Ever wonder what it be like to be thousands of miles and an ocean away from the only home you’ve ever known for more than a month? Well, just ask Greenbush-Middle River senior student Kaiya Novacek, who spent from early July to December 2 this year in Papamoa, New Zealand, as part of a foreign exchange program.
Novacek talked about her experience in New Zealand, from her school life and home life with her host family to the sites and activities she took in while there.
Watching her older brother Martyn study abroad, Kaiya wanted to do the same. She traveled through the foreign exchange program: Youth for Understanding (YFU).
“It (studying abroad) seemed like a cool thing to do, especially in high school because it’s a lot different than the college experience, like you get to live with a host family and attend high school,” Novacek said. “And I chose New Zealand because I didn’t have to learn the second language…. It was just somewhere you never really hear of, so it was cool to explore kind of unknown territory I guess.”
Novacek lived with a single mom, Mel, and her youngest child, Brooke, 16, in Papamoa, a coastline city located in the Bay of Plenty region on the eastern side of the northern island of New Zealand. It’s a suburb city of Tauranga, the fifth largest city in New Zealand at 128,200 people, according to 2016 population statistics posted online at: things-to-do-in-tauranga.co.nz.
With her host family, she did much traveling in the country’s northern island, including to a couple weddings. She also visited Rotorua, an area known for hot mud pools heated by natural gas, and did some bungee jumping off of a bridge in Taupo.
With her host sister, she also enjoyed going to the beach a block away from her host family’s home, walking around town, and attending many school rugby games.
“Rugby is just so much fun to watch,” Novacek said. “It’s like football times 10. The intensity of it and just they’re a lot more violent and for not having padding at all.”
Outside watching rugby, Novacek experienced other unique things during her stay. She mentioned the different accent and the fact that they drive on the opposite side of the road and opposite side of the car, something that took some getting used to.
“I’d be going to hop into the passenger seat and I’d be jumping into the driver’s seat,” Novacek said.
Along with other fellow exchange students, she also spent two weeks visiting sites on the south island of New Zealand. While there, she visited museums and parks, hiked outdoors, kayaked, went on boat rides, water rafted, and ate at some “cool” places.
To see the full story, read the January 17 issue of The Tribune in print or online.