Land down under: Students experience different cultures, gain unique experiences

Lights, sounds, colors engulf the busy streets of the city. Open spaces, green grass, majestic views creating a calming effect in the country. Initially these images seem in contrast, but four BHS students were able to experience both as they traveled to Australia and New Zealand over the summer through Explorica, a non-school related program which provides opportunities for youth to travel abroad.

“I want to give students an opportunity to see new cultures and expand their worldview,” AP world history teacher Samantha Morgan said. “Expanding one’s worldview helps students value what they have in [America] and also helps them become more aware of the rest of the world.”

Students were able to learn about the Maori tribal people of New Zealand who still live as their ancestors did over 1,000 years ago.

“It’s good to explore different cultures because you become worldlier and more knowledgeable,” senior Ashley Konderla said. “Traveling gets people thinking in a different way. Many people have a lot of ego when it comes to their hometown or the country they live in, but stepping out of their comfort zones and experiencing other cultures helps broaden their perspectives.”

The group traveled to New Zealand first and explored the countryside through the eyes of the native people.

“I loved the rural parts of New Zealand because it made it really seem like a foreign country,” junior Madi Little said. “Everything was like ten times greener and cleaner than it is here. They even have people that clean the streets and fields at night so everything stays really clean.”

Not only did New Zealand consist of beauty in its rural elements, but it also had rides, like the Luge, down one side of a mountain that allowed for the students discover more beauty within the country.

“We went to this place called the Luge. You travel down the side of a mountain on different levels. It was funny when Miss. Morgan and Tony fell off the side of one of the carts.”

The students weren’t the only people who enjoyed the luge, they convinced their sponsor to go too after telling her how beautiful the view was from the top of the mountain.

“At first I didn’t want to [ride the luge] because I was scared, but Madi and Wilsey said the view was amazing and convinced me to do it,” Morgan said. “Instead of going down the beginner lane, they convinced me to do the advanced lance which went much faster and had more curves. I almost fell off a few times, but it was a lot of fun and the girls were right about the view, I could see for miles.”

The students also got to see kangaroos and koalas during the trip in an environment that allowed for them to interact with the animals while still providing the animals with a sanctuary type environment to live.

“The animal sanctuary had little ice cream cones filled with seeds for people to feed the animals. Sometimes the kangaroos would steal the cones and hop around which was really funny,” Ashley said. “The koalas were also cute and made funny noises. They were trying to assert dominance and were really loud.”

Other students on the trip also saw the animal sanctuary as a unique opportunity to experience interactions most American students will never have.

“I don’t get to see koalas and kangaroos everyday,” Madi said “My favorite animals were the baby kangaroos because I got to hold one. It made my heart explode because they were so cute and it was an opportunity I may never have again.”

Doing new things seemed to be very common in this trip. The students going from seeing animals they’ve never seen before to getting to places like comic convention where one can fulfill their childhood dream of meeting their favorite comic book character.

“I was able to go to a comic convention in Sydney where I met Colossus and Teenage Mega Warhead from the Deadpool movie,” Ashley said. “I bought a replica necklace from the Lord of the Rings for myself and a cool comic book for my boyfriend. The convention only added to the uniqueness of the trip.”

One of the students, Ashley, wasn’t just excited to go to New Zealand, but too see her childhood dream come to life by going to the Hobbit Hole because of her passion for Lord of the Rings.

“I always wanted to see the Hobbit Hole in New Zealand because I’m a huge Lord of the Rings fan,” Ashley said. “I was super excited and jumped up and down when we got there. I felt like I couldn’t breathe because I was so happy to see Frodo and Bilbo’s house.”

Morgan researched events and activities in Australia and New Zealand prior to taking the trip with the girls. The day they arrived, the Vivid Sydney Festival which celebrates light, music, and ideas was in its final day.

“The festival was amazing,” Ashley said. “At one point it felt like we were in a movie because we were dancing and singing together with all the locals. It was one of those memories that will be with me always.”

During the festival the harbor was lit up and they projected images on the Opera House using laser lights.

“The Opera House was my favorite part,” Morgan said. “They displayed different shapes and works of art on it including some local Aboriginal art. The Opera House is a landmark I have always wanted to see, so to see it in a different way was really interesting.”

Traveling out of the country is something that a lot of people don’t get to do in a lifetime. This opportunity to get to New Zealand and Australia and make exciting memories is something these girls will cherish forever.

“Traveling to Australia and New Zealand was a great opportunity and it was the trip of a lifetime,” Wilsey said. “I got to see many new and exciting things”

A lot of things were gaining from this trip, whether that be souvenirs, or kangaroo jerky , but the best of all were the memories gained from all of the exciting things the girls did on the trip.

“I will hold on to the memories I gained from this trip forever,” Madi said. “This trip helped me understand the culture of other countries. I love to travel and being able to mark these two countries off my bucket list makes me feel amazing.”