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2017 New Zealand Education Department Post

November 1, 2017

Websites:

https://media.enz.govt.nz/student-story/brook-thompson

https://www.studyinnewzealand.govt.nz/blog/how-discovering-maori-culture-helped-me-explore-my-own/

https://www.studyinnewzealand.govt.nz/blog/category/studying/my-auckland-experience





"For Brook Thompson, coming to New Zealand to learn about Māori culture became an opportunity to explore her own culture.  


Brook, who is from the Yurok and Karuk tribes of northern California, says studying on the other side of the world has given her greater confidence in her cultural identity.  

“Being in New Zealand was one of the happiest times in my entire life. It not only helped me grow as a person, but reassured me of who I am,” says Brook.

“When you take yourself out of the environment you grew up in, you’re able to see who you are and where you stand more clearly.”

Brook spent a semester at the University of Auckland, studying abroad with IFSA-Butler. She is now in the fourth year of studying civil engineering at Portland State University, but in New Zealand she explored a broad range of interests by taking courses in film, physics, sociology and ‘the Māori world’.

She was surprised by how quickly she felt at home in New Zealand, and by the similarities between her culture and Māori culture. They shared similar creation stories, colonisation histories and family values, and even had a similar tradition of face and body tattooing.

As a child, Brook would wear a traditional basket hat while walking to school but would take it off when she arrived, to avoid being seen as different.

“When I came to New Zealand and saw how proud Māori students were to wear Māori jewellery and speak the language, I realised I’d been hiding. I began to feel more willing to put down the shield I’d been protecting myself with in the city,” she says.

Brook now feels comfortable wearing her tribal jewellery, speaking the Yurok language before translating it into English, and having difficult conversations with friends about race and culture.

She has stayed in contact with several Māori friends and with the teacher of her Māori world class, who was a big influence on her.

“He talked to us about things like lands rights, water rights and religious freedom, which are issues that indigenous peoples around the world have in common.”

Brook says her experiences in New Zealand have made her more proactive in standing up for the rights of her tribe, and of other indigenous peoples.

Her activism has included spending a fortnight at the protest against the oil pipeline being built near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in Dakota.

“Studying in New Zealand was one of the best choices I ever made, and it continues to shape me as a person,” she says."



My Auckland Experience

"I chose to study abroad at the University of Auckland through IFSA Butler as I wanted to discover firsthand New Zealand’s story and indigenous peoples.

I knew of similarities between some Māori and Yurok traditions, such as women’s chin markings. I really wanted to learn more about the culture’s past history and how they are dealing with the problems that affect the majority of indigenous people today. Read more about my Maori culture experience here. I was also attracted to studying in Auckland because of the cultural diversity on campus, and I wasn’t disappointed. In my experience, schools in the US are mainly white students, but in New Zealand I befriended students from China, Italy, Spain, Malaysia, and of course New Zealand. My teachers were great, in fact three out of four were phenomenal. I found myself talking to them each day after class, they were approachable, very helpful and kind. I liked how organised all the buildings are on campus – they all have numbers so it makes it really easy to find classes and meeting spots. I also like the Student Commons building in the middle of City Campus, it is a great place to study, get some tea, or go shopping for school books. In my spare time I used the gym which was great, and I also joined the Tramping (hiking) Club. Another stand-out experience was taking a self-defence class at the gym – it was awesome! Watch Brook's video about her New Zealand experience."


How Discovering Māori Culture Helped Me Explore My Own

"For Brook Thompson, coming to New Zealand to learn about Māori culture became an opportunity to explore her own culture.

Brook, who is from the Yurok and Karuk tribes of northern California, says studying on the other side of the world has given her greater confidence in her cultural identity.   “Being in New Zealand was one of the happiest times in my entire life. It not only helped me grow as a person, but reassured me of who I am,” says Brook.

"When you take yourself out of the environment you grew up in, you’re able to see who you are and where you stand more clearly." Brook spent a semester at the University of Auckland, studying abroad with IFSA-Butler. She is now in the fourth year of studying civil engineering at Portland State University, but in New Zealand she explored a broad range of interests by taking courses in film, physics, sociology and ‘the Māori world’. She was surprised by how quickly she felt at home in New Zealand, and by the similarities between her culture and Māori culture. They shared similar creation stories, colonisation histories and family values, and even had a similar tradition of face and body tattooing. As a child, Brook would wear a traditional basket hat while walking to school but would take it off when she arrived, to avoid being seen as different. “When I came to New Zealand and saw how proud Māori students were to wear Māori jewellery and speak the language, I realised I’d been hiding. I began to feel more willing to put down the shield I’d been protecting myself with in the city,” she says. Brook now feels comfortable wearing her tribal jewellery, speaking the Yurok language before translating it into English, and having difficult conversations with friends about race and culture. She has stayed in contact with several Māori friends and with the teacher of her Māori world class, who was a big influence on her. “He talked to us about things like lands rights, water rights and religious freedom, which are issues that indigenous peoples around the world have in common.” Brook says her experiences in New Zealand have made her more proactive in standing up for the rights of her tribe, and of other indigenous peoples. Her activism has included spending a fortnight at the protest against the oil pipeline being built near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in Dakota. “Studying in New Zealand was one of the best choices I ever made, and it continues to shape me as a person,” she says."

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