The Adventure of Being Young

Some thoughts by a lecturer on a recent tour by US students to Australia

In June 2010 Jason and I (lecturers at the National Institute of Sports Studies, University of Canberra) became tour leaders for the inaugural ‘Australian Sporting Industry Tour’. The tour, promoted by the Australearn organisation in the US, was of three weeks duration with a week in Melbourne, Canberra and Broadbeach (Queensland) locations. Seventeen US students ranging from 1st through to 4th years (13 women and 4 guys) and from a range of colleges and universities in the US made the trip. The majority were from sport science related areas of kinesiology/health science/dietetics whilst two came from marketing courses and two from psychology. Whilst there was plenty of information sent to the students several emails were received before their departure from the US asking questions such as ‘do I have to bring towels and bedding’ to ‘can I opt out of the physical activities when we stay at the Australian Sport Commission as I have just had a shoulder reconstruction?’ Some good questions, hey, how could they know what to expect – it was a big step into the unknown. A small assignment completed before they left home asked them what they knew about sport in Australia. Some of the students were reasonably well informed in some areas of sport while others had little knowledge of Australia or of Australian sport. For our part, Jason and I pondered what their expectations might be and possible problems, sure we would show them the Melbourne Cricket Ground, ETIHAD stadium, take them to an AFL game, the National Sport Museum and Rod Laver Arena but Australia didn’t have huge college campuses with numerous facilities and spectator support that rivalled professional sport. Having shown them our best, first up, would they be underwhelmed for the remaining two weeks? Then there was the question of liquor, these young people were not allowed to drink at bars or clubs in the US until they were 21 years of age, how would they respond given free rein in Australia? Jeez I was beginning to think and feel like a parent!

Within two days of arriving the group seemed comfortable with one another with individuals forming friendships and small like-minded groups forming. Jason and I talked about the need to make sure individuals were not left out or on their own - let’s just keep an eye on the quiet ones. The first week just flew. The group loved Melbourne, enjoyed the visits, loved the food, felt secure and found Australians friendly. Some did test their alcohol intake abilities when out on free evenings and I must confess to being concerned when having entered ETIHAD stadium to watch the Cats and Bombers play most of them disappeared straight away. ‘Oh no, Jase you don’t think they’re going to watch the game for the entire evening from the bar!’ Within half an hour or so they returned with many faces fully painted in the teams colours they had elected to support. Earlier in the day we had been to Victoria Markets and many of them had bought team colours to wear that evening. They were so enthusiastic watching the game and showed genuine interest, some confessing AFL made NFL look boring.

The remaining two weeks flew. Everyone appreciated their 3 day stay at the AIS, the professionalism, skills and knowledge they were privy to. The accommodation and regimentation of the AIS was rather a shock after the comfortable apartments and flexibility of Melbourne – they had been delivered into an entirely different world. Some serious academic work was accomplished whilst in Canberra, with several lectures at the AIS and UC, with the students working on their major project proposals.

One of the highlights of the week was a visit to Tidbinbilla where they learnt how to play cricket – ‘in the bush with the Kangaroos as spectators’, as one student put it.

Broadbeach and Surfers with its holiday atmosphere was a great place to end the trip. The group surfed at surfers one afternoon but the surfing Gods had gone to another beach that day. Waves coming in at forty-five degrees, a strong rip taking us along the beach and rain and cold weren’t the best introduction to a new sport. Every one had a go and a few managed to stand up ‘now I can say I have surfed in Australia’ said one female student. The Surf Life Saving (SLA) representative gave us a talk about the organisation’s role and there was some surprise at the size of the SLA and the many competitive meets they have - a culture in itself. Snorkelling at Moreton Bay was also undertaken, again, a first for many of the students along with sand boarding. Sand boarding was for many one of the highlights with some amusing wipe outs on the large dune.

Were the academic outcomes or the tour met, yes, and so much more? The joy for me was reading the students’ daily logs which were completed and sent in by email once the students had returned to the US. Aside from the detail of the activities they had undertaken each day were several references from different students about personal challenges, fears and misgivings they had to face on tour and which they overcame and as a result felt they had grown as a person. I feel privileged to have been trusted with these very personal reflections.

Was the tour a success for the students – undoubtedly yes? The students were a delight to be with and I learnt so much. A special thanks to Jason Washington King, my colleague and fellow tour leader, whose energy and enthusiasm over the entire duration of the tour was awesome.

John Dodd

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