US now home to sweet maker
BELINDA Wheeler was working at her hand-made chocolate shop at The Summit when she decided to pack her bags and start a new life on the other side of the globe.
Her new path lay in academia and, after graduating from three American universities on her way to a doctoral degree, Belinda is now an assistant professor of English at Paine College in Augusta, Georgia.
The former farm worker said she was happy on the Granite Belt, but felt her calling lay elsewhere.
"I loved working with my friends at the mushroom farm and the orchard, I loved making and selling chocolates to individuals and businesses in the region. I loved going to the Stanthorpe library to check out books, I loved hanging out with my friends at the local Stanthorpe pubs, and I loved just sitting outside and listening to the wind move through the trees," Belinda said.
"I had a good life in Stanthorpe, but the desire to travel and pursue a tertiary education motivated me to sell the few belongings I had and move to the other side of the world."
This will be Belinda's third year working at Paine College, where she has relished the opportunity to pursue her interest in indigenous cultures.
Her first book, A Companion to Australian Aboriginal Literature, has just been released.
"My profession allows me to regularly link my Australian experiences with my American experiences and share that information with my students and colleagues," Belinda said.
"The world is so much smaller today thanks to technological advances and yet there is still so much that many people do not know about other cultures and communities.
"My day-to-day classroom experiences and my scholarship, such as my new book on Australian Aboriginal literature, allow me to build bridges between diverse communities. I cherish these opportunities."
Technology has also been a helpful tool to keep Belinda in constant touch with her friends and family in Stanthorpe, which she says "helps keep the homesickness at bay".
But while she holds dear to memories of her home town, the academic has no immediate plans to return - and she has no regrets about her life-changing move to the states.
"What I like most, overall, about where my life has taken me is the knowledge that anyone can take a leap of faith and begin a new journey if he or she has a strong enough desire," she said.