Embracing the Differences

Studying abroad in New Zealand

By Kira Sabin
Agriculture and Food
Business Management
Class of 2023


arrived in New Zealand after twenty-four hours of travel in a sleepy dreamlike state of exhaustion. Outside the car window, a new world rushed by. Vast green pastures dotted with sheep, towering mountains in the distance. A shallow river cut the valley in half. Everything seemed familiar but somehow askew. The driver spoke English, but between his accent and my jet lag, I could barely make out the words. We arrived at my lodging—log cabins from the 70s, which the driver called “flats.” 

The campus was quaint and had the same red brick buildings as Oregon State. I was able to stay awake for orientation and class registration, but then went straight back to my “flat” and fell into a deep sleep. It wasn’t until the next morning that I fully realized what was happening—I was finally here, doing a semester abroad student exchange at Lincoln University in New Zealand. 

Founded in 1878, Lincoln University (LU) is the oldest agricultural college in the southern hemisphere. Oregon State University (OSU) was founded only 10 years prior as a land-grant university, and one of the first on the US west coast to offer agricultural courses. The student exchange partnership between the two universities goes back over 50 years.

Hamish Gow, Professor in Agribusiness at LU, was 5 years old when the partnership began. His father was a Farm Management lecturer at LU who went on sabbatical at OSU. “The exchange program started as a conversation in Eastern Oregon in 1972,” said Dr. Gow. “Local beef farmers at an OSU Extension Field Day were asking how their children could gain access to the integrated farming systems education that LU taught. And it was suggested by my father, Neil Gow, to bring the OSU students to New Zealand! Thus, Neil and OSU Professor Murray Dawson collaborated and designed the first international exchange program between New Zealand and the USA. The rest is history.”

Dr. Gow’s family hosted the first groups of OSU students who came to NZ from about 1974 until 1979. With a smile he added, “I’m still great friends with a heap of those early OSU students. They were like my big brothers and sisters, and still are. They would bunk down at our home for a few weeks every January before they went out to the farms prior to the semester starting.” 

As someone who had never traveled outside the USA before, I wanted to study abroad, but I was nervous. So when Paul Dorres, Director of Scholarship and Education Abroad Administration, told me about the well-established program, I seized the opportunity. And I am so glad that I did.

Kira fills one of the 42 bottles of pinot noir rosé that she produced entirely from grapes on the vine to the finished product for her winemaking class.

While at LU, I was able to gain so much hands-on experience. Just like at OSU, there was an emphasis on getting out of the classroom and into a physical learning environment. I took four courses: Applied Amenity Horticulture, Sheep Production, Whakatakoto Kaupapa (Māori Planning and Development), and Principles of Wine Science. In my Māori class, I was able to  meet with the indigenous people and learn how they are working to regain their rightful place on the island through new urban development. With sheep studies, I got into the fields and learned how to create pasture grazing budgets and observe feces through microscopes for parasites. In my horticulture class, I traveled to multiple nurseries and gardens and learned propagation and arrangement techniques from industry professionals. In my wine class, I learned the steps of the entire winemaking process—including my favorite part, the sensory tasting. With my lab partner from Colorado State University (CSU), we were able to produce and keep 42 bottles of pinot noir rosé that we made ourselves, from grapes on the vine to the finished product. 

The semester was incredible, and I made memories that will last a lifetime—mostly from the experiential learning outside of the classroom in the unique New Zealand landscape. As a 2023 Agriculture and Food Business Management major, I can think of no better way to end my academic career. Although school was just one piece of my New Zealand journey. The truly unforgettable part was the relationships that I made.

LU enrolls around 7,000 students, with nearly 50% of them being international. So not only did I become immersed in the culture of New Zealand, but I was also surrounded by cultures from all over the world. Within my first few days there, I met more people from other countries than I had during my entire life. I made friends from Australia, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Italy, Kenya, Laos, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Spain, Thailand, and Timor-Leste—to name a few!

The differences between our cultures made for fascinating conversations, and we talked endlessly about our customs and values. However, the most intriguing part of it all wasn’t our differences—it was our similarities. I realized that people everywhere are just people. 

We all have our worries and insecurities and family expectations. We all face challenges and have hope and aspiration. We all experience the same spectrum of emotions, and that is what makes us human. Those emotions and experiences transcend the barriers of culture and society. They are what connect us all. So while it’s fascinating to recognize and embrace the distinctions that make us all unique, it’s important to remember that we all share more similarities than differences.

1 comment

  1. Great start. I would love to connect. I am a retired Professor of Business at OSU (1978-2002), ultimately holding the A.E.Coleman Chair in Family Business. In 2004 my husband Paul Frishkoff, Professor, UOregon and I spent six weeks studying business transition strategies, with families on both the North Island and the South Island. Subject families had to have at least one younger person (max age 18, and at least one elder active on the farm.

Write a response

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Oregon State University ©Copyright 2019. All rights reserved.