Thursday, March 27, 2014

Until We Meet Again, Brisbane

March 12 – 14, 2014

By Shannon Boerner

Bad things come in threes. It’s a cliché for a reason – a melodramatic introduction in this case, but it did so happen that three of the hardest days during our time in Brisbane occurred one right after another. After finishing our area studies exams on the 10th and turning in our 12-15-page research papers on the 11th, we spent two days presenting and watching the independent research presentations of our classmates. These served as our final projects for our contemporary Australia course, and clearly were not taken lightly by anyone involved. A tremendous amount of time and effort went into each paper, as we began the research process back in November, if not October! The contemporary Australia course summary covers a variety of topics, as evidenced by the wide array of different focuses of our individual projects. For instance, presentations included: the use of fire in Australia, Australia’s immigration policy and controversies, the commodification of Aboriginal art and culture, the introduction of the invasive cane toad to the continent, the legacy of Australia’s convict history, botanical gardens, and my own presentation, which examined the sexism Australian female politicians face, especially Julia Gillard. We had great discussions after each presentation that allowed us to get even more in depth and showed how much each of us have learned.

Despite this semester being completely different than any we’ve had before, we’re learning a tremendous amount about a country with similar roots to our own. This outsider’s view is allowing us to critique the society in such a way that we may be able to look at our own actions, both of the past and present, when we return to the US and hopefully make progress of our own.

To celebrate the completion of two of our four courses, a bunch of us headed down to the Streets Beach at South Bank. I hadn’t been there yet and it was quite the experience. It was crowded for a cloudy day—there were “loads of people,” as my host brother would say—even though it was less than 30 degrees outside. Clearly we’ve adapted to the heat and humidity, so take pity on us as we freeze when we return to the States. 
Celebrating at Streets Beach

The following two days were filled with lectures for our natural history course. We began with organization of biological communities and species interaction in biological communities. Then on Friday we had an introduction to Australian rainforests, followed by a field studies briefing. As a social sciences student, it was refreshing to jump back into biology! I loved taking biology in middle school and high school, but it is even more fun to revisit the subject in a new environment, where the species and communities are not the same as the ones with which I grew up. The lectures were meant to serve as a background of knowledge for when we are in Lamington Plateau this next week. I’m both terrified and excited for this upcoming experience. I’m a city girl with no camping experience and I haven’t really been on an outdoor adventure since going to Yosemite and Catalina Island in middle school. I’m due for a little bit of time outside of my comfort zone.

Before we could make our way to Lamington though, we had one more crucial cultural experience in the city. On Friday night we all made our way to Suncorp Stadium to watch the Brisbane Broncos take on the North Queensland Cowboys in a Rugby League match. It was an interesting sport. Not something I could really see myself getting into, as I’m an ice hockey fan over soccer or football any day, but it was a fun time with a rowdy and excited crowd. We were pretty caught up in the cheering, despite not knowing exactly when we were supposed to cheer and for what we were cheering. Luckily, my host mom was one of the five Aussies with us helping explain to us what was going on. By the end of the night, I was still not sure I could explain exactly what was going on, but it was cool to feel as if we were actually a part of the Australian Rugby League culture.  It is going to be sad to leave the wonderful city of Brisbane and the great host families that we have had the pleasure of getting to know, but we’re on to the next adventure. 
Broncos vs. Cowboys

Sending much love to our family and friends back home. 


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