This past fall semester, I had the incredible opportunity to study abroad at Victoria University of Wellington in Wellington, New Zealand from June to December. This semester abroad related perfectly to my global theme (global public health) because I was focusing on fulfilling some of my global public health minor credits. This included taking classes such as Biology of Disease and Sociology of Reproduction and Gender, all taught from the New Zealand perspective.
I cant even begin to describe how many new things I learned from this experience. First of all, it was incredibly eye-opening to learn about public health from the New Zealand perspective. Not only were my classes centered around public health issues that are endemic to New Zealand, such as asthma (New Zealand has the second highest rate of asthma among children in the world) and rising rates of Multiple Sclerosis, but they also focused on how New Zealanders work to combat infectious diseases that are prevalent around the world.
I also learned so much about earth sciences, such as seismology and volcanology, just by being in a place that is so tectonically active. It’s hard to live in a country that experiences earthquakes almost monthly and not learn anything about them! New Zealand also has flora and fauna that are unique and found nowhere else in the world. A perfect example of this is the Kea: the world’s only alpine parrot found in the Southern Alps that also likes to attack unsuspecting hikers. Through seeing and being among the wildlife, I learned so much about unique ecological systems and how human interaction greatly affects them.
My leadership skills grew immensely from this abroad experience. One of the most important skills for a leader to have is the ability to listen to multiple opinions and ideas and find a way to connect them. Many of my classes had group-based projects where I had the opportunity to work with many students from different areas of New Zealand and around the world. This increased my ability to communicate with other students who come from different perspectives which heightened leadership skills that I had worked on building before my study abroad.
New Zealand is a small country (roughly the size of Colorado), but it is gaining recognition and its population is growing larger and larger each year due to high immigration rates as well as more local families having children. This makes me wonder how the impact of New Zealand on the rest of the world will change over the next few years.