Normally when you ask someone where they last traveled to you get quirky answers like “Walmart” or even stupid answers like “the moon!” In the summer of 2008, I went somewhere a little different. Not very many Americans can say they’ve been to both New Zealand and Australia. I had the honor of making it into People to People Student Ambassadors program. And let me tell you, it was the honor of a life time and an experience I’ll never forget.
I’d never been on a plane before. This is something that everyone should do before they consider going to over to the land Down Under. It’s a 15 hour flight which is a rather frightening experience for someone who’s never flown before.
We arrived in New Zealand first. Here, we toured the entire island over the span of a week and a half. The two most exciting experiences were staying in a Maori house and our homestay. We had the chance to stay in a real Maori house in Rotorua. The Maori were the native people in New Zealand until it was colonized. Very few people have the honor of staying inside the Marae which is their ‘main house.’ While there, we ate cultural food like those that their ancestors ate hundreds of years ago. They also shared their customs and instruments. In Christchurch, we did our homestay. For three days, we stayed with a local family and just got to experience what life was like there. They live just like we Americans do. The teenagers go to schools like ours, but cooler. They offer unique classes like stage make-up and engineering. They also have morning and afternoon tea which is like a snack time. There is a common room just for seniors. The grades (10, 11, 12, 13) are designated by houses, much like Harry Potter. Kindergarten is their “Grade 1” so if you’re in grade 13, you’re a senior. Overall, I was in love with New Zealand and I am tempted to move their when I’m older.
Australia was a totally different experience. For one, hardly anyone we met had the “G’Day” Australian accent that we associate with Australia. I kept listening out for it, but I never heard it. Their accent sound really close to the Kiwi’s (New Zealander’s) accent. It’s a really pretty accent and everyone on my trip wanted one! The highlights in Australia were touring the Sydney Opera House, climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge (440 feet high!), and visiting the Aborigines (Australia’s natives). The Opera House was the number one thing I was looking forward too and it didn’t disappoint. It was just as majestic and grand as it looks in pictures, if not more! We didn’t have the chance to see a performance, but we toured all the theaters. The bridge was frightening to climb but I felt proud after I did it. Not very many people do it, but plenty of celebrities like Will Smith and Daniel Radcliffe have. The Aborigines were some of the most incredibly interesting people I’ve ever seen! They’re similar to our Native Americans but with cooler traits. They know how to throw boomerangs and play the didgeridoo. They showed us a cultural dance that told a story. Australia broke every stereotype I’d ever heard about it, which is why I’m fond of Australia.
This trip was the best experience I’ve had in my life so far. I met so many amazing people and went to two countries very few people ever get to see. I can only hope to go back some day.
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