For my STEP signature project, I was given the opportunity to travel abroad to New Zealand through the College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, where I studied animal and human interactions. Each day our group would tour various types production animal farms to compare the differences between how farming is done in New Zealand versus how farming is approached in The United States.
While abroad I came across many emotions. The first being the sheer beauty of the country that is New Zealand. It was absolutely breathtaking to be surrounded by the green grass outstretched for miles in front of you. I was also struck by both the similarities and differences between the United States and New Zealand. I appreciated the way New Zealand approaches farming, and would be lying if I said that that country of New Zealand is behind us in terms of sustainability. However, it was also during the time that I was admiring their country, that I also truly began to appreciate what I have been given at home. Throughout the trip I was constantly looking for interactions, similarities and differences, so much so that I almost forgot to take the entire country for what it was: breathtaking. After returning home, I am more inclined to look at problems or road blocks in front of me a certain way, I am able to truly apply what I have learned from the people in the country of New Zealand in my section of the world.
Each day our group would visit two or three stops based on a type of production animal. For example, one day we visited a salmon hatchery, a dairy farm and were able to witness a sheep shearing show. Every day for ten days we were given the amazing opportunity to leave our normal classroom setting and get out in the real world to study what we had previously learned on slides. That was one of the most important aspects of this trip for myself, so I would also suggest this was where I noticed the most change in myself. It was during our trips outside the classroom that I was able to interact with the locals in New Zealand, learn of the Maori culture and really dive into all of the culture that surrounded me.
While participating in the pre-requisite class at school was informative and also enjoyable, because we did get to leave the classroom and experience what we were learning firsthand, when were in another country the experience was even more enhanced. One of my favorite parts of my trip was when we learned about the Maori culture. On our first night in the country we ate dinner in Rotorua, a town where the Maori people of New Zealand have a village. In this town we had the chance to experience a Maori traditional dinner with all of their traditional food, a dance and other culture rituals they participate in. This was when I was truly able to immerse myself into their culture and know that I was experiencing something unique, something I would now have the chance to experience again.
I believe the final thing that rreally allowed for a transformational change to occur within me might have been the relationships with the people I had on this trip. Our group was smaller- only about 29 people. We got to know each other pretty quickly since we were always around one another. Prior to departing, I was hesitant about this, because I was worried I would not be able to make friends. However, it is with the people on this trip that I am still talking to know, after having returned about a month ago. I am amazed how close traveling together brought us. I have been able to look to them for questions and have talked through the returning process with them too- how to get back into the swing of things after returning from the most amazing trip of your life. I had such an amazing experience with them, that lead to both change within my heart and mind, of which I will be able to use in the near and distant future.
I believe this change is relevant to me because before leaving for this trip I was at a point in the semester that really took a tole on me. I noticed I was constantly stressed, not enjoying what I was doing, and merely just living. Since returning, I have noticed I am different. I am more engaged in what I am doing, and truly enjoying what I have going on. I feel as if I am more focused this semester on my classes and will now be able to utilize what I learned in New Zealand in other Animal Sciences classes I have yet to take. I was given the most amazing opportunity to experience these animals and techniques first-hand. I know have something to base my knowledge off of and am truly able to understand why studying abroad is something that every student at our school should have the opportunity to do. If it would not have been for this wonderful program, I would not have had the opportunity to attend, and I will forever be grateful for this opportunity that I was given- the chance to experience something beyond myself and cause a true change within me. beyond myself and cause a true change within me.