Environmental Ethics, Culture and Sustainability: A 5 Week Blitz of Australasia


January 10, 2019

Elizabeth Andrews, an Occidental College student, took part in the ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES: ETHICS, CULTURE AND SUSTAINABILITY (EECS) PROGRAM in Summer 2018. Upon completing the EECS program, Elizabeth continued her study abroad adventure by spending a semester at the UNIVERSITY OF OTAGO in NEW ZEALAND.

I cannot recommend this program highly enough. It is hard to put into words how unbelievably fun and engaging this course is.

This trip is some of the highlights of New Zealand and Australia packed into a few weeks, with none of the burden of planning and with supplementary information along the way that enriches your travel experience. The topics covered in the course are wide ranging, allowing a variety of interests to be developed or introduced. Every single day you wake up with a vague idea of what is about to happen, you listen to a lecture or two, load a bus and embark on a new adventure. The element of surprise is a definite theme throughout the program that adds lots of excitement.

You first meet your new classmates in Auckland, New Zealand. These are the people you will spend almost every single day with for the next 5 weeks. You'll soon discover that these are some of the most wonderful people you'll meet and each one of them will change you for the better. Some of my favorite memories of the program are the ones of all of us chatting together and enjoying the scenery. I left this program with fond memories with every single one of these people, and I feel so blessed I got to meet them.

Students learn in the form of both traditional lectures and in the field studies. For individuals who have previously struggled in traditional classroom settings, this course provides plenty of opportunities to thrive in a more hands-on learning style. As a student, you develop a superior understanding of the topics through first-hand experience and through the ample opportunities to ask questions to experts in the field. These interactions with knowledgeable individuals allow you to ask career questions that can help develop some shape to your future.

This program is perfect for students hoping to learn how to travel independently. You spend a few hours each day doing programmed activities that enrich your experience then you are free to spend the rest of your day however you like. Throughout the course, you are allowed full days free to do whatever you like. Students can bungee-jump at the first bungee in the world, ski at a top-tier southern hemisphere resort, or take a winery tour; opportunities and adventures are endless. Beyond the free days, students often have a free afternoon to explore the city, jungle, beach, or town that they are residing in.

The free time in the afternoon allows students to engage with both the environment and the people living there. Locals always had good advice on things to do and generally are incredibly friendly and welcoming. The ability to chat with locals allows you to really develop a more thorough understanding of the culture and make new connections. Travelers will have stories to tell and commonly leave you inspired to plan your next trip. The opportunity to engage with these communities re-framed many of our conceptions about the places we were living and allowed us to grow as individuals.

I would like to emphasize: While this course is widely accessible to a wide variety of abilities, I would recommend it to those who are inclined to be outdoors. Students spend many days hiking and several full nights in the outback in the heat which may be unpleasant to those who do not enjoy getting dirty and sweaty. The time spent outdoors is in no way technical or difficult, but prospective students should be aware that time will be spent exercising and engaging with the outdoors.

I personally grew immensely over the duration of the course and can definitely say I was a smarter more culturally aware person by the end of this course. I cannot recommend it enough. It is the time of your life.


My Packing Tips

In this program, you must always be able to carry all your belongings. You'll be living out of large backpacking pack and most people brought along a day pack as well. I strongly recommend following the 60-65 litre backpack that Arcadia advises. A large pack was incredibly helpful to not only bringing necessary gear but also to purchase additional items along the way - which inevitably will happen. You will be able to do wash at almost every hotel/hostel you stay at throughout the trip so don't feel pressure to overpack too much. Make sure you prepare for both the cold of the New Zealand mountains you visit as well as the heat of the Australian Outback. I found lots of t-shirts and layers were crucial for our travels. Many students felt Underarmour, gloves and hats were vital to staying warm in the mountains. New Zealand loves to rain as well so definitely bring a rain jacket. You will be doing quite a bit of swimming so multiple swimsuits are recommended. Arcadia provides a very extensive packing list if you follow that you will be good to go. Worst case scenario you purchase extra items if needed in town.

Enjoyed reading this blog? Learn more about Arcadia in New Zealand!