For the Overseas program, I taught in a Year 2 classroom in New Zealand. My school and homestay were in Mairangi Bay, which is about 20 minutes north of Auckland. The highlight of my time at the school was having a water gun fight with a group of 5-year-old boys during Aquatics Day, and by helping my class perform “We’re All in This Together” from High School Musical for their end-of-year concert. For my personal travels, I enjoyed seeing where the Lord of the Rings movies were filmed at Hobbiton, and taking a boat ride through the Waitomo Glowworm Caves.
The host culture:
My favorite part about the host culture was the friendliness of the people and the beauty of the landscape. I spent countless hours at the beach, talking with the locals while eating fish and chips or ice cream. I am from Wisconsin, so it also didn’t hurt to be surrounded by warm weather and a tropical environment. Another part of the culture that was interesting for me was the nation’s passion for rugby. I actively follow multiple sports team when I am home, so I was excited to learn about rugby and watch a few matches on TV.
The most challenging part about living in New Zealand was being so far from my family and friends, since this was my first time traveling out of the country on my own. The 18-hour time difference also made it difficult to communicate with everyone back home, but I appreciated the opportunity to grow my independence. As for teaching, I initially struggled with the difference of standards and formal curriculum, because I was unsure of how to plan lessons. However, I quickly became comfortable with the school’s structure, and I enjoyed the flexibility I had as a teacher.
I did not plan on going abroad when I first enrolled at IU, but I decided to take a chance and attend a Global Gateways information session during sophomore year. I learned more about myself and how to become a better teacher during my time in New Zealand, and I look forward to my next chance to go abroad!
Even though I was in an English-speaking country, I was able to work with a diverse student population, as half of my students spoke a language other than English at home. I appreciated the opportunity to work with students from a variety of cultural backgrounds, while still being able to teach the New Zealand content and curriculum. I also taught in a classroom environment that was more flexible and placed a lower emphasis on testing, yet my students still learned. It was refreshing to see play and the arts incorporated into the curriculum, rather than being reserved for specials time.
Advice for future students:
I would encourage students in the Global Gateway program to take advantage of every opportunity they come across. Coming in with an open mind and yes-first attitude allowed me to try things that I normally would not have. For example, I went bungee jumping for the first time, even though I am afraid of heights. Another piece of advice would be to ask questions. Everyone that I met in New Zealand was curious about my personal life and what the United States is like, but I made an effort to flip the conversation to learn more about them.
Taking Advantage of the Time:
I genuinely enjoyed every minute teaching and traveling in New Zealand, so I am glad I took advantage of this opportunity. I did not plan on going abroad when I first enrolled at IU, but I decided to take a chance and attend a Global Gateways information session during sophomore year. I learned more about myself and how to become a better teacher during my time in New Zealand, and I look forward to my next chance to go abroad!”