Lessons from New Zealand

Submitted by Riley Browning on the 2023 summer program in New Zealand…

This is my final week in New Zealand. I am torn between wanting to go home and staying here. I had a wonderful time, but I do miss my puppies and my family.

During my stay in New Zealand, I learned a lot about the agricultural practices of the people here as well as their culture. Farmers in New Zealand simply love their jobs. Every farm we visited explained how much they enjoy being the person who feeds the whole world. One arboreal farmer in particular said he knows he has the best potatoes and he is proud to be recognized for having the best potatoes. Another farmer explained that one of his top priorities is the happiness of his employees. He wants them to want to come to work every day and enjoy themselves while working. I think that is something America could do better at. A job is not all about money and benefits, but most jobs in America are based on money and benefits. I believe if people want to come to work every day they will produce higher than a person who hates their job. Every job needs to be done effectively and efficiently. When you enjoy what you are doing effectiveness and efficiency come naturally.

I see the culture of New Zealand as very family-oriented. Businesses are passed down, everything is shut down for the holidays, and people are friendly. As I stated before almost all work in America is done for money and benefits. Therefore, children of small business owners lose their businesses because their children were given a better offer. Also for the holidays, at most a big business will close early and open later in America. Unless it is a small business stores are normally open for a few hours. I believe those hours should be spent with your family, enjoy the holidays because it’s a holiday. Lastly, people are just friendly and willing to help. Most of the time it seems like Americans are afraid to trust other Americans. I think that is kind of sad that at first we always have to think the worst of each other.

As my final week in New Zealand comes to a close, I can look back at the things I have learned about agriculture and the New Zealand people. I hope what I have learned will make me a better person now and in the future. (Submitted during Week Five).

Reaching New Heights

Submitted by Riley Browning on the 2023 summer program in New Zealand…

This was my fourth week in New Zealand. This week we stayed in Queenstown, about a 7-hour drive from our usual home in Lincoln.

In Queenstown, we stayed in another hostel. This hostel was much smaller but I enjoyed it quite a bit more than the hostel in Lake Tekapo. This hostel had curtains on each bunk bed for privacy, which was nice for people who wanted to stay up late or go to bed early. Once you close the curtain the light on your phone doesn’t bother anyone. While in Queenstown I hiked, skydived, and relaxed. It was a more popular town than Lake Tekapo, with more people, more things to do, and more places to eat. The hike I went on was to the top of the mountain in Queenstown and once at the top, I could see the whole town below. It was a beautiful view! I skydived for the first time ever and it was a total adrenaline rush. I got to chat with my tandem on the flight down. A tandem is the person that is strapped to you when you first skydive, they work all the straps and release the parachute. I learned his mother and father both skydived, so he had been doing it since he was little, and he loved his job. Another experience I had in Queenstown was watching the buskers (street performers). I found that I enjoyed the musical ones more than the comical ones. There was one man who sang songs and his dog howled with him! It was nice to relax in Queenstown, but the area did finally make me homesick. There was a beach area and a dock for boats and water sports. Being on the dock and around the beach made me think about the beach at home and made me want to go back. It is also very soothing to me to sit on the dock and night and listen to the waves crash against the beach. I am still very much enjoying my trip, but I do wish I could share it with my family.

Hiking in Queenstown

Queenstown was a place I will never forget, and I am grateful for the opportunity to witness it. I met new people, saw new views, tried something new, and got a little homesick. I am ready to see what my last week has in store! (Submitted during Week Four).

Exploring Lake Tekapo

Submitted by Riley Browning on the 2023 summer program in New Zealand…

This was my third week in New Zealand. This week we went to Lake Tekapo and I had my first experience in a hostel.

Lake Tekapo is a little beachy town south of Lincoln where we normally stay. It was about a 4-hour bus ride to get there. It was a rock beach and the sand was SUPER hot. The water was absolutely freezing, but it was the most beautiful water I have ever seen. While we were there we went kayaking and swimming. I took a nice little nap on my kayak while soaking up the sun and letting the soft sway of the water put me to sleep. We also went hiking on about a 5-mile trail. It only took us about an hour to get to the top (it was very steep). Whereas it took us about 2 hours to get back down (it was a long and slow decline). The view at the top of the hike was amazing. From the top, you could see the entire lake, the beach, and our hostel. There was also a little café at the top of the mountain where I got a rewarding smoothie. My experience at the hostel was not what I was expecting.

The hostel was very clean and had lots of new people to meet. In my room, there was a New Zealand native and someone from Boston. The man from Boston was traveling to New Zealand to study agriculture. This is exactly what I am doing here with my study abroad group! The bathroom was a community bathroom, kind of like you would see at a campground, but it was inside so it was clean. There was a community kitchen as well. There were about 2 microwaves, 2 ovens, 6 stove tops, and 4 sinks. It was so cool to watch multiple people at once cutting up ingredients and cooking up some tasty-looking food. In the kitchen, there was also a bin that you could put food in for other people to have, once you put something in you could then take something you wanted out of the bin. It reminded me of a Geocache, but with food.

My third week in New Zealand was a whole new experience at Lake Tekapo and my first stay at a hostel. We are going to stay at another hostel in Queenstown next week. Stay tuned! (Submitted during Week Three).

Embracing New Zealand’s Wildlife

Submitted by Riley Browning on the 2023 summer program in New Zealand…

This week was my second week in New Zealand. During this week I have been able to see more of the town of Christchurch and experience more of what New Zealand has to offer. I was especially interested in their wildlife breeding efforts, to try and bring back endangered species. It was also nice to see the beauty of Christchurch itself.

         The kiwi is a bird that is incapable of flying and can only be found in New Zealand. They are endangered because they are easy prey and 90% of the fledglings do not reach adulthood. It is the national bird of New Zealand and there are multiple programs that are working on getting them off the endangered species list. Willowbank is a wildlife preserve doing everything they can to protect this species. They will go out into the wild and find kiwi eggs, bring them back to the preserve, and raise them to adulthood. They are working on breeding kiwi and releasing the ones they can. They are also advocating for the Kiwi, showing people what they are and that they need help. The kiwi is an odd-looking bird, but I believe any effort to save the kiwi population is worth supporting.

         The town of Christchurch has a mixture of beautiful views and a city center that includes a museum and botanical gardens. I hiked a 5-mile trail to the top of a mountain in Christchurch and could see for miles and look down on the city of Lyttleton. I am not a huge plant person but walking through the botanical gardens was very interesting. I will have to say my favorite part was the ducks. A New Zealand native saw a few of us admiring the ducks and explained a little about their species. The ducks we saw were paradise ducks, the females are the colorful ones (U.S. birds the male is the colorful one) and they mate for life. So, we saw a male and female pair with 4-5 ducklings.         My second week in New Zealand will be one to remember. This week, I have had more time to see the beauty of New Zealand. I have also been able to witness their work in protecting and supporting the kiwi population. I can’t wait to see what next week has in store! (Submitted during Week 2).

My First Week in New Zealand

Submitted by Riley Browning on the 2023 summer program in New Zealand…

This week was my first week in New Zealand. As I have been here I have been able to reflect on the differences in farm production and eco-friendly aspects of New Zealand compared to the United States. The biggest difference in farm production that I have seen so far is the open pasture farms that are here. All the livestock in New Zealand have full access to all the grass in their paddock. They are not given supplemental nutrients because they receive all the necessary nutrients from the grass in their paddock. Therefore, they are spending no money on feed. Whereas in the United States, all our cattle are fed a mixture of grass and supplemental roughages to equal the need requirements of our cattle. These dairy farms are just as efficient if not more than the United States in producing milk. The only food their cattle get is grass. We spend so much extra money on these nutrient supplements because we don’t have the space to allow our cattle full access to graze on all grass, all day, every day. Can we do better?

         Another difference I have thought a lot about is something so simple that I think it can be implemented in the United States quickly. The dining hall of Lincoln University has a separate bucket from the trash for organic material to be thrown out. I have never been to a buffet in a university dining hall or another restaurant where there is a special bin for organic material. It all just gets thrown away with the other trash. I think we could easily have a dedicated bucket for organic leftover food material that all gets thrown together and can be reused into our soil to make more food.

         The last thing I want to mention for this week is the blue water. I live in Delaware and go to the beach in Delaware. Our beach water is green or brown. You can see 1 inch into the water. In New Zealand, I can see multiple feet to the bottom of the water. The water is beautiful! What can we do to clean up our oceans? (Week 1).

Embracing Every Moment

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

We are now at our final location, which is a town in Australia called Brisbane. We started off by attending a cultural tour where we learned about the Aboriginal people of the country. The tour guide provided us with extremely detailed and insightful information about indigenous practices, including those of her own tribe. I learned that the Aboriginal people were historically able to make use of the environment using knowledge equivalent to the present discoveries of scientists. Additionally, in Australia, the indigenous land is recognized in most public places, which is uncommon in the United States. I have realized how important and necessary this acknowledgment is, and am determined to educate myself on the historical and present indigenous cultures of my town.

Surfing in Gold Coast, Australia

The next day, we hopped onto a train and headed to the beaches of Gold Coast. When we arrived, the surfboards were out and ready for us. I was pretty nervous and did not think I would be able to come close to standing up on one. I ended up doing much better than I had anticipated, and rode a wave nearly all the way to shore! Surfing has never been an item on my bucket list, but I am so glad that this program pushed me outside of my comfort zone. Activities like this have made me so appreciative of this opportunity and all of the adventures I have been able to pursue. I do not think I would have signed up for a surfing lesson on my own before this, and now I can say that I am eager to surf again. 

As our final week approaches, I am trying my best to embrace every moment. I am looking forward to learning more about Brisbane, as well as more about myself. Every day has been a new adventure, and I am not quite done exploring Australia yet. 

Working through my Bucket List

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

My final week in Australia was much more relaxed, but still allowed me to cross off numerous items on my bucket list. One of these items was snorkeling, which we did along a coral reef site on Moreton Island. I had no idea what to expect and was nervous about the logistics of being able to breathe. The experience ended up being less intense than I expected, and more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. I found it so amazing how clearly I could witness all of the sea life, including the vivid colors of the fish and the immaculate details of the coral reef. These sights felt like they could have come from a movie, and it is hard to believe that I was seeing such a beautiful display with my own eyes, in real-time. The experience was followed up with a presentation, during which we learned about the effects of global warming and what we could do to help protect these ecosystems. The instructor exhibited so much knowledge and passion, emphasizing how important and urgent these environmental concerns are.

Snorkeling along the coast of Moreton Island

Encompassing everything I have learned on this trip into a paragraph would be impossible. I have discovered so much about the world and myself. This was my first time traveling outside of the United States, so I did not have any clear expectations. These thirty days have been the most eventful in my life. The sights of my first foreign country during the 6 a.m. bus ride from Auckland Airport will be ingrained in my mind forever. I embarked on countless educational opportunities while also experiencing bucket-list sights and activities. I floated on a raft through a cave in New Zealand, climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge, pet a Kangaroo, and embarked on so many other once-in-a-lifetime experiences. New Zealand and Australia have a special place in my heart, and I am already planning my next trip back.

My Final Week Abroad

Submitted by Taylor Lynch on the 2023 summer program in New Zealand and Australia…

I can’t believe that my time on my study abroad trip is coming to an end. This has been an amazing trip, and I will definitely be leaving with lifelong memories as well as amazing friends. Going on a trip like this has been a truly unique experience, and I am very happy that I decided to go through with it and try something that was out of my comfort zone. The amazing people that I have met, as well as the new places and cultures that I was able to learn about and experience, made the long trip to Australia and New Zealand worth it. 

During the last week in Brisbane we went to Moreton Island to snorkel along the ship ruins there. When we got off the ferry and walked onto the island, I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. The water was so clear and blue, and the actual island itself was covered in trees, and lots of white sand. There is a line of about 15 ships that were purposefully sunk in the water that surrounds the island. We were able to snorkel around them to see the wrecks as well as the wildlife around them. When we got into the water, it was so crazy to see how many fish as well as coral were around the wreck. Looking around at all of the different types of fish around me was such a cool experience. It was also astonishing to see all of the different types of fish there and how they all got along and were able to co-exist. On the shipwrecks, there were also many different types of corals that were growing on them, and the wrecks also acted as shelter for the fish. It was amazing to see the huge ecosystem that was able to be created from these wrecks, and how a new community of sea life is able to flourish there. 

Walking off the ferry at Moreton Island

After snorkeling we were able to learn more about the history of the wrecks that we just saw. I was surprised to find out that the ships were purposefully sunk in that area. The Queensland Government purposefully sank fifteen ships over the course of a few years in order to create a place for boats to safely stop and anchor on the island. This was really interesting to learn about and something that I have never heard of or knew was an option. I always thought prior to this experience that shipwrecks would be harmful to the ocean and its ecosystems. However, seeing how all of the animals living at the wrecks were able to flourish, and that these ships were purposely sunk, it is apparent that it was a beneficial decision for both the people as well as the ocean wildlife. 

For our last excursion as a group, we went kayaking on the Brisbane River.  I have never been kayaking before so I was really excited to try it out. I was also looking forward to being able to see the city of Brisbane from a different angle. It was really cool to be able to kayak in the river and the views of the city from where we were was really pretty. The current of the river was going towards us, so it was a little hard to paddle down the river. On the way back, however, it was really easy since we had the help of the current. This was a fun last activity to do as a group, and I really am going to miss being able to experience new things in these amazing cities. 

Overall, I had a wonderful time in both New Zealand and Australia, and have learned so much during my time on this study abroad trip. Learning about the culture and native people of both New Zealand and Australia was definitely a highlight. I think it is very interesting to learn about the history of other countries and see how it differs from the US. It was also amazing to be able to experience a new culture and a way of living. This was a good reminder of how different people chose to live their lives, yet are still able to be connected to the world around them. This was definitely a great experience, and I would recommend it to anyone to study abroad if they are considering it. 

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)

New Zealand: A Day in the Life- January 9, 2020

Submitted by Ilana Shmukler on the 2020 winter session program in New Zealand sponsored by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering…

There is no typical day on a study abroad program, but there is a certain structure that each day follows.

7:30 AM- Wake up. We are staying at the University of Canterbury student accommodations, and we each have our own room along with a shared kitchen per hallway, and two bathrooms. I am usually the first one up, as I like taking my time in the morning. I discovered early on that, sadly, the sunrise cannot be seen from the accommodations, nor from most other places in Christchurch, as it is a very mountainous region.

8:15 AM- Breakfast. The University of Canterbury dining hall is conveniently located just steps from student accommodations. While their breakfast pales in comparison to Caesar Rodney’s Sunday brunch, they do have an excellent selection of fruit- dried, canned, and fresh. I have never had a full kiwi (the fruit, not the flightless bird) before coming on this experience, but since arriving I have had at least one kiwi a day, and they are delicious. A typical breakfast for me is yogurt with fruit, two hard boiled eggs, and toast.

9:00 AM-10:15 AM- Class. The first class of the day is CIEG402, Intro to Sustainable Principles, taught by Professor Chajes. Today’s class was on climate change. We reviewed the greenhouse effect, carbon dioxide emissions by sector, and effects of climate change, among other things. The most surprising fact I learned was that roughly a fifth of all the coral in the world has died in the last three years.

10:15 to 10:30 AM- Break. Between the first and second class, we have a small break. Some people spend the break lying on the grass, or kicking a ball around the courtyard. I go back to my dorm to get some biscuits.

10:30 AM to 12:00 PM- Class. The second class is CIEG351, Transportation Engineering, taught by Sue McNeil. Today’s class is all about pavements. We learn about pavement materials, how they are made, and characteristics of pavement layers. Over the summer, I was an intern for the City of Newark Public Works and Water Resources Department, where I saw the process of asphalt being laid on a side road, so it was nice to see things come full circle.

12:00 PM to 1:00 PM- Lunch. Classes are over, and this is the time to have lunch and make plans for the day. The shared kitchen is very busy at this time, and I make a peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwich. We decide to go to the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, as it is there that we can see the famous New Zealand kiwi. Since there is no bus that goes directly from our accommodations to the reserve, we decide to Uber in groups of four.

1:30 to 4:30 PM. Willowbank Wildlife Reserve. I thought the reserve would be like a zoo, but it most certainly is not. Many of the animals are free to roam around in exhibits that people can walk through. We walked through the kiwi exhibit, which was really dark because kiwis are nocturnal. New Zealand has no native land mammals, so many of their native birds, including the kiwi, can’t fly- as they had no need to escape mammalian predators. The reserve had food for purchase to feed the animal s- farmyard food, bird food, fish food, and eel food. Although I didn’t participate in the feeding of the eels, it was certainly something to watch.

5-6PM- Laundry time. The laundry room is conveniently an attachment to the classroom, and doesn’t cost anything to use. I still dislike doing laundry, but this makes it easy. After the clothes are done washing, I hang them on drying racks in the kitchen and open all the windows. By tomorrow morning, they will be dry.

6PM- Dinner. Sometimes I go out for dinner, but today I cook some tortellini I bought from the supermarket, Countdown. We were finally able to secure more than one pot, and other essential cooking utensils, so multiple people can cook at the same time.

7PM-10PM- Homework. Transportation homework is due tomorrow, and I am not even halfway done. A bunch of us go to the classroom, which is a minute walk from accommodations, to work on it together. There are four homework assignments due total, around one each week, so it is very important that they are done right.

10:30 PM- Bedtime. What a day to be.

Drying laundry in the common room

Willowbank Wildlife Reserve

Breakfast at the University of Canterbury