STEP Reflection: #New2NZ

Name: Gretchen Albrecht
Type of Project: Education Abroad, Global May New Zealand


My STEP project revolved around my travelling to Christchurch, New Zealand for 4 weeks. During that time, I stayed with a host family while also taking a Linguistics course at the University of Canterbury. The main goal was to be able to combine these two aspects of the program, along with our excursions, to develop a better understanding of Maori history and New Zealand English.

Before I left for my study abroad experience, I really didn’t know much about the history of other countries. Sure I have been to Costa Rica, but my short time spent there and lack of maturity didn’t allow me to fully absorb or appreciate their culture and history. This time, after only two years, I feel like I have grown and developed the patience and maturity it takes to truly appreciate another culture. I was able to take information from our lectures and directly apply it to our adventures outside of the classroom.

For example, one of our lectures focused on New Zealand history: how the island was discovered, European settlement, and the impact this had on the Maori people. While this material could be dull in class, the reason I’m able to remember it so well is because of our excursions outside of class. One of our excursions was a trip to Willowbank Wildlife Reserve. At the reserve, we not only got to see some of New Zealand’s signature plants and animals, but we also got to participate in a Maori cultural experience where we got to see the tribe dance and then eat food that was prepared using a traditional Hangi method.

Another aspect in history that we touched on is the earthquakes that have affected Christchurch. The day we arrived, one of the first things we were told is what to do if an earthquake occurs or if we experience a tremor because there was a high likelihood that we would during our month stay. Although I didn’t feel any quakes myself, I did learn a ton about the Christchurch earthquake of February 2011. It was hard to avoid the topic whenever you walked through the city because there is still so much damage left behind from the natural disaster; the whole city is still under construction. The cathedral in the center of the city hasn’t even been touched since the earthquake hit 6 years ago, and local government officials are still debating on whether to rebuild or tear it down. When I asked my host mom about that day, she talked about it like Americans talk about 9/11- it was a day that she could recall exactly what she was doing, where, and when.

Lastly, the greatest aspect of New Zealand that we focused on was the development of the New Zealand English (NZE). Just as American English is a variation of British English, NZE stems from it as well. There are phonological terms to describe how the pronunciation varies, but as a Finance major, I’ll just highlight some of the major things I noticed: the absence of “r” when they speak, how some of their vowels overlap, and their use of different terminology. We learned about these features of NZE in class, but it wasn’t until I heard people talk and had my own conversations with them that I noticed these to be true. A few examples of the different terminology they use include: flat for apartment, togs for swimming suits, biscuits for cookies, and mate for friend.

In the end, I learned the importance of taking time to immerse yourself in a culture as opposed to skimming the surface. I really like how the Global May program is designed to allow students a full month to live in another country and experience life on a daily basis, as opposed to taking a 1-2 week tour of multiple cities and countries where you only see the main attractions. While I have nothing against doing that, being able to actually live in New Zealand for a month is something that I will never take for granted. Moreover, this trip reaffirmed my love for travelling, exploring, and learning about the world. It reminded me that my goal in life is to find a job that allows me to pursue this, whether that be a part of the job or in my free time.

Sustaining Human Societies and the Environment – New Zealand

Name: Morgan Whitecotton

Type of Project: Education Abroad

1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.

For three and a half weeks in May, I participated in the Sustaining Human Societies and the Environment program on the South Island of New Zealand. We focused on the tourism industry of New Zealand and how it impacts the economy, society, and the environment. We also learned about sustainable practices and conservation efforts in the country and studied the culture in New Zealand, from their view on evironmentalism to the native Maori people.

2. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?

I have always seen myself as an environmentalist, doing what I can to save resources and not harm the environment. On this trip, my group and I paid so much more attention to everything we were consuming and the potential impacts we were having. While this was mainly because sustainability was the theme of our program and many people were from the ENR department, it was a really great awakening for me as a non-ENR major. We had many discussions about if any of the activities or travel we were participating in, or life in general, could every truly be considered sustainable.

These conversations made me realize how fragile our ecosystems and resources are, and that the lifestyle I’ve been living is nowhere near as ecofriendly as it needs to be. Since getting back from this trip, I have invested in many more reusable household items and have started carpooling to work. I am also much pickier about activities I participate in, knowing that many recreational activities are harmful to the ecosystem that supports it. While my lifestyle has been improved because of my experiences on this trip, it’s nowhere near being considered sustainable. I am hoping that going forward with my life what I’ve learned will influence my future decisions, such as when purchasing a car or appliances. Every little thing helps, and as technology advances one day I want sustainability to be achievable.

3. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?

The 19 other people I lived and traveled with around the South Island were who influenced me the most. Our group
was made up of 16 Ohio State students, a professor and a TA from Ohio State, and then local New Zealanders for a tour guide and a bus driver. Each and every one of us became very close with Dave and Murray, our guide and driver. They were filled with so much knowledge not just about what it was like to grow up and live an ordinary life in their unique country and about the native plants and animals, but also about life in general. It was a wonderful opportunity to be able to get to know someone who has
lived such a different life than yours, and to be able to soak up everything they’ve learned and their perspective on it.

Having a local tour guide also changed the way I think about traveling. I have always enjoyed learning, but I can definitely look back on some past trips and know I didn’t take the time to learn about the area or the significance of what I was looking at. Being so immersed in New Zealand with all of the information Dave and Murray were giving us, in addition to readings and lectures from others, I feel like I received a very rich and full experience of the country. I want to continue to take my time and thoroughly get to feel what life is like in future places that I visit.

The other people in my group impacted my learning and experiences just as much as Dave and Murray did. This surprises me a little, because we were all from the States and all go to Ohio State, so I would think comparatively we’d have pretty similar perspectives. All coming from different majors and minors, it was neat to see how everyone could listen to the same lecture and walk away from it with a different message. I enjoyed our discussions where we all shared what we picked up through our different lenses. Something I really wasn’t expecting to learn from this trip is that the people you’re with really shape the place you’re at and what you take away from it.

4. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?

I am a food science major hoping to end up in a product development career. The food industry creates a lot of waste because of processing, production, and spoilage. While waste may seem inherent and inevitable, it is possible to come up with new processes, products, and technologies that reduce or prevent it. I am determined to ue the perspective I’ve gained on this trip to make an impact on the workplace I end up working in.