On New Zealand trip, experience teaches rather than texts and notebooks

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Stephanie Ryzyk

T-D’s travelers visited the tropical beach in New Zealand.

By: Andrew Breazna, Staff Reporter

AUCKLAND — So here it is three weeks in New Zealand and out of Thornton-Donovan with no new homework assignments, projects or tests to study for. Yet what did Maureen Flynn, Stephanie Ryzyk and this reporter find themselves doing during the trip? Believe it or not, studying! Yet it wasn’t studying in the usual academic definition of the word, of going page-by-page, comparing textbooks and notes, but a real-life and artistic approach to the meaning.

When a scientist is studying a new microorganism, he experiments with it, observes it and learns from his or her experiences with the cell. We did exactly that. During the three weeks, we had chances to experiment with different sounds, visual arts, words, techniques, and some of us, with sunscreen bottles, expanding on our understanding of the world of arts.

In visual arts class, for example, our first class assignment was to draw a personal item first in pen, then ink and finally charcoal. The challenge was to bring out whatever characteristics each medium had, whether it be shadows or textures, and to express those characteristics in different perspectives.

As for the spare time, it was spent just as productively. I spent most of mine in the practice rooms either trying out some new scales, improvs or riffs on the electric bass or honing some violin skills with my host sister and best friend, Astrid Tyajhono.

Meanwhile, Maureen and Stephanie were always practicing their voices and guitar work for their great, final performance of Jewel’s “Life Uncommon.” Having good pockets of spare time and good friends surrounding you the entire way is really the best way to learn in the arts.

But the experiences didn’t stop there. With New Zealand full of adventure and the kindest of hosts (who hosted, arranged and drove us even on the day of their 25th wedding anniversary), we got to see more than plenty of the North Island’s top locations. We roamed the Shire of Middle Earth at the Hobbiton film set, relaxed at the sulfur springs, dug for hot water at Hot Water Beach and got High Anxiety at the Sky Tower. The overall beauty of this island nation was simply mind blowing.

Personally, though, the most substantial moments were not just the experiences I had for myself, but rather the bonding experiences and moments shared in a very new, yet somewhat seemingly familiar culture. It had something to do with the human need to marvel at something new, yet remain comfortable, such as waking up early to sit outside and quietly strum a guitar to yourself as all the different birds begin to wake. Or like going out to Cathedral Cove Beach, where you can swim in water 10-feet deep and still see the ripples and fish and other such critters in the sand beneath… though that may not have been so great for the more sea-squeamish of us.

All in all, this trip has been a seriously life changing and educational experience for all three of us and will continue to mark the rest of our lives. During this trip, I really realized that everything in life should be taken as an opportunity. Thank you Mr. Fleming and the Selfe family for offering us such great, shared opportunities!