The beautiful scenery of a New Zealand mountainside
During my freshman orientation at the Ohio State University, I remember learning about the many study abroad opportunities offered by the university and thinking to myself that I would never be able to participate in something so distinctive. I had barely ever traveled outside of my home state of Ohio, let alone the United States, and travelling to another country sounded way out of reach. Yet in the back of my mind, I somewhat hoped that someday I would be able to do just that.
Now, three years later, I’ve just finished a study abroad trip in New Zealand, a country located on the other side of the world! My freshman self could never have imagined doing something so far out of my comfort zone, and the fact that I was able to accomplish this feat is a testament to just how much I have grown throughout my college experience.
Myself holding a fluffy New Zealand bumblebee
Although I am studying entomology, this study abroad focused on environmental sciences: the impacts of tourism and human development on the environment. Still, I was able to have several entomology-related experiences. I learned some new things about Manuka honey, an expensive medicinal honey produced only by New Zealand honeybees. I got to see a display of different insects that can be found at different elevations at a local natural history museum. And I found many interesting bugs out in the wild, including ichneumon wasps, bumblebees, immature wetas, and a praying mantis.
Throughout the study abroad, we learned several things about the natural history of New Zealand, the Maori people, sustainable New Zealand businesses, and the tourism industry. I greatly enjoyed learning about Maori culture, which is very different from American culture. My favorite thing that we learned was a traditional Maori song; singing is very important in Maori tradition. In fact, when we introduced ourselves to the Maori at the marae that we stayed overnight at, we sang the Ohio State University Alma Mater as part of a traditional greeting.
Myself bungy jumping from the tallest bungy in New Zealand
Some activities we participated in included whale watching, rowing waka amas (traditional Maori boats), ziplining, a vineyard tour, invasive weed removal, wildlife viewing, and hiking. Some of the wildlife we observed included dolphins, penguins, sea lions, seals, kias, and other native birds. While in Queenstown we had a free day to explore the city. A few newly made friends invited me to go bungy jumping, and with Queenstown being the adventure capital of the world, I just couldn’t turn down the opportunity.
In addition to attending lectures, completing readings, and writing essay questions, we also were divided into small groups to complete a small research project on New Zealand perspectives of tourism. This project involved working together as a team to interview the people of New Zealand about their views on tourism and its impact on the New Zealand environment. It was very interesting to hear the viewpoints of New Zealand residents firsthand. At the end of the class, each group wrote a small research paper and presented their findings. Overall it turned out that New Zealand has a generally positive attitude about tourism, but they still greatly care about the environment and how tourism could impact it.
Myself sitting on some coastal rocks
This study abroad was not only an opportunity for me to learn more about environmental issues and cultures in another country, it was also an opportunity for me to be more independent. I’d never spent longer than a week away from home. I’d never even been on a plane before. Yet I was able to figure everything out and make it on my own for an entire month. I feel like this trip was a great experience of personal growth and exploration. I was very nervous before going on the trip, but afterward I can happily say that I would do it all again in a heartbeat. I made so many memories and learned so many things, and I would recommend every student strive to participate in a study abroad experience before they graduate so that they, too, can experience the independence, learning, and personal growth that comes with travelling to another country.
The stretching vineyard at Yealands Estate