Travelling to New Zealand, a country on the other side of the world, was more than just a far-away country with new accents and foods. I wasn’t just on the other side of the globe – I was upside down and backwards. From navigating the airport and making my way to my new school, to walking on the other side of the street and greeting “Kia Ora!” to everyone I met, little things added up to create an upside down and backwards world. Going to New Zealand with IES, though, gave me a steadfast support structure and people to help me navigate everything new. Our program director was there for any and every question I had, and the other people there with IES were instant friends.
Going abroad with IES gave me an invaluable entry into Kiwi society that I would not have been afforded otherwise. In both New Zealand and during an IES sponsored trip to the Cook Islands, the IES Christchurch program gave me the opportunity to converse with local figureheads about social, economic, political, and environmental issues. Moreover, our program director from IES took us on amazing trips throughout the semester to a wildlife sanctuary, showed us hidden highlights of the city, and brought us to a Marae. (A Marae is a Maori community meeting place, and you have to be invited to a Marae by one of it's members in order to visit. Once there, we got to learn about Maori songs, language, art, traditions, and modern day culture.) All of these trips were just a few ways that I was welcomed into the Christchurch community that I would never have glimpsed if I hadn't gone with IES.