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Volunteering in New Zealand – A Magical Experience

Volunteering in New Zealand was a uniquely delightful experience that opened my eyes to new perspectives, taught me about the importance of conservation while being in a gorgeous area, and allowed me to collaborate with people from all over the world. Going on the New Zealand Conservation Experience project was hands-down one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Personally, I have never had a lot of opportunity to travel in my lifetime, but I have always had the desire to. There were always certain constraints holding me back; finances, studies, general responsibilities, and nerves over the dangers of traveling somewhere unaccompanied. I have just finished my first year of college as a biology major, and I chose this program because it allowed me to travel and explore an area of biology that I haven’t been exposed to before.

The first day I was in New Zealand I found out how friendly and laid back the kiwis are. On the bus ride from Christchurch to Greymouth I chatted with the bus driver, Cedric, and a kind old woman. They gave me advice about finding my way around in New Zealand and Cedric filled my head with intriguing facts and stories about the area as we drove through Arthur’s Pass at sunset.

The quality of the volunteer house blew me away. It consisted of a spacious living room, three separate bedrooms, a kitchen with all of the amenities, and a porch that overlooks the ocean. The house was stocked with food, so we had to make all of our meals ourselves. This proved to be an effective way to bond with the other volunteers as we had to decide what to eat every night and then prepare the meals together. I loved sharing cooking techniques and different dishes from our respective countries.

We also bonded by going on walks together, watching the sunset at the Truman Track beach, playing games together in the house, and going on road trips together on the weekends to places such as Hokitika and Franz Josef Glacier.
We were picked up from the house by the team leader every weekday at 8am to be driven to the project site. Every other week we worked on restoring the coast of Punakaiki, and the weeks in between we traveled to different locations close by.As we drove we had remarkable views of luscious trees, mountains, and the ocean. I wish I never had to look away.

The work itself consisted of a combination of weeding, planting trees, clearing paths, planting flax, potting, and setting up traps depending on the site. The work was sometimes very repetitive and could be tedious, but the enthusiastic team leader and amiable volunteers ensured that it was never boring.

The location was breathtaking, the staff members were welcoming, the other volunteers were relatable and pleasant, and not once did I question my safety.