Brenna Nelson

Major: Elementary Education
Class: Senior
Timeframe: Fall 2022
Program: New Zealand
Destination: New Zealand

Overall Experience

My overall experience in New Zealand was just wow! I have traveled outside of the United States before, but have not seen scenery that is as near as beautiful as what New Zealand has to offer. Along with the scenery, the people here are so welcoming and ready to offer a helping hand when needed. Throughout my time in New Zealand, I was able to experience new foods, cultures, people, and simple ways of living. Almost every weekend my group and I would travel and experience all the country has to offer. My favorite place to travel was “The Catlins” because of all of the beautiful hikes and waterfalls. I would highly recommend anyone who is thinking about studying abroad to just do it! It is an amazing opportunity to get out and experience a new culture and scenery. I have made great connections with the people in New Zealand and I hope to go back and visit them all soon!

Learning experience

One of the most valuable learning experiences I took away from my time in New Zealand was the integration between subjects. Oftentimes, the students would be learning about a certain topic in science, and then throughout the whole week they would have to expand on their knowledge and do different writing activities related to the same subject. I found that this helped students have a more in-depth understanding about what they were learning because they would be doing activities related to the same topic multiple times throughout the day. In New Zealand, exercise and physical activity is also very important. Oftentimes, as the teacher is ready to transition in between subjects, the students will go out and run a lap around the field and then come back and continue learning. The students enjoy this because they are able to have these short breaks and get some of their energy out before moving onto the next subject.

Memorable experience

The most memorable experience I had while in New Zealand was going on school camp with my class. Two short weeks after I arrived in New Zealand, my class and our neighboring classroom went on an overnight field trip to Queenstown. For about half of the class, this was their first ever overnight field trip so there was a whirlwind of excitement and nervousness at the same time. During camp, we first visited Arrowtown and learned all about the New Zealand gold rush in the 1800’s. We toured a museum and the students got to dress up and experience what school was like in the 1880’s. After the museum we took a walking tour of the town and saw some of the original buildings that the miners lived in. Lastly, we took a stroll down to the river and got to the gold pan! The following day all of us took a trip on the Earnslaw and went to Walter Peak which is about an hour boat ride. At Walters Peak we took a tour of the farm and were able to see the different kinds of animals. This overnight school camp was such a great experience because I was able to interact with the students outside of a typical school environment and build those connections even more.

What did you not expect?

Something I was not expecting was the amount of phrases that are different in New Zealand compared to those in the United States. I knew going into studying abroad that the predominant language in New Zealand is English, but once I got here I quickly realized that we use different terms for some things. One of the students’ favorite things to do was “quiz” me on what we called certain words in the United States. Many great memories were made because both of us would make a funny face and then laugh when we found an object that we had a different name for. By the end of my time in New Zealand, many of these words/phrases have become a part of my vocabulary.

What advice would you give?

My advice would be to travel as much as you can on the weekends, even if you are worn out. This is a once in a lifetime experience and you will not want to waste one second of it! New Zealand has amazing scenery so you will want to take lots of photos and videos to remember your experience here. My last piece of advice is to not be afraid to lean on your cooperating teacher and TTS staff for advice and guidance along the way. I became great friends with one of the teachers next door and her company is what got me through the more challenging times.

How has this experience impacted your life?

Overall, my time in New Zealand has helped me grow as both a person and an educator. From an education perspective it was amazing to see what another country’s education system looks like and make those comparisons and differences between the United States. As I start my own classroom in the near future, I will remember the welcoming atmosphere that I felt in New Zealand. I will try my best to build those relationships with my coworkers and not be afraid to ask questions and collaborate (especially in my first years of teaching)! As a person, this experience has taught me to take risks, be independent, and go out and see the world! Student teaching abroad has been one of the best experiences I have had so far. I have been blown away by the scenery this country offers and I plan to come back in the future!

How did you learn about this experience?

I have always wanted to study abroad so early on I signed up for the study abroad program email list. As I got closer to student teaching, one of my block professors, Lisa Norris, started talking about how she supervises the students who go to New Zealand. After talking with her more about it, I decided to go to the international student teaching abroad fair and then I was hooked!

International Connections