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New Zealand: A World Worth Protecting, by Ana Turosky, Environmental Resource Management major, Soil Science minor

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Posted: June 1, 2017

There are things worth protecting, and many of those things reach further than a Penn State campus or even the borders of the United States.
Top: Aoraki / Mt. Cook is the tallest peak in New Zealand at 3,724 meters (12,218 feet), Bottom: "Standing on shoulders of Giants" on top of the Remarkables, Queenstown, NZ

Top: Aoraki / Mt. Cook is the tallest peak in New Zealand at 3,724 meters (12,218 feet), Bottom: "Standing on shoulders of Giants" on top of the Remarkables, Queenstown, NZ

This past December I had the opportunity to go to New Zealand with the Environmental Resource Management Program. It was truly a life-changing and inspiring experience. I left with a mind full of memories and a heart full of hope.

This trip was extremely personal for me. When I was a freshman and trying to decide what I wanted to do with my life, I went to see Dr. Richard Alley speak to the class that went to New Zealand during that winter break. That was the first time I had ever heard about the receding of glaciers and the impacts of climate change on these types of ecosystems. The pictures that Dr. Alley showed of the Franz Josef were incredible. That day, I added the Franz Josef to my bucket list. Not two years later, I had the opportunity to check that off my bucket list. Before that opportunity even presented itself, New Zealand had an influence on me. That first glimpse of it stirred the passion within me, pushed me into my major, and, ultimately, drove me to the country itself. For all those reasons and more, I will forever be indebted to New Zealand.

While in New Zealand, I had the opportunity to experience many different aspects of New Zealand culture and the opportunity to learn about the natural resources of the country as well. Perhaps my favorite thing that we did was a hike at the Franz Josef glacier. The tour guides for the hike took us off the beaten path of the park. They talked extensively about glacial science, the Maori culture, and the native vegetation and animals of New Zealand. I learned so much during the hike! When we were finally as close to the glacier as we could get, we stopped and had hot chocolate. Sitting at the base of this massive glacier, sipping hot chocolate, was one of the most relaxing and wholesome experiences I’ve had. I never wanted it to end.

During our free day in Queenstown, the adventure capital of the world, I was also able to take a helicopter ride through Milford Sound. Milford Sound is a fjord on the South Island of New Zealand, known for its Mitre Peak, steep slopes, and picturesque views. Going into the trip, I knew Milford Sound was a place I wanted to experience. The helicopter ride was astounding! We flew high above Queenstown, through part of the Remarkables Mountain Range, and finally down and through Milford Sound. Seeing the Sound through from this point of view was unlike anything I could hope to experience. It made me feel so small, so humbled, but at the same time, I felt so honored to have the opportunity to experience something like that. On our way back, we were able to land the helicopter on the top of one of the mountains and walk around. Have you ever heard the phrase, “standing on the shoulders of giants”? That was how I felt standing at the top of that mountain, among the peaks. 

In addition to the glacier, we visited a winery and a sheep farm, attended a Maori dinner, and had multiple lectures with topics such as: sustainable tourism, bees and Manuka Honey, invasive species in New Zealand, and Antarctica! After experiencing all this, I can honestly say that the most important things I gained from this trip were a renewed sense of my place in the world and a better understanding of the holistic view necessary to protect our Earth.

This trip taught me that I am one small, but mighty person in a very big world. The things I do today have an impact on tomorrow, and the things I do here have an impact there. I am not alone in my beliefs and ideals, and I never will be. There are things worth protecting, and many of those things reach further than a Penn State campus or even the borders of the United States. I am honored that through this program, Penn State and the College of Agricultural Sciences were able to teach me the meaning of having an impact on the world. I will take this trip and the lessons it taught me with me for the rest of my life. I can only now begin to imagine how this trip will influence who I am and who I plan to become. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you Penn State and the College of Agricultural Sciences!