Name: Dave Ealy
School: University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Major: Biological Sciences
Program: Rainforest Management Studies, Australia & New Zealand
There is a reason Peter Jackson chose New Zealand to film The Lord of the Rings: it is an entirely different world. The landscape of New Zealand is something that every person should experience; it features natural monuments that are so incredibly beautiful that you have to remind yourself that you’re not dreaming.
For the past two weeks, I have spent my time learning about local flora, fauna, culture, and history in New Zealand. My time has been spent in the classroom, learning from teachers who have grown up in New Zealand and Australia; in the field, being taught the importance of nature conservation and steps being taken to conserve the New Zealand rainforest; and in the city of Auckland, learning about New Zealand history and about the native New Zealand people, the Maori.
I have also been lucky enough to visit a marae, a Maori family home. Our group stayed for 4 nights and the Maori family who lived there, the Primes, treated us as part of their family, welcoming us with open arms. There, I was able to learn more about Maori history and much about their culture. I visited sacred Maori sites and feasted on a hangi, traditional Maori barbeque. After hiking through scenic rainforests, gorgeous beaches, and living with a native family, the greatest and most surprising thing about my time in New Zealand is when I get a chance to sit down at dinner time. While the food has been delicious, it is the time that I have spent with my fellow SFS students that I enjoy the most. Learning about each other, sharing our experiences, our music, our lives, and our favorite moments thus far has been my favorite part of New Zealand… that and the bush tucker.