Saturday, June 16, 2018

Learning About a New Culture

Four days ago, on June 13th, I landed in Auckland, New Zealand after a 12 hour plane ride. It was the end to about 24 hours of traveling, starting with my flight out of Pensacola on the 11th. I only got to be in the 12th of June, my mom's birthday, for a few hours as I flew over the Pacific Ocean and before we crossed the date line. I am going to be living here in Auckland with 12 other interns from the U.S., all here for various types of internships, for the next 8 weeks. I will be working with Recreate NZ, doing recreation as well as teaching social skills and work skills to youth and young adults with disabilities. While I haven't started at my job yet, I am very excited to have another summer of working with individuals with disabilities and to meet all of the staff.

To start out our time in New Zealand, all of the interns with ISA (International Studies Abroad) that came into the country this month we participated in their Bridging Cultures Program, or BCP, together. We all started in Auckland, getting a presentation on New Zealand's culture, learning common words and phrases used by Kiwis, other cultural differences, and a little bit about the Māori culture. The next morning, we were very privileged to be welcomed onto a marae, or meeting grounds. This was very special because many non-Māori New Zealanders never get this opportunity. You must be welcomed on to the grounds and then follow some other traditions. We went into the meeting house, or the wharenui ("wh" is pronounced like an "f" in Te Reo Māori), after taking our shoes off outside so that our sacred footsteps could be connected with the earth. Before going to the marae, we elected a male chief within our group and prepared a song of our choice to perform, we chose All Star by Smash Mouth. When we went inside the wharenui, we were greeted with a speech in the Te Reo Māori language and a song. After this, our elected chief gave a short speech, thanking our host for welcoming us before we all performed our song. The next step to finish the process of being welcomed in was to do a hongi, which is a Māori greeting where you press your noses together. It is about breathing in the breath of one another. Once this was all done, we got to learn a lot about the Māori history as well as some of the language from our host. We also learned a traditional Māori song and then went to another building to eat together. This was an incredible experience. Below is the wharenui.

After our time on the marae, we got on a bus to head to Hobbiton to see the set of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, something I have always wanted to go. We went onto the 1250 acre sheep farm, with about 13,000 sheep on it, that houses the movie set. Learning different facts about the making of the movie, like which plants are real and which are props, was very interesting. I got to go in a hobbit hole, have a drink at the Green Dragon, and take in some of the beautiful New Zealand scenery.

 Our next stop on the BCP was in Rotorua where we had free time the rest of the night after checking into our hotel. The next morning, we went to meet with a Māori man named Tiki to learn a traditional haka, one that is often performed by the All Blacks rugby team before their games. This experience can really be what someone makes of it. Tiki explained that everyone has their own beliefs and he would be telling us about the beliefs of his people. He said that we can take what resonates with us and not take what doesn't fit us. The experience, for me, was about finding strength and courage to fill the role I need to in my life and my aspirations. To really perform a haka, you have to throw yourself completely into it. You have to believe that you are strong, you are powerful, and you have the strength of all those that have gone before you, those that are with you now, and those that will go after you. This was an absolutely incredibly experience, and one that not many people are so privileged to get. Pictured below is the interns in my BCP after performing our haka.

The final portion of our BCP was to go to Wai-O-Tapu, which means "sacred waters." Wai-O-Tapu is a geothermal area near Rotorua. We got a guided tour of different craters created by the formation of sulfuric acid and geothermal pools. Our guide taught us about the Māori history of the area, from their beliefs about the origin of the area to the tribe that originally lived on the land and how they utilized the pools.

The next morning, we started back towards Auckland, dropping off interns on the way to catch planes and busses to their respective internship sites. When we arrived back at our apartment in Auckland, most of the interns joined together to make our first trip to a grocery store before finding a bar to watch the All Blacks vs. France rugby game. Watching New Zealand's national team perform their haka before crushing the French to win the pre-season tournament was a lot of fun, and we got to take in some of the local culture. It was a great way to end the week.

I've had a great time learning more about New Zealand's culture, but I'm excited to get started on what I came here to do. Tomorrow is my first day working at Recreate NZ, and I can't wait. Until next week, Kia Ora (best wishes)!

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Blog 5

In Puerto Rico I will be taking one course that goes towards my major, a course on the history of Puerto Rico, and the rest electives. I will be taking all of these course in Spanish, I did this to be able to perfect my communication skills in Spanish. This will help me in the future when I start working because I am wanting to work for a large international accounting firm in Miami, FL, where I will have to deal with communicating with many hispanics. Since my dream is to play baseball at the professional level, I also will be playing baseball over there and I feel this will help me get better and also will help me become more passionate for the sport.

Blog 1

My goals for when I go to Puerto Rico for my study abroad experience are to perfect my communication with others in Spanish, be able to expand my social network to more of an international perspective, and to play baseball in a different culture. To be able to ply baseball is an experience on its own because in countries like Puerto Rico, the people take the sport so seriously and passionately. I'm excited to learn about their culture and experience their ways of living especially after hurricane Irma which completely destroyed their country. One thing I would love to do is be able to maximize my experience is to hangout and learn from the locals. I believe doing this will help me both learn about their culture and also perfect my communication skills in the Spanish language. The second thing I would love to do is to travel around the country. Although it is a small country, I believe there is a lot of things to do and learn about. Lastly I would love to be able to attend a Puerto Rican baseball game so I would be able to experience the raw passion the people from there have for baseball.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Blog 4

Since I will be working about 30-40 hours a week, I will spend most of my time at work, working directly with many New Zealanders at my job site. This is where I expect to build part of my friend group for the summer. I will have the opportunity to spend my free time with the locals. I want to take the opportunity to explore the natural beauty the country has to offer while learning about its culture by exploring with locals that I meet during free time and soaking up all they can teach me. I am excited to try new foods, experience a new dialect of the English language, and learn more about this uniquely diverse country. I will attempt to live like a local by reaching out to the actual locals to spend my free time with them, and also by observing how locals work in the Outdoor Education field. I plan to avoid tourist areas and immerse myself in the culture as much as possible. I will undoubtedly return to the States as a more well-rounded individual and will be confident facing challenges at home after navigating a summer in an unfamiliar place and making it my home.

Blog 5

I am currently majoring in Outdoor Studies and Tourism with a minor in Psychology. My goal after graduating, and what I am working towards being able to do in my academics, is to work as a wilderness guide and/or group facilitator for a few years. After this, I would like to pursue a Master’s Degree in Counseling so that I can build a career in Wilderness Therapy. Over the past four years, I have worked, through academics and otherwise, to better myself as a facilitator and someone who works with people to make a positive difference in their lives. I believe that going to New Zealand for the Outdoor Education internship and immersing myself in the country’s culture, as well as the culture around Outdoor Ed., will help me further this growth.
In going to New Zealand, I would like to immerse myself in the culture and learn about the Outdoor Education field in a different country, one where it is a fairly successful field. This program is perfect for where I am right now. I will gain valuable people skills from the experience of going to a new country and interacting with people from very different backgrounds than my own. I also hope to reach a new level of flexibility and cultivate my problem-solving skills by traveling across the world independently.