Sixteen students studying abroad in Auckland, New Zealand spent a semester immersed in the arts, culture and environment of the island country. Led by Associate Professor of Art and Architecture Kirin Makker, students took classes at the University of Auckland, participated in service-learning placements, and took excursions exploring the countryside.
“We had a host of different majors in our group,” says Makker, “which brought students together to have cross-disciplinary discussions, based partly on their unique major perspectives and partly on the ideas and critical lenses they were asked to consider about New Zealand arts and culture.”
In the classroom, students studied Maori life and culture, disability studies, watercolor sketching and community arts. The service-learning component of their community arts class developed from their academic interests and passions, and integrated the students into the work of non-profits, charities and schools.
Dance and movement studies students, such as Olivia Naya ’18, volunteered at the Grey Lynn community center working with young adults with disabilities. Naya taught choreography.
“The experience immersed me in the New Zealand culture and helped me to express my passion for dance,” Naya says. Many of her peers similarly thrived in theater and film programs for the disabled.
“We had a number of active learners in the group – folks that learn very well through doing and embodying, such as theater and dance students,” Makker says. “This allowed us to engage in dynamic learning experiences, whether we were learning about sculpture in a museum or learning about the creative process through drawing. I think everyone stepped away from the semester with a more critical understanding of New Zealand culture and identity, but also of themselves.”
Caitlin Lasher ’19 completed her placement at EcoMatters, a non-profit in Auckland that hosts workshops and events that encourage people to increase sustainability efforts in the region. Through the agency, Lasher worked at greenhouses and on projects involving recycling electronic waste.
For Colin Briggs ’18, an anthropology and music double major, one of the most rewarding parts of the semester was his homestay family. “Seeing life through their perspective was the most valuable experience I had in New Zealand,” Briggs says.