Episode 21 │ Surprised No One Died (NEW ZEALAND)
Updated: May 4
"Be mindful, be present. The pictures you take, 99% you will not look at them ever again... Take pictures, but put your camera down. And stop looking for wi-fi." (Dory, Episode 21)
What a fun, spontaneous experience this interview was! Dory Sherrod is the younger sister of my friend Marlee Sherrod, whom I interviewed for episode 19. When I went to Marlee's home to interview her, Dory was there too, and she mentioned offhandedly that she'd studied abroad in New Zealand. Dory had to go to work in a couple hours, but when I asked if I could interview her before she left, she agreed without hesitation! I felt so lucky that day. Not only did I get a two-for-one of sorts, but Dory let me interview her without the prior notice and preparation that I categorically allow to each of my guests. And given how uninhibited she is with expressing her thoughts, I often found myself caught off guard and overwhelmed with laughter during our conversation.
Dory did her undergraduate studies at Arizona State University, where she earned a bachelor's degree in global health as well as a bachelor's degree in public service & public policy. Her global health degree required study abroad experience, and thanks to her mom's influence and encouragement, she had already traveled extensively prior to this. At the time, her options were Australia, New Zealand, Guatemala, and London. Guatemala was her first choice since it would have enabled her to be more immersed in the community she'd be serving and also put her Spanish minor to use, but unfortunately she didn't get into that program. And by then only the ethnohydrology-focused program in New Zealand had an open spot left, so she decided to go with the flow and see how that would pan out.
For six weeks Dory and about 24 other students were basically living the tour bus life: traveling to various areas of New Zealand, studying, conducting research, doing brief homestays, participating in cultural and outdoors-y activities, and seemingly everything else in between. Aside from the overabundance of activity, discomfort, and exhaustion (she half-jokingly remarked, "I'm surprised no one died"), Dory felt that she and her fellows were robbed of the opportunity to have more nuanced interactions with local communities (especially Indigenous people) and their customs. In her mind, the program coordinators took the easy way out; it was too cookie-cutter, too touristy, too much like an adventure camp. The casual racism of some of her fellow students and even one of her host families (like the U.S., New Zealand is a settler-colonialist nation) didn't make things any easier.
"Live in this beauty because you know it will not last forever."
But Dory pushed through, had her say and told people off when she felt it necessary, and though her program was disappointing, she actually loved being in New Zealand itself. The natural beauty, the abundance of sheep and goats (two of her favorite animals), and witnessing how ingrained it is for people to care for the land, animal life, and the environment in New Zealand made her feel like she was living a dream even amidst the foolishness. It was a dream that there were beautiful sights to behold everywhere, and she advises all visitors to New Zealand to, "Live in this beauty because you know it will not last forever". Plus she endeavored to have real conversations with Kiwis when she could, so that she could learn their opinions about their own country and what it's like to live in it.
All in all, Dory refers to studying abroad there as the most wonderful but crazy six weeks of her life. And she would most certainly love to return to New Zealand, even try living there for a while if possible. Dory currently works in event and parade planning in Detroit, and is open to traveling anyplace where the weather isn't cold. She can be found on Instagram (@dorysherrod) or Facebook/Snapchat (Dory Sherrod).
Be sure to listen to this episode, "Surprised No One Died (NEW ZEALAND)" for more! And don't forget to check out the resource list below!
Study Abroad Office/Global Health majors (Arizona State University)
Study Abroad in New Zealand: Adventures in Culture Health and Environment sample syllabus (ASU)
Danielle G. is the creator, host, and producer of Young, Gifted and Abroad. You can find her other writings at DeelaSees.com.