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.

Home and beyond

The following are some reflections from Spring 2016 alum Sarah Kistler, now a senior at Messiah College.


As I sat in our last class and debrief session in Australia, the ASC staff prepared us for reverse culture shock and possible struggles when facing reentry back home. They read us quotes from former students talking about how unexpectedly hard reentry was.  I mostly believed them. I knew I would miss my time abroad but had no idea how I would handle the transition.  I cried harder than I expected when I hugged my host mum for the last time and I felt less excited than I expected when I saw my parents’ car pull up to the curb I was waiting on at the Philadelphia airport.  But I was not too worried about these responses. They were bound to happen and they were easy to manage. For the rest of the summer I kept myself busy so I had little time to process.  People asked me about my semester and I would muddle through an answer that was all over the place and confusing even to me. But life went on.  I was excited to come back to Messiah College but I proceeded to have the most difficult semester of my college life thus far. I found myself so dissatisfied and had no idea that the reason for this was because of how I was personally handling my reentry process.


Messiah students group pic at Stradbroke Island (including kangaroo)

Now that I have been home for several months I feel like I am finally able to talk about my experience abroad in a way that makes sense—the only thing is nobody is asking about it anymore.  And I think that is a part of what has made reentry difficult.  I tried to answer people honestly when they asked about my time abroad but I always kept in mind what my audience really wanted—so I made sure to throw in that the kangaroos are cute and taste good too. I made sure to make a comment about how beautiful the beaches are and to educate them on some Aussie slang.  And while these were all a part of my experience that I genuinely liked talking about, they were not significant parts of my experience.  The problem was that the significant parts of my experience were not the most engaging facts and stories.


Service placement at Micah Projects community meal

I did not want to tell them about my near death experience with a crocodile in the outback (which did not actually happen) but about the revelation I had about my faith and how under the outback stars I felt God closer to me than I had in awhile. I wanted to tell them how my host mum made me an amazing dinner every single day and always made sure I had what I needed.  I wanted to tell them about the people I met and shared weekly meals with while serving at the Micah Projects. I wanted to tell them about the injustices that Indigenous Australians have and still face in their country and how their narrative has woken me to the reality of America’s own indigenous people.  I wanted to tell them about how our program directors have become some of the greatest role models I have ever had and the students in the program became some of my best friends.  I wanted to tell people why I cringe with guilt every time I forget to bring my reusable shopping bag into the grocery store and have to use plastic, and why I try am constantly asking what the telos is of everything I encounter.  I wanted to tell people all the things I learned about America and my own culture from being displaced from it.


The night sky in Charleville, outback Queensland

Re-entry was hard because there were so many aspects of my four months in Australia that I had to leave out not only when answering the question “so how was Australia?” but when getting back into my normal routine at home and at Messiah College.  I went back to eating all three meals alone, using weekends to catch up on sleep and homework and figure out how to somehow get ahead for the next crazy week.  I had no time or energy to sit and reflect and a majority of my learning came from readings and lectures in the classroom rather than experience and exploration.  Despite this I must admit that I missed Messiah dearly while at Christian Heritage College in Australia.  I missed my friends, I missed driving, I missed using my debit card without anxiety that it would be declined.  I know I couldn’t stay in Australia forever nor would I want to because it isn’t home. But parts of myself were transformed there in the smallest, most subtle ways. Reentry is hard and unpredictable. I came home six months ago but my experience abroad is still challenging and shaping me as I hope continues to be the case as more distance increases between me and my semester down under.

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!


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!



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!!!


  • 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.



  • 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.


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.


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.



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.









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.



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.


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!


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!


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.


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.

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!

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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?”


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.


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.


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.


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.

   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.

                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.


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.