G’day! (Is it okay to still say that now that we’re back in the States? Yes? Okay then.) It is hard to believe that it has already been a MONTH since the TCU Horned Frogs returned from Australia. While I could write pages and pages recounting every lecture, clinical observation, meal, cultural tour, and activity we experienced, I know that the only person who would probably read it all is my mom. So, here are just a few highlights that helped make this the trip of a lifetime!
Academically, our experience was stimulating and eye-opening. We hit the ground running our very first day by visiting the University of Melbourne. Even with jet lag — a 17-hour flight plays no games — we were awake and engaged as we watched a live stuttering treatment session. This academic visit was followed by many others at La Trobe University, the Royal Children’s Hospital, the University of Sydney, and more. Each speaker extended a warm welcome and spoke with knowledge and passion about their area of expertise. A major highlight was the opportunity to attend the annual Speech Pathology Australia (SPA) Conference, which was held in Sydney. We joked throughout the trip that we couldn’t wait to go to the SPA.😉 As a future SLP, there is nothing more empowering than being in a room full of other “speechies” who are all passionate about the same thing: helping others communicate. The opening speaker, Dr. Patricia McCabe, gave an amazing presentation on the connection between behavioral economics and speech pathology, and how blending the two can better inform clinical decision-making. By identifying two seemingly unrelated disciplines and combining them, she discovered how they complement one another. For me, this was a total lightbulb moment. You see, ever since I found out I’d have the opportunity to learn in Australia, I’d fielded questions such as, “What will you learn about speech pathology in Australia?” or “Why go there when you don’t practice there?” I would answer with reasons that explained that much of the research we use in the States originates from Australia, and this research guides our current practice. While this is true, I’d failed to mention what Dr. McCabe helped me realize: that the best way to enhance our practice is to enhance our perspective. Just as she combines different disciplines to discover connections and patterns, we can now combine Australian and American perspectives for the sake of mutual improvement. Only by learning from others can we truly grow. Some call it yin and yang, others peanut butter and jelly; whatever you want to call it, the US and Australia are just that when it comes to speech pathology. We are lucky to have learned from such wonderful professionals and are eager to share and collaborate for years to come.
One of the best parts of this trip was the amount of experiential learning that occurred outside of the classroom. We participated in a variety of cultural experiences that comprise some of my all-time favorite memories. One such memory was in Phillip Island, where we watched hundreds of penguins emerge from the water, waddle a couple hundred feet through the sand, find their borough and joyfully reunite with their penguin family. Occasionally, a penguin would stop waddling and tilt its head to the side, at which point it took a mini-nap, or a micro nap. As I said before, there is much we can learn from the Aussies, and micro-naps are at the top of that list. Another favorite memory was in Jervis Bay, where we visited Bundanon – the large home of late-Australian painter, Arthur Boyd. First, our guides led us through the middle of a large, grassy field, where we could see kangaroos and wombats at a distance. As we trailed off the path and started walking down a hill, the view in front of us was absolutely breathtaking. Imagine a glistening lake lined with tall trees, and topped with blue-gray clouds. This was our view as we participated in a sketching lesson in which we used natural materials, such as sticks and leaves, to draw and create art. Talk about serenity, am I right?
Finally, on our last full day in Australia, we went surfing on Manly Beach. After practicing some proper technique on land, we took our talents to sea and gave it everything we had. As someone who face-planted the first 4 tries, there is no better feeling than standing on a board, coasting through the water. The experience may have been temporary, but the hilarious wipe-out photos are forever (thank you to Dr. Jennifer Watson for capturing the best moments).
Obviously, food needs its own section. For the most part, the food was fairly similar to the US, except for a few Aussie classics which are detailed below:
Tim Tams: These are basically chocolate-covered biscuit sandwiches. They are dangerously addicting and can be found at most social gatherings. Let’s just say that the American girl scout cookie has some serious competition.
Vegemite: This is a brown, salty spread that usually goes on bread. We tried it with students at the University of Sydney – we’ll call it “interesting.”
Fish n’ chips: SO GOOD!!
Morning and afternoon tea: It is customary to drink tea mid-morning, and then in the afternoon. This is something I would not mind doing every day!
Overall, our experience was extraordinary. As a member of our group said on the last night, being in Australia forced us to slow down for a moment; to appreciate the beautiful surroundings, put our phones down, ask more questions, talk to new people, think slower and deeper and take time to reflect. Some of our most memorable moments as a group occurred during unplanned time, such as the impromptu talent show on the last night (yes, that happened) and meaningful conversations during bus rides and nature walks. Looking forward, we are excited to maintain a connection to this incredible country, and to each other.
Thank you to our talented, knowledgeable, patient, generous tour guides, Mark and Stacey, for being with us every step up the way and keeping our lives together, and to the Hutong as a whole for this fantastic, life-changing experience!
This Australia Blog Post was written by TCU student extraordinaire, Robyn Croft, as a follow up to The Hutong’s Land Down Under program for TCU. All photos are courtesy of TCU’s exceptional trip chaperone, Dr. Jennifer Watson. Thank you Robyn and Jennifer!