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Journals from University of Otago

2009-10-14 Classes

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Celebrating a friend's birthday at the only Mexican restaurant in town

As I have said before, Otago is huge compared to Linfield. Due to the larger size, more classes are available to students. Before I left Linfield I spoke to my advisor about which classes I should take while abroad; she suggested that I take classes here that will either satisfy my LCs or classes that I find interesting but am unable to take at home. I am taking Critical Thinking, a philosophy class that fulfills my UQ requirement, and two classes that interest me and are not available at Linfield, Body, Culture and Society and He Tikanga. Both of these classes are unlike any that Linfield offers. Body, Culture and Society is completely unlike what I anticipated. We have talked about love, sex, pornography, death, and the body throughout history. One week we talked about streaking and if streaking can be considered a sport. The lecturer provided many similarities between the act of streaking and what it means to be an athlete and asked us why it is that society is against the naked body. What surprised me the most about these lectures is that all the students seemed to have seen a streaker on TV at a sporting event or have seen streakers at live games. I have been to plenty of sporting events in the States and have watched a lot of games on TV but I have never seen a streaker and I could never imagine the cameras following one as they do in New Zealand. It was interesting to discover this culture difference in class. He Tikanga is a Maori studies class. Taking this class was one of the best decisions I have made while abroad. I wanted to take a class that explored Maori culture and since the 100 level one didnt fit into my schedule I ended up in a 200 level class about a subject I had no exposure to but has been a great experience. All but two of the forty students in the class are of Maori descent and have prior knowledge of the topics we are covering. So while I feel like I am at a slight disadvantage in comparison to the other students, I have learned so much from the other students through conversations in tutorial and listening to their personal stories. The class was organized unlike any other I have ever taken. Each week there was a new lecturer who presented some aspect of Maori culture from a different perspective. For a few weeks we had an archeologist speak to us about the archeological evidence and theories of how Polynesians migrated through Polynesia and the different techniques they used for traveling. We had a lecture on Maori entrepreneurs and how they incorporate their cultural beliefs and values into their business and at what point they cross their cultural belief boundaries. In another lecture we watched a documentary about a woman named Moana who is a Maori singer from New Zealand. She had a CD named Moana and went on tour throughout Europe but was sued by multiple companies who have Moana as a brand name. The documentary looked at how different aspects of Maori culture are being trademarked throughout the world, thus taking away the rights of Maori when abroad. In other lectures we explored different areas of Maori culture including whakapapa (geneology), marae (meeting place) and taonga (gifting). I strongly encourage students who study abroad to take a class that explores the culture of the people of the country they are visiting. While the class has been challenging because I dont know the Maori to English translations and I have no prior knowledge of the subject, I have learned a lot. I have been exposed to a lot of the issues and troubles that Maori were faced with in the past and continue to face today. I see a lot of parallels between Maori and Native Americans. This class has not only made me appreciate Maori and their cultures more but has made me look at my own culture and think about how it is impinging upon Native American culture. I feel like taking this class was important in helping me understand the culture of New Zealand today and has made me more aware of what is going on around me. Claire

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