The Kiwi Way
University of Victoria, New Zealand
My name is Cynthia Lilleston and I am studying Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. I have been in New Zealand for four months now and still have eight more months until I return to UH Hilo. What I have experienced and the people I have shared memories with in these past four months have surpassed all expectations I had envisioned prior to my arrival. Yet at the same time, if I were to leave in a month like many international students, I would feel like five months was nowhere near enough time to truly experience all that there is here. Then again, I do not think a year will even suffice. This is why I have been trying to engage myself in as many opportunities I can, while also keeping in mind ‘quality over quantity.’
During my time here I have come to realize that the people I share my experiences with are much more important than the activity itself. Branching out from the bubble of international students, especially those from the U.S., has been hard but doing so has enhanced my cultural experience immensely. One of my most memorable adventures was completing the 20 km Tongariro Alpine Crossing and summiting the magnificent Mount Ngauruhoe, or ‘Mount Doom’ for all you Lord of the Rings fans. The activity itself was surreal and breathtaking, literally, but the people I was with made a huge impact on the experience.
The group was composed of people from all over the world, including New Zealand, Thailand, Mauritius (an island near Madagascar), the Netherlands, and the UK. I was the only American. To experience such an epic adventure and with such a diverse and awesome group of individuals is what made this trip so memorable. As long as I continue to break outside my comfort zone and keep an open mind to new experiences and connections with people, I know the next eight months will simply enhance my experience to a greater degree.