Jazmyne Mitchell ’21 in New Zealand

The University of Delaware created the first recognized study abroad experience in 1923. You may know the story of the eight juniors who sailed to France for a year or maybe you are just a fan of “1923,” the UDairy flavor honoring the trip with a twist on French Vanilla. But did you know that more than 30% of UD students study abroad at least once before graduating? Honors student Jazmyne Mitchell ’21 is part of that 30% and planned her study abroad before even starting classes at the university.

Feeding kangaroos

As she was going through the college selection process, Delaware was one of her top three choices. Jazmyne had heard about the amazing study abroad programs but assumed it would be difficult to do as a mechanical engineering major. “Then I found this study abroad,” she said. “The descriptions seemed so appealing.” The opportunity to study abroad as an engineer was a factor in her decision to attend UD, and Jazmyne went to New Zealand for the 2020 winter term with Dr. Michael Chajes’ civil & environmental engineering program. “They descried the transportation class as exploring the city first-hand and learning about the modes of transportation available. The sustainability class was to figure out how New Zealand is sustainable and what we can try to bring back to our country,” she said.

Once in New Zealand, students had a mix of hands-on and traditional educational experiences. She had assignments to get to specific places around New Zealand using at least two modes of transportation. “This was really fun because we got to explore some places we may never have seen on our own,” she said. They were often grouped with students they didn’t know very well, allowing them to make new connections. “My group went to the Canterbury Earthquake Memorial,” which was interesting she said. “Instead of placing flowers near the names of people who passed, they put rocks.” They still had time in classrooms and still had exams, but the exploration of New Zealand really enhanced the content learned in class.

“My favorite adventure was definitely going to the Dark Sky Zone in Tekapo,” she said. In the Dark Sky Zone, no aircraft are allowed to fly and white light is prohibited. If you have ever been camping, you may recall seeing more stars in the sky. Without air traffic and light pollution, there is so much in the sky to see. “I have never seen so many stars before in my life,” she said. “We saw the full Orion constellation – not just the belt.” They also viewed stars that brought her back to the Harry Potter series – Sirius and Bellatrix. “And we didn’t just see stars. We saw part of the Milky Way galaxy too,” she said. “It was absolutely breathtaking.”

Jazmyne was even able to earn Honors credits while abroad, by participating in a book club with Dr. Chajes. The book, Climate Justice, by Mary Robinson talked about the effects humans have had on the Earth, but also reflected on the initiatives being taken around the world to be more sustainable and make a difference. The book club met at restaurants and parks regularly to discuss the book and apply it to the curriculum in their sustainability class.
One of the most interesting things she learned during her time in New Zealand is about climate change: “The smallest countries that have caused the least damage are facing the harshest of consequences,” Jazmyne reflected. “There are entire countries that will be underwater within the next 10-15 years. This is a battle that requires the cooperation of all people and all countries.”

Are you considering a trip to New Zealand? Here are Jazmyne’s top tips:
1. Definitely visit Queenstown. You will not be disappointed by the beautiful town and all of the fun activities!
2. Bring a variety of clothes. New Zealand had all kinds of temperatures – in Auckland (north) it was summertime hot, but in Christchurch (central) we were bundled up in sweats at all times.

We got to learn about all the different kinds of sheep and also see other animals like the sheep dogs!

For the book club, we met at a restaurant for crepes and discussion. 

While walking through the wildlife preserve, we saw a kangaroo with a joey in her pouch.

Photo of me (left) and friend Izzy (right) after a hike up Mount Cavendish in the Port Hills. We chose the hiking option instead of taking the gondola up.

Photo of me next to the plane we took with Air Milford to Milford sound.

Photo of a waterfall on the Milford Sound cruise.

Photo of me (left) Jasmine (middle) and izzy (right) with our horses. (Mine was named Doug)  We went on a two hour horseback ride with Dart River Safari in Queenstown.

Photo of me (middle) and my friends Jasmine (left) and Izzy (right).  We were kayaking on the Avon River in Christchurch.

Photo from the plane ride I took with Air Milford on our way from Queenstown to Milford Sound.

Interested in more stories from this study abroad trip? Read the posts from all of the students here: https://mjchajes.tumblr.com/