First week in Dunedin, NZ

Submitted by Mara Cabrera on the 2024 Winter KAAP program in New Zealand…

Arriving at the dorms!

My first week in New Zealand has been one of the most special weeks in my life so far. Being part of the KAAP New Zealand trip, my classmates and I have the amazing opportunity to explore most of the country! Instead of staying situated in one place/town, we are traveling throughout the north and south islands of this beautiful country. For the first two weeks, we will be staying in Dunedin, NZ and I am sad to say we only have one week left. So far we have done so many fun activities and I have stepped out of my comfort zone many times with the help of my awesome classmates. In one week we will be traveling with all of our belongings and going west to Queenstown and then up north to the country’s capital, Wellington. So far, Dunedin has been nothing short of amazing for all of us. The nature and landscape are absolutely beautiful, the weather is amazing, and the architecture is unlike what we would see in the United States. We are lucky enough to be staying in single dormitories and have access to three meals a day in the dining hall. Throughout our first week here, most of us have been able to meet and interact with the lovely staff and have gotten to know some of the locals who work around the town. All in all, I am very much enjoying our trip so far and I am so excited for what else New Zealand has to offer! (Submitted on January 11, 2024)

Arriving in New Zealand

Submitted by Andrew Gorski on the 2024 Winter KAAP program in New Zealand…

This week was my first week in New Zealand. We arrived in Dunedin on January 3rd and got dropped off via shuttle at St. Margaret’s College in the University of Otago. Immediately after arriving, I was able to see the differences in New Zealand culture compared to America. The residents of New Zealand, or “Kiwis”, open to tourists with welcoming arms and gratitude.

On January 4th, the last students arrived at St. Margarets where we immediately clicked. We toured around the city of Dunedin and got our first impressions of the city: a peaceful environment with friendly people and hospitality. The dining hall is a beautiful room with New Zealand’s best meals. For dinner, we went to a restaurant that sold burgers and I ordered a “ferocious beast” which consisted of a beef patty, fried chicken breast and bacon.

The day after, we went on our first hike at Signal Hill. The long preparations of physical activity before the trip finally paid off after this tiring, but rewarding, hike. The experience itself was overall beneficial to hear from some of the students in our program and what background they come from. We followed up with this intense exercise by playing a round of basketball in the courtyards. At the end of the day, I had walked 26 kilometers and 33,300 steps.

We started our big scavenger hunt project on Saturday, January 6th. We were divided into groups of four and were instructed to create a presentation about some places and facts we found interesting in Dunedin and Otago. This was another long day of walking with 34,562 steps and 27 kilometers. Otago is mostly known for the Octagon, an eight-sided plaza in the center of the city with a passage that leads to the harbor. In the center is a statue of Robert Burns, a scottish man who is pointing towards the harbor to welcome newcomers into the country of New Zealand, but also has his back to the English Church as a sign of disrespect for the english building without the Scots permissions.

Throughout this trip, we are to keep a daily log of our physical activity with a description of what we accomplished. Many of the New Zealand residents enjoy getting their exercise and walking around the city is the most popular way to burn calories here. We have only been here for a couple of days, but I am excited to see what the future holds for us. (Submitted on January 9, 2024)

University of Otago’s Dining Hall

Week 1: Settling Into Auckland

Submitted by Lauren Stagnitti on the 2024 Winter program in Australia and New Zealand…

View of Waiheke Island from the ferry ride over

After a long travel day, my group and I arrived in Auckland on the morning of Friday, January 5th. After settling in and taking a walking tour of the city, we went to a group dinner where our group bonded quickly and I made many new friends.

On January 6th, our first full day, we traveled to Waiheke Island and visited “Allpress Olive Groves” as a group, where we were able to taste four different olive oils as well as fresh olives. It was very interesting to taste the different flavors of olive oil and learn about what kind of dishes each is meant for. We then spent the day exploring Waiheke Island and we visited Cable Bay Vineyards for lunch and a wine tasting. We learned about different kinds of white and red wines and were able to taste four different kinds. We then went to the beach and got to go cliff jumping and ate dinner on the beach.

On the ferry ride home, we met a local woman named Charolette who talked to us about her experiences as a local, and how they differ from our norms as Americans. We learned about how laws and taxes differ and it was really interesting to learn that in New Zealand, healthcare is free and you cannot sue peoole. She also talked to us about how the New Zealand lifestyle is more laid back compared to the high pace of the lifestyle in America. We also learned that all of the locals are very friendly and willing to help tourists with directions, questions, recommendations, etc. which is different from most parts of the U.S. It was really fascinating to speak with a local and hear about her day to day experiences living in New Zealand, what she does for work, and how she perceives America. 

Touring DHL express with my new friend Johnny!

On January 7th, we visited Waitekere park ranges as well as Piha beach. We hiked in Waitekere and learned about the history of the park, and how to keep it clean. At Piha beach, we hiked to an ocean lookout and were able to see the beautiful views. New Zealander’s are very environmentally conscious and it is really special to learn from them about how we can better take care of our planet. 

Our classes began today, January 8th, and we were lucky enough to get a visit from Mike Hearn at AmCham as well as visit DHL express and meet with their Vice President of Operations, Chitra Shinde. We learned a lot of valuable information about the day to day operations of each business as well as how they handled the global pandemic. At DHL express, we were able to tour the packaging warehouses and see first hand how it efficiently operates. It feels very valuable to get the ability to get this real world, hands on experience and to talk to these important business men and women face to face. 

Overall, we are settling in very well and are making new friends and experiencing new things every day! I can’t wait for what’s to come.   (Submitted on January 7, 2024)

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.