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.

Girl with whip

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  financial gain 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!

Spring Break in Australia…

Excerpt from Fall 2013 student Anna Moga’s blog “The Land of Aus”. Reproduced with permission.

For the past two weeks, us Americans have had the experience of an Australian Spring break. They were amazing! The first week consisted of going with a group of 9 of us to a camp in the Blue Mountains where we were able to hike down into them and see Australia’s natural beauty. Some of us also rode the steepest railway in the world according to the Guinness book of world records. It was 52 degrees steep!

After that all of the Americans took a trip to the outback. This was by far my most cherished experience yet. In a comfortable bus we took a ten hour drive to the town of Condobolin where we stayed on a sheep shearing farm. While there we ate SO much delicious food and experienced things that to me seemed typically Australian. The cabins we had were filled with spiders, so sleeping in there wasn’t much of an option for me. Though it got chilly at night, some of us slept in sleeping bags under the stars. Seeing all those beautiful stars reminded me of being at home. Some exciting things we did were watch a sheep get sheared, hold a very large shingle-back lizard, drive on the back of a ute (truck) with a large spotlight to find Kangaroos, chased Emus in the ute (we almost ran them over), and chased a tiny wild pig.

Lizzard 2

The memories I hold dearest to my heart from this trip were the nights spent around the campfire. I had the opportunity to lead some worship, making me excited to do more of that in the future, and each American had the chance to share some of their story. Many of us stayed up late, if not all night, and were able to laugh with one another, pray over each other, and connect with people on a deeper level. I feel so blessed by the people I came here with, and it has been amazing to see God working in each of their lives. It brings me to tears at the thought of leaving them in six short weeks, but the bonds we created are so worth the pain we’ll endure when we’re separated.

One major thing this semester has taught me is the importance of community. God gives us people to share our experiences with and to help one another walk through both the dark and light together. Living life in community creates a whole other level in which it can push your faith to grow. I had a strong realization when I saw how much diving into community could have helped me in the past, and I hoped to apply this lesson upon my arrival home. After the outback a friend from America and an Australian friend invited me on a road trip through New South Wales. God really provided us with places to go during this trip and we were able to see so much more of the state. The towns were quaint and the beaches absolutely breathtaking. And now, we all return to school, to take on a challenging load of work. I pray that this will not hinder my enjoyment of Sydney the last few weeks I am here. Through this Spring break, I have seen how God is always present. He is in everything I see. In all of the gorgeous places He has created, and has brought amazing people into my life for me to love on them as Christ would. I look forward to the last adventures to come before starting a new chapter in my life back home!

Freedom in the Australian Outback

By Tamara Barrett

Red dirt covered our existence, successfully portraying us as victims of spray tans and hair appointments gone wrong. We sped down discreet paths and through unmarked fields in trucks, completely enjoying the thrill of fresh air and unindustrialized land expanse. At night, we traveled about the property in the same way, but this time under the most magnificent and comprehensive blanket of stars we had encountered since our arrival in Australia. Our North American eyes gazed at the upside down constellations with only the intermittent ability to utter words of amazement. The Outback certainly offered a different vigor than the animated one we had become accustomed to in Sydney. During our time, we experienced an inexpressible freedom not only from the tangible barriers of city zones, but from lives unshared and burdens concealed.

Time spent around the fire with fellow students came to be what I looked forward to the most. This was a place for reading, worshipping, eating, sharing, and growing. At the end of each day, we had a time where students could take three rocks and share three things about their lives in confidence.  With a group of 37 students, I have found it impossible to form close bonds with everyone.  But these times of sharing effectively did that. Social psychologists explain the phenomena this way: “Self-disclosure leads to more liking and deeper relationships because it signals trust, and because knowing each other’s abilities, preferences, and needs leads to easier coordination of mutual activities and more understanding.” Self-disclosure around the campfire allowed for each of us to get a clearer picture of the happenings, past and present, that shaped the person we listened to at that moment. It also gave each of us an opportunity to share burdens and heartaches in ways we had not formerly felt possible here.  The genuine atmosphere of concern and encouragement made the campfire a place of healing for many as they were either freed from the burden of not being known by others or from the false assumption that they were alone in what they were experiencing. Those nights were marked by zealous laughter, healing tears, and a sense of true community. The freedom we all experienced during our time in the Outback will not soon be forgotten. As a result, it would be impossible not to heed the advice of our bus driver Ian, “Take some red dirt home with you in your veins.”