New Zealand: A Short Reflection On A Month Well Spent

Submitted by Abigail Cooper on the 2020 winter session program in New Zealand sponsored by the Department of  Communication…

Reflecting back on the month I spent studying abroad in New Zealand, I am filled with appreciation and gratitude for the world around me and the way I get to experience it. I have had countless opportunities to do and see amazing things while here and I am so thankful for each and every experience New Zealand has given me. In reflection, I would like to talk about two stand-out moments I had while living abroad that really influenced my overall experience here, those being the time I realized the impact of time zones while in Auckland and the time I made a new friend in Queenstown.

Way back at the beginning of January, my study abroad program had just begun and we were living in a hostel in Auckland, New Zealand. Being the very start of the program, everything was still so exciting and new and I really had not even had a chance to think about my life back at home. Then one night, I had some Indian food for dinner that really did not agree with my stomach, and so instead of exploring Auckland with the rest of my peers, I spent the night in bed feeling sick. I remember feeling so alone and I wanted to be able to call home to my parents or my friends, but since it was about 8:00 pm my time, I knew it was 2:00 am at home and no one would be awake. This was the first time that I needed to talk to someone, but literally had no one to call. I ended up just reading for a while and then going to bed, and I felt a lot better in the morning, but I remember feeling a sense of helplessness and homesickness that I had never really experienced before. This stands out in my mind as the first time I felt the impact of being so far from home, something that I am sure everyone who has studied abroad before can relate to. In hindsight though, I am proud of myself for pushing past the loneliness, taking care of myself for the night, and learning to be a little more independent. This is something that study abroad taught me that I am very thankful for.

Now flashing forward to the beginning of February, another notable experience that I had just a few days ago was rooming with and meeting a new friend while in Queenstown. Four girls from my program and I decided to visit the South Island for the weekend, but the room we were staying in housed six people, meaning there was a random girl assigned to our room as well. This is something we had never experienced before, since the other hostels had always just housed people from our program and no one else. We were a little nervous about this heading into the weekend, but now looking back I am so happy with how things turned out. The girl who was assigned to our room is named Louisa and I quickly learned that she is from England and is travelling for her gap year between high school and university. I made it a point to take the time to get to know Louisa and make her feel included and comfortable within our room and she actually ended up spending Sunday afternoon with our group while her other friends were at work. She thanked me multiple times for including her in our plans and I felt really happy that I was able to make her experience better just by being friendly to her. We now have each other’s contact information and plan to stay in touch, something that I am really happy about.

Overall, both of these experiences taught me about myself and how I can handle situations to make them turn out the way I would like. I learned skills in relationship building and individual responsibility, and really this just starts the conversation on what study abroad has taught me. I am unbelievably sad to leave New Zealand in just a few days, but could not be more thankful for the time I spent here. Thank you also to IGS for the scholarship that helped make my study abroad dream come true! I could not be more grateful.

New Zealand: Appreciation

Submitted by Nicole Skelly on the 2020 winter session program in New Zealand sponsored by the Department of  Communication…

During class this week, we watched a TED talk that Mike Robbins gave on the “Power of Appreciation”. Appreciation is one of the most powerful aspects of successfully motivating and empowering people. The one thing that I took away from the TED talk was the distinction that Mike Robbins made between recognition and appreciation. He talks about how people need to appreciate individuals because of who they are, instead of only recognizing the things that those individuals have done. It made me realize that I need to start verbally appreciating the people around me more. I have so many amazing people in my life who care for me and allow me to do so much. For example, I would not be studying abroad in New Zealand right now if it wasn’t for my family. They are the ones that allowed me to experience this once in a lifetime opportunity. I have been allowed the chance of a lifetime, and it is all because of their love and support; and I cannot wait to go home and express the appreciation I have for them for allowing me to experience everything that I have while being in New Zealand. New Zealand is an amazing country with such a beautiful culture. The things that I have been exposed to while being here have taught me so much, and this experience will stay with me forever.

New Zealand: Today I Met Scott McFadden

Submitted by Dervla Doherty on the 2020 winter session program in New Zealand sponsored by the Department of Animal and Food Sciences…

My visit to the Acheron Station with Scott McFadden was extremely educational and I am so thankful that I got the chance to learn from him and how he manages to succeed in the hill country with no irrigation. I was a little starstruck when meeting him and it was great to experience the same positive energy that I had already seen in the documentary about the Hurunui River and Country Calendar. One of the things that struck me the most about meeting Scott was that he seemed genuinely happy to have us there and he actually appreciated the questions that we asked him. He told me when we were getting ready to depart that he loved having us come and challenge him because it then allows him to mull over the answers he gave us and allows him to possibly come up with some new ideas or improvements for the farm. Meeting Scott McFadden was additionally a great privilege because he was one of the only farmers that talked so openly about mental health. I had never thought about the mental challenges that farming could have on a person. However, after seeing how dry the lands on the high country could get, I got a glimpse of the stress that farmers can face during every season. Scott shared that when running his wool press business he started bringing lollies to farmers which lead to two of them bursting into tears. I have so much admiration for Scott because he demonstrated that helping others overcome these mental challenges could be as easy as giving them candy and having a chat about their struggles. I was so thankful that I could meet Scott because he talked so much about how living a life of good vibes in a holistic manner can just take pressure off of life. Meeting Scott McFadden opened my eyes to the real challenges faced by farmers and he has really shown me that living simply and talking with others can be the key to working with what you love and being happy while doing it.

New Zealand: Milford Sound – Eighth Wonder of the World

Submitted by Sarah Brown on the 2020 winter session program in New Zealand sponsored by the Department of Animal and Food Sciences…

New Zealand is a country full of beautiful landmarks to admire. Last weekend, I took a day trip to Milford Sound, a nature reserve on the southern edge of the South Island. The trip took me away from the dry Canterbury Plains, where I have stayed for most of the program, to Queenstown and over the Southern Alps into the Fjordlands. Milford Sound is one of the wettest places in the world, and the weather there the day I went was different from the surrounding cities. As soon as the bus crossed the Southern Alps, the weather changed drastically from warm and sunny to cool and drizzly. The low-hanging clouds covered the tops of the mountains, giving the Fjordlands a mysterious atmosphere.

When I got to Milford Sound, I went on a nature cruise through the length of the fjord out to the Tasman Sea. The guide said that on a clear day, one could see across it all the way to Australia! While sailing through Milford Sound, we also came across a pod of dolphins playing in the shallows and a group of seals resting on a large rock. At the end, we passed under one of the many waterfalls and enjoyed standing under the mist, even though it was freezing!

Milford Sound is the self-proclaimed eighth wonder of the world. I was definitely filled with wonder looking at the mountains looming out of the water and disappearing into the clouds. Seeing it was one of the things I was looking forward to the most during my time in New Zealand. The quiet, peaceful fjord and its waterfalls from the rain and glaciers were unforgettable to me and I am overjoyed that I had the chance to travel to see them.

A picture of the mountains in Milford Sound during the nature cruise

New Zealand: Mental Health of Farmers

Submitted by Alexandra Diamond on the 2020 winter session program in New Zealand sponsored by the Department of Animal and Food Sciences…

This week, we were lucky enough to travel to Scott McFadden’s farm. Scott mainly produces sheep, but has some beef as well. I found his farm to be very special because he runs it all alone with the addition of a partner who helps him in the mornings. Scott is also very involved in the mental health of the surrounding farmers. Often times, farmers can be very depressed and commit suicide due to the environmental factors and stress of farming. Some days, Scott will travel to nearby farms and have a beer or just simply talk to the farmers. Not only does it help his mental health, but it also helps maintain good relationships. I felt this was important and something that should be recognized and implemented back home in the United States.

In addition to visiting that mid-altitude farm, we traveled to Nelson where we had a free day along with another farm visit. On our free day, basically the entire group walked to the beach, where we spent about nine hours. It was so nice to just be able to relax and take in the view in this beautiful country. I’ve been so busy I haven’t been able to just stop and be grateful for this program, and what I was actually doing. Thinking about how we only have five more days here is crazy, and I’m so sad to see it go. Hopefully, in the future, I can travel back and see the places I didn’t get to see this time around!


New Zealand: Whanau – Family

Submitted by Victoria Anastasi on the 2020 winter session program in New Zealand sponsored by the Department of  Communication…

We went on a three day river trip in which we disconnected completely from the outside world. We learned to paddle, made connections I never thought possible with another family and grew even closer to each other. We learned so much about the Maori culture as well as walking in their shoes and understanding their beliefs. The idea that stuck with me the most was that our past is in front of us to learn from. Although our bodies were tested after paddling three days, it was the most meaningful thing we have done together as a whanau (family).

Yesterday, we went to the Wellington Food and Wine Festival. Our group continues to grow closer and closer. I am so thankful to be here and enjoy this time with people I will hold close to my heart forever. We had beautiful weather and my happiness continues to be grow thanks to my opportunities in this beautiful country. We ate, sang and danced and the people from our river trip even came by. In New Zealand, it is always a see you later!

Australia: Cooking Class with Chef Julie Goodwin

Submitted by Mia DeRicco on the 2020 winter session study abroad program in Australia and New Zealand sponsored by the Department of Hospitality Business Management…

I can now say I took a cooking class alongside a famous Australian Chef Julie Goodwin. This experience is one I will never forget. It not only taught me more about Australian cuisine, but also made me more confident in my abilities to cook and bake! Part of the program I am on is all about learning about the cuisine of Australia and there is no better way than to learn hands on!

Julie first taught us how to make Pavlova, which is a white cake that is hard on the outside and spongy on the inside similar to the texture of a marshmallow. This dish is famous in Australia and when topped with fruit is absolutely delicious! Seeing how simple the recipe was makes me eager to share this Australian tradition with my friends and family back at home! The main course we made was seafood risotto. Throughout my time in Australia, I have seen firsthand how popular seafood is within Australian culture. Since Australia is surrounded by water and has access to fresh seafood, it is understandable why it is so popular and tastes extremely fresh! Julie Goodwin also prepared a lamb for us to eat along with the two dishes we prepared. I got to smell different Australian spices that are used on many dishes and that she seasoned the lamb with. I felt immersed in Australian cuisine and it aided my knowledge on what makes Australian cuisine and culture different from ours back at home.

Pavlova topped with fruit
Seafood Risotto with Squid, Salmon, and Shrimp

New Zealand: Bio-security

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

As I’ve learned throughout my last couple weeks here, New Zealand makes bio-security one of their top priorities. As you go through security, you can’t have any food, any shoes that may have bio-materials on them, and they will fine you $400 NZ if you don’t declare these things going through. I learned more about this on my hike of Routeburn Track. The local ranger explained to us that if we took any clothing or shoes in the nearby lake, we would need to clean/soak them before moving on to the next lake. This is because algae from one lake is not currently found in the other lakes, and if it is spread, it would wreak havoc on the lakes’ environment. It is amazing to see the benefits of their methods; there are no ticks here, no snakes, and no diseases that are often contracted/carried by insects such as mosquitoes and ticks. Taking good care of the environment and land is very important to the people of New Zealand, and it is sad to say that this differs greatly from the mindset I see in the United States.

Lake Howden along Routeburn Track, the lake containing the algae not found in the other lakes

New Zealand: Canoe Trip on the Whanganui River

Submitted by Isabella DeFrancesco on the 2020 winter session program in New Zealand sponsored by the Department of  Communication…

I apologize for the delayed response, as our group has just returned from a three day canoe trip on the Whanganui River. Tucked away from civilization, without cellphone service and WiFi, our group was able to learn about the Maori culture in a way that words will not do justice. Our leader for the experience was a man named Ashley, but he liked to be called Ash. Ash’s family, or Whanau in Maori, took the time to personally get to know each and every member on our program. Over the course of the three days, we were challenged both physically and intellectually. From paddling down a river, over rapids and against the wind, sleeping in sleeping bags on the floor of a one room Marae, and using all of our energy to recite the moves and words of a Haka- a Maori War Dance used as a greeting between different tribes- our group had never been so energized and felt more alive.

Ash and his Whanau also pushed our beliefs about the natural world. They taught us about the purpose of Wai, the Maori word for water, and explained that when we are more in touch with the Wai both around us and inside us, we are more likely to feel connected to others and our purpose in this world. They also told us that the river, along with other forces of nature, speak to us. As a girl who has grown up 40 minutes outside of New York City, a place dominated by skyscrapers and man-made wonders, I have witnessed how much of the Western world falls deaf to the words of nature. Though the landscape of the U.S. is beautiful and naturally diverse, many of us are tucked away in cities and suburban neighborhoods and are not given the chance to fully connect with nature. Many times, we are taught about the benefits that nature can provide to us and how we can meet our needs through it. However, in New Zealand, the Maori forge deep relationships with the natural world. One of their principles revolves around the concept of reciprocity; what the world gives to them, they find a way to give back. Before embarking on our river tour, we asked the river permission to enter, we blessed ourselves with water from the river, and were sure to remember how grateful we were to be in the presence of something larger than ourselves.

On the last day of our trip, I sat in a canoe with three of my fellow classmates, and our river guide named Ihi. While we paddled, we spoke both to each other and to the river and were able to connect deeper with one another by channeling the Wai inside of us all. As I climbed out of the canoe with tears in my eyes, ready to say good-bye to both the river and its family, my lucky lightning bolt necklace that I’ve worn everyday for the past seven years snapped off and fell into the canoe. In this moment, I knew that the river had spoken to me. Instead of getting upset that the river had broken my necklace, I decided to listen to what this moment meant. I said my good-byes and thanked the river for letting me know that all good things must come to an end.

New Zealand: Blending of Two Cultures Along the Whanganui River

Submitted by Abigail Cooper on the 2020 winter session program in New Zealand sponsored by the Department of  Communication…

This past weekend, I was extremely lucky to participate in one of the most rewarding experiences of my time in New Zealand, and quite possibly my life in general. My program had the amazing opportunity to take a three day rowing trip down the Whanganui River, led by a local Maori family that Dr. Holden became close with when she led a previous program to New Zealand two years ago. At first, we all really did not know what to expect, and I heard many nervous and doubtful comments about what was ahead of us on our way to the river. Seriously, we all could not have been more pleasantly surprised. From the very beginning, the Maori family made us feel completely at home and we could genuinely feel the love they had for their river and its surroundings. We rowed a lot, which was hard work, but it was always made better by lots of singing, joking, and water fights along the way. We were offered generous hospitality at night, plenty of home cooked meals and snacks, and a bonding opportunity between two cultures that never would have happened had we just continued our time in New Zealand doing the typical tourist activities offered. It was so inspiring to learn so much about the Maori culture from real people, not just a museum or journal article. I felt connected to their values of love, family, and interconnectedness to nature. Each person on my program definitely left the Whanganui River feeling refreshed and ready to live more caring, loving lives. This experience changed my perspective in so many ways, and I know I will forever be grateful for the opportunities I had and the people I met along the way.

My waka (canoe) group – we loved our guide Ngapuke and even met up with him a few other times throughout our time in Palmerston North just to hang out!