Assumption is an invitation to reevaluate and combat our perceived truth. Since arriving in New Zealand just over a week ago, I have realized that assumptions, those that I have made and that others have presented, can inhibit people from truly understanding one another. If I’m being honest, I did not have many expectations for New Zealand. I knew that it was a country of blended culture, but in terms of the global stage, New Zealand is somewhat of a non-player. However, in this underdeveloped perspective, I assumed that New Zealand would be little more than pretty and peaceful. I did not think that I would actually learn skills and ideas that I could take home with me, as well as a newfound respect for the country that I reside in. The most impactful experiences from the trip thus far has been the interactions with the youth and children. Their willingness to open their schools, share their culture, and be honest about their perspectives and experiences was immensely beneficial to my understanding of what life is like in New Zealand. Whenever I spoke to middle school students about their lifestyle, I was unsurprised to discover that they placed significant weight on caring for their minority population. This was evident not only by their words, but also their actions. In school, some students learned about Māori culture intensely from kindergarten onward, while others learned less. Still, the grasp on native culture was unparalleled compared to that of the United States on its Native culture. In a way, the people and students that we spoke with in New Zealand live in a state of cultural awareness and understanding unlike that of US citizens. There exists a relationship between majority and minority in the United States that I haven’t found in New Zealand. In New Zealand, the minority is well cared for in terms of historical acknowledgment, awareness, and sensitivity in a genuine, overtly subtle manner. People do not hesitate to admit the wrongdoings of the past, while acknowledging that we have no choice but to move on with the lessons learned to create a better future. In New Zealand, they take action on the necessity for a better future.
I (in the blue sweatshirt), along with a group of Alabama students and local Kiwi middle schoolers doing a service project. Talking to the students opened my eyes to what the culture of New Zealand is like.