Graduate: Natalie Johnson

Natalie Johnson with her husband
Natalie Johnson and her husband

My now husband and I, attended Southern Cross University in 2008, with 2009 as our Graduating year. We lived in Coolangatta, Queensland and attended the Tweed Heads Campus, across the border by about 15 minutes, in New South Wales. It was definitely a culture change when we had to adjust our schedules (and watches), to cater to two time-zones…one of the few unique spots in the world that has this feature.

We both completed the Graduate Diploma of Education Courses, headed by our dear friend, and lecturer, Neville Jennings. During our stay in 'Coolie,' as we said, we met several individuals, from various parts of the world. This program combined many cultures: Canadians (this particular year, there were a lot of us!), Australians, New Zealanders, Aborigines, Koreans, Chinese, Taiwanese, and members of the U.K, just to name a few…

There was also the mentor program, which my husband and I both became members of; it introduced us to a still-dear friend of ours, from Hawaii. We were encouraged to partake in meaningful fellowship with other students, whether it be in intellectual debates during break-out sessions, or on weekend-treks in small, intimate groupings within the mountainside. I discovered my more Eastern and abstract viewpoints on art within the art-curriculum courses, while my husband went a little more specific, with experiences such as his spotting of a rare Blue Crab, at Springbrook National Park. We boogie-boarded with our professor at his house, we fed the homeless on Coolangatta Beach on Christmas Day, we met and spent time with the families of our new international friends, either living locally, or visiting from abroad; we also enjoyed many nights at fellow teachers' houses, discussing the ups and downs of our new future lives as high-school teachers!

We both discovered the love for travelling and experiencing new societies. The diversity that the university offered in terms of student backgrounds and cultures, and the diversity of Australian culture itself, was luring and fascinating in all regards. My husband and I particularly enjoyed learning about, and embracing the customs of Aboriginal culture. We were even allotted the opportunity to experience the Indigenous Dreaming Festival, a celebration of diversity and culture, among many of our peers, and with Neville Jennings as our proud host. We met Australia's lyrical legend, Jimmy Little, only a few years before his passing. What an amazing opportunity, that will stay as a cherished memory for years to come!

After graduating, my husband and I taught in ShenZhen, China, at an International sister-school of Bond Academy in Toronto, Ontario. This experience also allowed us to fully embrace a new culture, to learn a new language, and to teach those with a very different upbringing than our own. Upon our return to Canada, and starting a family, settling down and getting married, we become franchisees of a Sylvan Learning Centre. Since our original purchase of a Sylvan tutoring company, we have expanded to one more centre and several mobile sites. We now reside in Brantford, Ontario, with our three year-old son, Aiden. We attribute many of the qualities that we have obtained over the years, in order to run our educational business successfully, to our teachings and experiences of Southern Cross Uni.

Our experience in general, in Australia, specifically the opportunities that Southern Cross University provided us, will stay in our memories forever. Those heart-warming and adventurous times, helped shape us into the teachers we have become today; all starting with opportunities to grow, change, discover, seek, and create fellowship among a fantastic student body and staff.  Every teaching university has class-time and practical time, but there is simply only one Southern Cross experience!

Natalie Johnson