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Monday, September 18, 2017

The Southport School Exchange 2017

This summer we (Ford Brewer and Stephen Deane) were fortunate enough to receive grants from the Warner Family to attend The Southport School on the Gold Coast of Australia for four weeks. Upon arrival at Coolangatta Airport, we toured the Gold Coast near Southport, which is just south of Brisbane near Surfers’ Paradise. With Mr. Stephen Eardley, an art teacher at TSS, as our guide and mentor, we were treated to some amazing views of the beaches of Eastern Australia. Already impressed with the beautiful landscapes and the mild winter temperatures, we arrived at TSS to find a picturesque campus and were assigned our house--Thorold, a stately brick boarding house for seventy boys in grades eight through twelve from all over Australia, as well as several boys from Israel, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and the United Arab Emirates. Jed Heslop, Grady Sinclair, and Gus Morris, year elevens from Thorold, showed us around the campus during our first week to help us get adjusted, and we found the guys and teachers to be welcoming and easy to get to know.
(Ford and Stephen showing the Thorold sign…)

We each took a variety of classes, some of which are offered at MBA and some not. For example, Stephen took Business Management and Ford took Australian Legal Studies, in addition to more standard math, science, economics, and English classes. A typical school day at TSS is much like that at MBA, with a break, lunch period, and assembly once a week. However, there were only six periods in a day, and assembly takes the place of a class period on Thursday. Students had training for either rugby or basketball only once or twice a week. On the other days, many boarders would go “over the road” to get slushies at the gas station or grab some sushi. Many of our afternoons were spent playing pickup basketball at the Thorold court or going to shops over the road. Though it was winter, the temperatures were in the 60’s and 70’s everyday with no humidity, so we were outside as often as possible.

Saturdays at The Southport School are designated for rugby and basketball games for all grades. Unlike MBA, all of their sporting events take place on Saturday, instead of on Fridays and during the school week. Rugby is taken very seriously at TSS, and many of the 1st Fifteen, or varsity, players go on to play professional rugby throughout Australia. The entire student body is expected to attend the 1st Fifteen game in full dress uniform and to cheer on their classmates. Each house has its own chant, which we came to know well, as TSS has tons of school spirit, mirroring MBA’s student section at football and basketball games.
Weekends are pretty uneventful when living in boarding, so most boarding students apply to the housemaster to go on leave with family or friends. We were able to get leave three out of our four weekends in Southport. For the first and last weekends, we stayed with families that lived near the school, but for our third weekend we travelled to Byron Bay, a popular surfing area about an hour south of the school. We are very grateful to the Sinclair, Hawkins, and Spisich families for welcoming us into their homes and for showing us different parts of the Gold Coast. From the urban area surrounding Surfers’ Paradise to the rural and sweeping hills and valleys along the coast of Byron Bay, we were amazed by the physical beauty of Eastern Australia and the friendliness of the people. Living on the beach for four weeks was incredible!
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(Ford and Stephen with Tyson and friend in Surfers’ Paradise)

One of the history teachers at TSS, Mr. John Wallace, travelled to MBA on exchange in 2006, and he treated us to a dinner at the resort where he lives as a ‘thank you’ for his two weeks in Nashville. Mr. Wallace was incredibly enthusiastic about his time at MBA, asking about many of the teachers he met, and expressing profound gratitude for the hospitality shown to him by Dr. Gioia and others.
(The Thorold guys with Ford and Stephen in back row in black hats)

We would like to thank the Warner family for providing us with the opportunity to go on such an amazing exchange to the Gold Coast. Also, we would like to thank Dr. Gioia and Mrs. Scholer for organizing the exchange, and everyone at The Southport School, especially the boys in Thorold house, for welcoming us so readily. We enjoyed it very much and it was a life-changing experience for us both. Immersing ourselves in a different culture and observing how schools function on the other side of the world was a fascinating and unique experience that would not have been possible without the generosity of the Warner family or the international relationships built by Dr. Gioia and Mrs. Scholer. We highly encourage all MBA students to apply for an exchange because it was an incredible experience that gave us a glimpse into the Australian culture and broadened our worldviews. Again, thank you to the Warner family and MBA for this wonderful opportunity.
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Ford petting a kangaroo at the Currumbin Wildlife Center.