Kangaroos, red dirt, and scorching sun…I knew I wanted to be a part of this adventure!

This blog is written by Ariel Norris. Ariel, is a Fall 2018 student from North Greenville College. Editor’s note: This post has been lightly edited.

Last semester, when I was deciding where I wanted to study abroad, the fact that ASC offered a trip to the Australian outback was a major draw card for me. Instantly images of kangaroos, red dirt, and scorching sun came to mind and I knew I wanted to be a part of this adventure.

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Having a whip crackin of a time!

Fast forward a few months, I find myself waking at 4am, jumping onto a bus (not entirely sure what direction we were heading) and onto the dusty roads towards the Outback! Though the ASC staff did inform us of what we should basically expect from the trip, I don’t think any of us truly knew what we were getting into.

Girl on dusty road

On the dusty red dirt roads

We were told, sleeping arrangements may include sleeping under the stars or in an old barn! To which a mixture of responses came from my fellow classmates! I, for one was thrilled at the prospect of falling asleep beneath a million stars. Others weren’t too sure.

Understandably, the nerves were not about sleeping in the Outback but more who or what they may be sleeping with? I will admit, the idea of waking up to see a king brown (snake) curled up next to me, or a kangaroo looking down at me did cross my mind once or twice. Thankfully, never once did I wake to find anything except the ranch’s dogs, Marley and Devil, snuggled up next to our group!

Outback sleeping arrangements

Outback sleeping arrangements

In addition to nerves about the sleeping arrangements, we are invited by the ASC staff partake in a “no shower challenge” to understand what drought stricken farmers constantly battle. I decided I would “Go Hard or Go Home!” with this challenge.

You see, it would be easy to come on the Outback trip with the mindset of “we have to do this.” But the experience becomes so much more enriching when we change our mindset from “have to” to “get to”.

Jessica Gurrola (Biola University) and Abby Haas (Montreat  College) making a new friend

Having a good feed

We heard from the ranch owners on how they didn’t choose this lifestyle because of the financial gain (it may bring) but chose it because the Outback is part of who they are.

Me and Lyle the ranch owner

Me and Lyle the ranch owner

Upon reflection, I left behind familiarity of the modern life and jumped into a new reality that I would never have been able to experience outside of the ASC program. We weren’t just in the Outback to have a good time. We were there to learn how challenging life can be in this arid sometimes “unforgiving” land.

Lyle the ranch owner talking about a particular tree local to the area

Lyle, talking about the landscape

The Outback is harsh, yet it is also full of life and richness if you allow yourself to see it. As I returned home to Brisbane, and gazed across the backyard (bursting with green grass and trees) I realized that even though it wasn’t easy experience, I did it! We did it! Our time spent there, I will never forget!

Desert flower

 

PS. Showering never felt better!

Stradbroke Memories

This blog is written by Sarah Reed. It comes from her personal blog “Sarah Reed Down Under“. Sarah is a Fall 2018 student from Messiah College. Editor’s note: This post was first published on the 13th of August, 2018 and has been lightly edited.

A few weekends ago my classmates and I traveled across Moreton Bay to Stradbroke Island for a weekend with our Indigenous worldviews class. The ferry ride was short yet relaxing and upon arrival we were welcomed with a smoking ceremony to cleanse ourselves.

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Having fun on the ferry on the way to Stradbroke

The morning continued with our ears being filled with stories about local customs of the Indigenous people of the area.  This was followed by dancing, boomerang and spear throwing! Which was really fun!

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Boomerang throwing

See videos of my boomerang throwing and spear throwing activities.

The day finished with a brisk Gorge walk. The scenic trail snaked around cliffs and we were fortunate enough to see whales jumping out of the ocean, sea turtles and other wildlife.

A view from the Gorge walk

The next day, we worked with artist Craig to create sand art on the beach. Each design unique in their expression!

People on beach creating sand art

Working on sand art designs

This was followed by a time of worship at Brown Lake (a historical site where local Indigenous women would bring with their children).

Musicians playing guitars and ukulele at Brown Lake

Worship time at Brown Lake

Now I know this sounds like a nice weekend getaway, but it was much more than that.  Before coming to Australia, I thought Indigenous people were just an ancient group of people that used to live in Australia, little did I know that I was very wrong.  The weekend showed me, this ancient culture is still every much alive! The elders of the community, shared with us the importance of country and showed us ways to utilize plants and the things on the island. We were invited onto sacred grounds which were had been frequented by their ancestors. They also shared with us stories of hardships faced by Aboriginal people today.

Over the weekend, not only did I experience Aboriginal culture and history. I also learnt how an Aboriginal person can be both Christian and still hold on to their cultural values. I have never experienced anything like this and I will forever hold onto the memories I made this weekend.

Using found materials to create sand art

 

 

 

the place that calls my heart

This blog is written by Marissa Showalter. It comes from her personal blog “Riss Lynn Takes Brisbane“. Marissa was a Spring 2017 student from Messiah College. Editor’s note: This post was originally published in August 2017 and has been lightly edited. 

This past week has been a tough one. Every day that passes makes me wish more and more that I was on a plane headed back to the place that calls my heart. There are just too many in completes that I left behind in my sweet Brissy, and I want nothing more than to return to finish what I started under the sweet summer sunshine of Queensland. What do you do when your heart physically aches for somewhere else?

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A Gold Coast Beach

You would think that the more time passes, the more I would settle back into life here. WRONG. Yep. If anything, I feel even more listless than before. People here are talking about taking their GREs and applying to jobs, and I can’t help but feel like a frozen over creek, stagnant and unmoving.

I have been encountering so many well-meaning folks who, upon discovering that it’s my senior year, inquire as most do about what my plans are after college. I fake a smile and start going on about how I plan to go to grad school for counseling. HA. Who am I fooling?? Not that I don’t still feel like counseling is my calling or anything, but now I have bigger dreams and weirdly they look a lot like palm trees swaying on a spotless beaches and kangaroos bouncing across a stretch of barren desert.

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A mob of Kangaroos

People are usually rather incredulous when I tell them that I want to move to Australia. They think I’m joking or being dramatic or just exaggerating the impact that my time there had on me. “You would really want to live over there?” they ask me. “But it’s so far! Wouldn’t you miss your family?”

Then they ask me what I would plan to do when I got there and that’s just the kicker, because once again, I have no idea. Like, not a clue. I could go and work odd jobs for a little while, which no one would understand once I have earned my degree. I could do grad school abroad potentially, but of course I don’t know what that would mean financially as an international student or the implications for becoming a licensed counselor in the US. All I know is that I need to find my way back somehow.

So this has been an especially hard week emotionally as I move yet again into my new apartment. In the move, I packed up all of my Australia mementos and carefully tucked them away to be prominently displayed in my new home. I cling to even the smallest item that claims even a little bit of sentimentality. You know what? I still have the packaging for a necklace that I received over there that should’ve gone in the trash long ago. And yet I continue to cling.

If I come to a conclusion about all of this, I’ll keep you updated.

Until then.

xoxo, Riss

Oh, How Time Flies

Excerpt from Vicki Crocker’s personal blog “Heights and Depth”. Vicki is a Fall 2017 student from Roberts Wesleyan College. Reproduced with permission.

I can’t believe it’s already been 7 weeks since I’ve first arrived in this beautiful country. I have been able to experience many things and meet many people. One of the coolest things I’ve found about Australia is the diversity of culture. For example, the other night, out of a group of 11 people, 8 different countries were represented. I thought it was pretty cool to know people across the country, but to know people from around the world just seems to make it that much smaller.

I’ve also learned that a majority of the school work here is writing papers and not having and tests or exams. Through this, I often find myself starting and finishing a paper in one day, partially because of procrastination through Zumba and other workout videos on YouTube with my host sister, but also because of my stronger desire to get the Australian experience.

With the multiple papers and piling up stress of school, I’ve felt surprisingly calm. The busier the semester gets, the more I realize how busy my schedule gets with planning when to write which paper, planning this trip, and still figuring time to do spontaneous things. With time becoming more and more scarce, I’ve felt the need to sacrifice spending more time on a paper to go and experience some Australian thing with friends. This is something that I feel slightly convicted about because I want to do well in my classes, but I’m here to experience all that I can of Australia.

However, this is quite the least of my worries because I feel the main reason my journey lead me to come here is to grow in Christ in a new way, and that is my ultimate goal of the semester. I would love to get an amazing grade and experience everything I can in my limited time here, but I believe that the reason I don’t stress over these things is because they aren’t the main reason I’m here, which I am very thankful for.

An Australian Adventure(r)

Excerpt from Bethany Van Eps’ personal blog “An Australian Adventure(r).” Bethany is a Spring 2017 student from Dordt College.  Reproduced with permission.

Hey all!
I swear I’ve been trying to write this blog post for like a week and a half now. Unfortunately, the fourth and fifth weeks of school (so last week and this week) in Australia marks the start of assessment due dates and increased reading requirements. It’s been a busy week and a half to say the least.

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Here’s an ultra-flattering picture depicting the humidity. I had just stepped out of the AirCon* of the bus and was going to walk home. My glass fogged up immediately.

But I am not complaining. I mean I’m in Australia! And the humid 80-degree weather won’t let me forget it. Last week we had heaps* of rain so the grass and trees have become increasingly vibrant and lush and I am now living in a tropical wonderland. It is gorgeous. Interestingly the rain here is different than at home. At home when it rains it gets a little cooler and the humidity is generally released from the atmosphere. Here however, after the rain it stays just as warm and muggy as it was pre-rain meaning you’re walking around in a greenhouse. The rain also comes in like 5 minute showers of varying intensity which is fun for walking and public transit. Let’s just say I bought a raincoat within two weeks of landing and am still working on my timing. Queensland weather, I tell ya what. Technically it was supposed to be autumn a few weeks ago but the summer heat has held out. I never thought I’d say I miss the cold, but living in a literal sauna has changed me.

We’re in the midst of week 6 here in Australia, which seems crazy. It feels like I’ve been here forever, but I credit that to very long, very full days. Some of my days have been fairly chill, but due to the whole ‘I’m on the other side of the world’ thing, each day is being treated as an adventure none the less. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the Queensland State Reserve library, working on the piles of homework I’ve accumulated. With big windows overlooking the skyline and four floors of study space with big tables and comfy spinny chairs, it’s quickly become one of my favorite spots. Lots of coffee shops have been visited and lots of coffee has been drunken (drunk? drank?) as well. I honestly think I’m more hooked on it here than at Dordt, which quite frankly (with how often I visited 55th and the Bunsen Brew and how quickly I ran out of defender dollars last semester) is impressive.

Another area of this city I’m coming to love is just a short walk along the river from the library. South bank is this gorgeous area along that is right along the Brisbane river, situated next to the big ‘BRISBANE’ sign and the Eye of Brisbane (ferris wheel). It’s this really chill, semi-touristy area with some awesome features and some real good photo ops. There are two main pools; one is a normal pool surrounded by big rocks and the other is a sand-bottom pool attached to a man-made beach. Next to this is a splash park and kid’s pool area. Leading down the river a bit further is a mini, super shallow river area covered in and surrounded by rocks (perfect for sun baking*). It’s difficult to explain, but not at all difficult to enjoy. Every Friday night and Saturday afternoon the little side street of shops that runs parallel to the pools gets turned into a little street fair/market selling art, clothing, crafts, and food. I been many a time, with many a friend and I’ve loved every visit more than the last. 😊

I’ve been on a few awesome class field trips, but I think I’ll do a blog post dedicated specifically to non-Brisbane awesome-sauce a little later (when my list is a bit longer 😉). Sorry this was so very delayed! I’m going to try and get better at updating. I’ve been requested to comment on some differences in food, vocab, and other daily conveniences so stay tuned!

Love and blessings from Brisbane,

Bethany ♥

*Aussie Slang, look at me adapting to culture

Week 1 Adventures

Excerpt from Spring 2017 student Tarian Atallah “Adventures in a Foreign Land – a reflection on life being lived in Brisbane, Australia. Reproduced with permission.

So after 24 + hours of traveling I made it to Australia! What an adventure it was just to get here! The flights were not nearly as hard as I thought they were going to be but I will admit that I am trying to not think about the fact that I have to do it again to come back to the states.

I landed around 7am Tuesday Brisbane time which allowed me to skip most of the jet lag which was insanely helpful. That same day all the International Students (yes it is weird to call myself that) walked about 7miles (which is about 11.26 km) around Brisbane. I saw everything from skyscrapers to palm trees to weird lizards roaming freely. I also traveled on a boat that took me across the Brisbane River which winds throughout the city. This day was exhausting, sweaty, and hot but so so so surreal. Throughout the day I found myself in awe that I was ACTUALLY here in this place. To be honest I really don’t have the words to express how grateful and happy I am to know that I have the chance to live here.

The next day, Wednesday, was filled with orientation materials about what it is like to actually live here and take classes in a foreign place. This day was also filled with a time of reflection and communion. While sitting outside under a palm tree in about 85 degree weather I found myself having a changed perspective. All the doubt and fear I had about not being at Cairn University anymore was completely gone. I found myself, in a sense, indebted and grateful for all the people who still told me to just go on this trip. I so easily almost did not come on this trip and am glad that the Lord was speaking to me through these people. Brisbane, Australia (and its surrounding areas) are seriously magical and I find myself undeserving of an opportunity like this. Praise the Lord! I have also found myself needing to trust and rely on the Lord in ways I haven’t in the past. In a sense I have been plopped into this place so foreign and Him and only Him can bring me through. When I realized this I found myself so so so humbled.

The next two days were filled with orientation with other Australians at Christian Heritage College (where I am attending) and a beach day down on the Gold Coast. Because the sun is 7 TIMES hotter here I totally got burnt but now it is turning into a cool tan I guess haha.

Then on Friday I moved into my host family’s house where I will live for the rest of my time here. There is a dad, mom, daughter, and two other international students, one from China and another from Malaysia. They also have a very cute Pomeranian, named Olliee, who snuggled with me on the first day. This family is originally from South Africa which gives me the opportunity to not only learn about the Australian culture but the South African.

And so here is the deal, before coming here so many people said to me, “well isn’t Australia just like America?” And I am here to say that it is NOT! I have only been here for just under a week and I can already tell you almost everything is different. Obviously the seasons are different so I basically went from the dead of winter into 90 degree weather. Australia uses the metric system and Celsius so I very often find myself unsure of distances, weights, and what the temperature actually is haha.  I have found that Australians tend to be a bit friendlier that I am used to having grown up right outside Boston. Multiple bats have flown over me at night which is COMPLETELY foreign to me. Morning and afternoon tea are often partaken in. And the fact that Australians drive on the left will be something that will always throw me off. These are just a few of the many things I have found myself needing to process through. In a sense this past week has been easy considering I haven’t started classes yet but my mind has been overflown with information and new ways to live life. When I say that almost everything about this experience is different than what I am used to I really mean it.

I recently came upon a quote that read “Yet departure from home is insufficient in and of itself; it does not guarantee a transformative journey. Some…board an airplane without ever leaving home; others arrive in a new place but never engage, preferring instead to live as consumers, wandering about seeking the next self-affirming experience.” But I hope that this experience is the opposite for me. Instead I hope that is more like this quote from Henri Nouwen, “Following Jesus involves leaving the comfortable place and going to the place that is outside our comfort zone. Spiritual displacement is what is called for. The dictionary definition says that to displace is ‘to move or to shift from the ordinary or proper place. As a ship at sea displaces water, so we are displaced when something greater than ourselves moves us in a new direction or state of being. For displacement to be a real discipline, it has to be voluntary.” My prayer has been that I would be willing to embrace the unknown and to, in a sense, not be and American in an unfamiliar land but to be so immersed in the culture that I become like an Aussie.

Busyness

Excerpt from Ashley Legget’s personal blog “Dear Australia“  Ashley is a spring 2015 ASC student from Messiah College. Reproduced with permission.

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This is just one of the many beautiful views along the Gorge walk on Straddie Island.

There is way more then I can fit into a blog post to write about, so be prepared to read a novel here, arranged by bullet points:

1.) The main focus of my time in Australia is learning about the modern culture and Aboriginal culture, which has sparked a deeper passion in me for equality. For the American’s who don’t quite understand, Aboriginals are like the Native Americans of Australia, so technically the “Native Australians.” They inhabited the land, and were forced out and abused in many different ways. The thing that makes this class so close to my heart is having a true Aboriginal teacher who spends a lot of her time teaching us about her culture and the close to home problems that they faced and are still facing today. Aboriginals still do not receive the recognition, love, and rights that they deserve as the rightful “owners” of the land. Aside from seeing the true heart of Lea and experiencing a deep passion for her people, this has really sparked a general passion for equality of minorities. Whether they are separated by religious views, culture, language, sexual orientation, or enslaved by anything such as human trafficking… or really anything else, everyone deserves the same rights, respect, and a chance at life the way they decide to live. It breaks my heart to hear the stories of the oppressed.

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This is from the Art Museum a few weeks ago, but it’s taken on a whole new meaning as I continue to understand the Aboriginal culture more and more.

2.) Second, my internship is going so well. I work about 15 hours a week overall at Citipointe, doing a variety of things from administrative work, making phone calls, organizing information, connecting with youth, running a cafe, and many other random jobs. I am really getting a chance to see a whole different youth culture. It’s a large church, VERY pentecostal/charismatic, has a large body of volunteers and about 30 full time workers. I am learning a lot about myself and youth ministry. I must admit though, as I have before, I LOVE my small church and the community around a small church.

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The band is amazing, and extremely well known throughout Australia. This is the main youth event that is put on on Friday.

3.) I finished my first big assignment on the Background of the New Testament if anyone is interested in that topic… it was hard.

4.) I spent this past weekend at North Stradbroke Island, which is mainly an Aboriginal culture. We attended an opening ceremony, which included celebrate the 21st birthday of the elders! I heard many great speakers with beautiful hearts and passions for Aboriginal culture. We did so much to learn more about the culture! We each got to attend a few workshops, which included sand art (not the kind in the bottle), basket weaving (we made bracelets), spear and boomerang throwing, and Aboriginal art. Personally, I learned how to throw a spear and I made 2 keychains in the weaving workshop; it’s the same technique, you just wrap it into a circle and make a basket instead of just a small straight line! We kind of got stormed out of there, so we headed to our camp to unpack and get settled in before we headed off to an Aboriginal weapon and artifact lesson from an Aboriginal! We learned how they made all of their different weapons and learned some crazy hunting methods. We also got our faces painted like a sting ray I believe, and learned some awesome dances and took some crazy pictures (not on my camera, so check back in another time to see them!) The next day we traveled around and got to see some cool landmarks. First we saw a Midden, which is one way Aboriginals can prove how many years they have occupied a land. The midden just looked like a large hill covered in grass, but if you were to cut the hill in half you would see many layers of shells, bones, and other things that they threw in a “trash pile.” It was really cool to see the bottom layer of that! After that we went to Point Lookout, which is the most beautiful beach/gorge walk ever. There’s many pictures (thanks to the other people in my class and myself) of the view, so check them out in the Photograph tab. Then we went to Brown Lake, which is classified as “Women’s Business” where women prepared for ceremonies and gave birth. This is a sacred place. It’s called Brown lake because it’s surrounded by tea tree’s which have died the water brown and “contaminated” it with tea tree oil, which actually made the water soft and great for your skin!

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This is our Aboriginal professor Lea showing us the bottom of the Midden. The Midden is where the Aboriginal people used to throw shells, bones, etc. If you cut the hill behind her in half, you’ll see hundreds of layers, proving how long they have been on that island.

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This was the opening ceremony during the dance segment!

THE CRAZIEST THING: They drive the car ONTO the Ferry! There were like 3 coach busses and A LOT of cars on that Ferry… that made me very very nervous, but it was a beautiful boat ride to the island and back!

5.) I had a bit of a fall… and this is quite the funny story looking back on it now. I was sitting getting ready for Internship with a few friends at Rivers Cafe, which is the cafe attached to the church I am working at. The seating area is up on a platform, which you can walk up 4 or 5 steps on either side to get to. I was sitting with my back to a set of stairs when one leg of my chair when over the edge and I fell (over a matter of 5 seconds) on the chair down the stairs onto the very hard turf ground. I got entangled in the chair and now have a crazy bruise to prove for it!

6.) Australians love American accents, think were all fat and eat unhealthy, and basically every stereotype you can think of America that is negative.

7.) That is all I can think of. In general I spend a lot of time with Dana at my internship, which has been so lovely working with her. In my off time, I go out to eat with friends and take naps… but don’t worry.. I don’t typically have free time, so I am soaking up every ounce of this time.