A New Zealand Adventure

Exchange student Shaelyn Vlaar immerses herself in New Zealand culture
By: Melissa Lombard

Third-year student Shaelyn Vlaar spent last semester on exchange in Otago, New Zealand at the University of Otago. An anthropology major, she was interested in completely immersing herself in another country.

Shaelyn Vlaar on exchange in New Zealand.“I thought New Zealand would be an especially valuable exchange opportunity because it would allow me to learn more about Māori and Pasifika culture,” she says. "It was an added bonus that the landscape happens to be one of the most incredible things I have ever experienced and as someone who values time spent travelling and adventuring outdoors, I knew it would be a good fit.”

Vlaar took Whakapapa and Marae — an Indigenous Development course offered through the Māori Studies department — along with two anthropology courses, Contemporary Pacific Cultures and Anthropology of Religion and the Supernatural, and Psychology in Legal Contexts.

At a university with more than 20,000 people, she found herself missing Sackville.

Shaelyn Vlaar during her exchange in New Zealand.“I missed the small-town feel of Mount Allison and being able to walk to and from classes and town with the guarantee that you will run into someone you know.”

Vlaar found the most significant difference with studying in New Zealand as opposed to Canada is taking the time to learn from experiences outside the classroom.

“I will leave Otago with a greater sense of independence and understanding that attending university is about so much more than just going to classes,” she says. “Through many afternoons spent on the museum quad, shared dinners, and weekend trips away, I have come to value the learning that takes place outside of the classroom.”

After Mount Allison she hopes to do more travelling and potentially pursue a master’s in anthropology. She says what she will miss most about Otago is the incredible learning experience.

“Being here on exchange has forced me to step outside of where I am comfortable and engage in conversations and experiences that I never would have had at Mount A, something that has helped me to grow and develop immensely as a person.”

New Zealand exchange student Marley Richards spent the last year at Mount Allison. Read about his experience in A Canadian Adventure.