City Discovery: Palmerston North, New Zealand – “How Beautiful It Is”

updated on January 11, 2016

Palmerston North, or Palmy as it’s often referred to locally, is in the perfect adventure spot, situated between two mountain ranges with numerous hiking and biking trails, on the banks of the Manawatu River, and a just short distance away from fantastic surfing beaches. Its location is so incredible, in fact, that the indigenous Maori called the area Papaioea, which is believed to mean “How beautiful it is.”



Intercultural experiences highlight exposure with the local culture, promoting a multilateral exchange of ideas, language and opinions.

During their semester in New Zealand, ISA students will enjoy an included overnight excursion to nearby Martinborough in the Wairarapa region, home of the Hau Ariki Marae. The marae, a traditional meeting house of the Maori people, gives a unique look into the communal lifestyle the indigenous New Zealanders have experienced for centuries and still engage in today. The ISA students and staff will be ceremonially welcomed to the marae and will learn about the traditional dances, family units and daily life of the local tribe, as well as enjoy traditional foods.

While visiting Martinborough, ISA students will also enjoy a tour of a local winery. Wine is among New Zealand’s most significant exports and an important part of the nation’s economy and international identity. Vineyards can be found from the Northland region at the tip of the North Island to the Central Otago region on the South Island, and each region is recognized for excellence in particular styles of wine. Students will learn about the wine-making process as well as the role the wine industry has played in New Zealand’s past and present.



ISA excursions and cultural activities highlight historical parts of the local culture to help students better understand their new environment.

The ISA staff will lead students on an exploration of Wrights Hill Fortress, an artillery embankment connected to a network of tunnels underground. The fortress was built during World War II due to fears of an attack on New Zealand after the nation entered the war alongside Great Britain. The fortress was never used during the war, though visitors to the site can learn about New Zealand’s military history and international role. Students will not only learn about the history of the fortress itself but also the significance of historical preservation in Kiwi culture.

ISA students studying in Palmerston North will have the opportunity to spend a day on Matiu Island in Wellington Harbor. Matiu Island, also known as Sommes Island, has been a significant place throughout New Zealand’s history. Originally a retreat for the nearby Maori tribes during times of war, the island became an outpost for anti-aircraft guns during the Second World War when fears arose that Japanese troupes might attempt to invade New Zealand. Students will learn about the various roles the island has played in New Zealand’s history while exploring the beautiful flora and taking in stunning views of the harbor and the city.



Sociopolitical discovery highlights social and political activities or experiences.

Students studying in Palmerston North with ISA can join the ISA Wellington students and staff on a tour of the New Zealand Parliament buildings in Wellington. Known colloquially as “the Beehive” because of its unusual architecture, this building is home to the Parliamentary Library, debating chambers and the New Zealand House of Representatives. Students will learn how New Zealand’s coalition government functions as compared to the representative democratic government of the United States.

ISA students studying at Massey University have the opportunity to learn about New Zealand’s unique political history through the popular course “Te Kawenata o Waitangi: The Treaty of Waitangi in New Zealand.” Signed in February of 1840 by representatives of the British monarchy and the Maori tribes of the North Island, the treaty made the inhabitants of New Zealand British subjects. Today, the terms of the treaty and their repercussions are still significant parts of New Zealand’s government and inform much of the dynamic between the native Maori and New Zealanders of European decent.



Professional experiences provide exposure to professional development opportunities during an ISA program.

The Environmental Sciences Expedition and Internship summer program, facilitated by Massey University, allows students to explore New Zealand without taking a full semester away from their home university. The program begins with a two week tour of both islands with Massey faculty members. Students will engage in hands-on projects and case studies as they discover New Zealand’s unique environments. For the four-week internship, students will travel to the Hawkes Bay region to work with an organization or company focused on the environment, giving them great hands-on experience and knowledge. Students finish their time on Massey’s Palmerston North campus, presenting on their experience.

Students studying for a full semester in Palmerston North will be able to tour the famous Weta Workshop, a now internationally-recognized film production center. Generally recognized for their work on the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films, the creative minds at Weta have also worked with numerous other films, including the Chronicles of Narnia series and Avatar. Students will get a behind-the-scenes look at this piece of New Zealand’s growing film industry and will learn about the role Weta and cinema play in the Kiwi economy and culture. They will also have the opportunity to meet many of the innovators in the industry.



Environmental experiences expose students to different environmental aspects of the host country.

ISA students have the opportunity to discover the nearby native bird and wildlife park, Owlcatraz. The park celebrates birds native to New Zealand as well as those brought to the country and gives visitors the chance to interact with these birds without cages or glass in the way. The ISA staff leads the students through the park as they discover New Zealand’s native animals as well as the park’s working farm and beautiful glowworm caves.

Students can also join the ISA staff and Wellington students as they explore the Wellington Botanic Gardens. The gardens showcase gorgeous plants from across New Zealand and from around the world, juxtaposing exotic blossoms and native trees. Students will learn about where a number of New Zealand’s plants originate as well as those that have made their home in New Zealand since before the arrival of European settlers. ISA students are also invited to enjoy a picnic in the gardens with fellow students and the ISA staff.

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The City Discovery Series aims to showcase a different ISA program location by highlighting the five parts of the Discovery Compass: Intercultural, Historical, Sociopolitical, Professional and Environmental. The Discovery Compass aims to help students have the best possible study abroad experience by helping them to gain a better understanding of the local environment, customs and people through a variety of experiences.

Author: International Studies Abroad (ISA)

Since 1987, International Studies Abroad (ISA) has provided college students in the United States and Canada the opportunity to explore the world. ISA offers a wide variety of study abroad programs at accredited schools and universities in 73 program locations throughout the world.