Highlights from Oz

Hello! How ya goin’? My name is Holly Risinger and I spent the Fall semester of my senior year in Brisbane, QLD with the Australia Studies Centre through BestSemester. I am an Illinois native and attend “uni” at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, IL where I am working towards a business degree with minors in leadership and music. My time with the Australia Studies Centre truly changed my life and I’m excited to share a little bit with you!

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Outback Queensland, Australia

Why ASC?

For starters, I chose this specific study abroad program because in approaching my senior year I did not have enough classes to fill my last 2 semesters and instead of cramming and graduating in December I decided to study abroad. I chose Australia and the ASC program because I was looking to immerse myself into another culture different from my own and get far away from my university for a bit. ASC also offered me the opportunity to do a business internship in Brisbane which I needed to graduate, plus I wanted to get myself out of my comfort zone and let God work in my life. I can confidently say that all of this and more was fulfilled and accomplished in my time in Oz!

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HIGHLIGHTS!

Where do I even begin… I’ll limit myself to 3 so we’re not here all day.

  • Home Stay Family. At the beginning, when we first met, yes, it is nerve-racking and it took time to adjust but the experience is SO worth it! Your host family, at least in my experience, becomes your home away from home. Along with the other ASC students, your host family is one of the few constants in those fleeting 4 months abroad. I tried my best to not stay cooped up in my room but to be downstairs, in the kitchen, talking, helping, getting to know my family from beginning to end. When I had a question about the bus, they were there, question about places to visit while in Oz and how to buy a plane ticket, they were there, even a question about how to experience the best of Brisbane, they were always there. This is not everyone’s experience, but I think in this instance of home stay families you will get out as much as you put in, so invest!!!

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  • Travel Opportunities*** TRAVEL can be considered an UNFORSEEN COST so if you want to travel make sure you budget BEFORE coming!
    1. *** Tip for traveling Oz: STAY AT THE YHA’s EVERYWHERE YOU GO! They are a great chain of youth hostels in Australia that are much cheaper than hotels, are very clean and very friendly. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
    2. Australia is next-door neighbors to New Zealand and is FULL of amazing beach towns, cities, and adventures! I made a point to take advantage of every spare weekend, evening, and days off school to go to the beach, Cairns to swim the Great Barrier Reef, Melbourne, and even New Zealand on our break week. I was fortunate enough to make friends with the other ASC students and traveled with them! So don’t worry about booking anything before leaving the states because you will make friends there and then you can all book and travel together! Its no good not to take advantage of being half way around the world because who knows when you’ll get back there so if you like to travel, JUST DO IT.

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  • Academics/Business Internship. Also, I had a business internship in Brisbane as one of my four classes. I was very excited for this internship because it helped me complete my credits back home to graduate but also immersed me into international business practice and offered amazing growth. CHC placed me at a company in Brisbane where I spent one day a week as their Human Resources Intern. My time there was amazing, my supervisor was awesome and I did not only gain professional and valuable HR experience, but also knowledge in how to work well with those of other cultures. We had a number of funny, sometimes confusing cultural differences, but with a grace filled heart we usually laughed it off. As far as assessments went for the internship class, there were still 3 papers and a presentation at the very end for CHC. If you are a business student, not even just international business, I would highly recommend considering doing your internship overseas. You will gain business and professional knowledge but also being able to work with people from around this world is very attractive to employers today.
  1. I’m sure your thinking, “Really, academics as a highlight? Seriously Holly?” But YES! I’m not even a huge nerd and I greatly appreciated the education I received in my time at Christian Heritage College. As you know, I’m going for a business degree and the classes I took at CHC challenged my thinking greatly! You are required to take 2 Australian culture classes (CS254 and AS200) along with all the other ASC students and then 2 other classes of your choice. For these classes I chose a Counseling Ethics class (SO251) and a Business Internship (BZ339). As a student use to taking exams and quizzes towards my final grade, the Australian way of doing things was very different. All of my classes, with the exception of Business classes, are based on 3-4 big papers and a few weekly assignments for your final grade. For me this was challenging compared to what I’m used to back home BUT, this way of education really broadened my learning experience and although it was challenging and annoying at times, I am very glad I had this experience in my college career.

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Is it worth it?

During and directly after my time in Oz I concluded that every college student needs to study aboard. It offers an amazing time to grow in your independence, figure out some things about yourself you cannot see being entrapped by your “normal,” and opens your eyes up to just how big the world around us is and how small we are. But, this conclusion has changed a bit since I’ve been back home and had time to reflect on the change that has happened in me. I do think going to Australia, doing any study aboard has the power to change a person, but it can only do this if the person is changeable. I saw many people walk away from this experience unchanged because they were unwilling to get uncomfortable and have their way of life and way of thinking be challenged. I think to make this experience worth it YOU have to be willing and open to let all you learn, experience and live through have the chance to change you. I’m not suggesting you have to completely change who you are and come back home with an Aussie accent and refuse to live anywhere more than an hour from the coast, but to make this experience WORTH IT, have an open mind, an open heart, and be ready to be uncomfortable. IT IS WORTH IT, I PROMISE.

Re-entry Reflections

The following are some reflections from Spring 2016 student Shaela Tyler, now a senior at William Jessup University.

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Anyone who has had a positive experience studying abroad knows that going home can be very painful. When I studied abroad in the Spring of 2016 in Brisbane, Australia, this was actually kind of my goal. I’m not a masochist by any means. When I left, I wanted it to hurt because that meant I had formed relationships that meant something. As we prepared to leave, I realized I had definitely met this goal. Leaving was painful. The gut wrenching sobbing as I climbed the bus to airport painful. I missed my host family, church, uni and fellow Americans in the program. On the return home I expected to hate America and all it represents. I expected my friends and family to not be interested in my stories. I knew that many wouldn’t be able to relate. Even if they tried to relate I thought they still wouldn’t “get it”. There is just something defining about going abroad. The people who stay back at home sometimes don’t grasp the gravity of what you’ve been through. I also didn’t know if I would be able to love or agree with my home university anymore. The Australian Studies Centre (ASC) program tried to prepare us as much as possible. I guess they did a pretty good job because I was never blindsided when I arrived home. None of what I feared came true.

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My fellow Americans

I don’t hate America. I recognize the United States as just another broken system. It is a country like others trying to create a “good” life. I may not agree with who they’re trying to create this life for—the rich and elite or the common people. I don’t agree with many of the ways that they go about trying to mold the good life—corruption in politics, consumerism, ect. I also disagree with many American’s definitions of “good”, “fair” and “right”. However, these situations give me cause to stand for what I believe is right. And that stand does not require hatred. Even coming home to the 2016 election I haven’t despised anyone involved. I hate the ideals and beliefs acted out. The violence and bigotry experienced since the election has brought some very dark parts of America to light. The reality is that we aren’t any more enlightened or blessed than many other countries in the world. Knowing this has softened the blow of the election results and underlines the importance of living a humble life dedicated to service.

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Is anyone interested?

Another unnecessary worry that I had was that people close to me wouldn’t want to hear about life in Australia. My family and friends were interested. They wanted to know all about the “exotic” place I had lived in. I had countless people ask about my semester. In my fear I had forgotten all about the caring community that I have been blessed with. One difficulty is that sometimes the stories that are important to me aren’t as interesting to others. This was something that I had to adjust to as I told people about the Great Barrier Reef (again). It was frustrating to a point but I came to realize that it’s okay. Not everyone needs to hear about everything that happened. I stick with telling my good friends the small details near and dear to my heart and talk openly with everyone about petting koalas and kangaroos. I still find the phrase, “When I was in Australia…” leaving my mouth far too often but I’m working on that.

Back to school

Going back to school was more difficult than I had thought but it definitely wasn’t something to fear. First of all, the Australian school system does not operate on testing the way that America does. I did not have a single test the semester I was with ASC. I was out of practice and bombed my first test back. On the upside, my critical analyses within essays has been markedly better (thanks, ASC!). The worst of the part of my transition back to school came pretty early. It was the very first Monday night of the semester and I decided to attend Monday night chapel. I sat in the back surrounded by people I didn’t know. That was the moment that I realized I was a stranger to all of the new students and had lost contact with many former friends. The feeling of being an outsider crashed down on me. Because I attend a small Christian Liberal Arts university, this feeling was completely foreign to me. I felt that I had been pushed to the fringes of a campus I had come to call home. I think that every senior preparing to graduate has this feeling at some point. In that situation, I had a choice to make. To connect or to just make it through the next year and graduate. It’s been difficult but the change that I experienced in Australia has allowed for a greater sense of purpose and self-assuredness. I make the effort to connect with and meet people which has eased this sense of loneliness. With intentionality and genuine care comes fruitful friendships that have helped reintegration to my home university.

Place and practice

Related to this sense of purpose and belonging, another result of the trip was finding more of my identity and place in the world. It seems as though the globe has become both larger and more compact simultaneously. My horizons have been broadened and I am aware of the world in a new way. Then sometimes I’m hit with the realization that I now have family on the opposite side of the earth and that makes it feel smaller and more accessible. I find it more automatic to think beyond myself as well. The practices of recycling and using fair trade and sustainable products have become more important and worth the effort. Being involved in politics and making an effort to connect with world news have become second nature. Intentionality with people and staying connected for the purpose of service have been convicting and so life-giving. I learned the importance of these efforts in Brisbane. However, they didn’t become real for me until I came home. They were just “things I did in Australia.” But now they are practices I believe we are called to as Christians. I am called to care for the earth. I am called to think we’ll and to love my neighbor. I am called to live in a way that represents the One who calls.

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Contentedness

Along with this call comes a responsibility to live in the now to the best of my ability. Living in a place with limited or expensive access to the Internet is very revealing. I was able to see the effect of social media on my contentedness. In Australia I could go and look at what my friends back at home were doing and feel left out. I could wallow in my homesickness. Now that I am back home I can look at what my Aussie friends are doing and wish to be back. I have the choice to live in the past or take what I’ve learned and move forward. Wherever we are we have that choice. This is what I’ve clung to since coming home. Just as the Emu represents ever advancing Australia, I am determined to never go backwards.

Purpose

To anyone who has studied abroad, is studying abroad in the future, or if you just feel stuck in life hear this: Christ has a purpose for where we are now. The challenge is to not waste that time, that minimum wage job or “pointless” class. Let’s live to find meaning in every person and situation. I’ve found His promises to be true. He promises to be there in the pain, the joy and the mundane and He is enough. All in all, the transition home has been smoother than expected. The moments of pain have definitely been worth the growth, experience, memories and love. I will be forever thankful for my time in Queensland; thinking differently, loving effectively and learning about how to live well wherever I am.

So Long, Farewell

Excerpt from Hannah Matthew’s personal blog “Mainer Gone Aussie”.  Hannah is a Fall 2016 ASC student from Gordon College. Reproduced with permission.

That’s right folks, I am officially out of Australia. To end the amazing (almost) four months of living Down Under, the wonderful ASC staff took us to Sydney! Three days there was short yet packed with memories that’ll last a lifetime.

Day 1:

Arrive at CHC at 5:30am to say goodbye to all host families. It was difficult for some, not so difficult for the emotionless (or those who keep emotions inside). We eventually got to the airport with the usual security and luggage hassles and after our short two hour-ish flight we made it to Sydney! We stayed at the YHA in the ‘Rocks’ and we discovered the most amazing view from the rooftop terrace AKA the floor our rooms were on!

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First thing was first, a walking tour around said “rocks” with our first stop at a church. It was a really cool church with big things going on to meet the likes of the larger metropolitan millennial generation of Sydney. We then walked through this super cute historical neighbourhood with all kinds of shops, museums and cafés to end up at the harbour! I was blown away by seeing the bride and opera house so close!

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The night ended by going to an outer neighbourhood Newtown where we went to help Newtown Missions. We heard from a very smart and wise economist names Trevor first. While many were drowsy from the busy day and not intrigued by the dull content of economics, my attention was grasped. In case you don’t know, I’m a nerd. I love to learn and I love business. Trevor spoke about how to invest our money for the greater good of the world in the smallest of ways to the largest of ways. I could go on forever about how much I loved hearing this but I won’t dwell on it.😉

We then led a chapel service. I got the opportunity to stand among some great musicians among our ASC group and sing. This service was very laid back with some worship and sharing of the congregation and some prayer and communion. The congregation was full of people of all ages, on all walks of lives, some first timers and some regulars. It was so cool to hear these people’s stories as most of them were homeless and have had many life events that completely pulled a 360º on their lives.

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I got to talk with this guy. I don’t know his name, he didn’t know his name but I do know that he was around 17 when he ran away from home (New Zealand) to Australia and hasn’t left sense.

Newtown Mission offers a meal afterwards and we got to fellowship some more with these people over their meals. There was a good issue of running out of food for the volunteers (us) we ended up getting pies. I know I say pie and you think desserts but no. Meat pies. They’re an aussie classic and this pie place was SO good. Anyways, I’ll miss those meat pies.

Day 2:

Woke up early to head to the Art Gallery of New South Whales. We met an Aboriginal lady, Jen, who took us around to see some art that was by Aboriginal artists or that had aboriginal people in their art. It was a wicked  cool gallery and I was glad to see some art. It was also a very long morning.

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piece titles ‘head hunter’

That afternoon/night was free time for us. A friend and I started it by walking through the Botanic Gardens. We stopped at a cafe to get coffee and then sat under a tree by the water for a solid hour or so and just got to hang out. So much reflection has been going on for most of us and it’s always good to process it with someone who went through the same thing. Anyways, we continued through the gardens and ended up at the Sydney Opera House!

 

After our lovely walk, we walked back to the YHA, hung out and enjoyed the view and then headed to dinner. In Chinatown there was a dumpling place recommended to us by ASC staff which is great dumplings for a great cost. My type of eating out. I’ve never had them before, so we got a little of it all. IMG_7809.JPG

This is the most embarrassing picture that sums up me, I guess.🙂 I learned how to use chopsticks while there… well kind of. Needless to say, they were some good dumplings.

The night consisted of a long walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge! It was absolutely gorgeous! On the other end of the bridge was Luna Park. An iconic park within Sydney and we had to check it out. You can get into the park with no charges, yet you cannot go on any rides without purchasing tickets. So we went in and fooled around a bit.

Day 3:

I was suppose to wake up and see the sunrise but I slept through that. I did however go on a tour of the Opera House! It wasn’t as extravagant as I expected but the backstage tour was way more than I was willing to pay. I did go into the theatres and learn about the history of the building and all that good stuff!

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This is what the shells look like from underneath! 

That afternoon I walked around the local markets with some lovely people and then met up with the rest of the ASC group for our final activity in Australia. We took the ferry over to Manly and walked the outlook and enjoyed a night in each other’s company.

 

Up early again the next day, and we all went our separate ways. I don’t know what time it is in AU, or in Maine, but I know I have been up for I think over 20 hours now and on 3 hours of sleep. So close to being back in Boston! I also don’t think I will be flying again for a LONG time !🙂 Now, to ‘relax’ in LAX until the final 6hr flight.

Hospitality and the power of recognition – Reflections from volunteering in Oz

As part of the program at Australia Studies Centre, students are required to complete 35 hours of volunteering at a local organization in Brisbane. This is both challenging and rewarding and helps shape their experience in Australia.

The following are some excerpts from Kyle Hoffman’s service placement reflections, submitted this semester for one of our core units The View from Australia (AS200). Kyle is a Fall 2016 ASC student from Olivet Nazarene University. Reproduced with permission.

What activities will you be doing this semester at your service placement?

This semester I will be serving at Brisbane Common Grounds and helping to serve community meals for the residents. This project is run by Micah Projects and the purpose is to enable chronically homeless and low-income individuals to become independent by offer stability and support with their living conditions. The community meal is a once a week occurrence that is designed to build community among the apartments through a time of fellowship. Along with preparation and serving of the meals, I will also be talking with and engaging with the people that live there in a meaningful way.

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Why do you think we include the service placement as a requirement at the ASC?

This service placement allows us to grow and learn by being placed in positions of responsibility, love, and unity. These experiences are designed to be challenging and to be a microcosm for what God is going to call us to for the rest of our lives. We will better understand Gods vision for us as we give of ourselves to this community.

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Define these terms and discuss how they connect to you and others at your service placement:

Hospitality:       

Hospitality is a genuine and active practice that people take to show others kindness and their worth. Hospitality resists social boundaries that exist and place de-humanizing restraints on individuals who are “the least” or having less. I believe that hospitality is recognition that we as people are all equal and contribute something to each other and society and are therefore worth being recognized. It is easy to be hospitable to those who are similar and established, but serving those with real needs becomes an act of defiance. I have had the opportunity to provide hospitality to those I meet with on Wednesdays with Micah Projects. It is through my practice of intentionally lowering myself and viewing these people at the same level that I can fully appreciate how they encourage me as I serve. It is humbling to know that the recognition I give them is influential because most of the time the people I have dinner with are overlooked and ignored in society.

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Power of recognition:

Recognition and respect are powerful things because it is what brings hope for those who see no purpose. We are all made by the creator God to be image bearers of him, so each person is deserved the respect and identity that is deserved to god. Recognition for the people I serve at the community meal every week is one of the primary highlights that these people have. They look forward to having a conversation with us from week to week and this shows the importance of recognition and seeing them as image bearers of Christ.

The Mathew 25 passage offers an incredible perspective. It reveals that we have the opportunity to serve God through the way we serve others and especially the “least of these”. Thinking about this passage is important for me because I have been shaped by the experiences and people I have met so far, but this provides me with a new telos and perspective when I volunteer in the future. I thought the idea that treating others as though they were Jesus will shift our focus back to how God can shape us through our relationship with them while also showing the love of God to whom we are serving.

Education and dislocation:

Education fosters dislocation because of the theme of upward mobility. I have to be honest that I myself have this feeling or desire to be transient, on the move, and dislocated to an extent and it may have been implanted in me somehow through education, but I don’t think dislocation is all that bad. I think that there is a time to be dislocated and experience different places and that some people may be called to a transient life. Being on the move doesn’t mean that you don’t get involved in community, but your relations with various communities are just more short-lived. I do agree that the education system can foster a negative consumer driven pursuit of dislocation, economic status, and career advancement, but this does not have to be so.

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Do you see any “micropractices” forming from your time at your service placement? If not, what practice do you hope to pick up? What could the macro effect be?

I am discovering is the ability to slow down and focus on having real conversations with people. I am gaining a respect for the practice of humble service and the ability to listen. The macro effect of these practices will be that it shifts my perspective of the world and how people should interact as well as what my purpose is and that is very important.

What have you learned about place and “digging in” through your Service Placement?

I have learned that “digging in” can actually mean two things. Either it means to lay down roots in a long-term more permanent way or to really intentionally invest in the community and relationships that God has placed in your life. I think that the latter is far more important because when I look at the supervisors that I worked with this semester, I could see that they did have a good intention in their heart, but they have become a bit cynical with the work that they are doing and may not understand the weight of their impact. They have the long-term relationship thing down, but the deepness of their relationship sand their understanding of really what the people at Micah need was lacking. They treated the tenant with dignity, but there was a bit of disregard for empowering the people at Micah at times.

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How has your Service Placement shaped your goals for returning home?

My service placement this semester has been something that has opened my eyes about new perspectives and how I approach the things that I do. I went into my service placement without expectations or goals the first few weeks and this led me to go through the motions and virtually waste my time. It wasn’t until I decided to be intentional with how I would be involved and interact that I was able to set goals for myself and allow the experience to shape me through the interactions that I would have with the tenants and other workers. It is a goal of mine to be understanding and knowledgeable of the different backgrounds, experiences, and preferences of others. I have also learned that intentionality is the best way to build a relationship and that it is very enriching for community. These are all things I plan to take with me as I enter my career as a teacher where I will inevitably encounter a diverse amount of people.

To learn more about Brisbane Common Ground see: http://www.commongroundqld.org.au/about-us/vision-mission-and-our-core-business/

To learn more about Micah Projects see: http://micahprojects.org.au/

Learning to be a Monk – Reflections of a Pilgrim

Excerpt from Chris Krebsbach’s blog chriskrebsbach.com. Chris is joining us this semester visiting from the Los Angeles Film Studies Centre.

Students at the Australian Studies Centre (where I’m spending much of my time lately) start the semester by reading a thought-provoking essay by William T. Cavanaugh titled Migrant, Tourist, Pilgrim, Monk: Mobility and Identity in the Global Age.

Cavanaugh looks at the ramifications of globalization and what it means to live in a world less divided by borders…though he would argue that the idea that we’re not still divided by national identity is silly.  (My word, not his…this guy doesn’t use words like “silly”.) My interpretation of how he defines the terms is this:

Migrant – Refugees, workers and others who have “spilled across borders in all parts of the globe.”  People in this category often (but not always) end up falling under the umbrella of those who are a “readily exploitable source of cheap labor.”

Tourist – One (likely a Westerner with means) who travels for business or pleasure, generally seeking escape, whose presence does more to affect the culture which they enter than the culture does to change them.  Someone who views another culture as something to be observed or consumed but not necessarily engaged.

Pilgrim – Someone who enters a new culture with humility and is willing to embrace differences in others while moving towards a transformed self, more grounded in God.  (In the essay, he explores the idea of Christian pilgrimage but points out that other traditions have elements of pilgrimage as well.)  One who “sees all as potential brothers and sisters on a common journey” and chooses to rely on others and God.

Monk – “Those on whom the pilgrim [and migrant] depend….those who remain in place in order to offer hospitality to those who journey.”

Not quite what I mean.
               Not quite what I mean.

Our students (and therefore I) have been challenged through these last almost three months (and in the weeks left on our journey) to see our time Down Under as Pilgrimage, to operate in such a way that we enter into the land and the culture, trying to understand the whole of the national story, rather than viewing it as a removed third party.  We want them to grow in their understanding of others and themselves rather than operate in a typical Tourist mindset.  And now we’re challenging them to take what they’re learning about cultural difference and apply it back to parts of their own country’s way of seeing the world…in essence, to become Monks for others.

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This is no easy task!  It requires self-reflection and admission of issues within one’s own country, state and city.  It requires sometimes saying the wrong things or asking the wrong questions and the humility to accept correction.  It can be an emotional journey that leaves a person asking “Great.  But what do I do now?”

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Part of Pilgrimage is fitting into a culture rather than imposing your own ideas of culture upon the place where you’re standing.  One might think that to culture cross from the United States to Australia isn’t that big of a deal.  The language is the same, the culture is western, there are McDonald’s (aka Macca’s) everywhere.

But even in our “similar” countries, there are differences.  The Australians I’ve met have been generally more physically active and more laid back.  They typically ask less questions and have a bit of a different way of conversing.  They aren’t into individualism and being the best…and they’re happy to dissuade others from being so.

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And yes, there is a small language gap. I can mostly understand the words of my house mate, but I often have to stop her to ask what a word means…and when I have to do that, it can be uncomfortable…especially in the moments she looks at me like I have two heads for not knowing what she’s talking about.  (I generally do know but different words for similar things.)

One of our students, in the first week of the program, was told she could help herself to the “bikkies” on the “bench” and almost ended up missing out on having one of the cookies that had been sitting out on the kitchen counter because she had no idea what she had been offered.

Don’t believe me?  Click here to see what Australians have to say about that.

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Elder lessons on Aboriginal land, culture and history

There are differences in our cultures, but there are also similarities, some of which are not pretty.  I’ve learned about darker things like Australia’s convict history, and treatment of Aboriginal people, and Australian current refugee practices.  And I can’t come away from that without reflecting on the dark parts of my own cultural past and present.

I feel like I can see things a little more clearly because I am watching the US from afar instead of being in the middle of what’s going on now with the election cycle and #BlackLivesMatter and various other issues of race and national identity that are bubbling up in my own country.  I’m seeing us through an Aussie filter that is bewildered by our current political theatre and literally assuming that Donald Trump reflects true American values.

Being here has reinforced what I already knew… The world is watching and they’re not necessarily liking what they see.

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So how do we get to Monk-hood…those of us who want to be a welcoming presence to the outsider?

One of the concluding ideas in Cavanaugh’s essay is that if we are willing to enter the world as Pilgrims, we can earn the right and the ability…and the centeredness…to be Monks to others.  How can we become Monks who help others to feel at home without first understanding what it is like to be a Pilgrim or listening to the stories of the Migrant?

In my current Pilgrimage, I’ve been “Monked” by colleagues who have taught me about the nuances of culture – both white Australian and Indigenous and the people like our students’ host families (and my house mate) who invite Americans into their homes to live as Aussies do.

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   Aboriginal sand art – recovering the old ways

I’ve been “Monked” by Aboriginal elders and teachers and artists who have kindly explained to “Whitefellas” the wounding and long-lasting effects of institutional racism and unconscious bias and who have taught us how dance and story and art connects them to the land and to each other…and how those things are also bringing healing to hurting people.  Their stories have illuminated not only their own culture but have given me a deeper understanding of the wounds to people within my own.

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                A “green” Outback experience

I’ve been “Monked” by a sweet cattle rancher named Grace who welcomed into the Outback so we could experience a land that is harsh, difficult to manage and often drought stricken (though it’s quite green this season because of unusual rain).  I understand better now the plight of farmers and ranchers who often know what’s best for the land but have to deal with government officials and policies that go against their better instincts, and I’ve heard more stories of Divine intervention in times of greatest need.

Grace (back. L) shows us around the property.
           Grace (back. L) shows us around the property.

And I’ve heard the stories of some Migrants, so I understand better now the difference between coming to a country as a welcome guest who is deemed acceptable vs. coming to a country as a person seeking asylum.  And how important Monk-types were in shaping the Migrant experience into a more positive one in spite of what they might be feeling from the culture at large.

I hold all of these people and their stories now.  They have helped me to understand the culture I am standing in and in turn have made me more keen to provide that sense of welcome to others when I’m standing in my own country.

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I believe that at least 50% of the travel I’ve done has majorly shaped who I am as a human…how I see myself and how I see the world.  I love to journey.  I probably always will.

I have also always been someone who deeply about welcoming others even though I’ve not always been good at it.  I’m very grateful that my current Pilgrimage in a new country has given me a larger framework of welcome; that my experience Down Under has left me more equipped to be a Monk for others.

We need more Monks than Tourists in our world of Migrants and Refugees.  We need more Monks in our world of people who have not been offered an equal seat at the table. And that is a need I want to meet in whatever ways I can.

You said what?!

In the following blog Wendi Jo Vande Voort explains some notable differences between Australian and American English. Jo is a Fall 2016 ASC student from Dordt College. Reproduced with permission.

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The English language is the most tripped on barrier between Australia and the United States (and Great Britain, but they are not a part of this discussion for the most part). How can that be possible if they both speak the same language one may ask? Simple. Words and phrases have very different meanings.

So be warned before you go on your study abroad experience to any country, but especially Australia in this case…

  1.     In the United States, the lovely little bag one straps around their waist is called a fanny pack because it tends to be associated with the older generations of people and they use the word fanny, at least that is what I was always lead to believe. Be warned if you go to Australia (or Great Britain) that lovely little pack is a bum bag. A fanny is a lady’s butt, like it ought to be, so fanny pack is not a thing to be said.
  2.     In the wonderful beach country of Australia, they call the footwear that has the fabric/plastic that goes between the big toe and your next “big toe”, thongs. Now thongs in the United States, these days, are primarily associated with a type of women’s undies that are not full coverage. If you are interested in fun facts, thongs started out as a thing for dancers and has turned into a normal style of undies a woman can buy. So what Australians call thongs, Americans call flip flops. Thongs simply sounds like a “dirty word” to an American.
  3.     Now we are off to our favorite sporting event and everything is in our team’s favor, the Americans are rooting for their team and the Australians are cheering. All of the sudden like the Australians are a bit shocked by the Americans use of the word root because the word ‘root’ is offensive Australian slang for sex.
  4.     In the United States, a period has a dual meaning, either another name for a menstrual cycle or the grammar element used to end a sentence. Australians use the word period only in association with a menstrual cycle. The grammar element of the United States is called a full stop in Australia. Do not mix them up in Australia.
  5.     So now for my favorite mental argument, the word napkin. If one would walk into your typical store and ask “where are the napkins?” in both Australia and the United States, you would get two very different responses. Walking into a Wal-mart in the United States, one would get directed to the aisle with disposable food serving products such as paper plates and plastic forks, but if you walk into a Reject Shop in Australia you would be directed to the feminine hygiene products. In Australia, a serviette is what Americans call a napkin, and what Australians call napkin is what Americans call a pad or panty liner. See the crucial difference?

If anything I hope this humored you, as either a born-sarcastic Australian or an American who is very confused in Australia.

And if you were wondering where this blog idea came from, a family dinner with my host family when I was speaking of grammar punctuation. Inspiration comes from such odd places. It’s also a good thing I handle most awkward situations well. Story for another time.

Outback Adventures

Excerpt from Hannah Matthew’s personal blog “Mainer Gone Aussie”.  Hannah is a Fall 2016 ASC student from Gordon College. Reproduced with permission.

The past four days we were in the Outback. I’ll admit I was a little skeptical of the whole situation but I didn’t want to leave. Tyrone (cattle) Station is located west of Brisbane about an hour away from Charleville.  So this is going to be a long post so bear with me. I hope you get just as passionate as I was about the land.

Day 1

5am we are on the bus heading to the outback. Approximately 12 hours later with a total of four stops we make it to our destination. The scenery was about the same most of the ride there, large fields with the occasional herd of cattle in the road. I did spend most of this trip looking out the window and my attention was grasped most of the way. We got further out west, the greenery quickly faded into the rich red dry dirt. The last 45 minutes down a dirt road was spent catching sightings of emus, cattle, and kangaroos. Unfortunately we also saw kangaroos that had been hit and killed laying on the side of the road. This is reality out here.

Tyrone Station is more than lovely. The man made products such as building and houses are not as pleasing to the eye, yet the land simply blew me away. Land of such an amazing burnt red that goes for acres (40k) beyond where my eyes can see. The billabong, soft soil from the unusual rain with the gift of wildflowers along the land were surrounding me everywhere I went. The animal tracks to follow in hopes of finding them were all over and you would get the surprise of seeing them in the distance.

We were greeted by Grace, the owner of the land and her mother, Grandma. (Still don’t know Grandma’s name) They had dinner all ready for us which was delicious followed by a lava cake and ice cream for dessert. We ended the evening sharing three things about ourselves. 1. an embarrassing story. 2. Something God is teaching you or something you’ve been asking God and 3. Something the group should know about you.

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Night time is unbelievable. The air is so clear of nothing but stars and planets. Not one plane flying through the vast darkness lit up by the bright moon. The still of the night reminded me of of home where I only hear the crickets chirping, leaves rustling in the calm breeze with the occasional night bird. I am beyond imagination in this place.

Day 2:

The sun rises around 6am here and it’s gorgeous. I was on breakfast duty with a few other students and we made a killer spread of toast, eggs, and bacon. After breakfast, Grace and Troy (our wonderful bus driver) drove us out to collect firewood with us on the back of them.

We learned a little history about the land. Mark and Grace bought the land in 1992 as a sheep farm. There were around 3,000 sheep when they moved in. It wasn’t until almost seven years ago that they switched to only cattle. They have had up to 500 head but currently only have 50 of their own with other people renting out land. The sheep were too much to maintain. They had to be sprayed for flies, sheared, tagged as well as their tails clipped. They clipped their tails because it gets to moist around that area the flies get in there, lay their larva and actually eat the sheep alive.

The ride ended at the other end of the property where there is a lot of empty buildings and it’s been left with old metal thats not rusted. Mark and Grace no longer live on the property as they pastor a church one hour south of Brisbane so their daughter lives there full time. There was so much to see so we got to hop off the ute and explore a little.

While walking through the main building, a stench became stronger. As many thought it was fresh animal poop, it turns out that decomposing animal with teeth and claws was a kangaroo caught by a wild dog or what we call Dingo. That was unpleasant to many and no pictures were recorded.

After lunch and a bit of free time, the rest of the afternoon was spent in ‘class.’ Our lecturer for this class is Chris Gilbert. He’s a wonderful Australian man who actually taught with his wife at Gordon. He used to live in the outback on a farm that worked with teens who needed some behavioural correction so he had a lot to offer about the land.

After class we had dinner and that’s when I got to talk with Grandma. She and her husband used to be missionaries in Papa New Guinea so of course I asked her about that. Her response was all people of Christ are missionaries, just in a different place. Preach Grandma, preach! She gave me a lot of wisdom on following Christ and what stuck with me is “God has no grandchildren, you’re either his child or you’re not”.

Before our fire, Grace was willing enough to share her story with us. First she spoke about her passions of foster care and Reaching Another In Need (R.A.I.N.) project that she started. This basically allows for anyone to purchase a cow for around $800 (while they sell for $2000). This cow would be kept for breeding and the bulls she bred would be sold bringing money back into the organisation. The cow would be kept for the entire breeding life and then sold. The cow’s calf would take their place and the process continues. Money went to churches in need especially theirs in Charleville.

Land brings many challenges and I won’t go on about everything we learned but I’m so passionate about it, and I hope you are invested enough to ask me more about it.

Day 3

Morning was spent in devotions and worship and then another ‘class’ session. There was a few guys who keep their cattle on the land there to muster them up. They use dirt bikes which they took a while to get started, as well as some crazy cool mini helicopter looking thing. After class I got to see some horses that someone keeps on their land as well as the cattle.

I loved seeing the horses, it reminded me of the Holland Project and I’m eager to get riding again.

The afternoon/evening was spent on a bliff. It’s kind of like a cliff. On the ride here we saw many kangaroos and even wild goats! We had some time to ourselves then went to explore the area on a little hike.

The evening was our last one there. I spent it enjoying good times and conversations with people around me. The stars and moon are amazing out there. Shooting stars are all around as well. I was so still during our last night hearing the crickets chirping, birds singing, and frogs croaking. The cows belting away in the field as laughter erupts from the students still awake. I want to go back and never leave.