Student Stories: Clarity and perspective in Aotearoa

Sam DeLuca

Discover the flora, fauna, and landscapes of New Zealand with Natural Resources student Sam, who is pursuing a specialty option in Wildlife Management. Sam participated in the faculty-led program Land of the Long White Cloud: Ecosystems of New Zealand in September 2023.

What surprised you most during your travels? Why?

I was most surprised about the landscape and the culture. I didn’t know much about New Zealand before arriving. As soon as I got there, I could see all of the amazing advancements to the country’s infrastructure — clean areas, accessible transportation, friendly people. But most of all, I loved the appreciation everyone had for Māori culture. I wish we could follow in their footsteps and work on giving back to the indigenous communities here in the US. And the harmony everyone has with the environment is beautiful. The island ecosystems and stunning mountain ranges offered an experience that was otherworldly.

How did your time abroad influence your thoughts on your field of study and/or career path?

I want to focus more on endangered species now because I saw first-hand just how they influence the ecosystem. I knew I wanted to study wildlife, but there is so much to be done on protecting native species from invasive threats. I also plan on researching the effects of predator introductions in sensitive habitats. This trip has helped me realize exactly how to enter into a career path of wildlife ecology.

If you had to pick one, what was your all-time favorite experience while abroad? Why was it so meaningful?

I really loved hiking through the Waimangu Volcanic Valley. Learning about the history of the landscape and how the whole country is directly on a fault line was really interesting. I enjoyed walking with everyone and taking lots of pictures. And stopping every 10 feet to identify cool plant species! The friends I made on this trip really made it the best experience.

What advice would you give to students considering an international experience?

You don’t need a plan for everything. Life will take you in so many directions and if you let it happen, these unforgettable opportunitues will keep presenting themselves. This trip shaped who I am as a person. I have a lot of social anxiety and was afraid of going somewhere new with no one I’m familiar with. But I’m so glad I went. I have a new perspective on how the world works and all the good people there are. It’s easy to let all the awful parts of life weigh you down. I’ve learned that traveling isn’t running away from these problems. It clears your mind and offers new solutions. You can come back home and use these new skills to make life better for yourself and others around you.

Ready to start your own study abroad adventure?

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