The Political Science Program at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, with the assistance of the University’s Division of International Studies & Programs, is pleased to introduce its Pacific Studies Program - a pioneering collaborative initiative between A&M-Kingsville and the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.

The Pacific Studies Program (PSP) is being co-directed by Dr. Nirmal Goswami, Professor of Political Science, A&M-Kingsville and Dr. Elaine Webster, Director, Summer School and Continuing Education, University of Otago. The PSP will include graduate and undergraduate students traveling to and staying in New Zealand from July 5th, 2012, through July 22nd, 2012, attending classes at the University of Otago, and visiting multiple sites through field trips in the greater Otago region. Areas of focus include history, politics, economics, culture, sustainability and environmental policies, etc., with reference to both the greater Pacific region and New Zealand.

Dr. Christine Reiser-Robbins, Anthropology Program, Texas A&M-Kingsville, is directing a Service Learning Project, a special component of the PSP. The PSP will facilitate interaction between middle and high school students from Bishop School District, Texas, and Logan Park High School, Dunedin, Otago, through the application of Internet-enabled technologies.

You are all invited to cyber travel with us as we learn about the uniqueness of New Zealand and the surrounding region. This blog will document our experience. You are welcome to post comments.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Logan Park Voices

Awkward, then Easy!

The Skype conversations with the middle and high school students in Bishop were, I believe, enjoyable for all. It was a fantastic way of giving students from both sides of the equator insights into the views and beliefs held by people in contrasting societies.

Once the initial "awkwardness" of meeting people for the first time had passed, the conversation began to flow much more easily, and I think we all gained a lot from the informative cocktail of casual banter and sociopolitical discussion that ensued.

This was a very interesting and enlightening experience for all of us, and I wish you the best of luck in setting up future correspondence between the two schools. I was very pleased to meet you all, and I hope you enjoyed your stay here in Kiwiland.

--Micaiah D
 Student, Logan Park High School, Dunedin, New Zealand.

Texas Stereotypes: Gone!

Learning about the cultural and social differences between New Zealand and Texas was interesting. Being from Washington DC originally, it was also interesting to see the differences even between two different parts of the United States. I felt that the exchange helped dispel stereotypes the New Zealand students had about Texans.
Exchanges would have been more educational if we had discussed deeper issues such as globalization. Political discussion in general would have made the discussion more interesting, as political opinion can vary from country to country.
This could have allowed the students in both countries to be exposed to other opinions.
--Gareth M
Student, Logan Park High School, Dunedin, New Zealand

Good Exchanges & Bad Microphone

I really enjoyed interacting with the students from Texas A&M University-Kingsville and Bishop and Kingsville High Schools, Texas. I was surprised by how intrigued they were with New Zealand and pleased with the genuine effort they are making to understand our small but beautiful nation. I’m not sure about the others who attended the interchange but I’m much more interested in Texas than I was before. Intercultural experiences like these are important and I hope that the communication continues after I leave Logan Park High. If it does continue my one suggestion would to be to invest in a better microphone.

-- Jack V
Student, Logan Park High School, Dunedin, New Zealand

Chocolate Makes Everything Better

A few of us gathered together for a Cadbury Chocolate Festival Event and headed to Baldwin Street, the steepest street in the world. On the way we picked up amazing nachos. They make them with melted cheese, salsa, and sour cream. Today’s event was the Jaffa Race. Jaffas are large round chocolate balls with a colored coating. Members of the community purchased a Jaffa for the race and were assigned numbers. The race started at the top of the street and the Jaffas were released, coming down in a wave like fashion, it was an amazing sight. Thousands came to watch. The person with the number which matched the first Jaffa to make it across the finish line won a $1,000 grocery gift card. The money raised from the race was given to children’s medical charities. This event allowed me to see the sponsoring corporation in a different perspective and I really respected their decision.  Chocolate can be good in many ways, even when cascading in a wave down the world’s steepest street!

-Cassandra W.

South Pacific Blue

On a free afternoon in beautiful Dunedin, several of us went to St. Claire beach. After arriving, we were immediately awestruck by the beauty of this location. The differences between this beach and the shoreline back home stood out the most. Perhaps the biggest difference was the beautiful, clear blue water washing up on the fine sand. The vista said it: we were on a South Pacific Island! It was completely different from our green-water bay shores. Another difference was the species of seaweed. The kelp at this area was thick, black, and smelt terribly! Thankfully, it only accumulated on one side of the beach. The tide was also washing up far onto the beach. While we dodged the cold water, surfers and paddle boarders pursued thrills, seemingly unfazed. After taking pictures and enjoying the breathtaking views, we walked around the surrounding stores before returning to campus in time for dinner. We all really enjoyed the beauty of the South Pacific! 
 -Daniela D.

The Delicious Side of Dunedin

As you stroll down George Street in downtown Dunedin, your senses will be awakened by the delicious aromas emitting from the local restaurants. Downtown Dunedin is packed with shops and eateries. Which aroma trail to follow? A difficult choice! A noteworthy stop is the Taj Mahal, an Indian restaurant that serves a delicious array of Indian food. The lamb chop appetizer was amazing and the chicken tikka masala was astounding while the creamy chicken curry was a buttery concoction of happiness; beef vindaloo, a Goan dish from southwest India, was a delight wrapped in a spicy package. Our regular meals were at St. Margaret’s College, a venue steeped in tradition and located on campus. Some of the more impressive local flavors we had there include cheese rolls and tomato soup, very similar to a grilled cheese sandwich; a South Island delicacy. We were also served a New Zealand staple: delicious lamb. An interesting feature of our St. Margaret’s experience was that “seconds” are only allowed after a “seconds allowed” sign is posted. 
-John G.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Ramen Noodles

After Dr. Wanhalla’s lecture, the group proceeded to the St. Margaret’s dining hall, where we chowed down on a “southern delicacy:” a cheese roll. There was other food involved, mind you, but the redubbed grilled cheese was clearly the highlight of the meal. Ask John. He knows.
After we ate, we made our way back to the hotel, only after taking a less-than-quick detour involving free Ramen Noodle samples on campus. I guess some things don’t change. No matter where you go, college students will always eat Ramen. And this Ramen was especially awesome. It was so much better than the Ramen in the states, although that is still up for debate. In summary, we ate after eating. Hey… We walk a lot. Don’t judge.

-Marshall S.