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?

Photo 16-2-18, 11 50 11 am

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.

RoosatLonePine

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

The Australia Panel

The legacy of the British Empire is felt across the globe. English-style city planning, a glorification of armed forces, and the English language itself can be found from the slopes of the Rocky Mountains to the arid plains of Australia. Both are prosperous westernized nations with a history of direct British colonial rule. To many it may seem that the two are nearly the same.

Enter the Australia Panel.

 

 

 

 

 

Three members of the Wesley Institute staff who have been hand selected to represent Australian culture to the ASC students, each with a unique area of expertise and background. Prompted by questions pulled from students’ readings the three weighed in on important aspects of Australia’s cultural myths, convict history, engagement with Aboriginal Australians, and modern issues in Australian culture.

Beginning with the quirks of Australian language, Jo Kenny, coordinator and lecturer for the drama department, describes, “Irreverence is very Australian, but we do it with a sense of humor, so we have a charm about it.”

Mark Stevens, lecturer for the theology department, adds, “I identify with that sense of humor, I think it keeps you grounded in a way that doesn’t bring you down.”

The three encourage the American students that, “if your host families or Australian friends seem to be cutting you down, that’s a sign of acceptance.”

Julie Matthews, head of the department of education, brings in an historical perspective     explaining the connection between the convict beginnings and modern Australian society.   Ideas like the “tall poppy syndrome,” distrust and irreverence for authority, fatalism, and   mateship, she says, come from a legacy of people who were thrown into a fierce land against   their will.

“That ‘mateship’ that Australians became known for is something to be proud of,” says Julie. She mentions the storming of Gallipoli by Australian and New Zealand troops, an important moment in the formation of Australia during the First World War.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At one point Jo begins reading from a book called 800 Horsemen, an account of a gallant moment in Australian history abroad. It tells the story of the 4th and 12th Australian Light Horse units that successfully performed an incredibly risky charge upon well-entrenched Turkish artillery. The American students were surprised to see her so overcome with emotion for a moment that happened even before her parents were born. Such is the deep feeling of mateship between Australians.

Mark explains further, “No one would ever say, ‘I’ll die for you’ but when the situation gets really tough there’s no question, we would die for each other.”

Questions also prompted a look at some of the challenges Australia faces today. Struggling with a younger generation taking to binge drinking and a viciously post-Christian society is no simple feat. But Mark brought it home, “I don’t just weep for my culture but for the world,” as he explained the challenges here reflect those of the globe.

“Australians are best when they live for others,” he says, “I suspect that’s true of human beings.”

Listening to the students debrief the panel it became apparent that learning about another nation provides the ability to think critically about one’s own.

Friday

Friday brought the second class the ASC students will take during the semester, Indigenous Cultures, History and Identity (of Australia and New Zealand). As a former student I can personally say this class alone, taught by Jennifer Newman, is worth the 15 hour flight. The first session of class opened with a history and overview of the Aboriginal Australians, their language groups and regions. Sitting in on the class I noticed an entranced silence. I have never seen college students so unashamedly riveted for almost 2 hours. This is going to be a great class.

An Aboriginal Language Map of Australia

The legacy of the Tower of Babel can be felt across the planet. Anyone who has traveled knows this. But even here in Australia, a well-developed former British colony, the clash of cultures can be witnessed. During the Friday’s session the ASC students engaged in an exercise created to embody this phenomenon. Though it has its roots in antiquity (the late ‘70s), the concept of the game still holds true.

The class is divided into two groups, each representing two different cultures. The two groups learn the rules associated with their cultures and then take turns visiting. The game is good fun but the discussion afterwards shows that this is about more than a game. This is about how people interact with one another, and the students dove into it wholeheartedly sharing experiences and asking insightful questions of their own.

“How powerful is culture?”

“Should we even evaluate culture?”

“Maybe it is important to identify where one comes from in order to understand how to interact with other cultures.”

Asking these sorts of questions and critically looking at one’s own culture are key to growing from a semester abroad.

Welcome to Australia

As the newest addition to the Australia Studies Centre staff, I’ve had a fair share of work in preparing for the arrival of this semester’s ASC students. From making thousands of copies to building shelves, I’ve been working hard in anticipation for the beginning. Coming from working in motion picture in Los Angeles, I’m not quite used to having my own desk. It is certainly a welcome change. But I’m looking forward to bringing expertise in visual storytelling to the team here at the ASC.

Classes are now full in session with students bustling about the campus. After a fantastic orientation week of meeting, greeting and heaps of fun in the sun, the ASC and Wesley students are now well acquainted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the ASC students Tuesday morning brought the first session of the View from Australia class from Program Director Kimberly Spragg. Next the bright-eyed students receive the gift of hundreds of pages of reading material in the form of A Concise History of Australia, Henri Nouwen’s Can You Drink The Cup, and the View From Australia Reader. These books along with weekly trips to important sights around Sydney form the content of the course: the history, government and identity of Australia.

The class encompasses everything from the current antics in Australian politics to eating with a fork and knife in true “Aussie” fashion. This is not just a dry history lecture that can be read in any book. This class seeks to explore the world through the eyes of those on the other side of the world.

 

 

 

 

 

Along with the cultural education comes a crash course in forming relationships with Australians.

“The thing you will remember the most after you leave will be the relationships you form,” says Kimberly.

“Most of the Australians have made friendships with ASC students and have had their hearts broken once they left,” she tells them, “so you may have to pursue friendships more.”

She reminds them that relating to Australians is the biggest part of learning about the view from Australia.

I already hope to take some of that wisdom as I settle in my new home for the next 10 months. The possibilities for the semester are infinite with such a great team and an eager group of students.

Ty Tuin

ASC Assistant