A Heart-warming, if abridged, semester

Hey all! I’m Christian Pfeifer, and I spent my Spring semester in Cork, Ireland studying the Culture and Politics theme. Classes I took in Cork include Political Economy and Democratic Utopias. They were fun classes, but I feel like my biggest takeaways had to do with the cultures between countries, and also how much difference there is between American and European education.

I was glad to be away from the U.S., though I made friends with plenty of Americans while I was in Ireland. I made friends from Texas, Germany, England, China, and Eastern Europe (Though one of the biggest friends I made was my fellow UM traveler, Sami). The biggest change I noticed from America to Ireland was the attitudes. Ireland has a lot of friendly people in it. I definitely met some hostile individuals here or there, but for the most part people felt unguarded and willing to speak their mind. It reminded me how much more conservative the U.S. is as a country. Americans aren’t as trusting of one another and there is a resistance to emotional openness. You can see this in the politics, as well. Despite the rise of an historically contentious party, many people in Ireland accepted the change without a lot of outrage. I wish the U.S. could think as amiably about its politics.

Perspective is important; making friends with Chinese students helped me understand that China is not the polar opposite of Western nations, but it does have issues to address.

One of the ways I made fast friends was through the International Student’s Society. I eventually became a lot more comfortable with organizing people I didn’t know, especially in groups like the Rover Scouts, which had weekly meetings. The passion that I encountered in other students helped push me out of the malaise I’d felt for all of junior year. There were plenty of surprising perspectives on the U.S.’s problems, which I didn’t expect to be a point of contention in Ireland. When it came to my theme, I came to wonder how many other perspectives I don’t think about when I’m in the U.S. How much insight have I lost when I don’t listen to other people? I hoped that having courses in Ireland would lead me to a new way of looking at politics.

I was blown away by my classroom experiences. The quality of lectures was a great break from what I remembered in the U.S. I ended up coming away from those classes with a newfound interest in China, Conflict resolution, and how Beowulf is such an interesting work in relation to English history. You were expected to read, but there was little to no homework. Some of the most life changing visits in Ireland come from driving through the countryside, seeing the formations, or taking a look at old estates. Ireland is full of a lushness and life, with a stillness unique to an island that always has rain. It gives a lot of time to pause and reflect on how you have been and what’s next for you. It had been the most stress-free experience I’d had since starting University.

It’s all about the atmosphere, especially in places like Ross Castle and the Cliffs of Moher. It felt good to visit without so many other people. It’s like you have the world to yourself.

In the end, everything I learned about myself and what I wanted to do for the world made me want to return home.What I took away was a new enthusiasm for being an academic. I had a greater desire to excel in my field, and to chase my interests instead of reacting to life. As I left Ireland, I wondered how I could get better at chasing opportunities and thinking of my goals. I already feel a need to help people, but how could I push myself to make those opportunities for myself? These questions grew bigger for me over the summer, but I’m sure they’ll stick with me as I finish my college career.

Tales of a Wannabe Kiwi

A classic New Zealand view of rolling hills

Kia ora! My name is JT, I am a senior studying Music composition, Media Arts, Entertainment Management, Chinese, and Global Leadership.

My abroad experience this last semester took place at the University of Waikato in Hamilton, NZ. I really didn’t know what to expect from this semester, but I never thought in a million years that I would get so attached to New Zealand that I would want to move back in the future.

My adventures actually began with a crazy “no-reservations” style trip across the world before I ended up in New Zealand. I planned to go the “other” way around the world to get there and I ended up in Europe and Asia. I don’t know why I felt like I needed to dive headfirst into culture shock, but I did. I was both trying to test the limits of my comfort zone and trying to get artistic inspiration from every facet of life—people, landscapes, food, language, culture, everything. I also gave myself a chance to stay in countries that spoke other languages than English.

Every part of Iceland was just a masterpiece

I visited 5 countries—Iceland, Denmark, France, Italy, and Japan—before ending up in my final destination. Each place offered some of the most crazy experiences of my life. I honestly never thought I could pull something like that off and navigate through five completely different cultures. Prior to this trip, I had never been overseas, so I felt like I was always missing out on a lot. I never realised how much world travel changes your perspective on humanity and your own life.

Nyhavn, Copenhagen
The beautiful Trevi Fountain in Rome
Best Valentine’s Day to date
My favourite statue has always been the Venus de Milo and it was so breathtaking to see it in person

Now I really feel like I have the confidence to conquer almost anything after learning some Japanese to navigate the 200+ exits at the Shinjuku Station in Tokyo or eating fermented shark in Iceland. When you remove yourself completely out of your normal environment you are so much more inclined to step outside your comfort zone.

The streets of Shinjuku, Tokyo were always packed, even at 2am

When I first arrived in New Zealand, I already felt like it was a home base for myself. Instantly, I was greeted with several Kia ora’s (hello in Māori) and incredible hospitality (even from the airport security guards). My host university wasn’t shy to throw me into several social settings with orientation events, downtown parties, and several student groups.

My kiwi friend, Jodie and I at Piha Beach outside of Auckland

My initial global theme was Technology and Society but that quickly evolved to add the theme of Social Inequality and Human Rights. I was primarily there to focus on music courses, but my class in Decolonization Methodologies and Indigenous Research turned out to be one of the most rewarding classes I have ever taken in my life. It was tough at first, especially not knowing Aotearoa history very well and not knowing practically any Te Reo Māori (Māori language). However, my eyes were quickly opened to the injustices that Indigenous people face everywhere, not just in the US. As progressive as New Zealand is, they are still working to make amends with current Māori iwi through treaties, political representation, integration of Te Reo Māori in everyday life, and many other ways. However, I think the integration of Māori culture and language in everyday Kiwi life is something that I think could serve as a model for every country.

The beautiful Bridal Veil Falls (Te Reo Māori: Wairēinga)
Marokopa Falls looked like a scene straight out of a movie

It was also just simply crazy that I was in New Zealand during a global pandemic. I first thought I absolutely had to come home, but a gut feeling told me that with the leadership and isolated nature of New Zealand that it would be heaps safer to remain there. It was insane to experience firsthand a very successful way to handle the COVID-19 crisis living outside of my home country. The lockdown was rough intially, as I had no contact with anyone outside of my bubble at home and online music schoolwork was rather frustating at times. But however, because of the great leadership from the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern and people’s collective attitude to keep each other safe, soon everything was back to almost normal and I was out and about again.

Post-lockdown, I had the crazy idea to bungy jump off of a 155ft cliff into a river
We love Aunty Cindy!

I was also able to work and collaborate as well with other music students in the music department at Waikato and was able to write a few works based on landscapes and experiences from my travels. I was even lucky enough to perform a mini-recital in the Gallagher Recital Hall after the lockdown. In that short period of time I already was able to make some great connections with music professors and students around the North Island and now I am heavily considering doing my Masters of Music in New Zealand. I worked closely with my bassoon professor, Ben Hoadley, throughout the whole semester and he told me repeatedly that bassoonists are heavily needed in New Zealand and that I would readily have gigs available if I ever came back. I never thought that I would ever have options in a foreign country, so it was so incredible that so many professors/mentors were very encouraging of my future career goals in music.

Views from Auckland Harbour
Drive 2 hours one way and you have a sunny surfing beach, drive 2 hours another way you’ll see a snow-capped volcano

I really still never thought that I would become so accustomed to the life in New Zealand. Soon I was eating Fish and Chips (or Fush and Chups as they call it) almost everyday and saying “Sweet as, mate” to everyone. I was clearly American whenever I talked, but I tried my best to do everything remotely Kiwi-esque.

I would love to live in Wellington some day. Incredible art scene, but very windy!

I made some of the most incredible friendships in my entire life there as well, it was actually pretty dang hard to say goodbye to everyone. I lived with my two Norwegian friends, Lillian and Kristine and coincitendally, with my friend and fellow GLI-er Bri. I learned a lot from them all whether it was sharing our family backgrounds over terribly-made enchiladas or exploring nature all over the North Island. I also made a lot of friendships with other international students from China, Japan, Finland, the UK, Canada, India, Australia, and several other places. It’s so cool knowing now that I have all these places to visit now! I guess my bank account would say otherwise.

Made some incredible friends that I’ll never forget and hope to visit again in the near future (well Bri is a fellow GLI friend here, so I can see her whenever…it was a lovely coincidence that we ended up as flatmates.)
I would never think to criticize food of another culture, but I never understood the chip buddy, which is just butter on white bread with fries and tomato sauce

All in all, this was one of the best experiences of my life and I feel like I came back to the states with a completely new perspective on everything. I know for a fact I’ll be back at some point after graduation. It felt like a second home to me. It was hard to say to say haere rā (farewell) to the place I grew so close to in six short months, but this journey thought me that I’m never stuck in one place and that the world will always be waiting for me to explore.

If I missed anything the most, it’s this giant hand in Wellington.

Surviving Drought by Working Together: AMF-induced Drought Tolerance in Canadian Horseweed.

Often times, people view research as clean and precise- a group of scientists standing around in lab coats peering through microscopes. However, I’ve found through the course of my research that science can be messy and unclear. It isn’t always about finding the answers, but instead, learning which questions to ask next.

Hi, my name is Kian Speck and I am a senior studying Ecosystem Science and Restoration at the University of Montana. My capstone experience was a research project in partnership with Ylva Lekberg at MPG Ranch and built upon work done in collaboration with Min Sheng at Northwest A&F University in China. The research involved an important organism in plant ecology called arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, or AMF. AMF is a type of microscopic fungus that lives in soil and forms relationships with the roots of most land plants. Put simply, the plant provides AMF a food source (carbon) as well as a place to live and reproduce. In return, the AMF offers a plethora of services for the plant, such as increased nutrient uptake, herbivory defense, and possible increased drought tolerance.

The ASUM greenhouse where my research was conducted. This is prior to drought, and I’m checking for any differences in plant growth between the two treatments.

The goal of my research was to determine if, and how, AMF help plants mitigate drought stress. The plant I used was Canadian horseweed, due to its prevalence in drought prone areas and documented association with AMF. Furthermore, Canadian horseweed is invasive in much of China and the Middle East and having a better understanding of its ecology could help restoration efforts overseas. The results of my research won’t be available until later this year, but the lessons I learned while conducting this research are clear. 

Setting up the drought conditions using a wick system to manipulate soil moisture. This was arguably the hardest part of the experiment to get right.

A major takeaway from my capstone experience is understanding the importance of scientific integrity. Although I faced my fair share of challenges and setbacks, it was important to correct mistakes properly to ensure that the data we were gathering would be accurate and unbiased. At times, these setbacks may have taken a couple weeks to correctly fix. In the end, having integrity is better than having a “clean” or “perfect” study.

Overall, this capstone experience has been extremely eye-opening. It has shown me how difficult science can be, and how rare it is to get everything right. It has caused me to ask more questions than I originally had, and to reanalyze assumptions I had made. I look forward to taking a closer look at our data and writing up the manuscript for publication in the coming months.

Comparing Norwegian Education System During Quarantine

My name is Rachel Brosten, and for my study abroad experience I went to the University of Bergen in Norway this past spring semester. Going in, my plan for my Global Challenge was to analyze the American education system and its approach to teaching students. Norway has one of the highest rates of education so I wanted to see if I could understand why and how the US could improve its own. So for me, the very act of studying abroad supported my challenge and Theme of Culture and Politics.

My brother and I on a night hike to the top of one of the surrounding mountains overlooking Bergen lit up below

Coincidentally enough, my older brother was also attending the University of Bergen and pursuing his Master’s in mathematics, so it was exciting to be going to the same school again for the first time in 5 years. Bergen was an absolutely stunning place, with so many opportunities to get outdoors and hike and explore. The student housing I lived in was surrounded by graveyards so that was pretty cool and a lot less creepy than I thought it would be. Also, the public transportation system was amazing and that enabled me to go into the city center and look around and shop too. One of the things I miss the most is how absolutely safe and stress free it felt to walk about. I even felt comfortable walking alone at night!

One of the graveyards around where I lived

While there, I got to attend a Black Lives Matter rally which was a super interesting experience because about 2/3 of the speeches were in Norwegian so I could understand very little. The rest was in English and those were ones I was able to really get into. It really was such an amazing and surreal experience, to be attending a rally of a group formed in the US as protest against the killing of innocent black Americans by police…all the way over in Norway. And have almost as much energy as if I was back in the US (given, introverted Norwegian high energy, but still high)

Norwegian signs reading “Racism is also a pandemic” and “If you don’t see the problem, you are the problem”

At the University, I took two courses; one on world education and society and the other on indigenous arctic governance. One thing that was super different was how each class was structured. They only met once a week for 2-3 hours with a 15 min break in the middle and the only homework was to read the assigned material. No essays, no quizzes, just one final exam at the end of the semester which would be the only determiner of your grade. So, your entire grade rode on one 6-10 hour long sit-in written essay. I learned later with my expectations and experience in the US education system, I was woefully unprepared.

And then of course, the pandemic hit and everything immediately and completely shut down. Unfortunately, I was only able to attend about 4 weeks of classes which meant 8 individual classes (4 for each subject) and it didn’t allow a lot of time to make friendships. Luckily I was able to make one friend from Poland and we’re still in touch and wanting to visit each others’ home country when this is all over (aka when other countries actually allow any Americans to come in.) That time was super hard. I was essentially completely by myself for 3 months in a small dorm room where I was within 6 feet from my “kitchen” and bathroom when lying in bed. All I can say is thank god my brother was there. We made sure to check in on each other and socialize and make sure to get out of the building as much as possible. There was never a time we each needed family more and we were lucky to live in the same building.

My friend Dominika momentarily stuck in a telephone booth library

As an outlet and release of sorts, I even created a blog for myself where I could write out any deep introspective thoughts I was having, work/talk through difficult emotions, as well as just continuously journal about what it was like to live through the entire experience. It was very therapeutic for me and helped a lot with any mental or emotional strain. And man oh man was I glad to be an introvert because I had inadvertently been training for this prolonged period of solitude for 21 years. I actually had my birthday in March while I was there. Big deal in America, meaningless age in Norway.

The biggest thing I learned was just how different the expectations and approach to learning are in Norway. I actually learned this the most in my own failure.

This all came to a head during my finals. When the time came, I found that I actually had very little idea on how to even approach studying because it didn’t rely on pure memorization of facts and dates. I had total access to all the notes and readings and all resources provided during the course of the term. So I legitimately didn’t know how to prepare and that made me feel really frustrated at the limited skills my past schooling had provided me. Was the only thing encouraged/taught just different ways of memorization and not actually how to critically think and articulate what you’d learned? It sure felt that way.

It was especially hard because I had never before in all my 16 years of schooling, ever failed a class. It was almost debilitating and I was so angry at myself for not preparing more, at my past schooling for not preparing and teaching me, and just at the fact that I knew I was 100% able of doing it and yet, couldn’t. Also, for the prior 2 days leading up to my last final, knowing how unprepared I was for the first, I didn’t sleep at all with anxiety at what was coming. So there I was, staring at prompts I couldn’t answer well, stressed, absurdly sleep deprived, and calling my mom every hour to cry.

But as it tends to do, time continued on unwaveringly and I got through it. They say you tend to learn the most from your failures, and I would definitely agree (as terrible it seems while you’re in it).

Life Above The Arctic Circle

This image was taken standing on the edge of the Tromso island looking at the mainland. The body of water is the North Pacific ocean and is called a fjord.

Hi! My name is Madi Kohls and I am a junior at the University of Montana majoring in Biology and in my third year of the Army ROTC program. 

My trip abroad took place in Tromso Norway, above the Arctic Circle! While I was there I was observing the effects of twenty-four hours of darkness on mental health. I was also observing how a more progressive government affects mental health and what personal and governmental mitigators are put in place to benefit the physical and mental well being of citizens. Along with observations I took arctic marine biology and a Sami Nation course (the indigenous people of Scandinavia) to provide further evidence for the climatic physical changes. 

During my time there I was almost never inside. On the island of Tromso, there are several cross country skiing trails, backcountry skiing trails, snowshoeing trails, ice skating rinks, and outdoor festivals. This helped me truly figure out that being physically active is something that benefits me in many ways, it puts me in a better headspace and helps me find motivation for the mandatory things that need to get done before the fun. 

My friends and I would often go on cross country skiing backpack trips to cabins in the area where we would camp and head back the next day.

I interacted with people from all over the world. Due to the wide variety of different cultures, a lot of patience and understanding was needed to interact on a daily basis. Patience and understanding are two of the character qualities, and leadership qualities, I had not developed very well. Coming out of my time abroad I can confidently say I have improved on them greatly and without too much struggle. 

During my time abroad I truly found a better version of myself. I made friendships that will last a lifetime. I found hobbies that I will never get bored of and I found classes that piqued my interest and made me rethink my future plans. While Tromso developed my Global theme, my character, and my leadership it also helped me find a feeling of inner peace and comfortability within myself, and for that, I will always be grateful. 

Kia Ora From Aotearoa

Kia Ora! I’m Brianna, a senior in the wildlife biology, GLI, and honors college programs. I truly was not prepared for the semester I had while studying abroad at the University of Waikato in New Zealand. From a global pandemic, personal loss, new insights, and irreplaceable friendships, Aotearoa gave me a completely unique and unpredictable experience. 

My global theme is social inequality and human rights. I chose to go to New Zealand because of the seemingly well-mended relationships they have. Overall, New Zealand seems to be a peaceful place full of righteousness and equality. That can be observed from the praise they received over handling COVID-19. I wanted to study there to find out why that is and to learn what is working for them. 

While in New Zealand I learned a lot about the Māori people, who are the indigenous people. I took a class on their history and their culture. I took an anthropology class on ethnicity, and I took a class on intersectionalities. In all these classes I learned that New Zealand often uses the U.S. as a model and sometimes uses policies from the U.S. to shape their laws. Schoolchildren even learn U.S. history in school. This led me to wonder how the U.S. seems to have so much more inequality and human rights issues than New Zealand does. I learned that New Zealand has its issues as well. I learned about the long persecution and land taking of Māori iwi (tribes) and the persistent systemic racism they still face today. People in New Zealand are also fighting for justice in their own communities, but because in an effort to mend broken relationships, they implemented peacemaking actions such as performing haka at rugby games and using Māori greetings such as “Kia ora!” in their day to day life, their relationship to their indigenous people comes across as mended.

Overall, I learned that it is not that New Zealand is better at solving human rights and social inequality issues, it is mostly that they are just better at covering up their issues with a bandage. However, they do seem to have more active politicians working to mend the issues surrounding inequality. In my classes I was also provided with a sort of social toolbox to approach some of the issues I want to look at and begin to break them down. 

It was not all work all the time either. I was fortunate enough to be placed with wonderful flatmates and form meaningful friendships. My flatmates and I often had nacho and “sofa bed” nights where we made nachos and pushed our couches together and watch movies, did face masks, and “had a yarn.” Not only did I learn a lot about New Zealand, but my flatmates Lillian and Kristine also taught me a lot about Norway. My small friend group took a while to form due to quarantine measures, but after, we took it upon ourselves to make the best of our time there.  I will never forget my time on the land of the long white cloud and the people I met there. I hope to make my way back some time to explore the areas I did not get a chance to while I was there, but for now, all I can do is share my memories and video call my new long-distance whānau (family).

Discovering new worlds in my own backyard

Mary O’Brien, the leader of the Wildflower Wanders, teaches hikers about different ways to distinguish pines, firs, and spruces from one another – most notably by touching their needles.

This summer I had the opportunity to work with Yampatika, an environmental education organization, as an intern, assisting naturalists in weekly hikes throughout the summer. I was especially lucky to find an organization that aligned with my values in my hometown of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, which turned out to be amazing as the COVID-19 pandemic took over shortly after my internship was finalized in March. As an organization, Yampatika aims “to inspire environmental stewardship through education,” providing educational programs for citizens of northwest Colorado aged five to 85. Learning is a lifelong process that changes as we grow and mature, which Yampatika recognizes when organizing different programs for children, students, adults, and senior citizens. My GLI global theme is natural resources and sustainability, so finding the opportunity to work with a group of people with a similar mindset was a rewarding and impactful experience. Although we shared many particular views, my coworkers at Yampatika urged me to look at issues from other perspectives, which proved to be insightful in my understanding of environmental education. My GLI global challenge relates to bringing awareness to the preservation of ecosystems and biodiversity, as well as combating climate change as our societies continue to grow.

Two of our younger hikers learn more about one of the town’s 12 mineral springs, Black Sulphur Spring, which is known for its changing color, depending on its chemical composition. At this point in the year it is a beautiful bluish green.

On Mondays this summer I assisted Mary O’Brien, a medicinal herbalist, on her weekly Wildflower Wanders. During these morning hikes, participants had the opportunity to learn about more than 50 species of plants, from the most poisonous ones, such as western water hemlock, to essential plants, like yarrow, which can stop bleeding, help with coughs and colds, and aid in pain relief. It was amazing to watch people learn about and gain an appreciation for the medicinal uses of these plants, ones they had hiked, biked, or driven by without previously noticing. On Wednesdays I helped to lead a mineral springs tour around the town with a naturalist, where we educated hikers on the hydrothermal and geothermal processes taking place in the underground systems beneath us. The town of Steamboat Springs has over 12 different hot springs sprinkled throughout it and its surrounding mountains, with its namesake having been established after 19th century French fur trappers traveled to the town and believed that they heard the chugging of a steamboat just upstream, later realizing that it was a natural mineral spring, bubbling and gurgling with water instead. As an intern, I also designed a scavenger hunt activity for hikers on a heavily trafficked trail that I was supposed to be stationed at, called Fish Creek Falls, but was unable to do so because of COVID-19.

An important realization I came to this summer is that each individual has their own style of learning, which is oftentimes forgotten. In the case of my internship, we had an interactive based learning style, where we took participants on hikes where they could experience exactly what naturalists were describing: the stinky sulphur smell coming from one of the mineral springs or the sweet taste of a ripe serviceberry that some black bears had missed. Education and leadership are two critical things that I believe are linked together. Continual growth in these fields are important but can be intimidating, as they emphasize change, which, while natural, can be uncomfortable. Along with being a part of the GLI and minoring in art history, I am working towards applying to the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) program in the University’s School of Art, with an emphasis on photography and sculpture. Upon graduating, my goal is to create art that draws awareness to the environment.

This is a serviceberry bush, which locals and wildlife alike love. Although it is spelled “service” there is a debate within the Yampa Valley as to whether or not it is pronounced “service” or “sarvice”. The plant tastes similar to common blueberries. We had been waiting for weeks for these plants to ripen and by the time we did, they had nearly been finished off by other creatures!

Environmental DNA and Montana’s Water systems


My name is Katie Graybeal and this summer I interned at the Environmental DNA genomics lab to study aquatic invasive species. My Global Leadership theme is Natural Resources and Sustainability so I focused this internship on  Montana’s river and lake systems. I chose this focus because I believe that rivers and lakes holds significant economic and intrinsic value for us all. For this experience, I researched invasive species specifically Zebra Mussels, and monitored their progress and provide early detection before they could endanger our waterways. I learned how to sample Environmental DNA which is cellular material shed by organisms into aquatic environments that can be sampled and monitored using a new molecular method called qPCR. QPCR also known as quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction monitors and amplifies targeted DNA molecules to detect a match between sample DNA and the DNA it is encoded to search for. During this internship, I found that eDNA can be used to not only find invasive species but also endangered or rare species opening up many options to conserve or protect natural resources in the future. Since this is a new and developing technology, improvements in protocols and procedures are very common giving me the skills to pitch and enact new ideas. With this technology rapidly improving some hope to develop it for other purposes like virus detection. I find myself wondering how eDNA can help us with other non aquatic tasks and make the jump to a more terrestrial setting.

(Sampling in Glacier National Park)

Finding Friends in Austria

Some of my roommates and I in the town center of Graz.

Upon learning that I would be spending my semester aboard in Graz, Austria I had no reaction other than surprise. Frankly, I had forgot I even put it on my application for study aboard locations. Looking back, it’s astounding that a city in which I never would have considered visiting is now one that fostered friendships, independence and holds great significance to me. Located in southern Austria, a country nestled between European hotspots like Italy and Switzerland and lesser-known countries like Slovenia and Croatia it brings an interesting and unexpected mix of people together. I think this is exemplified in the various nationalities of my roommates. I shared a wall with a 26-year-old Boasian woman who was working in a pharmaceutical lab developing a drug and finishing her PhD. On the other side of me a 23-year-old Finish civil engineering master’s student resided. Lastly, down the hall was a newly 18-year-old from Kazakhstan, who was getting her undergraduate degree in world economics. Then there’s me a 21-year-old American majoring in finance and management information systems. I think it’s fair to say we were a diverse group of girls all coming from places none of us were familiar with. Though I came away from my study aboard experience with a fair amount of knowledge regarding Austrian culture I feel more well versed in daily life of a Finish student and the structure of a Kazakhstani family. Now being connected with them on social media I still am learning things and find their different use of the technology interesting and refreshing. This lends itself perfectly to my GLI theme of technology and society. Prior to my departure to Austria I set intentions to relate my experience back to my GLI theme and was interested in how social media and technology is used in different cultures. I didn’t realize this would be so easy to do, but in hindsight I should have seen it coming. I quickly learned that it’s not just Americans who are obsessed with social media and that for many people giving them your Instagram handle is akin to giving them your phone number. These online connections create real meaning when you actually talk to someone and hear about their life and culture. From my Kazakhstani roommate, Aru, I learned that from the outside her country may put on a good show and appear to be a democracy, but this performance is just that, a performance. In reality she and many other citizens are frustrated by rigged elections that keep the same men in power for years. Along with that she has watched her qualified and educated father continuously get demoted over time, not due to a lack of skill, but because he is not a member of the ruling party. Had I not learned of this background I would have viewed Aru’s Instagram posts that praise American politicians like AOC and just thought she was a fan and interested in politics, however since I’m familiar with her concerns I know these Instagram posts are fueled by frustration and a legitimate longing to be a part of a different system. While some may think of social media as a hindrance in learning about new cultures and making sincere friends, I found it to be a useful tool that puts new friends’ backgrounds and stories into media and words. When social media is paired with an eagerness to learn and in depth conversations more is revealed and can be reflected upon. 

A church that I got to walk by everyday on my way to school.

My short but sweet time in Aotearoa

How unreal is this view from the Wellington Harbour!?!? I would come here almost everyday as it was about 7 minutes from my dorm.

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.

An exhibit at the Te Papa Museum focused on New Zealand’s involvement in World War 1. Who knew? I sure didn’t!
An exhibit at the Wellington Museum celebrating the women’s suffrage movement in New Zealand. Fun fact: NZ was the first self-governing country in the world to give all women the right to vote!
A photo from when I went to Zealandia, the world’s first fully-fenced urban ecosanctuary. Every direction you looked you would seen greenery, it was hard to believe the city of Wellington was so close!