Summer in Australia
by Amy Hunt, '12
This past July, I traveled to Australia to take part in a new study abroad opportunity at Campion College, Australia’s first liberal arts college, which is located in a suburb of Sydney. Not only was this trip my first time abroad, but my first time studying Australian history as well. All that I knew about Australia before arriving there was that they have awesome accents, they surf, I could expect winter temperatures of around 50°, and that they started off as a convict colony. I learned that there is so much more to Australian history than its beginnings as a convict dumping ground, and that there is so much more to Australian people than their accents.
What convinced me to go on the trip (and what persuaded my parents, as well!) was the service learning week in rural New South Wales. We traveled to Moree, Walgett, and Lightning Ridge to help out at schools and meet with Aboriginal elders, who told us their own personal stories as well as stories of the Dreamtime. Not only did I get to see a completely different side of Australia—not the cosmopolitan city of Sydney, but the rugged terrain of the bush, with its beautiful sunsets and long drives from town to town (it was about eight hours from Sydney to Moree)—but I learned much more about Australian aborigines and what they have faced in the past century.
Also surprising to me was learning that this was just as eye-opening an experience for my Aussie classmates, as a lot of them had never learned much of their own country’s history, let alone Aboriginal history. Here in the States, much of our history classes focus on US history, and while we don’t necessarily learn extensively about Native Americans in these classes, they are at least acknowledged and discussed. I expected to go into the course and discover what the Australian identity is like today, and left realizing that it’s something Australia is still coming to terms with and trying to figure out.
It’s hard to say what you’ll get out of study abroad before you actually experience it. I expected to go to Australia, have tons of fun, and finally get to tell people about a cool country I’ve been to. But I got so much more out of that: I’ve become so much more curious about the world and the perspectives of other countries and other people. I feel as if studying abroad, even for only one month, has made me a better student, and I find myself much more excited about the classes I’m taking and what I’m studying.