During the summer of 2009 for two and a half weeks, I took a trip that went to two different countries; one is where the Kiwi is their native bird and the other is referred to as the Down Under. I was fortunate enough to travel to New Zealand and Australia last summer with a People to People Student Ambassador Group from my area, McHenry County, Illinois for high school students. I learned many things such as the world is a very diverse place with many different interesting cultures, tribes, sports, and much more.
We learned a great deal of information about the Maori, the native people of New Zealand, and were very lucky to spend a night on a Marae and experience all the traditions such as when a warrior presents themselves to the tribe and how they welcome and interact with them. Staying a Marae with the Maori people was definitely a key highlight in New Zealand because it made me thankful for what I have and opened my eyes to the way others live, but in the end we are all people that have similarities in some way or another. I would recommend you to try and stay on a Marae, so you can have an eye opening experience like me but I suggest not trying the Vegemite unless you like a bitter taste on your toast in the morning; it will wake your taste buds up real quick.
When we traveled to Australia, we had the opportunity to visit a high school, which might I say is very different than what we are accustomed to in the United States. The high school focused on sports; the students had normal classes: mathematics, science, and English, but they also had a period were they had a sports practice and then additional practice after school sometimes. Another contrast was the students referred to themselves by being in Year 12 or Year 10 instead of senior or freshman. When many people hear about Australia, they think of the jaw dropping Sydney Harbor and Opera House. They are truly spectacular, I enjoyed the tour of the Opera House and the boat around the harbor, and maybe someday you will find yourself on the steps of the Sydney Opera House. On my trip, we got to go visit Nemo and all his friends from the movie Finding Nemo on the Great Barrier Reef; the reef was so vibrate with colors and many creatures of all kinds. The Great Barrier Reef is definitely a site to see when you travel Down Under; it is truly a breathtaking natural wonder.
I was very lucky to be able to travel to two spectacular countries and make life long memories that I will always cherish. I feel that people can really learn something from traveling to Australia and New Zealand, or for that fact, any other country. Most people do not realize that no matter where you live whether it is across the street or across the ocean, all people have the same needs and we all need to respect each other’s differences and learn from one another.
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