Māori homestay a highlight in study abroad adventure

5 February 2021

Originally from Pennsylvania, Emily Smith relished her Study Abroad experience at Waikato, which included a full-immersion Māori homestay.

A full-immersion Māori homestay, combined with travel adventures and studying Antarctic bacteria, made up a well-rounded Study Abroad experience for Emily Smith, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Originally studying biochemistry and molecular biology at Penn State University in Pennsylvania, USA, Emily always had plans to study abroad in New Zealand. After she got talking to a University of Waikato recruitment adviser at a Study Abroad fair, her decision was made.

“I started talking to the representative and learned Waikato had a strong Māori programme, which I was interested in learning more about. In all the research I’d done about New Zealand prior to studying abroad I couldn’t find out much about Māori studies, so I was excited to learn more,” says Emily.

Once she got to New Zealand, Emily also had the opportunity to live with a Māori host family, which she embraced. “I one hundred per cent recommend living with a host family, and if the option is available, to live with a Māori family,” she says.

“My host family welcomed me in immediately. They spoke te reo to help me learn the language, and answered all the questions I had about the culture without making me feel like an outsider – it was a full immersion in Māori culture and I loved it.”

Emily believes to get the most out of studying abroad, it’s important to take advantage of any opportunity that comes your way.

“I showed up to all the events on campus that I could, and joined clubs and groups, and eventually made some really good friends,” she says.

“New Zealand is a land ripped out of the pages of a fantasy novel – you have to fully jump into every opportunity that’s presented to you.”

Emily loved it here so much, she returned in 2019 to study her Masters in molecular biology, focusing on thermophiles (heat-loving bacteria) in Antarctica.

“My career aspiration is to be a lab rat. I love researching and learning how everything works – but I’m still deciding how that looks in detail yet,” she says.

“On a personal level, I still want to explore all the corners of the world and go on adventures with my friends.”

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