After participating in the semester abroad in Aukland, New Zealand, six students decided to postpone their return home to try to join relief efforts for Samoa, an island in the South Pacific Ocean, where a tsunami caused substantial damage and loss of life in September.
While in New Zealand, juniors Amanda Levy, Katie Kolesar, Amanda Slack, Nora Devine-Carter, Myles Hunt and Abby Rudman were based at the University of Auckland and stayed with families in the suburbs of Auckland. The courses they took with their other HWS classmates delved into New Zealand’s culture, specifically the country’s unique education system. Each student also worked twice a week as an assistant teacher in local primary and secondary schools.
After finishing finals, the group traveled for two weeks on a bus through the South Island. The class was able to hike the famous Franz Josef Glacier, go beaching with wild yellow-eyed penguins, and even visit WETA Workship, a company best known for its design and effects work on Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings.” Then, while their peers returned home for some rest and to prepare for the next semester in Geneva, the group of six decided to extend their stay a little longer and go on to Samoa.
They stayed in a small village, Moamoa, and relied on a taxi driver named Efeso to guide them through the region.
“Because of his background and perfect English, we basically adopted him as our Samoan father for the week,” said Kolesar.
Since the students had been so close to the disaster when it occurred, it had a huge impact on them and the end of their vacation became an opportunity to help the residents of this country. After contacting the Samoan Red Cross, it quickly became evident that the relief trip would not go as well as hoped. The group was there at an “off” time. It was a few months too late to help with immediate relief, and too early to help with long-term projects. So, they talked to different groups about doing some sort of fundraiser after returning to campus. They found that many of the local schools were in need of new books and are now working on ways to raise money toward this effort.
Near the end of the trip, the group went to the south coast of the island to see the damage left by the tsunami. “It was a surreal experience,” said Kolesar, “Driving through miles of land, the coast on one side of the road, and dilapidated houses, tents, debris and memorials on the other. It was such a strange experience standing on the beach, looking at the ocean that had done so much damage only a few months earlier.”
The entire trip proved to be an amazing learning experience for all involved, and is one that will not soon be forgotten. “I encourage every student to take up the opportunity to study abroad and experience the incredible adventures that I had,” says Hunt.
To learn how you can study abroad in New Zealand, visit the Center for Global Education at http://www.hws.edu/academics/global/.