New Zealand: The Home of the Sauvignon Blanc, Lord of the Rings, and Haka, by Anjelica Kostenbader, Plant Science major


Posted: February 16, 2018

"Living in New Zealand for four months gave me the opportunity to live the life of a kiwi.”
Here I am on a horse trek at the tip of Lake Wakatipu in Glenorchy, New Zealand.

Here I am on a horse trek at the tip of Lake Wakatipu in Glenorchy, New Zealand.

Travelling has always been on my bucket list and studying abroad was a deal breaker when I was choosing a university. New Zealand has always interested me with its beautiful scenery and kind people. The main attribute that I was looking for in a university overseas was a viticulture program. Luckily, Penn State had a study abroad program with Lincoln University which had such a program. This study abroad opportunity was not just an opportunity to travel but it was an opportunity to learn about grape growing and winemaking. After 25 hours of smooth flying, I landed in Christchurch and was greeted with Kiwi kindness.

Lincoln University is the agricultural university of New Zealand. It is on the South Island in a little town called Lincoln. It is close to Christchurch which was severely impacted by the 2011 earthquake. Most students go here primarily for degrees in agriculture. Going into the semester, I had no idea how intense classes were abroad. My most memorable class was my viticulture class where I was responsible for a row of grapes in the university vineyard. These grapes would then be used in the winemaking class. This was a challenge as the semester progressed. The weather became cold and wet which made it difficult for grape ripening. By the time the grapes were ready for harvest, the whole vineyard was infected with pest and disease which decreased our total yield. 

One of my favorite places in New Zealand was Rotorua. This place is known for its volcanic activity and rich Maori culture. When I first arrived, I was greeted with the strong smell of sulfur. First, I visited Whakarewarewa – The Living Maori village. I was very excited to visit the village because I was interested in learning about their culture. The people who still live there rely on the hot pools to cook, clean, and make clothing. I was welcomed with open arms as the Maori are friendly people and enjoy teaching travelers about their culture. After exploring the village, I visited a hot pool called Kerosene Creek. I was excited when I found it because I was traveling in June when it was winter. I also visited Wai-o-Tapu which is a geothermal attraction. This place had beautiful and colorful hot pools which look unreal and has the famous ‘Champagne Pool’. Rotorua was my favorite place to visit because it was the first time where I fully relaxed and marveled at this natural wonder.

My study abroad experience in New Zealand has taught me countless lessons for both personal and professional means. I have learned the importance of planning ahead and teamwork, especially in the agricultural field. This experience has opened my eyes to international work and how communication is one of the most important factors in a working environment. Lincoln University has a large population of international students from all over the world. This made me realize how diverse the world is. I have also learned how to adapt to a new environment which could be useful when looking for future jobs. Studying abroad has opened me to new opportunities and new relationships. With the help of the GOTCHA fund, I was able to see a different perspective of life and open myself to new adventures.