For the past three years, Dr. Latta has taken a group of students to New Zealand for an atypical study abroad program. Instead of an ordinary program where students spend hours in the classroom full of lecture, students who venture half way around the world to New Zealand experience the country and its culture in an immersive way. Daily trips to lively places like city centers and universities offer students a plethora of opportunities to not only learn about New Zealand’s culture, but to experience it from the view point of natives, all while earning credit hours.
To begin the trip, students take one of the longest commercial flights in the world, lasting over 15 hours. Once landed in New Zealand, the students get to explore the country for the next three-to-four weeks from the rugged coast, to a sheep farm, to Hobbiton – the movie set that has been left untouched after filming The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings series. Some students were even adventurous enough to leap off of the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere, Auckland’s Sky Tower. Unconnected to a bungee, the brave students who jumped experienced a controlled, decelerated descent of 192 meters. Perhaps the students’ bravery had something to do with the viral video they saw of Beyoncé taking the plunge? New Zealand has so much to offer, both inside and outside the classroom.
While the trip is not all fun and games, students gain credit hours by engaging in direct conversation with locals, and discussing results of different interactions they have experienced. Over the course of the immersive study abroad program, students aim to develop strong critical thinking skills, specifically thinking from different viewpoints. Using these newly strengthened mental skills, students are encouraged to expand their knowledge and understanding of any and all possibilities in the answers to any single question. After experiencing New Zealand, students leave the trip with a newfound appreciation of not only the world around them, but the people who inhabit it.