Real-world experience with a healthy dose of breathtaking Kiwi sights

Tramping on a volcano and tracking kiwi were two of the experiences American university students enjoyed on a six-week expedition and internship programme in New Zealand.

In 2015 the students, from 14 universities including Michigan State, Tennessee and Illinois, took part in a programme organised by Massey University’s Centre for Professional and Continuing Education (PaCE) in conjunction with the Institute of Agriculture and Environment.

Students from across the United States did a range of activities from tramping on a volcano and visiting the country’s top wineries to testing the sugar content of apples and tracking kiwi.

Students began the study tour portion of the trip in Queenstown with an overnight stay at the historic 40,000ha high country sheep station on Mt Nicholas. They made their way up the country taking in Franz Josef Glacier, Marlborough Sounds, Tongariro National Park, and the geothermal areas in Taupo and Rotorua.

They then began their internships with agrifood industry and environmental leaders in Hawke's Bay and these proved to be a rewarding experience for both the students and the internship hosts.

Kate King from Gourmet Direct hosted two interns and really enjoyed the experience. "Whatever challenges we set them to do they really surprised and delighted us with their results and findings. The highlight was how much we enjoyed having them on board and how much it drew fresh creativity and approaches from our existing staff, myself included. They were delightful kids and fitted in really well."

Kate is looking forward to hosting again and is creating a new project for her interns to tackle that will continue to benefit her business and staff.

The trip concluded with an intensive block course at Massey University in Manawatū, where students earned university credits by presenting case studies from the wool, wine and dairy industries they encountered on the trip.

Michigan State University environmental science student Hannah Hazelwinkel said the internship gave her real-world experience. "It was amazing to get to do conservation work and see what that was like. The highlight for me was tracking kiwi and pateke (brown teal)."

Programme Co-ordinator Christina Baldarelli said the trip was designed to be a lot of fun and also a great learning experience. "Students gain an understanding of the intricate relationships between agricultural and environmental issues in New Zealand, and how these shape the everyday lives of Kiwis and the country as a whole."

In 2016 the programme was successfully expanded to include agribusiness, emergency management and communications/marketing and an additional fourth stream, creative expressions and digital media, is planned for 2017.

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