California - United States
- Indigenous Studies
Study Abroad student
When UC Berkley student Savannah Tucker made the decision to study abroad, she wanted to choose a university that was not only beautiful, but would also provide a culturally significant and educationally valuable experience.
It wasn’t a hard choice. Driven by her indigenous heritage and passion for human rights, Savannah chose the University of Waikato for its rich cultural history, inclusive nature, and the reputation of its academic staff in indigenous studies – and she’s very glad she did.
“I didn’t want to just study abroad to travel. I really wanted to get something out of it – networking and making connections while learning more about indigenous development. I knew the University of Waikato had a strong reputation for Indigenous Studies and I wanted to get some exposure to Māori culture. Plus, New Zealand is absolutely stunning. It had everything I wanted.”
Savannah has made the most of Waikato’s cultural opportunities, highlighting her visit to the Tūrangawaewae Marae, the home of the Māori King Movement, Te Kīngitanga, as one of her greatest university experiences. She enjoyed watching kapa haka and immersing herself in a completely different culture to what she was used to at home.
Living in New Zealand has provided Savannah with a sense of self-discovery, encouraging her to get in touch with her indigenous heritage.
“Back home, it’s difficult for me to be accepted as an indigenous person because of the way I look but through learning the Māori concept of whakapapa, I’ve realised that I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. I am who I am and I know what I am meant to do, and that’s good enough,” she says.
An outdoors-lover, Savannah has also enjoyed New Zealand’s adventure activities, and its laid-back culture.
“I love rock-climbing and being outside, so living in Waikato has been perfect for me. I’m always keen to do something outdoorsy.”
With two months remaining on her exchange, Savannah is already planning her return, hoping to do postgraduate study in New Zealand. But for now, she is making the most of the rest of her study abroad experience, looking forward to trips to Hawke’s Bay, Great Barrier Island, and a tour of the South Island over the next two months.
Having quickly adapted to the Kiwi lifestyle, Savannah can’t decide what she will miss most about New Zealand.
“Everything!” she says. “I don’t want to leave this beautiful country and I will be back as soon as I can!”