In New Zealand, I spent my time in a Year 6 classroom with a supportive and enthusiastic group of teachers. My host teacher supported me in whatever ideas I shared and let me jump into lessons in her classroom. My homestay hosts were welcoming from the start, and I commonly think about how I couldn’t imagine a better family to have stayed with. The highlights would have to be all the people I met, the amazing views, and the surreal adventures (like a 12+ mile hike). New Zealand truly felt like a home away from home.
The host culture
Picking just one favorite is a challenge, but I love the connection to nature as well as its integration in schools. At my host school, there were many opportunities for students to spend their free time and class time outside. My host school did programs like Waterwise (students go to a local lake to practice kayaking, sailing, swimming, and community building) and Garden to Table (students harvest food from the garden and cook it with supervision from adults). Both these programs took place during school hours and gave students the chance to be involved with the world around them.
The most challenging part of the experience was making sure I made the most of my time without overworking myself. I am an introvert at heart, but I love to travel and explore. With that being said, I had to find the right balance of meeting people and going on adventures, while also making sure I didn’t over exhaust myself too soon. It was a balance that I came to find with some time just by staying true to me, but also giving myself the needed push at times.
My host teacher supported me in whatever ideas I shared and let me jump into lessons in her classroom. My homestay hosts were welcoming from the start, and I couldn’t imagine a better family to have stayed with. New Zealand truly felt like a home away from home.
Growing up in Indiana and spending time teaching here, I haven’t had the opportunity to have as many students from varying backgrounds and cultures as I did in New Zealand. My class was full of students who spoke different languages, and a decent amount whose families had moved there within the student’s lifetime. I loved the opportunity to explore other cultures and learn how to help different groups of students.
Through programs I saw incorporated (Waterwise and Garden to Table), I thought about how I could teach my students practical skills beyond standard curriculum and SEL, something that I have not commonly seen in American education.
Advice for future students
Take advantage of this amazing opportunity! There will be so many memories you will have the chance to make – professional, personal, and everything in between. Make sure you stay true to you along the way, but don’t let your comfort zone hold you back. My time spent in New Zealand seems so surreal after being back, but I would not trade it for anything.