Semester in New Zealand – Spring Break 2.0 – by Matthew Breeze. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports
[NZ flowers bloom in October]
This is my second spring break of the year, as spring is in full swing here in the southern hemisphere. Time is a complicated concept. Being in a time zone seventeen hours ahead of my home, friends and family has made me realize that time really is relative. When I call home I am talking from the future, something that my mom always thinks is funny and weird. The weather is getting warmer and warmer here, back home it is getting colder and colder. Even the holidays are confusing. The stores in New Zealand are selling Halloween costumes and fake pumpkins. Halloween is the quintessential fall holiday back in the Unites States. Halloween still has all the commercial items from the northern hemisphere here in the southern hemisphere, Starbucks even has pumpkin spice coffee, but this all feels out of place.
As a native of Minnesota I have grown up loving everything about fall. Being away for the fall has been harder than I expected. This only becomes more apparent when I see Halloween costumes and pumpkin flavored food in a place where everything is turning green and new life is blooming everywhere. The leaves should be falling, it is October after all, instead new plants are shooting towards the sun and flowers flash their fantastic colors everywhere. The fiddle heads of the iconic New Zealand ferns are unfurling more everyday to create huge fern trees.
I do not tend to get homesick, even being eight thousand miles and more away from home has not made me feel homesick, but I do miss the Minnesota fall. Sometimes the best way to realize that you love something is to go without it. Fresh green fern fiddleheads are no comparison to the richness of reds, yellows, oranges, and browns that transform the vision of the trees of home. The natural beauty of New Zealand amazes visitors every day, it amazes me everyday as well. The mountains seem to rise up right out of the ocean some days when I look out the car window or out across the bow of the ferry between the north and south islands. That being said I can’t help but imagine the trees turn red and yellow.
[Huge fern tree about 20 feet tall]
I have never felt more tied to my home and my sense of place until I went very very far away. The landscapes of new and different places may inspire myself and travelers like me, but the familiar environments of home call back to me from across the vast ocean.
[Giant fern fiddlehead growing to form a new branch on a large fern]
Maybe this is why so many immigrants to new lands tried to change their new environment to look like the one they came from. This can be seen in the Norwegian immigrants settling on the rocky north shore of Minnesota, or the English settlers changing forested mountains into sheep and cow pasture here in New Zealand. Everyone feels tied to a home environment. Some people moved to places that looked like their home country, some people have drastically changed their new places to look similar to older ones. Some people, like myself, may simply have a greater appreciation and love of their homes natural beauty after seeing the beauty of a faraway place or places.
Spring in October feels wrong right down to my Minnesota core, but I have learned to appreciate fall in a whole new way by being away from it. Learning or acquiring a greater appreciation for the places that we all call home ties us all to the land in a new way. Maybe distance really does make the heart grow fonder. Fall will never feel the same way again. Being gone for hunting season, fall colors, harvesting of vegetable gardens, and so much more will make all those things more valued when I come home to experience them with new enlightened eyes all over again.
Spring break 2.0 2016 in New Zealand has been an eye opening one. Sometimes we have to travel far away from the places and things we love to see the real value in them. Who would have thought that cold nights and dying plants could be so appealing. When one is half a world away things look different.
[Me being excited about all the greenery]
About Matthew Breeze. I am a junior at the college of St. Scholastica this year and I am majoring in Global, Cultural, and Language studies with a minor in spanish and a minor in political science. I will be returning to St. Scholastica in December. I am originally from Bemidji, Minnesota, but I have come to consider Duluth as my second home. I have a passion for politics and I hope to someday work for the State Department or the Foreign Service working in international relations in some way shape or form. I have always wanted to go to New Zealand. I have been to Canada and Mexico, but I really haven’t been anywhere different than the United States. The city in Mexico I was in was a tourist trap and Canada looks like my northern Minnesota home. I have a family connection to New Zealand as well as the general desire to visit. My grandfather was in New Zealand for rest and relaxation during World War II. The stories of his time in NZ have been passed down through the family and are one of the biggest reasons that I decided to do a study abroad semester in NZ.
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26 responses to “Semester in New Zealand – Spring Break 2.0 – by Matthew Breeze. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports”
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Such an important topic to write about Matt! I think you are getting at both the importance and the difficulties of being away from home.Yes it is hard to be away from everything that is familiar to you, but like you mentioned it helps you appreciate what you have. You realize things about your home that you did not know when you were there there. Actually experiencing (as opposed to just reading about it) a new place also gives you a more concrete perspective that is different from yours. This is very important to expand your understanding of the world and to guide your actions throughout your life. Thank you for this article!
I think anyone who travels — not necessarily by choice — resonates with the line you used in your report, “Sometimes the best way to realize that you love something is to go without it.” It sounds similar to the phrase, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” I think our sense of identity is built around the kind of space/place we consider home. For you in particular, Minnesota. For now, the province/state in which you live in within New Zealand. It is hard to make sense of your reality and then feel this need to successfully navigate this new environment. But I appreciate that you noticed that even a place that is 17 hours ahead your ‘normal’ timezone, there are similarities like Halloween and pumpkin spice latte. Which makes me wonder the origin of Halloween now. I hope you make parts of New Zealand your home so that one day, you can come back and feel a state of comfort.
How amazing to imagine October as a Spring month! Do the locals view pumpkin flavored items as a Spring product only or does it also reemerge during their fall? Have you altered your living space in New Zealand to reflect your life in Minnesota? Thank you for sharing your adventure with us!!
It is weird!! The Kiwis eat pumpkin in many of their food dishes, so it is more of just a common item for them than a seasonal food. They really only see pumpkin flavored things in American shops or stores, but they seem to enjoy when this happens! If anything just because it is different and new at that time. I really haven’t altered my living space here, but sometimes when I look out my room window at Wellington harbour I imagine that it is Lake Superior. Thank you for your comment!
Identity is a funny thing. Like you say about immigrants trying to make their new home like their old one, we are so connected to our identities that it can be hard to let go of them, especially from far away. I think travelling is important and something everyone should do. Experiencing cultures all around the world is a great opportunity, it lets you see how others identify with each other and with their cultures. I love that you chose such an important topic to write about.
Also, is it hard to contact family with a 17 hour time difference? How does that work?!
On days like today when the high is 45 I sometimes wish it was spring and the weather was going to get warmer. Although it is cold I do agree that the fall is best time of the year in Minnesota with all the leaves changing colors and all the other festive opportunities that happen in the fall. Being ahead in the time zone by 17 hours is a lot and is really like you are living in the future. My Aunt and Uncle live in Hawaii and it is always a struggle trying to find a good time to give them a call and talk and they are only 6 hours behind us. The most interesting thing to me from this article is that around the world people are living very different lives and also are living in different seasons which create different attitudes and memories around certain holidays. Like you said to the people of New Zealand they are used to having halloween in the spring and warmth where here they would be amazed people go out in some costumes when it is 40 degrees outside.
Thanking you Matt for sharing your spring 2.0 experience in New Zealand. I don’t know how you can do it. Also being a native Minnesotan, fall is one of my favorite seasons and imagining not being able to experience it for a full year seems really odd.I think that it is super interesting when it comes to the idea of Halloween in the spring. How has being in a time zone that is 17 hours ahead affected your communication with family and friends still in Minnesota? I feel like what you said towards the end of your article about “Maybe distance really does make the heart grow fonder.” can be relate able. I have never been anywhere that was basically half way across the world but whenever i go somewhere new it always makes me look at my hometown through a different lens. Great Article!
Sometimes you need not even be far away across the ocean to miss the fall season in Duluth (although I know your situation is very different). I myself am still in Duluth, but my extremely busy schedule has not really allowed me to get outside and enjoy the scenery at all. I often tell myself that I was born in the wrong state/country, but deep down I know I would miss everything about Minnesota weather and four seasons. In my Cultural Anthropology class last spring we talked about how time is arbitrary and that all of our own perceptions of time and cultural perceptions of time are different, so I found it interesting how well this piece reflected that idea.
I really enjoyed reading this article because we often forget exactly what time means because it is based completely on perspective- it’s a human construct which is as you said, relative. It is incredible to see an October spring; for some reason, perhaps the impending cold, I find the full bloom you are experiencing to be quite appealing. The grass and the evergreens are the only shades of green left here in Duluth, and soon enough the grass will die too, because of this, I find your lush green pictures to be quite beautiful. It’s fascinating to think that they celebrate Halloween in New Zealand during spring (when all is lively) because part of the excitement here is the spooky atmosphere we get from all the dead things. Even our perspective on holidays is relative to our seasons that we experience, after all, what is Christmas with no snow? Thanks for the update, safe travels and hope to see more soon!
I believe Minnesotans are blessed with four distinct seasons. I love the part about how you are talking from the future. Time is not the only relative thing. Everything we see as normal is all relative. There are hundreds of different “norms” that people all across the world experience daily. One person’s norm may not seem extraordinary until there eyes are opened to a different way of living. The part about immigrants is a good connection. Another example I thought of was Chinatown. When the world looks very different from what a group perceives are ordinary it is natural to recreate the comforts of home. It is also a way to hold onto their culture and traditions. This article was interesting and you will probably be really excited come next fall.
Thank you for your thoughtful analysis of traveling and time. I was especially struck by your connection between original home places and the space that people build around themselves in a new location. It made me contemplate the concept of identity, and how locations affects that. Specifically, I wondered about the identity gained from traveling to a foreign location. Does that become a small slice of your identity and your home? What connection does that have to the idea of souvenirs that people then bring back to their original space?
Matt, thank you again for sharing your experiences and insights into a different culture, place, and time. I really appreciate that you acknowledge your longing for a Minnesotan fall experience because that’s something I have considered for studying abroad in the fall. Even if you have to give up something for something like studying abroad and entering a new culture, the payoff is worth it. All of the things we learn to appreciate by going without teach us the importance of learning others’ customs. We can develop empathy for many of our fellow Americans in their transition into a brand new country’s culture.
Thank you for sharing your experience Matt. I appreciate that you wrote about your struggle with the difference of season. The change of climate, scenery, season, environment, and culture can be overwhelming and can make us appreciate our home much more. But I think immersing ourselves into a different culture shows us the importance of empathizing with others who go through a similar significant change in their life. In my experience, the suffering and unfamiliarity of another culture is absolutely worth the new ways of thinking and exposure to other people/ways of life that you gain.
Nice post! I understand your missing of Minnesota fall. Even though I’m from Wisconsin, I still miss seeing the familiar trees from home change color too. I liked the point that you made about immigrants choosing to settle in similar area to that of their home. It makes so much sense when you think about it. I think it would be so strange to see everything in bloom in October like you’re experiencing now. Similar to what you mentioned in your post was that you felt more connected to your home now that you’re away, and I can see that in myself too. Moving from a town where I spent my whole life, to a new and unfamiliar environment is so weird, it makes me miss all of the parts of my town that I normally hate, but because I’m away I miss them. Can’t wait to see more posts from you in the future!
Thank you for sharing your experience abroad Matt. I can’t imagine a year without fall, as a native Minnesotan as well. A Halloween in the spring must be such an interesting experience. I’m sure you’re going to appreciate being home next year so much more! In my time abroad, I can definitely relate to the struggles of being away from home and missing all things Minnesota. I’ve never been more excited to see Duluth’s skyline in my life than on my drive home from the airport. I hope you’re able to take in all of the cultural differences your trip has to offer! They will definitely serve to be the most incredibly memories you’ll bring back home.
Thank you for sharing your experiences in New Zeland! I also love fall and find it hard only to have it for a short time. I use to live in the cities, and the fall season was much longer that it is up North in Duluth. Also, I enjoyed your segment on times relativity. I haven’t traveled many places where there is a significant time zone change, but some of my relatives have. They experienced similar things to you. Because I am curious about cultures, what are some cultural similarities and differences in New Zeland?
It seems like you are having a great experience Matt. Something unique about us Minnesotan’s is that we have the privilege of expierencing 4 different seasons. As you talked about how strange it is to not see the fall colors and sweater weather- I completely understand. I spend my winter breaks in Dominican Republic with my Grandma and other family members and it has always been odd to me to see fake snow or the resembliance the western culture in the Dominican Republic. I don’t know how it is in new Zealand but i can only imagine that it is a similar feeling to what you are feeling. I think that is something very interesting to think about, how much the United States has influenced other countries and why that is. I am really glad that you are immersing yourself into a different country because this will give you a different perspective on seeing the world. Great post!
Matthew, I really enjoyed your article, and it is crazy how different parts of the world are at different times in different seasons. I am a Nordic skier and I follow the U.S. ski team athletes on social media such as Instagram and Facebook, and they actually travel to New Zealand in the summer to train on snow because of the snow farms that New Zealand has in the mountains. It must be very interesting to learn about the culture in New Zealand, and how they have adopted Western ideas such as the practice of Halloween and restaurants such as Starbucks. I also think it is really cool that you are honest about missing fall in the mid-west, but at the same time you appreciate the geography and climate that you are now in.
What you are writing about is something I think everyone who travels experience. We had a foreign exchange student live with my family for a year when I was in high school and she was from Brazil and had never seen snow. She’s come back to visit for two Christmases now and every time she leaves she always says how much she misses snow and now that she’s had a white Christmas she misses it so much, even though the first time it was definitely different. I think we learn to associate certain things, like yellow and red leaves with fall, and when they’re gone it feels so empty and different.
It’s amazing what small things can remind you of home because of their absence, or because they’re NOT what you’ve seen at home. Even though some people (like myself) wish the leaves would change colors but not fall, and wish it would stay a certain temperature during fall, we know that if we left this place for something drastically different, we would come to love all the things we previously hated. For some, being in a different country, even hemisphere, , can Make you long for change, but for many of us, it just causes our appreciation for home to grow and grow. I hope the longing for home isn’t distracting you too much from the amazing joys of New Zealand! Enjoy the rest of your time!
I don’t how I would get used to it getting warmer and warmer in October. At some points when the weather first starts to get cold I wish it wasn’t fall but I like seeing the leaves change color. When spring does finally come I feel overjoyed to get rid of the snow and cold weather. Your story is very interesting I would too also miss the Minnesota fall. I wonder how the other seasons are compared to Minnesota?
Thank you for your post! I find it fascinating as to how closely connected culture is with the surrounding environment; animals, plants, weather, geography, etc. While it definitely does not sum up culture entirely, it seems to play a large part in it. When I think of fall in the U.S., I think of the end of the harvest season and therefore all the winter fruits and vegetables (pumpkins!!!) come to mind because they are usually in the oven or in the table. I can’t imagine the feeling of coming around to the fall months, and then having spring happen all around you! Must be quite a different feeling.
The whole notion of a spring at the end of the year gave me mixed feelings as well. It will be even weirder come Thanksgiving, when you’ll be wearing shorts and eating with your pseudo-family! Great article, you touched on a lot that I think each of us who have taken the trip has felt! Enjoy the rest of your time there 🙂
Thank you Delaney! Yeah I imagine that it will get more and more weird as time goes on. This truly is a great trip and I am so glad that people like you were able to tell me about it before I left and encourage me to go.