Australia isn’t just about koala bears and kangaroos as a group of Nebraska Wesleyan University students learned firsthand this summer.
Nine students — most of whom are majoring in health and human performance — joined professor Pat Pettit for a three-week trip that was part of the course, “History, Culture, and Sport in Australia.”
The group spent time in Melbourne, Sydney, Cairns, and Gold Coast/Surfer’s Paradise. They experienced a range of activities from academic encounters to typical tourist hotspots. Over 20 academic sites were visited, including local universities, museums, the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree National Park, interactions with local aboriginals, tribal dances, and even a visit with professional rugby player, Preston Campbell, one of Australia’s most famous athletes.
Students also attended a rugby game, skydived, snorkeled and scuba dived, petted koala bears and kangaroos, learned to throw a boomerang, trekked through a rainforest, and toured the Sydney Bridge.
“Learning about aboriginal culture was very educational,” said junior Leslie Graves. “Knowing what Australia’s background is can even help us understand their sport, such as the All-Star Game and the Game of Origin.”
“In Cairns, we got to see an aboriginal dance and learn how to throw a boomerang, watch spear throwing, and tour through the rainforest,” said junior Hilary Krantz. “It was hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that it was a real rainforest because I’ve seen so many fake ones. The colors were so vibrant and it had such a peaceful feeling to it.”
For senior Ryan McCarty, some experiences had a very personal connection.
“Being a tennis player, it was great to step foot in Rod Laver Arena at the Australian Open in Sydney,” he said. “It’s a place where so many legends have been.”
Pettit said the trip’s itinerary was created to suit all of the students’ interests, as well as include activities that she found to be important to the people of Australia.
“I wanted to expose the students to an entirely different culture outside of their comfort zone,” she said. “Now that we are home, I want them to have the ability and experiences to compare the major things between the U.S. and Australia. I also simply wanted to make sure that they got to do all of the iconic things that Australia is known for.”