The Australia Studies Center is undergoing massive changes to continue providing Christ-centered higher education.
Christ-centered higher education for students outside of their home countries is the task for the Australia Studies Centre, a part of the Best Semester Program for study abroad students.
The Program has taken place at the Wesley Institute in Sydney, Australia since 2004. However, starting the spring 2014 semester, the program will be moving to Brisbane, Australia to partner with Christian Heritage College.
According to the Best Semester Program, Christian Heritage College offers majors in Business, Education, Social Sciences and Ministries
Senior Sophie Shafer is one of many JBU students have taken part in the Best Semester trip to Australia. She studied there during the spring of 2012 and went on to be the Best Semester Alumni Ambassador for JBU after she returned.
She became involved after an email was sent out to all alumni of the program.
“I really enjoyed my time in Australia,” Shafer said. “And even though JBU has their own study abroad programs that are great, I think there’s a lot of benefit to going on a study abroad program with people from different schools. There are more options, and I wanted to get more people to do that.”
Shafer explained the semester as an experience in Australian culture and as an opportunity to look at the U.S. culture from an outside view. She mentioned that the students learned a lot about consumerism and different cultures within the church which opened up her mind to what is going on in the world.
The Best Semester representatives and Shafer are both excited about the new opportunities and greater appeal to more majors. Shafer said that JBU marketed the trip to graphic design majors because the Wesley Institute is an art school.
Shafer agrees being in Sydney is a wonderful opportunity for art majors.
“For a photographer, it’s paradise because you have the city and the beaches and there’s definitely a lot to be inspired by,” Shafer said. “And there are a lot of artsy people.”
According to Best Semester, the new location of the school will lead to advantages for students who are studying things other than art and will yield to a different range of classes offered.
Christian Heritage College is also significantly larger than The Wesley Institute.
According to Shafer, the Biblical Studies program at the Wesley Institute will no longer be offered after this current semester.
“A lot of people who weren’t art majors would come and take Biblical Studies classes or they would be Youth Ministry majors. The new school has business and it’s significantly bigger,” Shafer said.
She also said that this has been a topic of conversation on the school’s alumnus page that she is a part of.
For Shafer, the move is full of mixed emotions.
“I think their reasoning is good, because the Wesley Institute was the only Christian University in Sydney,” Shafer said. “But me and the other people I went with are really sad because we have all those memories there and we know how great of a place Sydney is.”
According to Best Semester, Brisbane provides a great location for students to be able to experience Australia in a new and exciting way. It is a river city with a lot to explore, and is also closer to key destinations like the Great Barrier Reef, Fraser Island, the Sunshine Coast, Scenic Rim and Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo.
Shafer is unsure if Best Semester will market their trip any differently now that the location has changed.
“They’ve been trying to market focusing on the experiences you have there and not the majors offered,” Shafer said. “So I don’t think they’re really going to change much. But I feel like they might get more people since the selection of majors is more common and more diverse. It was really arts-based in Sydney.”
Although the changes may be good for other majors, Shafer noticed on the website that there was nothing about art classes.
“I was pretty bummed about that because I feel like so many study abroad programs highlight the same majors,” Shafer said. “It was cool to have one that was art. It was different. Art majors want to study abroad too.”
Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), President Dr. Edward O. Blews, Jr., visited the Australia Studies Centre this week as a part of his efforts to visit all programs with Best Semester. He was able to meet with the program’s staff, students, and administration and is enthusiastically supporting the new direction of the Australia Studies Centre.