Submitted by Stepfanie Stapf on the 2023 summer session program in New Zealand and Australia…
Hamilton, New Zealand has been my home for the last week. Every day has consisted of a new experience, and I am happy to say that new friendships have arisen as well. The time change was definitely apparent, as New Zealand is 16 hours ahead of the United States!
Due to the reversal of the seasons, the weather here has been a bit chilly, but this has not stopped us from being outside. One of the most memorable activities so far has been black water rafting through Waitomo cave. I had never been rafting before, so this was quite the first experience. We had to jump off of running waterfalls and float through complete darkness. I was terrified in the beginning, but the confidence of the tour guides and the closeness of our group allowed me to put full trust into the process. When we entered the deepest part of the cave, we looked up and saw thousands of glowworms luminating all that was above. I do not think that I would have embarked on this activity on my own, and I am so fortunate to have done so with the new friends I have made during this trip.
Although our excursions have granted me with the adventure and excitement I was looking for, they have also introduced me to a wealth of knowledge. We visited Te Puia, which is a historical site that houses an institute dedicated to indigenous art and history. There is also a Kiwi bird conservation and a beautiful array of geysers that can only be seen through entry into the institute. These natural attractions have encouraged visitors like us to come and learn about indigenous culture, as well as fund their efforts. Later in the week, we went zip-lining, and learned that our funds for this activity also contributed immensely to rainforest conservation efforts. Previously, I always had a slight feeling of guilt for being a tourist. However, knowing that my presence in these facilities was actually helping them stay open and thrive reminded me of the importance in supporting these remarkable organizations. When I return to the United States, I want to take the extra step of ensuring that the activities I do benefit the greater good, and aren’t just for fun – because plenty that offer both do exist! (Submitted on July 27, 2023)