WCC students venture to New Zealand

Windward Community College students experienced Maori culture during a trip to New Zealand over spring break – wikimedia.org

Over spring break, a contingent from WCC made up of students, faculty and administrators traveled to New Zealand for an 8-day study abroad experience that included cultural learning as well as sight-seeing and adventure.

Twenty-one students participated, most of whom were enrolled in Hawaiian studies instructor Makanani Salā’s HWN 296: Encounter Traditions in Polynesia course, which covered the different encounters in Polynesia with an emphasis on Maori encounters in New Zealand.

Students learned about New Zealand’s indigenous people–the Maori–and their culture. For example, in Maori culture, whenever you come upon new people, there is a formal introduction known as pōwhiri. Traditionally, the ritual was used to discover whether the visiting party was friend or foe.

During the pōwhiri ceremony, everything is spoken in the Māori language; English is not allowed. Salā’s students had to learn to sing and speak in the proper way.

WCC student life and engagement specialist Makana Tani, who went on the trip, said, “In New Zealand, it’s very hard to not practice the culture. That’s something that blew me away. At every university that we visited, we had protocol or pōwhiri where the Māoris would welcome us. If found non threatening we were invited in. The Pōwhiri process or protocol was just enriching.”

Student Zellie Kunishige was also impressed. “Their language and singing are a huge part of their culture, as well as their hospitality, which is similar to us here in Hawai’i. However, they have held onto so much of their culture and their traditions that I feel we have lost some of that here in Hawai’i over the years.”

Along with the cultural richness of the trip, there was plenty of time to take in the sights. The group visited geothermal springs, mud pools and stopped at the city of Hamilton, home of the Hobbiton set from The Lord of the Rings movies. The students walked around and went into the Green Dragon Inn to try ginger beer.

The fun didn’t stop there as they also had the opportunity to participate in skyline luge, sky swing and zip lining.

“My favorite activity that we did was the Sky Swing,” Tani said. “Kalanihoʻokaha (Sesma), Zellie and I were the student leaders during the trip, and we just needed to let loose. So we went on a sky swing, which is a swing that takes you 140 feet off the ground and you fly with nothing to hold on!” Other students had a skyline luge competition, which is a three wheeled go-kart.

Salā said she hopes the New Zealand program continues since demand for the trip was high. She also pointed out the benefits of traveling abroad.

“It helps us see outside of ourselves, in which case we can come back and look at ourselves from a macro perspective and how we relate or how we do things different and similar across the world,” she said.

Student Sheila Kurosu added, “New Zealand peeps think of Hawai‘i as a place with people just like them. They don’t consider us part of the U.S. and feel we are brothers and sisters who migrated north long, long ago. They are very strong family people with similar values to that of Hawaiians. I love that the British government recognize them and the Maori are self-sufficient in a lot of what they do.”

Students were responsible for their own airfare, which cost an average of $850-$1040. The program fee was $750, which included accommodations, about half of the meals and most of the excursions.

To learn more about study abroad opportunities through WCC, visit the Study Abroad Center located in Hale Na‘auao 114, which is open Mondays from 1:30-3:30 p.m., Thursdays 1:00-3:30 p.m. and Fridays 9 a.m. to noon. You can also email WCCStudyAbroad@hawaii.edu or visit https://windward.hawaii.edu/study_abroad/.


by Itzel Contreras Mendez, Ka ‘Ohana Staff Reporter