International Connections

Lindy Peterson

Major: Elementary Education

Minor/option/emphasis: Reading; Social Studies

Year: Graduate
Hometown, State: Huxley, Iowa

Type of experience: Student Teaching Abroad
Experience: International Student Teaching - New Zealand
Experience website:
Destination: New Zealand

Overall experience..
Traveling is always an amazing experience, and there are so many aspects that make it enjoyable: discovering new cultures, customs, and food, making friends you have the option to stay with if you visit again, or even just having the opportunity to let loose and taking time to relax. Overall, it’s an amazing opportunity to learn and have fun. The memories I have made throughout the past 8 weeks living abroad in New Zealand are truly memories that will last a lifetime. I don’t think I will ever meet anyone nicer than the Kiwi residents I have met abroad. I also don’t think I will ever eat spaghetti on toast for breakfast anywhere else around the world. The views in Aotearoa actually take your breath away and will leave you standing in front of mountains or valleys wondering how you ever recieved such a wonderful opportunity to see these places. Every single view is picturesque to me and I have decided to take every beautiful view and capture the moment in my mind where I can try to close my eyes years from now and remember exactly how stunning the landscapes are.

I learned...
I first heard about the opportunity of a lifetime when I reached out to my academic advisor as a junior entering Iowa State University. I wanted to know about different teaching experiences that were available abroad. When Becky Koenen mentioned teaching in New Zealand my heart leaped out of my chest and I knew I needed to be on that plane as soon as possible. After months of planning and day dreaming about living in New Zealand and teaching Kiwis for two months, I was on my way to make dreams come true.

An impact to my life...
It has provided me with a wealth of experiences that I would never have had the opportunity to be part of. Most importantly, it opened my mind and heart up to a more world-wide view of education and how all children learn in similar ways, even though they may live 9000 miles apart. I feel that I am able to relate to multicultural individuals, whether it is children, parents or other educators in a more mature way than before I went. I definitely would entertain the idea of teaching abroad in my future career because of my opportunity to teach in New Zealand.

My most valuable learning experience...
The most valuable learning experience I encountered was learning about the importance of physical activity and its impact on students and their education throughout the day. Athletics are extremely important and valued in New Zealand and their school system. Each morning my year 5 and 6 students spent about an hour outdoors interacting and playing alongside one another. I learned how to play games such as rugby (non contact since we were on school grounds), rounders, cricket, and about many other athletic events that are valued overseas. I noticed how special it was for the students to have the opportunity to play outdoors and work together in teams. when students came in after athletics and play they were on task and ready to learn the remainder of the school day.

I will never forget...
The most memorable experience I had student teaching abroad was the way we were welcomed at the Terrace School upon arrival. We were welcomed with an amazing Maori tradition of the Haka dance and Pōwhiri celebration. The pōwhiri began with a challenge. I learned that a pōwhiri usually begins outside the marae with a wero (challenge). A warrior from the tangata whenua (hosts) challenged the manuhiri (us the guests), checking to see whether we are friend or foe. Students carried a taiaha (spear-like weapon), and laid down a small branch for us (the visitors) to pick up to show we come in peace. Next, we experienced a call of welcome. One of the older students performed a karanga (call) to the manuhiri. This is the visitors' signal to start moving on to the marae. Since we were the visitors, we were shown how to make a call back. Then we walked onto the marae as a group, slowly and silently with the women in front of the men. As we entered the school hall, we paused along the way to remember the maori ancestors who have passed on. Speeches and songs took place in the meeting hall at on the school grounds. Once inside the guests and hosts take their seats facing each other. Now speeches are made – usually by the older men of the two groups. A song is sung following each speaker to support his address. After the speeches, the visitors present a koha (gift) to their hosts. Lastly, we finished off the ceremony with greetings and food. To cap off formal proceedings, visitors and hosts greet each other with a hongi – the ceremonial touching of noses. After the pōwhiri, we shared scones and tea with some of the older students from the terrace. Overall, this memorable experience was the most amazing way to be welcomed into the Maori culture and truly made me feel welcomed to my new home for the next two months.

Advice for others...
My advice for future student teachers: Try every new food. Order the expensive pinot noir. Skydive from 18,000 feet above the New Zealand Mountains. Bungy Jump off the Aj Hacket Bridge (original home of bungy jumping). Great your students caregivers with a friendly face each morning and get to know the community. Find a bike to ride on the beautiful Otago trails. Disconnect from your phone and social media for a few weeks, you don't need a sim card. Try new cultural recipes. Learn their ways. Set aside time to reflect and be in the moment each day. Walk barefoot through the local grocery store. Its rejuvenating. Stay in hostels on the weekend. Relax in the hot springs. Enjoy every single moment of the entire experience.

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