Semester in New Zealand – Don’t Forget Your Snapper Card – by Matthew Breeze. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports
[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 (http://NorthStarReports.org) 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 (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). 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: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm
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 http://NorthStarReports.org 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) css.edu