Student Experience in New Zealand
By Steve Newman
Since 1999, Colorado State University and the College of Agricultural Sciences have been sending groups of undergraduate students for an education abroad semester to Lincoln University near Christchurch New Zealand. Christchurch, called the “Garden City,” is the largest city on the South Island with the typical urban attractions such as cafes, restaurants, museums, art galleries, parks, and botanical gardens. The South Island provides CSU students with opportunities for outdoor activities including hiking, backpacking, mountaineering, boating, fly-fishing, biking, bird watching, skiing, and snowboarding. There are many national parks include fjords, rivers, coastal nature reserves, glaciers, temperate rainforests, and high mountains to explore.
Like CSU, Lincoln University offers programs in agriculture, agribusiness, commerce, environmental management and planning, landscape architecture, sport and recreation management, science, software and information technology, tourism, viticulture and enology. Lincoln University began as a School of Agriculture in 1878, and it is the oldest agricultural teaching institution in the Southern Hemisphere. It is the smallest of eight government universities in New Zealand with an enrollment of nearly 6,000 students. Similar to CSU, a land-grant university, Lincoln University is New Zealand’s specialist land-based university. For more than 139 years, Lincoln has focused on improving New Zealand’s land-based knowledge, wealth and productivity. Lincoln University’s mission is to help feed the world, protect the future, and live well. International students come from more than 60 countries around the world.
The majority of CSU students attend Lincoln University during the first semester, which is from February through June accompanied by a faculty member from the College of Agricultural Sciences. For the 2017 term, 18 students from CSU are attending Lincoln University accompanied by Steve and Debra Newman. The 2017 students’ majors include animal science, ag business, ag education, business, construction management, horticulture, natural resources, sociology, and soil and crop sciences. The 2017 students are attending courses such as Māori cultural studies, pasture management, animal science, biological diversity, soil science, tourism, ecology, and wine making. Two of the 18 students are majoring in Horticulture. Sam Buckingham is a junior in Viticulture and Enology, and Courtni Shafer is a junior in Horticultural Food Crops with a minor in Agricultural Literacy.
Courtni, who is from Morrison Colorado, has wanted to spend a semester abroad since enrolling at CSU as a freshman. Courtni developed her passion for horticulture during her senior year in high school. Her senior field studies class sent her on urban trips to downtown Denver, backpacking in Arizona, and rafting on the Green River. Nevertheless, her community service at the GrowHaus, a hydroponic greenhouse and community food center in Denver, provided that career passion. Her goal is to share with others where their food comes from and to provide greater food security to all. New Zealand has always been a personal travel destination for Courtni, and the Lincoln/CSU education abroad program fit her needs well. At Lincoln, she is enrolled in soils, plant protection and genetics, all required for the CSU Food Crops concentration. Courtni has enjoyed taking classes under a different education system where multiple faculty are responsible for the lectures, allowing her to learn from the experts. Her course Plant Pest Management covers the biology of plant pests including pathogens and insects. A plant pathologist teaches the plant diseases, and an entomologist teaches the insect pests. Courtni says that having a diversity of experts teaching one class provides a great learning environment. All of her classes have labs with plenty of hands-on experience, but there is also plenty of time available to see and explore New Zealand. Never having traveled outside of the US other than Mexico and Canada with her family, Courtni’s experience has given her the opportunity to stretch her independence without a close network of family and friends. She plans to return to New Zealand at some point to explore New Zealand once again.
Sam, who hails from the California Bay Area, has family ties to New Zealand and Nebraska. Sam was excited about the opportunity to study at Lincoln to supplement his CSU enology and viticulture coursework with Lincoln University viticulture and wine making classes. Māori cultural studies rounds out Sam’s coursework for his education abroad. Sam first learned of the Lincoln/CSU education abroad program from other students in the CSU Vines to Wines Club. After spending many summers as a youngster on his grandmother’s farm outside of Fremont Nebraska, agriculture is in Sam’s blood. Sam chose CSU over Cal Poly San Luis Obispo for the agriculture and the opportunity to learn how to make wine. Sam wants other students to know that at Lincoln a CSU viticulture and enology student can expand their knowledge of the industry in a completely different climate while experiencing a new culture and a great ag program. Sam says, “The courses here are giving me a different perspective on wine making and grape growing because of how different the growing conditions are in New Zealand, which is only giving me a broader education.” The Centre for Viticulture and Oenology at Lincoln University provides CSU students with more than an international experience, but also offers an opportunity to study and work with leading research faculty in the wine industry, from soil to glass. After graduation, Sam’s objective is to take a global tour for a year while working in wine cellars, working the harvest for each location.
Sam and Courtni both are enjoying their introduction to life as Kiwis. Sam loves Kiwi slang, and the culture is just plain common sense. Kiwis “don’t try and be too specific, they just assume that you aren’t dumb enough to do something that would be a bad idea.” Courtni and many of the other CSU students have been surprised that running around with no shoes is acceptable. Apparently, Kiwis could care less if you wear shoes or not. Maybe New Zealand really is Middle Earth, and Kiwis are just hobbits.