A semester before Elementary Education students start their internship or student teach, there is an option to do the New Zealand Semester Abroad. As I mentioned in my first blog post, Incredible Me, I participated in this program, and LOVED it! Here are some of the reasons why:
1. The beaches:
Beaches surround the two islands of New Zealand, and Orewa is located on the North Island, close to Auckland, where the 16 of us girls and our BYU professor, Dr. Jacobs, and his wife stayed for the three months we lived in New Zealand. Luckily, beach visits were a frequent experience. The wonderful part of doing a semester abroad in New Zealand during winter semester is that you miss the snow of Utah and enjoy the summer sun of New Zealand since the US and New Zealand are located on different hemispheres.
2. The beautiful land:
Beautiful landscape with green lush meadows and mountains towering overhead was a common sight throughout all of New Zealand, both on the North Island or the South Island. Just being around such open land made me appreciate all the beauty that resides in the world.
3. Home Sweet Home:
I loved the feeling of home I felt the moment we got there. Each participant was assigned a roommate. Host families took us in, fed us, included us with their family, and showed us some of New Zealand. It was with the people of New Zealand that I felt the most at home. Each person I met was friendly and interested in who I was as a person. I admired how family-oriented the citizens were and the frequent gatherings of family and friends for big feeds, as local Maori (the local people of New Zealand) would call it.
4. The Schools:
One of the best parts of going to New Zealand was gaining more experience teaching in a classroom under the guidance of a mentor teacher. Though classroom scenarios were similar to what were required at BYU, there were a few differences. First, how schools are named differently. For example, elementary schools are called Primary schools in New Zealand. Second, the students are separated into years, not grades. I taught in a 1st/2nd grade equivalent class, so in New Zealand I taught year 2/3. Third, the curriculum was different. Unlike the States, New Zealand schools determine their own curriculum, as long as they follow the main guidelines from the national educational board. The way they teach and what subjects they focus on is up to each individual principal and school. This gives the curriculum a personal touch, and it was something that really impressed me while I participated in the New Zealand educational system. Finally, we were only expected to do our practicum (teaching and observing experiences) four days of the week instead of the normal five days. That gave us time to travel, rest, sight see, or do homework for our BYU courses on that free Friday.
5. The children:
All the students were delightful and also challenging, just as they are anywhere. I learned more about how I handled stress, what forms of teaching I could improve on, and how better to discipline and love the students. The other teachers also grew in their teaching and their awareness of a new culture.
Of course, we didn’t just teach and go to school, we also explored and took leaps of faith as each one of us jumped off a 43 meter bridge! For those who chose to take part in this incredible experience, there were multiple opportunities to explore various caves, dormant volcanoes, cities, and cultural shows.
There is so much to see and do in New Zealand, and three months isn’t very long, but it gave me a taste for the beauty of the land and an experience I will never forget. I am so glad I took this opportunity to go to a place that helped me both with my educational career, and my awareness of others and the contribution they give to the world. The 2012 group has already been chosen, but if you would like to be part of the 2013 New Zealand semester abroad contact Education Student Services, to find out more about this program, or visit the program information site. Also if you are interested, there is an opportunity to participate in the Brazil Exchange Program, that will be beginning this Fall 2011. Both will be wonderful; that I promise!