Student Blogger Study Abroad

Kia ora rawa atu Aotearoa- Many Thanks Aotearoa

A group of students standing beneath a red gateway.

Each term, one participant from each HECUA program takes on the role of student blogger, sending regular dispatches from the field. Naomi Clayton is HECUA’s student blogger this fall for the New Zealand program Culture and the Environment: A Shared Future. Naomi is a student from Grinnell College majoring in Anthropology. Read on for her final post!

The time has come for me to write my fourth and final blog post about my HECUA adventure in Aotearoa (New Zealand). It is amazing to see how much my peers and I have grown–both academically and personally–over the course of our time here. We all discovered that, whether or not we like it, growth and learning are not easy and are born from discomfort. Being open to the possibility, opportunity, unknown, and uncomfortable are the true starting points to personal and academic development. The immense amount of knowledge that I have gained will greatly supplement my remaining academic years (and beyond), and I have also established lifelong skills of flexibility, collaboration, and independence.

A small lighthouse overlooking the Wellington Harvor on Matiu/Somes Island.
A small lighthouse overlooking the Wellington Harvor on Matiu/Somes Island. Photo credit, Naomi Clayton.

It was always easy to write my previous posts because I knew that there was always going to be another one, in case I forgot to mention something, and that there were still more experiences to come. However, this last post marks the end of my time here. I will deeply miss this land, its people, and the experiential learning of our program. I know it will be a big transition to return home: climatic shift from summer to winter, relearning which way to look first before crossing the road, and reintegrating myself into the systematized college life. I will also miss the little things–like Kiwi vocabulary (I am determined to remember and use it back home though) and the familial comfort I felt from my HECUA peers, leaders, homestay, and people I met along the hīkoi (journey). 

For future HECUA students that get to experience the special, privileged opportunity of studying abroad, I task you with the same challenge I was given before I left. My aunt recommended that I “say yes” to everything and I did my best to do so: eat something new (I discovered mussels are not my favorite but kūmara is tasty); jump into the lake (no matter how cold it is); ako tetahi kupu hou i a ra (learn a new word every day); go to your host siblings’ sport games (reminds me of my cousins). Saying yes enhanced my experiences on the field travel phase portion of our program and integrated me into the daily life and comfort of my host family in Wellington. 

Mount Ngauruhoe with Moon: During the road-trip, we spent an overnight hike in Tongariro National Park. Mount Ngauruhoe is one of three active volcanoes in the region. Photo credit, Naomi Clayton.

I consistently wished throughout this program that my family and friends were with me to learn and engage with all of the experiences I had during my time here. I am looking forward to seeing them in just a few short days now, and I hope my storytelling and photography will at least scratch the surface of my time here. Lastly, I know I will still find a connection to the people and landscapes of Aotearoa through water. At one point during the program, we learned how to introduce ourselves in relation to a mountain and body of water in our life. No matter how big or small, everyone in the world can identify themselves with mountains and/or water. And, thus, I will end this post with this tangata whenua saying:

E rere kau mai te awa nui nei
Mai i te kāhui maunga ki Tangaroa
Ko au te awa
Ko te awa ko au.

The river flows
From the mountains to the sea
I am the river
The river is me.


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