School navigation

Overseas and Off-Campus Programs

New Zealand Regional Area Study

Semester: Spring
Offered: Spring 2018
Estimated Dates: Early January to mid-April
Program Focus:

Regional Area Study with Emphases on Biogeography, Ecology, and Science Studies

Prerequisites: Minimum 2.75 GPA is highly recommended           
Spring 2018
Program Leader:
Mitch Reyes
Associate Professor of RHMS, 503-768-7619

Program Design

As a “lost” part of the ancient Gondwonan super-continent, New Zealand has a rich ecological and cultural history that exemplifies the theme of isolation and repeated colonization. The program focuses on both the cultural and ecological nuances of this unique location, allowing students to immerse themselves in the cultural history and biodiversity of New Zealand. The program is open to all students and will emphasize science from a non-specialist perspective.

Students will benefit from the opportunity of experiencing a unique culture and by gaining a thorough understanding of sociopolitical issues and the ecology of both islands. The goal will be to experience another culture while participating in a rigorous program of scientific merit. Students with majors from throughout the College are encouraged to apply. Many students have already expressed interest in the program and we anticipate a large qualified applicant pool, therefore be sure to submit your application in a timely manner.

New Zealand is a fascinating place and exists as an effective parliamentary democracy while being one of the most sparsely populated countries on earth. As a “lost” part of the ancient super-continent it has a rare diversity of species and remains incredibly unspoiled. This diversity and preservation allows for study of science and ecology that can occur nowhere else in the world.  Additionally, it is served by seven regular universities and several specialized language and culture associations. Infrastructure, health care, and technology are very comparable to what we have in the United States. These characteristics make New Zealand an ideal place for an undergraduate overseas experience.


Requirements Fulfilled: This program fulfills the two-course International Studies requirement. BIO 115 fulfills the Scientific and Quantitative Reasoning Category A laboratory requirement.

4 courses per semester/16 credits


IS 294: Cultural Ecology of New Zealand (4 credits)

Introduction to Pacific Islander and Maori culture and language. Extended Maori visit. Indigenous art and relevant cultural artifact production. Contemporary business and recreational activities.

IS 295: Repeated Colonization, a History of New Zealand (4 credits)

Emphasis on original colonization by Polynesians, and secondary colonization by Europeans. Effect of history on the political system, present-day economy, and the environment. Will cover pre- European history, current government and legislative processes, health, education, and other services, New Zealand’s current role in the international community.

BIO 115: Explorations in Regional Biology, New Zealand Flora & Fauna (4 credits)

Learn how New Zealand’s natural history has evolved to be so different from that found on continental landmasses. Lecture-based material will cover New Zealand’s geological origin, the basic principles of island ecology and historical biogeography, the evolution in isolation of New Zealand’s flora and fauna and provide an explanation of its special vulnerabilities. Field trips will give hands-on experience with native plants and animals, and demonstrate principles covered in the lectures. 

Topics include:

  • Origin and evolution of the New Zealand landmass – Zealandia explained
  • Modern New Zealand – late Cenozoic evolution of the New Zealand landmass and interpretation of the landform we see today
  • What is historical biogeography?
  • ‘Islandism’ – flightlesness, body size/leaf size differences, fearlessness
  • New Zealand forests - sources, evolution and relationships
  • Alpine vegetation
  • Ancient vegetation, the fossil record and other evidence
  • Birds and bats
  • Marine mammals
  • New Zealand spiders – how different are they and what relationships do they have?

IS 296: Environment, Society & Natural Resource Management (4 credits)    

Examines the major environmental issues and challenges New Zealand faces today, highlighting the policy and management frameworks that are in place to address these environmental issues. Students will critically appraise the role of citizen science and science communication in shaping New Zealand’s future and examine how well currently employed policy and management mechanisms achieve the goal of environmental sustainability. Field trips will provide a hands-on insight into current environmental issues in New Zealand.

Topics include:

  • Climate change and New Zealand’s future
  • Indigenous perspectives on natural resources
  • Water quality - the clean green myth
  • Sustainable farming
  • Sustainable energy
  • Citizen science
  • Science studies
    • Communication and persuasion
    • Science writing

Both of the last two courses will explore some of the most revolutionary ideas in the history of science. Continental drift, for example, was not universally accepted by the mainstream scientific community in the 1970s, and its implications have still not fully been integrated into our understanding of patterns of distribution of species. Likewise, scientific understandings of anthropogenic climate change remain much in dispute. These courses will explore these and other scientific controversies in the history of science while immersing students in the rich biodiversity of New Zealand.

Required Reading: 

Ghosts of Gondwana: The History of Life in New Zealand - 2006, by George Gibbs


Fee Breakdown:

Total Fee (includes Tuition & Program Fee): $32,334 

Tuition: $25,287

Program Fee: $7,047*

*Included in the program fee are room/housing, board/meals, field trips, administrative fees, and supplemental health insurance. Not included are airfare, passport and visa expenses, primary insurance coverage, photographs, books, immunizations, and incidentals.

Stipend: Students will receive a stipend to cover the cost of meals and transportation costs not covered by the program fee.

Estimated Airfare (Round Trip PDX to AKL): $1,000 - $2,000

Estimated Health Insurance Fee: $1,275.50*

*All students participating in overseas programs are automatically enrolled in iNext, a supplemental travel insurance program. The fee for iNext is covered in the program cost. However, students are also required to have comprehensive health insurance during their time abroad. All students participating in overseas programs, both abroad and domestic, are automatically enrolled in the College’s student health insurance program. Similar to a regular semester on-campus, students participating in overseas programs may waive enrollment in the student health insurance program if they have other comprehensive health insurance (e.g., through a parent, guardian or employer) that 1) provides coverage for them in the geographic region in which they will be studying and 2) includes mental health benefits. Click here for more information regarding Health Insurance Information & Overseas Programs.

Program Preparation

Application Process: Applications are due one year before the start of the program. The semester before the program, students who have been accepted into the program will meet with the group and the program leader regularly

For more information about the application process, click here.

Travel: Students usually fly into the Auckland airport (AKL), where they meet the group and travel together to their next destination.

Visa: Students will be required to apply for a visa in order to participate in this program. More information will be provided upon admission to the program.

Country-Specific Health Information: Click here to view specific health information for people traveling to New Zealand.

State Department Country Information: Click here to visit the State Department’s New Zealand page.

New Zealand

Blog Feed: New Zealand

  • November 6, 2017 at 9:04pm
    I feel like the date for leaving for New Zealand is really creeping up on me. I’m mostly excited but as of recent I’ve been feeling super stressed (weird, right!) The last couple of days I’ve been thinking about what I want to do once the program ends, do I want to travel to Australia, […]
  • November 6, 2017 at 9:04pm
    Fall semester is flying by, and every day I am closer to departing for New Zealand. I’m very excited about so many things that New Zealand has to offer. I want to go kayaking in Milford Sound, swimming on the beaches of the north island, and hiking around the Fiordlands. I’m also excited immerse myself […]
  • November 6, 2017 at 9:03pm
    Yo… I’m nervous. No really, I have never traveled like this before. Still, I’m feeling excited to be apart of something like this. When signing up I was thinking, “When will I ever get an opportunity to travel like this and especially to a place like New Zealand. I can’t think of a single place […]
  • November 6, 2017 at 9:02pm
    The 2018 trip to New Zealand is coming up in about two months, and it’s pretty exciting (and nerve-wracking). But right now, the excitement is outweighing the nervousness surrounding flying and living in a country that will be entirely new to me. Something I cannot wait to explore would have to be the glowworms. After […]
  • November 6, 2017 at 9:02pm
    I am very excited to be in New Zealand come Spring 2018. It is such as amazing place and I cannot wait to explore all that it has to offer! I am most excited about our excursions and the time we will be spending in nature, whether its for school or for fun! The South […]
  • November 6, 2017 at 9:02pm
    Bear with me because this is a very quick post. I am looking forward to getting to know my team, learning about the local ecology, and having some amazing adventures–especially the unplanned ones. I have a bit of an obsession when it comes to the South Pacific islands.  I am very excited to learn more […]
  • November 6, 2017 at 9:02pm
    I’m looking forward to seeing the Milford Sound, the Southern Alps, and Mt. Cook. I’m excited to experience and learn about New Zealand culture. I’m nervous about the long flights from the east coast.
  • November 6, 2017 at 9:01pm
    My love for the Lord of the Rings movies is extremely deep and embarrassing, but I’m definitely looking forward to visiting some of the locations I’ve only seen in film, especially the mountain trails. I’m excited to meet and learn about the culture of the indigenous Maori people, especially about their art and their dances. […]
  • November 6, 2017 at 9:01pm
    This trip didn’t start to feel real until I bought my ticket a week ago.  But here we are, about to get our visa’s and the trip is a mere 2 months away!! Woahhhh. Getting stoked over here, lets go. Its an exciting time to be us
  • November 6, 2017 at 8:59pm
    One place that I am most looking forward to possibly seeing is the Tiritiri Matangi Island which is a conservationist project island in the North Island. It’s an open sanctuary for both terrestrial and marine life that is centered around conservation efforts for endangered animals in New Zealand.


-41.28646; 174.776236