New Zealand is a place of unimaginable beauty. From rocky coasts to white sandy beaches, snow-capped mountains to velvet green valleys, New Zealand is a world of its own.
During fall semester, I had the opportunity to study in New Zealand for five months through Emory & Henry College’s Study Abroad Program. Although those five months were academic, the lessons I learned outside the classroom will go with me for the remainder of my life.
New Zealand is a small country located off the southeastern coast of Australia, comprised of two land masses, North Island and South Island. Although a part of the British Empire, it is an independent country with its own government, laws, and military. You may ask why someone would choose New Zealand for a study abroad experience. The answer is simple. New Zealand is home to many cultures that this small-island country can call its own.
For example, adventure seekers all around the world see New Zealand as a paradise. From skiing, tramping, backpacking, sailing, swimming, rock climbing, kayaking, bungee jumping, skydiving, and whitewater rafting; if you can imagine it, New Zealand offers it. This adventure culture drives the New Zealand economy. New Zealand was the first country to offer commercial bungee jumping and still remains one of the few places where you can Blackwater Raft (whitewater rafting in an underground cave where there is little or no light; thus, the name “Blackwater”). Although, I am an adventurous person, most of the activities New Zealand offers are not for the faint of heart; therefore, I stuck to things like hiking, kayaking, and swimming.
In addition to being the adventure capital of the world, New Zealand also offers many other cultures. There is a rugby culture, a “kiwi” culture, a Maori culture, a pacific nation culture, just to name a few. However, what New Zealanders are known for around the world is friendliness to visitors. This hospitality led me in the direction of forming my own nonprofit organization.
New Zealanders are willing to lend anyone and everyone a helping hand. Within the first few weeks of living in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, I began noticing some small differences from cities in the United States. I noticed no homeless people. There were few shelters, few food pantries, and few soup kitchens. I began to ask around and the response was that New Zealanders were proud to never let people get that low before offering help.
This inspired me to do initial research on a nonprofit organization that could one day be established in the Appalachian region. New Zealand gave me a new understanding of Appalachian culture and a new way to help the region that has made me the individual I am today. Appalachia is full of hardworking individuals, all of whom are willing to lend a helping hand. So, why isn’t there a place where people can go before hitting rock bottom? Why isn’t there a place where mothers can go before their children are hungry?
It is a vision that I have for the Appalachian region. A vision of hope. A vision of redemption. A vision of salvation. A vision of emancipation. Seen through the eyes of an Appalachian, it’s a philosophy of a unique place, which gives a vision of tomorrow.
And the vision did not happen inside the classroom.