pilgrims rather than tourists. The fruit of this meant spending less time tanning and eating açai bowls by the beach and embracing more time with the everyday people a tourist would never encounter. Instead of staying in a university dorm, I lived with an Australian host family for four months. And when I had Mondays off, I volunteered at a senior community center instead of taking the bus to the beach.

When it came time to leave, I wanted to ensure my return to America wasn’t also a return to the person I was four months prior. For me, this meant learning how to be a pilgrim in my college’s surrounding community — funny enough, a place I previously had mistakenly referred to as “home.”

I quickly realized I had displayed some pilgrim characteristics as a student living on campus, but I was merely a tourist to the surrounding community. Simply stated: I hadn’t planted any roots outside of campus limits. How was I going to change this?

One way of investing in Harrisburg’s community and culture meant learning how to simultaneously use my career and vocational aspirations, an opportunity Bravo Group provided me as an intern.

Bravo Group spends time collaborating as a team, connecting with the local community and creatively partnering alongside clients. What exactly does this mean? It means my internship furthered my pilgrimage in the following ways:

Teaching me to come with an empty cup and leave with a cup overflowing with knowledge, mentorship and real-world experience
Providing the opportunity to seek new ways of serving the local community — represented from our day of service at the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank
Aiding my ability to see how my career and vocation can work together for the good of a community
Helping my roots grow a little deeper through my love for Bravo Group, its employees and the city it resides in
I say goodbye to Bravo with a heavy heart, knowing I didn’t come to experience an “authentic internship,” but to come empty, be filled and plant roots, making it hard to leave.

Thank you, Bravo, for the lessons, the love and the laughs.


Let’s talk about the differences

Excerpt from Emily Shenk’s personal blog “smaller details“. Emily is a Fall 2017 student from Eastern University. Reproduced with permission.

The program here is very heavy on culture. There is not a single day I have had when we did not discuss how culture affects my experience of Australia, how Australians experience me and how cultures interact with one another. As a part of this conversation on culture, we were assessed through the Intercultural Development Index which is a diagnostic tool used in 17 different countries to evaluate cultural competency. As a part of the results of the assessment, there are five categories of scores, all which describe your ability or inability to recognize difference and similarities between cultures and if you have the skills to adapt or not. Basically, its one big Buzzfeed quiz, just more important and actually valuable. The coolest part is after your scores have been evaluated the IDI provides you with a profile of your score, what it means in real life and a plan on how to improve your cultural skills! How cool is it that God created us as beings that each feel a part of one or two cultures but also have the capacity to improve our abilities to relate to one another? This gives me such hope in the world.

According to the IDI there are five stages of orientation. First, denial is when a person can recognize very basic differences between cultures(such as food) but not deeper differences (such as conflict resolution styles). People in denial may avoid or withdraw from cultural differences. Second, polarization is a stage where a person exhibits a judgmental orientation that views cultural differences in terms of “us” and “them”. Third, minimization is an orientation that highlights cultural commonalities, values and principles that can have a tendency to struggle with noticing differences. Forth, acceptance is an orientation that recognizes and appreciates patterns of cultural difference and can see both sides. And fifth, adaptation is when a person is capable of shifting their cultural perspective and behavior authentically based on the situation.
It is not important to me what my score is. Instead what I have gained from the IDI is a mental framework through which I can interpret all people, opinions, fears, conversations and contexts and how I can build my cultural skills in each setting. A wise band instructor once repeated a statement so much it became a mantra for me: knowledge is power. Knowing what I know now about my self perceived and actual cultural competency skills, I am able to use the information as mental power to grow and learn. What better a time or place to do this work than in Australia? Every day of my semester so far I have been challenged to consider the similarities and differences between my own country and this one.

I have found for me it is natural to see commonalities between myself and other people. It is actually in the differences I struggle to resonate. Where I see a person unlike myself, I find I jump to connections of how we could bond and be same as opposed to recognizing and celebrating the differences between us. If you and I were different, wouldn’t you want to share with me how awesome your culture is and how you would rather do something? I wish I were naturally able to see those opportunities. The IDI plan I received after taking the assessment suggests it takes 50 hours of mental effort to improve your cultural competency skills. That is a lot of hours! Considering I am in class 15 hours a week, serve at a Salvation Army mission 5-8 hours a week, and sleep roughly 49 hours weekly, its as if there is no time for growing! I have taken this blog post as a chance to engage some of those 50 hours thinking about the difference between my life at home and my life here. If you wish, consider the list below (whether it be silly or serious) and learn a bit about Australia!

Scuba diving

Differences between USA and Australia:

  • Toilets have two buttons to flush! no handles. (no Dad, the water does not go down counter-clockwise)
  • The driver and the steering wheel are on the right side of the car. the driver is always next to the middle line, throwing me for a loop when I think we are turning into oncoming traffic.
  • Cut (hurt), OY! (hey), cuppa (tea), car park (parking lot), hashie (hash brown), rubbish (trash), Uni (college), bogan (redneck), sunnies (sunglasses), theater (surgery!!), devo (devastated), maths (mathematics), bub (baby), jumper (jacket)
  • They are weird with their prepositions…ending sentences with a prep is fine and they use strange phrases. “coffee ON lactose free milk”, “heading TO hospital”
  • I have felt 4 raindrops since landing in Australia. Not because I don’t go outside, but because it hardly ever rains
  • Australian, British and South African accents are all different.
    gasoline is listed in cents/liter. So instead of it reading “4.65″, it is “122.7″
  • For new babies, 6 months paid maternity leave, 3 months paid paternity leave and a year long job suspension.

Safeguarding a Generation

Written by Tarian Attallah about her service placement at Red Frogs Chaplaincy and Support Network. Tarian was a Spring 2017 student from Cairn University.

Red Frogs Australia tags itself with the motto, “safeguarding a generation”. I personally had the opportunity to witness and take part in this ministry whilst studying abroad in Australia. Red Frogs is unlike any ministry I had ever seen in my (21) years growing up in America. The ministry truly meets university students “where they are at” by showing up at college parties, dorm rooms, etc. There were various college parties where the Froggers (what the Red Frog crew are called) cared for the physical needs of college students. I recall one such party, a Jazz Night held at an airport hangar in Brisbane. My role was to make fairy bread (buttered bread with sprinkles), hand-out throw-up bags, water, and of course the Red Frogs shaped gummies. But here’s the thing, none of this was glamorous work. By the end of the night, I could smell the stench of beer in my hair and was pretty sure I had stepped in vomit several times. The other part of the ministry occurred back on college campuses where Froggers would walk students back to dorm rooms or pull individuals out of dangerous situations often the students were quite intoxicated. I witnessed many lives saved by this physical form of care.

“Red Frogs is a support program for young people from the ages of 15 – 25. Red Frogs recognize that the culture of young people is dominated by alcohol and that excessive consumption of alcohol and other substances can lead to dangerous and life altering behaviours.  Therefore Red Frogs make it their mission to provide a positive peer presence in alcohol-fuelled environments where young people gather, educate young people on safe partying behaviours, and promote and provide non-alcoholic and/or diversionary activities that engage young people in these environments.”

The Froggers would also have something of a weekly pancake cook-up, where they would show up at residential colleges and cook pancakes unannounced. This allowed for natural conversations to develop with students. Over time, I got to see some students give their life to Christ! During these cook ups, I was either on pancake duty, walking around dorms and handing out food, or simply in casual conversations with students who’d showed up. I don’t think I had ever been asked so many questions about America then those on my Thursday nights spent with students. It was amazing how receptive the students were to our team, they opened their lives to us and we had the privileged of loving them just as they are!

Tarian in a Red Frogs tshirt carrying 2 jugs of milk

Throughout my life, I had always been encouraged to serve the ones around me from different stages of life, like the elderly or children. And although our world needs people to serve in those areas, it was just so special to serve those who are of my age. I learnt how to love and serve young adults exactly where they are at in their life journey. Red Frogs helped me to relate and understand my peers better, in ways I had not experienced back home.

I would say, Red Frogs is a change agent to the community they serve. They enter the lives of young adults in a loving and non-judgemental way. Their ability to care for students in all situations is so compassionate, so loving. More importantly, their ways of helping college students to see different ways to approach and participate in life beyond the party scene was nothing I’d seen before.