My placement:
My placement was in the home of a single woman named Colleen. Colleen lived by herself because her children had all moved out, and I had gotten used to quiet homes back in the States, so I think we were the perfect fit for each other. Copying the habits of Colleen’s youngest, I would sit in the kitchen and do jigsaw puzzles every evening while she cooked. Puzzles were a nice way to relax after school and still interact with my host mom. After doing two 1000-piece puzzles, the kitchen table was too crowded, so we started eating dinner in the living room every evening, which we both considered to be awesome.

The host culture:
I loved how relaxing and calm the culture around Browns Bay is. At first, I thought it strange when I saw someone grocery shopping without shoes on, but then I began to love it. My entire life has been stiff guidelines but while living in New Zealand, I was finally able shrug that off. Walk on the beach while knowing that if the tide comes in, you’ll be trapped? Sure! Grabbing a car and heading to a different town for a couple of days? Definitely! Eating fish and chips wrapped in newspaper and drinking L&P straight from the bottle? Sounds like a dream. My mother began to be horrified by my laid-back approach to life, but it was the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I can’t wait to get back to New Zealand.

Challenges:
One of the challenging things I faced in my classroom was engaging students in purposeful activities. In my Year 1 play-based-learning classroom, students had adapted to loosely structured learning time. My desire was to take certain discoveries and make larger lessons out of them. One such activity I planned was on the human body. To make it fun, I had students lay down on a giant piece of paper and I traced their bodies, then we all took turns labeling basic human anatomy. This activity stemmed from when a dinosaur would ‘attack’ me. Students would often have the dinosaur grab my shoulder and say, “The dinosaur ate your… what is this called??”. Thus, I accomplished my goal of capitalizing on their play with meaningful, consistent follow-ups.

Realizing that I was on my own and did not have a parent showing me what to do or telling me where to go caused me to flourish. Again, it sounds terrifying, but you’ve got this. The only thing stopping you is your own fears.

Professional development:
I learned a myriad of new ways to embrace various cultures in a classroom. To really embrace various cultures in a classroom. In almost all of my Ed. courses we were told to have days where we celebrate specific cultures and have books that show people of the same skin color as your students. Which is all great, but rather shallow. I don’t have enough space to share all of the culturally valuable experiences I had regarding my future classroom, but you’ll understand when you get there. Take lots of pictures of the classroom and things you find culturally relevant.

Advice for future students:
Above all, I would say be confident in your abilities. Before I even landed in New Zealand, I knew what phone plan I would get, what bus I would take to get to a specific bus station then I would take specific streets to get exactly where I knew I was going. Nearly every aspect of my perfectly laid plan went out the window as soon as I stepped through customs, which sounds scary, but it led to me truly growing as a young adult. Realizing that I was on my own and did not have a parent showing me what to do or telling me where to go caused me to flourish. Again, it sounds terrifying, but you’ve got this. The only thing stopping you is your own fears.

Facing fears:
Ask yourself, “What’s stopping me?”. For me, I was constantly worrying about logistics. If a situation seems wildly unsafe, obviously avoid it, but what about things that scare you personally? For me, it was bungee jumping. Millions of people had done it before, and millions will after. So, what’s stopping me from jumping off this bridge into icy cold water? I was. But then I got out of my head and jumped off the bridge and it was the most exhilarating experience of my life, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Instead of asking, “What will I do if…” just ask “Well, why not? I’m nearly done with college and I’m in this totally different part of the world! Why not?”.