While studying abroad in Auckland, New Zealand, Gregory Partyka ’20 expanded his knowledge of international digital media strategies through his internship with Align Digital, a conversion rate optimization company. The startup environment at Align Digital has given Partyka expansive knowledge of the field, as he contextualized the media landscape by studying New Zealand life and culture, as well as digital mapping software and cartography.
Partyka’s responsibilities at the company included mastery of CRO methodology, a system for increasing the percentage of visitors to a particular website who are converted into customers. By using his background in mathematics and economics, Partyka dove into Google Analytics to understand the behavior of Align Digital’s clientele, working one-on-one with the head of business development to make recommendations.
“It opened my eyes to the magnitude of the analytics realm, specifically how there are so many ways to look at the same data set,” says Partyka, who also completed an internship with Boston Private Bank over the summer.
Through the Center of Global Education’s partnership with the University of Auckland, students enroll in “New Zealand Cinema” and “Contemporary Maori Society.” The coursework is designed to provide students with a broad overview of Maori society, as well as an introduction to the history that informs current issues.
“These courses have taught us so much about New Zealand’s history and the social, political and economic conflicts it has faced,” says Partyka, who lived with a host family while in Auckland. “Specifically, we learned much about conflict between the Pakeha, white European settlers, and Maori, native New Zealanders that still affect the nation today.”
In addition to their coursework at the University, students take a course and travel with an HWS professor. Through a cartography course taught by Professor of Art and Architecture Nick Ruth, students took a closer look at how the social and physical landscape of Auckland are intertwined. For the final project, students were asked to create a map of New Zealand that represents how space is socially constructed.
“I chose to focus on the transition from tea to coffee culture in New Zealand,” says Partyka. “Coffee is a significant part of their culture today – cafes can be found on every corner and the quality of coffee is of the highest in the world – but in the past this wasn’t the case. Tea used to be a defining aspect of the culture. So, I looked at reasons for this transition and how it has affected the physical space of New Zealand.”
For Partyka, studying the landscape through maps and then travel gave meaning to the theories being discussed in class. During a trip to Coromandel, a beachy area of New Zealand, he gained a deeper understanding of how cultural practices can be influenced by a country’s physical landscape.
“I remember that going into the Coromandel experience, I was stressed about work that I had to get done for the following week, but more specifically recall how relaxed I was upon returning. The landscape, including the beaches, endless rolling green hills and mountains, is so beautiful that feeling of being relaxed is almost inevitable. I started to understand why people value life so much over work. How could you not? New Zealand is such a beautiful country with so much to offer.”