Let's start with the logistics of my schedule, I'm enrolled in four classes or as they're called here "papers." I have two Maori and two sociology papers.
Three are face-to-face with their lectures on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I have one online paper that I put time aside for on Mondays. My three classes also have "tutorials," which are almost like labs but tutoring sessions with the TA about the material covered in the lectures.
Basically, I only meet with my professors in a classroom once a week for lectures that are also recorded. I love it because I feel like I have more time to see and experience New Zealand without as much academic pressure as in the U.S.
My professors are superb in that they're passionate about their teaching and explain it so that students can understand it.
My one sociology class is much like others I've taken at Susquehanna because he's so much like the faculty in our department, which is overflowing with knowledge, ideas, and opinions while being the right kind of optimism, care towards students, and a bit distracted by their own sociological thoughts.
My two Maori and Indigenous studies professors are phenomenal, BUT I have the biggest privilege to study under Dr. Linda Tuhiwai Smith!!! Her contributions to Indigenous Studies are... so profound and inspiring that I geeked out literally the first day of classes. She's one of my favorite Indigenous scholars and I'm looking forward to learning all I can from her and my other professors.
Now, I've told you all about how my classes are structured so get ready for how I've reflected on my papers so far.
It's a strange feeling - however, in my opinion, the biggest difference about studying in New Zealand is the inclusion and expansion of Maori and Indigenous Studies within academia. What's more is that it isn't your generic 'inclusion' where people say there are indigenous students on campus and that's it.
The indigenous students have a valued voice despite colonialism, their attempted erasure, and own traumas.
I can't begin to explain that as a young Native American cis woman, I see people that can relate to me without further explanation. I can feel the collective experiences that though are still different, they understand the responsibility to sit in educational institutions where they were never welcomed before.
I don't feel the attack of being isolated as the sole person of color in a room. I can simply exist as me and not feel the weight of being an "other." (Or at least too much of an other).
For example, in my class Decolonizing Methodologies, we discussed heavy topics of race, colonialism, orientalism, and oppression without the usual devil's advocate or that uncomfortable gaze where everyone just stares at you.
That is where one of two things happen. One, when the professor either romanticizes a historical event while excluding marginalized perspectives on the same event. Two, when the professor does explain a historical event from a different perspective and hearing a student argue that they know what really happened or what they were taught what happened.
I haven't witnessed a whole lot of "Us vs. Them" discussions where people divide themselves based on some form of difference. It doesn't seem like there's need for opposition because both sides recognize that in an academic setting and future settings – people need to work together without minimizing each other.
My emotional labor is the lowest it has ever been (considering that the world is in the middle of a pandemic). I do not feel the need to educate others or to feel seen because I am here to be educated.
I am a guest here and I feel like I trust this institution's administration to look out for me. It feels especially easier when there is Indigenous staff here as well. I look forward to the rest of my education here!
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