Welcome to Australia: Remember that Everything is Borrowed

By Chris Thaxton

A reflection on power struggles and environmentalism during a semester in Australia.

Today, a man from a local indigenous group gave welcomed us to Australia.  Traditionally tribes and nations would not intrude on the land of others without first being “welcomed,” so before all of us international students begin our adventure down here in Oz, the Uni thought it important that we be formally welcomed by the people the land belongs to. Although the lifeless faces around me suggested that most of my peers could not have cared less about this gesture, to me it was awesome. Never in America would you see a university invite a Native American to welcome you to use the land simply because we no longer recognize the land to belong to anyone but us. Although the Australian government obviously doesn’t admit that they are borrowing the land they have developed, this university and many of the people here do.

Australian wilderness

After all, are we all not just borrowing this land? Even the aborigines were just loaning the country from a higher power…they just left it in a much better condition than we have. Who says what belongs to me, or my parents, or my friends, or my government? What right do we have to call a piece of dirt ours…we did not create it did we? All the materials we use, to produce the goods that we sell, and create structures on the land that we develop does not truly belong to us. We have borrowed everything from Mother Earth, who I call God, and She is probably not happy with the way we are treating her things.

Who decides who owns a piece of land?

When I let a friend borrow a book, I expect them to return it a little bit worn, but still very usable. If they live up to my expectation of respect, then that same book can be passed between a tremendous number of friends before it is unreadable, and odds are by that time several more books have been published for me to read and begin to pass on. We should be treating our planet in the same way we should treat anything else we borrow, such as the metaphorical book. You don’t borrow a book and begin taking notes in the margins, crossing out things you disagree with, or ripping out your favorite pages for you alone to enjoy. You instead do your very best to keep the text in mint condition so that the next reader can get all of the thought and emotion out of the read that you did. I want my kids, and their kids, and their kids, and so on to be able to see, hear, and smell the same wonders that I have, so that they can draw their own emotions from this amazing planet.

Australia’s natural beauty must be kept in mint condition.

Australia, like the rest of the world, has quite a few things to work on when it comes to carbon emissions, over development, and conservation. Regardless, at least this one university seems to understand that though we may call a place “ours,” we are only its temporary users, and we owe it to the original owners to leave it better than we found it.

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Summer Experiences: U.S. Golf Association Internship

Megan WoodliefBy: Megan Woodlief, junior hospitality management major

This summer, I had an internship with the United States Golf Association working at the U.S. Open Golf Tournament held in Pinehurst, N.C. As a rising junior hospitality management major with a concentration in conventions and special events, this internship right up my alley. I hope to eventually work in either collegiate or professional sports.

For two and a half weeks, I worked from 5 a.m. until 7 or 8 p.m. as one of 12 “will-call” interns hired for the tournament. Our basic job was to run the will-call offices located at the main gates. This included far more than I ever expected. From running the ticket databases to answering every phone call that came through every day, multitasking became my no. 1 skill. The days seemed to fly by, as we never stopped moving or answering questions the whole day.

Making history, this was the first year that the Men’s and Women’s U.S. Open Tournaments were held at the same golf course spanning two weeks of continuous golf.  This required the interns to be there longer than normal, making for a very long month of waking up early.  Not only this, but there were record-breaking crowds at both tournaments. One of my favorite parts of the tournament was when I got to meet Adam Scott. As an intern, we had the opportunity to meet many of the famous golfers as well as many of the up-and-coming players.

US OPENStaying in a new place and living with new people for a short timespan was sort of like going to college again. Yet, in those few weeks that we all stayed there, we made friends for life. Most of us still keep in touch and wish to pursue another internship with the U.S. Golf Association for additional golf tournaments. The experience gained from this type of nonstop internship couldn’t be traded for anything in the world.  I got to see all the effort and hours put into making a large event run seamlessly, only solidifying the many reasons I love my major.

One of the greatest pieces of advice came from an Honors College professor when helping me look at different internships. “Find your passion and run with it,” said Dr. Todd Fraley. “Never let it go and never let anyone tell you that it won’t work.” He was the reason I changed my major and pursued this internship.

The Honors College not only provides us with one of the best learning environments on campus, but they prepare us to succeed even when we venture out into the world.  Everyone should get the opportunity to have a fantastic internship during college. It is the best way to see if you enjoy your field of study, and pursue your passions.

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Summer Experiences: Geology Studies in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

By: Lillian Howie, incoming freshman, intended geology major

Lillian HowieAs an incoming geology major, I’m always looking for opportunities to get involved in the field and learn new things about the environment. This summer, I had the privilege of accompanying my family on a tour around the Great Lakes. We traveled as far west as the North Dakota Badlands and then circled through Manitoba and Ontario to view sites on the lakes, focusing on National Parks.

The U.S. National Park system preserves many special geological sites, such as Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, where minerals in groundwater paint the lakeside rocks vibrant colors, Isle Royale National Park, where Lake Superior’s reefs pose a menacing threat to traversing ships, and Theodore Roosevelt National Park, where underground coal veins, exposed by erosion, can catch fire and burn for decades.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park was actually the highlight of my trip. The park itself is a pristine wilderness filled with unique plant and animal life and beautiful views of the colorful rock formations. Just outside of the park, however, things are not as pristine. Theodore Roosevelt National Park resides in the Bakken Oil Field, the largest continuous oil field in the world. National Parks magazine reports that there are currently 7,000 active wells in the Bakken formation, and that number is expected to rise exponentially in the next 20 years. Travelling between the three park units, I got the chance to see many of the area’s active oil wells and their consequences: air pollution, increased traffic, and disruption of the landscape. Oil drilling is not permitted inside the park boundaries, but that hasn’t stopped the oil industry from completely surrounding the park, and it’s not easy for visitors to miss.

There obviously would not be such a scramble to harvest the Bakken formation’s oil if there was not a demand for it. Geologists, likewise, are instrumental in the search for energy resources to fuel society’s infrastructure. However, geologists are also the ones who must take into account the environmental impact of harvesting these energy resources. The trick is finding a balance between preserving the landscape for future generations and harvesting resources for the benefit of the current population.

As I learned in my time in Theodore Roosevelt National Park this summer, finding that balance is not easy, nor will it satisfy all involved parties in the end. Environmental activists battle with the oil industry in political debates that can sometimes overshadow what is really at risk. Visiting sites like Theodore Roosevelt National Park help visitors to see more clearly the need for a sustainable approach to harvesting natural resources.

My hope is, with the education I am going to receive at ECU, I can become an educator about these topics. Finding a balance with the natural world is so important, and I want to be able to share my inspiration with others.

Visiting Theodore Roosevelt National Park this summer gave me a renewed enthusiasm for my future goals, and I am so grateful to the Honors College for helping to bring those goals to fruition. If I have the opportunity to return to Theodore Roosevelt National Park as an intern or an employee, I hope to inspire visitors as I have been inspired this summer.

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Comradery at the Capital

CurtisBy: Jackie Curtis, incoming freshman, intended nursing major

I haven’t even begun my first semester at ECU, but I’ve already had the privilege of attending several Honors College events throughout the summer. On June 27, I joined a group of incoming Honors students for a “Capital Clean Up” trip at Falls Lake, a state park in Raleigh that includes a 12,000-acre lake and 26,000 acres of woodlands.

We spent a few hours learning about the Neuse River, picking up trash along the shore, and of course, laughing and getting to know one another! This was a great opportunity to help keep the Neuse River clean, and also a great opportunity to build friendships with fellow Honors students before starting classes this fall.

After the clean up, our group headed to Durham for dinner and a baseball game (yet another opportunity for fun and fellowship)! This trip really helped me get excited about all that my future at ECU holds!

Take a look at photos from this event on the Honors College Flickr site: Honors College Capitol City Clean-Up.

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“Once” in a Lifetime Experience

Sarah_LissonOne of my favorite things about the Honors College is that students are presented with many opportunities, such as living-learning trips, to explore interests outside their majors. I love my major and really enjoy taking nutrition classes, but I also love attending concerts and plays and visiting art museums in my spare time. On January 25, I got to do both of those things on our first living-learning trip of the semester. Several of my fellow Honors College students and I traveled to Durham, where we were able to see some incredible works of art and an award-winning musical. Despite the cold weather, we all had a great time!

Our first stop was the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, where we were split into groups for guided tours. My favorite exhibition in the museum was called Lines of Control: Partitions as a Productive Space. Most of the pieces in the exhibition were created by South Asian artists and were inspired by the division of India in 1947.

After we left the museum, we enjoyed a delicious lunch at Tobacco Road and then headed over to the Durham Performing Arts Center to see a performance of the musical Once. The show won several Tony Awards in 2012, including Best Musical, so I was really excited to be able to see it. I was really impressed by the entire cast, who doubled as an onstage band. Everyone played their own instruments and they even came out before the show and played Irish and Czech folk songs. It was a unique show and I’m so glad I got to see it with some of my friends!


Spending the day in Durham was a great way to take a break from school and catch up with friends while enjoying the arts. Hopefully I will have the opportunity to go on more trips like this one in the future!

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