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Brisbane, Australia: You Have Stolen My Heart

Tarian Atallah Studies Abroad

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Not too long ago, I hopped on a plane at LAX (after a six-hour flight from Boston) to take a 14-hour flight to Brisbane, Australia. While writing this, I find myself needing to pause and really soak that in. Until June, I will live here in this beautiful and one-of-a-kind city, studying at “uni” (what Australians call university), and figuring out what it is like to really live life as an Australian. Over a year ago now I put both feet in the deep end and applied to study abroad. For some reason, in my application, I filled in “Best Semester: Australia” on the location line and now can say I am ever so grateful I did. Applying and preparing for this program was lengthy and monotonous; to be honest, I felt as though I would always be doing paperwork and applying for visas, but would never actually place two feet down in this foreign place. I spent so many hours in my own head (and with a few close friends) questioning if it was really necessary to move 9000+ miles away to a place I knew very little about and to partake in classes I could take anywhere. If I am being transparent, back in January I seriously considered dropping out of the program and coming back to be a Highlander. But I can confidently say I confided in wise and supportive people who always told me that I should not only go, but that it would be worth it.


And so far it has been amazing! So many things have been revealed to me even in the short amount of time I have been here, and I cannot wait to see what my opinions are and how I see the world when I leave. I have met other Christian colleges students from around the country who are also studying with me and have enjoyed seeing how their perspective, shaped from their individual states, can contribute to my worldview that is vastly and quickly being reworked.


The Best Semester Australia program, better known as Australia Studies Centre, is a bit different than most study abroad programs that Cairn offers. Because most Australians don’t live at their University, the international students from America don’t either. Instead, each one of us is placed with families who live near the school and commute back and forth each day. So to all the commuters out there, I finally understand what you go through! In my previous five semesters at Cairn I have always lived on campus, and sometimes even in Manor, where you can wake up 10 mins before your 8am and still get to class on time. Now not only do I commute, but I have a 20-30min walk to and from school each day. Also, most days it’s 30 degrees Celsius (which is about 86 degrees Fahrenheit) and humid, so you can imagine how happy I can be when I reach my air con (Australian speak for air conditioned) classroom. So far this has been such a humbling experience for me. For the next few months, I don’t have my little Honda Civic to get me around (or any car for that matter). I either walk or need to give up some of my American pride and ask my host family, or some of the other amazing Australians I have met, to help me out. It is also interesting to be 21 years old, in a foreign place, and being reminded to humble myself, live in community with others, and ask for their support. Also, Australian slang is very different, and I often find myself having to ask, “Hey, what does that mean?” Although this has not been easy, I do believe there is beauty in it and gives the Lord the opportunity to reveal new things to me in a unique way.


Also with the ASC program, I am required to do 35 hours in a service placement. Some of the options I was given included helping with soup kitchens for the homeless or working with the elderly. When I filled out my application almost a year ago, I put down youth because I have always enjoyed working with kids. It wasn’t until a few days after I got here that I realized that was not the case. When the application said youth, it meant 17-21 years old university students. I have been blessed with the opportunity to be a part of an organization called Red Frogs that safeguards university students and gives them an alternative to going out drinking. Again I find myself humbled and so grateful to be learning under some of the most selfless, generous, and kind-hearted people I have ever met.  


Lastly, I want to touch on how important is has been to me to get involved in a church here. A lot of students at Cairn do go to church every Sunday, but how many of us have gotten involved in the local churches beyond the Sunday service and the occasional worship night? I know I hadn’t. Since being here, I have found so much value in becoming rooted in the local church. My service placement is connected with the church I attend, but I also decided to join a life group. This has given me the opportunity to not only grow in Christ, but surround myself with other Australians who are so passionately on fire for Him.


There is a reason why people speak so highly about studying abroad, and I have finally found out why. There is something so uncomfortable about the unknown; it’s a rare place, and that is terrifying. Why would I choose to make myself uncomfortable when I don’t need to? But, honestly, that is a selfish thought that could easily lead us to a place where we never venture out. Before Christ was put on the cross, He didn’t say, “Well, you know…that is not very comfortable for me, so I am just going to pass.” He embraced the uncomfortable for us, and I hope that sharing my journey and experience can help bring people closer to the Kingdom.


All in all, Australia is an incredible place, filled with people who have already influenced me so much. Currently debating if I am ever moving back.

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