Exploring Rotorua, New Zealand

Submitted by Stepfanie Stapf on the 2023 summer session program in New Zealand and Australia…

Walking along a bridge during a zip-lining Canopy Tour in Rotorua, NZ

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)

Australia: Sunrise on the Harbour

Submitted by Olivia Szefer on the 2020 spring semester study abroad program in Sydney, Australia…

The iconic sites of Sydney are of course the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge which can be seen from every angle of the Harbour. After two months of living and studying in Sydney, I had plenty of time to admire them at different times of day and at different angles throughout the Harbour. However, I have never had a view from them on the actual water even though I had taken ferries before to Barangaroo. A major catalyst in finding a unique way to experience the two Australian landmarks was that my sister was visiting from Texas A&M on her spring break and I wanted to have a memorable time with her. After searching the web, I finally found the perfect adventure for us: Sydney by Kayak.

This program takes individuals and groups out into the harbour on kayaks to learn about the waterway, but also to witness the glorious sunrise come up upon the bridge and opera house. We were both able to appreciate where we were in the world and how lucky we both were to be in such a beautiful place as the colors appeared across the sky. Once we took some posed photos, we journeyed on around Lavender Bay then we kayaked to various wharfs. Throughout this experience, we learned about the origins of Luna Park, how ferries use their horns and about various convicts from the beginning of the colony. I am thankful to have seen the beautiful sunrise and to have hadquality time with my sister whom I don’t get to see often.

Australia: A Night at the Taronga Zoo

Submitted by Harrison Crum on the 2020 spring semester study abroad program in Sydney, Australia…

This past Monday, I traveled to the Taronga Zoo to participate in their roar & snore overnight event. I had the opportunity to stay overnight at the zoo and experience the nightlife of all the animals and participate in the morning duties that the staff go through. We watched as possums climbed into trees and penguins nestled their eggs. Our guides allowed us to touch numerous animals, including a Children’s Python, bearded dragon, and a possum that was only just recently welcomed to the zoo. During the cool of the night, many animals that are not usually out and about were exploring their enclosures. One such creature was the Bongo, which typically confines itself to a corner of its enclosure during the daytime. We saw this animal grazing on the various foods around it and scratching its back with its large horns. It was truly amazing to watch, especially given that there are only about 80 more of these creatures in the world. Back at our tents, there was an incredible view. We could see the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Sydney Opera House, and the rest of the city.

In the morning, we were treated to a few behind the scenes events throughout the zoo. The most notable was when we traveled to see the giraffes. We were given the rare opportunity to feed the two giraffes lettuce. I held out my hand with the lettuce and each of the giraffes bent their long necks down and used their tongues to grab it. We learned more about the giraffe, including how the brown patches on their fur help to keep them warm during the cool nights, whereas the white stripes around their bodies travel along their blood vessels to keep their blood cool during the extreme heat. This was such a surreal experience, and an extremely unique opportunity given that the Taronga Zoo is home to many animals that are not seen anywhere else, either in the wild or in other zoos. I have seen so many new and fascinating animals since I’ve been in Australia and I’ve had an extraordinary time.

Two giraffes at the Taronga Zoo in Sydney

Australia: Social Acceptance

Submitted by Michael Davis on the 2020 spring semester study abroad program in Sydney, Australia sponsored by the Department of Behavioral Health and Nutrition…

In my time in Sydney, Australia, I have noted a lot of similarities to the United States. However, I have noticed how there are different norms in Australia which seem to make it easier to be socially accepted. Australia is the laxer of the two countries.

To begin with, you will quickly notice how many people have tattoos and tattoo sleeves that are visible while they are in business and work attire. While in the United States, tattoos are becoming more of a norm, it is still common to conceal them when at work to avoid looking “unprofessional.” Here, it seems you are in the minority if you do not have one.

I would say that the same goes for piercings as well. Many people have nose rings, septum piercings, etc., that would be considered unflattering in the workplace in the United States. I believe that the lax nature is because the Australian workplace understands that appearances don’t determine a person’s work performance.

While the country may seem more relaxed and easy going, it does not mean that the country suffers from productivity. It may be the opposite. You do not have to spend time worrying about social norms that are unrelated to your work and can spend more time doing work with less pressure.

One of the many tattoo and piercing shops I pass on my way to work


Australia: Volunteer Beach Cleanup

Submitted by Harrison Crum on the 2020 spring semester study abroad program in Sydney, Australia…

Pollution is a global problem and Australia is no exception. While many of the beaches are clean here, when a storm rolls through, trash floods many of them. Thankfully, as awareness of this problem increases, many volunteer groups in the area have formed that seek to clean up the litter. One such place is the Dive Centre Manly. This past weekend, they held a volunteer beach cleanup with all of their gear up to half priced for the day. Volunteers had the option to pay for scuba or snorkeling gear, or walk along the shoreline and pick up debris. While most of the volunteers were veteran divers with their own gear, there were a handful of us that were not experienced and walked along the beach. The target of this cleanup was mainly plastic. While other materials, such as glass, can be used by aquatic life as homes without much, if any, negative effects, plastic causes numerous issues. Sea life can mistake plastic for food and ingest it, and this can cause the animal to die. So during this dive, glass was left behind for homes, but all plastic was collected because of its adverse effects. From this dive, I learned a great amount about how waste and debris ends up in the ocean.

In the past couple of decades, Australia has realized just how much of their waste ends up in their oceans and the impact it has on both their lives and the lives of the Australian wildlife. They’ve begun creating more policies against dumping in the oceans and placed much emphasis on recycling. Most Australians stray away from single use plastics, and plastics in general. There are many, many things I have come to love about Sydney, but the biggest takeaway so far is the environmental awareness and the willingness of Australians to take time out of their schedules to address a problem that is not going away. I believe this responsibility that the individual takes for ensuring there is a liveable environment for not only their generation, but generations to come, is something that I will incorporate into my attitudes even after my study abroad program.

Australia: Homesickness and New Friends

Submitted by Olivia Szefer on the 2020 spring semester study abroad program in Sydney, Australia…

Homesickness hit me quite hard this past week. I made a plan to have a phone call with my parents, significant other and my sister about twice a week. This way, both sides would be able to communicate openly and not miss out. However, I still began to miss them and their close presence to me. I am quite the homebody and extremely family-oriented, therefore moving across the world for three months was quite the adventure. Little to say, I was down in the dumps for a few days in this beautiful country. The silver lining in this story is that the wonderful friendships that I have made here helped me with this dilemma. My friends came to my door with coffee, a box of Tim Tams and warm hugs to comfort me. Later, the group of us made a pact to keep each other busy with adventures and day trips to not feel as lonely and stuck with our thoughts. I am lucky to have come out of my comfort zone and make new friends from across the United States who in turn help me with my longing for home.

The picture is of us sand boarding in Port Stephens

Australia: Ties Between Australia and China

Submitted by Harrison Crum on the 2020 spring semester study abroad program in Sydney, Australia…

Australia values their ties with Asia, in particular China, and one way in which this is best exemplified is through their Chinese Lunar New Year celebration held throughout the city of Sydney. Since I arrived, I have seen countless advertisements preparing the Australian citizens for these celebrations. Here in Sydney, there is a huge three-week festival to celebrate the Year of the Rat. All throughout the city there is live entertainment, performers, golden rat robots, games, lion dancers, markets, and food trucks. In particular, in the Circular Quay area there are the Lunar Lanterns. The Lunar Lanterns are a creative, contemporary interpretation of a centuries-old tradition. Twelve pieces of giant artwork are on display, each is a different animal that represents a creature of the zodiac. It was such a great opportunity to experience a part of the culture of China, and at the same time, the relationship between Australia and China. The artwork was absolutely beautiful, the attention to detail was astonishing. And the fact that the city displayed these works of art in one of the most populated parts of the city shows the strong ties between the two countries. While America plays a large role in most countries around the world, it has been very interesting to witness the interactions between cultures that I am not native to, which is obviously something hard to do when living in my home country. Australia has relationships with various countries and I greatly anticipate being able to view them.

The Lunar Lanterns in the Circular Quay area – rabbit zodiac creature


Australia: A Few “Firsts”

Submitted by a student on the 2020 winter session program in Australia and Thailand sponsored by the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics…

I am on my way back to the United States and am very excited to be back. Study abroad has been the opportunity of a lifetime and I am very glad UD gave my this chance. During my final week abroad, I have had the opportunity to experience many firsts and see sights I may never get the chance to see again.

I spent the last few days on my program visiting companies and saying good-bye to my classmates. We had a great 3 course meal overlooking the harbor bridge we had climbed just a few days before and reflected on all of our favorite moments of the program. Then about half of the students headed back to the United States and the rest of us continued on to Cairns.

We started our trip to Cairns by visiting the Great Barrier Reef where I got to see the reef, swim with a sea turtle, and learn all about the reef. We then got to do a tour of the rain forests and go swimming in a few lakes and waterfalls.

I am excited to return to UD in a few days and apply what I’ve learned while abroad to my future education.

Australia: Pushing Through Fear

Submitted by Olivia Szefer on the 2020 spring semester study abroad program in Sydney, Australia…

This past weekend, the CAPA program sponsored a trip for the students to the Blue Mountains as well as the Featherdale Wildlife Park. From the time I landed in Sydney, I was excited to travel to these places because I am an avid hiker and large animal lover. Once I got there, it was exhilarating since I have never been this close to such beautiful creatures, and I even had the chance to feed some of them like the kangaroos and wallabies. The picture below shows my friend Amíca on the left and I on the right feeding a kangaroo some regular feed. However, with the Blue Mountains trip I was forced to get out of my comfort zone. I am petrified of heights and during the hike we were passing by cliffs that had high drop offs that would lead straight to the valley below. At one point in our hike, there was a moment where we had to climb down steep stairs to get onto the three sisters – where it was a straight drop. Though I was scared to climb down, I pushed myself through my comfort zone in order to experience new things and to have amazing memories with my newly made friends.

Australia: Favorite Parts of Study Abroad

Submitted by Cassidy Pieper on the 2020 winter session program in Australia and Thailand sponsored by the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics…

During the final week of this amazing experience, we were able to explore Sydney on our own with more downtime to ourselves. During our free weekend, we explored the Blue Mountains. We were very lucky to be able to travel through the bush and learn about the fires and how they impacted the entire country and surrounding areas. On Australia Day, we celebrated at a dinner with most of our group. This past month, getting to know other students at UD, has been one of my favorite parts about the program. I have formed friendships that will last a lifetime.

We ended the program with three company visits. My favorite was hearing from the executives of Cochlear. We were also able to tour their innovation rooms and experience first hand all of the fine details that go into making their implants. On our final evening together, our entire group, including our professors and program directors shared a meal at a restaurant with a view of the Sydney Harbor Bridge and Opera House. As we wrapped up our program, I was able to reflect about how much I learned about different cultures, myself, and how businesses run internationally. These will all help me as I continue my education and the skills I have learned will follow me through my career.

Blue Mountains, Wentworth Falls