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.

Law School at U of Otago? Possibly!

Separate from our own classes, I attended a lecture on introductory law through an invitation by Mark Henaghan, Dean of Law, U of Otago. Given my interest in attending law school, I was delighted to have had this opportunity. The lecture hall accommodated three hundred and twenty-five students, very different from our classes at TAMU-K!
Professor Henaghan had a particularly pronounced Kiwi accent and I had to really concentrate to follow his lecture. His lecture was very fast-paced but very well organized; I enjoyed it a lot.
Perhaps the most interesting difference between law schools in New Zealand and the U. S. is that students can start law school in New Zealand soon after high school. This option allows students to get both a law degree and an undergraduate degree in another field within five years.
I really enjoyed the lecture and will definitely consider attending law school at the U of Otago.

-Daniela D.

Dunedin Style

The campus of the University of Otago is an elegant campus where students have an edgy fashion sense. When speaking to the locals, they attribute the style to being in a college town, where everyone wants to convey a very modern look. Being the southernmost university in the world, it is great to see so many young people taking embracing a style you would see in places like Austin, Southern California, and even Tokyo. This town has a retro flare with a modern edge; it is hip!
-John G. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Cool Learning Community!

One of the unique components of the Pacific Studies Program is the development of a Learning Community which included multiple audiences. This was done by incorporating the following groups: TAMU-K undergraduate and graduate students and faculty; Logan Park High School (Dunedin, New Zealand) students/teachers; and middle and high school students/teachers from Bishop and Kingsville, Texas. TAMU-K faculty, Dr. Christine Reiser-Robbins, along with Bishop teacher Ms. Mary Dragon and Logan Park teacher, Mr. Paul Enright, coordinated the Learning Community Project. The three of us, as graduate students, were the lead TAMU-K project assistants. Dr. Goswami was the overall supervisor. We had spent months preparing Bishop/Kingsville students to interact with the Logan Park students through the application on Internet-enabled “Skype” technology. We are very happy to report that the Project was a big success. The Texas and New Zealand middle/high school students talked with each other on topics ranging from culture, history, language, environment, geography, immigration, etc. The interactions between the two groups were live and spread over two sessions on two days. The Texas students welcomed the New Zealand students by singing a mariachi song while the New Zealand students greeted them in Maori! The questions each group asked varied from serious to light-hearted. Both groups clearly enjoyed the experience and so did we. It was interesting to observe how the two groups, after discussing serious topics, moved on to things like American television. The New Zealand kids wanted to know if schools in Texas experienced events like those depicted in TV shows like The Glee Project; they also asked if Texas high schools had cliques. The Texas students inquired if New Zealand schools had homecoming. We were impressed by the intellect and curiosity demonstrated by both youth groups. We learned from the experience too! Our Project might be the only Learning Community Project that connected university students and faculty with middle/high school students/teachers in two continents! This Project was a very enriching experience for all!

Katharine K.
Elisabeth C.
Mike T.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Love and War

Tuesday, July 10

After having a group breakfast we headed to class. Our seminar was titled “United States Servicemen in New Zealand and the Pacific during WWII” and was taught by Dr. Angela Wanhalla. Dr. Wanhalla briefly touched on Maori  history and culture. I found it very interesting that Maori names  differed by tribes and backgrounds;  the Maori also had a special name for descendants for European settlers: Pakeha.
Dr. Wanhalla focused on the 100,000 U.S. service members stationed in New Zealand between 1942 and 1944. She and her colleagues are currently working on a study of these American military men and their interactions with New Zealand women. This study,  to be later turned into a documentary, is centered on the families formed and broken by those servicemen, which is immensely interesting from a historical and social perspective.  One of Dr. Wanhalla's primary  goals is re-connecting children/descendants living in New Zealand with their fathers' families in the United States. She has had both successes and failures in this endeavor. In many cases, the mothers of these children take the identity of their illegitimate children’s fathers to their deathbeds. However, there are  also instances where American fathers retained connection with their New Zealand families. Some moved to New Zealand while others kept in touch by mail. In one case, family ties were maintained by both sides  though the two individuals involved in the relationship went on to new and separate lives when they chose to remain in their own countries and start new families.   Still, the New Zealand link was preserved by both families!
Overall, it was a very interesting and informative lecture. We felt fortunate to have heard it.

--Cassandra W.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Outsiders Looking In

On Sunday, July 15th, some of us traveled on the Taieri Gorge Railway train on a tour around the City of Dunedin. We had all received a small taste of the environment during our arrival into the country, but nothing can compare to what we saw from a slow moving passenger train. Luscious greenery paved the way towards a sun radiating light upon hundreds of animals, rivers, hills, and snow-capped mountains. As most of us are native to Texas, it was surreal to see any vegetation besides cactus and palm trees. As if the view was not enough, we were even able to stop at several locations and exit the train in order to make the experience more personal. New Zealand is a relatively young country that prides itself on ecological conservation and preservation. The benefits of these efforts were definitely apparent throughout our trip. The tour lasted a mere four hours, yet we have all agreed that those few hours included some of the most incredible sights, smells, and sounds that we had ever experienced. 

--Mark D.

Dunedin's Street Art

July 16, 2012
            Dunedin is an extremely clean town. Litter is rare. However, Dunedin has a vibrant street art. Street art, more commonly referred to as “graffiti” is especially prevalent around the University of Otago. It is fun to seek out these little inconsistencies in an otherwise perfectly clean environment.
            These graffiti tags are often controversial around the world. Some view graffiti as vandalism. Perhaps it is viewed as a threat to the societal order. Some have a different opinion on the matter. Graffiti may be viewed as the artistic expression of the common people. Some graffiti is revered as a bold statement against authority. Some graffiti serves as a soapbox for an artist who has a message to spread. In the way one views graffiti (good, bad, artistic, or vile), one detail remains constant. Graffiti exists in Dunedin, New Zealand, and it seems as connected to street art in other places across the globe as such art forms always seem to; “isolated” Dunedin is really not isolated. The City’s street art proves that.         

--John G.