Semester in New Zealand – Don’t Forget Your Snapper Card – by Matthew Breeze. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at and

Semester in New Zealand – Don’t Forget Your Snapper Card – by Matthew Breeze. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at and


[This is my bus pass, known as a snapper card]

Public transportation is a miracle, and a curse. Coming from northern Minnesota to a relatively large city in New Zealand where I must use public transit has been an interesting transition. Back home it is impractical to use public transport, because, well, there is no public transportation. My home was eighteen miles from my high school and fifteen miles from town. I always had a car to get to school and home from practice or events afterwards. Coming to college in Duluth I brought my car with me. The end result being that I have never used public transit or city buses in my life.

Then I arrived in Wellington. Wellington is the Capital of New Zealand with a population of around 300,000 people. This is a big city to me. My home town is about 15,000 and the Duluth metro area is not much more than 100,000. Not only was this the largest city that I have ever spent an extended period of time in, but I have no car. Luckily for me HECUA, the organization that I am doing study abroad through, has been kind enough to supply each of the students on this trip with unlimited bus passes. These bus passes are called snapper cards and each student must never forget to grab their snapper card on the way out of the door.

Learning to use the bus system here in Wellington took me some time. I did find a wonderfully helpful app, the Metro Transit app, that allows me to simply type in my location and where I want to go and it will give me three possible options of routes and buses to go from point A to point B. This works great when I have wifi, since I was cheap and did not pay for a New Zealand phone plan, but not so great when I am trying to get home from a pub on a Friday evening.

This means that I have become accustomed to deciphering the Wellington public bus schedules posted at each bus stop. I am by no means a master at this. I have missed buses, gotten off at the wrong stop, arrived early and late and everything in between. Luckily for me I have at least figured out how to consistently go to and from my classes and internship to my home stay.


[This is a bus stop and a sign saying when the next buses will arrive]

I have seen some wonderful and strange things on the buses here. People are the most apathetic when on their way to and from work. Although Kiwis are incredibly friendly in it seems all other situations, they do not seem to wish to talk when on the bus. Each time I try to strike up a conversation with a fellow bus rider they always seem to want to talk as little as possible. I have not yet figured out why this is. That being said I have also seen people be what I think of as incredibly respectful and compassionate. Every time a person with a small child, or a pregnant woman, or an elderly person gets on the bus someone up front will without fail offer up their seat to that person. This everyday kindness is something that I think comes along with being in a small shared space like a city bus. People may not want to talk to each other, but they do want those who appear in need to be able to be just a little bit more comfortable, even if that means they have to give up their soft seat.

I also never realized how much freedom having a personal car was until I started taking the bus. I rely on the buses being on time and I am beholden to their schedule. When we drive ourselves places we have the freedom to go wherever we want whenever we please. This is not so with the buses as I am sure anyone who has taken a city bus will know. The worst thing is when a bus simply does not show up or is running late. This seems to be a rather large problem in Wellington. There have been multiple occasions where my scheduled bus simply failed to arrive or arrived very late. When I complained about this to my coworkers at my internship site they said that this was a relatively common problem. I can now see why some people supported Mussolini for saying that he would make the trains run on time (though of course, no one should support a Fascist leader).


[The 14 bus to Wilton. Otherwise known as my bus home]

Although the buses may be late sometimes my experience overall has been extremely positive and makes me want to use more public transport when I get back to the U.S. I feel comfortable with taking public transport now. When I first started on the buses I was nervous, but now it is nice and I know that it is much cheaper than using my car to get around. The Duluth city buses may become the next chapter of my public transport adventures. Until then I will keep listening to my host sister’s advice, “Don’t forget your snapper card!”

About Matthew Breeze, NSR editor. 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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The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy ( is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In three years we have published over 250 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors ( This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, with generous support from The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at)


Filed under Matthew Breeze, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

12 responses to “Semester in New Zealand – Don’t Forget Your Snapper Card – by Matthew Breeze. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at and

    • Nicholas Gangi

      As someone who works in the cities, public transportation might be the most underrated form of transportation. It’s nice to see an appreciation for it. Also, it is funny how much emphasis there is on public transportation elsewhere compared to the united states (Outside of N.Y.C). Hopefully, that culture carries over to the states and allows for growth not only in transportation but also for the environment.

  1. McKenna Holman

    How hard was it to get used to public transportation? Do you think if you had previous experience with it it would have been easier to pick up? Is public transportation used more there than most places in the states? I love the idea that as soon as someone with a child or elderly person gets on the bus someone gives up their seat. I think its incredible that there is that unspoken rule and kindness that you don’t often see here in the states. So, when you come home do you really thing you’ll start to use public transportation more or will you continue to use the freedom of your car?

  2. Mary Tran

    That’s really cool that HECUA supplied each student on your trip with unlimited bus passes. What is the average cost for a bus pass? Why are bus passes referred to as “snapper cards”? It’s very interesting that there’s an app that allows you to find the best possible routes from point A to point B. I’m sure that can be very helpful getting to your location. In addition to how there’s this unspoken rule where people will offer their seat to a child, pregnant woman, or an elderly person. Based on your experiences, what’s some advice you’d give to someone who has never used public transportation? Thank you for sharing, Matthew!

  3. Thomas Landgren

    Thanks for sharing another part of your adventure Matt! I think that taking the Duluth transit will be a lot easier to understand and follow than the Wellington transportation. That’s awesome that your program was nice enough to help out with the smaller details. I find it awesome that people are almost always compassionate and have wonderful bus etiquette in New Zealand. You don’t see a lot of people giving up their seat on a bus for someone in need. Though there are always a few that have that kind of compassion in the US. Does New Zealand only have buses or are there other forms of public transportation? Great article!

  4. Molly McCusker

    It is so cool that you were able to study abroad in New Zealand. I have been wanting to travel to the country for years… it looks beautiful! It was interesting to hear that the people riding the bus were quiet but also very friendly. I wonder why they were quiet. Did you find that the Kiwis were talkative outside the bus, and just quiet while riding on the bus? Also, it’s important to learn how to use public transportation, so it’s great that you were able to figure it out. Every time I use the Duluth Public Buses, I tend to get lost. It can be a confusing system to figure out, but once you use it enough, it can be an easy and painless form of transportation! Thanks for sharing, this was fun to learn about!

  5. Ashley Kittelson

    While reading this article, I recalled how terrified I was to ride the bus in Superior for the first time – despite the fact that my mother went with me and I knew the area. However, it only got easier from there. I continue to ride the bus because it is a more environmentally responsible choice than driving a personal vehicle. Although taking the bus often takes at least twice as long as driving, it is considerably cheaper than owing a car. The more often I take the bus, the less inclined I am towards purchasing a car soon. I hope that more people are able to get over the initial adjustments to take the bus more often.

  6. Kalley Friederichs

    Matt thank you for sharing part of experience abroad with us! It sounds like an amazing time. I grew up in the suburbs of the Twin Cities so I also am not very familiar with public transportation. I do think that if you learn how to use public transportation it can be very nice, especially if you have a longer commute. I know my cousin takes the city buses into work in Minneapolis every morning and he loves it because he can get work done on the way in. I found it interesting that you said most people did not want to talk much on their commutes.

  7. Dylan Brovick

    I loved reading your article about the snapper card and found to it be funny and informative. I am like you in that I have never used public transportation because since I was 16 I have had a car and never needed to take the bus. Also, I really don’t want to learn the busing routes and it seems confusing to me is the main reason I do not use public transportation in Duluth. I wonder now if they do have an app that shows you all the routes and where they are going like you mentioned in Wellington. Maybe they should have trackers on the buses also for the app so that you can see where it is and how late you may end up being. Public transportation is very important for so many people without a car and I believe it is important that the cost of it stays relatively cheap for the many people who rely on it because if you cant afford a car I would hope the bus fee is not to much of some peoples expenses. Lastly, more options for public transportation like buses, ride shares, and metro transit in the cities will be more important in the future I believe. As the population begins to rise more and more people will be on the roads causing traffic and riding in public transportation may save time for many people and lower the amount of cars on the road. That will also mean public transportation can be helpful in fighting climate change as less cars will be on the road and more people can find alternative ways to get to work.

  8. Madina

    Hello Matthew!
    Thank you for sharing that interesting article. Public transportation is a completely different story everywhere you go. In Duluth it’s relatively easy to get around using public transportation and the buses are not usually more than a couple minutes late. In a bigger city somewhere in Africa however, the buses are jam packed, people have no places to sit and there is usually no schedule that they follow. Opting to use public transportation nowadays is not only helpful for the enviornment but for our own experiences. Maybe analyzing and learning about the way people take the bus and being a couple minutes late is better than isolating yourself forever and having the liberty to drive anywhere!

  9. Tamer Mische-Richter

    I will be in New Zealand this coming summer and am really happy to know that the transit system is extensive. I totally understand the reliance on personal vehicles. I didn’t acquire my drivers license until I was 18 and was dependent upon my family and friends to transport me to and from my destinations. Yes, the two years that I waited from turning 16 to 18 was irritating but in the grand scheme of things was not a bad choice. Because of the wait time, I was able to understand that cars develop a habitual use of individual transportation. The experience of public transportation or even carpooling is entirely different and should be highly encouraged for the environmental benefits they present.

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