Brook Thompson, USA
"I am from the Yurok and Karuk Native American tribes in northern California. The Yurok tribe is California’s largest, with nearly 5,000 enrolled members. I chose to study abroad at the University of Auckland through IFSA Butler to see firsthand New Zealand’s story with 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. "I’m particularly interested in the revival of the Māori language, and see parallels between the struggles of Māori and those of my own people to preserve our language. My late grandfather was one of the last native speakers of the Yurok language and had a profound impact on me. He really supported my decision to pursue a university degree. One thing that stands out for me from my time at Auckland was when I learnt about tactics used to take land from the Māori people during colonisation. This made me very sad, but only made me more passionate about learning the Yurok language. "I picked “Māori World View” as one of my courses because I strongly believe that you should know the people of the land you are in. One of the highlights of my time at Auckland was being hosted on a local marae (Māori meeting house) and learning more about Māori culture. I loved hearing the stories behind the carvings, as well as eating fried bread since we have fried bread in my tribe too. "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!" Brook Thompson is a Gates Millennial Scholar from California, United States. She is studying Civil Engineering at Portland State University.