Toppers Tour around the world: New Zealand

Students on a winter break study abroasd trip to New Zealand viisted the “Rivendell “ filming location from the Lord of the Rings films. A group of WKU students spent 15 days traversing the country. Photo submitted by Nina Wells


Home to hobbits and the endangered Hutton’s shearwater bird, the country of New Zealand is rich in forestry and wildlife. Over winter break, it was also home for a group of WKU students.

This past break, a small group of students found themselves traveling across to New Zealand from Jan. 3 to Jan. 18.

Some students attended for the simple pleasure of adventuring to a new place; others like Zack Jones, a recent international business graduate from Bowling Green, focused on fulfilling requirements for their major. 

“None of the programs stuck out to me, but once I saw New Zealand, I knew I had to go,” Jones said. “I waited a year and saved up and finally got to go during the winter term. It was legitimately a dream come true.”

Other students, however, chose to go for the fun and experience of it. These included Nina Wells, a social work major also from Bowling Green.

“This was not a part of my program, but I got the idea to go through my boyfriend, who had to study abroad to fulfill his major requirements,” Wells said. “The itinerary looked killer, and I’ve always wanted to go to New Zealand, so I signed up!”

Although New Zealand is a typical tourist destination, the students who completed the winter program also had to incorporate school work by completing assignments, discussion questions and journals after visiting different locations.

“Most days we would wake up, take a long commute to an activity place, talk to one of the local leaders, businessmen or administrators, do an activity and then a long commute back, Jones said.

Long days aside, Wells said she enjoyed the scenery and believes that was one of the things she wasn’t ready to experience.

“I miss the adventure of it all: the scenery, the weather and the people I went with,” she said.

Even across the world, miles and miles from Kentucky, Jones said he found some similarities and differences between New Zealand and home that he found interesting.

“My favorite difference, I think, is how the whole country has everything from sunny beaches to rolling hills to snow-capped mountains to arctic conditions — all in an area that has no more land area than Colorado,” he said.

One of the most interesting differences for Wells was the different taste in New Zealand’s ketchup.

“This is weird, but their ketchup was sweet … a lot of us didn’t like it,” Wells said.

With only two weeks in the new environment, students were able to experience a lifetime’s worth of adventure and an open mind to step outside comfort zones while in a new place, according to Jones.

“The structural dynamic forces [you] out of your comfort zone, makes you try new things and keep an open mind the whole time,” Jones said. 

With plans of studying abroad again this summer in South Africa, Wells felt the opportunity to go to New Zealand opened her eyes to the personal benefits of traveling.

“Travel is a personal priority of mine, and going on this trip made me realize that if I want to go somewhere, I need to just book the ticket and go,” Wells said.