Students Spend Winter Break Learning History, Culture of Australia

While temperatures in Nebraska reached record-breaking lows in early January, 14 Nebraska Wesleyan University students experienced a different kind of extreme. Their plane touched down in Sydney, Australia, as temperatures there soared into the hundreds.

Despite the heat, the group surged forward with a trip that would introduce them to the history, culture and sports of Australia.

The 16-day trip was part of a Health and Human Performance course filled with academics and fun. Students took surfing lessons, went scuba diving and snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef, went to the Wildlife Sanctuary where they witnessed an animal surgery, attended a cricket match and held a koala.

“I chose this program because it has an academic aspect. The whole program is set up for you with a high percentage of academic opportunities,” said Pat Pettit, professor of health and human performance who led the trip.

Pettit intended the trip to be an experience.

“I wanted them to experience the Australian culture, to actually be there and experience it. I could teach them all I wanted before we went, but it’s not only about learning about it. It’s about experiencing it,” she said.

The academic sessions were informative, the students said, but experiencing Australia firsthand was even more beneficial.

“Studying abroad just opens your eyes to all of the learning that can take place outside of the classroom,” said Leanne Hinrichs, a junior mathematics and sociology major from Chadron. “It’s about the bigger picture. Only a small bit of what we learn here can be learned in the classroom.”

Sophomore elementary education and physical education major Kassie Knauss had similar thoughts.

“I’ve traveled around the United States but going overseas was like, wow. It’s a whole new experience,” she said.

Along with the academic sessions, free days were added to the hectic schedule. A small group including Knauss took to the skies for skydiving. Some, like sophomores Jenna Herse and Addie Litterick, relaxed at the beach.

And through their 25 academic sessions and their own adventures, the students came away from the Australian trip with a new perspective.

“Australia is awesome. The whole experience was awesome. I would definitely recommend it,” said Litterick.

For Pettit, the most rewarding part of the trip was watching the students experience it.

“I loved seeing the students being introduced to everything,” she said. “For many of them, these things were on their bucket list. It was phenomenal.”

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Students at Surfing Australia High Performance Center.
Students enjoy Kuranda National Park Rainforest with Pamagirri Tribesmen.
Students learned to play cricket and attended a game.
Courtney Harder and Jenna Herse visit with aborigine children from the Pamagirri Tribe.