Aussieland | St. Lawrence University


Kimberly Waite

There are some sights I simply cannot forget: the way the beautiful palm trees swayed as I flew over Australia - Brisbane to be exact. Australia is where I chose to go abroad for the spring semester of 2013. It was an opportunity for me to do research on the aboriginal populations that live within Australia, but also an opportunity to motivate myself for the long senior year I knew I would be facing once I returned. Canton, N.Y. was cold and Australia was a warm tropical destination. Studying abroad in Australia was the experience of a lifetime that many people I realized do not receive.

Since I am an anthropology major, I set out to immerse myself within Australian culture. I learned how to swim (who couldn't learn to swim being surrounded by crystal clear water and sandy beaches?). On television in the United States, we learn about the Crocodile Hunter and hear of Vegemite when Australia comes to mind. It is a destination rich with stimulation no matter where you go. Conducting research within the aboriginal populations, I gained the opportunity to speak with an elder woman who taught me how to weave palm leaves into sacred aboriginal figures like frogs and fish. I sat below her as a sign of respect and followed the tender process of weaving palm leaves under palm trees while sitting in warm grass under the retreating sun take over. That day can only be explained by one word: tranquility. On this same day, I enjoyed intellectual conversations with diverse groups of students, had sausages from the Bar-B (grill), and attend a storytelling event by an elder aboriginal man who made his audience members laugh and get lost in oral representations of traditional tales. I watched young men painted in cultural symbols dance to songs imitating fish and flowing water. Retelling this story, I feel like it was only yesterday.

Squirrels are a friend that we at St. Lawrence have grown to appreciate. Squirrels have a great relationship with the campus. Australia, like St. Lawrence, has a very open campus that connects students to the local community. I would open up a balcony window and step out to see bats as they fly around at night. On my way home from the library, I would stop and admire kangaroos as they searched for food. The wildlife is simply amazing in Australia. After taking a ferry ride to Magnetic Island, a group of friends that willingly gave me a tour took me to see wallabies. I watched as the wallabies walked up to people and eat out of their hands. Being from New York City, I would have never imagined seeing a kangaroos and a joey up close.

These are only a couple of details about my Australia experience. I lived for about five months on another continent and my time there was full of adventures. I believe my trip there changed some of my beliefs and even career goals I have for the future. Australia helped me realize I can be a voice that represents marginalized communities. Now, I'm interested in pursuing careers in international development and social justice reform so I can possibly become an advocate for these communities after graduation.