Capella Meurer ‘09 took to heart the notion of making her Washington College experience personal.
Born in Australia’s capital city of Canberra and raised in Baltimore, the dual citizen welcomed the opportunity to return to her birthplace through the College’s study abroad program at Monash University. As part of her coursework there in the spring semester of her sophomore year, she began to study Aboriginal affairs. Australia’s cultural history includes the forcible removal of children from Indigenous parents deemed “neglectful” by governing agencies. The plight of the Stolen Generation and the social repercussions for the generations that followed resonated with Capella, a psychology major in the clinical/counseling track at Washington College.
“I don’t plan to work in child psychology, but because of the deep sense of loss associated with the Stolen Generation, there’s a lot of antisocial behavior in reaction to what they’ve been through. As parents, the Aboriginal people have many hurdles to clear just to be considered adaptive by the wider population.”
After her semester abroad, Capella says, “I decided to find a way to go back.” She queried family friends for internship opportunities and then applied to the College’s Douglass Cater Society for Junior Fellows for a grant to support a summer internship in Melbourne, at the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA). That experience has changed her, broadened her horizons, and given her focus.
“The Cater Society gave me the chance to do something I would never have done otherwise—and something no one else at Washington College has done,” says Capella. “This is related to psychology, but it’s not clinical work. I would not have considered working in an office and doing writing and research. My idea of clinical psychology was to work as a therapist, but I’m not ready for that yet. This experience taught me so much about what’s happened there, and about my own history.”
Australia has issued an Apology to the Aboriginals, and the process of recovery is underway. Capella says that there are now more jobs for Aboriginals, more agencies dedicated to aiding Aboriginal populations, and more businesses and agencies operated by the Aboriginal community.
After graduation, Capella is considering returning to Australia to work in Aboriginal affairs. “I’m not sure when I’ll get there again,” she says, “but Australia is definitely in my future.”