International Connections

Ariana Mora

Minor/option/emphasis: Social Justice Certificate

Year: Graduate

Type of experience: Study Tour
Experience: New Zealand Study Tour
Experience website:
Destination: New Zealand

Overall experience..
My 3 week study tour in New Zealand was beyond believable. We visited eight different higher education institutions to understand the cultural elements in place and how they shape each institution. The universities ranged from polytechnics to research-based to a sole focus on Maori research. In between visits, we filled our time with fun activities such as bungee jumping or swimming with dolphins or whale watching. In addition what made the entire experience a constant learning environment was the cohort of graduate students and faculty members. Reflection was constantly encouraged between us and a rich dialogue beyond our small scope or perspective was often achieved. Finally, we truly were able to experience the culture because our hosts at the institutions and hostels were incredibly welcoming. Overall, my New Zealand experience was well worth it and I cannot wait until I return.

I learned...
I first learned about this experience as a senior in college when I was interviewing for graduate programs. When I interviewed at Bowling Green State University I asked about study abroad programs and they mentioned New Zealand. However, I chose Iowa State for my graduate studies and had forgotten about the opportunity. Until an email was sent by our Student Affairs director mentioning it was open for graduate students enrolled at other universities.

An impact to my life...
Traveling in New Zealand and learning from this environment I have become much more aware of myself as a global citizen, the importance of the exchange of knowledge across borders, and finally the connections made from this trip. My New Zealand experience has a direct positive correlation with my personal, educational, and long-term career goals. As a future students affairs professional I want to be adaptable, flexible, knowledgeable about international education, and be able to help students from all backgrounds. I believe this experience has helped me become a more well-rounded scholar and practitioner in the higher education field.

I will never forget...
Experiencing a Powhiri led by the Maori which is a welcoming ceremony. It was unique because few people, even Kiwis (New Zealand people), get to experience it. Not only did we have the opportunity to be present during this moment, but we were encouraged to participate as well. Our participation came in part of sharing a well-known Maori folk song: Tutira Mai Nga Iwi. When our group started singing the song, all of our hosts' eyes and faces lit up with smiles and soon after sang along with us. I will never forget this moment because of the joy it brought them and the tears of joy that it brought me. To end the ceremony we participated in the Hongi, which is the touching of noses to symbolize sharing a breath of life with our new whanau (family) because we are one after the ceremony. This moment will stay with me forever.

Advice for others...
For students who are interested in studying abroad or participate in a similar experience, I firstly suggest to keep an open mind. It sounds cliche, however, once you are there you need to keep in mind that just because things are done different in the country you are visiting, it does not mean it is less worthy of how it is done in the U.S. Having an open mind will also give you a better experience because you will be more willing to partake in new activities, food, conversations, etc.

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