Hi there, my name is Liza Donier and I am currently a senior at the University of Montana!
Thanks to the Franke GLI, this past spring semester I studied abroad in Wellington, New Zealand. My experience in New Zealand directly related to my global theme of Social Inequality and Human Rights. While abroad, I took a course titled Māori Society and Culture. Māori are the indigenous people of mainland New Zealand, compared to Pākehā who are white New Zealanders. This course allowed me to learn a significant amount of information including, Māori beliefs, and concepts and structures that were important to the development of Māori society and culture. I also learned a significant amount about pre-European Māori society, cultural change, present-day developments as well as visions the future. This course allowed me to learn about a group of individuals that I knew nothing about beforehand. This course and my study abroad experience in general gave me a better understanding of the diverse perspectives related to my global theme. Often, when I think about social inequality and human rights, I think about the examples that I see in the United States. It is so important to take a global perspective in order to fully understand the theme.
Something that I learned about that I found extremely interesting was the integration of both Māori history and language in New Zealand. While it is no means perfect, I believe that it can serve as an example for other countries such as the United States. By engaging with a culture different from my own, I was able to understand that the United States could be doing significantly more in order to better integrate Native American language and culture. For example, in New Zealand instead of saying hi or hello, they say “Kia Ora” which is the Māori word for hello. This is such a normal thing that individuals say, regardless of whether they are Māori or not. The integration of both the Māori language and the cultural traditions was truly inspiring to see.
While I was only in New Zealand for about month (thanks COVID-19), I was still able to learn a significant amount both about myself and the world around me. This experience forced me to leave the comfort zone of my friends and family in the US and pushed me to meet new people from all around the world. I learned about the importance of fully immersing myself in the New Zealand culture and lifestyle. I would often talk with my Kiwi peers about everything New Zealand related. I was given lessons on rugby so that when I was watching a match I (somewhat) knew what was going on. They taught me about the education system there, as well as the local politics. I loved this experience because previous times I have travelled I never really had this opportunity to learn about a country in depth. My friends and I would go to all the cultural sites in the city, to better understand the area we were in. While my time in New Zealand was short-lived, it will have a lasting impact on me, and I can’t wait to return to New Zealand.