Someone’s Country:  Student Journeys Down Under

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Someone’s Country:  An Inside Look at Experiential Education

(a review by Amber Palmer-Halma)

“Whether you travel to the other side of the planet or the other side of town, you’re on someone’s country,” says Jennifer Newman, a lecturer of Aboriginal studies at the Australia Studies Centre (ASC), one of 12 BestSemester programs of the Council for Christian College’s and Universities, in the opening line of Someone’s Country: Student Journeys Down Under.

For the next 50 minutes of director Ty Tuin’s Someone’s Country, we explore what it means to engage in a place and make it part of our stories. We’re challenged to become aware and let that knowledge lead us to responsibility and action.

Cross-cultural, experiential education at the Australia Studies Centre strives to connect students to questions of place and the relationship between what they believe and how they behave.

“We’re trying to get the students to think not just with their brains, but think with their bodies,” says ASC director Kimberly Spragg in the documentary.

To show how the 16-week semester engages students in these questions of place, belief and action, Someone’s Country follows two randomly selected students – Alyssa and Holly – throughout their experience.

We see their initial enthusiasm, as when Alyssa shares “Honestly, I’m really expecting growth… There’s no way I’m not going to mature and not going to grow.”

And we see the everyday challenges that force these students to adjust their expectations and engage with a new culture – from participating in church services that don’t provide the comfort of their customary worship to service projects that force them to interact with homeless people to classes that require them to learn new information through unique pedagogies. While these experiences bring growth, we see how they often bring frustration.

Students in the ASC live with Australian families and we meet Alyssa and Holly’s host family.  We tag along on field trips to museums and into Aboriginal lands to learn about how the students engage the material from discussions, lectures and readings.

While we watch, we have space to wonder if we would have the courage to embrace the challenges put before these students throughout the semester.  

Would we leave our Internet connections behind? And embrace the “no shower challenge” of the outback? And eat the fish’s eyeball? Would we let the places where we find ourselves be significant parts of our stories?  Would we engage with the people who are there now and the ones who went before us – the native people and their descendants – in order to learn their stories and let their stories be part of who we are going forward?

We journey with Alyssa and Holly while they answer these questions. We see their growth – not exactly in the ways they envisioned, but true growth nonetheless.

Someone’s Country shows us students grasping the concept of how a place shapes a belief and how they learn to let their behavior change in order to further shape their faith.

For Alyssa, Holly and everyone we meet in Someone’s Country, the questions and the answers always circle back to embracing where we are and letting our actions shape our beliefs.

Now it’s your turn to watch Someone’s Country. Are you ready to think about where you are, what you believe and how this shapes your actions? You’re always on someone’s country… now you’ll see what that really means.

Watch Someone's Country