Archive for the ‘Postcard’ Category

Victoria Robertson, 2014-15 Fiji International Tourism for Development student blogger, writes:

Photo Four (1) Studying abroad in Fiji has been one of the most influential trips of my life. I made new friends, learned new customs and took more from the experience than I ever thought possible.


I zip-lined through the rainforest, kayaked down the gorgeous Navua River, went horseback riding along the beach, snorkeled around a coral island, and was welcomed into a Fijian family’s home.


From Kula Eco Park to the many hotel visits, my Fiji program was the most real, wholesome experience a traveler to Fiji could get.


Photo One (1)What took me by surprise was that such a short two-week trip with my university could have such an impact on the way I perceive things around me. Looking back at my initial thoughts on studying abroad, I’m glad I ignored the doubts and took the chance to step out of my comfort zone. Even if that meant learning to live with bugs.


We all walked away with stories to tell, including the highs and lows of our experiences. To any students who are wondering if they should step out of their comfort zone, I strongly recommend it. The memories I gained will last a lifetime.

Photo Three (1)Photo Two




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From beautiful sunsets and sunrises to the ocean’s blue hues and rolling waves, Fiji provides some breathtaking views. So while the U.S. experiences record snow and ice storms, our Grizzlies Abroad intern, Sierra Mayer, decided to send everyone warm thoughts with some photos and memories from her time on the Fiji program.

Fiji sunsetOur first night I looked into the sky to see purple and pink hues with the silhouette of palm trees.

Beachcomber Island A few days later on Beachcomber Island, I found myself awestruck by the light blue seas and other islands dotted along the horizon that seemed like a picture in a scenic beach calendar.

Luva River waterfall Not lastly, up in the Namosi Highlands our group went kayaking on the Luva River. Suddenly out of the lush vegetation appeared a cascading waterfall to which we hiked and then went swimming beneath it. The tropical nature of these islands does not disappoint.

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Where would you find Fourth of July decorations, hot springs and meetings abound? Why, of course, the AUIP team retreat in Hanmer Springs, New Zealand!

Last week our team made the drive from Christchurch to Hanmer Springs for three days of uninterrupted reviewing, planning and brainstorming…well, that is, aside from the highly important breaks for dips in the thermal pools.

Our agenda found us assessing the past year’s programs and their evaluations, discussing program changes for 2014, reviewing our risk management practices, planning our upcoming endeavors and much more. When we couldn’t bear another PowerPoint or statistical spreadsheet, we called it quits for the day and headed over to the naturally warmed pools.

The town’s famous hot springs were discovered in the late 19th century and now serve as a major tourist destination for overseas visitors and Kiwis alike. Hanmer Springs is also known for other tourist activities, such as bush walking and mountain biking, but we didn’t have time for those this trip.

AUIP team celebrating the Fourth of July

AUIP team celebrating the Fourth of July

For one evening’s entertainment, we hosted our own belated Fourth of July party. Despite the snow flurries outside and the fire roaring inside, we got into the Independence Day spirit wearing comical red, white and blue adornments whilst dining on burgers, potato salad, coleslaw and brownies.

So with a few leftover Oreos and a bottle of Heinz ketchup making the trip back to Christchurch with us, we departed the retreat with energy and outlook for this upcoming year’s programs.

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Julie Allan, AUIP’s Program and Marketing Coordinator, writes:

I recently returned from spending two weeks in Fiji accompanying students and faculty from Texas A&M University and Pennsylvania State University on AUIP’s Fiji Sustainability Program.

My favorite experience during my fourteen-day stay in Fiji was a day spent with Rivers Fijikayaking on the Wainikoroiluva River in inflatable kayaks. We started the day with an exhilarating bus ride into the Namosi Highlands to visit a village for a traditional kava ceremony with the chief. After this we all jumped into inflatable kayaks and traveled down river traversing class II rapids, stopping for lunch, swimming in the river and walking to a waterfall before finishing off with a long boat ride back to the Rivers Fiji bus.

Another highlight was staying with a homestay family in Votua Village, which is situated along the Coral Coast. and spending time with my homestay mum Frances and her two children, Mary and Savi.

Frances was a fantastic cook and created a lunch for me of freshly caught fish in coconut milk and taro, plus a breakfast the next morning of delicious ‘Fijian donuts.’ Life in Votua was laid back, and I was free to spend time exploring the nearby beach, getting to know the villagers and playing with the local children in the sun.

I also accompanied the students from Texas A&M University to Bounty Island for two nights with local guide and marine biologist Helen Sykes. Time was spent on this tropical paradise exploring the local reef, undertaking research projects, getting to know the friendly staff on Bounty and even having a massage. It was a fabulously relaxing way to end my two-week Fijian adventure!

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Students went to the extreme taking in views of amazing ice peaks, gorgeous skies and majestic wildlife – while learning firsthand about one of the most remote and fragile regions in the globe just weeks ago.

Students and staff on AUIP’s Antarctica study abroad program caught snapshots while they played with penguins and watched magnificent humpback, minke and orca whales. They ascended massive snow-capped mountains, kayaked through the ice-dotted ocean and made lifelong friends and colleagues. Some even took a polar plunge into the freezing Antarctic waters.

Along the way, students learned about the geology, cultural resources and scientific discoveries made in one of the extreme environments on the globe.

Click on the link to see the highlights of their explorations: http://youtu.be/E0QFyfMg918


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AUIP’s Managing Director, Laura Sessions, wrote in her last blog about her visit to the mountain gorillas in Rwanda. Gorillas are the main reason most tourists visit Rwanda, but Laura found the country has so much more to offer.

After the horrific genocide of 1994, which led to the deaths of about 800,000 people over the course of just ten days, tourism to Rwanda virtually disappeared. Seventeen years on, reminders of the genocide are everywhere (there are over 200 genocide memorials), and yet the country is seen by many as a model for change in Africa. It is now a safe and beautiful country to visit, with highlights being chimpanzee trekking, colourful markets, scenic lakes and some of the friendliest people you will find anywhere in the world.

In addition to Rwanda, Laura also visited Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. Highlights here included seeing the annual wildebeest migration in the Masai Mara of Kenya and close encounters with elephant, lion, leopard, cheetah, hippo and more in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park.

Below is just a few of the awesome pictures that Laura took on her trip.

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AUIP’s Managing Director, Laura Sessions, recently spent six weeks exploring the cultures and wildlife of East Africa, and the highlight of the trip was the chance to see wild mountain gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park, northern Rwanda.

There are only about 800 mountain gorillas left in the world, and about one-third of these live in the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda and the Congo. Only 64 gorilla permits are issued each day for visitors in Rwanda, with eight people assigned to visit each of eight habituated gorilla groups.

The experience begins with a walk through potato and pyrethrum fields up to the national park boundary, and then through rainforest to wherever the group happens to be located that day. The walk can be anywhere from one to six hours, but once you reach the gorillas, you are allowed just one hour to enjoy being with these special creatures. All of the tight controls on visitor interactions with the gorillas help protect the animals from stress and human diseases.

Laura had two chances to visit different gorilla groups, and each encounter was a very different but equally awe-inspiring experience. The first group were still on their nests (which they reconstruct each night out of vegetation) in dense rainforest, quietly grooming each other. It was just like a scene from Gorillas in the Mist, which is actually based on Dian Fossey’s original gorilla research in this region. In fact, Laura’s guide even worked as a guide with Fossey thirty years ago!

After this serene and moving experience, Laura’s second day was more about exhilaration and entertainment. This group was ready to play, and the young gorillas spent the whole hour chasing each other, swinging from trees (as in this video below) and otherwise amusing the visitors.

You can find out more about mountain gorillas and what you can do to help from the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International. Look out for Laura’s next blog for more about Rwanda and her other safari adventures!

Check out the videos that Laura captured!

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