Courtesy of Alexandra Kazimir

New Zealand is a beautiful country full of high mountains, green hills and pristine lakes. It is one of the most picturesque countries in the world. 

Countless films, including “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” and all of the J.R.R. Tolkien films have been filmed in this setting. In fact, there is a section of the city of Matamata  where “The Hobbit” was filmed called Hobbiton. 

Junior Alexandra Kazimir was given the opportunity to study abroad in New Zealand during the fall semester of 2013 in Christchurch, New Zealand, as part of the IES Abroad program. 

“While my major is Public Health, [specifically] Health, Behavior, & Society, I chose to focus on my minor, Biology, while abroad,” Kazimir said. She was able to take courses “purely for enjoyment or that satisfied some curiosity [she] had not had time to explore.” 

Kazimir was directly enrolled in the University of Canterbury, enabling her to take classes of her choice with fellow international students and Kiwis, the colloquial name for New Zealand natives.

She took courses in fields such as Astronomy, New Zealand Biodiversity, and Biosecurity. Additionally, she enrolled in Rebuilding Christchurch: an Introduction to Community Engagement in Tertiary Settings, a course that, according to her, “[focused] on community action and volunteerism after the devastating earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 as well as addressing the development of nonprofits and motivations underlying volunteerism.” 

Land Journeys and Ethics was “definitely my favorite of the courses I took,” Kazimir said. This class discussed and explored “the philosophical implications of the wilderness and our relationship with land and the natural world.” 

Students in the Land Journeys and Ethics course traveled on various field trips, including a three-day, two-night camping trip in Arthur’s Pass, a mountain pass that marks the boundary between the West Coast and the Canterbury regions. 

“We had an opportunity to practice navigation skills with topographic maps and compasses and gave presentations on various aspects of the area and their cultural significance,” Kazimir shared. 

“I liked the interactive nature of this course,” she added, “and the opportunity it presented to really get to know your peers outside of the classroom.” 

Outside of class, Kazimir participated in “tramping,” a Kiwi slang term for hiking and camping. Much of New Zealand is underdeveloped and filled with nature – tracks and huts “[cover] spectacular landscapes and scenery that are inaccessible by other means.” 

“My friends and I and spent nearly every weekend exploring a new part of the country in this manner,” Kazimir said.

She spent time rock climbing both at local gyms and outdoors in several locations. She was also able to travel to Rarotonga, located in the Cook Islands east of Fiji, during her mid-semester break on an IES– organized trip. 

She participated in cultural activities “like coconut husking, weaving with palm tree leaves, traditional dance, and even got to sail on a waka,” a traditional double-hulled wooden canoe used by Kiwis.

The program ran from July to November, but Kazimir decided to stay in New Zealand longer and continue to explore. 

“For the following two months, I traveled throughout the country and participated in a program known as WWOOFing (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms), an exchange wherein you worked on a farm or some sustainable project and were provided with room and board from your host,” Kazimir said. 

After working on an avocado farm, a vineyard, and at a yoga retreat, Kazimir reflected that she found interacting with native Kiwis very rewarding, and “learned a lot about growing each crop in a sustainable way.”

“I found Kiwis extremely hospitable and generous people, always willing to help or just engage in a friendly conversation, and the country [is] a wealth of indescribable beauty and inspiration, “ she said. 

“I highly encourage other students to study abroad. It is an amazing opportunity to learn about yourself and others and grow in ways you could not otherwise”.

Kanakam is a member of the class of 2017.

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