Going into my three weeks in New Zealand, I figured I would find mostly similarities between our countries. What I took away instead were endless differences that taught me a lot.

America’s government versus New Zealand’s government was a main topic among UA and NZ students. Through our visit to Parliament, we learned that their government is much more accessible to its citizens than ours. For example, any petition with two signatures or more is reviewed by a committee. Many NZ students were proud of how they felt their government strongly reflected its peoples’ values. We discussed with them the difficulty in this happening in the states due to how populated and vast our nation is. New Zealand’s population sits around 5 million, while our’s is about 327 million. Each state government implements different laws that can even oppose federal laws. For New Zealand, one law goes for all.

Varying cultures across America is another reason for differing progress. Southern culture in the US is almost the polar opposite of the culture in western states. The public attitude of each state’s citizens leads to vastly different lives and laws. Many Kiwis felt they primarily had a unified culture. It is made up of many different ones, including Maori and Asian, but they shared that they all held many similar beliefs.

Kiwis both said and showed they valued community and their environment. Care for one another was seen in their inclusive cities and schools. Volunteerism was prevalent throughout, especially in Christchurch where the Student Volunteer Army regularly goes out to serve it’s community. The care for the environment was impossible to miss. New Zealand runs on 80% renewable energy and hopes to make it 100% by 2025. Plastic straws, bags, and silverware were no where to be found. Recycling bins were at every corner, it seemed. Overall, we found that Kiwis truly care for one another and work towards a bigger picture to support their community.

When looking back at our own country, many of us felt that Americans are more focused on themselves. We strive to be independent and self-sufficient, sometimes shrinking away from receiving help and therefore being less likely to want to give help. The land of our nation is normally seen as someone else’s responsibility. We don’t always look to care for the nature around us.

On the other hand, I do see a nation of people that are fighting for what they believe in. Whether our government reflects our values and supports us or not, we are standing up for what we believe in. We are working to create a better life for everyone. We are uniting to help save our planet. We are becoming a community that cares for another.

Me in the beautiful mountains of New Zealand.